The Cosmological Argument is an argument for the existence of god using the Cosmos as evidence. I don’t think these arguments are very convincing but they are one of the strongest arguments for the existence of god due to our lack of understanding about the origins of the Universe, especially when compared to our knowledge of evolution when discussing the Argument from Design.
Humans are answer seeking animals and we often find it more satisfying to have an answer than to not have one. However, when it comes down to it, the only intellectual answer we can give to questions science hasn’t yet answered is “we don’t know”. The Cosmological Argument seems to be, to some extent, an argument from ignorance: “We don’t know what (if anything) created the Universe, therefore it was god”. This is quite a weak way of criticizing the Cosmological Argument, especially as the Cosmological Argument has worse flaws than this one.
As Victor J Stenger points out in God: The Failed Hypothesis “One sign of a supernatural creation would be a direct empirical confirmation that a miracle was necessary in order to bring the Universe into existence”. Yet we do not see this confirmation. Science has an explanation to the origins of the Universe as we know it, the Big Bang, and this doesn’t rely on supernatural explanations. Originally a derogatory term used to describe the theory by people who believed in a Steady-State Universe. There was no “bang” in the Big Bang, it was a sudden expansion of a singularity which contained all matter and energy in the Universe. Many people ask “What was there before the Big Bang?”. This question doesn’t make any sense since all of the physical laws, space and time were contained within the singularity. The question is like asking someone to go south of the South-pole. The Big Bang answers the main big questions of where did the Universe come from
One of the main problems with the Cosmological Argument is that it tells us nothing about the nature of the “unmoved mover”/ “uncaused causer”. It doesn’t even establish that this entity is intelligent. You can however say that the entity either contained or created all of the energy (and therefore matter as well) in the Universe. It brings up the question that if the “uncaused causer” was just a single particle (with the ability to either exist forever or create itself) would you call it god? I don’t think many would, the word “god” is associated with the minimum attribute of intelligence. It is a major leap from “uncaused causer” to any of the traditional gods such as Allah or Jehovah.
The most famous Cosmological Arguments were put forward by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica. Three of his Five Ways are Cosmological Arguments, and as Dawkins points out in The God Delusion, “are just different ways of saying the same thing, and they can be considered together. All involve an infinite regress – the answer to a question raises a prior question, and so on ad infinitum”. Aquinas makes the assumption that the Universe hasn’t existed in some form forever.
Bertrand Russell suggests that a further angle of attack on Aquinas’ concept of causation might be drawn from quantum physics. Since the 1920s, theoretical physics has raised the question of whether there are indeterminate events taking place at a subatomic, quantum, level that have no cause, including the appearance of the Universe itself. If this is a genuine possibility then it undermines Aquinas’ first premise: the certainty that everything must have a cause.
David Hume offered a further criticism of the Cosmological Argument that undermines Aquinas’ position. Hume argues that if we have explained the cause of each event in the series, then it is unreasonable to ask what caused the whole series. This has become known as the Fallacy of Composition; it is the fallacy of thinking that because there is some property common to each part of a group, this property must apply to the group as a whole. Russell gives an example of this: It is true that every member of the human species as a whole has a mother, but it is a fallacy to conclude from this that our species as a whole must have a mother. Similarly, every event within a series may indeed have a cause, but it is a fallacy to conclude that the whole series must have a cause. If Hume is right, then Aquinas is mistaken in thinking that there must be a first cause that started the chain of cause and effects, and the Cosmological Argument fails.
I think Carl Sagan puts it best when he said that “In many cultures the customary answer [to “how did the Universe come into existence?”] is that a god or gods created the Universe out of nothing. But if we wish to pursue this question courageously we must, of course, ask the next question: Where did god come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the Universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say that god always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the Universe always existed?”. This brings up Occam’s razor, the idea that the most plausible explanation is the one which uses the least unnecessary entities. The problem with the Cosmological Argument is that god is not needed to explain the Universe.
To summarize, the Cosmological Argument is a poor argument for the existence of god. It could well be used to prove the existence of a necessary entity, but this could be a single, unintelligent particle. However, the Cosmological Argument seems at first glance to be fairly convincing since we lack knowledge about the origins of the Universe, but once you start analyzing it the argument collapses.