Saturday, June 11, 2011

Question: Who Created the Creator?

The kalam cosmological argument is a simple yet effective argument for the existence of God. It goes as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

After establishing that the universe has a cause, Christian theists would go on to argue that God is the cause of the universe coming into being. But some skeptics are unsatisfied with this answer, claiming that if the universe itself was caused by God then one is justified in raising the question "What caused God?" or "Who created the Creator?" This is similar to Richard Dawkins question "Who designed the designer?"1

There are several problems with this line of inquiry:

First, who exactly is asking the question “Who created the Creator?”2 Not atheists like Richard Dawkins. Dickie Dawkins does not believe in God, let alone a created god. However, Christians are not asking this question either, for Christians hold that God is an eternal, self-existent Being, i.e., the uncaused first cause. To whose belief does this question apply then? Neither. This leads us to the second problem.

Second, the question is fallacious, committing what is known as a “category mistake.” A category mistake is committed when two ideas or categories are mixed together that do not belong.3 For example, asking “What does the color blue smell like?” or “How much does the number 3 weigh?” commits a category mistake. Smell is not something that can be applied to color and weight is not something that can be asked of numbers. In the same manner, asking “Who created the Creator?” applies the concept of “created being” to a Being who is not created, namely, the Christian God. In other words, if an atheist wants to ask the question “Who Created the Creator?” he needs to ask someone who believes in a finite, created god. But to ask Christians “Who created the Creator?” is essentially the same as asking “Who created the Uncreated Creator?” which is nonsensical. To raise this question shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian view of God.

Finally, the question “Who created the Creator?” commits a second fallacy known as a “complex question.” A complex question is a form of question begging, combing two questions into one while presuming the existence of a certain condition.4 In this case, the condition that is presumed is that God was created. The question “Who created the Creator?” can really be broken down into two questions: (1) “Was the Creator created?” and (2) “Who created Him?” The fallacy lies in the fact that the questioner assumes the answer is “yes” to the first question and masks this assumption in the form of a complex question. Since Christians answer “no” to the first question, the second question "Who created the Creator?" should not even be raised.

In short, not everything has a cause; only those things which begin to exist have a cause, as the kalam cosmological argument states in premise one. God had no beginning and therefore needs no cause.
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1 See Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 188.

2 Thanks to Greg Koukl for this insight.

3 Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), 108.

4 Patrick J. Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic, 10th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2008), 152.

17 comments:

moloquin said...

How is it possible for god to exist if he was not created? Most christians state,very loudly, that nothing can come from nothing. Also everything has a beggining and an end. There is no proof that your god was always there, is there or EVER was there.

Aaron said...

Hello Moloquin!

How is it possible for god to exist if he was not created?

An infinite regression of causes is logically impossible. God is the uncaused first cause, an eternal, self-existent Being. This was explained in the blog.

Most christians state,very loudly, that nothing can come from nothing.

By natural means, yes. But this counts against the naturalistic worldview, not the Christian one. It is the athesit who says the universe came from nothing and by nothing. So why is there something rather than nothing? Which position is more reasonable?

Also everything has a beggining and an end.

This is an assertion, not an argument. Why should I believe this and why should this apply to God?

There is no proof that your god was always there, is there or EVER was there.

This is another assertion, not an argument, and this depends entirely on what you mean by "proof." What is your response to the kalam cosmological argument?

Dave Jones said...

Great Posts Aaron!

I stumbled across your blog and have found some great reading. I'm just beginning to truly study the apologetic arguments, and your blog has done wonders.

fulfill said...

All right! Short and sweet! My wife and I were discussing this just last night and sure enough I look today and here's a great explanation. Thanks as always Aaron.

Aaron said...

Dave and Fulfill,

Must be divine providence! Glad it was helpful, thanks for visiting the blog!

Lee said...

1. The question is posed as: If God must be posited as an explanation for the universe, why is no explanation necessary to explain God? It is irrelevant whether the questioner believes in God. Prof. Dawkins discussion of this in TGD is rather more nuanced, and better established, than this.

2. Calling it a category mistake is to assume your definition is accurate. The christian god could have been created by another, eternal, timeless, etc. being, or another being created by another, and by another. There is no logical contradiction here, as Occam's Razor is merely inductive. This could continue ad infinitum going back through created creators. There is no compelling reason to suggest a single god, and you could just as easily define it as "existent" as "uncreated". Unicorns do not exist upon being defined as 'magical horses with horns that exist'.

3. As far as the complex question, this again assumes the accuracy of your definition. To simply say the creator is uncreated, because he has to be, is circular and question-begging. The whole issue is whether a god exists, you can't define yourself out of logical problems.

"God had no beginning and therefore needs no cause."

Says who? Which of you apologists speaks for God?

Aaron said...

Hello Lee! I think your comments below reflect a failure to understand Christian theology in general and this issue in particular, so I would encourage you to reread the blog.

1. The question is posed as: If God must be posited as an explanation for the universe, why is no explanation necessary to explain God? It is irrelevant whether the questioner believes in God.

First, it is relevant in that the questioner assumes a certain definition of God in asking the question. Non-Christians who ask this question misunderstand the God that Christians and other theists are arguing for, and Christians simply wouldn't ask this question.

Second, an explanation is given for God, it's just not the explanation that atheists like. The explanation is that God is a self-existent, eternal, uncaused Being. Again, not everything that exists has a cause, only those things which begin to exist.

Prof. Dawkins discussion of this in TGD is rather more nuanced, and better established, than this.

What Dawkins refers to as "the central argument of my book" is not even logically valid, so I'm not sure what you are referring to here.

2. Calling it a category mistake is to assume your definition is accurate.

Again, it is not assuming our definition to be correct, it is to articulate the definition Christians are arguing for. Therefore, to ask the question misunderstands the Christian position.

The christian god could have been created by another, eternal, timeless, etc. being, or another being created by another, and by another.

This is just bad Christian theology. I think here you are confusing the Christian God with the many created gods of Mormonism. Again, read the blog. You should pose this question to someone who argues for a finite god, such as a Mormon.

There is no compelling reason to suggest a single god, and you could just as easily define it as "existent" as "uncreated".

I think there are compelling reasons, but that was not the point of this blog.

3. As far as the complex question, this again assumes the accuracy of your definition. To simply say the creator is uncreated, because he has to be, is circular and question-begging.

First, this again is a misunderstanding on your part. Christians are not begging the question but are articulately what kind of God they are arguing for. They then present arguments as to why God is eternal, self-existing, and uncaused. But again, the point of this blog was not to present those arguments. The point was to point out the problems with applying "Who Created the Creator" to the Christian God.

Second, it is actually you who are begging the question by assuming God had a creator. That is why the complex question fallacy is a form of question begging. First you need to ask "Was God created?" to which Christians answer, "No."

The whole issue is whether a god exists, you can't define yourself out of logical problems.

There is no logical problem on the Christian side. The problem is with the atheist who creates a straw man view of the Christian God, either intentionally or unintentionally.

"God had no beginning and therefore needs no cause."

Says who? Which of you apologists speaks for God?


Exactly! You see? Both Scripture and historic Christianity define God this way, demonstrating a lack of familiarity on your part. This is the God Christians are arguing for, though if you would like to argue for a different god you may go right ahead (Of course then I will be asking you, "Who Created the Creator?").

So, in that sense, all apologists who defend that view speak for God.

Anonymous said...

This still does not adequately answer the question of "who created the creator." For, if we say that something does not have a beginning, then how and in what form can it be said to actually "exist?" What does it mean for something to exist, if it never started existing in the first place? Now let me say right here that I am *not* an atheist, and I am *not* trying to disprove the existence of God. But I must also say that logically speaking, the original question has not been answered... but merely kicked down the path.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to subtly assume the very thing you wish to prove, then why even go through the pretense of having proven something? Why not say, simply: "I start by assuming God exists." The existence of God is fundamental. Axiomatic to your belief system. No logical proof necessary.

You won't win over anyone who doesn't wish to adopt your axiom, but so what? There are plenty who do.

Aaron said...

Anonymous,

If you are going to subtly assume the very thing you wish to prove, then why even go through the pretense of having proven something? Why not say, simply: "I start by assuming God exists." The existence of God is fundamental. Axiomatic to your belief system. No logical proof necessary.

The main purpose of this blog post was not to argue for the existence of God, nor do I assume the existence of God. I think arguments should be given for God's existence (which is why I started out with the kalam cosmological argument).

However, given the validity and soundness of arguments for the existence of the Christian God, this post attempts to show why asking "Who Created the Creator" is nonsensical.

Whether or not you find arguments such as the cosmological, teleological, and moral persuasive is another issue.

Aaron said...

Anonymous,

This still does not adequately answer the question of "who created the creator."

Answer: No one. He has always existed.

For, if we say that something does not have a beginning, then how and in what form can it be said to actually "exist?" What does it mean for something to exist, if it never started existing in the first place?

I see no logical reason why something would have to begin to exist in order to actually exist so I'm not sure how you arrived at that conclusion.

But I must also say that logically speaking, the original question has not been answered... but merely kicked down the path.

Answer: No one. He has always existed.

Lee said...

As I pointed out before, and which you seemed to misunderstand, even if you can construct a concept of "God" that appears to fit in the explanatory gap, you still have to establish the existence of this thing. Moreover, you must also justify your concept.

The "beginning" of the universe was the beginning of space and time, making nonsense of your explanation. You are constructing a causal chain that extends to a time before time. We have no experience of causation outside of time. In fact, the concept of timeless causation seems incoherent.

The simplest way to refute this argument, the Kalam, is to simply deny premise 2 on the grounds that time cannot "begin" to exist. The "beginning" of the universe is the beginning of space and time, and thus, the universe did not begin to exist. That does not mean the universe is eternal, only that there was no time in which the universe did not exist.

Again, on the question of who designed the designer, you find it implausible that "the universe came from nothing and by nothing", and yet we know the universe exists. While on the question of God, who came from nothing and by nothing, never, occupying a "timeless" realm, possessing of extraordinary power and knowledge, and a peculiar interest in humanity, suddenly questions of plausibility get tossed aside, even though the very question of whether IT exists is not so easily dismissed. Suddenly, to ask where this being came from, why it exists, and why all of the above is not wildly speculative and implausible, far exceeding even an eternal universe or the spontaneous existence of physical reality, is a "category mistake".

Further, it must be conceded that the design argument for all of nature's diversity has been soundly refuted with the Theory of Evolution and it's vast resources of support. The only remaining creation ex nihilo is the whole of physical reality itself, which is the very thing you are attempting to establish as the production of this being. The uniform experience of causation redounds to natural law, physical causation in a deterministic universe, so there is simply no support whatsoever from any scientific field that any aspect of this universe was created by a supernatural being. Thus, there is no basis for an inference to supernatural causation.

The real category mistake is made when you take a principle like causation, which is established in space and time, and attempt to apply it to space and time itself.

Obviously, I can't prove that it wasn't created by whatever concept you can think up. But if we are going to address causation properly, we must recognize that a cause of X can only be inferred that is sufficient to have produced X, and this cause must have like causes in our experience. Nothing more, nothing less. So in inferring the cause of this universe, we must attribute to the cause precisely the character of it's effect, and only causes for which we have experience of it's connection with effects. Just as a single footprint in the sand can only yield the precise shape there found, and nothing further, a universe containing a single spec of life and a multitude of destruction must yield, if anything at all, a cause which can only be described in terms of such an effect. Don't let your perspective here on earth, and more specifically in a modern, western country, blind you to the realities of the vast emptiness and destruction of the universe at large, and the vast despair and destruction of this planet and it's inhabitants, by hubris, hate, or hurricane. Even if we can infer a supernatural cause, the character of it's effects is singularly damning, and belief in same should make one worried rather than content.

Thanks.

Lee.

pororo said...

Thanks Aaron for pointing out that those that would beg the question on who created God are not Christians, who believe in an uncreated God. Rather, those that ask the question would have to answer a very basic question; do they believe in God? If not, then there is no way, at least for me, to push my beliefs down their throats. The mere denial of an uncreated creator can be presumed to mean they believe in something, and that which they believe in, they must substantiate if they are to get an inkling of the Christian position.

Anonymous said...

Aaron,

I'm a former Mormon. I've read quite a bit of Mormon apologetics. My observation is that Mormon apologists could learn a lot from the example of use of logic in this article. I've become something of a secular humanist since disaffecting from the LDS Church. In spite of that, you've piqued my interest in your thoughts on God.

Thanks,

Zack Tacorin

Anonymous said...

I understand exactly what u are saying Aaron but stating that atheists don't have the Knowledge or are coming at the question from the wrong angle. I have the same facts as you I know the bible well enough and although u will probably say this question has nothing to do with the bible that statement simply isn't true. Everything u know about god is from that one book so any assumption u make is derived straight from that book. I understand the question perfectly. Who created the creator? Even if there is such being, which I doubt, u cannot possibly answer such a question. U can male circular arguments that I'n reality answer nothing but u as I are just a man. There is no possible way u or I could know...........faith is all u have and faith is believing something with not a single shred of evidence.

vijaychowdary said...

we human beings are the creators of god because of our thinking only god came in to existence ....there is no creator

as per our theories we believed that from single organism to multi cell organism evolved... but as per me i would not accept that ...on earth we have lots of different life form ..which force pushes the single cell organism cause to manipulate it's own form in to these many life forms


how a male and female cam in to existence.


no answers for these questions.


hypothetical, imaginations made our minds.


sorry for my English

Templar Ben said...

I am not sure if you still monitor this as this post is rather old. There are a number of issues with Kalam.

1. Everything which begins to exist has a cause.

There is no example of a material object beginning to exist. The matter is rearranged and what was once call a chair used to be called a tree. The chair did not actually begin to exist in the sense that it was not there and then poof it was. It is simply our classifications have changed in reference to that matter.

You may try to say that concepts begin to exist. So "I" began to exist in the way I perceive myself. Concepts are the product of a mind but since we have no evidence of a disembodied mind (e.g. all minds are the result of a brain) then there is a material change which causes the concept to exist but that is simply a collection of matter and energy which already existed.

Perhaps you could then think of vacuum particles but those pop into and out of existence because of the quantum field. There is an existing field to fluctuate so it is not beginning to exist.

(We could address the infinite regress but that is not part of this argument strictly).

2. The universe began to exist.

There is no evidence of that. There is a beginning to the expansion of the universe but the Big Bang is just about expansion and not the beginning. (Again discussing the issue of regress we would have to agree on A Theory or B Theory time.)

Given that the Kalam has those issues, if you are going to go forward with the concept that the Universe has a cause then it is an interesting question about what is that cause. Many assert that there is a timeless cause. This is again because of a belief that due to an impossibility of an infinite series (which is disputed by many theoretical physics such as Krauss) and so one needs to be outside of time to create the Universe. The idea of outside of the Universe is itself problematic unless you have some larger view of something in which the Universe exists.
There is also an issue of how can there be a cause if there is no time. If you look at the Hartle-Hawking state for instance, there was no time prior to the expansion and so it is nonsensical to state “before the Big Bang”. In such a view, there is also not an infinite regress of moments as there is not an infinite time.
Again given that, then you are proposing there is this cause which exists outside of space and outside of time. Why then is that cause able to exist without itself being caused? Why must this God exist eternally and not the Universe?
Naturally I do not hold to a deity but I would still ask why force an extra step.