The Argument from Contingency

The Argument from Contingency is an inductive case for a creator of the universe. In this post I quote Dr. Craig using, what I call, the “The Red Ball Argument”. I then support this argument by critically analyzing its only possible ‘defeater’ – the “Self-Contingent Universe Theory”.

The Red Ball Argument

“Imagine that you’re hiking through the woods one day and you come across a [red] ball lying on the forest floor. You would naturally wonder how it came to be there. If one of your hiking partners said to you, “It just exists inexplicably. Don’t worry about

it!”, you’d either think that he was crazy or figure that he just wanted you to keep moving. No one would take seriously the suggestion that the ball existed there with literally no explanation.”

“Now suppose you increase the size of the ball in this story so that it’s the size of a car. That wouldn’t do anything to satisfy or remove the demand for an explanation. Suppose it were the size of a house. Same problem. Suppose it were the size of a continent or a planet. Same problem. Suppose it were the size of the entire universe. Same problem. Merely increasing the size of the ball does nothing to affect the need of an explanation.”

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Dr. Craig offers a simple, yet precise analogy:  It is most probable that the red ball has an explanation for its existence (a manufacturer perhaps). Therefore, it follows that the universe, although larger in size, most probably has some explanation for its existence as well (a creator perhaps). Merely increasing the size of something does not remove the need for an explanation.

Yeah But…

A possible objection could be the assertion that, “the principle of contingency is true of everything in the universe, but may not be true of the universe itself”. Indeed. Philosophically speaking, I think this is correct. After all, there is no empirical evidence to the contrary. However, there is no empirical evidence in support of this either.

So, rather than arguing from things we don’t know, I find it much more profitable to argue from thing we do know. Appealing to our ignorance will hardly advance the discussion. It is a conversion stopper. Therefore, in the absence of any empirical reason to doubt the principle of contingency, I believe I am very justified in concluding that the universe was indeed contingent upon a preexisting, independent cause.

On the “Self-Contingency” of the Universe

A skeptic may object to the argument above by stating, “Perhaps the universe created itself”. This however, is as close to metaphysically impossible as one can get. Consider the following syllogism:

  1. In order for a thing to bring itself into existence it must act
  2. Whatever has the ability to act already exists
  3. Therefore, in order for a thing to bring itself into existence (act) it must already exit

Here is an irreconcilable paradox. Arguing that the universe is “self-contingent” is to actually argue that the universe possessed the ability to create itself prior to its existence! Simply stating of this position should be sufficient to eliminate it from intelligent discourse.

An illustration of universes spawning one another That the universe is contingent upon an independent cause is the nearly unanimously accepted view. But, although skeptics do agree the universe had an independent cause, they are inclined to think of this cause as material, or natural. A common skeptical retort is “Maybe the universe spawned from another, preexisting universe.” I agree. It is possible that this could have happened, but (and I stress this) we have no empirical reason to think so. This multiverse theory (and all of its various forms) seems to be contrived for the 

sole purpose of protecting methodological naturalism from falsification – a sort of cosmological ”saving device”.

Furthermore, this objection only pushes the question back one step. We could/should ask, “What caused the “preexistant universe(s)”? The naturalist surely cannot believe that they have defeated the principle of contingency by positing unobserved universes…..In the end, the Biblical hypothesis of a metaphysical cause is always one that will be challenged by mere hypotheticals.

[Note: This post has been reworked from its original publication on Jan. 31, 2012]

  1. Craig, William Lane. “Subject: Argument from Contingency.” Reasonable Faith

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