“I can’t imagine any way for this universe to exist other than an intelligent designer.” -Lots of theists who apparently don’t have much of an imagination.
When I try to demonstrate why the Christian god in particular is incompatible with reality, most Christians fall back on deistic arguments to maintain that there must be a god because of X and Y. The variables are many…life, consciousness, morality, personal feelings, and so on. Most arguments structured in this way are fallacious and/or employ untrue premises, and even if they’re valid they can at best only point to the vague and absent god of deism.
The cosmological argument is something I haven’t addressed much, due to my own lack of knowledge. I even used it myself in one of my old articles when I was still loosely a Christian, as I hadn’t learned enough about cosmology at the time. The argument goes like this: according to all known laws of physics, something cannot come out of nothing. If at some point absolutely nothing existed, then absolutely nothing would exist still. The fact that the universe exists (if it’s truly a fact) offers us two options: either the universe is eternal, or it was caused by something else that is eternal.
The first mistake most theists make when using this argument to prove the existence of a god is assuming that the universe cannot be eternal, because the science on that matter is still an open question. The Big Bang theory seems to imply that the universe began to exist, but what if the Big Bang was simply an explosion that resulted from the gravitational collapse of a huge amount of matter?
If science determines that the Big Bang was preceded by the collapse of a previous version of the universe, it would be more logical to assume there is no deity, as such a situation would prove the universe could be eternal, rendering an eternal cause for the universe not only unneeded but irrational. However, if we determine that the universe must have begun with the Big Bang and will expand for eternity, it would be more logical to assume that it came from something else.
This is where theists make their second mistake. They assume that if the universe came from something else, it must be something intelligent, eternal, and [insert list of attributes specific to their particular god here]. I admitted in my old article that it’s a leap in logic to go from “the universe must have had an external cause” to “the external cause of the universe is an anthropomorphic deity with this specific list of attributes”.
In fact, as I’ve discovered in the year or so since I wrote that article, there are numerous possible explanations other than a traditional deity for a universe that had a beginning. Here are a few:
- Universes are formed inside black holes. Since events inside black holes do not happen according to the timeline of our universe, literally anything could happen in there and nothing in this universe would ever know. There could be an entire universe like ours inside every black hole, expanding infinitely in its own separate bubble of spacetime.
- Or maybe a white hole?
- The universe was created by a five-dimensional being in a very different sort of reality as a piece of art or an experiment. Perhaps the creator doesn’t even know that life has arisen in at least one minuscule corner of his creation.
- A being that had always existed created the universe out of itself, using up all of itself in the process so that it no longer exists. This would be more accurately described as metamorphosis than creation, and it’s an entertaining mixture of theism and materialism.
All of these are, of course, pure speculation and unlikely to be true, but the point is that they are just as likely as an eternal deity given the evidence we have. If you took a religion that worships nature as god, and applied to it the same reasoning used by Christian apologetics, you could “prove” #4 as well as any apologist “proves” Christianity. In fact, you’d probably have an even stronger argument since Christianity cannot logically account for the glaring absence of god and the pointless suffering of millions of innocent children without manipulating or ignoring large portions of the bible.
Another problem with the cosmological argument is that it often ignores the important distinction between the sort of “creation” we’ve observed and the sort posited by theists. We have only ever observed things being created out of other things…or in other words, we’ve never observed true creation, only the rearranging of existing material. The creation of the universe by god, however, is commonly claimed to be creation out of nothing, which we have never observed, and conflating such a situation with creation out of existing material renders the argument invalid. Of course, they can’t claim god made the universe out of existing material because that would require the material to be as eternal as god, refuting the claim that god is required to create material in the first place.
So the truth is that the cosmological argument for the Christian god rests on assumptions that are not backed up by conclusive data. Even if those assumptions were true, the best the argument can do is establish the existence of a generic deity. This is hardly a convincing argument for the very specific deity of Christianity.