Causal Agencies, Occam’s Razor, and the Cosmological Argument
by Max Andrews
Objects that are thrown up in the air typically fall back down. Lighting is always followed by thunder. Rocks that are thrown into a puddle of liquid water or a stream always produces a splash or ripples. The earth rotates, which may be observed by the rising and setting of the sun every day (unless observing from one of the poles at certain times of the year). Thirst is usually remedied by drinking water and hunger is usually fixed with eating food. Refracted light will distort the image of an object. Magnetic fields with polar opposites will repel one another. Gas under a constant pressure has a volume equivalent to its absolute temperature. These are all examples of regular natural cause and effect relationships.
There are also agents of causation. Causal agents have the ability to initiate and to cease a series of cause and effect relationships. These agents themselves are “little unmoved movers” so to speak. Now, it’s typically easy to attribute simple events like a rock falling off an embankment into a stream or throwing a rock in the air and watching it fall back down again as regular natural cause and effects. However, there are more complex events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, or meteorite impacts that have many more cause and effects to be explained. The ancients tended to lean towards the simplest explanations (a tendency still practiced today with Occam’s Razor). The simplest explanation then seemed to be causal agency–attributing complex events to the will of the gods.
How much can this be applied in a cosmological argument? When would it be appropriate to invoke agent causation and at what expense to Sir Occam? Let’s trim a little more off with the razor. The ancients would attribute storms at sea to the god of the sea and volcanic eruptions to that respective god and so on. Perhaps we don’t need many gods to explain complex various events. It seems that if a god is needed to explain anything then we are left with one God. The question then is can the razor cut off even more? This is what Richard Dawkins advocates in The God Delusion, that we don’t need God or many gods to explain anything. Here lies the nature of the debate in the cosmological argument…
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