Contingency argument for God’s existence
by Jason Dulle
While in discussion with A. C. Grayling on the March 25 edition of the Unbelievable radio program, Peter S. Williams provided a nice, concise presentation of the cosmological argument from contingency:
Once you’ve made the distinction between things that have causes and…things that don’t have causes, if something exists it either is the kind of thing that requires something outside of itself to exist, or it’s not. If it’s not possible for there to be an infinite regress of things that do require causes outside of themselves, and it is true that something exists which does require a cause outside itself [the universe, and everything in it]…,there can’t be an infinite regress of such causes, and therefore you have to have a termination of that regress. [God is the best explanation for the termination of that regress.]
For those of you for whom this to be a bit too concise, let me flesh it out a bit.
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We can conceive of two different kinds of things: those whose existence requires a cause external to themselves (contingent beings), and those whose existence does not require a cause external to themselves (necessary beings). Given the fact that all physical things – the universe, and everything in it – did not have to exist, and at one point in time did not exist, we conclude that they are contingent beings whose existence requires a cause external to themselves.
The contingent nature of physical reality creates a problem for any naturalistic explanation of universe’s origin. To explain the existence of contingent being X, one must appeal to a prior being W that caused X to come into being; to explain the existence of contingent being W, one must appeal to a prior being V that caused W to come into being; to explain the existence of contingent being V, one must appeal to a prior being U that caused V to come into being, ad infinitum. To explain the existence of contingent being X, then, there would have to have been an infinite number of contingent beings preceding X that form a causal chain leading to the existence of X.
There are two problems with this…
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