Does the Universe have a cause?

Reasons given for answering "Yes"
  • The Universe “began to exist” (Craig)
      1. The argument here is William Lane Craig's “Kalam Cosmological Argument”, though the original 1970 version set the first premise as “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” One charitable way to interpret this premise is “if the Universe began to exist, then the Universe has a cause of its beginning to exist,” allowing events to be what stand in the causal relation. After all, the Universe is not an event, and…

        Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “The standard view of the causal relata is that they are of the category of event, and that their number is two, in the roles of cause and effect. So on the standard view, when the cue ball knocks the nine ball into the corner pocket, there is said to be an (actual) event e1 of the cue ball striking the nine ball, and an (actual, distinct) event e2 of the nine ball sinking into the corner pocket, such that e1 is cause and e2 effect. The standard view, in short, holds that the causal relata are a pair of events.” [“The Metaphysics of Causation,” by Jonathan Schaffer, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2014), online]
        Sidney Shoemaker: “It is events, rather than objects or properties, that are usually taken by philosophers to be the terms of the causal relationship.” [“Causality and properties” in Identify, Cause, and Mind (Oxford, 2003, 206.]

      2. “The Universe” is analyzed by Craig as space-time and its boundary points, along with the contents of space-time.
      3. In other words, the Universe “came into being”, which Craig defines as a sufficient condition for the kind of “beginning to exist” his argument has in mind. Since the Universe is not timeless, it essentially comes into being insofar as presentism is true[forthcoming], and the number of past events is finite.
  • There was a first material event

      1. Every event has a cause (or is preceded by a prior condition).
      2. There was a first material event. (e.g., the Big Bang).
      3. Therefore, that first material event has a cause.

      But, wait. If every event has a cause, wouldn't a first supernatural event (e.g., the event of God's creating) require a cause?” [See response]1

      1. Wouldn't the event of God's creating require a cause? There are two responses:
        • So what if it requires a cause? It would still be the case that the first material event (or the Universe) has a cause, which is all that is being argued for on this page.
        • If this is supposed to be an objection to theism, theists can just say that God's atemporally seeing that creating a Universe with a beginning is good is the cause of God's deciding/acting to create. Here we have a non-event state (located outside of time) causing a first immaterial event (God's creating). The event of God's causing the first material event (e.g., causing the Universe to begin to exist) is simultaneous with the coming into being of the Universe. That is to say, the event of God's deciding/acting would be temporally simultaneous to the creation event while being “logically prior” to it. This is what philosophers call “simultaneous causation”. The idea is that the creation event depends on God's creating in the same way that the bowling ball impression in a pillow depends on the bowling ball resting on it, or the way a chandelier's not falling depends on the chain it hangs on―these are causing the pillow's impression and the chandelier's stasis.
  • Reasons given for answering "No"
  • Causation is itself temporal (so you can't cause space-time)

      Causation requires time (so you can't cause space-time to exist without it already existing). This is relevant because if causing space-time to exist is incoherent, then causing the universe (space-time) to exist is incoherent.

      But no
      • …causation can be atemporal1

      1. It is true that temporal becoming requires time, as do notions of before and after. However, causation can be atemporal. Philosophers call this simultaneous causation. Consider how God might have caused the univers to exist. Theists can just say that God's atemporally seeing that ‘creating a Universe with a beginning is good’ is the cause of God's deciding/acting to create. Here we have a non-event state (independent of time) causing a first immaterial event (God's creating). The event of God's causing the first material event (e.g., causing the Universe to begin to exist) is simultaneous with the coming into being of the Universe. That is to say, the event of God's deciding/acting would be temporally simultaneous to the creation event while being “logically prior” to it. (Again, this fits the criteria for what philosophers call “simultaneous causation”). The idea is that the creation event depends on God's creating in the same way that the bowling ball impression in a pillow depends on the bowling ball resting on it, or the way a chandelier's not falling depends on the chain it hangs on―these are causing the pillow's impression and the chandelier's stasis.
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