The Cosmological Argument
The basic notion of the cosmological argument is that the world and everything in it is dependent on something other than itself for its existence. In other word's, despite the fact that the world seems to be currently self-perpetuating one needs to consider the source of all that there is.
Although the cosmological argument was famously expressed as one of Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways (rational arguments for the existence of God) it is grounded in the Greek metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle. Both argued that the fact of motion (i.e. things move) requires a mover ('... the series must start with something for nothing can come from nothing' (Aristotle)). The key ideas are 'contingency' and 'necessity'. To say of something that it exists is to also point to other factors that have influenced (and caused) it to exist. For example, to say that the computer I am currently using to write these words on exists it to say that the materials, machinery and people by which is is constructed and made, also exist. If they had not then this computer would not exist.
The cosmological argument requires us to ask similar questions of the world around us. If we accept the contingency (everything depends on something else for its existence) and existence (things exist) of the world then by continually regressing back we will arrive at the first cause behind all contingent things. Both Christians and scientists argue that the world and everything in it is dependent for its current existence on a first cause. The world and everything in it did not just appear. Scientists would argue that the first cause was the Big Bang (Evolution). Christians (and other theistic religions) believe God (or the Divine) was the first cause of all there is (Creation).
The cosmological argument not only seeks to reason the existence of God but also provide meaning in a contingent world. Theists argue that humans cannot accept that the world 'just is' as this is inexplicable. Humans need to have meaning in their life (E.g. "Where did I come from/Why am I here?"). But did the world (and the universe) have such a 'beginning' and do we need to understand God as the first cause in order to give the world meaning? Cannot the world and all that is in it have meaning without reference to God? (The Buddhist religion is an example of people living a life full of meaning and purpose despite not believing in any God/gods. NB. Humanist Associations!) Furthermore, the idea of beginnings is based on a linear view of time. By this we mean that time progresses. What has been will never be again. But in today's multi-faith society we have been exposed to the worldview of other religions and the idea that time could be cyclical (E.g. Hinduism, Buddhism).
Cyclical view of the world
This cyclical view also questions the whole notion of 'beginnings' (where does a circle begin?).
One of the main issues with regard to the cosmological argument is what the role of God is after the world has been created? Certainly it can be argued that God could be the first cause (either as creation out-of-nothing ('ex nihilo' Genesis 1-2) or a form of theistic evolution (God as the cause of the evolutionary process - the power behind the Big Bang?)). However, the law of the conservation of energy (that the amount of energy in the universe stays constant) means that God could not be continually putting energy into the world. Thus God as the first cause can only be the first cause. God cannot be the causing (or causes)! This then leads us to the notion of deism in that God has had to withdraw from the world and merely observe it from a distance. But if this is so what reason is there for believing in God and practicing religion today? Furthermore, why believe God is not a contingent being? It may have been that in the act of being the first cause of all there is, God 'burnt out' and died?
© Pelusa 1999