Disclaimer: Both Shawn and I agree that when we talk about “all things” we are not referring to concepts or ideas such as mathematical concepts or propositions that would be considered non-contingent.
I’d like to start by thanking Shawn the Humanist for participating in this debate with me. I have spoken with him on occasion and he has been very polite and understanding as we hash out the details of this debate. He also has demonstrated a very high level of knowledge and intelligence in our conversations which lets me know that this will be a very spirited and challenging exchange.
In this debate, we are going to be discussing whether or not every existing thing requires an explanation for it’s existence. An example of this is a tree. If you walk outside and you see a tree you must ask the question, “where did it come from?” Quite simply, the answer to that is from a seed that fell to the ground, germinated, and sprouted and then grew. But where did the seed come from? It came from another tree. And so on…
We can use this line of thinking with virtually every physical and most non-physical objects in the Universe. However, what we inevitably run into is the First Cause conundrum. That is, if this was caused by that and that was caused by that and so on… then what was the initial thing that began this series of cause and effect? This is the basis of this debate.
In this debate, I’m going to defend three basic contentions:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- There must be something that is uncaused.
- That “thing” that is uncaused must exist beyond the confines of our known Universe.
I’d like to approach this debate from two different perspectives.
- Cosmological perspective.
- The perspective of the origin of life.
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The Universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the Universe had a cause.
Now, I understand that the Kalam Cosmological Argument has been used and explained at nauseum in other debates and therefore I will be brief in my explanation and defend it as necessary.
The fact is that most scientists will agree that the Universe had a definite beginning in the past. If that is the case then we must ask, “then what caused it?” Obviously, the Universe could not have been caused by something within the confines of the Universe since something cannot possibly cause itself to exist. Therefore, it must have been caused by something that is:
- Transcendent- Since before the beginning of the Universe there was nothing, the first cause of the Universe must, therefore, exist outside the confines of the Universe.
- Immaterial- Everything physical exists within our own Universe. Therefore, this first cause must be non-physical.
- Eternal- The Universe began a finite time ago. The first cause must be completely uncaused. Also, it created time. Therefore, the first cause must be an eternal and timeless first cause.
- All Powerful- The first cause must have power beyond the comprehension of any personal being within the confines of the Universe. Therefore, it must be at least extremely powerful, or more likely, all powerful.
Origin of Life
- Life cannot come from non-life.
- At some point in the past, there was no existing life in the Universe.
- Therefore, life must have been initiated by a living source outside the Universe.
I think that the first premise is self-evident even though there are some who have come up with very outlandish hypothesis in order to explain that life arose independent from the existence of God. However, none of these hypothesis really hold water in the real world.
The second premise is difficult to absolutely prove except to point out that most scientists believe in evolution. If evolution is true then all living beings in the Universe would be at some stage of evolution that had to originate in a simple form. I, myself, am not a proponent of evolution however it’s validity is not relevant to this debate. The fact is that since most scientist agree with evolution then the second premise would likely not be a controversial concept.
Therefore, the conclusion would necessarily follow. If life cannot come from non-life and at some point there was no existing life in the Universe then there must have been a source outside the Universe that initially caused life to exist and ultimately cause life to exist on Earth.
The necessary attributes of the initial first cause of life would include:
- Living – Since life cannot come from non-life, the first cause of life must be living itself.
- Intelligent – Given the complexity of life as we know it, the Creator of life must have intelligently designed and put into motion the cause and effect of reproduction.
In conclusion, if either or both of these two arguments hold up then we have a being that has within Himself, the necessary attributes that would lead us to the conclusion that God exists and that He is unlike any living or un-living thing that we know of.
To some, it may seem farfetched that there is a single entity that is in a category all His own and that category being outside our realm of understanding. But in order for us to have a realm of understanding of how and where the known Universe and life came from, we must posit an initial cause of that material. We can then deduce logically that there must be an intelligent, changeless, immaterial, eternal, transcendent mind and being of which all that we know originated.
For the sake of time and space I have tried to keep this first post brief and simple and will address any objections as they come up.
Shawn’s Opening Statement