A while back, James posted about 20 arguments for God’s existence. Since then I’ve been slowly reading up on each one and I plan on writing about them all in time. I’m also going to start a new section on this blog that will deal specifically with apologetics.
The first argument for God’s existence on the list is the ‘argument from change‘. It’s a bit of a weird one compared to many I’ve read in the past, but I don’t find it very convincing.
But here is the first part anyhow:
The material world we know is a world of change. This young woman came to be 5’2″, but she was not always that height. The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. Now when something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being. For until it comes to be, it does not exist, and if it does not yet exist, it cannot cause anything.
As for the thing that changes, although it can be what it will become, it is not yet what it will become. It actually exists right now in this state (an acorn); it will actually exist in that state (large oak tree). But it is not actually in that state now. It only has the potentiality for that state.
Now a question: To explain the change, can we consider the changing thing alone, or must other things also be involved? Obviously, other things must be involved. Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then. The result of change cannot actually exist before the change. The changing thing begins with only the potential to change, but it needs to be acted on by other things outside if that potential is to be made actual. Otherwise it cannot change.
Nothing changes itself. 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.
The part that I’ve bolded at the end there is the key part I think. It’s assuming that some will or spirit or something other than the material is moving the body. It puts down ‘molecules’ as if mere molecules, when combined in certain ways can’t have the outcome that we see when people or animals decide to move?
When something dies, the brain dies, which is the moving force of the body as far as we know. This isn’t peculiar or strange. We see this all the time, such as when someone suffers a stroke and they lose functionality in part of their body. They most likely didn’t lose part of their will or desire – they are physically not able to perform the action because their brain has been damaged.
Now a further question: Are the other things outside the changing thing also changing? Are its movers also moving? If so, all of them stand in need right now of being acted on by other things, or else they cannot change. No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.
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. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God.”
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. 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.
At the end is where the fatal flaw of the argument rests in my opinion. It makes an exception to its own rule by exempting a God. As soon as this happens, the argument becomes circular.
It argues that all things need an outside force to move or change, but then fails to explain why God would be able to move or change, since it would have no mover. If God can not move or change, it would be unable to act.
If someone argues that God has always been, then one could make the same argument for the universe. We know the universe exists so it would make more sense from a position of simplicity to assert that the universe has always been in motion and constantly changing than it would to assert a disembodied super mind that is not subject to the laws of nature or logic is behind the scenes creating something from nothing.
The argument also rests on the idea that something had to cause the universe or that there had to be some sort of beginning but if God doesn’t have to have a beginning, why would the universe need to begin?
Even if you grant that this argument is largely true and that everything needs a mover, then why does the argument go from material movers (acorn etc) to an immaterial mover, such as God.
Summary of Objections
-This argument becomes circular when giving an exemption to a God.
-It relies on there having to be a beginning to the universe, when such may not be the case.
-It argues that molecules need will or desire to move, but this may not be the case, since molecules may be the basis for desire and will to form. If this will or desire needs to be moved in order to change, what is moving it?
-In order for this God to create a beginning of the universe, it would have to create something from nothing – the very thing many theists criticize atheists for presupposing, even though they don’t presuppose (to my knowledge) any such thing.
So that’s what I think about the argument from change. Feel free to add your own thoughts.
As always, thanks for reading.