A question from a student: If the Big Bang theory is true, then the universe had a beginning. If the universe had a beginning, it had to be created. Not necessarily by an old geezer with a long white beard who intones like John Gielgud, but there had to be some catalyst of some kind. Intelligent or not, it created the universe and is therefore the creator. I would appreciate it if you could come up with a good argument against this.
Mark Hume, OU student.
My reply: Here you are asking about the first cause, or also known as the first cause argument.
As you mentioned, we have a scientific theory that discusses a Big Bang. The theory goes on to explain that the Universe is the result of a massive explosion so great that it created the Universe as we know it. Assuming that everything has a first cause we then need to ask what was the cause for the Big Bang. Some would argue that God created the Big Bang. Therefore God is the first cause. However, this is a contradiction because if everything has a first cause, then God cannot be the ultimate creator because he needs a cause too.
So, some might say that another God created God, but then you would have to ask who created the God who created the God? Therefore, you would need to follow this path ad infinitum until you have a infinite chain of connections of creators for the creators. Some would dismiss this and would suggest that God is the exception to all of the rules of the Universe. As God does not apply in the realms of logic and naturalism, then those who say He exist will say he just came into existence out of nothing. In that, they make God the exception to the rule and assert that God is the first cause. But why should we stop with God? Why not suggest that the Big Bang came out of nothing? It is just as tangible, is it not? Well no it is not, as we still have the contradiction of the first cause argument to settle.
Let me illustrate the first cause argument another way….
You may have a mountain view outside your window. You might ask what created the mountain? You could answer that the Earth’s plates moved together and pushed the ground up to create the mountain. You would then ask what created the Earth? You could answer that a whole bunch of space debris came together by the force of gravity and formed the planet. You would then ask what created the debris and you could say the Big Bang. But then you would ask what created the Big Bang? And here is where we get stuck! What is the first cause of the Big Bang?
So I now suggest that the question asked does not make sense, and let me demonstrate why…
What is north of England? Scotland. What is north of Scotland? Iceland? What is north of Iceland? The Arctic Circle. Then what is north of the Arctic Circle? The North Pole. And what is north of the North Pole? Well, um….nothing you would say, and you would be right! You see, the final question does not make sense. You cannot go further north than the North Pole as nothing can be more north than north.
As a result, using the first cause argument we ultimatley encounter an unanswerable question. So we are left with a few options. We choose either:
a) Answer the question and say the Big Bang has a cause, but we haven’t discovered it yet.
b) We stop at God being the first cause.
c) We say that the Big Bang just happened and that’s the first cause.
d) Or we accept the question doesn’t even makes sense.
None the options given are satisfactory and here’s why, for each option:
a) The problem is that once we identify the cause we have to ask the question for the solution to the preceeding cause.
b) God becomes the focus of the question and we get the same problem as shown with ‘a)’.
c) Did the Big Bang really happen with no cause? I don’t think so!! I’m still not happy with the answer.
d) If we say the question doesn’t make sense, then what is the right question?
Readers of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy will all smile and have realised the problem pointed out here already. The problem isn’t finding the right answer, the problem is asking the right question!
Based on an idea from: The Philosophy Gym, Stephen Law.