The endless chain of causes

Author: Benjamin ,

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  • Benjamin
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    P1: Every event has a cause
    P2: An endless chain of causes is impossible
    C: There exists a first cause


    This is a standard argument for the ultimate reality or the first cause. It might often be called God, but the theories range from a multiverse to a cosmic force to Allah. What they all have in common is that they themselves have no external cause, but they caused other things. In other words, the first cause would be the only reason why other things exist. The reasoning behind them is that of causality, and the impossibility of something starting to exist with no cause. The argument concludes that God, or something similar, must have been the first thing in existence - it must have been both uncaused and eternal. The first cause would, by definition, be static and unchanging.



    Since the first cause is eternal, and cannot change, the universe would be created an infinity ago. The only logical option other than an eternal universe is if the first cause CHANGED from a state where it didn't want to create a universe to the state where it wanted to create a universe (like God did according to theology). But such a change in the status of the first cause would contradict its static nature. If the first cause can change its status then it cannot be called the first cause. We can do some logical shenanigans and we end up with a paradox, namely that one of the following options must be true:
    1. No first cause exists
    2. The first cause is both static and dynamic at the same time


    But both alternatives violate the laws of logic. Therefore, something must be wrong with the first-mentioned syllogism.

  • Benjamin
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    --> @fauxlaw @Sum1hugme @Theweakeredge @Wagyu
    I think you might be interested in this topic.
  • Theweakeredge
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    --> @Benjamin
    There is something wrong with the first syllogism, premise 1 is untrue. Before time existed there would be no causal relationships. 
  • Benjamin
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    --> @Theweakeredge
    Time and causal relationships are connected. Time is often defined as the order in which events happen, described by the laws of causality. We know that causality exists today. If we accept that time had a beginning then we assert either a first cause or no cause for the creation of causality and time. But can we know that time has a beginning? I mean, as long as causality exists then time would exist, and without a first cause, time would never start to be. I have problems accepting that things can have no cause. If so was the case, then all possible events should happen without a cause.
  • Sum1hugme
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    --> @Benjamin
    If the big bang model is true, then P1 is incoherent, because it applies temporal cause and effect to a non-temporal quantum realm, where such macro-physical ideas aren't necessarily applicable. 

    If eternal Universe models are true (which is compatible with big bang inflationary models), then P1 is false because all the Universe's energy was already present when the Universe was smaller and hotter.

    If models of Cyclic Cosmology are true, then P2 is false because the Universe's existence is predicated on an endless chain of causes. Cyclic Cosmology is a derivative of String Theory and would produce an observationally identical (to the precision of our current ability to measure) Universe to this one.
  • Theweakeredge
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    --> @Benjamin
    Well no, because the big bang, the most widely accepted and evidenced model of the beginning of the known universe, time did have a beginning. This is a fairly basic fact.
  • Sum1hugme
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    --> @Benjamin
    Also, this is fundamentally a god of the gaps. "We don't know (what caused the Universe) therefore god." You can't replace one unknown with another, and further, it begs the question of the supernatural. Your "explanation" has no parsimony because it posits and entirely undiscovered realm of reality, "the supernatural".
  • Benjamin
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    --> @Theweakeredge
    Spacetime had a beginning. But events could have happened outside of our universe, thus, time could still exist if we define it as the order in which events happen. I don't think all events that ever occurred exist only within our universe. No theory allows for that to be the case. If the universe has no cause then uncaused events probably happened in other places too, and if the universe has a cause, like God to the multiverse, then those causes would present a new row of causes.

    It is interesting how certain things, like laws and energy, are considered indestructible. They kind of require a cause to be explained.
  • Benjamin
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    --> @Sum1hugme
    It's not a God of the gaps fallacy. I am simply using "God" to refer to the ultimate reality, the thing which would be eternal. 
  • Benjamin
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    --> @Sum1hugme
    If the big bang model is true,
    Then the first cause necessarily exists. Something must have caused our universe if the universe has a cause.


    If eternal Universe models are true
    Our universe would be indistinguishable from God: eternal, uncaused, a closed system.


    If models of Cyclic Cosmology are true
    That would be indistinguishable from the eternal universe.



    Again, we are left with two choices:
    1. Our universe, God, the multiverse, or something else is eternal and uncaused.
    2. Our universe exists but has no cause

    I want to take a closer look at the latter. For it to be true, then events can happen without a cause -- which establishes acausality and undermines causality. If events can happen without a cause, then all possible events will happen. Since Time doesn't exist in the absence of causality, all uncaused events would happen simultaneously. Therefore, if our universe has no cause but still has a beginning, we can assume that everything imaginable share the same faith. In other words, if something begins without a cause then nothing makes sense anymore.

  • Sum1hugme
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    --> @Benjamin
    The ultimate reality that you haven't shown to exist and you arbitrarily call god. Thats a god of the gaps. You're substituting one unknown for another
  • Benjamin
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    --> @Sum1hugme
    The ultimate reality that you haven't shown to exist and you arbitrarily call god.
    The ultimate reality is simply the first cause. Either the Big Bang has no cause, which makes acausality the first cause, or something is the first cause. The choice of calling it god is not to prove a point, it is to speak clearly. Please tell me which other word that you would prefer to be used to describe the first cause.
  • RationalMadman
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    --> @Benjamin
    If you're curious how I see it, there are two components to god.

    First is something we can call the random variable generator(RVG). Similar to a random number generator (RNG), it fluctuates between many 1 vs 0 switches. Possible vs impossible for any variable of reality that you can fathom.

    Eventually, it set 1 to a conscious being having control over it (the RVG). This being then gave itself omniscience and controlled all the switches at once. Then, this being got bored with the total predictability of her/his/its reality and left some switches that couldn't overthrow this being, as random again.

    This being is the persona of god but the RVG is physically what 'God' is in terms of hierarchy (it's ranked above the persona in terms of invincibility, the persona can terminate itself later but the RVG is eternal and inevitable, always has been and always will be).
  • Benjamin
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    --> @RationalMadman
    Is God a computer program running reality? I have never heard anything like this before.
  • RationalMadman
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    --> @Benjamin
    Well in this reality absolutely everything except the RVG is simulated.

    So in essence even god herself/himself/itself is part of the program but yes she/he/it runs the rest of the simulation since the RVG granted this entity control of it.

  • secularmerlin
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    --> @Benjamin
    P1: Every event has a cause
    How do we determine the difference between an event that has no cause or one whose cause is unknown? That being the case how can we know the every event has a cause? We only need one to get the ball rolling. Until this can be somehow resolved I reject this premise. 
    P2: An endless chain of causes is impossible
    Why? So long as there is a causal chain and so long as there is a time segment (any subset of this proposed infinity) you can measure time within that segment. For example even if there is an infinite chain of events if we choose one that we can demonstrate (the big bang for example) we can measure time from there and still expect subsequent events to happen. Until this can be somehow resolved I reject this premise.
    C: There exists a first cause
    In as much as I have rejected your premises and in a much as the rest of your argument hinges on this argument and its conclusion you will have to resolve he structural flaws of your argument before we can move on to your subsequent argument. (Or whoever's argument this actually is.
  • Theweakeredge
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    --> @Benjamin
    Everything with you is speculation, as far as we know, the big bang was the beginning of the fabric of time and space, and therefore before that causality would not exist. Now you could say it's possible that time exists elsewhere, but you have no evidence to support that position. How do I know that? Because we can't gather data from any universe except for this one! 
  • Theweakeredge
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    --> @Benjamin
    You are arbitrarily inserting a word to describe something that we already have a word for.... the universe, it is a god of the gaps fallacy. I've already gone on this ride, he was more convincing with this particular argument. 
  • FLRW
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    The cosmological argument, even if it is logically sound, still concludes that the universe has a cause. It does not tell us what the cause it. It is illogical to jump from “has a cause” to “God”. The conclusion that the universe was caused by God is not a conclusion that can be derived from the premise.
  • Benjamin
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    --> @Theweakeredge
    it is a god of the gaps fallacy
    Please stop saying that. I am not trying to prove God, I am trying to discuss philosophy -- specifically the philosophy of causality. My usage of the word "ultimate reality" is not synonymous with "universe". Yes, this is speculation but that is what philosophy is about. I know that we cannot look outside of our universe, but that cannot stop us from using reason.


    I am discussing the claim that the universe needs a cause because it has a beginning.  The first law of thermodynamics states that energy must be conserved -- It cannot pop out from anything or disappear. The BB theory, or YEC, or literally any theory involving the creation of energy would contradict this basic observation. The only way creation of energy doesn't defy logic is if there is some cause behind it. Alternatively, we could reject the second law of thermodynamics and say that energy can appear out of nowhere for no reason. But that would, again, mean that logic as a concept has to fall apart.


    I do not understand what you mean by causality not existing outside of this universe. Let's be honest, "randomness" doesn't exist, it is simply a product of complex rules being followed, as when you roll physical dice. "Acausality" is simply our way to describe an event that we cannot explain. But ultimately, all seemingly acausal events are actually causal. Therefore, if causality doesn't exist outside of our universe then the Big Bang was neither causal not acausal -- so it never happened. If this universe started to exist and is still growing, there must surely be a reason. 


    If the Big Bang happened without a cause then that would contradict the laws of logic. And if non-causes could create effects then we would clearly see those effects. Yes, science didn't exist before the Big Bang, but what about the laws of logic? If the laws of logic don't exist outside of our universe then outside of our universe is filled with all events, because there would be no law of causality that disallows a pink flying elephant inside a parallel dimension. In short, if the laws of logic don't apply outside our universe then nothing makes sense. Because of this, I think it is reasonable to accept the laws of logic as universally valid. A=A, this should work in any world.
  • Benjamin
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    --> @secularmerlin
    How do we determine the difference between an event that has no cause or one whose cause is unknown? 
    It's simple, all events have a cause or no events have a cause. Therefore, since SOME events have a cause we know that all events have a cause.



    We can measure time from there and still expect subsequent events to happen. 
    Yes, time flows forward. But when a system like a universe has a clear beginning it must have a cause. This is because no object can be its own cause, and no object can come into existence by itself. Therefore, anything with a beginning must have a cause -- if causality is true, which it obviously is.
  • Theweakeredge
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    --> @Benjamin
    Do you not understand? The laws of causality do not apply before time, therefore these things do not apply - that's the point. 

    And calling something the ultimate reality, and then literally saying (or god) - does not lead credence to your claim that you aren't trying to argue for god. Its only after two people called out the fallacy that you abandon this way of thinking.
  • fauxlaw
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    --> @Benjamin
    I agree; the 1st syllogism is false, as most syllogisms people invent are, having the same identical "logic" as my favorite [and original] example:

    P1 Birds fly
    P2 Camels walk
    C    Therefore, butterflies swim.

    All syllogisms are effectively a deceptively simple formula: A + B = C.  But the formula demands, as all valid [logical] equations do, that the elements on the left side of the formula equal the element on the right side, and most syllogisms just don't follow that logic, such as that first classic one  you engage in your post #1. If the formula does not work, it is fallacious, period, regardless of the language. The native language of God, I believe [and, Leo DaVinci's good friend, Fra Lucas de Pacioli, believed the same] is mathematics. Indeed, one of the early Greek interpretations of the word  'logos,' or ‘word,’ was “ratio,” as in, according to de Pacioli, the golden mean, 1:1.618, the ratio that is exemplified all over nature, such as in the succeeding chambers of a nautilus, or repeated numerous times in the ratios connecting various human body features, the shapes of leaves and flowers, etc.

    First problem: The syllogism assumes a lopsided existence: The universe is assumed "eternal," but it is claimed to have had a beginning. By proper mathematics, a line is infinite in both directions, past and future, except that...

    Second problem: There is no time. Time is a human construct that is not shared by eternity and God, because our mortal, finite minds have difficulty wrapping around 'eternity.'  God is eternal. That is, the concept of God is eternal.

    Third problem: There are many generations of Gods, not just a single God. One of them is ours. That is, our God is the literal Father of our spirits, meaning there is also a Mother, who bore those spirits [or, perhaps there are numerous Mothers, eternal spouses of our God who have, collectively, borne our spirits as children of Heavenly Parents, just as our Earthly, mortal parents bore our physical, mortal bodies. We are intended to live brief, mortal lives, have existed as spirits before our mortal birth for eons [we don't know how long], and existed eternally as intelligences [unembodied [in the spirit], formless beings, before that. Intelligence, because we were aware, individual beings, but without form. And, following mortality, our spirit, separated from the physical body in death, will reunited with a perfect, timeless, infinite physical resurrected body which will exist as such infinitely into the future. Some of us, by our dedication to obedience to God while we are in mortality, will, ourselves, become a next generation of Gods and Goddesses, creating our own "heaven and Earth" to be populated by our spirit children. our God has a Father, and Mother, and so on -- with no beginning and no end. Thus, the cycle has existed from past eternity into future eternity. There was no beginning, no "bang," and there will be no end, no "whimper." Thank you, T.S. Eliot.

    Okay, so our pitiful science has perceived, we think, a beginning "pulse" of the universe. Have we perceived all? What might have happened before that? Is it a cycle? And one turn of a wheel? Or, is it infinite cycles? Eternal is not a singular direction, boys and girls, any more than one can definitively identify the beginning of a circle. It is, rather, one eternal round. And perhaps we merely see, from our perspective, a circle, which, when turned to its side, were we able to have a better view, it is an extended, eternal helix in which there is no beginning point of regression, impossible to perceive because our finite pencils cannot be sharpened to the degree to witness no beginning at all. Turn ourselves around, and we face... no end at all. We exist now, somewhere on that helix, have always been ,and always will be. That's eternity, folks, and maybe that helix is not a single tube, but infinite tubes extending eternally in all directions...
  • FLRW
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    --> @RationalMadman
    Yes, High-profile proponents of what’s known as the “simulation hypothesis” include SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who recently expounded on the idea during an interview for a popular podcast. “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, games will eventually be indistinguishable from reality,” Musk said before concluding, “We’re most likely in a simulation.”
    Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agrees, giving “better than 50-50 odds” that the simulation hypothesis is correct. “I wish I could summon a strong argument against it, but I can find none,” he told NBC News MACH in an email.
    Read the book, The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are In a Video Game .
  • RationalMadman
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    --> @FLRW
    Unlike them, I believe that flat earth theory is viable under simulation theory. The two you named are avid proponents of round earth theory and assert that NASA isn't lying to us. I agree with them on simulation though.