Aquinas’s Argument of Efficient Cause could be summarised thus:
- There is an efficient cause for everything; nothing can be the efficient cause of itself.
- It is not possible to regress to infinity in efficient causes.
- To take away the cause is to take away the effect.
- If there be no first cause then there will be no others.
- Therefore, a First Cause exists – and that is God.
These are a number of false assertions rather than an argument in the above four which mixes up the cause and effect.
Let me pause and recall a true and realistic episode. A suited and booted young man on a job-hunting trip to Hindustan Machine tools in Bangalore, India, takes a shared taxi because he can’t find a free one. Once seated, he finds that his fellow-traveler is a shabby young man dressed in dirty overalls. He decides that the guy is either a municipal janitor or some such menial. As the taxi moves, and he can’t help wondering how a lowly person like this couldn’t use a bicycle or walk to work, the fellow pulls out a dirty hand kerchief from his pocket and puts it to his nose. A horrible stink pervades the car.
The suited gentleman holds his breath, but not for long. He lets out a long breath and draws in again – he could now puke. Forgetting his manners, he turns to the ill-dressed menial.
“Would you please put that piece of cloth in your pocket?” He asks.
“It stinks,” says the menial.
“Exactly, so put that away!” orders the man.
“It still stinks,” says the menial, cringing, since menials are meant to cringe, not to argue.
A Couple of minutes later, the man does put the soiled kerchief back in his pocket, and the stink vanishes.
The time was early sixties. I knew the man, who told me this terrible experience and harangued me on why the janitors and menials should be taught some sense of hygiene. I also knew the alleged menial, who worked as an apprentice in the workshop where I got my old jalopy serviced. The two were travelling from Bangalore city to Jalhalli some 16 kilometers away. On the way was Penya bone factory. Thousands of rotting cattle bones came to the factory every day to make whatever they were making, and Penya stank to high heavens those days. The mechanic’s apprentice, who was a regular free traveler in that taxi because his brother was its driver, knew the place where the foul smell began, and where it ended. Luckily, and despite his mild chauvinism, the young man got his job.
The cause and effect can be pretty confusing to a mind that comes to town with a postulate that all menials are in need of a bath. It could also be confusing to those who believe that one gets cancer if one didn’t pray or that poverty is a result of karma. Did a storm cause thunder cloud to rise or did the thunder cloud (cumulonimbus) cause the storm? The old conundrum : who came first, the egg or the chicken? Which is cause and which is the effect is often difficult to assess – especially if you have a priori notion such as God is the cause of universe, but God needs no cause – an argument that shoots its own foot.
In a circular chain of events, there is no first cause. Water cycle is that keeps our earth and all of us hydrated is without a first cause. The cause of rivers is rain; rain is caused by the water bodies replenished by rivers – and thus goes a mutual-cause water cycle, The best example of no-first-cause is the legendary chicken-and-the egg puzzle.
It is true that some secondary events like a murder or an earthquake has to have a cause- or several causes. The policeman would look for the motive; the geologist would theorize on the movement of plates beneath the earth’s surface or a new water reservoir that had been recently constructed and exerts undue pressure on the crust.
Greek Philosopher Democritus (About 460-390 BC) who conceived atoms had stated that a first cause is not a necessity. If you look around, he said, you could find several things that existed without a cause.
Principle of Sufficient Reason
It Gottfried Leibnitz (1646- 1716) who coined phrase, Principle of Sufficient Reasons. The principle itself would normally appear to be a matter of common sense since humans began to apply their minds to abstract things.
- If an object exists, there has to be reason that it exists.
- If an event happens, there must be a reason that it happens.
- If there is a proposition, there is a reason for that proposition.
You could expand each of those contention to any number of mundane as well as profound ones which we do all the time. Why did this man die? Why is he lying naked on the road and not in his bed? Why are the rate of road accidents in India more than that in the United Kingdom? Why are more rape cases in religious countries than in godless China?
If you investigate, there is sufficient reason to answer all such questions. Different people might come up with Different answers, but one or more of the many answers to the same problem could possibly be right. Even if none comes up with the right answer, yet we know that there is sufficient reason for the event. Science, philosophy, medical diagnostics, most human researches look into sufficient reasons for things, events and decisions that happen every day.
- Taj Mahal was built by a Mughal king because he loved his wife very much, or because he wanted to be known by future generations as a grand builder and a great lover. (Never mind that he married the dead beloved’s sister soon after shed died and long before Taj Mahal was built.)
- Humans believe in Hell and a God who could you send them there because of constant indoctrination to that effect from childhood.
- Your daughter wants to do MBA because she hopes to get a better job.
- You fell in love with your wife because she was beautiful, or because she was rich, or you hoped she would make a terrific wife and mother for your children. (Never mind if you were disappointed – so was the spouse).
- You are in the opposition because you think the government is corrupt; or you believe that if you replace it, you could make even more money for yourself than they do.
However, there are many questions to which you cannot think sufficient reason:
- Why is a proton in an atom 2000 times heavier than an electron though both have equal quantity of electrical (though opposite) charges?
- Why is gravity exerting a negative force on objects?
- Why are Newton’s laws of motion so rigid?
- If God’s will is the reason for our existence, whose will is the reason for God’s existence?
You have no ready and sufficient reason for this and many fundamental states of the universe. You believe them, right or wrong, to be a priori states and laws of the universe. They are because they are.
The same argument could be extended to a variation of the Principle of Sufficient Reasons : The first cause argument put forth by Thomas Aquinas, and before him, Ibn Sina and, no doubt all ancient religious texts that invented God as the very First Cause.
You could turn around and ask: if, by regressing the state of existence backward in steps of causes, and if we come to the first cause without a cause, why couldn’t the universe itself be the first cause?
Many philosophers of yore had asked this question; the answer is: you need to have faith. You need an omnipotent, omniscient superior intelligence, not an inert and unintelligent world to set off the beginning of existence.
If faith is the only reason, whose faith should I adapt: That of my parents and their guru, whose faith is that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Being, or the faith of my friend Hussein’s parents in a Merciful but unforgiving Allah with an eternal fire in the background to torment me for endless time, or that of my Humanities teacher Mr. Thomson-Jones whose faith in a God who was nailed to a wooden beam to save Mr. Jones and his family from eternal hell?
If the self-born or ever-existent God could be intelligent enough to create all that we see, why couldn’t a self-born or self-existent universe which is neither vindictive nor in need of constant praise from all humans do the same? Why can’t we accept that there is an underpinning of what we call intelligence in every object (at least organic objects) in the universe around us? Don’t we see that the digital computer, not even fifty years in its development, made up of only on-off states of electric charges, is threatening to beat humans in intelligence, creativity and communicability? If the universe has such an underlying intelligence, why would that be a jealous, vengeful, vainglorious God who just happened to be in human image and endowed with human emotions like anger, love of meat and need for revenge and – worst of all – unquenchable jealousy?
An Indian mathematician, Bhaskaracharya (born 1114 AD), theorized in his book Siddhanta Siromani (Crown Jewel of Theories), that planets co-exist by mutual attraction. His revolutionary theory went unnoticed because Hindus were more keen on debating the non-duality theory of Shankar Acharya (around 820 AD), Lord Krishna’s flirtation with older women and the need for keenly observing the caste system. Seven centuries later, an English scientist named Isaac Newton explained the falling of objects to the ground as caused by an innate property of mass of matter – he called it Gravity. Gravity caused things to fall on to the nearest heavy object. To you and me, that massive object happens to be the earth. What caused gravity? Mass. What causes mass? Matter, did you say? Not exactly. Relativity tells us that mass is dependent on mass and velocity.
Working from the Lorentz Transformation (Henrik Lorentz 1853-1928), Theory of special Relativity shows that If you take a grain of sand and manage to throw it at nearly the speed of light, that grain would acquire immeasurable mass. Mass, Gravity, Time and Motion contain properties that are inherent within them, although external forces may cause quantitative changes in them.
Time is caused by events, but we can state time without the event it is related to. As (born 1956) suggested in his book The Big Picture, Time did not begin at the Big Bang. (assuming that the Big Bang Model is the cause for the current universe). Instead, Big Bang is where our understanding ends at this point of time. We make artificial events like the ticking of a clock, dripping of sand from a top globule to one below it, or natural events like the lengthening of shadows in sunlight to measure time. Neither the dripping sand nor the lengthening shadow is the reason for time. When you don’t have such events, time becomes an abstract stand-alone dimension without the need for a cause. Relativity shows that there is no absolute time; it could expand or contract with motion, as also with gravity.
We used to measure Time as a function of Sun’s movements when we had no better instrument. Now days and years are computed without referring to Sun’s movements, but by projection of Sun’s movements into the distant past and beyond foreseeable future. Sun’s or moon’s movements are merely used as a benchmark for defining time, as you would use a centimeter tape for a benchmark of length, but time is caused by neither. Thus when we say that a Big Bang or inflation occurred some 13.799±0.021 billion years ago, the unit of years is a projection of Sun-based time although the sun came into existence some 8 billion years later. Cosmologists also try to predict, rather foolishly I am afraid, the events in the universe after the Sun would have vanished into a black hole. Time serves a need, conceived on a mathematical model, just as the longitude and latitude of earth, or the spatial coordiantes of Cartesian computations. If we were to meet aliens from a planet in the Proxima Century, these are most unlikely to be the dimensions they could be using for their computations. In the four-dimensional universe that we conceive, time moves like an arrow – or perhaps like boomerang on a long flight. Like the three spatial dimensions we are most familiar with, time is a dimension, conceived in human mind, wrapped into a small sphere along with the other three, no bigger than a trillion, trillion, trillion trillionth of a meter of unimaginably high temperature and massive gravitational force.
That an omniscient and omnipotent God with unimaginable intellect is the first cause makes no sense to reason. Neither the Biblical God, nor a God of any religion is omniscient or omnipotent if you go by the record of that God’s very human failings such as jealousy, inability to prophesy human reaction, favouritism and above all, fear that humans would become equal to him if they are allowed knowledge or long life. If you can accept such a God, you might as well accept a harmless, non-jealous and non-vengeful body 10-33 centimetre-wide and of unimaginable mass, temperature and gravitational force that has been growing in span as the first cause.
As of now, despite the wide support it has from scientists of eminence, Big bang is a hypothesis rather than a theory. It is supported by quantum physics which gives precise figures of the varying rate of expansion (inflation) in the first trillionth fractions of a second after the bang; the next few minutes, the next few months, then the years, then thousands and millions of years and so on – occasionally contracting, but at all other times expanding, and, finally, accelerating the rate of expansion. However, the foundation for all such predictions (of what could have happened in the past) are derived from a pre-conceived model, derived from analogue measurements (red-shift for distance, relative red-shift between closer (hence more recent) galaxies and distant (hence older) galaxies and so on.
The foundation for the big Bang hypothesis is that we notice an accelerating rate of expansion which, by regress, could be imagined to have begun at a certain point of time. By quantum method of calculations, this time is placed at 13.7+/- 0.21 million years ago. Another proof is the universal presence of CMBR (Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation) measured ataround 2.72 degree Kalvin. Noted Physicist Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was not convinced; he said that one could tweak calculations to fit the proposition of the Big Bang even if CMBR were 27 Kalvin or 0.27 Kalvin. Once the concept of Big Bang – first proposed by the Catholic Abbe Georges Lemaitre took hold, The Big Bang, despite the fact that it is possible to demonstrate how universe developed after a certain stage of inflation with particle accelerators, do not yet answer all the questions that arise in one’s mind. When elaborating on the stages of development of the universe from a particle 10-33 centimetres in span, scientists relapse into being story tellers.
Something Out of Nothing.
The Big Bang model was conceived when science was looking for an efficient cause for the origin of the universe. Hence it was only natural that the concept of a Primeval Atom that burst to form the whole universe occurred to a Christian priest.
Big bang is a cosmological model that presumes that the universe as we know it today began 13.7 billion years ago, give or take a fractional billion . At that point of time, till some 10-45 fraction of a second after the origin, they compute by Quantum physics, normal laws of nature break down. They call it a moment of singularity. No one knows what happened before this point of time; it has no significance to our existence; so no point in trying to make an investigation into it. Before that big bang, said Pope John Paul II pleaded, belongs to the realm of God, so please don’t investigate it. We do not know what St. Aquinas would have said if he learnt that there was science beyond Aristotle and Avicenna, but Christian (mostly Catholic) apologetics, the few who now bank on the Big Bang Theory, say that that was the time when God created Matter (earth) Space (sky) and Time. Just as the creator of a computer is outside the computer, thus is God outside space, matter and time
Gen. 1.1. In the Beginning (of Time) God created Heaven (Space) and Earth (matter).
Asked if indeed there were a God and he met God, what would he ask him, Stephen Hawking said in an interview : “I would ask why there is something instead of nothing.” Every famous person makes one remarkable mistake if not more; this answer was Hawking’s cosmological blunder.
Nothing is not a default
Hawking’s answer, if you ponder, is a question that belongs to Alice in Wonderland. The question assumes that Nothing is the default; Something is its by-product. This illogical assumption, no matter how ingrained it is in our psyche, and even though a brilliant scientist like Stephen Hawking himself appears to succumb to it, is false and dangerous. Nothing, by definition, is non-existent. Parmenides of Elea (6th century BC ) wrote: “You say there is a void; therefore the void is not nothing; therefore there is not the void.” Nearly eight thousand years later, I could not put in a better argument against the concept of Nothing.
There never is and never was a Nothing in this universe. Universe always existed in some form or another. Even assuming the Primordial thing of less than 10-33 cm span was what we know as the beginning of the universe was what we cannot perceive beyond, there was energy in the form of heat – scientists say it was an incredible 1.41 x 10^32 Kelvin. If matter was small, energy was big, satisfying Einstein’s equation E- Mc2. Universe always existed in one form or another; normally in both forms of energy and matter, but may be, at points of transformation, in one of the two forms. Phrases like “from the beginning of time and till the end of time” might make good poetry, but are false notions. You cannot divide matter into nothing; nor can you split time into no time. Try imagining nothing. You can’t. You imagine a thing by building a miniature model of it in your mind. You cannot build a model of Nothing. You can’t even hallucinate a Nothing under a drug or in your dreams. If you close your eyes tight, there is darkness and twinkling dots.
Nothing is an oxymoron. What people call Creation is Transformation and Transmutation – not making something out of nothing. There is continuous transformation that happens every zillionth part of a second. If a Big Bang occurred, it was transformation from a very small volume and high level of heat (energy) to continuously rising volume and falling level of heat to its current volume and the transmutations of matter that happened along the way. What was before the time when universe was 10-43 centimeters span? It could have been 10-143 millimeters span, blowing up to this size10133 light years span, shrinking once again to this size when it had converted all the matter that makes up galaxies and dark matter that drives galaxies apart. It could even be that when the galaxies have separated so far that they begin to shrink into separate black holes and finally end up as separate candidates for the big bang – creating more and more multiverses. Science will certainly find out some day.if Hawking’s contention that the galaxies would finally evaporate into energy, thus ending a material universe. This is a conjuncture even by someone of the status of Hawking smells like religion.
Like there is no Nothing, there cannot be infinity. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) described infinity as a mathematical concept of convenience. Nothing does not even enter into logic or mathematics. Zero is not nothing; it is a junction were positive and negative, credit and debt, height and depth part ways or converge depending on how you look at it. Like zero is a junction between before and after, negative and positive, the tiny (in volume) but massive thing that inflated and along the way kept mutating metals and minerals from hydrogen and helium and then stars and planets from metals and minerals did not create anything out of nothing. Law of conservation of energy and matter tells us that nothing can dissolve into a void; hence nothing can come out of a void. If you cannot build Empire State Building or Burj Dubai on vacuum, you cannot have a universe whose foundation was a vacuum.
NEXT : V. INTELLIGENT DESIGN