The Hammer of Heretics: Episode 1

Welcome to another new blog series on Team Orthodoxy!

In this series I will be wielding Team Orthodoxy’s trademark Hammer Method to crush heresy in a manner befitting the original Malleus Hereticorum, St. Anthony of Padua. You may very well ask, ‘that sounds great, Mike, but what qualifies you to do this much-needed heresy-crushing?’ To which I would reply, one half-decent undergrad course in logic, and another in classical philosophy.

This may not seem like the greatest qualification, and even I didn’t think so, until I realised that it placed me on an even, if not superior level of philosophical education compared with many top selling writers of philosophy, including scientific geniuses Richard Dawkins and Steven Hawking.

Besides, the more specific purpose of this series is not so much to tackle the most difficult philosophical questions of our time, as would be suited to a much more brilliant mind than mine, but rather to sweep up the philosophical trash; to examine the truly terrible and meritless arguments that are repetitively peddled everywhere from schoolyard arguments to New York Times bestsellers.

These arguments have a bad habit of continually respawning, but the Hammer is tireless, and the sound of their QQing only makes it stronger.

This Episode’s Argument:

Who created the creator?

We’ve all heard this one-liner at some point. Most often, it is thrown out as a smug dismissal of classical philosophy by modern atheists. Dawkins is very fond of this one, as is A Universe from Nothing author, Lawrence M. Krauss.

The argument usually doesn’t go much deeper than this one line. It’s a response to the various philosophical definitions and proofs of God’s existence, and basically says, ‘God created the universe? Then who created God?’ Whenever I hear this I can’t help but think,

I mean, really, do they think no one in the history of philosophy ever considered this brilliant question? Is St. Thomas Aquinas rolling over in his grave, thinking, ‘Oh no, if only I was as clever as antitheist420’?

Actually, this question really wasn’t addressed by classical philosophers, for the simple reason that it doesn’t even make enough sense to be a valid criticism. Even asking this question shows that the critic doesn’t understand the definition of God or the proofs that are proposed. I’ll give just one example of an argument from contingency. This one was formulated by Gottfried Leibniz in 1714:

“There can be found no fact that is true or existent, or any true proposition, without there being a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise, although we cannot know these reasons in most cases […] Why is there something rather than nothing? The sufficient reason […] is found in a substance which […] is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself.”

In plain English this means that all things in the universe, and the universe itself, could exist or not exist, based on external factors. For example, I exist because of my parents, who exist because of their parents. This blog exists because I am writing it. The existence of anything in the universe implies a cause. Therefore the only way something can exist, rather than nothing, is if a being exists which is uncaused, and causes all other things.

Ok, so we have a proof that an uncaused being exists. Now there are various more or less reasonable arguments that can be made against this, but one of them is not ‘who created the uncreated being’. It’s a nonsensical question, which proves nothing but the speaker’s failure to understand the proof.

God love you all, leave a comment if you like (or dislike) this new series!

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About anotherepigone

I'm a Catholic, software developer, writer, gamer, and all-around nerd. I write for orthodoxcatholicism.com. Check it out and leave me a comment!

Posted on June 14, 2012, in Apologetics, Catholic, Orthodoxy, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. So far, so good. Can’t wait to see where you go with it. Hammer Time!

  2. I can’t wait to read some more in this new series 🙂

  3. Good start. I myself have a long remembered phrase from somewhere: “Grace builds on nature”. I have long wondered from whence it came.

  4. Easiest Arguments against First Cause:

    1. Why is the first cause so special that it does not require a First Cause? Basically you’re explanation is that “God is, and always was, because he is God”. You infer special exemption status from the rules of cause and effect. Based on logic such as this, why can the same logic not be used to say “the universe is, and always was”? Sure, Big Bang, or other theories might exist as to a change in matter (i.e. massive expansion) but that doesn’t mean energy can’t have always existed. So I question, why is God so special that he doesn’t require a First Clause himself? At which point the discussion turns from logic to religion.

    Secondly, the premise of causality has been arrived at through inductive reasoning, which is dependent on experience. Even though causality applies to the known world, it does not necessarily apply to the universe at large. In other words, it is unwise to draw conclusions from an extrapolation of causality beyond experience.

    2. Identity of the First Clause: Let’s say that I do accept the premise that First Cause is valid; this does not prove the existence of God, specifically, your God. This only “proves” a source of origin.

    • anotherepigone

      Hi Zach. Your second criticism (the one under 2, not the one under “secondly”) is one of the more sensible objections to the proof presented by Leibniz. The identification of the first sufficient cause with all the Christian beliefs about God is not a simple matter, and much of it is religious (though some can be known easily through a bit of logic).

      The first point, however, is just an extension of “Who created the Creator,” ripped from the pages of the God Delusion. It’s the same thing. You look at a proof of an uncreated being and ask “Why does the non-contingent being get to be non-contingent?” Well, because (pay attention), the existence of a non-contingent being was just proven.

      I realize the skeleton of an argument from Leibniz that I presented for brevity’s sake is incomplete. If you want a more full argument from contingency, just pop over to Stanford’s site. I linked it in the article. That article also contains the reasons why an infinite temporal universe fails to satisfy the requirements for the existence of any contingent thing.

  5. This is really good! Philosophy with a good measure of humour thrown in…..love it. To continue the words of your friend at the top…”dude, you rock!”

  6. I think, however, that the purpose of the argument is not to dismiss the idea of God but to challenge the fact that God is a logical necessity, and to that end I do believe it is an effective argument. Yes, perhaps there is a need for an uncaused, self-sufficient foundation of existence, atheists would probably agree with that on a philosophical level. But why does such a foundation need to be God? Many scientists would suggest that perhaps the universe itself can serve as such a foundation. Basically, if God can be accepted as an uncaused “thing”, why should the universe itself be incapable of bearing such a description?

    I think there are very big problems with the way atheists approach such a question, don’t get me wrong. The main problem is that such questions are simply unanswerable by science. There is no evidence for the belief that the universe has always existed, and indeed there can NEVER be (the universe as we understand it actually began with the Big Bang). The question and challenge of “unscientificness” is reversed upon them because ideas such as multiverse theory or universe budding cascades which try to suggest a universe without God can bear no more scientific evidence than our ancient faith in the God who is the cause and the foundation of even such mysteries we will never uncover.

    • anotherepigone

      I definitely think if the argument is developed to that level, it is actually a different argument. Rather than being “Who created the Creator,” it’s “how do you know the creator is God,” which is a much more sensible question to ask.

      On the subject of the universe being in itself a sufficient cause, there is some interesting commentary on that point in the Stanford article I linked to. From what I remember, it’s quite hard to present the universe as uncaused, since even a universe which extends infinitely in time can be contingent.

  1. Pingback: Hammer of Heretics Episode 2: Morality Limits Your Freedom! « Team Orthodoxy

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