This morning I listened with interest as Tony Macrini, who hosts the morning news program on the local talk radio station (WNIS), discussed the intelligent design movement with a caller to his show.
I am a fairly regular listener to Macrini’s show, and I have come to respect him as an intelligent and well versed man — especially in matters of history. He is also a self-avowed atheist and candid declaimer of Christianity and all things theistic. I, on the other hand, am no friend to atheistic thought, so Macrini and Your One and Only Favorite MonT-SteR™ certainly part ways in matters of faith (or the lack thereof).
Given Tony’s aversion to theism, his response to the aforementioned caller was not surprising. In essence, he debunked the notion of inferring a Designer from the complexity of the universe, but not by directly attacking the intelligent design movement. Instead, he took issue with the cosmological argument Christians typically use to posit a creator:
- The notion of existence implies agency, i.e., all things that exist are brought into being by some causal factor.
- The universe exists.
- Therefore, it owes its existence to a Beginner, a First Cause.
- By definition, this First Cause must be both greater than the universe and outside of it.
- Theists are wont to identify this Beginner or First Cause as God.
Macrini’s argument was the same as Gordon Stein’s objection to classical apologetic arguments such as this: If existence implies agency, then doesn’t this First Cause also require a causal agent?
This very objection is why I don’t find the standard cosmological argument to be very effective. It opens the door to an infinite regress of causes, which plays right into the atheist’s hands. The way I see it, an infinite regress of causes is only possible in an infinite universe. Evolutionists are more comfy with the idea of an infinite space-time continuum, because the process of evolution itself practically requires an infinite timeline to be plausible. Happily, there is plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that the universe is a closed system that had its origin around 16 billion years ago. In such a system, an infinite regress of causes is not possible because it would result in circular causality (each effect becomes its own cause, which requires it to exist before it exists).
It seems to me that Macrini objected to the cosmological argument because he finds the kind of “self-existence” implicit in circular causality to be self-stultifying — or, at the very least, a defeater of the notion of an uncaused First Cause. But I submit that Darwinian evolution depends on circular causality in order to be true. What we call “life” is merely the product of an endless stream of physical and chemical processes at work, which are themselves the product of physical and chemical processes at work, ad infinitum.
In light of this problem of infinite regress, the kalam cosmological argument offers a stronger foundation for building a case for intelligent design:
- All things which begin to exist have a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a First Cause.
By definition, this First Cause would necessarily be causeless, implying that (unlike the universe) its existence did not have a beginning. Again, this points to the notion that only infinity allows for causeless existence. In the case of God, this fits rather nicely, since the Bible states that He is without beginning and without end.
Food for thought.
aka The MonT-SteR