Causality is not a law and an argument in favor of the existence of God

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Leandro Castelluccio

A usual argument within the philosophical, religious and even scientificfield that is used to refer to the possible existence of a god or creator of the universe refers to consider the so-called principle of causality. It is said that every event (or effect) must always have a cause, and this would be essential for the universe itself: if there is a universe, it must have a cause, which places the possibility of a creator deity of it, which acts as a cause of the universe. Before the counter-argument of what is the cause of God, it is also added that this deity is beyond our physical reality or our universe and therefore not necessarily governed by the same principles, so that God may be outside the principle of causality, so it does not require a cause to explain it. 

In aprevious essay, certain arguments are developed about why the notion of the unmoved moveris not an argument in favor of the existence of God. This essay expands on this and deepens in the error of considering causality as a law of nature and helps us to understand the difference between laws of the behavior of matter and the principle of causality.

Things, entities, behave in a certain way. For example, a ball that is held by a person, at the moment of releasing it, it falls to the ground. Depending on what type of ball it is, it can bounce high or stay close to the ground and immediately stop.

The behavior of things explains the causes of the configurations of matter, but we must not confuse the behavior of something that generates causes of certain things with the existence of a law of causality that must be applied to everything, including the universe itself, in fact we can explain phenomena based on certain entities without requiring the attribution of a specific cause for a specific entity. Suppose we throw a ball on an inclined plane. Given the shape of the ball, which is round, and that contributes to weigh the friction, plus the force of gravity and the inclined plane, the ball falls along the same. At the end of this, there is a fragile object, which when hit by the ball is broken. This is an event or effect, its cause is the ball that falls on the inclined plane. Within this scheme, ¿does causality refer to a law in the same way as gravity or friction and the nature of the ball? The answer is no. Causality here is a concept that results from the behavior of matter. Things behave in a certain way and what we call effects are the result of the way in which matter unfolds in reality. 

The same applies if we analyze the reasons why the ball is there on that inclined plane, or even more, why the ball is as it is. There we enter the field of molecules, atoms and fundamental particles of nature. Certain things have their reason for being given the behavior of their molecules or atoms and constituent particles, which generate certain structures. They can then act as elements or substructures of a greater whole that constitutes another level of matter. In this way, causality remains a product of the behavior of matter, rather than a specific law of nature, that is, causes and effects simply represent the behavior of matter. And we can go to the most fundamental particles of the ball of the previous example where we can no longer subdivide and find other substructures with other particles, and even then, we can explain their behavior, without needing to refer to other causes, so that we can explain the phenomena based on certain entities without requiring attribution of a specific cause for a particular entity, this would occur specifically for the most fundamental entities of nature that are not composed by other entities and also for the universe itself, in part because the universe in its fundamental aspect, represents a conglomerate of this matter. So there is not a law of causality, in the macro world particularly, in what we consider as cause and effects in a daily basis, rather, the notion of causality as a law is the result of an interpretation of reality that involves the laws of nature. Things behave in a way and what we observe are the consequences of that, effects, but causality would not be a law in itself, so it does not necessarily apply to everything.

Even so, we must inquire: if we do not need a cause to explain the behavior of that elementary particle, why does the fundamental particle behave in the way it does and not in any other way? How do we explain that? For here we need to understand first what we mean by behavior in this context, and in general by the behavior of matter.

Imagine that a person sits on a chair, what makes the person not fall? A light person who sits on a firm chair is not the same as a heavier person on a weak chair. The reason that the person does not fall is in the particular structure of the elements involved. But if the person is heavy enough and the chair does not resist, it can break and the person falls. The fact of falling represents the unfolding in time of certain material structures: the person, the chair and the Earth itself. The behavior of matter then refers to the natural unfolding or succession of different states according to the structure of the matter involved. The person who falls is not the same as the one who stays in the chair. Then, when we talk about the behavior of matter, we are talking about two elements: time and material structure, that is, a progression of different states that conform to a particular material organization. A particular material entity, given its structure, can form other structures, which together with time, display a particular behavior. In this way we enter into a deeper concept of causality that takes into account the structures of things and time, which are the fundamental aspects when talking about causes. But note that while we can refer to the substructures involved in the previous example, such as the material that forms the chair, or the person or the Earth and its size, all this refers to the fact that there are material structures and time, not that there is a law of causality intrinsic to nature that applies to everything. Seen in a macro perspective, the chair has minimum parts that assembled make the whole “chair”. We no longer need to talk about causes in the sense of material substructures. In the same way, there are elementary particles that would not have other material substructures, they would be a limit, here there are no causes, but these elementary particles, given their shape, plus the dimension of time, behave in such a way that they generate “upper structures”, here we have cause and effect, but not everything involved presents a cause. So the elementary particular behaves in the way it does given its material structure, the form of it, which is primordial, and over time, we see that structure unfold in a particular way. Things behave in a given way given the material structure involved and what we observe as effects are a consequence of that structure, which manifests itself in time. In the day-to-day world, we do not usually think of causes in structural terms, but a law of nature refers to a particular pattern of behavior that has its reason in particular structural forms of matter. But remember that behavior refers not only to structures but also to time. In the day to day what we think is a law of causality that applies to everything as the laws of nature, is rather a reflection of the behavior of things perceived, but not something tangible in reality as a law of the nature, which refers precisely to a way of behaving of things. The entities do not behave according to a law of cause effect, the behavior refers to a structural form in time, keep in mind that there are elementary particles that have no cause, and still behave in a particular way. In this sense we can talk about behavior as the particular form in which the particle behaves, and its cause, as its structural form, this is a deeper concept of causality, but it is not something that necessarily applies to everything necessarily, because there is no reason for the particle, there are no other substructures.

But still, one more question can be asked: why does the elementary particle have the form it has and not another? Does not this imply that there must be a cause beyond matter and the universe that determines its form, and this causes is to be God? Well, it’s not really a solution to a problem. It is argued that God is outside causality and would be the ultimate efficient cause of the universe, and in our development, of the structural form of the elementary particle. But keep in mind that the causality of something refers to a structure and time, not to a particular law of the universe from which God in another reality can escape. Consider in turn that something like causality would not be just part of the universe in the sense of our world in particular, but of reality itself, one that includes God. So God must in turn present a particular structure that generates the specific form of the elementary particle, at the same time that there must be time for that structure to unfold in the way it does. God thus could not have generated time, this must exist as such, the same as the structure of its being. But why does God have a structure with the form it presents and not another? Well this is the same question as the previous one for the elementary particle. So appealing to a God does not solve any problem. The point is that not everything has a cause, the particular form of an elementary particle is simply, without causes. To invoke a God only generates one more entity that we do not really need because it does not solve a problem. In other words, to appeal to a law of causality as an argument in favor of the existence of God is erroneous since there is no such law, and not everything has a cause, and our universe can perfectly be part of these entities without cause.

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