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The first cause argument

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Hi everyone,

This is my first attempt at a thread/post so if I've placed it in the wrong section or this has been discussed elsewhere please correct me.

A close friend of mine is an evangelical christian and we like to argue. A few weeks ago he brought up the first cause argument and I was able to corner him. His argument:

-All things are created

-The universe was created

-god created the universe

I responded by saying if god can be eternal why can't the universe? He couldn't answer the question and quickly changed the topic, but I asked myself a follow-up question on his behalf. If the universe is eternal, what set everything into motion?

I may be confusing the first cause argument, which I thought only dealt with matter, or I may be thinking of some other version of it, nevertheless I've come to you all for help.

Is this the first cause argument, a version of it, or something different? If the universe is eternal, is motion eternal too or was there a first cause?

Thanks and have a great day!

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If the universe is eternal, what set everything into motion?

If something set the universe into motion, what set that thing into motion?

How can some thing set every thing into motion without being part of that "everything"?

Edited by brian0918

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I'd assume that motion has always been happening too. If absolutely everything was ever completely still then there can be no causes for any further change. I think whatever would hypothetically exist in such a state couldn't be much at all like what exists now either because every time something happens here and now it impacts something else which then spurs on further changes. We can't just isolate things to get them to the point they stop having impact on and being influenced by other things altogether.

The first cause argument is dealt with in the recent podasts on Noodlefood by the way actually. Go take a listen, I think they can help clarify the nature and flaws of this particular argument for you if you haven't heard them yet. ;)

Part one: http://www.dianahsieh.com/radio/2009/09/ep...nts-part-1.html

Part two: http://www.dianahsieh.com/radio/2009/09/ep...nts-part-2.html

Edited by bluecherry

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Change occurred for all time. This is not a mere assumption, it proceeds from the concept of time being logically dependent on change. There is no time without change -- to suppose time without change is to combine in one's imagination two mutually contradictory attributes, change and non-change, in the same context applied to the same thing. It takes the limited experience of observing relative constancy in some limited thing over time, and attempts to apply that notion of non-change in an absolute sense to everything over time, which is an error. Change was always.

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The argument is arbitrary and completely circular. It can't be "solved" or refuted because the whole argument isn't based in anything except circular wording.

All you could gain from debating this with a committed theist would be to piss them off, make them feel stupid, or motivate evasions as they wrestle with the contradiction.

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All you could gain from debating this with a committed theist would be to piss them off, make them feel stupid, or motivate evasions as they wrestle with the contradiction.

Exactly. So long as they accept one contradiction (God), they'll be willing to accept any and all others.

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Let's assume the Big Bang Theory is correct in every respect. Then we know that 15+ billions of years ago the Universe exploded from a mass of great density into, over time, what we know today.

You'd think the question then would be "well, what casued the cosmic egg to explode?" But that's wrong. The fact is if the Big Bang Theory is right in all respects, then it merely represents how far back in time we can see (or detect). For all we know this is an oscilating universe, and the Big Bang is merely the last in an endless series of expansion and collapse. If that is so, then we can't possibly know what the conditions were like before this wave of expansion. We may never be able to know, either.

We can determine whether the universe oscilates or not. We may, I think we will, gain a better undertsanding of hos the universe evolved from Cosmic Egg to what we see today. We may be able to know just how and when the Egg exploded. Infromation does get lsot now and then.

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Cause and effect happen within space and time. You can't ask what caused space and time, Nothing caused it. I think this point would be more obvious if the idea of a deity never existed.

Also, I find it quite humorous that a discussion on the beginning of time is in the current events section :D

Edited by TheEgoist

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Exactly. So long as they accept one contradiction (God), they'll be willing to accept any and all others.

You should always engage though. You can't tell what kind of person it is until you talk to them. Are they willingly evading a contradiction, misinformed, stupid or just lazy? I'd say you'd only have a problem with the first and last. If a person is just evading or not caring, who cares? Nothing you do will affect them. But plenty of people are just misinformed or not thinking critically enough.

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But what came first? The cosmic egg or the universal chicken?

Why should one always engage? There are all kinds of reasons that debating this with someone wouldn't be worth my time. The person that is genuinely curious, can offer some value to me, and can be swayed is rare indeed. I'm not an Objectivist evangelist.

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Thank you all so much! :D

To Brian, thank you for helping me see the connection between matter and motion. Once I caught that I understood how I was asking the same question whether it was about matter or motion.

To BlueCherry, thanks for the link to NoodleFood. The two podcasts were great and I've bookmarked the site so I can check out their other stuff. PS. on their main page the Simon's Cat 'The Fly' video made my day. :D

To Seeker, you pointed out the fallacy of composition, thank you.

To TheEgoist & Castle, my friend is a leader in Campus Crusade for Christ at UF, so I don't expect to change his mind. I view my theology conversations with him as good practice for thinking about and discussing these ideas with other people. The most attractive woman I've met in my life is a life-long, devout Mormon and it breaks my heart that she's associated with them and that I don't believe I have the ability to help her. :P (I'm not sure she'd even want the help.)

Nevertheless, thank you all for the help and have a great day!

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You're welcome. I was just looking at the cat videos myself. ^w^

Lol, actually that just reminded me of something somebody was telling me about the other day. They moved recently and so at this new place they have Mormons coming periodically to try to convert them to Mormonism. Apparently three of them come to do this, one a high school senior who is the leader, another a junior in high school who is sort of the lesser partner, and then a kid in about 8th grade who is like an apprentice in this deal, mostly just there to be watching and learning how it's supposed to be done. Well, mostly just for kicks the people I know will talk to them. The Mormons think they're going to win a convert, but the longer they keep talking, the closer it gets to the younger two being interested in what the people they're trying to convert have to say and they could tell the oldest of the three was getting concerned and kept trying to get them back onto the sort of preset path they have prepared to convert people. So after that last time now they think the Mormons probably won't keep coming back anymore for fear of becoming the ones being converted. Heh. And that's when they held back some and didn't get into the particular argument of contradiction of "So if your religion, as you say, is the right one and all the rest are wrong because they have been changed by people, what was that whole polygamy thing? You know, that thing you used to officially support but now don't? Do you admit either you were not just right to begin with thus undermining what you said made yours somehow better than all the rest or that it was right to begin with, but that now you are wrong just like you've said of the followers of all those other religions? :D "

Look on the bright side though - there's plenty more people out there with much hotter brains and surely they aren't all homely even if you've found one nice looking hopeless case.

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Hypothetically if we went back in time we could only go back as far as time had existed int other words as far as change has occurred, therefore even if the Universe does not have a first cause id does have a first state, does it not?

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Hi everyone,

This is my first attempt at a thread/post so if I've placed it in the wrong section or this has been discussed elsewhere please correct me.

A close friend of mine is an evangelical christian and we like to argue. A few weeks ago he brought up the first cause argument and I was able to corner him. His argument:

-All things are created

-The universe was created

-god created the universe

--------------

First, all three premises are false.  That's the best place to begin.  They are assertions with no proof. Second, the universe is not a thing.  Third, the syllogism is invalid: too many terms; incorrect form.  

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I think the cosmological argument (particularly the Kalam version) is a very good argument, and it's a very good question. But it's not a good argument for Christian theism or theism in general. I am an atheist. I Was a former Christian apologist. The cosmological argument does prove (as far as we know) that the universe has a cause. ... So what? There's nothing to say that the cause is mystical or theistic or godlike. We just don't know enough yet about the mechanics (or quantum mechanics) of the "beginning" of the universe. The theist just tries to fill in the gaps with their hopes and assumptions.

Edited by secondhander

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The cosmological argument does prove (as far as we know) that the universe has a cause. ... So what?

If the universe is everything, how could there be a cause outside of everything? And what caused the cause of the universe? The cosmological argument didn't prove that the universe has a cause.

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If the universe is everything, how could there be a cause outside of everything? And what caused the cause of the universe? The cosmological argument didn't prove that the universe has a cause.

 

It did if the major and minor premises are true and valid.

 

how could there be a cause outside of everything?

 

That's a good question, and that's exactly what I'm talking about. People seem to pose that question and think that they've defeated the cosmological argument, when all they've done is extend it and pose the very same and interesting question the cosmological argument seeks to address. 

 

Here's a version of the Kalam cosmological argument (the one usually used by Christian apologist William Lane Craig):

 

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

Which premise do you think is untrue or invalid, and why? 

 

Like I said before, I don't think this argument gets us to a theistic god in any way. The cause may be (and I believe it to be) some aspect of physics or quantum physics that we do not yet fully understand. But the argument above seems sound to me, as far as the knowledge we currently have. There is no evidence, as far as I know, for an oscillating universe. So you if you believe in an oscillating universe, you are merely believing it on faith.

 

http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html#OSC

 

http://www.universetoday.com/38195/oscillating-universe-theory/

Edited by secondhander

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I don't think there is enough evidence to conclude that the universe "began". What is the alternative? It is eternal, it always existed. But, you must the understand what I mean by universe. I don't mean 'our' universe, I mean everything that exists. To declare the universe has a cause outside of everything that exists leads to the question what caused the cause, what caused the cause of the cause, etc. It is circular. If an entity caused our universe, it is still part of the universe as a whole. But what caused that entity? And it goes on and on..

Edited by thenelli01

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I don't think there is enough evidence to conclude that the universe "began". What is the alternative? It is eternal, it always existed. But, you must the understand what I mean by universe. I don't mean 'our' universe, I mean everything that exists. To declare the universe has a cause outside of everything that exists leads to the question what caused the cause, what caused the cause of the cause, etc. It is circular. If an entity caused our universe, it is still part of the universe as a whole. But what caused that entity? And it goes on and on..

Indeed, it is a contradiction to say that the universe "began" since time is in the universe, time being a measurement of moving objects.  "Began" implies something exists before the beginning.

Edited by A is A

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When "universe" is a synonym of existence, positing a beginning becomes quite absurd. Particularly when the premise is that "began" means came from nothing antecedent.

Edited by Plasmatic

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"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." ~ Hamlet

--

We exist midstream without the benefit of being omniscient.  There is a definite and visible past in the form of starlight, and a tangible present; the future remains to be witnessed.  We don't know who/what produced the first domino and tipped it into everything that followed, but everything we do know suggests something happened and everything else followed.  Arguments for a first cause or a prime mover ultimately depend on what we don’t know and might as well be attributed to God, i.e. faith that patterns are evidence of design, and that design implies a designer.  As to the existence of the Universe implying a definite beginning and end to everything, dream on! :)

 

Here's what Aquinas (Ayn Rand's other favorite 'A') had to say on the subject...

http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/aquinasfiveways_argumentanalysis.htm

--

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." ~ Donald Rumsfeld

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Since no one responded yet I shall quote myself:

 

Hypothetically if we went back in time we could only go back as far as time had existed int other words as far as change has occurred, therefore even if the Universe does not have a first cause id does have a first state, does it not?

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Since no one responded yet I shall quote myself:

1) Evev in the FRW big bang cosmology (hopelessly passe), there is no first time.

2) This question is related to the quantifier shift fallacy.

This has the form (for all x) (there exists y) (such that x is related to y). Therefore, (there exists y) (such that for all x) (x is related to y).

Consider the example, for all people x there exists a person y such that x loves y (i.e., everyone loves someone). The fallacy would be to deduce: There is a person y such that all people x satisfy x loves y, i.e., There is one universally loved person.

For every event x there is another event y such that x caused y. Yes, every event has a cause. The fallacy is to assume that there exists a universal cause for all events. You may argue that there is, but it is independent of the idea that there are no uncaused events.

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