The Argument from Change

This is the first in a series of posts responding to a list of 20 arguments for the existence of god from this article. To be fair, the article does state that these arguments don’t make a case except when taken all together, using the metaphor of a rope, but I am analyzing them individually so I have responses when I encounter the argument later in other sources.

“Nothing changes itself.”

I don’t know if this is true. While most things in my experience that change are acted upon by some force, there are some changes where we simply don’t know the cause, and if we don’t know the cause, it is nothing more than an assumption to say it must have one – although I will grant that such an assumption is why we continue looking for the cause. For example, we don’t know what causes an electron to drop to a lower orbit around the nucleus of an atom; the cause isn’t apparent. What if we somehow discover it doesn’t have one?

“Apparently self-moving things, like animal bodies, are moved by desire or will—something other than mere molecules. And when the animal or human dies, the molecules remain, but the body no longer moves because the desire or will is no longer present to move it.”

I’m not entirely convinced desire and will are something other than mere molecules. There’s some very compelling evidence that consciousness is based solely in the brain, and there certainly isn’t any evidence that humans are anything but molecules.

I don’t know what really happens when an organism dies, but it’s pretty obvious that the molecules in a living body are moving all the time: blood is pumped by the heart, circulating throughout the body, carrying oxygen to the brain and the other organs and muscles. Without oxygen, the brain and therefore the organism dies. Is it really true that all the molecules remain? Perhaps, but they certainly aren’t in the same state anymore. Is this evidence for desire or will? I rather doubt it.

The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it.”

The whole universe is in the process of change? Color me skeptical. Sure, almost everything in the universe, if not actually everything, is in the process of change, but can we extrapolate that to the entire universe? Does a set necessarily have all of the characteristics of its parts? Clearly not, for most sets are comprised of members that are not themselves sets, such as the set of whole numbers.

Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.

Sure, if we grant that all changes must necessarily have causes, but there is still a larger problem: we don’t know that there is nothing outside our universe. Many physicists are now hypothesizing that there exists a multiverse consisting of an infinite number of universes, of which ours is just one. To many people, this just pushes the question back, but we know nothing about these other universes.

“Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.”

I think the multiverse puts a large wrench in this argument, exposing it for the God of the Gaps that it is. We don’t know that there is something causing the universe to change; we don’t know that the universe as a whole is changing, and even if we accept that there is something causing the universe to change, we don’t have any reason to assume it is a being unless we are trying to prove a god. That makes the argument based on the assumption of its conclusion, meaning it is circular.


2 thoughts on “The Argument from Change

  1. for every phenomenon there is some reason,whether known or un known ,that causes it to come into being-this is the principle of sufficient reason, at least as far as I recall

    1. That’s an assumption we often make, but inductive arguments have a habit of finding themselves broken by counter-example. Even if true, we have no reason to assume any causative factor for the universe as a whole – assuming we even can avoid a composition fallacy, which is unlikely – is necessarily a being.

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