January 01, 2016

Horse 2052 - First-Cause: A Sufficiently Good Enough Reason

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
- Genesis 1:1

...pessimists will conclude that things have gone downhill from there.

"This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)

The Bible begins with the assumption that God exists. As it isn't a science book, it doesn't need to prove this and nor does it really make a philosophical attempt to do so.
People like Aristotle assumed that there was a demiurge and his argument of the unmoved mover is a First-Cause argument. The First-Cause argument is simple. Every finite thing and action has a caused which caused it; each of those causes also had causes which caused them and so on and so on, etcetera etcetera etcetera. This naturally sets up a chain of infinite causes unless the First-Cause itself is infinite. Aristotle argued that that First-Cause which is infinite is God.
The medieval scholar Thomas Aquinas also thought that everything in the universe which was or is in motion and he also agreed in the position of God as the first cause of everything. He also applied this to things like truth and virtue and thought that not even the mind can "move" itself spontaneously without something else moving it.

"Hence we must say that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act."
-Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica - First Part of the Second Part (1274)

Leibniz on the other hand argued that if a thing exists, it is also possible for that thing not to exist. If that is true for one thing, then it must also be true for the entire universe. Even if we assume that the universe has always existed, there's nothing within it to show why it necessarily should exist. Therefore things only need a sufficiently good enough reason to exist. If the universe exists, then the sufficiently good enough reason as to why it exists, can exist outside of the universe. That sufficiently good enough reason is God.
The opening few chapters of the Bible don't even bother to ask where God came from. Mathematics has not problem with the concept of the infinite and seeing as the word 'eternal' is a description of the infinite as applied to time, the question of where God arose from doesn't need to arise.

I think that it's important when reading the Bible to read what it actually says. I also think that it's important for those people who want to attack in upon the basis to actually read the Bible to see what it says. What it actually does say in those opening few chapters is vague. The opening two chapters of Genesis speak of God doing things but they don't necessarily speak of how those things are done. The process of how things are done appears to be less important than who is doing them. People might like to break into heated arguments about evolution and cosmology at this point and there we always arguments between literalists and those who read the Hebrew in a metaphorical sense but I don't think that the purpose of the text was ever for that. I know that I'm going to offend both literalists and non-literalists at this point but I just don't think that these few hundred words are definitive enough to lay a claim in either direction. The actor of God as the one who causes things to happen, as a sufficiently good enough First-Cause, is also powerful enough to have brought things about according to both sets of terms. If "a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day" to God, then the arguments in my mind are mostly irrelevant anyway.

At some point, every single argument is always going to come down to the question of "what can I know for certain anyway?" You can't rely on your senses since they can be deceptive and since everything else outside of one's mind is ultimately not certain either. If even every thought is unreliable does that prove that the mind thinking such a thing exists? It might have been enough for Rene Descartes in his "Discourse on the Method" but is that logically true? Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum - I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am?
Aquinas would argue that a mind that was moved to doubt or think about its own existence, would by necessity must have had some initial first cause to doubt or think up such a thing. The Bible doesn't bother with such things. The question of First-Cause never arises because the sufficiently good enough reason for there to even be a beginning is God.

Our church is reading through the Bible in a year. The link to the guide is below:
link - Doobly Doo

No comments: