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Current time:0:00Total duration:7:45

Video transcript

(intro music) Hello, I'm Dr. Timothy Yenter, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Mississippi. I'll be talking about the[br]cosmological argument, which we'll be breaking[br]down into a couple of parts. Now, the cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of God, and like most arguments for[br]the existence of God, it gets its name from its starting point. The cosmological argument[br]starts from the existence of the cosmos, which is the collection of everything that exists. The basic idea at the heart[br]of the various versions of the cosmological argument is that the existence of something, this rock, that bird[br]flying, this universe, requires an explanation. This is often phrased[br]in the following way: the existence of this object,[br]or the whole universe, demands that there be a cause, and this cause must be God. Notice that this is really[br]a two-stage argument. The first stage is to establish[br]that there must be a cause. The second stage is to explain[br]what this cause is like. In these talks, I will be[br]focusing on the first stage, but at the end I'll[br]have a little bit to say about what we could know about the cause of the universe from these arguments. The cosmological argument[br]has two versions. It actually has many versions, but I'll be talking about two of them. The first one, I'll call[br]"the beginnings argument." It's sometimes also called[br]"the Kalam argument." Then the second one is the modal argument. And I'll explain what those terms mean. You don't need to know what they are yet. The beginnings argument is that whatever begins to[br]exist must have a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe must have a cause. Two premises and a conclusion. A very simple, direct argument, but one with potentially[br]profound implications. We'll begin by examining[br]the second premise. There are two kinds of[br]arguments that attempt to show that the second premise is true: philosophical arguments[br]and scientific arguments. The philosophical arguments attempt to rule out the possibility[br]that the universe exists, but has no beginning. So let's think about this first. Chances are, you're watching[br]this on a computer. Where did your computer come from? Well, it was probably[br]assembled in a factory from a variety of metals and plastics, which were, in turn, formed[br]or refined in factories from materials present in the earth. These elements in the earth were formed through various natural processes over long periods of time. Each step of the way,[br]there was some combination of matter and energy. And at each of these steps,[br]we could talk about where that matter and energy came from, by describing some[br]previous state of the world that contained matter and energy. And we could explain that by going back to an earlier stage, and so on. At each step, there is[br]a cause that explains why things are the way the are. In theory, this kind of[br]explanation could go on forever. Or could it? Does it make sense to talk about an infinite series of causes? Well, we seem to deal with[br]infinite series all the time. For instance, there is an[br]infinite series of whole numbers, that is, one, two, three, four, and so on. And we have an OK grasp of what[br] that means in some obscure way. But does it make sense to say that there is an infinite series that has actually passed by now? This would be more like someone counting off the whole numbers, one per second. If someone were to say "one" at the first second, and "two" at the next second, and so on, could they have gone through an infinite number of seconds by now? Now, that's tough. A lot of ink has been spilled over whether there are real or only imagined paradoxes involving infinite series. Some have claimed that[br]there is no problem at all with infinite series already passed. For instance, just to mention one. Imagine a super counter. A super counter is someone[br]who counts like this: In the first second, they say "one." In the next half second, they say "two." In the next quarter second,[br]they say "three." In the next eighth second,[br]they say "four." Super counting this way, they could count an infinite number of times before the next second passes. As long as at least two seconds[br]have passed in the universe, and we could all agree to that, then an infinite series has passed. Now some philosophers[br]have argued that this is the wrong sort of infinite series. Something to think about is whether causes could work in this super counting way. But we will set this aside,[br]because there's another way to defend the second[br]premise of this version of the cosmological argument. The second kind of support for the claim that the universe had a beginning is that this is what our best science has shown. Isn't the big bang just a claim that the universe had a beginning of a particular, interesting sort? We have considered objections[br]to the second premise. What about objections[br]to the first premise? An important objection[br]to the first premise is that the principle is a good one, but it's a good principle within the universe. It's not a principle that can be applied to the universe as a whole. This objection could be[br]stated in various ways. A specific version of this response is that the big bang is not a beginning as we usually think of beginnings. It is not a beginning[br]of something in time, but the beginning of time itself. So the usual rules do not apply. A second way to put this objection: by saying that there is a fallacy of composition going on. A fallacy of composition is saying that because the parts of an[br]object all have a property, then so must the whole. It's a fallacy because,[br]while it seems attractive, it's not a reliable argument. Consider this argument. All the atoms of your body are invisible to the naked eye. Your body is just these atoms. Therefore, your body is invisible[br]to the naked eye. But this conclusion is obviously false, even though both the premises are true. Is the same mistake happening in the case of the universe having a cause because it has a beginning, in the same way that[br]things within the universe must have a cause because[br]they have a beginning? Is there some mistake[br]going on from the move from the part to the whole? Perhaps to answer this question will turn on whether[br]or not we can establish that the principle stated[br]in the first premise is only true in our universe, or is a metaphysical[br]principle that applies to the universe itself. We will consider this issue more as we work through the other version of the cosmological argument in the next video. Subtitles by the Amara.org community