First cause

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The first cause is the postulate, popular in philosophy, theology, and orthodox science (historically known also as Natural Philosophy) that, since everything that happens must have a cause, everything is traceable back to a first cause, usually referred to as God. For example, Newton is quoted as saying, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."[1]

A popular argument for atheism - along with being a popular scientific rebuttal of intelligent design - is the notion of the infinite regress. Every action or being requires a cause, so if God exists, God must have a cause; that cause also had a cause, and so on, literally ad infinitum.

This is however a popular misunderstanding of important property of divine[2] and of the very essence of the first cause argument as Christian theology (and some other religions as well), professed also by orthodox scientists, states that God is the "uncaused first cause"; that He is "eternally self-existent"[3], or that He is "beyond time and space"[4].

Contents

The first cause argument

The first cause argument was presented by evangelical Christian philosopher T.Miethe in version resting on following premises:

  • Some limited, changing being(s) exist.
  • The present existence of every limited, changing being is caused by another.
  • There cannot be an infinite regress of causes of being, because an infinite regress of finite beings would not cause the existence of anything.
  • Therefore, there is a first Cause of the present existence of these beings.
  • The first Cause must be infinite, necessary, eternal, and one.
  • The first uncaused Cause is identical with the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.[5]

Consequences of Dismissing the First Cause

Pasteur criticized positivist Auguste Comte that his fundamental principle is to dismiss any metaphysical search for first and final causes and to reduce all ideas and all theories to facts, and to attribute the character of certainty only to demonstrations of experience. Conversely, instead of achieving for scientific rigour, this approach turned out to be an utopia and led Comte to end up with the lack of precision and clarity in stating his doctrine, with doubtful assertions, obscure precepts, and anecdotal examples.[6] According to G.K. Chesterton, the riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man and the first effect of not believing in God [here as the first cause] is that person is losing the common sense or according to É.L. Cammaerts starts believing in anything.[7] The similar critique was applied to Darwin by Adam Sedgwick who in his review of the Origin published in the Spectator on 24 March 1860 criticised Darwin's theory for unflinching materialism and for utterly repudiating final causes.[8] The philosophical positions stemming from this repudiation eventually degenerated into scientism and attracted totalitarian minds and adherents of radical anticlericalism who blindly sought to impose their own belief systems pertaining to morality and politics.[6]

References

  1. Christine Dao. Man of Science, Man of God: Isaac Newton. Institute for Creation Research. Retrieved on December 14, 2014.
  2. David Berlinski (2009). "Was there a Big Bang?", The Deniable Darwin. Seattle, USA: Discovery Institute Press (reprinted from Commentary February 1998 by permission), 226-228. ISBN 978-0-9790141-2-3. “a first cause exhibits an important property of the divine: It is uncaused 
  3. Werner Gitt et al.. 95 One Sentence Theses against Evolution: A scientific critique of the naturalist philosophy. “The causal proof of God’s existence formulated by Aristotle assumes that the series of causal movers cannot be infinite, so that there must be a prime mover (prima causa). In the ontological proof of God’s existence, Anselm of Canterbury draws his conclusion by moving from the logical, terminological level to the level of being. The teleological proof of God’s existence of Thomas of Aquinas (1225–1274) states that the ordered and obviously planned nature of the world must have an external cause. There are a number of variants on the cosmological proof of God’s existence. The earliest formulation argues that the universe requires a causal agent that must lie outside it. More recent proofs of God's existence can be derived from the natural information in the universe and the prophetic information in the Bible.”
  4. Edgar Andrews (2009). Who made God?. EP Books, 25. ISBN 978-0852-347072. “Because cause and effect is only proven for the physical world, we can no longer insist that cause and effect are relevant when it comes to the origin of a spiritual entity like God. Therefore God doesn't have to have a cause - he can be the ultimate uncaused cause, a being whom no one made.” 
  5. Antony Flew (2008). There is a God, How the world's most notorious atheist changed his mind. HarperOne, 70-71. ISBN 978-0-06-133530-3. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Patrice Debré (1998). Louis Pasteur. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 365-368. ISBN 978-0801-865299. 
  7. See notes in: Singularity
  8. ibid.

See also

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