Talk:Argument from first cause

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If we don't have it, we need some sort of category for this stuff...like something linked to atheism or some such...--PalMD-Goatspeed! 21:29, 6 July 2007 (CDT)

I have been drinking thinking[edit]

I saw this on RC earlier tonight whilst waiting for the train and I had a bit of a brain flash (makes less sense now). If event A occurred at time t and was caused by event A1 at time t-1/2, which was in turn was caused by event A2 at time t-3/4, which in turn was caused by event A3 at time t-5/8 and so forth. Couldn't an infinite number of events starting after time t-1 have caused A? - π Moderator 13:09, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

That would still be an infinite regress of causes, though. An interesting proposal certainly. In reality you might get into trouble once your fraction of time approaches the planck time, and if you take Zeno's paradoxes literally then all causality is like that. ADK...I'll employ your noun! 13:30, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I was looking for a way an infinite regression of causes could occur in finite time. - π Moderator 13:34, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
That would do it, but the infinite regression of causes precludes a first cause whether it's in finite or infinite time. As everything that comes into being has a cause, with no first cause nothing can come into being. So infinite regress of causes is contradictory to existence. ADK...I'll yank your potato! 15:41, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Philo friends please check[edit]

Our first line says "also known as the cosmological argument". If this is true, then there should be only one article with a redirect. I'm not sure a "first cause" is actually the same. but i thought I'd wait for some buy in from the Peanut Gallery before i changed it. Green mowse.pngGodot She was a venus demilo in her sister's jeans 20:02, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

The cosmological argument page also uses the phrase "argument from first cause" as a synonym in the opening line. They should probably be merged. By comparison, Wikipedia has separate articles on the WP:cosmological argument and WP:primum movens (first cause), but the latter is only a stub, mostly about Aristotle. (Confusingly WP:first cause redirects to primum movens but WP:first cause argument, WP:argument from universal causation, WP:Prime Cause and some others redirect to the cosmological argument page). ΨΣΔξΣΓΩΙÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 20:32, 7 January 2013 (UTC)
We have a distinction in native american circles of "prime mover" or "first cause" as a quasi diety. i didn't know if that was what we were trying to suggest. but yeah, if this is really the argument itself, I'll draft up a merge, and let people go from there?Green mowse.pngGodot She was a venus demilo in her sister's jeans 20:37, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

Radioactive Decay and Determinism[edit]

"Such phenomenon are Radioactive Decay and the spontaneous appearance of virtual particles. In the case of radioactive decay, the only knowable property is the half-life of an unstable isotope of an element. The reason why radioactive decay contradicts the cosmological argument is that it truly is random and uncaused" This statement is only partially true: while these events are random under copenaghen interpretations of quantum mechanics, they aren't random in a deterministic interpretation of it(although we may not be able to acknowledge initial conditions with precision, thus precluding an exact prediction of the decay). One of them is the Bohm-De Broglie's Theory

The Universe had a beginning?[edit]

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Big Bang wasn't the beginning of the universe, but as far back as we could see. That's the big problem I have with this article. I'd also like to add that saying the Universe came from nothing is a Straw Man argument (First Law of Thermodynamics). --TemplarJLS (talk) 22:21, 20 August 2014 (UTC)

Possibly relevant:
The limit to present-day physics sets a limit to our discussion of the early universe. As we journey toward the big bang, we eventually reach an era of dark ignorance, covering the time when the universe was hotter than the Planck temperature.
[...]
As a working physicist, I react with displeasure to popular expositions on physics and on the cosmos that speak of the Moment of Creation and even of How the Universe Was Created. The fact is that research physicists cannot and do not speak of the very moment of the big bang.
[...]
Indeed, with our present understanding, we may as well say that the universe began when the era of dark ignorance ended, when the universe's temperature dropped below the Planck temperature. We could then define the big bang as the transition between the era of dark ignorance and the era of lucid knowledge.

We can say with some confidence that the era of dark ignorance ended some ten billion years ago, but it makes no sense to discuss how long the era lasted. Nevertheless, physicists often say that the era of dark ignorance ended some 10-44 seconds after the big bang. What the professionals mean by that is the following: Suppose we simply ignore quantum physics and use Einstein's theory of gravity. Then we do reach a beginning, defined as the time when the temperature of the universe reaches infinity. We can then ask, according to classical gravity, how long it would take the universe to cool down to the Planck temperature. The answer is 10-44 second. Since we know for a fact that classical gravity does not apply in that era, this number is not particularly meaningful.
Anthony ZeeWikipedia's W.svg, Einstein's Universe: Gravity at Work and Play
141.134.75.236 (talk) 14:27, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

This is rich[edit]

An attempt at refuting this page.--TemplarJLS (talk) 21:01, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Ah yes, CartesianTheist is a pretty well-known YouTube-apologist with a fetish for philosophy. It's hilarious that he not only lambastes RW for only citing the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy while not providing any references (beyond to RW, of course) himself; but also for criticising RW's section on special pleading and its examples of Christian "buffet attitudes" to Old Testament prohibitions - by special pleading about what he defines as "moral" and "ceremonial" law in the OT and that it's completely okay to chug the latter... ScepticWombat (talk) 14:48, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Regarding the "Special Pleading" objection[edit]

The first part of the "Problems" section says this:

"The biggest objection to the argument is that it suffers from special pleading. While everything in the universe is assumed to have a cause, God is free from this requirement. Therefore it does not address the question of who or what caused God."

I don't think this is correct, primarily because the argument from first cause given in the page is a strawman, due to a problem with premise one. The argument from first cause is meant to establish the existence of at least one uncaused cause. A correct basic form of the argument goes as follows.

1. There are caused things in the world (uncontroversial).

2. An infinite chain of causation is impossible (controversial).

3. Therefore there must be at least one thing that is uncaused.

There is no special pleading here. The argument purports to have demonstrated the existence of an uncaused cause. Its conclusion does not contradict its premise, because premise 1 does not refer to everything in the universe, just some things in the universe. There are many reasons to reject the uncaused cause argument (I personally am unconvinced that premise 2 is correct), but special pleading is not one of them. The page should be updated to reflect this.

What doesn't have a cause if premise 2 is not correct? -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 17:53, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
All you did was build a weaker version of the argument, and then claim that the refutation in the page doesn't apply. Ok, I agree with the conclusion, there exist things that are uncaused, like radioactive decay, which is a totally spontaneous event, what does that have to do with anything? The arguments in the page postulate that everything that exists has a cause.Super Dude,What does mine say? Sweet! 18:51, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
The point was to construct the strongest (as in most persuasive) form of the argument from first cause, following the principle of charity. If you're having an argument with a theist and he whips out the argument from first cause, and you respond with the 'special pleading' objection, he's going to call you out because the special pleading objection only works for a bad version of the argument which a theist is not committed to. I agree with you on the 'so what' part, because the argument from first cause doesn't say anything about the identity of first causes, which is OK if you're a deist but not for most religious people. However this is a separate objection to the special pleading objection, and should (and does) have its own section. My point here is not to defend the argument from first cause but merely to point out that the special pleading objection does not work in nullifying the argument due to a problem in the article's formulation of it, and so the article should be amended. -OP
The way I see it, the most persuasive form is the one that claims that everything must have a cause. In that case, special pleading is taking place. Every argument in the page talks about "everything that exists"(also the Thomasian, indirectly). Since the argument tries to prove that the universe (the set of all things that are known to exist) itself has a cause. Proving that only some things in the universe having a cause would remove the need for an "uncaused cause" that is not part of the universe, making god irrelevant to the argument. Super Dude,What does mine say? Sweet! 22:53, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
Why is that the most persuasive form of the argument? It by definition can't be persuasive at all, because it's a logically incoherent argument, as the special pleading objection makes clear. Let's assume that an argument that has been discussed for the past 2500 isn't logically incoherent. My formulation of the argument is more persuasive because it's at least coherent. -OP
You can use four ~ to sign if it's easier. Let's make it clear that you are asking why creationists use an argument that make no sense from people that largely believe that entire worldview is laughably false. It would be much easier to ask the people who believe it why they do so. Shop your argument to them to see if they object or use it. -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 23:18, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
It's not just an argument used by creationists. It's a real argument discussed in academia. I don't think its very good, but it's not simply logically invalid as this article suggests.— Unsigned, by: 149.160.204.17 / talk / contribs
YOUR formulation of the argument is less persuasive, because it proves nothing, even if there wasn't something wrong with it. Anyway, the persuasiveness of a fallacious argument isn't the point. The point is that the argument from first cause is the one on the page. Your argument isn't the argument from first cause and therefore, your objection about special pleading is irrelevant. Super Dude,What does mine say? Sweet! 23:20, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
"YOUR formulation of the argument is less persuasive, because it proves nothing, even if there wasn't something wrong with it". This is not true, it demonstrates the existence of an uncaused cause if you accept the premises (true of any argument). The fact that the argument from first cause doesn't prove anything beyond that and so doesn't do the job that Christians want it to do is true, but it's irrelevant to the discussion we're having. My point is purely about whether the special pleading objection is a correct objection. I argue that it is not. Here ([1] Apologies for the fact that he writes like a dickhead, but his point stands) is an article about the premise that 'everything has a cause' is a strawman. My formulation is the one used by academics discussing the problem. He quotes an 1895 Church documents which rejects the 'everything has a clause' premise. The formulation given in the article is simply not the correct one, and is much weaker than the actual one. The fact that some theists still get it wrong and think that the weak argument is the actual argument is not a problem with the argument, it's a problem with people.— Unsigned, by: 149.160.204.17 / talk / contribs
Hm, frankly I think it's best you started with convincing the theists that their version is wrong, like Wanderer said, because this page is mostly a refutation of their claims. I guess it's possible to add in the page something like "if you remove the requirement that everything has a cause, then special pleading no longer applies.Super Dude,What does mine say? Sweet! 00:06, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
I would be content with that addition. May I make it? 149.159.142.47 (talk) 00:15, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
You can try and see if anyone else objects.Super Dude,Where's my car? 00:33, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
But if you just say "some things have causes", you're allowing for a whole multitude of uncaused things. If for whatever reason you call one of them God, then what do you call all the other uncaused things? 141.134.75.236 (talk) 01:12, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, but this is a separate objection! I don't understand why people aren't getting this point. In any case, I've given an example of the catholic church making the exact same point I am, in the 19th century. The special pleading misunderstanding is not new. See link I posted above.149.159.142.47 (talk) 14:04, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Really. Who makes the argument using "some things have causes", anyway? That is weak stuff. Alec Sanderson (talk) 02:46, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
Why does weakening the premise from "everything" to "some things" make the argument worse? Furthermore I've given you an example of who makes that argument, i.e. the catholic church. I dont know what more I can do to show that it's a legitimate form of the argument that should be covered in the page. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 14:10, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
To be fair, the "everything has a cause" is a creationist argument, (link to the Creation Research Institute making the claim) that science does not make, as part of the presupposition. Like we didn't know what caused lightning/disease/earthquakes/volcanos/etc, so god(s) caused it till we figured out the real reason. It seems like god is a placeholder for people who are ignorant, but are uncomfortable about not knowing, to have a cause. -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 21:32, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

"like the radioactive decay, which is a totally spontaneous event", aha, but jack chick told us that Jesus is Gluons, so checkmate, atheist. ikanreed You probably didn't deserve that 21:42, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

I see we've moved from claiming that special pleading does not apply to claiming the formulation is incorrect. There is no problem in the formulation of the argument. Of the ~5 sources I reviewed, they are all identical to the versions on the page. Super Dude,What does mine say? Sweet! 23:07, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
We didn't move, the claim that the formulation is incorrect is in the OP. Special pleading does not apply because the formulation is incorrect. See the link I posted above. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 00:15, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
There are several problems with the reformulated "strongest (as in most persuasive) form of the argument from first cause, following the principle of charity":
  1. The whole point of the first cause is to demonstrate that the universe had a cause and that this was God (who is uncaused). In order to do so, it's imperative to claim that everything (bar God) has a cause, otherwise we could simply put the origin of the universe into the category of uncaused phenomena.
  2. As already mentioned, the weaker version doesn't actually provide the "therefore God"-conclusion that the actual first cause argument was created to demonstrate (but doesn't because it's a rather poor argument).
  3. Probably because of the above, I've never seen this weaker version actually used. The whole point of the first cause argument is to arrive at a Goddidit conclusion.
Furthermore, the claim that the first cause argument is "not just an argument used by creationists. It's a real argument discussed in academia" requires some documentation or at least elaboration. Which academics/academia discuss it, in what context and to which end? I'll freely admit to not being a philosopher, but I was of the impression that the first cause argument was dropped by academic philosophers decades ago - at least in the sense of being considered a serious and valid argument for the existence of God or for the weaker claim that the universe had a cause. The major exception is that it still flourishes among such "professional philosophers" as William Lane Craig. The latter has indeed built his entire "career" on his Kalām version but commits the exact same special pleading by using the phrase "everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence" and putting God as the one thing which didn't "begin to exist". ScepticWombat (talk) 05:13, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
"I've never seen this argument actually used" Why does everyone insist on ignoring the fact that I've given a source for my objection, one that literally states "The reader will observe that the Law of Causation does not state (as some modern writers most unfairly would have us believe) that Everything that exists has a cause."? That's from a 19th century Jesuit, it's not a new idea. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 14:45, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
I am wondering myself, unless the standards for "academia" are low enough to rope in unaccredited Christian colleges run out of double wide trailers and diploma mills. -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 16:25, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
The problem is that there are fundie schools, such as William Lane Craig's employers Biola and Houston Baptist "universities", that manage to walk the fine line between being actual universities with freedom of enquiry (see this section for their intellectual handcuffs statements of faith) while avoiding turning into, say Patriot Bible University diploma mills. It appears to me that these pseudo-universities are a bigger problem than diploma mills because the latter are so transparently scams. By contrast, places like Biola and HBU constitutes a separate sphere of outwardly legit universities with all the trappings of the real thing, but lacking the important core of any real university: Freedom of enquiry and debate (because it's ring fenced by the inerrantist dogma that Biola/HBU places above everything else).
This twilight zone of academy'esque scholarship provides an echo chamber in which their fundie professors can cite each other and, for instance, give their students the (wrong) impression that bible scholarship and serious theology almost unanimously supports their brand of fundamentalist inerrantist literalism. At the same time, some of the staff (Craig is again a good example) can get seemingly innocuous bits and pieces of research published in legitimate journals, but the larger purpose behind this is simply to generate ammunition for their brand of apologetics (e.g. Craig's publications in defence of A-theory of time is a quest to save his Kalām Cosmological Argument which has been the cornerstone of his apologetics since his Ph.D. thesis on Philosophy of Religion back in the late 1970s).
The problem is that such sophisticated fundie schools provide seemingly serious academic educations and research, but in reality has more in common with the kind of "ideologically correct" education found in the former USSR (though that, at least, didn't have problems with the natural sciences and confined their ideological indoctrination to the social sciences and the Marxist brand of history). In either case, the goal of ideological commitment circumscribes the ideals of production of knowledge and the mission(!) is to improve the cadres without putting their "ideological purity" at risk (hence the exclusion of certain types of answers or questions from the get go). ScepticWombat (talk) 10:05, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
I see what you mean, as they skirt the legal definitions...but I don't see a line in terms of being legitimate universities in terms of what they teach. -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 20:05, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with the "I don't see a line in terms of being legitimate universities in terms of what they teach." ScepticWombat (talk) 23:34, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
I apologize that was unclear. It seems like they jump through the hoops to legally operate, but they are unaccredited teaching institutions. Accreditation is a pretty clear delineation between real and fake. -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 14:22, 9 March 2015 (UTC)


An actually sensible disagreement with the "special pleading" objection[edit]

Okay, so I also object to the sentence "The biggest objection to the argument is that it suffers from special pleading. While everything in the universe is assumed to have a cause, God is free from this requirement. Therefore it does not address the question of who or what caused God." But not because some arguments allegedly use the premise "some things have a cause". >.>

So, the narrative the argument is going for is clearly: Before our universe existed, there was this eternal/timeless, uncaused entity going about doing its business. One day that entity caused our universe to come into being. All causal chains in our universe ultimately go back to that initial act of the creation of our universe. (It can't have just started on its own some day, because that'd just be silly.Wikipedia's W.svg)

Now, it's true that some first cause arguments phrase their premises in ways that contradict their conclusion, and thus would require special pleading to solve their issues. "If 'everything that exists has a cause', then how can you posit an uncaused thing to solve your problem?" Of course, when saying 'everything that exists has a cause', they're really only talking about 'all the stuff going on in the universe', not literally everything. Some arguments manage to avoid this mistake by talking about "everything that begins to exist has a cause" or "every finite and contingent entity has a cause of its existence". (Not by saying "some things have causes", Gods! What lame kind of argument would that be?)

I always find it odd when I see people objecting to this argument by saying "But where did God come from?" It's called the first cause argument, its whole point is saying that there was one uncaused thing at the start of everything (and then asserting that this entity is God). There are many assumptions in the argument that are probably false, so why are you wasting time asking what the cause for the uncaused thing was? That just seems silly. The first premise can be indicated to be false by pointing to physical events with no apparent cause. Secondly, there's the assumption that causal loops and causal chains of infinite lenghth cannot occur, which is just that, an assumption. But also important about this premise is that it dictates a restriction on the first cause's abilities. By saying that these things are impossible and by identifying the first cause as God, the argument claims that God cannot sustain causal chains for an infinite length of time and that he cannot create universes where time is cyclical. This is actually a grave restriction of God's power and thus would contradict any assertion that the first cause is an omnipotent God. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 12:47, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

The objection about special pleading is that proponents of the first cause argument claims that everything that exists needs a cause, and then immediately say "except God, of course" (as I mentioned earlier, Craig's version using "begins to exist" is doing the same thing). Proponents of the first cause argument thus try to fend off the infinite regression inherent in their first premise by resorting to special pleading. As Carl Sagan pointed out, they might as well dispense with God and posit that it's the (origin of the) universe which is the exception to the rule that everything needs a cause. Or you could turn the argument around and point out that if everything that exists needs a cause and God doesn't need a cause, then God doesn't exist... These are criticisms of the first cause argument based on its own premises. That it can also be criticised for its premises simply being wrong is another matter and simply makes the first cause argument even less tenable. ScepticWombat (talk) 13:07, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Sure, but it's an argument that tries to prove the existence of God, and the latter is typically thought to be an eternal or timeless entity (and thus wouldn't require a cause). It's obviously gonna have at least one eternal/timeless entity in it. Willfully misinterpreting the first premise and saying "But I thought there weren't gonna be any uncaused entities in this argument!" when they bring up that entity isn't gonna make you come off very clever. Proposing to cut out the middle man and consider the universe as the uncaused exception is a valid retort, of course. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 13:30, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
The problem is that this argument for God starts out by essentially violating its own premises and simply plunk in an exception which is conveniently one that only(!) pertains to God, but this is completely arbitrary. The objection of cutting out the middleman simply highlights this problem. The first cause argument could easily be rendered as:
  1. The universe was created by God
  2. The universe exists
  3. Therefore God exists
This version avoids the special pleading but is blatantly circular. The typical first cause arguments try to avoid such circularity and as such need to be phrased in a way that don't overtly put God into their premises. The problem is that they all tend to involve special pleading either by inserting either outright exceptions (e.g. everything that exists - except God), or by creating "a category of one" (e.g. everything that begins to exist - where God is the only entity that didn't begin to exist). Such special pleading also seems to be both arbitrary and ad hoc as well, since no reasons beyond "well, because that's how we define God" are provided.
The claim about the universe needing to "have at least one eternal/timeless entity in it" miss the point that it's nonsensical to talk about time before the origin of the universe. If eternal means "contiguous with time" (i.e. something existing for all time) then the universe is eternal, since time is a feature of the universe. Sure, we can talk about "before the origin of the universe", but it literally makes no sense, because it means something temporally prior to time itself.
As for "timeless" that's simply a BS term that William Lane Craig made up to avoid "eternal", because Craig thinks he has demonstrated that eternal (i.e. infinitely old) things cannot exist, nor could any infinite phenomena. Craig apparently felt he needed to pre-empt exactly the "cut out the middle man"-answer by excluding any actual infinite set existing. However, this means that Craig has also ruled out the traditional depiction of God as eternal, so instead, Craig invents what's effectively a synonym (because it allows God to have the same property as if He was eternal), but the notion of timelessness is completely nonsensical - what does it mean to be "without" or "outside time"? How can something "without time" act temporally? Are there any other "timeless" entities or phenomena? And so on and so forth. Craig ad hocs his way to a timelessness which essentially seems to allow God to lounge about outside time, only to make convenient deus ex machinaWikipedia's W.svg-like appearances whenever Craig needs Him. ScepticWombat (talk) 14:32, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
"The first cause argument could easily be rendered like this". No, that's obviously not the first cause argument. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 14:40, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
I was pretty clear about why it could be rendered like that: Because of the special pleading and definition of God involved. ScepticWombat (talk) 14:50, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
If you think that's equivalent to the first cause argument, all it shows is that you have an incorrect idea of what the first cause argument is. You really think all the people over the last 2500 years who have discussed the argument are so dumb that they couldn't see that the argument was trivially circular? You don't suppose that somebody may have thought of the point you're making before? It has been, and it's been responded to [2]. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 14:56, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Actually, it could easily be rendered as:
  1. The universe at one point started to exist.
  2. There is a reason why the universe started to exist.
  3. Let's call that reason "God".
I'll get back to you about the intricacies of time in a sec. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 15:02, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
This is not the argument, because the actual argument rests crucially on the premise that an infinite chain of causation is impossible. What you've written is similar to but not the same as the first cause argument. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 15:07, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I guess I just summarized cosmological arguments in general. First cause arguments imply or assume #1. along the way of their argumentation and have #2. follow from the "things have a cause" premise. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 15:20, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
So for first cause arguments:
  1. Every event is part of a causal chain
  2. Causal loops and infinite causal chains are impossible.
  3. When following the causal chains back in time, they all converge to a single point; the beginning of all causal chains.
  4. Let's call that point "God".
141.134.75.236 (talk) 15:31, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, although as I've noted before I think the "every" part of the first premise is unnecessary, as do at least some adherents to the argument. See here [3], "The reader will observe that the Law of Causation does not state (as some modern writers most unfairly would have us believe) that Everything that exists has a cause. In this form it is quite untrue, since God is uncreated and uncaused. If it were worded thus, the objection, that we first formulate our universal law and then exclude from it Him on Whom all existence depends, would be perfectly valid. But this is entirely to misrepresent our position." 149.159.142.47 (talk) 15:38, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Sure, but if the premise is just "some things that exist have a cause" it becomes a pretty unconvincing argument. The way I phrased it above doesn't suffer from the special-pleading-charge because the first cause is part of causal chains; as their beginning. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 15:44, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Why does that formulation make it weaker? Keep in mind that I don't think the argument is convincing at all, but I don't see why weakening the premise to some variant of "some things have a cause" or "everything that is caused has a cause" makes the argument any weaker. It's still as weak as it was before, but now at least it's an actual argument which is not trivially false. I think the way you've worded the premise is fine. It does not make the mistake of assuming that everything needs a cause. I would be happy if this was the formulation offered in the article. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 15:50, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Well, if it's just "some things", then you can just say "And the universe isn't one them." and never require something to cause the universe into being. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 15:54, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Correct, but this is a separate objection which applies to your formulation of the argument too, as one can simply claim that the beginning of the universe is the beginning of all causal chains. I've never claimed that my change insulates the first cause argument from this objection. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 15:58, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
It's weaker with "some things" because, even if you go along with the premises, the conclusion doesn't (necessarily) follow from them. It's the difference between saying "All men are white. Sophie is a man. Therefore, Sophie is white." and "Some men are white. Sophie is a man. Therefore, Sophie is white." You changed one premise to no longer be false but in the process you made the reasoning blatantly invalid. Then it basically stops being an argument altogether. The "Let's call it God" part at the end isn't actually part of the reasoning, it's just an assertion tacked onto the conclusion to dress up the argument in a this-totally-proves-God's-existence costume. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 16:19, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
The reasoning is not invalid. To show this, I'm going to make the argument again with the least assumptions possible:
  1. There is at least one causal chain in the universe
  2. Infinite causal chains are impossible
  3. Therefore if we follow the causal chain backwards, we will find a terminal point, a first cause.
The logic of the argument is this:
  1. At least one X exists
  2. For any Xs to exist, at least one Y must exist
  3. Therefore at least one Y exists.
There's no problem with the logic here. It's perfectly clear that the premises of the argument from first cause establish the existence of at least one first cause. You're right that then the Christian has a problem because this isn't good enough for her; she needs to add at least two more points: that there is only one first cause, and that that first cause is God. But a Deist, for example, might be totally happy with the argument as I have given it.
I also have a problem with your first premise, "Every event is part of a causal chain". This forbids us from believing in events that do not exist within a causal chain, so it would forbid us from believing in particles that pop in and out of existence for no reason whatsoever. I'm not saying that those particles do exist, but it seems strange (at least to me) that the argument from first cause would forbid us from believing in them, because the argument from first cause isn't about those particles, it's about the existence of first causes. I don't think it's necessary for premise one to be so strong.
As far as I can see, the argument from first cause that I have given is at least as good as yours, and probably better. Christians who invoke the argument will still have the same problems we're talking about, but those problems are problems with the justification of certain statements like "the first cause is God", and not problems with the logic of the argument. The special pleading objection does not apply.149.159.142.47 (talk) 18:17, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
*puts a thumb and index finger on their eyebrows and pushes them toward eachother* This page is about the cosmological argument for the existence of God from first cause. From. This page is not about every conceivable argument that argues for whichever concept that might be termed "first cause" within a certain context. If the argument fails to attempt to argue for something with any semblance of divine properties it has no relevance to this page. No relevance. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 20:37, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
To summarize the gist of the argument a bit more succinctly (and eliminate a few inessential elements):
  1. Reality is a causally connected whole.
  2. When following causal chains back in time, they always converge to the same, single point; the origin/beginning of all causal chains.
  3. Let's call that point "God".
This phrasing actually allows causal chains that are infinite towards the future while still disallowing causal loops. It also states bluntly at the start the intended point of the typical premises of "(all?) events/things [insert qualifier here] have a cause" + "no infinite (or circular) regress". 141.134.75.236 (talk) 10:37, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
Personally, it just seems like a few slight changes just proves it can be an argument from ignorance.
  1. Something exists that you cannot explain.
  2. Saying "I don't know" causes people discomfort {and leaves no course to actually feel like you are doing something about it}
  3. Lets call anything we don't know the cause of God.
There's a long history of people claiming natural events they don't know the cause of are acts of God. If it's natural disasters, sickness, storms, or random events. Look up the history of eplilepsy, or mental illness treatment, and most of the world thought it was some sort of spirit or divine will till the last few centuries. Some remote areas of the world (and even the US) still believe it is some sort of possestion.
The problem with that is saying it is something you can do nothing about stops the investigation, where if you don't know some smart person will look to find it. Like DaVinci, who went looking at human anatomy for causes of disease when autopsies were illegal. Since it was god that did it and mortals couldn't do anything about it. The same with harnessing electricity and flying. -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 19:55, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Now if I wanted to be intellectually dishonest, I'd intentionally ignore your clearly intended meaning and argue against your claim based on the problematic phrasing in #3. Obviously you're not suggesting that people call quantum fluctuations or instances of radioactive decay by the name "God", but rather that people call upon God as being the cause of apparently unexplainable phenomena. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 13:48, 8 March 2015 (UTC)

Section added[edit]

149, do you approve? 32℉uzzy, 0℃atPotato (talk/stalk) 18:53, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Looks great, thanks. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 18:59, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Well, you've humoured 149. You can remove it again now. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 20:44, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Why remove it? There are apparently people who think it's a good argument, and this page rebuts that. ʇυzzγɔɒтqoтɒтo (talk/stalk) 21:11, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
*cough* 141.134.75.236 (talk) 21:13, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
But obviously people do think that said argument does argue for a God from a first cause. They're wrong. FU22YC47P07470 (talk/stalk) 22:23, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
Which formulation are you talking about with "said argument"? The 'Clarkeesian' version you took from 149 is far removed from any 'argument from first cause'. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 00:22, 8 March 2015 (UTC)
It is removed from any argument from first caust. That doesn't prevent people from erroneously thinking that it isn't, and can still prove God. Hence, it's in there, to show that it can't. FüzzyCätPötätö (talk/stalk) 00:40, 8 March 2015 (UTC)
I think I'm gonna require some empirical evidence of the existence of people who would derive the existence of God from one non-remarkable finite causal chain having a beginning. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 00:44, 8 March 2015 (UTC)
Feser does. On this singular data point, I will build my theory. FuzzyDogPotato (talk/stalk) 00:55, 8 March 2015 (UTC)
Nope he doesn't. He's said he thinks it's an unconvincing argument no matter how it's phrased. He just objects to the special pleading objection by saying that his new version that's completely useless for asserting the existence of God doesn't suffer from it. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 01:00, 8 March 2015 (UTC)

*tired sigh*[edit]

Do I really have to say all this explicitly? Okay, here we go.

149, your quote from a Jesuit priest is valid, the assumption that it means that "everything has a cause" must be replaced by "some things have a cause" is not.

Everyone that thinks "But who created God?" is a particularly convincing rebuttal; nope, think again. (And if you want to counter "But Hume and Russel used it!": Don't.)

Here's an interesting read for you:

A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Argument

[...] One of the most striking examples of this, to my mind, is to be found in one Anglo-American tradition of antitheistic argument. I am referring to one of the most widely and persistently repeated critiques of the socalled cosmological argument for the existence of God. [...] In the interests of good philosophical argument and fruitful dialogue, for the benefit of both sides, I would like in the present article to expose the ghost of this curiously long-lived red herring, in the hopes of laying it to rest once and for all among serious philosophical circles. There are all too many weighty philosophical objections to proofs for the existence of God, as it is, for us to waste time on irrelevant ones.
[...]
Again it must be abundantly clear to the reader that if such is the cosmological argument it is patently invalid—so patently, in fact, that it should have aroused the suspicions of its attackers. For, despite the amazing amount of ambiguities and non sequiturs strewn throughout the long history of philosophy, it is rare that philosophers of any sophistication have proposed patently self-contradictory arguments, such as this one surely is.
[...]
Furthermore, Saint Thomas himself has explicitly rejected the “Every being has a cause” principle:
Now, to be caused by another does not appertain to a being inasmuch as it is a being; otherwise every being would be caused by another, so that we should have to proceed to infinity in causes—an impossibility, as was shown in Book I of this work.11
[...]
We are here dealing with a clear-cut case of a tradition of antitheistic argument, which keeps perpetuating itself by family inheritance without renewal from outside and, as we shall see, without any effort to ascertain whether the antagonists at whom the salvos are regularly fired are still there any more.
In fact, this tradition has been so much taken for granted by Anglo-Saxon philosophers that we occasionally find it accepted without question even by theistic philosophers who are themselves critical of traditional proofs. [...]
—W. Norris Clarke, The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas

That's a couple relevant portions from the book in question. I'm not gonna copy the whole thing here, obviously. You can consider this a short introduction; the real analysis starts on page 55 if you're interested. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 23:18, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Cool, as long as we've gotten rid of the silly special pleading "who created god" objection. I see how my reformulation wasn't good enough, but at least we're able to establish that the objection isn't a good one, which was what I originally wanted to do. 149.159.142.47 (talk) 03:42, 8 March 2015 (UTC)
It may have crept in as a garbled version of Carl Sagan's response to the first cause argument, which starts by asking "Then where did God come from?" but then moves on to ask: "Well, if the origin of God can't be explained, why not cut out the middle man?" or, in case of the "eternal God"-answer ask "Why not cut out the middle man and conclude that the universe is eternal?" Sagan's version was never supposed to just end at a sort of "Haha, you can't say who created God"-jibe, but instead highlight that the first cause argument simply tags on an extra element without any explanatory power.
While Sagan's two possibilities may seem unsatisfactory explanations, they illustrate the special pleading and arbitrariness involved in invoking a God who is conveniently exempt from the premises of the argument and also that invoking similar exemptions in the case of the equally exceptional origin of the universe is no more arbitrary and certainly more parsimonious because at least we know that the universe exists. And of course, Sagan being Sagan, he prefaced his discussion of the first cause by expressing his optimism about future generations figuring out some of these issues through rigorous scientific scrutiny. ScepticWombat (talk) 07:31, 8 March 2015 (UTC)

BoN edit[edit]

Someone who knows what they're talking about on the subject (unlike me) please look at this BoN edit. Thanks Scream!! (talk) 22:21, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

I suspect that's the same 149 who above argued for the inclusion of such a version of the argument to discredit the special pleading objection. After long argumentation it was pointed out that their version of the argument failed to be a cosmological argument from first cause and thus didn't belong in the article. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 23:01, 12 March 2015 (UTC)
And it should be in there for exactly that reason, to point out that it fails to reach its goals. FuzzyDogPotato (talk/stalk) 23:08, 12 March 2015 (UTC)
Fuzzy, the special pleading objection is based on a misinterpretation of the argument. It's not because 149 managed to think up a first cause argument useless for arguing for a cosmological first cause (which argumentators can then assume to be God) that the first cause arguments that people actually use to argue for God's existence are equally useless as 149's. 141.134.75.236 (talk) 23:56, 12 March 2015 (UTC)
It would be a misinterpretation if people didn't use the argument that "everything has a cause". People do use said argument. When they do, it's special pleading. When they don't, Sagan's more sophisticated reply applies. FrizzyCatPotato (talk/stalk) 00:15, 13 March 2015 (UTC)
And, clarification; the section was included to show specifically why 149's version fails, not to prove that all versions fail. FU22YC47P07470 (talk/stalk) 00:16, 13 March 2015 (UTC)
Sure, but why include 149's version at all if nobody uses it to argue for the existence of God? 141.134.75.236 (talk) 00:21, 13 March 2015 (UTC)
In addition to disproving those who use such an argument (and I'm sure some exist), it underscores that proving an "uncaused cause" falls short of proving God. FuzzyCatPotato™ (talk/stalk) 00:29, 13 March 2015 (UTC)

Richard Carrier's take[edit]

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/14486 --Scherben (talk) 20:23, 6 September 2018 (UTC)

Is it not god of the gaps?[edit]

Let us grant the universe is caused, and then? Why we should conclude it is god?

Asserting the cause is god seems to be god of the gaps fallacy, is not it? --Sir artur (talk) 08:26, 15 November 2018 (UTC)

I propose to add it into the page assuming it is a god of the gaps fallacy. Is not it? --Sir artur (talk) 08:39, 16 November 2018 (UTC)
That's covered in the "Which God?" section, which should probably be renamed to "Which Cause?" to be clearer that the cause need not be anything recognizable as a god. Feel free to reference god of the gaps there.

Problem with the Criticism of the Argument from Necessity (4.8)[edit]

This section reads like the author is purposely being obtuse about understanding Necessity in this case. Clearly the "need" for a car referenced is not the same thing in the Cosmological argument. The necessity in the argument is saying if they are where they needed to get to then a way for them to get there must have existed. Since the section is clearly wrong, I recommend removing it from the page. — Unsigned, by: 199.80.117.31 / talk / contribs