Atheist Confirmation Bias
Although my blog has multiple explanations of cosmological arguments, I will re-explain here to keep this article self-contained. First, I will explain how the traditional cosmological argument is supposed to work. Then we will compare with the version on the website and see if any of their objections apply at all.
The traditional cosmological argument, inaugurated by Plato, developed by Aristotle, and merged with Christian theology by Aquinas, is also known as the argument from change or the First Way of Thomas Aquinas.
Most people who have an opinion on this argument are already wrong, because inevitably they think that these thinkers were trying to argue that the universe had a beginning, and that God must have touched off that beginning. Nothing could be more of a strawman. Aristotle actually believed that the universe was eternally old, and his argument for an unmoved mover actually begins by proving that change and motion are eternal; that it is logically impossible for the universe to have had a beginning.
Dominoes and Clocks
Before diving in, it is important to see the forest before looking at the trees. In a general sense, the traditional cosmological argument is not trying to argue for something that knocked down the first domino, which would mean that it may not still be around. Rather, the argument is trying to argue for something like the motor in a watch: the watch could be infinitely old, and yet as long as the hands are turning, there must be a motor in it somewhere making them turn.
Pre-Socratics vs Aristotle
The argument developed as a response to Parmenides, who claimed that the change and activity we see around us does not actually exist. Nothing changes. Nothing happens. Aristotle rebutted Parmenides by saying that change is possible because changeable things are a mixture of the way they are now, and the way they could be in the future. He labeled them actuality and potentiality (or act and potency). The ice cube on your table is actually solid, and potentially liquid. After a time, it becomes actually liquid and potentially spilling all over the floor.
For something to become actual, it must be made actual by something already actual. The ice cube sitting on your kitchen table is potentially liquid water, but that potentiality cannot be made actual except by actual warm air; it can't make itself actual because it is merely potential and not in existence yet. But now if that thing is being made actual by something else, it too needs something else to actualize it, and so on. Something needs to be making the air warm. Say, the wall heater. But something needs to be making the heater run: natural gas. But something needs to be making the natural gas come through the pipes: the gas company. And so on and so on.
Do you see how this is a concurrent chain?
The watch hand is only turning because it is being turned by a gear, which is itself only turning because it is being turned by another gear, and so on. The ice is melting only because the warm air is melting it. The air is warm only because the wall heater is heating it. The wall heater is running only because the gas is being pumped into it.
This chain must bottom out in something that actualizes the chain without having to be actualized by anything further. The watch motor turns the gears without having to be turned by any further gears. No motor, no gears turning. In the case of the melting ice cube, something unchangeable must be causing the change. Something that is purely actual, with no potentialities at all.
Aquinas goes on to show what kinds of attributes a purely actual thing must have. It must be immaterial, because matter, being changeable, is a mixture of potential and actual. It must be spaceless and timeless, as these both involve being changeable. It is the cause of everything that occurs or could occur, and so it is all-powerful. It is the ground of all being or existence, and so does not have knowledge but rather is knowledge. So it is all-knowing. Also, if it were not all-powerful or all-knowing, it would have an unrealized potentiality that could be realized by learning more and being able to do more. But a purely actual thing is "maxed out" already, and has no potentialites for change.
So just from the fact that things change, we get: an immaterial, timeless, spaceless, all-powerful, all-knowing being.
There will be no evaluations of this argument here. Rather...
As the website objects:
"Who or what created god?"
Well, obviously this question translates to: what actualized the potential of the thing which has no potentials? I don't need to tell you why this is a nonsense question.
"Why should a hypothetical ‘cause’ have any of the common attributes of a god?"
Just explained above, in VERY brief form. Aquinas actually spends the better part of the Summa examining just this question. All ignored by atheists, who want the easy way out of the religion that they so despise.
"Why is the ‘cause’ a specific god?"
Well, it's not any specific religion's god, but it is the specific all-knowing, all-powerful God of most Western monotheistic religions.
"Why can’t the universe be causeless too?"
Because the universe is a compound of act and potency. At one point it was actually a singularity and potentially a large expansive universe. Right now, it is actually a large universe and potentially heat-dead. At some point in the far future, it will be actually heat-dead. So as a compound of actuality and potentiality, the universe cannot change itself into these future states. These future states must be made actual by: something already actual.
"Why rule out all other possible explanations?"
This argument is not a matter of empirical hypothesizing, but rather follows necessarily from its premises. If it is the case that things change, and that nothing can change itself, then it follows that there must be an unchangeable changer.
"Our current lack of understanding concerning the Universe’s origins does not automatically mean ‘god’ holds any explanatory value."
This is true, but the argument does not concern itself with the origin of the cosmos. And god isn't supposed to have "explanatory value" like one hypothesis among others, argued to be the best one. Rather, the fact that things are compounds of act and potency means that there must be something that is just act, actualizing everything else. It is more like an equation rather than a hypothesis.
Most of the rest of the objections concern origins of the universe, and would not touch the unchangeable changer.
It is absolutely stunning the credulity which atheists show when they find something that confirms what they already believe. They unquestioningly accept that this website has gotten the cosmological argument correct, and that its objections are good. They do not show any skepticism over the website's evaluation of it, and in the comments they effectively just high five each other over how good it feels to have shown those "religious" people how wrong their arguments are. They want to hate religion, they have a "tribal" feeling with other atheists, and they blindly accept other atheist authority on cosmological arguments.
Why not be a free thinker instead?