Here is their site:
And it quotes the argument thus:
As formulated by Thomas Aquinas, the unmoved mover argument is stated as follows:
"Nothing moves without a prior mover. This leads us to a regress, from which the only escape is God. Something had to make the first move, and that something we call God."
The problem is that this is not the argument as formulated by St Thomas Aquinas. I mean, the text is nearly 800 years old, and there are good English translations available online.
We have Part I, Question 2, Article 3, and it contains all the five ways in the corpus, while objections and answers deal with things like atheistic applications of Occam's Razor (before there was an Occam who "formulated" the razor) and with theodicy.
Now, here is a link to that passage:
Summa Theologica : Part I, Question 2, Article 3
Here is the text of the first proof in the article's corpus:
The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves [actively!] inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
Now, here come the critiques: by iron chariots, each with my answer:
- Iron Chariots
- If nothing moves without a prior mover, then God must need a prior mover, as well. Otherwise God is nothing, which contradicts the conclusion. Thus, either the premise is untrue, in which case the argument is unsound, or the conclusion doesn't follow, in which case the argument is invalid. In fact, as stated, the argument is clearly self-contradictory.
- If nothing is in motion without a mover, God needs to simply not be in motion.
Note also that part of the argument is concerned with motions other than the local one. A fire heating a piece of wood is "moving the wood" to heat in scholastic terminology. This doesn't mean that St Thomas neglects local motion.
So, instead of needing a mover, God needs to be not in motion.
Including of course when He moves.
And this implies moving things by other means than moving parts of oneself - the other means known being spirit moves matter (examplified by our minds chosing which letters to write, not physical powers acting on your hand). Only a spirit can move things without setting itself in motion, by a sheer act of will, and this act of will is also not set in motion but was from eternity there in God.
- Iron Chariots
- Who created God?
- Creation would be the movement of a possible concept from state of not existing to state of existing. Now, this means that God never was in such a movement, never began to exist, but always existed - unmoved.
- Iron Chariots
- Which god? The argument does not demonstrated anything like a God. The arbitrary use of the word "God" in the argument carries a lot of undesirable cultural baggage, denoting an intelligent being. If the ultimate cause of our universe turns out to be, say, a random quantum fluctuation, then that would be "God" by Aquinas's definition, but to call this phenomenon "God" would be very misleading.
- The argument is one in five ways. The two last ones more directly involve God as a person (but not necessarily just one person, see later on in Summa part I).
Of course, there is also the difficulty of a body moving anything except by being moved itself first - meaning that the first mover needs to be not a body but a spirit.
There is also the unity of local motion of universe around earth every night and day.
This unity is a perfect work of art - which leads to the last two ways. It is also the kind of physical effect which no bodily cause could have, and therefore needs a spirit.
As to initial question, "which God?", these arguments are on the level of five ways (St Thomas goes on a lot further than that) not yet answering questions like "the God of which religion?" or whether God is that of a religion at all.
- Iron Chariots
- Two bodies at rest will start to move towards each other due to gravity. They can be each other's first mover. Therefore, the prior mover requirement is unnecessary.
- They would be each others first movers, in a restricted perspective, but would still exist before this can happen.
Also, one cannot credibly construct a universe with gravity as first mover.
- The rotation of a body around a body or centre of mass by means of gravitation from centre of mass of whole system + its own inertia is parallel to a rotation of a water droplet around a charged knitting needle, but as Don Pettit has shown, this will not last, after ten to twenty orbits the drop clings to the needle.
- Unlike the first mover argument, the orbital motion really does need a prior movement. From where the inertia sideways to centre of mass in the first place? Inertia as such will not put it there if Sun and Earth start out at rest, and the gravitation will not make the motion a sideways one.
- How about the interference of planets with each others' movements by adding and subtracting gravitation on insides and outsides of this or that orbit in this or that phase? How would that not destabilise the orbits even faster than after 20 orbits, as per Don Pettit experiment?
- On a larger scale than solar systems or stellar systems, or supposed ones, and still according to the modern cosmology I do not share, if Universe is limited, its stars will start moving towards each other.
If they were always there, they would have collapsed an eternity ago.
If they were not, their existence would be an act of creation or at least production, which would need a mover other than the stars, like either God or Big Bang. But expansion of Big Bang can not be caused by gravitation, since it is directed outwards, and it can not cause stars to form either. Especially not with planets orbitting around them.
Or, they would need to be in counteract of the collapse by an expansion, which Big Bang would provide, but this points to a beginning, if expansion is projected backwards it is one from a point, unless it is one from a less expanded state but not a point, which would make that beginning even more recent and beginning of a more complex state. But this again suffers from Big Bang providing neither an explanation of itself by gravitation, nor an explanation for subsequent states by explaining adequately how stars form.
So, gravitation cannot be the first mover.
- Iron Chariots
- Pairs of virtual particles are created (and annihilated) all of the time, out of literally nothing. These particles affect each other's motion, thus disproving Aquinas's premise. Not all events necessarily have causes.
- The objection is unobserved and a falsehood envisaged by atheists in order precisely to counteract the logic of this proof.
Remember this proof has been around before organised atheism, sooner or later they have to deal with it.
The reference to "pairs of virtual particles" was expanded in the link to "not all events necessarily have causes" by a reference to Casimir effect.
Now, here is what I read on wiki on that one:
Although the Casimir effect can be expressed in terms of virtual particles interacting with the objects, it is best described and more easily calculated in terms of the zero-point energy of a quantized field in the intervening space between the objects.
In other words, no virtual particles proven by it.
Virtual particles being created an annihilated all the time "out of literally nothing" is a piece of counterintuitive and unsupported arguing. Unless of course you state God is all the time creating them, that would be less counterintuitive.
That two things in pairs can affect each others motions, does not negate St Thomas' premiss, as first of all their moving at all is not accounted for by their affecting each other and second, when they affect each other it is a special case of a more general cause, like gravitation (which as I just described cannot be the ultimate cause of movement).
Other examples given on the link are paralogically arguing from lack of identified cause to lack of cause.
Also not a refutation of St Thomas.
- Iron Chariots
- More exotically, if time were circular (i.e., if time repeated every so often, so that the year 1 were also the year ten trillion and one), then every motion could have a prior cause without infinite regress. This does not seem to be the case, though.
- Thanks for more exotically.
A circular regress would be a special case of infinite regress. See the next.
- Iron Chariots
- Even if there is an infinite regress of causes, so what? The human mind is uncomfortable with the concept of infinity, but reality has no obligation to make us comfortable.
- When we argue at all, we are trying to get confortable with reality.
Either this has a basis in a logic which is universal, or it hasn't.
If it has, well, its universality seems to indicate it is based on reality.
If it hasn't, well, then atheist arguing is as useless as theistic one.
So, I refuse to be a nihilist about logic.
Now, more specifically to "infinite regress".
Here is how their other page defines it:
"An infinite regress is an infinite series of occurrences or concepts. It occurs in some philosophical concepts and is sometimes considered an unwanted or absurd implication. There is no a-priori reason why an infinite regress cannot occur."
No, the question is not whether a series is infinite in one direction, whichever it be. The question is whether the series can be infinite backwards, that is anything depend on what is really an infinity of conditions.
St Thomas deals more specifically with this in the Second Way, where "movers" / "causes of motion" is generalised to "causes overall (whether to movement or to rest)". Link is same as above
"The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God."
The argument is as follows:
- 1) Any cause that is caused by sth else is the definition of "intermediate cause";
- 2) Any intermediate cause needs a first cause. A previous or logically prior cause does not suffice, since that is just another instance of intermediate cause:
- 3) Causes that are caused by sth else imply causes or a cause that is not caused by sth else.
Seven objections given, all answered.
Let's see some time from hence if their article changes in response to my answer, wikis have a capacity to change.
Hans Georg Lundahl
St Joseph of Calasanz