A redated post.
From Theodore Schick's The 'Big Bang' Argument for the Existence of God (1998*)
The traditional first-cause argument rests on the assumption that everything has a cause. Since nothing can cause itself, and since the string of causes can't be infinitely long, there must be a first cause, namely, god. This argument received its classic formulation at the bands of the great Roman Catholic philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. He writes:
In the world of sensible things, we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known ... 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 to infinity, because . . . the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause.... 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 . . . therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name god.
Saint Thomas's argument is this:
1. Everything is caused by something other than itself
2. Therefore the universe was caused by something other than itself.
3. The string of causes cannot be infinitely long.
4. If the string of causes cannot be infinitely long, there must be a first cause.
5. Therefore, there must be a first cause, namely god.
The most telling criticism of this argument is that it is self-refuting. If everything has a cause other than itself, then god must have a cause other than himself. But if god has a cause other than himself, he cannot be the first cause. So if the first premise is true, the conclusion must be false.
VR: Does Aquinas actually use the principle "Everything is caused by something other than itself?" Where is he getting that. This, of course, opens the door to the "Who Made God" objection. But Aquinas is not stupid. What exists contingently is what needs a cause, according to Thomas. This error was, of course, commited by Russell, and has been committed by "refutations" of the CA in thousands of introductory philosphy classes. But I was surprised to find it still surviving in print in 1998.