Argument For God’s Existence: The Argument From Change

Neon_sign,_-CHANGE-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.

Advertisements

47 Comments

  1. You’re absolutely right, and that’s the very problem I have with this; if God was behind the screen directing the start of the universe, that sort of precludes the idea of nothing before there was something. That anyone can state anything otherwise is amazing, and I never want them handling my money, lol.

    You cannot be and not be simultaneously, it would be like driving your car from the dining room. And if God is so all-everything, how does he come to have what can only be considered human attributes unless we have ascribed those to him to give him a shell we can comprehend?

    Oh, I seem to be getting a headache. lol.

  2. I don’t think I am deep enough or patient enough to engage with James thinking on these sort of issues.

    Like you I really don’t find this argument persuasive at all. I see it like the Biblical house built on sand. It proposes some suppositions as fact and then argues from that. But the suppositions are just that suppositions. Unless they can be proved the argument goes nowhere.

    I always go back to what Dr David Eagleman proposes. When he says that we don’t know enough to conclusively say there is no God, but we know way to much to accept that the deities of any of the known religions exist. So even if this argument by James did hold water, it would not necessarily point to his god.

    This is why my focus in on the veracity of the Bible. As I can prove conclusively to myself that the Bible is a flawed human book. I can then have confidence that it is not divinely inspired. Then I can conclude that religious experience is internally generated and psychological not external and divine.

    I did have a brief look at James’ post but not at the detailed 20 arguments. I noticed the subsequent discussion focused on the argument from morality, another case of questionable suppositions.

    A classic look at this type of logic follows:

    • Yes, I think the morality one is a theists last stand. Morality is hard to understand, which makes it the perfect breeding ground for religion.

      I’m with you in the holy books thing. The holy books are an anchor around a theists neck, because they constantly have to defend it. A deist doesn’t have this problem. They also don’t have the dogma to uphold either.

      I’ve always said that if a god exists, it probably doesn’t resemble anything which we’ve dreamed up. The gods described in our holy books seem very human and very flawed. Something you’d expect if people made it up.

      Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look.

  3. I should point out that the link is a joke, although pretty close to the truth in its way.

    I was reading a book today about the discussion between evolutionists and creationists. It noted that deism emerged in the 18th century predating Darwinism by a century. It emerged as folk influenced by the enlightened became more and more aware that the god of the Bible just did not stack up to critical thinking.

    Deism tends to a temporary stop on the path away from faith. Most people don’t end there. Its a way of holding onto the possibility of God in theory, even though disbelieving for essentially all practical purposes.

  4. Why do you guys claim because you read the Bible you understand what’s written when clearly basic things confound you.

    1. Even science which some have made into their religion has already determined the universe does have a beginning and will have an end.

    2. Where do thoughts come from?
    Is a thought a material construct or do thoughts transcend the material universe ?
    Does your brain produce thoughts or do thoughts produce brain [i.e. thoughts switch genes on and off and change the structure and function of the brain.]? Hint: It’s all Mind over matter.
    This was basically one of James’ point.

    3. Scripture doesn’t say God created something out of nothing. It said He called those things which be not [do not yet exist in the material world] as though they do.
    The Spiritual realm is always and will always be greater than the physical. Same applies to spiritual laws. God is a spirit.

    4. Is Genesis THE beginning or A beginning? You should know this, you’ve read the Bible.
    4a. Does Scripture also give a pre-genesis account? YES it DOES. See Proverbs 8

    5. It’s a very simple concept – for one to create time and space, one must exist outside of the constraints of the material world. Hint: what are these invisible “curled up” dimensions that scientists speak of?

    • “Even science which some have made into their religion has already determined the universe does have a beginning and will have an end.”

      Citation needed. Please provide evidence for this assertion.

      “Where do thoughts come from?”

      Our brain as far as we know.

      “Scripture doesn’t say God created something out of nothing. It said He called those things which be not [do not yet exist in the material world] as though they do.”

      if it didn’t exist in the material world, it did not exist and so you’d have nothing. Therefore, God supposedly created something from nothing. Genesis also clearly depicts God as speaking words and things popping into existence.

      “The Spiritual realm is always and will always be greater than the physical. Same applies to spiritual laws. God is a spirit.”

      What are the laws of the spirit realm? provide evidence for the spirit. What exactly do you mean by ‘spirit’?

      “Is Genesis THE beginning or A beginning? You should know this, you’ve read the Bible.”

      Genesis says ‘in the beginning’.

      ” Does Scripture also give a pre-genesis account? YES it DOES. See Proverbs 8″

      I don’t see how that’s considered a pre-genesis account. Please explain.

      “It’s a very simple concept – for one to create time and space, one must exist outside of the constraints of the material world.”

      To say you’re outside time and space would mean you exist no where at no time.

      Basically, you don’t exist. Period.

      • The universe having a beginning – It’s not an assertion. It’s a fact. Ask your scientific friends or do the research yourself.

        Where thoughts come from – why don’t you check out some research articles instead of saying ‘from your brain as far as YOU know’. That’s incorrect.

        You said “if it didn’t exist in the material it doesn’t exist.”
        I’ll be kind since this is your blog. However this is not a wise statement.

        Your argument of being ‘no where’ at ‘no time’ makes zero sense. These are things you’ve convinced yourself makes sense but in reality, even within the limited material reality you’ve confined yourself to, these terms still make absolutely no sense.

        If one has always existed, how can there be a time when that being didn’t exist.

    • The first word in the Hebrew Bible is ‘In the Beginning’, this implies ‘the’ rather than ‘a’. Some scholars have speculated that verse 1 is recording a separate event to verse 2. They speculate that there may have been a prior creation that was destroyed in the intervening period. But such an interpretation is highly speculative.

      Proverbs 8 is a problematic text from a Christian perspective as it talks of Wisdom being the first of God’s creations. However many Christians see Wisdom as a reference to Jesus. Does this imply Jesus was ‘created’? Perhaps Arius was correct after all?

        • The Biblical world view is that there is wisdom that is divine. So for example Kong Solomon was granted wisdom by God, so he could be wise despite having much worldly experience.

          With all these discussions it all comes down to one issue, is the Bible divinely inspired or not. If it is then the concept of divine wisdom makes sense, if course if the Bible is not divine then it is hogwash.

          As a consequence a philosophical discussion between a theist and and atheist is unlikely to get very far. This is why I seek to engage theists in regard to the Bible. As determining whether or not it is a divine book is critical.

          Much to my frustration theists show little inclination to engage on this matter. Rather than start from the perspective that the Bible is correct so any issues I bring up are a result of me using ‘worldly’ wisdom rather than ‘divine’ wisdom. One theist accused me of incredible arrogance for attempting to put God on trial and said I was duplicitous, but I noticed he never actually refuted the issues I raised.

        • The Hebrew term בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית is translated into English as ‘In the beginning’.

          Whilst you can be clever and play games on these sorts of things. It is indicative of the the limitations of Hebrew. Reflect upon why the creator of the universe would choose to give us such revelation of eternal truth in such a limited language as Hebrew. A language that was written with no vowels, with no separation between words, with no punctuation. A language where one Hebrew term is possible to be translated into 40 different English words.

            • I concede that קָ֭נָנִי means ‘possessed me’ I made the mistake of reading that NIV dodgy translation rather than the more literal ESV. However I note that the ESV say that the translation ‘fathered’ is an alternative. They also note that the Greek translation, the Septuagint, rendered this term ‘created’.

              So perhaps you should enlighten me, what do see it all meaning? Obviously I lack the ‘Spirits’ enlightenment to show me the truth.

      • Choosing to ignore “finite”, which I defined, while citing “expansion” and throwing in your own warped definition to confuse the issue doesn’t help your obvious lack of understanding of Big Bang Theory.
        In any event, an expansion must have a point of origin or beginning.

        I am done with this embarrassing conversation.
        Big Bang Theory – The Premise
        The Big Bang theory is an effort to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. Discoveries in astronomy and physics have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that our universe did in fact have a beginning. Prior to that moment there was nothing; during and after that moment there was something: our universe. The big bang theory is an effort to explain what happened during and after that moment.

        As far as we can tell, the expansion of the Universe started many billions of years ago from a very hot, very small state. From that hot, small state, it mushroomed and evolved into the Universe we know today. a distant galaxy Cosmologists call that process of expansion the Big Bang because at some phases, especially in the beginning, the process was rather like an explosion.

        In the mid-20th century, three British astrophysicists, Stephen Hawking, George F. R. Ellis, and Roger Penrose turned their attention to the theory of relativity and its implications regarding our notions of time. In 1968 and 1970, they published papers in which they extended Einstein’s theory of general relativity to include measurements of time and space.[8][9] According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy.

        The age of the universe as estimated from the Hubble expansion and the CMB is now in good agreement with other estimates using the ages of the oldest stars, both as measured by applying the theory of stellar evolution to globular clusters and through radiometric dating of individual Population II stars.

        In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory.[51]

        You can continue the research on your own.

        • “In any event, an expansion must have a point of origin or beginning.”

          How do you know it doesn’t expand, then collapse and expand again?

          “As far as we can tell, the expansion of the Universe started many billions of years ago from a very hot, very small state.”

          Which always could have been, negating your original premise.

          “According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy.”

          Yes. Now look up the big crunch theory.

          You have still yet to explain how anything could live outside space and time, especially a disembodied super mind.

          Thanks for the cut and paste with no link. Cheers!

        • Just to add to that:http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

          Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them. This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. These had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency. There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system can not be extrapolated back in time, far beyond four thousand and four BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside.

        • Hi Ancients. Should I assume that you do not interpret the Bible in the same way as Young Earth Creationists? Do you believe in a creation billions of years ago rather than thousands of years ago?

          Do you see the first 11 chapters of the Bible as literal history, or do you interpret in another way?

      • Actually, it’s neither 1. circular (strictly speaking) nor 2. “because Bible”. 1-properly deployed it does not presume its conclusion but arrives at it by an implicit rejection of infinite regress. 2- it’s Aristotle (via a really crap paraphrase of Aquinas), and he didn’t have a Bible for his conclusion to be “because” of.
        That said, I won’t even try to say it’s a worthwhile argument in apologetics in a modern context because it simply ain’t. None of the “proofs” are of any use in converting the unbelieving, mostly because that wasn’t what they were designed for in the first place [to say nothing of the rather thorough dismantling job done by Hume and Kant].
        The so-called “proofs” (of the classic tradition) are not “proof” in an evidentiary sense but in a geometrical sense. What was being proven was not God’s existence (which was necessarily presumed–we’re mostly talking about monks here, do you really think Anselm or Aquinas entertained any serious doubt about the existence of God?); what was being proven was the capacity of human reason to give understanding to faith.
        That is, if you have faith, this form of philosophical theology can lend it some rational certitude; without faith (which is a grace, not an achievement), however, the most I’ve ever known it to sow is a vaguely malleable confusion or else (as evidenced here) an increase in the certitude of unbelief.
        All of which is to say, as I’ve said before, ‘God save us from His poor apologists’.

      • Oh, and I did a quick review the most promising of the other 19 [on the presumption that if they can screw up the useful ones, there’s no way they improved upon the (for these purposes) useless ones]. Having seen how FUBAR the arguments from morals and from consciousness are, I submit your time would be much better spent reviewing and arguing against Kanye West’s claim to be God than beating these dead horses.
        Then again, your claim of “atheism” tells me nothing about your preferences or behavior…maybe you enjoy horse-corpse-flagellation, and since it bothers neither me nor the horse [nor even, so far as I know, my God], by all means have at it. Whatever creams your Twinkie.
        mmmm, Twinkies. Thank God they were saved from their demise! … See? That’s a better argument than those in the list. “The argument from the persistence of Twinkies.”
        Ugh.
        You know, Luther gave the Protestants the Bible to read in exchange for philosophy… why’re they mucking about in that section now and who fell asleep at the door and let them in?

  5. Why call it an argument from change when it is Aquinas? or is it Aristotle all over again with the first cause/ mover argument.
    what external thing makes plutonium radioactive? Is it something outside of it? This argument you are responding to is actually silly. Even the analogy of the girl is silly. Anyone born has the potential to become an adult if they eat and depending on their genes they maybe tall or short.

  6. Pingback: Encountering Apologetics | Amusing Nonsense

  7. GC i just tried to access your site with the ‘blogs I follow” page and I was told that this site may be bogus. Hrm. It warned me that it doesnt exist, and by hitting ‘advanced’, it implied that I would be dropped into a bowl of burning diesel fuel.

    Im wondering if anyone had the same problem getting here.

    (sorry didnt mean to interrupt the scheduled program…) as you were

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s