Somebody on Dr. Feser’s blog (see my blogroll at the top of the page) linked to this really cool comic somebody made about the cosmological argument. A little juvenile perhaps, but smart nevertheless.
Anyway, poster Ben p wrote an objection to the argument in the comments section. I tried to respond there and it didn’t go through, and so I’ll post my response here. His post:
An objection (you guessed it, from science). That this objection is based on relatively recent science (recent in the scale of history, that is) means that it avoids having to congratulate myself that I have seen through some fundamental hole in the cosmological argument that thousands of years of philosophers have been unable to see.
The cosmological argument depends on the inductive inference that since everything we can observe depends on other things for its existence, it must be a universally applicable rule that every thing that exists depends on something else for its existence. It occurs to me that the atomic theory of matter, the law of conservation of energy, and mass-energy equivalence (e=mc^2) cut the legs from under this premise. If all things are really just different rearrangements of fundamental particles, which particles are equivalent to all other particles, and which can in theory be converted into one gigantic sum of energy (or mass) which can never increase or decrease but is eternally immutable, than in a very real sense there is only one “thing”: the universe itself as a whole. Now, of course, you cannot establish a trend with only one data point, so the inference from induction falls apart. We cannot make an inference from this single example of a thing whether or not things depend on their existence from something outside them. A priori, it is just as likely that “things” are self-sufficient as contingent.
Here was my response:
Your answer sounds tricky, but you have a problem: You’re presuming materialism in advance.
Your answer might make sense if *only* material things exist. I don’t know enough about science to rebut it and I’m not smart enough to cut holes in it philosophically, so maybe you’re on the right track there.
BUT – Matter is not the only thing in the universe that exists…or at least we can’t just assume that in advance. To establish that things like intellect, consciousness, et cetera either don’t exist or are somehow only material in nature is going to take quite a bit of legwork. Alternatively, you can try and establish that somehow intellect is just rearranged and there are no new intellects, but even then you run into a whole host of other problems.
And until any of that that is established, your objection is useless…and if it is established your objection is actually pretty much useless anyway, since proving materialism disproves God almost by definition.
So, good effort. But not quite.