The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

God Exists (Contingency Argument)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/6/2017 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 609 times Debate No: 101755
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In this argument I will make the case that 1) Something must exist that exists by the necessity of its own nature, and that 2) this something is personal and transcends space, time, matter, and energy. Such a personal transcendent being is what we mean by "God" so the fact of its existence is sufficient to prove a broad theistic worldview.

The argument I will present trades on the concepts of "contingency" and "necessity". Something is "contingent" if it depends on something else for its existence. Something exists by "necessity" if it does not depend on something else for its existence (it is non-contingent).

So if "A" is exists by "necessity", then it exists no matter what and no matter what else may or may not exist. It exists because it is its nature to exist. However if "A" is contingent on "B", then you need "B" in order to get "A". Sunlight is contingent on the sun, so if you haven"t got the sun then you can"t have sunlight. The sun is also contingent, because if you didn"t have the swirling mass of space dust (or whatever) that coalesced into the sun then you wouldn"t have a sun. The space dust is contingent because if you didn"t have " and on and on we could go but only to a point.

We can"t have an infinite regress of contingent objects because there would be nothing to start the chain going. There would be nothing to provide the sufficient conditions for the first contingent object to exist. You need a fixed point to get the first contingency going. Think of a chandelier attached to a chain. Let"s say that each link in the chain has a number, starting at the bottom with number 1. Let"s say link 1 is hanging on link 2, link 2 is hanging on link 3, link 3 is hanging on link 4, and so on up the chain. If you don"t eventually get to a link that is hanging on the ceiling then none of the links can be upheld. The ceiling in this analogy would be the fixed point, itself not contingent on anything (existing by "necessity"). In reality ceilings are contingent on construction companies, but for the purposes of our analogy imagine that the ceiling isn"t contingent on anything. This sort of existence is called "necessary" existence. It exists by the necessity of its own nature rather than existing contingent on some other set of conditions. The argument shows that not everything can be contingent, there must be some necessary reality to ground it.

Notice that this has nothing to do with any sort of time duration. It isn"t that link 1 first relies on link 2 and then link 2 relies on 3. It is a matter of position, not of chronology. We could imagine that the chandelier had been there forever from eternity past and it would still be the case that the first link relies on the second, the second on the third, and so on. This is what makes this argument a little different from the Cosmological Argument. While the Cosmological argument deals with what is the cause of something beginning to exist, the argument from contingency relies on the relationships between things. For this reason the argument from contingency works even if we assume the universe has existed forever.

What does any of this have to do with God? Let"s point out exactly what this "necessary" being is necessary for. This being is the necessary grounds for the reality of all space, all energy, all matter, and of time itself. In order to be the grounds for those things to exist, it cannot be made up of those things. It must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. In other words, it has to be an abstract object1. There are really only two sorts of abstract objects, numbers and unembodied minds. There just aren"t any other candidates out there. Numbers, however, don"t stand in causal relationships to anything. The number "3" never held up a chandelier, even though we"ve labeled one of the links "link 3". Since numbers don"t stand in causal relationships to anything then the only remaining candidate is an unembodied mind. What do you call an unembodied mind that is the grounds for all space, time, matter, and energy? The term in English is "God".

So let"s sketch out the argument. I"m using the word "Universe" to refer to all space, time, matter, and energy. If you believe in the multiverse, then you can substitute the term "Cosmos" below.

"Premise One: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (i.e. it either exists by "necessity" or it exists "contingently")

"Premise Two: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

"Premise Three: The universe exists.

"Premise Four: Therefore the universe has an explanation of its existence (from Premise One and Three).

"Premise Five: Therefore the explanation of the universe is God (from Premise Two and Four).

"Premise Six: Therefore, God exists.

Several of these premises are not controversial at all. Premise One is a catch all, encompassing all possibilities. It basically says that things either exist contingently or non-contingently (that is, "of necessity"). This is the equivalent of saying that everything is either "A" or "non-A", so it shouldn"t be controversial. Premise three is obvious, and premises four, five, and six are merely logical conclusions of the other premises.

I would suspect that the controversial premise would be premise two, "If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God." I"ve given arguments above for why the necessary grounds for the existence of the universe must be a personal and transcendent unembodied mind. That is to say, the necessary grounds for existence must be "God".

If my opponent is to defeat this argument, they must identify which premise they disagree with and why that premise is false. If my opponent is to deny the controversial premise (premise two), then they must show either 1) why the necessary grounds for the universe need not be transcendent and/or 2) what abstract object other than an unembodied mind is capable of standing as the necessary grounds for the contingent universe.

[1] Objects are either abstract or concrete. Abstract objects have no physical referent and concrete objects do. Since the explanation of the universe explains the existence of physical reality, it can"t have a physical referent itself.


First let us object to the basic premise:

1. Everything in the universe is contingent and that requires a necessity to "hold the pieces together"

There is no sense to ask what the cause of something that has existed eternally. To ask what caused the infinite series of causes assumes that there IS something before the chain. This is senseless unless Pro can show that there was something before the Universe. This is under said argument because pro has not explained how everything is contingent and how that requires a necessity. He used the chandelier analogy but that is flawed. There are many processes in which one or more "links" are contingent upon another. It is a self contained process. Pro seems to have completely ignored this possibility in their assessment. This specifically refutes pro's argument as to why an infinite regress of contingent objects is impossible. They state that there would be nothing to start the chain. But this assumes the "chain" is completely linear.

What if the chain twists and turns, loops around on itself and has balls of chain hanging off of it. This is to say that it is both self contained, in some parts, and linear as a whole. This is the most logical assumption. The water cycles' components are all contingent and there is no necessity in it. That is because they are all "leaning" on each other. There is no need for a necessity. Autopoiesis has existed as a concept for thousands of years and is about these self contained processes.

2. Denying the conclusion

Let's assume that Pro's argument checks out. Why is it that the necessary being is god? Cleanthes asks ""why
may not the material universe be the necessarily existent being?" Does it not seem conceivable that matter could contain the reason for its own existence within itself? It could be a part of the nature of matter itself that it must exist. We simply do not know.

If we go with Clarke's interpretation then the existence of the universe can only be explained by a "self-existent" being. This is a being that contains the reason for its own existence within itself, which Clarke called god. But, is this self-existent concept coherent, does it make sense? If it does, why doesn't this concept allow the universe itself to be a self-existent being? Neither Clarke nor any other holder of this belief can explain why god is the only being that can be self-existent.


This argument isn't conclusive proof for the existence of god. Too many things are unkown that we may never even be able to know for this argument to be assumed true.
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent has asked why an infinite regress of contingency is impossible. He said, "to ask what caused the infinite series of causes assumes that there IS something before the chain"[the chain is] a self contained process." He asked why the series of contingent objects can"t be mutually contingent, a process, "in which one or more links is contingent on the other...a self contained process."

He uses my chandelier analogy and imagines the chain looped around on itself. This is exactly the point of the analogy. If the chain was not fixed to anything outside of itself, would it hold up the chandelier or any of the links? The entire apparatus would not be held up precisely because a self-contained array of contingent objects is impossible. There *must* be a fixed point.

Now if I were to say, "In order to have B, I need to have A" and "In order to have A, I need to have B" then the result would be that I have neither A nor B. It doesn"t improve the matter if I were to instead say, "In order to have C, I need B, and in order to have B, I need A, and in order to have A, I need C." No matter how many "links" I might add to the chain, there must be some starting point where we find something that does not owe its existence to anything else. There must be something that I can have without having to already have something else. If the array of contingent objects that make up our universe were mutually contingent without an external "fixed point", then we would have no universe at all.

My opponent uses the example of autopoiesis, the ability of things like living cells to reproduce themselves, as an example of his point. When a parent cell divides it creates two daughter cells. Is it in any way possible that that the parent cell should come from the daughter cells? If you needed the daughter cells in order to have the parent cell, then you wouldn"t have any cells. Again, it wouldn"t do any good to instead say that the parent cell comes from the granddaughter cells, or the great granddaughter cells, or any of its progeny no matter how far down the line. In the same way, if all contingent objects were mutually contingent without any necessary object to ground them, then we would have no contingent objects at all.

Finally my opponent asks why the universe itself can"t exist by necessity. The universe isn"t so much an object as a vast series of objects. Each object, of course, is comprised of trillions of objects, atoms and the quarks that make up the atoms. Are we to believe that every quark in the universe exists by the necessity of its own nature? It is really logically impossible that any quark in the whole universe should fail to exist or to have been a different quark? This would be the case if the universe existed by the necessity of its own nature.

However, we needn"t bother ourselves with such a strange notion. We know scientifically that the universe came into existence by virtue of things like the second law of thermodynamics, the red shift, and general relativity. You may know of this model as the "Big Bang" theory. If the universe existed by the necessity of its own nature, it would be logically impossible that it fail to exist. If it isn"t contingent on anything for its existence, then there would be no state of affairs where the sufficient conditions for its existence were not met. This would entail that it could never have come into existence, however, as that would entail that it could have failed to exist. For this reason, if no other, the universe itself cannot exist by the necessity of its own nature.

My opponent has suggested two possibilities to defeat my argument, that the universe is contingent on itself (that is to say that the contingent objects within the universe are mutually contingent) and he has suggested that the universe itself might exist as a necessary being. I have shown why neither of these options is viable. The universe must be contingent on some necessary being outside of itself.

As I demonstrated in my opening arguments, there must exist a being which exists by the necessity of its own nature. This being must be immaterial, which entails that it is either a number or an unembodied mind. Since it can"t be a number, it must be an unembodied mind. The obvious term for a transcendent unembodied mind who exists as the grounds for everything in our spacetime reality is "God".
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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