Five articles appear below:

1 K Rogers
2 K Straughen
3 K Rogers
4 Anonymous
5 K Rogers

Leibniz's Cosmological Argument –
The Principle of Sufficient Reason

By Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 147, 2012 November)

Introduction

Why does anything at all exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? These were the questions that Leibniz raised, and from them he developed an argument for the existence of God based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). The PSR is one form of various cosmological arguments.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was a German mathematician and philosopher. In mathematics, he was the co-inventor (with Isaac Newton) of calculus, the first inventor of a mechanical calculator and the inventor of the binary number system. In philosophy, he suggested that we live in the "best of all possible worlds", he was a key thinker in the development of rationalism and also a forerunner of modern logic and analytic philosophy. In his latter years, he fell out of favour due to disputes with Newton on whether he had copied Newton's ideas on calculus. His writings were largely forgotten, but were revived in the 20th century, and he is now highly regarded.

The Argument

Leibniz's argument consists of 3 premises and 2 conclusions, as follows:
•    Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence
•    Premise 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
•    Premise 3: The universe exists
•    Conclusion 1: The universe has an explanation of its existence
•    Conclusion 2: Therefore the explanation of the universe's existence is God

However, is it a good argument? A good argument must satisfy the following criteria:
•    The premises must be true, and
•    The conclusions must follow logically from the premises.

In this article, I will work backwards. I will firstly discuss the logical structure of the argument (its validity) and then consider the premises. We will firstly assume that the premises are true and verify whether the conclusions follow from the premises.

Logical Structure

Conclusion 1 is justified by Premise 1 and 3 as follows:

•    Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence
•    Premise 3: The universe exists
•    Conclusion 1: The universe has an explanation of its existence

Thus if everything that exists has an explanation of its existence and the universe exists, then it follows that the universe has an explanation of its existence.

Conclusion 2 follows from premise 2 and conclusion 1 as follows:
• Premises 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
• Conclusion 1: The universe has an explanation of its existence
• Conclusion 2: Therefore the explanation of the universe's existence is God
I think it is fairly self-evident that the logical structure of the argument is valid. Now we will look at the premises.

Are the Premises True?

•    Premise 3

Premise 3 states that the universe exists. I think this is fairly self-evident. I am sure that there have been extreme sceptics that have questioned this claim, but I will not concern myself with them.

•    Premise 1

•    Objection 1
Premise 1 states that everything that exists has an explanation of its existence. This has prompted the following objection:

If premise 1 is true, then God must have an explanation of his existence. The explanation of God's existence must be some other being greater than God. That's impossible; therefore, premise 1 must be false.

However, this objection is a misunderstanding of what Leibniz meant by "explanation". According to Leibniz, there are 2 kinds of explanations:

•    Beings that exist necessarily (necessary beings), or

•    Beings that are produced by an external cause (contingent beings).

Necessary beings are those that exist by a necessity of their own nature. In other words it is impossible for them not to exist. Some mathematicians believe that abstract mathematical objects, such as numbers, sets and shapes (e.g. circles and triangles) exist necessarily. Necessary beings are not caused to exist by an external entity and necessarily exist in all possible worlds.

On the other hand, contingent beings are caused to exist by something else. They do not exist necessarily and exist because something else produced them. This includes physical objects such as people, planets and galaxies. It is easy to imagine possible worlds in which these objects do not exist. Thus we could expand premise 1 as follows:

Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either due to the necessity of its own nature or due to an external cause.

It is impossible for God to have a cause. Thus Leibniz's argument is really for a God who must be a necessary, uncaused being. Thus the argument helps to define and constrain what we mean by "God".

•    Objection 2
Some atheists have objected that premise 1 is true of everything in the universe, but not the universe itself. However, it is arbitrary to claim that the universe is an exception. After all, even Leibniz did not exclude God from premise 1. This objection is also unscientific. Modern cosmology is devoted to a search for the explanation of the universe's existence, and rightly so. To give up and declare that the universe exists reasonlessly would stymie science.

•    Objection 3
Some atheists have suggested that it is impossible for the universe to have an explanation of its existence. Their argument goes something like this:

The explanation of the universe would have to be a prior state of affairs in which the universe did not exist. This would be nothingness. Nothingness cannot cause anything, Therefore the universe exists inexplicably.

This objection assumes that the universe includes everything and that there is nothing outside the universe, including God. The objection has excluded the possibility of God by definition. However, an alternative definition is that the universe contains all physical things, but that God exists apart from the universe. This objection assumes that atheism is true and argues in a circle. It is clearly begging the question.

•    Premise 2

Premise 2 states that if the universe has an explanation of its existence, then that explanation is God. This appears controversial at first, but in fact it is not. This is because atheists typically argue that if atheism is true, then the universe has no explanation of its existence. Thus if there is an explanation of the universe, then atheism must be false (i.e., God is the explanation of the universe). This conclusion follows from the following rule of logic: If p => (implies) Q, then "not Q" => "not P". An example is, "If it is raining, then there are clouds. Thus if there are no clouds, then it is not raining."

All atheistic alternatives now seem to be closed, but not quite. Some atheists have claimed that the universe exists necessarily (i.e., the universe is a necessary being). If that were the case, then the universe would not require an external cause. However, this proposal is generally not taken seriously for the following reasons. None of the universe's components seem to exist necessarily. They could all fail to exist. Other material configurations are possible, the elementary particles could have been different and the physical laws could have been different as well. Thus the universe cannot exist necessarily.

However, is it valid to resort to God as the explanation of the universe? Are there other possibilities? The universe consists of space, time, matter and energy. The cause of the universe must be something other than the universe. Thus the cause of the universe must be non-physical, immaterial and beyond space and time. Abstract objects are not possible candidates as they have no causal relationships. Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that the cause of the universe must be a transcendent, unembodied mind.

Conclusion

Leibniz's argument from the Principle of sufficient reason is an interesting argument for the existence of God, but it goes beyond just God's existence. It also constrains the attributes of God to be a transcendent, uncaused, unembodied mind, who necessarily exists. In other words, this being is what the major monotheistic religions traditionally refer to as "God".

The Cause of the Universe

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 148. 2013 January)

Theologians often attempt to prove the existence of God using logic of which the following syllogism is an example:

Anything that begins to exist has a cause
The universe began to exist.
Therefore the universe has a cause

The conclusions of the syllogism are logical, but do they apply to the universe? This is the crux of the matter

Modern cosmology envisages the universe as having no prior cause as is usually conceived — that is a chain of causation going back in time eternally, or terminating in a metaphysical uncaused First Cause.

The universe could be, according to contemporary physics, a spontaneous phenomenon that emerged from what is called a pure vacuum (the absence of space-time and matter) due to vacuum fluctuations which causelessly create pairs of positive and negative subatomic virtual particles that emerge out of nothing and then vanish in 10 -21 seconds.

According to inflationary theory the eruption of a false vacuum — a form of matter with a repulsive gravitational field so strong it can explode into a universe — occurred in the primordial pure vacuum and resulted in the Big Bang from which our universe slowly evolved over a period of 15 billion years.

The conservation of energy isn't violated because gravitational energy is negative whilst the energy of matter is positive and therefore each counterbalances the other.

So, we can see that the universe has a 'cause', but it is not a cause as conceived in the traditional sense of the word, and there is certainly no evidence (as far as I can see) that requires God to be inserted into the equation.

The vacuum fluctuations of quantum mechanics are, as Paul Davies says in The day Time Began (pg. 33) "not caused by anything — they are genuinely spontaneous and intrinsic to nature at its deepest level."

Is the 'cause' of the universe transcendent? When theologians ascribe transcendence to the cause I am assuming they mean that it is external to our space-time continuum. But can there be anything outside the universe? If the starting point of the universe is pure vacuum then the answer is probably no (except, possibly, for mathematical forms; but more on this later).

The universe is expanding, but it is not expanding into anything. It is finite but has no boundary. This is a concept that is difficult to grasp because it is outside the realm of human experience — we are so used to dealing with concepts that involve things occupying and taking place in space. Nonetheless, this is the conclusion of contemporary physics.

The only thing that might be capable of existing outside of space-time is the mathematical forms I have alluded to previously (WARNING: WHAT FOLLOWS IS PURE SPECULATION ON MY PART), and by this I mean the laws of physics. Almost all physicists consider these laws to possess an independent reality that pre-existed the universe.

If this is so, then (to me) the laws of physics are analogous to Platonic Forms — abstract entities that are objects of pure mathematical knowledge which exist independently of the world and impose order upon it. The power of the laws of nature, then, does not lie in their strength, but in their subtlety.

And now for the most difficult question of all — where did these laws come form and why are they the way they are? In my opinion this question cannot be answered by either religion or science. Both religion and science are products of the human intellect. They are ideas constructed from our experience of the reality we inhabit.

The laws of physics, by contrast, exist (if that word can be applied to them in any meaningful human sense) outside the realm of human experience. We can perceive the effect they have upon nature, but we cannot get at them (so to speak) directly, and therefore in my opinion we cannot have any true understanding of what they are as things-in-themselves, that is beyond the mathematical descriptions they give us of the way matter and energy behave.

According to cosmology time began with the origin of the universe — the Big Bang. The origin of a thing begins in time, is dependent on time. The laws of physics exist in a timeless state of otherness, so perhaps it is meaningless to speak of them as having an origin.

Why are the laws the way they are? This is a very human question. But nature isn't human, and the world behaves in ways that can often confound our ideas of what is reasonable — the behaviour of photons when subjected to split beam experiments, for example.

Nature may not have a reason. In the end the laws of physics may be brute facts — they are what they are just because they are what they are. This is hardly satisfying and may sound defeatist. But I think there are limits to what our minds can grasp when we try and peer beyond reality to that otherness from which the universe arose.

As Peter Medawar points out in The Limits of Science (pg. 88) "We can hardly have empirical awareness of a frontier between being and nothingness without also having an empirical awareness of what lies on either side of it, and whereas the hither side of the frontier poses no special problem, for we can be empirically aware of that which is in being, there can be no empirical awareness of nothingness, so that if any such frontier exists it cannot exist in the domain of discourse of science and common sense."

Theologians obviously believe that it is possible to know and that God is the ultimate cause of the universe's existence. Undoubtedly, the universe exists; but I can't see how we can logically conclude from this fact that God exists (an assumption at best) and is the cause of the universe.

Could the laws of physics be God? Well, I suppose the answer to that question depends on how one defines God. Perhaps to a pantheist the answer might be yes. But I'm not a pantheist, and from what I can see neither are most theologians.

Finally, could the universe be the product of a transcendent mind? Well, we know that matter can exist without mind but we don't know that mind can exist without matter. Indeed, studies of brain injury show that minds are affected by physical damage to the organ of thought — the brain. This indicates that minds are dependent on the complexity of physical structures, and it is difficult to see how an immaterial transcendent being could have any structure at all.

Bibliography

Coles, Peter (Ed.) The Icon Critical Dictionary of the New Cosmology, Icon Books, Cambridge, 1998
Davies, Paul The Day Time Began, New Scientist, Vol. 150, No. 2027
Lemley, Brad Guth's Grand Guess, Discover, Vol. 23, No. 4
Levine, I. (Ed.) Philosophy: Man's Search for Reality, Odhams Books Ltd., London, 1963
Medawar, Peter The Limits of Science, Oxford University Press, 1989.

Is Gravitational Energy Negative?

By Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 149, 2013 March)

I refer To Kirk Straughen's article "The Cause of the Universe" in #148. In this article Kirk argues how the universe could appear causelessly out of nothing.

The mechanisms that he suggests for how something could arise out of absolutely nothing are highly disputed. However, I would like to focus on just one issue. He states, "The conservation of energy isn't violated because gravitational energy is negative whilst the energy of matter is positive and therefore each counterbalances the other."

I first read the claim that gravitational energy is negative in "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking. Here Hawking claimed that the total energy of the universe is zero. The universe is like an evenly balanced sea saw that just starts to move. Thus the universe is "the ultimate free lunch". However, Hawking does not justify or show why gravity is negative energy in his book. He simply asserts it. This seems quite counter-intuitive as, the last time I looked, it required energy to launch a rocket into space. Gravity seems like an energy sink, not an energy source.

I have heard this negative energy claim many times since. I have done a search on the web by typing "Why is gravitational energy negative?" into Google. What I have found is that the more reputable physics sites state that it is a convention to make the maths easy, but it does not represent reality. Those sites that attempt to explain it do not make sense.

I recently read "A Universe from Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss. In around page 100 of his book Krauss attempts to explain why gravitational energy is negative. This theory requires that gravitational energy is zero when all matter is infinitely separated. Krauss asks, "This seems reasonable, doesn't it?" No Lawrence, it doesn't. Krauss's argument is quite absurd. I encourage you to read it.

On several occasions I have put this question to top physicists, "Is gravitational energy negative?" Some have affirmed it. However, when I have started to question them, they start to withdraw into uncertainty. Some have referred me to non-existent web sites and others quickly admit that it is outside their field of expertise. I have discussed this with a former astronomer at work. His response was, "I think Hawking has lost his marbles".

As far as I am aware, there is no law of physics that says that gravity is negative energy and there is no empirical experiment that can be performed to test this. If it is indeed true then I would like to know why. However, I will not be surprised if this is a gigantic con. Kirk, can you explain to us why gravitational energy is negative?

QUESTIONS REGARDING "Leibniz's Cosmological Argument"

Anonymous

(Investigator 148, 2013 January)

INTRODUCTION

Kevin Rogers' arguments for God in #127, 130 and 132 gave adequate reasons for a reasonable person to believe in God and to want to discover more about Him.

Mr Roger's further effort to prove God, based on "Leibniz's Cosmological Argument" (#147) is, however, unconvincing unless several queries I have about it have answers.

QUERY REGARDING "EXPLANATION"

We're told that Leibniz's Cosmological Argument begins with 3 premises:

1)    Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence
2)    If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
3)    The universe exists

My first query concerns the word "explanation" since there are at least two types of explanation.

An event or occurrence is "explained" if we find mindless, unintelligent, prior events or "causes" that led to it. Alternatively, an event is also "explained" if an intelligent agent did it and provides reasons for doing it.

For example, suppose Trevor's house burns down. This might be "explained" by reference to "mindless" prior events such as lightning starting a bushfire which burns out of control and engulfs the house. Trevor's house burning down is also "explained" if an intelligent "being" poured petrol on it and lighted a match and later confesses "I did it because I enjoy watching fires."

Two of the essential premises attributed to Leibniz therefore have an ambiguity. They employ the word "explanation" without specifying the type of explanation. Let's remove the ambiguity in premise 1 by qualifying the word "explanation" according to type of "explanation". This gives us two versions — (a) and (b) — of Premise 1:

(a)    Everything that exists has an explanation based on mindless, unintelligent prior events; or
(b)    Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence in an intelligent agent called "God".

Version (a) of Premise 1 is useless for proving God because it asserts the opposite.

Version (b) of Premise 1 assumes that God exists. Further argument using version (b) is therefore worthless in proving God because God is already assumed without proof.

NECESSARY and CONTINGENT

Further along Rogers introduces two kinds of "beings":

•    Beings that exist necessarily (necessary beings), or
•    Beings that are produced by an external cause (contingent  beings).

I see no reason to introduce these two categories of "beings" unless, prior to introducing the two categories, we demonstrate that each has members.

For example, suppose a biologist decides to divide biological life into indestructible life and destructible life; or suppose a Ufologist divides women into "Women of Jupiter" and "Women of Earth."  I would wonder, "Why is he subdividing a category that has demonstrable members into two categories where one has no known members?" The empty categories are hypothetical or imaginary and prompt the question, "What is this fellow up to?"

I suggest that the existence of "necessary beings" ought to be demonstrated prior to introducing such a category and basing further argument on it. We need to first look at all available "beings", and only if we find a "necessary" one do we invent the "necessary" category.

CONCLUSION

The empirical method in #127, #130 and #132 where Rogers inferred a Creator from the structure of the Universe is more convincing than the manipulation of premises that lack empirical support.

Leibniz's Cosmological Argument –
A Response to Objections

By Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 149, 2013 March)

Introduction

In Investigator #148 Anonymous raised 2 objections to Leibniz's Cosmological Argument (LCA) as I presented it in Investigator #147.

The expanded form of the argument that I presented was:

•    Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either due to the necessity of its own nature or due to an external cause.
•    Premise 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
•    Premise 3: The universe exists
•    Conclusion 1: The universe has an explanation of its existence
•    Conclusion 2: Therefore the explanation of the universe's existence is God

Objection 1

Anonymous' first objection was that my use of the word "explanation" was ambiguous. He states that an explanation for an event may be due to either an intelligent agent or a mindless, unintelligent prior event or cause; and I did not specify which type of explanation applies. For example suppose we have a rusty car. The existence of the car was due to intelligent agents, but the rusty degradation was due to mindless, unintelligent causes. If the ultimate explanation of the universe is mindless and unintelligent, then the argument does not take us very far.

By way of clarification, I will distinguish the LCA from the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). The KCA is concerned with the causes of events and argues for a first cause. The LCA argues that every thing (or object) has an explanation (or reason) for its existence. Thus the LCA is primarily concerned with reasons for things rather than causes of events.

It is true that the reason that a car is rusty is due to mindless causes. However, could the existence of the universe be ultimately due to mindless causes? In my presentation I stated,

Premise 2 states that if the universe has an explanation of its existence, then that explanation is God. This appears controversial at first, but in fact it is not. This is because atheists typically argue that if atheism is true, then the universe has no explanation of its existence. Thus if there is an explanation of the universe, then atheism must be false (i.e., God is the explanation of the universe). This conclusion follows from the following rule of logic: If p => (implies) Q, then "not Q" => "not P". An example is, "If it is raining, then there are clouds. Thus if there are no clouds, then it is not raining."

However, couldn't the atheist claim that the universe can be explained by mindless causes? This would then invalidate my claim that, "atheists typically argue that if atheism is true, then the universe has no explanation of its existence."

I agree with Anonymous that "explanation" was ambiguous in my previous article, so he has made a very good point.

However, I don't think that the LCA necessarily demands that the observable universe has an intelligent explanation of its existence. For example, suppose that this universe was birthed by some other universe. Well, that other universe would be the explanation of its existence. Of course, that would simply push the problem back one step further. Even if the atheist wants to appeal to an infinite past succession of universes, we can still ask of that infinite succession, "Why does it exist, rather than nothing and what is its explanation?" But at that point, what kind of explanation can there be other than some transcendent, necessary cause? So a rational atheist is forced to either concede or claim that the cosmos exists inexplicably (without explanation). Thus I believe that the 2nd premise still holds.

Objection 2

The 2nd objection that Anonymous raises is "Why subdivide beings into necessary and contingent unless we can show that both sets have members?"

However, there is no logical reason for not doing so. This is often done in science. For instance the Higgs boson was postulated to exist before its existence was demonstrated. It was logically inferred. We observe contingent beings. The existence of a necessary being is logically inferred.

Conclusion

I sympathize with Anonymous in that I also prefer arguments that rely more on empirical evidence (such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Fine Tuning Argument) rather than being based mainly on what Immanuel Kant refers to as "Pure Reason".

Anonymous has also raised a good point in claiming that my use of "explanation" was ambiguous. However, I believe the original argument still holds, although my "explanation" of the argument could have been improved.