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The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
#1
The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
I was asked to set up thread on this topic, so I'm happy to oblige Smile

I was an Atheist for many years until I began my Philosophy degree. In the course of that degree my views on almost everything have changed and one of the most notable changes is the move to belief in a prime mover.

The argument that swayed me is very simple:
Premise 1) Everything in the Universe is either impermanent, or depends upon something else for its existence. (things are born and they die, the universe tends towards entropy, nothing within the Universe lasts forever)
Premise 2) An infinite regress of finite, impermanent causes seems logically impossible.
Conclusion 1)Therefore there must a permanent, infinite first cause of everything in the Universe. (or the Universe is itself permanent/infinite but BBT suggests it had a beginning and is expanding so this seems implausible)
Premise 3) This first cause is empistemically hidden from us (we have no direct experience or knowledge of it)
Conclusion 2) Therefore we know nothing about it other than what is necessary for a first cause of the Universe.
Conclusion 3) Therefore there is a, largely mysterious, infinite, permanent, first cause of the Universe that I will call a Prime mover.

This belief does not entail Theism and I see many strong arguments against personal or interventionist Gods hence why I don't consider myself a Theist. It may be considered a form of Deism, or possibly a weak Atheism (or indeed a weak Theism although I would struggle to accept that label) but I'm unsure where to categorize it in those terms. Any questions?
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
― Winston S. Churchill
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#2
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
Considering we're in speculative grounds, how about we look at it this way:
- The BigBang was the cause of everything "in" the universe
- The BigBang happened "in" the Universe.
- The Universe itself was just always there... or something... perhaps Krauss's "nothing"?
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#3
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
Everything having a cause is not something that is clear cut, especially at the quantum level. I see you've gone with slightly different wording here and are talking about dependency, I don't know how you establish that either.

All our understanding of physics goes mental near the Big Bang. There is also no reason to discount the idea of an infinite past, just because we can't imagine it. Also, the "first cause/prime mover" is special pleading, because the argument requires everything to have a cause/dependency/whatever, so to just define something in such a way as to be able to break that rule does not guarantee such a thing can exist. It's inventing a forgone conclusion just to satisfy the premises, which are not sound anyhow. If something can break the rule, then the universe itself could just break the rule.

Bottom line is all of science has not been able to say with any degree of confidence what happened before the plank time, so a simple logical argument isn't going to be able to demonstrate something that all of science cannot.

However, if it makes you feel better to think there was a first cause, then that's cool Smile As you say, we can't know anything about it, if there is such a thing so referring to it as any kind of "God" seems random. I'd still be an atheist if I thought our reality was a simulation or a creation within another reality. I wouldn't feel the need to label any life forms in the parent reality "God".

I just prefer "we don't know".
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#4
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
I wrote a premise by premise refutation of your post but then realised that you are falling in the trap of assuming that the physics of "outside" the universe are the same as those within and therefore meaning the term "infinite" may be redundant.
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#5
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
(May 8, 2015 at 8:03 am)reasonablerob Wrote: I was asked to set up thread on this topic, so I'm happy to oblige Smile
Very good!
Quote:I was an Atheist for many years until I began my Philosophy degree. In the course of that degree my views on almost everything have changed and one of the most notable changes is the move to belief in a prime mover.

The argument that swayed me is very simple:
Premise 1) Everything in the Universe is either impermanent, or depends upon something else for its existence.
I do not agree. Explain why that is.
Quote:Premise 2) An infinite regress of finite, impermanent causes seems logically impossible.
You do not know that causation as you employ it here is valid in the early universe/ at microscopic scales. Causation seems to be a largely statistical phenomenon, and it is undermined by the apparent randomness of quantum physics.
Quote:Conclusion 1)Therefore there must a permanent, infinite first cause of everything in the Universe. (or the Universe is itself permanent/infinite but BBT suggests it had a beginning and is expanding so this seems implausible)
What do you mean by infinite here? Also, the BBT does not reliably reach back to a beginning, it can only describe physics once the universe has a nonzero extent and finite temperature.
Quote:Premise 3) This first cause is empistemically hidden from us (we have no direct experience or knowledge of it)
Conclusion 2) Therefore we know nothing about it other than what is necessary for a first cause of the Universe.
Conclusion 3) Therefore there is a, largely mysterious, infinite, permanent, first cause of the Universe that I will call a Prime mover.

This belief does not entail Theism and I see many strong arguments against personal or interventionist Gods hence why I don't consider myself a Theist. It may be considered a form of Deism, or possibly a weak Atheism (or indeed a weak Theism although I would struggle to accept that label) but I'm unsure where to categorize it in those terms. Any questions?

- Individual events at the quantum level don't seem to have a cause. What we know about fundamental physics would suggest that universes like ours can simply occur in the same random fashion in which nuclear decays occur. Your notion of a mover seems to hinge on a classical concept of causality which is not valid any more.

- If I grant you that there is such a prime mover according to your argument, is there any reason why it would not simply be another aspect of the universe? Why would you even stop calling yourself atheist because of that. From these arguments you don't know anything about it that would justify that.

- Your introduction of a prime mover only helps you solve the problem because you allow yourself not to ask about the mechanics of this prime mover. You allow yourself to make exceptions for it which you don't allow for the universe. In this sense I don't see how its introduction solves anything.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is a God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
Psalm 14, KJV revised edition

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#6
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
It's an argument from ignorance salad. You jumped from observations about what "seems" improbable to the conclusion that this mysterious infinite first cause "must" exist. A first cause, moreover, that you defined as something that we can't know anything about (including its existence) and then went on to list its characteristics.

Take away all the ad hoc logical props and what you're left with is basically "I don't know how all this came about, so it must have been caused by something that causes these things".
At the age of five, Skagra decided emphatically that God did not exist.  This revelation tends to make most people in the universe who have it react in one of two ways - with relief or with despair.  Only Skagra responded to it by thinking, 'Wait a second.  That means there's a situation vacant.'
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#7
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
Well, I was the one that initially mentioned bringing up the topic, but there's nothing to really add on top of what Alex said. He covered it pretty thoroughly.

It's basically just old philosophy that relies on a classical understanding of causality and time, which was tossed out the window when Relativity and Quantum Mechanics hit the scene. It was cutting edge stuff thousands of years ago, but knowledge progresses. I'm sure Newton's still rolling in his grave because of that fact.
Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own - Bertrand Russell
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#8
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
I'm a big believer in the existence of prior necessary conditions .. all the way down to the quantum flux and turtles. There is no primary first condition. It is more complicated than that.
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#9
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
I agree with Alex and Rob.

If the premise everything must have a cause holds true then there can be no first cause. If you allow the first cause to not have a cause, you demolish your initial premise. For what cause do we arbitrarily designate this first cause to be the only thing that doesn't need a cause other than the fact that our finite minds need one? If we deny that this designation is arbitrary, we enter the realm of theism.

The universe doesn't stop when we sleep nor does it feel the need to contract to fit into our little craniums.
The god who allows children to be raped out of respect for the free will choice of the rapist, but punishes gay men for engaging in mutually consensual sex couldn't possibly be responsible for an intelligently designed universe.

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--Voltaire

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#10
RE: The First Cause? Prime Mover Argument
Perhaps the concept of a beginning is a limitation of our own? Either way you approach it, there must have been something, somewhere, that started everything. Did a singularity exist forever back in time and suddenly became our universe? Is it part of a constant and recurring process, where a universe is birthed and dies and is then reborn? Is it part of a different type of constant process, where universes are churned out of some eternal universe-making factory? Is it the creation of a sentient being who herself has always just existed? Either everything must come from something, in which case reality itself seems impossible, or something was somehow borne of nothing, or something was always there and spends eternity spitting out additional somethings.
"Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape- like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered."

-Stephen Jay Gould
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