Clarke begins his argument by asserting the obvious–that based on experience, all of the beings that surround us today do exist. These beings, encountered based on one’s experience, are dependent on a prior cause. In other words, everything that exists must have been caused by something else that also exists or has existed; and for something finite to exist today, such as any being in this world, it would mean that there must have been something that has existed since infinity. According to Clarke, there are only two plausible explanations as to how such a premise could be upheld.
First explanation he gives, is that there could have been an infinite regression of dependent things, each one causing the other. However, Clarke is quick to reject such an idea, because the series of such dependent beings must have a cause outside of the series; the infinite series of beings cannot exist on account of causation within itself. He even goes so far as to call such an argument “absurd” (Clarke, p. 23). His claim is quite clear, and it is very logical and intuitive that no effect can be its own cause nor can an effect precede its cause.
Thus, this explanation is not sufficient as to support the existence of the things experienced by everyone today. The second possible explanation Clarke gives–and it is the one he supports–is that there must have existed such a Being, who is independent of any other and who is necessary, which is to say that It is the cause of everything else that has ever existed. In addition to saying that this Being is the reason every other being exists, the author emphasizes the fact that this Being is the cause to itself as well, because of its self-existent nature.
In the end, Clarke uses a “reductio ad absurdum” argument to assume that if an infinite series did exist, it would lead us to the conclusion that this series exists on the account of causation within itself, which is impossible. Therefore, Clarke can eliminate the first explanation and state that there must have been such a Being, independent and self-existing, for the all the other dependent beings to exist. The infinite chain of dependent beings is not feasible because it is impossible to be caused by nothing, which is what is suggested by such a regression.
Thus, when one thinks about the cause and effect rule, one sees an ultimate Being, who fits in perfectly in the beginning of time, being the cause to Itself and everything else from then on. While the argument is sound and very convincing, there are a few problems with it. The most obvious is the causation aspect of God’s existence–if everything needs a cause, why doesn’t God? The cause of all the other dependent beings is easily explained by God’s existence, but it is very unclear as to how one can define God as a Being without a cause.
And even a stronger point to make is that, if Clarke can declare existence of a self-causing being, why can’t he not declare an infinite series to be self-causing as well? Thus the argument has some holes in it, as Clarke proclaims that everything that exists must be caused by something; however, for some mysterious reason, in Clarke’s argument, God is the only being enabled to exist without abiding to the cause-effect rule. In addition to this critique, one can question the very definition of God in Clarke’s argument.
For instance, it is impossible to know whether the Being that is the cause of all existence, can be qualified as the same all good, all powerful God that people worship still today, and who still exists today. The proponent of this critique would argue that even if it is possible for such an independent Being, who is the cause of all the dependents beings, to exist, it does not mean that this Being is still in existence nor does it mean that this Being is worth worshipping, since we do not know anything about Him besides that He was the cause of everything.
Despite these obvious flaws in the argument, Clarke would still argue that his explantation is sound on account of a few omitted aspects in the critiques. First off, the basic definition that Clarke gives to such a Being, who is the cause of everything else that exists, is that this Being is independent or self-existing. This is means that His own existence can be explained by His own nature–he does not require a cause, just because His mere existence as the cause of every other being, explains His own existence.
These dependent beings are contingent on God, according to Clarke, and that is why it makes Him higher and greater than anything else that exists. An infinite series of dependent beings having a cause within itself is not possible, since it would mean that the entire regression would have to be necessary, and because each dependent being in the series is dependent on the foregoing, and not a single one of those beings is necessary, one cannot declare the entire series as necessary.
In addition, Clarke would argue that since this Being is the cause of everything, He must be powerful enough to still exist as an independent Being today, since His existence does not depend on anything else. And while one could not physically prove that God is all good, one equally could not prove that He is evil in any way. Even though Clarke does not offer any more information on this topic, it does not mean that this argument is false.
Religion is the main actor in the society, when it comes to whether or not we should worship this independent Being. In conclusion, Clarke goes through two potential explanation as to how beings exist today, and while refuting one of the ways with a “reductio ad absurdum” argument, he confirms that there must be an independent Being, who is the cause of all dependent beings, and who exists solely because of the nature of His own being.