The First Cause Argument
The First Cause Argument is commonly invoked to prove the existence of God. I'm sure that nearly everyone here is familiar with it, but for the sake of completeness, it goes something like this:
Everything in the universe that exists is an effect of prior causes. We can trace the causes of these effects, which are in turn effects of other causes. We can't have an infinite regress of causes, as that would have required an infinite amount of time to pass before we reached the current state of affairs. Therefore, there must be an effect that was not caused, a first cause. That first cause is God.
The traditional response is that the argument contradicts itself. Either everything must have a cause, in which case God must as well (and the first cause disappears), or not everything requires a cause. We know that at the scale of quantum effects, cause and effect get a bit unclear. Some quantum phenomena do not require causes, but simply happen, or begin to exist, spontaneously, such as Hawking radiation and electron tunneling (please correct me if I am wrong on either of those counts). So, not everything requires a cause. And if not everything requires a cause, why should the universe itself require one, that cause being God? In the very first moment, the universe was small enough to be affected by random quantum fluctuations.
Therefore, in addition to the argument being self-contradictory, one of its premises is simply wrong.
I'd like to take another look at it, though. Assuming, for argument, that the first cause establishes the existence of God, and that God is omnipotent and eternal (i.e., just enough God to exist forever and cause universes, satisfying our urge for a first cause), we run into another problem. We have simply multiplied the first cause by infinity, and haven't actually resolved the infinite regression we complained about earlier. In order to hold this view, we must believe that God has existed forever before creating our universe, either doing whatever it pleases this sort of God to do an infinite number of times, or simply doing nothing. Then, at the end of that forever, God made our universe, just for us. We still have to wait forever for that to happen, though.
So, I'd like to hear what everyone here thinks about this.
Religion is a virus.
Fight the infection.