Thursday, November 09, 2006

Does God Exist?

“The existence of God can be proved in five ways. The first and most obvious proof is the argument from change (ex parte motus). It is clearly the case that some things in this world are in the process of changing. Now everything that is in the process of being changed is changed by something else, since nothing is changed unless it is potentially that towards which it being changed, whereas that which changes is actual. To change something is nothing else than to bring it from potentiality to actuality, and a thing can be brought from potentiality to actuality only by something which is actual. Thus a fire, which is actually hot, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, thus changing and altering it. Now it is impossible for the same thing to be both actual and potential in the same respect, although it may be so in different respects. What is actually hot cannot at the same time be potentially hot, although it is potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that, in the same manner and in the same way, anything should be both the one which effects change and the one that is changed, so that it should change itself. Whatever is changed must therefore be changed by something else. If, then, whatever is changing it is itself changed, this also must be changed by something else, and this in turn by something else again. But this cannot go on forever, since there would then be no first cause to this process of change, and consequently no other agent of change, because secondary things which change cannot change unless they are changed by the first cause, in the same way as a stick cannot move unless it is moved by the hand. We are therefore bound to arrive at a first cause of change which is not changed by anything and everyone understands that this is God.”

- The Five Ways, Thomas Aquinas

The above is a cosmological argument for the existence of God, from roughly a millenium ago, and one that still holds some weight today, even if its specifics are argued. This is based on the principle of Cause & Effect (which is both a scientific concept and one that has been espoused by various schools of philosophy for millenia), and the argument goes somewhat like the following, with my own (half-formed) musings added in for good measure:

Something is caused (and must be caused) by something else. We know this from observation alone, as an effect cannot exist without a prior cause for that effect, such as a ripple in a pond requiring some cause, perhaps a stone being dropped within it, or an earthquake being caused by the plates beneath the earth shifting, and the earthquake is in itself the cause of buildings collapsing, and the buildings collapsing are in turn the cause of people being injured, etc. So, the cause of one effect is the effect of a prior cause, and so on, ad infinatum. However, Aquinas postulates that there must be an initial cause of all these subsequent causes, and this he terms "God". I agree with him to some extent here, in that I feel there is indeed one First Principle from which all others are derived, even if that First Principle is indescribable, infinite, and eternal. Some argue against this by asking why there cannot be a series of infinite causes, and to this I say: there is - and this series of infinite causes is God, who is infinite and the Cause of All (and also the Effect, by extension [or emanation], but that's a different topic entirely). If there is a series of infinite causes, and we call this "God", then, by logical conclusion, "God" is the First Principle, which is this series of infinite causes while simultaneously being an initial (infinite) cause, thus the reality of God as I always find him: a paradox.

To illustrate this better, let us use the following example:

A = God/Big Bang
B = Cosmos
C = Earth
D = Humanity

D is the Effect of Cause C, which is the Effect of Cause B, which is the Effect of Cause A. Logically, we have a First Principle, even if it is merely postulated due to our lack of understanding or inability to grasp anything beyond that. Since humanity exists, we know that its existence is the effect of some cause, which we can possibly generalise as "Earth", since without this planet none of the life forms here could exist, and humanity could not have evolved from them. The Earth, likewise, must be the effect of something else, which is, let's say, the Cosmos, or the Universe at large, through the various workings of the Solar System and the formation, etc. of stars. This, likewise, was established by some other cause, which Science currently calls "The Big Bang". We can call this "God", for now. If we accept that "The Big Bang" was the cause of our universe, then we have a First Principle. We can effectively label this "God", as he is generally conceived of as being the "Source" of All, or the First Principle (a label like "God" and "Big Bang" remains a label).

If we find out, however, that there was something before the Big Bang, the Big Bang ceases to be the First Principle, becoming a Second Principle to whatever new information we found created that effect (God, perhaps?). Likewise, recognising that there is indeed a Demiurge, who is not the First Principle (even if he thinks he is) means that this conception of "God the Creator" is not the First Principle, but the Second, and the First Principle remains "GOD" as he truly is. God is, in effect, the First Principle in actuality, even if the subsquent principles are rearanged constantly to fit the arising of new information. God is the Source of All, the Primal Cause, the Fullness, the Centre from which everthing Emanates and Radiates, and there cannot be anything beyond or above him, because if there was, then whatever he is ceases to be "GOD" (or "the First Principle") and becomes a secondary principle to that which is above him, which is "GOD" and "the First Principle". So, even if we wrongly label something with these terms (such as the Demiurge), it doesn't defeat the reality that there is one Origin to which all of this goes back to (and all of this goes forward to in the End), and we label this: God.


A = God
B = "God" [i.e. Demiurge]
C = Cosmos
D = Earth
E = Humanity.

These thoughts are not full-formed in my head, so I am still musing at this point, but feel free to comment and add your own thoughts.

[Note, considering a comment here, that I am not in any way saying that God's existence needs to be proven. I find that most of science is based on theory and not "fact" or "proof", and just as we cannot see an atom, but believe and/or know that it exists, likewise with God. My post on Aquinas' argument here is a theological musing on the idea of God's existence, and I have avoided using the term "proof" (in any of its forms) within my own argument here, as I feel ultimately nothing can be "proven". Please take this into consideration before jumping to conclusions.]


pop occulture said...

but why does god's existence need to be proven? why apply that way of thinking to the world, to existence, to infinity? what advantage does it gain you? what disadvantages?

Dean Wilson said...

I didn't say he did need to be proven, or that there were any advantages or disadvantages to that. It's called musing, and it's sometimes nice to get out of your comfort-space (such as the reality that I know God exists, having experienced God on a number of occasions, let alone the idea of faith) to explore some new ideas or possibilities, including logical arguments for what is indescribable. This is part and parcel of theology, and I don't intend to ignore one aspect just because it makes me uncomfortable or is difficult to logically deal with.

So, don't assume that I'm saying his existence needs to be proven, as, if you read over what I wrote, I didn't say anything of the sort. Can God's existence be "proven"? Possibly - at least as near to the possibility that anything can be "proven" (check my post called "Credo" for my feelings on Science and its "proof" and beliefs), and only with some thorough explanations of what indeed "God" is.

I cannot help but notice a good deal or arrogance in your comment here, which happens to be the only one you left on my journal. Likewise, what advantages and disadvantages does such a line of reasoning gain you?


Joe Daher said...

but why does god's existence need to be proven?

Bah, humbug.

The existence of God is within each individual's mind, but in order to rewind and reflect, these revelations must be brought into the collective, i.e. brought up for discussion.

I, personally, thought the post was an excellent summation of the cause-and-effect scenario, of which I subscribe to.

My only question would be: which came first, the chicken or the egg? I not stand to gain anything from asking that question either?

More musings, I suppose. ;-)

Alexander ( syncretistic mystical ) said...

Greetings. Enjoying your blog muchly. As a Panentheist and a mystical, we do not have the problem of explaining God. He is quite simply, everywhere and everything. As one writer put it, God is the ocean and we are the fish. I also believe that Mother Nature, The Great Spirit, The Universe, whtever name you choose, it's all God. Sometimes things are simple. People just make them complicated. As for Jesus, well thats a another story for another time. Lets just say he is an ascended master and leave it at that. Peace to one and all. Alexander ( Occult Corpus )

chris said...

all religious people fall into the same trap; the cause and effect generates an infinite regress, and so you invoke god to end this regress - why? there is no evidence what so ever that god ends this regress, and even if he does exist, why is he immune to the regress? just because you think he should. religion is the worship of gaps; where ever a scientist puts up his hands and says "i dont know" religion jumps in and fills the gap of evidence with a default answer with know basis or reason - God.

Dean Wilson said...

Ave Chris,

There is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that God isn't behind all of this. To every logical argument against a religious viewpoint, there is an equal logical argument against a scientific viewpoint. Both views try to explain the universe, mostly through hypothesis.

If, however, you take some time to read this post in full, enough to grasp the concepts suggested within, you will note that I said that the infinite regress is in fact God, not just the origin of that regress. This may just be a convenient term for this, but at the end of the day, we (including all scientists) will appoint convenient terms to all actions and theories to make them easier to understand.

The problem here, of course, is that you've already made your mind up, and your reality tunnel won't allow for an opposing view (which is why, I believe, you proselytize atheism on a religious blog), so I don't expect you to actually even give the argument in this blog post any real consideration before jumping to conclusions you brought with you before reading this.

In this light, I wish you the best in your life and hope it is productive and fulfilling.

Amen. ;)


Anonymous said...

" create God. That is the way it is in the world - men make gods and worship their creation. It would be fitting for the gods to worship men!"

onlvstn said...

An Excellent article Dean.
I reckon HE is in the middle of your picture, lying in the reeds...