“Examine the philosophical and scientific challenges to the cosmological argument”
The cosmological argument is part of a family of arguments based on the idea that the universe was created by the God of classical theism, it suggests that everything can be proved based on experience (a posteriori argument).In this essay I will examine the philosophical and scientific challenges against the cosmological argument.
The philosopher David Hume formed an argument to suggest that humans think they know more than they actually do. He believed that induction – linking cause and effect, is a mistake by human nature, that the universe is not necessarily linked in the way people expect and rather there are separate events. We have no direct experience of the creation of the universe and therefore there is no sufficient evidence to go by when providing a means of explanation for its existence.
Immanuel Kant is another philosopher who has challenged the cosmological argument; he believes that the first cause only applies to sensory experience. We can’t answer what transcends our experience and so if God is transcendent then it is impossible to have any knowledge or understanding.
Bertrand Russell introduced the idea of philosophical logic, where philosophical questions are reworded into mathematical terms; this was because everyday language is considered misleading. This led to the fallacy of composition, the error that concludes that since the parts have a certain property, the whole likewise has that property. Just because one part has a certain property it shouldn’t be suggested the whole thing does.
When people say that they have experienced God or the divine in some way; they are not saying that it ‘seemed like’ God but was something else. The issue for many philosophers is: are religious experiences veridical? By this is meant can we actually demonstrate that the religious experiences of people are what they seem to be, i. e. experiences of God, rather than delusions, products of the mind ...
There are also some scientific arguments against the cosmological argument, for example Anthony Kenny’s challenge of Aquinas’s First Way. This First Way was motion, the idea that nothing could move itself, it has to have an original ‘unmoved mover’ to begin the chain. Kenny suggested that the bodies of people and animals have their own inertia and that because we can be in a state of rest and then make ourselves move without an external agent, the First Way must be incorrect.
The steady-state theory attempts to challenge Aquinas’s Third Way – Contingency. Scientists claimed that energy couldn’t be created and so the universe must be eternal with no beginning. This was challenged however by the Big Bang Theory which has since been favoured over the steady-state theory. The Big Bang theory accepts that there was a beginning to the universe (unlike the steady-state theory) but suggests it was a random and spontaneous event as opposed to having a creator e.g. the God of classical theism.