A recent comment said the following: ““Everything that has a beginning has a cause” is an assumption, exactly as “everything in existence is finite.” Both are generalizations taken from what we know about reality and applied to what we don’t know.” The thrust of the critique was that we cannot know every single instance of things beginning, therefore we cannot know whether or not things can arise without a cause.
I am reminded of David Hume, who, in his attempt to cast doubt on the existence of God, tried to question the knowability of all causation. Hume said,”The existence, therefore, of any being can only be proved by arguments from its cause or its effect; and these arguments are founded entirely on experience. If we reason a priori, anything may appear able to produce anything. The falling of a pebble may, for aught we know, extinguish the sun; or the wish of a man control the planets in their orbits.” (Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, 164). In another place he said, “The supposition that the future resembles the past, is not founded on arguments of any kind, but is derived entirely from habit.”
Hume was so intent on not allowing a divine foot in the door that he would question whether we can know any cause and effect, going so far as to doubt whether we can know anything for sure based on cause and effect. But even Hume, the king of the skeptics, said, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as to say that something should arise without a cause.” Hume would question conclusions based on cause and effect, but not the concept of cause and effect. Hume’s system ended in complete skepticism, a system that is ultimately not livable. Hume once said, “When we leave our closet, and engage in the common affairs of life, its conclusions seem to vanish, like the phantoms of the night on the appearance of the morning; and it is difficult for us to retain even that conviction, which we had attained with difficulty.” In other words, we ultimately have to put our little game back in the closet and return to regular life, where we know we cannot doubt such things as cause and effect, or we would not get through an hour of our life.
To the critique that says it is possible for things to arise without a cause, William Craig asserts “We do not require arguments against the possibility of solipsism or for the existence of other minds, for the truth concerning these matters is obvious and any argument in this regard would be based on premisses less obvious than the conclusion. In the same way, the premiss ex nihilo nihil fit is so obvious that even Hume accepted it without argument, regarding its denial as an instance of unlivable Pyrrhonic scepticism.
Consider, nonetheless, Jonathan Edwards’s argument on behalf of the causal principle: if something can come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it is inexplicable why anything and everything does not do so. . . [There is no] constraint placed on things’ springing uncaused out of nothingness into being. After all, there is nothing there to be constrained. So does it not strike one as peculiar that it is only the universe which comes magically into being out of nothing rather than all sorts of other things as well?”
It seems to me rather interesting that someone would go as far as to propose that an object would arise uncaused out of nothing, a proposition which undermines all of knowledge, rather than deal with the question of whether an infinite Being was the cause of all that is finite.