Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Refutation of the Cosmological Argument


The notion of an unmoved mover (from Aristotle) is a special from of the cosmological argument. Its rejection doesn’t remove other forms of it. Aristotle assumed that objects’ natural state is to be at absolute rest—including the cosmos as a whole. Motion—change of any kind—must be caused from outside the object. Science, essentially physics, killed this understanding. It changed our view of change. Motion, we now say—change of every conceivable kind—belongs to matter, inheres in matter. Motion does not have to be imparted to the cosmos by an unmoved mover, external to it.

Everything in the cosmos is a contingent thing, including the cosmos itself: it might not have existed and there mightn’t have been anything at all. Causal explanation of anything within the cosmos will always be by other contingent things causing the thing to be explained. These other contingent things are explained by still other ones and so on. Does the cosmos itself need such an explanation? If so, the cause can’t be contingent because by definition anything that is contingent is within the cosmos. There is nothing outside the cosmos and there cannot be anything contingent outside the cosmos. God by definition is outside the cosmos.

We have and can have no experiential or empirical conception of a non contingent causation outside the cosmos. Saying that God is such a thing is useless because it does not help us get past our epistemological limits and it explains nothing. All known cause is via some mechanism. So by what mechanism does God operate? Nobody can say. If God can operate, or be, without being caused, then what do we say about “Necessary Cause”: what can “cause” in that phrase mean? Going further, what can the word “Being” in the phrase “Necessary Being” mean?

Our concept of being(s) is only experiential: we have never experienced or observed anything that is not contingent—something that it is possible could not exist. We can have no conception of a Being such that its non existence is possible. All our conceptions are grounded and limited by human experience. God cannot make himself never to have existed at all. Nor can God make himself not to ever have existed starting at a particular time—say, Thursday at noon.

A lot of this comes down to issues of language, a human invention constrained by human limits, language and meaning being constrained by the nature and limits of the human mind. Trying to force language past these limits and to apply in realms outside nature—the supernatural is outside, exceeds all, nature—is folly.

Plotinus knew this and, so, opposed theology as irresponsibly playing with words. True mysticism is an inarticulable, mystical union with God. In these terms, with theology, language is on a day pass, not doing its proper this-world’s-worldly-work, not turning any gears. One can do one of two things, consequently: be mystical and say nothing, stay silent; or speak, admitting what one doesn’t know, and place trust in science and in common sense.

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