Gutting presents the cosmological argument for the existence of a god, and seems to think it deserves to be taken seriously.
I say, it doesn't. Not only that, the fact that a well-respected philosopher thinks it does, and gets it published by a well-respected publisher like W. W. Norton, demonstrates that something is terribly, terribly wrong with much of academic philosophy.
Here, briefly, are just a few things that I think are wrong.
1. Gutting never defines "cause" or "caused". The words are very difficult to make rigorous, which is one reason why if you pick up a textbook on physics (say, Halliday and Resnick, the book I learned physics from), you won't even find them in the index (although of course the words themselves occur in the text). We sort-of-understand the colloquial and loose meaning of "cause" when it is associated with the events that are common in our lives, such as car accidents and elections and hot plates and Thanksgiving turkeys, but what guarantee is there that this understanding can be extrapolated to events on the micro or macro scales that physics deals with? Gutting seems to think that our folk understanding of these words is enough. I say it isn't.
2. After having acknowledged the looseness of the words, it nevertheless does seem that in nature there are genuinely uncaused physical events (like the radioactive decay of a particular uranium atom). Gutting doesn't even mention this possibility, except when it comes to his magical "first cause". So if events like the decay of this particular uranium atom has no explanation, why should we be so confident that all other kinds of physical events actually have explanations? This exemplifies another feature of much of academic philosophy, which is that it seems almost entirely divorced from what we have actually learned about the physical world. He is basically arguing to a Middle Ages audience (or even earlier).
3. There is no really good reason to always dismiss an infinite regress of causes, nor is there a good reason to dismiss a circular chain of causes (e.g., A causes B, which causes A). Of course, these don't seem to happen much in our daily lives, but again, we are talking about events (the creation of the universe) which are wildly different in scale from our ordinary experience. We don't experience cosmic inflation in our daily life, either, but that's not a good reason to dismiss that physical theory.
4. Gutting's description of "contingent" and "contingency" suffers from the same defects as "cause" and "caused". What does it mean to say "Germany might not have won the 2014 World Cup"? After all, possibly the universe was created by a supreme being who has an inexplicable love for German soccer. Perhaps everything was created and set in motion deterministically by a supreme being just so Germany won the 2014 World Cup and no other outcome was possible, even in principle. And just because I can imagine a different outcome doesn't mean a different outcome is possible; if I try very, very hard I can just barely imagine a square circle or a good philosopher, but that doesn't necessarily mean those things are possible.
5. Finally, I think what's wrong with this reasoning like Gutting's is that it is a kind of pseudomathematics: applying precise logical rules to vague concepts like "explanation" and "contingency" and "cause" without providing a rigorous mathematical or physical basis for those concepts, and then expecting the results to be meaningful. When you do that, it's kind of like doing a physics experiment and reporting the results to 20 significant figures when your measuring devices only provide 3 significant figures. You run the risk of thinking you're being precise and logical, when in fact you've only extrapolated your vague and inchoate understanding of what's really going on.
I realize in making these complaints I'm in a tiny minority. Nevertheless, I think my objections have at least some validity. What do you think?