In the 13th century, at the highpoint of the middle ages, Thomas Aquinas formulated one of the most famous proofs for the existence of God: the Cosmological Argument.
That is to say, it was Aquinas who phrased the argument we know today; the cosmological argument however, had been formulated centuries earlier by the Greeks. The fact that it was theorized by Ancient philosophers, like Aristotle, is especially impressive when you consider that at the time, the Universe was not known to have had any sort of origin – the event we nowadays call The Big Bang. The argument consists of the following axioms:
1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
2. Nothing finite and contingent can cause itself.
3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.
There are two fundamental problems with this argument:
First of all, the cosmological argument is dependent on either a causal chain being of infinite length, or a finite causal chain with a First Cause or Prime Mover at its base.
In any case, it would seem that the argument commits the logical fallacy of infinite regression. If the universe had a first cause, what caused that first cause? Defenders of the argument declare that it is unfair to argue for the cause of every single thing, but then those defenders in turn argue for the sole exception of a First Cause, which according to them did not have a cause.
However, since the third axiom of the argument refutes the existence of any infinite causal chain, a so-called Prime Mover becomes necessary to make the argument work. The problem with any First Cause in the context of this argument however, is that it is just a logical convenience – it is the easiest way out.
Interestingly though, there is no proof whatsoever that a causal chain of infinite length could not exist; it is merely philosophical rhetoric of pre-renaissance quality. Simply put, this fact invalidates axiom three of the argument and it makes axiom four – the Prime Mover – unnecessary.
Furthermore, it is simply not necessary for the universe to have had a cause, original purpose or prime mover, nor is it necessary that there was at some time in the past ‘nothing’. If fact, it seems unlikely that it did. There is no evidence to suggest that there ever was a state without matter – that something came out of nothing. Of course, it might well be true, but as yet, it is impossible to determine. That, however, does not change the fact that the need for a First Cause, which Aquinas outlines in his argument, is outdated.
See other: Arguments Concerning God