Revisiting the Cosmological Argument

In a 1994 paper, Quentin Smith reported1 that world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had, in his book, A Brief History of Time, “recently argued that there is ‘no place for a creator’, that God does not exist.” Did Hawking so explicitly deny God? Or, is this Smith’s own interpretation – possibly a misinterpretation – of what Hawking wrote?

In A Brief History of Time, Hawking recounted that it was at a “conference in the Vatican” when he “first put forward the suggestion that maybe time and space together … was finite in size but did not have any boundary or edge.” He noted that his “paper was rather mathematical … so its implications for the role of God … were not generally recognized at the time (just as well for me).” 2

Eventually, what Hawking actually did in the book to which Quentin Smith referred was posit a “completely self-contained” universe “having no boundary or edge” with “neither beginning nor end”. Hawking then put forth what might have been intended as a rhetorical question when he asked, “What place, then, for a creator?” 3

Years later, Hawking had become somewhat less publicly timid and in his book, The Grand Design, was willing to go so far as to state outright that “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” 4 Hawking’s statement is not nearly so elegant as Laplace’s response to Napoleon; when Napoleon questioned him about not having mentioned God, Laplace replied, “I had no need of that hypothesis.”

Even if Hawking imagines that he has presented what amounts to an argument against the reality of God, even if Hawking explicitly “argued that … God does not exist”(as Quentin Smith reports), is this denial supposed to be a fact of science? Whether such a claim is scientific or merely and woefully scientistic, the fact of the matter is that there is at least one philosophical argument commonly taken as at least suggestive of the existence of God which has yet to be overcome – even in light of Hawking’s work. That argument is the Cosmological Argument.

Cause, Contingency, and Dependence

The Cosmological Argument in any of its forms5 is most often regarded as an argument in support of there having been a First Cause for all that was, is, and ever will be. Of course, it is in the very nature of being a first cause to be also uncaused. Being both first and uncaused, this First Cause seems especially suitable for what are taken to be some very basic notions about the God of Western theisms in particular, and this explains why, as an historical matter, the Cosmological Argument has come to be regarded primarily as an attempt at establishing the mind-independent reality or existence, the actuality of God.

Despite the now prevalent way of thinking about it as an argument for the existence of God, a successful Cosmological Argument, as conventionally explicated, goes no further than to demonstrate the need, the necessity for there having been what is most frequently referred to as a First Cause.

Of this First Cause, one may be inclined to say, “and this we call God”, but, since it goes no further than to establish a First Cause, the Cosmological Argument in and of itself does not establish the fact of existence for either a theistic or even a deistic God.

As Robert C. Koons notes in “A New Look at the Cosmological Argument”6:

Demonstrating the existence of a First Cause is of course not the same thing as demonstrating the existence of God as conceived, for example, in biblical theology. Nonetheless, the result of the cosmological argument is quite useful to the project of natural theology, providing very helpful support to a number of important arguments for theism.

What Koons refers to as the “result” of the Cosmological Argument is likely ordinarily identified with the conclusion of the argument. This identification of result with conclusion, the interchangeability of “result” and “conclusion”, would certainly be wholly appropriate were it the case that the entire content of the argument provided no basis whatsoever for objection or doubt.

It turns out, however, that there have been objections to the Cosmological Argument. Accordingly, the “result” of the Cosmological Argument is something other than, something broader than the conclusion. This is because, even if the argument succeeds despite any and all objections, the objections and the manner in which they are overcome serve to produce content or other results in addition not only to the conclusion but also the premises.

The additional content and these additional results are important inasmuch as they become relevant to any and all other arguments which in any way rely upon or refer to the conclusion of a Cosmological Argument. In effect, the additional results or content born of overcome objections explicate or define the conclusion.

All forms of the Cosmological Argument proceed from the fact that something – whether the world, the universe, experience, what have you – is or exists, and the differences in the forms of this argument arise from differences in the manners employed for characterizing this something which is or exists.

In general, the most common forms of the Cosmological Argument concentrate on either the notion of causal qualities or the notion of contingency or some combination of both. All forms of the argument conclude with either an uncaused cause or something otherwise non-contingent as essential to either the description or explanation for all that is, ever has been, or ever will be.

Accordingly, the objections to the Cosmological Argument pertain to the characterization of causality (including whether causes are mind-independent facts as distinguished from mind-generated concepts) as well as to the nature of contingency (and, thereby, certain versions of necessity). As a consequence of such objections, some versions of the Cosmological Argument also involve considerations about the nature of infinity.

In any event, it is clearly the case that the “result” of the Cosmological Argument involves more than just its conclusion regardless of the form of argument employed. As the assorted objections to the argument(s) make clear, the Cosmological Argument pertains not just to the conclusion of an uncaused cause or the necessity of an origin for reality other than the universe itself. Rather, the “result” of the Cosmological Argument – and, hence, the argument itself – primarily regards the most basic characteristics of the universe: cause and effect as well as contingency and necessity. This is to say that, in the case of a successful argument, the “results” go beyond the fact of the First Cause to indicate characteristics of this uncaused necessity which should, in turn, be taken into account by whatever are the other “important arguments for theism” which Koons has in mind.

The Cosmological Argument proceeds from the observation (or interpretation) that all things which come to be do so as the result (or as the effect) of having been caused by some other things. All caused things are regarded as being contingent at least inasmuch as their having come to be is dependent on other things.

Sometimes this contingency is expanded and described in terms of it being in some way possible that the caused things might not have come to be (or might not have come to be precisely as they are). This is to say that, in addition to a dependency for having come to be, contingency can also indicate the possibility of alternatives to the things which have come to be.

But, even with this type of contingency, all caused things remain dependent on other things in order for those caused things to have come to be.

It is not yet established that possible alternatives are themselves things that come to be without being dependent on some mind(s); this is to say that it is not yet established that possibilities are mind-independent things as distinguished from merely mind-dependent conceptions or conceivabilities. Since the Cosmological Argument, to be as broadly successful as possible, cannot – and, indeed, does not – presume that caused things are all dependent on minds, the contingency within the argument is, at least initially, most properly regarded in terms of dependency rather than in terms of alternatives.

At its most basic, contingency indicates dependence.

The Natures of Beginning and the Infinite

According to the Cosmological Argument, no thing comes to be without being caused by – or without being dependent on – some other thing(s), and this apparently rather innocuous understanding immediately leads to the considerations regarding whether there is such a thing as a beginning to the process of dependent things coming to be.

If there is such a beginning, then that beginning would only be a beginning if it were not dependent on any other things such that this beginning thing would be rightly described in terms of being without having come to be.

In terms of causes, if all things which come to be do so only by being caused, then the beginning thing is properly described as being uncaused inasmuch as it is without having come to be. The beginning thing is the first thing. In terms of causes, it is the first cause, and it is an uncaused cause.

One objection to the argument regards whether there is any reason for thinking that there is a beginning, a first cause for all that comes to be.

What has come to be called the Kalam version of the Cosmological Argument attempts to overcome the possibility of a beginning-less infinite regress of caused things by presenting a case for why there is and can be no thing which is actually (as distinguished from potentially or merely conceptually) infinite.

In the case of the Kalam argument, what is being claimed is that it is time which is not infinite. This is to say that the Kalam argument is a temporal argument, but there is also what has been described as an atemporal aspect to the Cosmological Argument, a version of the argument which might succeed both in the case of there being no such thing as an actually infinite and in the case of there being some thing actually infinite. It just so happens that this atemporal version of the Cosmological Argument might also go a long way towards dealing with relatively modern (and purportedly scientifically based) objections against the notion that anything which comes to be only comes to be by having been caused.

However, since the Cosmological Argument initiates from the observation of things having come to be by being caused, and since the notion of things coming to be most naturally suggests a passage of time, it might at first seem as though the Cosmological Argument can only be a temporal argument. There is, however, a quite old philosophical tradition commonly called “eternalism” which has more recently been thought of as having garnered scientific support from one interpretation of relativity theory according to which it follows, for instance according to Hermann Weyl, that the totality of all events

simply is, it does not happen.

Or, to quote Einstein:

For those of us who are convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future has no other meaning than that of an illusion … 7

This is to say that according to eternalism (whether or not based on the dubitable interpretation of relativity theory above cited) the coming to be of things is a seeming or a mere appearance. In accord with contemporary science, time is regarded to be just as much a physical thing – just as much a matter of physics – as is space, and time is effectively proposed as ultimately inseparable from space (or length, width, and depth) so that both time and space are most completely and accurately presented when discussed in terms of “space-time” rather than in terms of either just time or just space.

Basically, then, eternalism is atemporal in that the totality of all does not accumulate as a result of things coming to be or over time; rather than coming to be, the totality “simply is, it does not happen.” In effect, this is to say that, taking into account the time aspect for any constituent component of the totality, the totality of all time and space is never absent (even if parts are inaccessible) nor is totality ever incomplete.

The thing about this allegedly atemporal totality is that, even if it is a presumed to be an actual infinite, it is still regarded as ordered – which is to say that it exhibits sequence, even if that sequence is atemporal inasmuch as the sequence is never a matter of coming to be. So long as the sequence of totality does not lead to (or end at) its beginning, then this infinite could have an actual rather than an arbitrary beginning.

The point which is relevant to the Cosmological Argument is that even if time (or space-time) were infinite, this condition in itself does not preclude there being a beginning to the ordering or the sequence of the infinite.

And, this would mean that, with the Cosmological Argument broadly understood as arguing that there is a beginning, a first something, then the only way of relying upon an actual infinite as a means of dispensing with the Cosmological Argument is to deny that the actual infinite is ordered or to deny that the end of the ordering does not lead to the beginning.

Of course, regardless of whether or not the first thing frequently referred to in the Cosmological Argument as the First Cause is itself actually a cause of the rest of the sequence which is the supposedly infinite totality, it would seem to be an inescapable conclusion that the first thing is uncaused.

However, a potential problem for the Cosmological Argument rests in the possibility noted earlier that modern science may give reason to believe that not everything which comes to be does so by having been caused. If there are uncaused things which come to be, then would it be sensible to assert that the First Cause actually causes the rest of the sequence which is the totality of all that ever is?

Causes and Contexts

Putting aside the issue of atemporal eternalism, at least for the moment and certainly for the sake of simplicity of expression, there is the matter regarding whether, despite there being a beginning as already discussed, any things come to be without being caused (or, to put it somewhat more atemporally this one time, whether things come into sequence without being in some way linked to anything which is sequentially prior).

In the paper, “A Big Bang Cosmological Argument for God’s Nonexistence”8, Quentin Smith reports that “quantum mechanics has shown that many particles (virtual particles) begin to exist without being caused to do so.” Mark Vuletic, on the other hand, has described9 virtual particles as deriving “from uncertainties in energy”.

For the purposes of this discussion, it does not matter at all whether Smith’s rendition regarding virtual particles as uncaused is in any sense correct. After all, there is an entirely separate, more generally philosophical issue which pertains to the same matter of whether there is ever anything which comes to be without being caused, and that philosophical issue has to do with what is most commonly discussed in terms of whether there is such a thing as human “free will” (that discussion is actually more appropriately conducted in terms of the nature of “choice” as distinguished from “will”, but that distinction will not be taken up in this essay).

A point of contention regarding this free will pertains to whether the claim that there is human free will amounts to a claim for breaks in a reality presumed to be (or commonly described as being) a wholly, uninterrupted causal, veritably mechanical sequence. If the human will manifests without having been wholly caused, then that manifestation would indicate the coming to be of something that is not caused, where “caused” is understood as indicating being entirely caused or wholly (pre)determined.

Of course, those who deny that human choice is wholly (pre)determined need not – and do not – deny that other things affect choice. In effect, other things are factors relevant to choice, and this is to say that, regardless of whether or not a choice is uncaused inasmuch as it is a break in an otherwise utterly causal or (pre)determined sequence, a choice is a thing which occurs within a context.

Likewise, whether or not the virtual particles referred to by Smith are uncaused, they, too, occur within a context.

From this it follows that, in terms of the Cosmological Argument, the uncaused first thing need not be the only uncaused thing in order for the argument to be successful. However, this uncaused first thing would differ from other uncaused things in that the first thing is in no way dependent on a context other than itself.

Accordingly, if it were the case that causes are nothing other than concepts, if causes are nothing other than mind-dependent things, if causes are mere products of minds used to describe the links between or the sequence of presumably mind-independent things, then what the Cosmological Argument points to instead of a first cause can be said to be a first context, a beginning context.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the Cosmological Argument10 restates the position held by Stephen Hawking which was expressed at the start of this essay: “the finite universe has no space-time boundaries and hence lacks singularity and a beginning”.

On the face of it, Hawking’s position would seem to stand in direct and utter opposition to the Cosmological Argument notion that there is a beginning – what has to this point been put forth in terms of the beginning as a first context.

Then again, that statement would also seem to indicate that Hawking was denying that singularity which is so much a part of modern scientific cosmology, but he is, in fact, doing no such thing. Hawking’s position as represented in the Stanford article is heavily dependent on distinctions between “imaginary time” and “real time”11 as well as on semantic distinctions such as are explicated by Quentin Smith12:

The universe is standardly defined as the set of events, each event being a point in a 4-dimensional space-time continuum … But the singularity … is not in a 3-d space; it is in a space either of 0 dimensions (if it is just one point), 1 dimension (if it is a series of points constituting a line or line segment) or 2 dimensions (if it is a series of points comprising a surface-like space). Accordingly, the singularity … is not a part of the universe and a fortiori not the earliest part of the universe. Rather it is a source of the universe.

In other words, where the universe is space-time, the singularity is not part of that space-time; therefore, the singularity is not part of the space-time universe. Hence, this is one sense in which the universe “lacks singularity”.

Of course, being apart from the universe, the singularity as “source of the universe” is perfectly in keeping with the Cosmological Argument, even if that source is in some sense not the beginning of the universe.

How can a source not be a beginning?

One way in which it might be arguable that this source is not a beginning is by defining “beginning” so that it only has reference to space-time (where space-time entails the universe and all physical laws that are ever operative therein or descriptive thereof).

Since the singularity is not part of space-time, and since the laws operative within or descriptive of space-time are apparently absent from or inapplicable to the singularity, the singularity cannot be referred to as being within or as being part of space-time. Hence, the source which is the singularity is not a space-time beginning.

But, again, even with acceptance of this sense of “beginning”, the first context which is the ultimate focus of the Cosmological Argument remains in place as something other than the space-time universe itself.

In addition, this first context is a beginning context for all other in sequence contexts so long as the other contexts and the things in those contexts are at all dependent upon that first context. And, since

[t]he solutions for the Hawking-Penrose theorems show, as Hawking notes, that “in the general case there will be a curvature singularity that will intersect every world line …”8,

which is to say that

[t]he solutions for the Hawking-Penrose theorems … show that there is a singularity that intersects every past-directed spacetime path 13,

it is quite clear that there is nothing about the Hawking position (at least as encapsulated by Hawking-Penrose) which contradicts – or is even slightly incompatible with – the first context as put forth by the Cosmological Argument.

But, what about the case of Hawking’s “imaginary time” with which there “are no singularities”? Does that dispense with the first context as put forth by the Cosmological Argument?

The first thing to note is that, according to Hawking, with the “’no boundary’ proposal” the

universe starts … as a single point … expanding with imaginary time … to a maximum size … and would [then] contract with increasing imaginary time to a single point. Even though the universe would have zero size at … these points … these points would not be singularities [inasmuch as] … The laws of science will hold at them.14

Since, again according to Hawking15, there is no end-point which is or leads to the start of the sequence, there is at least a beginning (in the sense of a start) to the universe.

However, inasmuch as a beginning is a coming to be, what would then seem most pertinent to the Cosmological Argument is whether there has to be a First Context which is other than the (beginning of the) universe. This issue will be taken up with a consideration of the Hartle-Hawking theory.

The Cosmology of Stephen Hawking

As discussed previously, the Hawking-Penrose theorems appear to be wholly compatible with there being a first context as per the Cosmological Argument, but Hawking’s imaginary time-based “no boundary” condition for the space-time universe would seem to effectively do away with the Hawking-Penrose singularity which is something other than – or outside – the universe and is, thereby, consistent with the Cosmological Argument notion for a first context other than the universe itself.

The imaginary time, no boundary condition still posits a beginning to the space-time universe, but that beginning would seem to be a coming to be without there being any context other than the universe itself. Such a sort of beginning would effectively eviscerate the Cosmological Argument, because this type of beginning would have the universe as not only uncaused but also as coming to be without there being a sequentially prior context.

In fact, Stephen Hawking and James Hartle, authors of the Hartle-Hawking unconditional probability wave-function for the universe, have gone so far as to claim that, based on their model, the universe appeared uncaused and from nothing.

As it turns out, however, Hartle-Hawking does not appear to be consistent with that conclusion put forth by both Hartle and Hawking.

This is to say that even in light of Hartle-Hawking, the Cosmological Argument apparently succeeds. There is a first context in which the universe begins or comes to be. Furthermore, Hartle-Hawking provides a basis for describing or depicting something about at least one characteristic of this first context.

A brief foray into what has been be referred to as the Hartle-Hawking unconditional probability wave-function for the universe along with some consideration about the nature of events suggests an essential characteristic regarding the first context into which (or from which) the universe appeared. What is particularly interesting is that this characteristic of the Cosmological Argument first context might also be more substantially an aspect of space-time than the most conventional understandings about science can – or are willing to – accommodate.

According to Hartle-Hawking, there is a non-zero probability that the universe (space-time) came to be out of nothing. The problem with this claim is that it pertains as much to the nature of probabilities as it does to the alleged nature of the coming to be of the universe. All probabilities are possibilities, and, by their very nature, probabilities depend upon some sequentially prior state, condition, or context in order to provide for sequentially subsequent possibilities put forth in terms of probability. This is to say that the very claim of there being nothing prior makes the probability claim seem not only extremely dubious but even incoherent.

Much the same point is made by Graham Oppy16, who also quotes Hartle and Hawking as saying:

One can interpret the functional integral over all compact four geometries bounded by a given three geometry as giving the amplitude for that three-geometry to arise from a zero three-geometry, i.e. a single point. In other words, the ground state is the amplitude for the Universe to appear from nothing.

To this Hartle-Hawking claim, Oppy responds quite correctly, saying, “a single point is not nothing”. Quentin Smith seeks to counter Oppy by saying, in effect, that, this “single point” is most appropriately regarded as among the “timeless abstract objects (‘mathematical spaces’) rather than physical existents”.17 Smith notes that in an attempt to rectify the problem of having apparently identified the single point with “nothing”, Hartle has subsequently written that “the ‘nothing’ is not realized as a physical state”, and Smith says that Hartle’s and Hawking’s “misleading statement about nothing being a physical state, a ‘single point’ should be omitted.” According to Smith, “Hawking also recently emphasizes that the universe ‘would quite literally [come to exist] out of nothing: not just out of the vacuum, but out of absolutely nothing at all, because there is nothing outside the universe.’”

The fact is, however, that omitting Hartle’s and Hawking’s reference to “a single point” is not sufficient to produce a justification for the claim that the universe appears from “nothing”. All that Hartle and Hawking have done is insist: 1) that anything which “is not realized in a physical state” is “nothing”, and 2) that there are no physical states other than those which constitute the universe. However, this still leaves the Hartle-Hawking model dependent upon an initial something – even if it is a strictly non-physical something – in order for there to be any non-zero probability at all.

Smith says that this initial something is an abstract something; Smith would likely call it an “abstract object”. Yet, the only way that such abstract things can be not just Hartle’s “nothing” but also Hawking’s “absolutely nothing” is via the notion that only physical states (and/or their constituents) are things. One could then quite correctly say that the Hartle-Hawking model itself is based on “absolutely nothing”, but the most correct expression of the conclusion that Hartle and Hawking could actually derive from their model (assuming that model is adequate and accurate) would be the statement that the universe comes to exist from no other, or no prior, physical state or physical thing.

Hartle-Hawking provides no reason to deny that the universe follows from the Hawking-Penrose singularity even if Hartle-Hawking provides some (even if merely a semantic) basis for saying that there is “no physical law that … connect[s] the singularity to” the universe. 13 Accordingly, it may well be that the supposed nature of the singularity might provide some indication about just what characteristics can be expected of the thing upon which the Hartle-Hawking model is based.

As noted previously, the singularity can well be regarded as the intersection of “every past-directed spacetime path”; however, this intersection is only approached asymptotically10 via such a space-time regress inasmuch as the singularity, in addition to being this intersection, is also devoid of the laws of physics which constitute or describe space-time.

According to Hawking13, the singularity represents an actual break-down of “the classical concepts of space and time” which is to say the “laws of physics”; this break-down is regarded as mind-independently actual, because, as put forth, it is not a conceptual limitation resulting from ignorance. This means that, in essence, there are no restrictions on what can follow from the singularity12, and this is to say that the singularity is most correctly characterized as constituted by possibilities that are presumed to be mind-independent.

The Nature of Possibilities

Traditionally, possibilities are regarded as abstract things, where “abstract” is supposed to be a contrast to “physical”. Where “physical” by definition indicates the space-time context, the possibilities which constitute the singularity (the apparent first context) would, of course, not be physical. However, if there are possibilities which are somehow mind-independently constituent of the physical (context), then it hardly makes sense to insist that possibilities are always and everywhere abstract (where “abstract” indicates “non-physical”).

Are there mind-independent possibilities constituent of the physical?

It might be that possibilities can be considered as constituent of the physical even if they are not – or might not ever be – constituent of physics, a study of the physical context formalized generally around the notion that “if you can’t measure it, then it doesn’t exist”18, or, at the very least, if it is not measurable, then it is not an issue with which physics is concerned, which is to say that, if it is not measurable, then it is a matter which physics ignores.

Of course, probabilities are intended to be a sort of possibilities measurement, but such probabilities fall within the physics domain as described above only when the initial state basis for the probability calculation is itself a measurable – meaning at least a presumably fully determinate – initial state.

Be that as it may, there are ways to begin considerations into the nature of the possibilities as constituent of the physical, even if these considerations do not fall within the arbitrarily restricted and resultant narrow bounds of formalized physics.

According to some quite conventional contemporary scientific (or science-based) cosmologies, regardless of whether such cosmologies are aspects of physics or of philosophy or whether they are science-philosophy hybrids, events are supposed to pertain to things or locations within space-time.[10], [12] Smith identifies or equates each event with “being a point” within space-time. However, for an event to have actual location within space-time, the event must have some dimensionality; it must exhibit some space-time duration (or extension), and a point has no such dimensionality. (The space-time duration of any, most, or even all individual events may be so very minimal in relation to the totality of space-time that each event might be treated as if it were a dimensionless point, but this way of regarding events would be only for the sake of simplicity in mathematical calculations whereas it would remain an inescapable – a necessary – characteristic of a space-time event that it is never a space-time dimensionless point.)

Based on previous parts of this discussion, if there were any events which are space-time points, then those events could well be akin to the possibilities constituent of the singularity inasmuch as events, via their presumed non-dimensionality, would be abstract things. If there were no way of distinguishing events and points, and if, as Smith says, the “universe is … the set of events, each event being a point in a 4-dimensional space-time continuum”, then the universe is at its most basic level a set of abstract things.

In that case, not only would the source of the universe – the singularity – be a non-physical thing constituted by non-physical things (possibilities), but the universe itself would at its most basic level also be constituted by non-physical things.

But, if that is the case, then any distinction between the physical and the non-physical – if there is such an invariantly valid distinction – would have to rest with something that differentiates space-time points from events.

If events are not points, if events instead have some space-time dimensionality, some space-time duration or extension, and if the universe, the physical context, really were a sequential totality of all events with space-time dimensions, then, perhaps, the universe would not be actually or genuinely constituted at its most basic level by abstract things.

Perhaps.

There could still be sensible reference to “points” as abstract (which is to say dimensionless and therefore non-physical) things, and these particular abstract things, these points, could even be distinguished from the presumably mind-independent abstract things such as the singularity or the possibilities constituent of the singularity. These dimensionless points within space-time could be concepts, which is to say that these points described as being within space-time would be mind-dependent abstract things.

In contradistinction to dimensionless points, events with space-time extensiveness would not necessarily be either abstract things or mind-dependent. However, realizing events as having space-time dimensionality in order for there to be a way out of having to conclude that the universe is constituted at its most basic level by mind-independent abstract things, depends on other factors pertaining to the nature of events.

To this point we have events as things which occur within space-time and which exhibit duration, extension, or dimensionality within space-time. This still leaves us with having to distinguish between events, and, in order to avoid having the universe constituted of mind-independent abstract things, the distinction between events would have to have some sort of mind-independent basis. This is to say that events – and the distinctions between events – would have to be something other than mere concepts.

We certainly conceive of events, but, just because we conceive of – or think in terms of – events, that does not mean that events are mere conceptions or concepts, abstract things or even always only mind-dependent. Nonetheless, in order for an event to be mind-independent, whatever is the basis we use to (conceptually) distinguish between events – which is to say whatever it is that defines or delimits events – has to be something about the universe which is mind-independent.

At first blush, the identification of an event as something having an extension within space-time suggests that an event need have both beginning and end. However, since (as discussed earlier) some cosmologies hold to there being no actual (singular) beginning to space-time, if space-time is the sequential totality of all events (having space-time extension), then at least some event(s) can be without beginning. This would then suggest that, regardless of whether or not a particular event has a beginning, each event must have a terminus in order to be identifiable as an event (as distinguished, at least semantically, from a process which need not similarly have an end).

How, then, is the terminus which delimits an event to be identified and characterized?

An event is most often defined by – its terminus is most often identified with – there being alternatives for what sequentially follows. This is to say that an event ends with there being alternative possibilities for what follows. (There might be sequences which end without there being any possibility for anything else to sequentially follow; this is to say that there might be sequences which terminate. Alternatively, and speaking in a more temporal fashion, given that events have space-time extension, events could be dynamic event-courses or event-segments or segment-courses or sequence-segments delimited either according to the possibilities for subsequent sequence alternatives or by an end without any possible following sequence. In either case, a termination to sequence possibilities does not preclude there being in the sequence possibilities which are event-termini.)

This is to say that events are defined, delimited, or characterized in terms of possibilities, and this, in turn, means that, in order for events to be mind-independent, possibilities must be mind-independent. This is to further say that mind-independent possibilities are not only the source of space-time, but mind-independent possibilities also constitute the physical, the universe, at its most basic level, regardless of whether events are abstract, dimensionless and, therefore, non-physical points or whether events are extended and exhibit space-time dimensionality. The “laws of physics” seem to provide a good description of regularities within space-time, but these descriptions, these “laws”, do not depend on an utter absence of mind-independent possibilities.

Of course, mind-independent possibilities and, thereby, events can be correctly denied if space-time is not at all constituted by mind-independent possibilities. In that case, space-time, the universe, would be wholly determinate and in that way distinct from its source, the singularity.

On the other hand, if mind-independent possibilities are constituent of space-time, then, even though there are no “laws of physics” that “connect the singularity to” the universe, there would seem to be at least mind-independent possibilities to connect the singularity to the manifest universe. Indeed, such possibilities need not just connect the singularity and the universe; such possibilities could be expected to persist into the universe. But, in any event, if there are possibilities constituent of space-time, the contrast between the physical and the abstract is not so great as conventional science would (like to) have it.

With regards to the Cosmological Argument and God, Robert C. Koons says, as has been previously noted, that “the result of the cosmological argument is quite useful to the project of natural theology”, but, in the case of the Cosmological Argument as discussed here, this means that whatever are the additional arguments necessary to make the case for theism, those arguments would seem to have to be related to the possibilities here discussed in terms of being mind-independent. Does such mind-independence preclude the actuality of God? Certainly not. But, what has here been rendered as mind-independent possibilities can significantly affect the characteristics of the God which might cohere with other arguments for theism.

There is nothing about even contemporary, generally regarded as science-based cosmologies that refute the basic thrust of the Cosmological Argument.

——————————————————————–

1 Smith, Quentin, “Stephen Hawking’s Cosmology and Theism”, Analysis, Volume 54, No. 4, pp. 236-243; also available here.

2 Hawking, Stephen, 1996, A Brief History of Time, New York: Bantam Books. p. 141.

3 Ibid., p. 146.

4 Hawking, Stephen and Mlodinow, Leonard, 2010, The Grand Design, New York: Bantam Books, p. 180.

5 See here.

6 See here.

7 The Weyl and Einstein quotes are cited in “Quantum Theory and Our View of the World”, by Paul Feyerabend, published in Physics and Our Views of the World, Jan Hilgevoord, ed., Cambridge University Press, 1994.

8 Smith, Quentin, “A Big Bang Cosmological Argument for God’s Nonexistence”, Faith and Philosophy, April 1992, Volume 9, No. 2, pp. 217-237; also available here.

9 See here.

10 See here.

11 The discussion here need not delve into Hawking’s own distinctions between “imaginary time” and “real time” according to which it is only in reference to “imaginary time” that “there are no singularities or boundaries”. There is no need for this discussion because, as the subsequent discussion in this part indicates, even with the “no boundary” proposal, there actually is a beginning to the space-time universe.

12 Smith, Quentin, “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe”, Philosophy of Science (1988), Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 39-57; also available here.

13 Smith, Quentin, “Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, March 1991, Volume 69, No. 1, pp. 48-66; also available here.

14 Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time, pp. 142-143.

15 Ibid., p. 154.

16 Oppy, Graham, “On Some Alleged Consequences of ‘The Hartle-Hawking Cosmology’”, Sophia, 36 (1997), 1, pp. 84-95; also available here.

17 Smith, Quentin, “Why Stephen Hawking’s Cosmology Precludes a Creator”, Philo, Volume 1, No. 1, 1998, pp. 75-94; also available here.

18 Casti, John L., 1989, Paradigm Lost, New York: William Morrow and Company, p. 463.

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2 Responses to Revisiting the Cosmological Argument

  1. Pingback: We Wouldn’t Be Here Right Now, Being All Postmodern and Ironic; There’d Be No Civilization « Vanguard of the Academe

  2. Pingback: Is Derek Parfit a Speculative Realist? | The Kindly Ones

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