When we talk about any form of cosmological argument whether it’s from Thomas Aquinas or something as sophisticated as Dr. Craig’s Kalam Argument, the issue about “necessary” will always enter the picture.
So let us just talk about what most theists meant when they use the word “necessary.”
A Brute Fact?
I’ve notice that whenever God believers talk about the cosmological argument they always start the conversation that God as a necessary Being is a brute fact. That prompts Prof. Richard Dawkins to say, “They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress” (The God Delusion, p 101). That means before everything else, I have to accept the fact that God exist.
Getting a little bit technical, that means God is a necessary truth – if you conceive of it as false, you’ll end up contradicting yourself, because its truth is built right into the concept that composed it. To know that it is true, you don’t have to know anything but the meaning of those concepts; you don’t have to know any other facts about the world. So it is either God exist or the whole universe is unexplainable. This has something to do with the Principle of Sufficient Reason. According to this principle, nothing can exist without a sufficient reason for its existence.
This is an advance form of Anselm’s ontological argument. According to Norman Malcolm what we have to accept in talking about God is the following: (1) Either God’s existence is logically impossible or (2) it is logically necessary for God to exist. But we can’t select the first option since God is the greatest conceivable being we can think of. For God not to exist is a defect which contradicts the concept of God’s very nature. (Not a very good selection to choose eh?) So when we apply the Principle of Sufficient Reason, then VIOLA! God exist!
And what is the “sufficient reason?”
Bertrand Russell explained that the contingency argument rest on a misconception of what an explanation is and does and singularity on what it is that makes phenomena “intelligible.”
Suppose we have been asked to explain why Benigno Aquino III won the 2010 election. Do we have to look for his genealogy or to go back to Prehistoric Philippines to answer this? We can always answer things like his popularity on his rivals or the fact that because of his famous mom and dad, he became too popular to most Filipino voters. We can think of different reasons (causes and effects) but what matter is that we understand the reason. As stated by Russell, in order to explain a phenomenon or to make it intelligible, we don’t need to posit a necessary being.
God believers says that the Principle of Sufficient Reason can’t be wrong since it has been a part of the scientific worldview for a long time in the sense that scientists are committed not only in figuring out the way the world is but also the reason why it is that way. That’s true…but science is controlled by rules of discourse. In science necessarily entails objectivity whose propositions are constructed from data.
Going back on the issue, the facts of the matter in the issue of “necessary” is that there really aren’t any established reason to say that the existence of anything (including God) as necessary. Can you tell me one?
Necessary truths are not established on the basis of sense-experience. They are either intuitively analytic or deduced from intuitively acceptable premises. Logical and mathematical truths are generally regarded as the paradigms of necessary truths. It is a difference between “matters of logic” from “matters of facts”.
Want to know the difference?
OK…It is matters of logic to say that a triangle is an angle with 3-sides…Now to say that it doesn’t you are contradicting yourself. But it is a question of fact which logic alone cannot settle whether there’s a giant triangle standing in the middle of EDSA near Cubao’s Farmer’s Plaza on October 27, 2010 at exactly 7:30 AM.
Necessary truth can only be applied to statements because logic applies only on statements. So to accept that God is the most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine is a necessary truth and to say that it doesn’t exist will lead me to a contradiction. But to say that this “most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine” is here, talking to me right now and He’s wearing a pink boxer short…well…we’ll have a problem with that.