Leibniz’ Cosmological Argument: Testimony of the Golden Gate Bridge Part 2

The above logo was created for the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate bridge.  According to retired Security chief Bill Rumsford, they were expecting 40-50,000 people. But the turnout was closer to 250 to 275,000 people. While they were confident the bridge would hold, Chief Engineer Denis Mulligan noted “What was interesting is that’s the greatest loading the bridge has ever seen. It carries trucks and buses and cars everyday, but people packed in there like sardines in a can actually caused the bridge to sag.”[1]

But this article is not on the structural integrity of the bridge. This is about something a bit more obvious. The above logo is painted on a building near the bridge. (Note the artist painting it.)

A Painting Requires a Painter

The obvious point that I want to make is that for a painting to exist, it needs a painter. Obvious right? Because a painting – in this case a logo – is a special case of a design that is implemented.  In the previous article we looked at another special design – that of irreducible complexity. As discussed in the previous article, an irreducibly complex object cannot be made by random forces. It must be designed and assembled by an intelligent designer.  And as pointed out in part 1 – a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate bridge is irreducibly complex.

The fact that an irreducibly complex object requires a designer points us to another evidence of the existence of God:

Leibniz’ Cosmological Argument

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher, mathematician and logician.  His approach to demonstrating the existence of God started with a simple question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  as William Lane Craig explains it,

“There must be an answer to this question, because “nothing happens without a sufficient reason[2] Leibniz’s famous principle of Sufficient Reason holds that there must be a reason or rational explanation for the existence of one state of affairs rather than another. Why does the universe exist? The reason cannot be found in any single thing in the universe, for these are contingent themselves and do not have to exist.[3]

It’s this concept of contingent items that is the key idea in this part of the testimony. The above painting of the logo drawn for the 80th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge is obviously a contingent item: it does not have to exist.  Its existence is contingent on a designer creating it and bringing it into existence. The same could be said about the bridge itself: it does not have to exist and would not exist apart from the will and the work of a designer, and thus it is a contingency item. In fact everywhere you look you’ll find contingent items – everything you see is contingent upon something else for its existence – including people and all living things.

But if everything is contingent, we’re still left with the question, why is there something rather than nothing? Clearly, as Leibniz reasoned, all these contingent objects cannot all be the result of other contingent objects. There must be something whose reason for existence is not based on other objects, but rather whose reason for existence is grounded in itself – not other objects. It is a necessary object – it necessarily exists. That necessary object, whose very nature is to exist, is God. And thus appropriately enough, God reveals his name as “I AM” (Ex 3.14), in other words one of God’s name is “the one who exists.”

Or you could approach it another way: you can keep going backwards to find the cause of contingent object after contingent object, but at some point that search must end. You must come to an end of the series because you cannot have an infinite regression of objects.[4] That is clear because you cannot create an actual infinity by adding finite objects in a sequence. (More on that later.)  So at the end of your series of contingent objects you must necessarily arrive at an object that is not contingent. An object whose cause for existence is not based on yet another contingent object, but rather whose reason for existence resides in itself. It necessarily exists. It is not contingent on anything. Its reason for existence lies in its own nature.  This uncaused being whose reason for existence resides in its own nature is God. Or as Craig puts it:

“So Leibniz’s argument is really an argument for God as a necessary, uncaused being.”[5]

Thus the contingent nature of all creation points to a being who necessarily exists as the reason that the creation exists.  This relationship is evident in a suspension bridge.  The roadway of a bridge like the Golden Gate Bridge is suspended from cables. Not only is its initial existence contingent on a designer and builder, but its continued existence is contingent on the cable it is suspended from. The continued existence of those vertical cables is contingent on the main cables. Those main cables – which as we saw previously have over 61 million pounds of force running through them – are contingent on being solidly anchored to the earth. And yet we know the earth itself is also a contingent object. Thus the earth must also have as its reason for existing a being who necessarily exists – who is not contingent on anything.

Thus the Golden Gate Bridge reminds us of two types of contingent existence:  its initial creation which was contingent on the designer and builders who created it; and its continued existence which is based on being anchored to unmoving solid earth.  Likewise the existence of both us and the universe is made possible by God’s initial creation as the Bible tells us “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) But our continued existence is based on God who is about the business of “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Heb 1:3

So a little reflection on the contingent nature of the Golden Gate bridge leads you to a subtle reminder of the necessary existence of God the creator. Upon further reflection, you can arrive at some of the characteristics of God. For example:

  • God is Immaterial (or Incorporeal): God is non-physical.

We’ve already noted that the earth does not have to exist – it is a contingent item. Indeed everything in the universe is contingent – none of it has to exist. One thing that is a requirement for matter however is space for it to exist in. If there were no space you would have no matter. So matter is contingent[6] on space. Which makes it a contingent item which must be created by that which is both necessary – and non-material – since the  material does not yet exist. Thus God – who created matter and existed before matter was created – is non-material. Scripture puts it this way: “God is spirit.” (John 4:24)

  • God is eternal: He exists outside of time

Above I mentioned you cannot create an actually infinite series by adding finite objects sequentially. Dr. Craig elegantly argues the point this way:

  • The series of events in time is a collection formed by adding one member after another
  • A collection formed by adding one member after another cannot be actually infinite [Because at any point in time that you look at it – it consists of a finite number of items – DC]
  • Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite[7]

Thus time – a series of moments added sequentially – has not always existed. Which means at some point there was a beginning to time. From the Kalam Cosmological argument we affirm that anything that begins to exist has a creator.  Thus time must have a creator since it began to exist. From Leibniz’ Cosmological argument, there must be a sufficient reason for its existence. The only being sufficient to create time is God – who must exist outside of time since he existed before time in order to create it.  Thus we see that God is eternal. Scripture puts it this way: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Ps 90:2)

  • God is Omnipresent: He exists in all places in all times

According to Einstein, space and time are not separate entities. They are one entity he called “space-time.” We have already concluded that God created time. Since that is true he must have also created space – since they exist together as one entity. Which also means there was once a “time” (meaning occasion since time didn’t exist during what I’m referring to) when space also did not exist. What did exist then? Only God. Where did he exist? Technically we don’t have the words and perhaps can’t even conceive of it because since there was no space, there was no “place” where God existed – because “places” didn’t exist. Yet he did exist – fully. That is to say he existed in all areas of the non-space/no-places dimension of what I’ll call pre-space. So when God created space as we know it, where did it come into existence? Hard to say, but where-ever God placed it – it had to be where God already existed – since as we’ve seen, God existed fully in the non-space/no-places existence of pre-space. Put another way, there is nowhere space-time could be created that didn’t already contain the presence of God, since God existed fully in pre-space. Thus God fills the space-time he created – and in fact exists beyond space-time. This accords with what scripture says: “‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.” (Jer 23.24 Notice this verse says that in addition to being omnipresent, God is omniscient – he is aware of everything.) As for God existing beyond space: “But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you.” (2 Chr 6:18)

  • God is Omnipotent: He is not bound by his laws of nature; he can do all things according to his own nature.

So we’ve seen God created space and time. We also know that like the Golden Gate bridge, matter exists as a contingent object – dependent on a creator. Einstein tells us that there’s a special relationship between space and matter. Physicist John Wheeler famously put it this way: “Space-time tells matter how to move; matter tells space-time how to curve.” So space and matter affect one another.  We have just concluded that God created space. Since space and matter have this relationship as Einstein described, it makes sense that the one who created space also created matter.  Einstein also tells us there is a relationship between matter and energy. We’ve all seen his famous equation: E=MC2. That equation says that energy is another form of matter, and matter is another form of energy. Thus if God created all matter, he also created all energy.  Clearly anyone who can create (not rearrange, but create out of nothing!) all of time and space, and all of  matter and energy, and arrange them into the universe and life forms that we see – clearly such a being is omnipotent. Again as his word tells us:  “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? (Jer 32:27)

Of course God has many other characteristics (e.g. Omniscient, immutable, holy, Unique (only one), etc.) and while you can logically deduce these from other initial premises, I’m not sure we can get there from a casual appreciation of the Golden Gate bridge. But our consideration of the Golden Gate Bridge has taken us a long way towards understanding the nature of God. And of course we’re not limited to merely deducing the nature of God from his creation and related effects; we can know him intimately through his word the Bible, and ultimately through the living Word – Jesus. God promised early on – back in the days of Moses – that if you seek him with all your heart – you will find him. (Deut 4.29) Are you seeking Him?

Related Article:
Testimony of the Golden Gate: Bridges Body Parts and Intelligent Design


Duane Caldwell | October 31,  2018 | Printer Friendly version


Notes  

1. Denis Mulligan ref. from Modern Marvels – episode, “Golden Gate Bridge” History Channel Documentary, 1994 & 2005
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2. G.W,F.  von Leibniz, “On the Ultimate Origin of Things,” pp.527-28; idem, “Monadology,” p.540; idem, Theodicy, p.127.
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3. William Lane Craig, Apologetics, An Introduction, Chicago: Moody Press, 1984 p. 65
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4. Here I’m not arguing according to Aquinas’ first way – the argument for a First Cause, rather this is an argument for the impossibility of an actual infinite, which is clarified further down.
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5. William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision, Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010 Kindle Edition Loc 905
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6. Here I’m using “contingent” differently than Leibniz does. In this context, by contingent I mean space is a necessary requirement of matter. Without space, there can be no matter. Leibniz uses contingent to point to something that is responsible for the existence of something else, for example a child is contingent on his parents for existence. Here the parent is both a needed a causal reason for the child and a needed factor; not merely a needed factor alone.
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7. Craig, Apologetics, p. 79
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All images used by permission
Featured: 
Golden Gate Bridge Logo on building by Duane Caldwell © 2018 featuring
Artist painting free styles… © hadkhanong | fotolia – used by permission

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