Richard Taylor’s cosmological argument for God’s existence is commonly listed among the most convincing justifications of the creationist outlook on the essence/origins of the surrounding physical reality. One of the reasons for this is that the argument’s initial assessment will reveal it being thoroughly exhaustive, in the logical sense of this word – something that stands out as the best indication of its ontological legitimacy. Nevertheless, despite the seeming cause-effect soundness of Taylor’s argumentative reasoning, in this respect, it is far from being considered as such that represents an undisputed truth-value. In fact, Taylor’s cosmological proof of God’s existence is intrinsically fallacious. In my paper, I will explore the validity of this suggestion at length while outlining the overall logic of the philosopher’s take on the subject matter in question and showing that the axiomatic premises of Taylor’s argumentative claim can be used to prove God’s non-existence.
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As it was implied earlier, there is indeed much logical soundness to how Taylor has gone about arguing for God’s existence. In this regard, the sub-sequential order of the philosopher’s arguments is as follows:
- The phenomenon of the universe’s existence is the legitimate subject of an ontological inquiry. As Taylor pointed out, “The sheer nonexistence of anything, which is not to be confused with the passing out of existence of something, never requires a reason; but existence does” (1974, p. 189). The philosopher termed this particular consideration as the Principle of Sufficient Reason – there must be an explanation to just about every of the surrounding reality’s emanations.
- The universe’s very existence presupposes that there is a reason for this to be the case. It is important to understand that by “reason” Taylor does not mean “purposefulness”. Instead, he refers to the logically deductive idea that the very existence of perishable/contingent things implies that there must have been some external stimuli that allowed them to come into being, in the first place. The philosopher’s rationale to come up with such a suggestion is that “If… the totality of all things excepting God… had really no beginning at all, but has always existed in some form of another, then there is clearly no answer to the question, where it came from and when” (Taylor, 1974, p. 191). Therefore, the reference to the universe’s spatial infinity, as the actual explanation for its existence, cannot be deemed ontologically sound.
- There are two types of explanations, as to the universe’s physical objectivity-contingent (scientific/atheist) and necessary (creationist). As Taylor noted, “The reason (for the existence of heaven and earth)… must be found either in the world itself, or outside it, in something that is literally supernatural” (1974, p. 193). However, whereas the contingent outlook on the universe’s functioning helps to explain the cause-effect subtleties of the latter, it does not apply when it comes to trying to understand the universe’s origin as a continually evolving entity “for it does not render a sufficient reason why anything should exist in the first place” (Taylor, 1974, p. 193). According to the philosopher, the universe cannot contain within itself the actual reason for its own being. Had it been otherwise, this would contradict what we know about the dialectical nature of the interrelationship between causes and effects in this world.
- The Principle of Sufficient Reasoning presupposes that a dialectically sound approach to explaining the universe as a “thing-in-itself” must contain references to God as the ultimate cause of all the observable effects in this world. According to Taylor, the God’s very omnipresence as “a being that depends for its existence upon nothing but itself, and is in this sense self-caused” (1974, p. 195), predetermines the inevitability of such an eventual conclusion.
And yet, as it was suggested earlier, there are indeed a number of reasons to consider Taylor’s cosmological proof of God’s existence rather erroneous. The most obvious of them have to do with the main logical fallacy of the philosopher’s creationist reasoning. Namely, with the fact that, as one can infer from what has been said earlier, it never occurred to Taylor that there is a deep-seated conceptual incompatibility between the notions of “God” and “nature”. Consequently, this means that there is also very little justification for discussing both as such that derive from each other – the assumption that lays at the very core of the philosopher’s argumentative claim.
Our universe is, in essence, a thermodynamic system – the fact that its functioning is concerned with the continual dispersal of entropy proves the validity of this statement better than anything else does. In its turn, this implies that the universe’s existence has a mathematical quality to it. What this connotes is that there can be only two alternative systemic approaches to explaining the universe’s existence – incomplete (or as Taylor would call it – contingent) and self-contradictory (complete).
Incomplete (scientific) approach is the one that allows us to formulate a positive assertion about a particular phenomenon that within the chosen axiomatic framework for assessing this phenomenon’s significance can neither be proven valid nor invalid. Self-contradictory (religious/creationist) approach, on the other hand, is the one that makes it possible to formulate an assertion (in our case about the universe) that can be simultaneously proven valid and invalid.
As one can judge from observing the surrounding physical reality, there is nothing self-contradictory about the way in which it extrapolates itself. Had it been otherwise, we would be in the position to refer to the same physical subject (and consequently the universe) as being both existent and non-existent at the same time. The main discursive implication of this is quite apparent – just about any system of argumentative axioms for assessing the universe/nature is bound to be incomplete (contingent) by definition, as the main indication of its methodological legitimacy. The very logic of scientific progress stands out to testify to the full soundness of this suggestion. As time goes on, scientists discover more and more previously unknown principles that define the actual workings of the universe.
The very definition of God, however, presupposes that being omnipresent, he is the ultimate cause of all effects. In other words, the incorporation of the axiom of God into the discursive framework of one’s analytical reasoning about the essence/origins of the universe makes this kind of reasoning “complete”. If there is God, we can take just about any universe-related assertion and prove it valid or invalid (depending on what we want) while referring to the fact that the “Lord moves in mysterious ways”. However, as soon as we incorporate this axiomatic assumption as an integral part of our vision of the universe, it automatically makes the latter self-contradictory.
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If there is a God, the workings of the universe (reflective of his divine omnipresence) must be self-contradictory as well. And yet, this could not possibly be the case because otherwise there would be no universe as we know it, in the first place – pure and simple. In other words, the hypothetical existence of God is fundamentally inconsistent with the empirically accessible existence of the universe, which in turn means that there is no God, to begin with. Therefore, contrary to how Taylor used to perceive it, the fact that the atheist take on the surrounding reality is contingent (incomplete) cannot be possibly deemed suggestive of its discursive illegitimacy. It is, in fact, the other way around.
There is another prominent shortcoming to the cosmological proof of God’s existence by Richard Taylor – the fact that it is much too speculative to represent any ontological value. This simply could not be otherwise as this proof falls short of the most basic requirement for it to be recognized scientifically sound – empirical testability. The philosopher’s foremost fallacy, in this regard, is that he has made a point of referring to God in terms of an independent variable within the creationist account of the universe, without specifying what kind of influence does it exert on the continual evolvement of the cosmos (dependent variable).
This makes Taylor’s proof logically unassailable, but ontologically irrelevant – hence, rendering it ultimately sophist. A certain analogy can be drawn between how Taylor has gone about justifying the existence of God, on one hand, and how some contemporary physicists go about popularizing the concept of “parallel universes”, on the other. In both cases, the very nature of the subject matter in question implies that it cannot be made the subject of any kind of empirical assessment by definition. It may indeed be the case that God and parallel universes exist, but since we are in no position to prove/disprove their de facto existence, trying to do this would be wasting valuable time.
Taylor’s cosmological proof of God’s existence exemplifies the validity of this statement because it clearly did not have to be quite as elaborative – the philosopher could have reduced it in size to account for a few succinct sentences. And, as the principle of “Occam’s razor” stipulates, there is no need to resort to the elaborative/complex explanations of a particular phenomenon for as long as the actual explaining can be done in a much more concise/straightforward manner. It is understood, of course, that this undermines the integrity of the discussed cosmological proof even further.
I believe that the earlier deployed line of argumentation (in defense of the idea that Taylor’s creationist take on the universe should be deemed highly speculative at best) correlates well with the paper’s initial thesis. Apparently, the philosopher’s proof of God’s realness is nothing but yet another exercise in sophist logic, which is why it can be refuted with comparative ease – just as it was done in the analytical part of this paper.
The same could be achieved by discussing Taylor’s proof in conjunction with the recent breakthroughs in the field of quantum physics, which eliminate the remaining rationale to assume that God must have been behind setting up the “Big Bang”. At the same time, however, it would be inappropriate to suggest that Taylor’s creationist argument should be brushed aside as completely irrelevant. After all, there can be only a few doubts that it did contribute rather substantially towards helping humanity to come to terms with the phenomenological aspects of the universe’s existence.
Taylor, R. (1974). Metaphysics. Web.