On the Kalam Cosmological Argument
One of the most popular arguments for the existence of God is known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. In general, the “cosmological” family of arguments attempt to show that some initial condition necessarily pre-exists the universe, and declare this initial condition (or its cause) to be God. There have been many different versions of the cosmological argument, but the Kalam is particularly popular because it is composed of a very simple syllogism with premises that many people find self-evident. This simplicity makes the KCA very easy for laymen to remember and explain, while professional philosophers love the hidden nuances and depth which underlie the seemingly simple premises. The KCA was first developed and refined by medieval Muslim thinkers like Al-Kindi, Al-Ghazali, and Averroes in the time when the Arab world stood at the pinnacle of Western philosophy and science. Today, arguably the most avid and scholarly proponent of the KCA is Christian apologist, William Lane Craig (whose work has been a frequent focus of this blog), and it will be Dr. Craig’s particular formulation of the KCA which I will be discussing.
The argument is as follows:
- Anything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Indeed, this is a very simple syllogism to remember! There’s no wonder that this argument has become so popular, as apologetics has spread to your average Joe Theist. The first premise seems self-evident, the second premise seems to fit with the common understanding of the Big Bang, and the conclusion follows validly from the premises. The words which the KCA employs are all common to the everyman’s vocabulary, so that the argument avoids the more complex, specialized, and (therefore) confusing vocabulary one might expect from a philosophical argument. The direct and simple premises make it fairly easy to predict common objections, which in turn makes it fairly easy to train a person to handle these common objections.
However, the astute among you might have already noticed a fairly glaring problem with this presentation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God: it doesn’t actually mention God, at all.
Dr. Craig noticed this issue, as well, which is why he amends the argument with the following, in 2009’s “The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology” (co-authored with James Sinclair):
- If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal, creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.
- Therefore, an uncaused, personal creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.
Suddenly, the KCA doesn’t seem quite so simple, anymore. Unlike the main syllogism of the KCA, these amended premises contain very specific philosophical language discussing very complex philosophical concepts which are likely to spark very complex philosophical objections. Because of the added complexity of these amended elements, they are quite often omitted entirely from people’s presentations of the KCA. Even when they aren’t entirely omitted, these amendments are very often simplified to just “the cause of the universe is God.” Even Dr. Craig often simplifies his amendments to the KCA, in his presentations, and he very rarely spends much time defending them, preferring to discuss the premises of the main Kalam argument.
I’m actually going to ignore the amended premises, today, saving them for another article entirely. For now, let’s just focus on the main Kalam Cosmological Argument, because even without the amendments, I do not think that the KCA is sound.
1. Anything that begins to exist has a cause
Again, this premise is worded in such a manner as to make it seem very simple and self-evident. However, the apparent simplicity is actually hiding some very complex ideas. It may surprise you to learn that the phrases “begins to exist” and “cause” are really not as simple as you might imagine. Before we can address the KCA in any meaningful way, we have to learn what Dr. Craig actually means when he uses these phrases. If this assertion strikes you as being pedantic, at first glance, let me assure you that it is not, because I am fairly certain that Dr. Craig means something entirely different by the phrase “begins to exist” than the common person means when they use that phrase.
Generally, when the common person says that an entity “began to exist,” it conjures up an image in their mind of a time when that entity did not exist, followed by a time in which that entity does exist. However, this is not at all what Dr. Craig means when he uses the phrase “begins to exist.” As you can see from this Question of the Week on Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith website (dated July 5, 2010), the first premise of the KCA is nowhere near as simple as it first appears. Dr. Craig defines the phrase “begins to exist” in the following way:
For any entity e and time t, e begins to exist at t if and only if
- e exists at t
- t is the first time at which e exists
- There is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly
- e‘s existing at t is a tensed fact
The first two elements of this definition are simple enough, and coincide pretty well with the common understanding; however, it is very noteworthy that the definition does not require that there actually is any time before t in which e did not exist, as most people think when they hear the phrase “begins to exist.” This is absolutely deliberate, on Dr. Craig’s part. He knows full well that if he asserts that time is finite in the past (as he does), since time is a part of the universe, there would be no period of time in which the universe did not exist. Dr. Craig is specifically attempting to craft a definition for “begins to exist” which can be applied to something which was literally never non-existent, at any point in time. Whether time is eternal or finite in the past, if time is a part of the universe, then there was never any time when the universe did not exist.
The third element of the definition introduces a tricky concept into the mix: the idea that something could exist timelessly. One critic of the KCA, a blogger and YouTuber who goes by the nom de plume A Counter Apologist, has labelled this Dr. Craig’s “Get Out of Jail Free” card for God. If we were to omit element 3 from the mix, then even the God of classical theology could have “begun to exist,” on this definition. Dr. Craig has crafted this element of his definition specifically to exclude entities which exist without space-time, like the classical God. The problem is that it is not at all clear what it even means to “exist timelessly.” It’s difficult to conceive of a cogent definition for “existence” which could allow something to “exist timelessly;” and when you add in the fact that the KCA also implies that such a being must exist non-spatially, a cogent definition for “existence” becomes altogether inconceivable.
The fourth element brings another sophisticated philosophical concept to the fore. Basically, Dr. Craig is here stating that his definition for “begins to exist” is constructed upon the premise that the Tensed Theory of Time is accurate. The Tensed Theory of Time is the idea that time actually progresses from one moment to the next; and that the future is not real, but rather a system of potential occurrences which become actualized at the present. This is generally the common view of how time works, on the human experience: the past is behind us, the present is real, the future isn’t real until it occurs. The problem is that this common perception of time does not really match up very well with the scientific understanding of time. I have done a whole series of articles on Dr. Craig’s views on time (see parts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five). Without rehashing all of that, here, I’ll just note that I find Dr. Craig’s Tensed Theory of Time to be antiquated and untenable.
So, to summarize, Dr. Craig asserts that a thing can begin to exist, even if there was never a time when it did not exist, just so long as there’s no way it could exist timelessly (whatever that means) and assuming that his outdated and unscientific understanding of time is correct.
Now that we’ve established a definition for “begins to exist,” let’s move on to a definition for “cause.” Generally, Dr. Craig uses the word “cause” as shorthand for the concept of Aristotelian causation. In his book “Physics,” the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, laid out four different elements which he believed were necessary to causation which he labelled the Material, Efficient, Formal, and Final causes. For the purpose of simplifying this article, somewhat, we can ignore the Formal and Final causes, and concentrate just on the Material and Efficient causes. The Material cause is that which is being changed. For example, the Material cause of a table might be wood, while the Material cause of Mount Rushmore is granite. The Efficient cause is the entity which effected the change. So, in the case of our table, the Efficient cause would be a carpenter; while in the case of Mount Rushmore, the Efficient cause would be the sculptors, Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum. It is important to note that, on the view of Aristotelian causation, the Material and Efficient causes are not optional. A Material cause undergoes no change unless acted upon by an Efficient cause. Similarly, an Efficient cause cannot effect a change without a Material cause upon which to act. We will definitely explore this fact, more, later in our article.
Given Dr. Craig’s definitions for “begins to exist” and “cause,” I find that I have to reject the veracity of Premise 1. Something which begins to exist at the first moment of time has not undergone any change, and therefore cannot be said to have either an Efficient or a Material cause.
2. The universe began to exist
Since we have already defined what we mean by “began to exist,” the only new word to define in Premise 2 is “universe.” In another of his weekly Question articles (June 18, 2007), Dr. Craig laid out his definition of “the universe ” as meaning “the whole of material reality.” The necessary implication of this is that there might be some kind of immaterial reality which is separate from the universe. As we will see, it is within the framework of this implied immaterial reality that Dr. Craig believes God exists.
So, then, what support does Dr. Craig offer for the idea that the whole of material reality began to exist? Typically, he attempts to point to Big Bang and Inflationary cosmology, which are the fields of physics which deal directly with our earliest data for the universe. Dr. Craig notes that these sciences seem to indicate that, since the universe is currently in a state of accelerating expansion, we can extrapolate backward in time to presume that the universe was once much more compact. This would be a fairly accurate description of the physics were it not for one incredibly glaring flaw. Dr. Craig commits to a major fallacy of equivocation, here, because “the universe” (as defined by these fields of physics) is not equivalent to “the whole of material reality.” Generally, physicists define “universe” as meaning something akin to “a 4-Dimensional manifold of three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension.” Depending on the particular article you are reading, the geometry can get even more erudite, with descriptions of deSitter and non-deSitter spaces and other such complex features. However, I have never seen a cosmologist define “the universe” as “the whole of physical reality” in any of their peer-reviewed work. Cosmologists have no idea, whatsoever, whether or not our particular 4-D space-time manifold encompasses the whole of physical reality.
However, even if we ignore this equivocation, Dr. Craig still has another problem to overcome. The fact that the universe is expanding, and was therefore more compact at some point in the past does not necessarily indicate that it has a finite past. Dr. Craig must show that there is good reason to believe that the universe is not past-eternal, and he thinks that he has found just such a proof in the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem. Whenever he presents on this topic, Dr. Craig claims that BGV proves that “any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal in the past, but must have an absolute beginning.” You’ll notice that, in the video, this line is read as if it is being quoted directly from the findings of BGV, and you can see in the transcript for the video that this line is, indeed, marked as a quotation. However, no source is offered for this quotation, and if you read through the actual BGV, which I linked above, you’ll notice that this line does not appear anywhere in the published paper. In fact, the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem does not state anything like this quote. To find the actual conclusion drawn by BGV, you needn’t look any farther than the abstract at the top of the first page: “inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.” This is a very far cry from the claim that any expanding universe must have had an absolute beginning in the finite past. Rather, the BGV simply states that our current models are not sufficient to describe the entire history of the universe. Dr. Craig is attempting to turn ‘we don’t know enough about the history of the universe’ into ‘we know that the universe had an absolute beginning.’
Between Dr. Craig’s baldfaced fallacy of equivocation and his blatant misrepresentation of his strongest piece of supporting evidence, I’d say we have to reject the veracity of the KCA’s second premise.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause
Considering the fact that I have rejected both of the premises of the KCA, you might be inclined to wonder why I am addressing the conclusion, at all. Obviously, if the premises cannot be shown to be true then the Conclusion is already unsound. However, there is another issue introduced by the combination of Premises 1 & 2 which I think merits some discussion. In fact, I hinted at it, earlier, while discussing causation.
As we noted in our discussion of Premise 1, on Aristotelian causation, an Efficient cause requires a Material cause and a Material cause requires an Efficient cause. Neither of these concepts can have any sensible application in the absence of the other. However, note also that Dr. Craig’s definition of “the universe” was “the whole of material reality.” This introduces a major problem for Dr. Craig’s argument. The Material cause of the universe cannot be causally prior to the whole of material reality. Something material cannot exist to be changed prior to the existence of all material reality.
As a staunch supporter of the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, Dr. Craig is actually quite happy at this paradox. He argues that, since it makes no sense for the universe to have a Material cause, it must not have had one. However, in the very next breath, he will assert that the universe still must have had an Efficient cause, even though the concept of an Efficient cause is nonsensical without a Material cause. This, he argues, is wonderful evidence for the truth of the Christian doctrine! It is an entirely inconsistent position. Not only that, it displays an amazing level of hypocrisy on the part of Dr. Craig. William Lane Craig, who very frequently chides his debate opponents, claiming that they believe that the universe could just “pop into existence,” when he personally supports the position that God just popped the universe into existence.
It is absolutely preposterous for a man as intelligent as Dr. Craig to simultaneously proclaim ex nihilo nihil fit and creatio ex nihilo.
Putting It All Together
William Lane Craig’s version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument claims that a thing can begin to exist, even though there was never a time when it did not exist; that an entity must have a cause, even when there is no way for it to be caused; that science makes claims about the whole of material reality, even though the papers he cites have never addressed the whole of material reality; and that God created the universe from nothing, even though nothing can come from nothing.
Given all of this, one might wonder why the Kalam Cosmological Argument is so popular. Who would bother trying to utilize a tool with so many glaring inadequacies? However, take another look at the page you’ve just read. I had to spend around 2500 words, unpacking some complex philosophical and scientific concepts, in order to show that an argument with fewer than 20 words is unsound– and that’s not even counting the five other articles I’ve written against the philosophy of time which underlies the whole KCA. It is far, far easier for the theist to memorize and repeat the KCA and a few scientific-sounding quips about Entropy and the Big Bang and the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem than it is for an atheist to learn everything they need to debunk the Kalam’s claims.
William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument is worse than just being unconvincing. It is irrational, paradoxical, incoherent, and dishonest. And yet, it remains one of the most popular arguments for God’s existence, not just among average theists, but even among intelligent and sophisticated professional apologists. Because of the lies and misconceptions propagated by WLC’s KCA, I run across people on a daily basis who absolutely insist that science has definitively proven the universe had a finite beginning, even though these people have no understanding of the actual science involved. Dr. Craig, himself, tried to assert this falsehood to an extremely prominent cosmologist, Dr. Sean Carroll– a man whose work has notably included the development of past-eternal models for the universe– going so far as to suggest that Dr. Carroll and even Dr. Alan Guth (one of the publishers of the BGV) did not understand the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem as well as he did!
Despite all of this, if you ask a modern theist with even a modicum of apologetics training to give you their strongest argument for the existence of God, you are likely to hear the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
I believe you’ve managed to cover all of my misgivings on this subject. Sadly, that leaves me with nothing to say.
Instead, here’s a video:
Awesome video! A wonderful supplement to my article! Thanks!
Great work! The first premise also breaks down because we do have examples of things beginning to exist without a cause. Radioactive decay is causeless, therefore there’s no requirement to go any further in the wordplay.
I actually deliberately avoided that avenue because it often collapses into an Argument from Ignorance.
For instance, using your example of radioactive decay, the fact that we do not currently know of any trigger which initiates the actual decay event does not necessarily mean than no such trigger actually exists. The fact that we can predict the event by use of a probability wave function does not alleviate this issue.
A similar statement could be made for the Virtual Particles which are commonly cited in regards to Kalam’s first premise. The fact that we do not know of anything that might cause these events is not good evidence that they are therefore uncaused.
I usually take one of two routes; hit them for equivocating creatio ex nihilo and creatio ex materia, or misrepresenting science. What it comes down to for me, though, is old science. Back when relativity was new, hip, and fly, the singularity at the beginning of time was the beginning of the universe. Now we know that relativity can’t describe the beginning.
This, of course, is something Craig undoubtedly knows, being a very smart guy who is invested in learning about science so he can twist it to his ends, which makes his continued use of it rather disingenuous.
Honestly, I think that Dr. Craig sincerely believed that the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theory indicated that the universe must have an absolute beginning. This is likely why he was so caught off guard when Dr. Carroll corrected him on the matter, in the debate. Since Dr. Craig has a fairly poor grasp of math and science, he was likely relying upon someone else’s inaccurate summary of the paper.
They do say you should always suspect stupidity over evil.
BGV Theory does indicate that a cosmic beginning exists, the caveat is that it applies to the currently accepted cosmological model and not all models. Borde claims he doesn’t know whether or not our Universe has a beginning, not because he doesn’t believe his own theorem, but because he has no faith in the prevailing model. Vilenkin on the other hand is more apt to argue for a cosmic beginning due to his view that the current model is more likely to be correct than not. I personally know Sean Carroll and Lawrence Krauss and their similar worldview is what molds their arguments; often with bias as both men are committed Atheists (not Agnostic). William Craig Lane is not the most scholarly man today making the Kalam argument, but he certainly is the most likely guy a person will encounter debating people on YouTube. I agree with you that Kalam doesn’t offer proof of God, but it does show that belief in God is not irrational, but mathematically probable enough to be logical. As for the “B-Theroy” of time, as philosophers love to call it (which differs from the way a Physicist would present it), if this is a proper understanding of time it doesn’t discount Teleological arguments. Nor does it negate a rational version of Leibniz’s argument, which are hard to find if you’re an armchair philosopher searching YouTube videos. As a Physicist and Mathematician I can tell you that roughly 90% of my colleagues are Agnostics, Deists or Theists. Pantheists and Atheists are in the minority, both are considered to be illogical positions by the 90%. I think before 2030 a new theory of time will come forward. I know you’re not a physicist or mathematician, but you may find this interesting, link below.
Hi, DB, and thanks for taking the time to read and reply.
The BGV indicates that certain inflationary models of spacetime must be incomplete in null and timelike past directions. It does not indicate that a “cosmic beginning” of the sort discussed by the classical understanding of creatio ex nihilo exists.
If you can point me to a more scholarly supporter of the KCA than Dr. Craig, I’d be more than happy to discuss that scholar’s formulation of the argument.
I don’t see how it does any such thing. The KCA does not discuss mathematical probabilities, at all, let alone the mathematical probability of any deity’s existence.
Dr. Craig is the one who says that his formulation of the KCA is reliant upon the A-Theory, which is the reason I brought up the philosophy of Time. I am aware that there have been others who have attempted to formulate versions of the KCA which utilize the B-Theory, but I was not responding to those variants in this article.
I do think that the Leibnizian variations on the cosmological argument are quite a bit better than the Kalam, but even these operate on the assumption that the cosmos is contingent. I am far from convinced that this is the case.
As interesting as these statistics may be, I rather wholeheartedly disagree with this purported 90% of your colleagues. I see nothing, at all, illogical in my atheism; indeed, if I found atheism to be illogical, I would cease to be an atheist.
Quite interesting! Thank you! I’ll give it a proper read as soon as I am able.
Good points. Still, as working examples they do serve to stunt the wordplay’s black and white nature, which it relies on. Of course, the greatest flaw in the argument (as presented by the likes WLC) is they never explain why they’re willing to grant an exemption to the rules of causality to their particular god-fellow, yet not grant the exact same exemption to the universe itself. In this sense the entire collapses into a massive act of special pleading.
The exemption for God from “beginning to exist” comes from that third line in WLC’s definition: “There is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly.” While it might appear dangerously close to a matter of special pleading, I think it manages to avoid that fallacy. It doesn’t take much to think of other entities which could “exist timelessly” in the same sense as God. For example, Platonic abstracts– though WLC is a nominalist, and therefore opposed to this notion. But other entities that could be posited to exist in such a manner might be angels, souls, devils, hypostases, et cetera. Again, I think WLC would probably oppose that such things exist timelessly, but arguments could be made for them.
As such, I prefer to argue on the cogency of “timeless existence” and causation in the absence of change.
Good points. So, how does Craig’s argument look in its complete form, with the amendments he made in 2009?
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him include those amended premises with the main KCA argument. Every time that I can recall his presentation of the KCA, it is given as the three-line syllogism shown in this article, followed by an aside stating that the cause must be God.
I have seen Dr. Craig vary his presentation, though, and sometimes in fairly significant ways. For example, in my post “Bad Reasons for thinking belief in God is reasonable,” I discuss a variation of the KCA that he gave at the Apologetics Canada Conference in 2013 which went as follows:
1. The universe began to exist.
2. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a transcendent cause.
3. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.
It’s a particularly awful formulation of the KCA, but he does try to smuggle in one of God’s supposed properties, “transcendence.”
Excellent link! I’m constantly dazzled by how thoroughly you dismantle our favourite Christian philosopher!
I don’t agree that it’s an Argument from Ignorance. Rather, it’s an argument founded on the ontology of quantum mechanics in which events do not always have causes, but probabilities. It’s not that we say it’s uncaused because we don’t know what caused it. It’s that we say it’s uncaused because on the quantum level, concepts like ‘causation’ unravel along with locality.
I’d also disagree that we don’t know of anything that could cause virtual particles. The quantum foam and virtual particles are a necessary consequence of dx dp ≥ ħ/2, and Uncertainty requires spontaneous and random changes. So on that level, it is the capability of variation itself that can be said to ’cause’ such events. Or, perhaps, that reality seems to be based on the law that whatever is not forbidden is permitted, and the only thing that is forbidden is nothinngess.
The problem is that we still don’t know quite how to interpret Quantum Mechanics, properly. In interpretations with hidden variables, the probabilistic wave function is only an apparent condition, and there remains some unknown cause which determines those variables.
I have heard Dr. Craig say that he prefers prefers such deterministic interpretations (and, in truth, so do I); as such, appealing to the apparent probabilistic nature of quantum events wouldn’t be very convincing.
I’m unaware of any hidden variable claims which hold up to analysis. Bell’s Inequality stands.
Bill’s inequality doesn’t rule out hidden variables. It simply shows that, if hidden variables exist, then either Relativity or Locality must be illusory.
Sure. But it falsifies local hidden variables. I am unaware, however, of any compelling evidence of universal hidden variables, although retrocausality with spacetime existing as a unified whole in both time directions may solve that issue. But it seems that discarding the probabilistic nature of nanoscopic reality in favor of universal hidden variables is Begging the Question.
I don’t mean to assume one interpretation over another (although, I am partial to time-symmetric models). In fact, my point was that any definite statement as to whether or not there is a cause underlying quantum probabilities is, at best, debatable.
Granted, I think Craig would find that no deterministic models of QM really fit with his understanding of time and causality, but that’s another issue entirely
Do not let me forget to read this when I get home from work, haha!
I want to comment with my take on the matter. I must admit that, coming into this discussion, I was fairly concrete in my support of WLC’s philosophy. However, a lot of what you’ve uncovered in this article has increased my skepticism.
Now, that isn’t to say that I think the Cosmological Argument has no more leg to stand on. I agree that WLC’s wording can be seen as a little sly, and that the premises of the argument need some fine tuning. I would hope however, that you may refine these terms with me in light of our modern understanding of physics and the universe.
I immediately want to agree with you that the Cosmological Argument is in no way an argument for the Christian God or even a God. What I would say it is an argument for (once it has been refined) is the supernatural. I mean this, of course, as nothing more than that which exists outside of the natural space-time.
1. Anything that begins to exist has a cause.
It seems to me that our major quarrel is with the term ‘begins to exist’. For obvious reasons. Since time began to exist with the natural world, it is impossible to say there was a TIME when nature did not exist.
I think this problem arises from our idea of a linear timeline. Instead of getting it in our head that the argument is to establish a cause which existed BEFORE nature, we ought to re-work the argument to establish a cause which is OUTSIDE OF nature. Now, of course this is difficult for us to comprehend and the best I can come up with this late at night is something like:
“Anything that can be traced back to an initial singularity must be the creation (product) of something which is independent of its conditions and dimensions.”
Of course, I would be more than happy to bounce ideas back and forth with you over this idea. Note that I use the word ‘creation’ quite wearily.
The second problem, of course, is with the term cause. Now, you refer to two of Aristotle’s ideas in Efficient Cause and Material Cause. The interaction between the Efficient Cause and the Material Cause as you analyze it can be understood as something very similar to the Conservation of Mass, with matter not being created only changed by an Efficient Cause. This, however, applies to a closed system and we are no longer only looking at a closed system. The Efficient Cause and the Material Cause cannot exist independently from one another in the natural world, this is true. However, neither of these causes are applicable to what we are now attempting to understand. This entire use of the term cause is more accurately related to ‘change’ than it is to ‘create’.
It seems only fair, then, that we abandon this idea of a cause of the universe. We are not talking about the change of one thing into another, but, for simplicity’s sake, the appearance of one thing from nothing. This is not to say that we have an Efficient Cause without a Material Cause. Rather, it is to say we have something which resembles what we refer to as an Efficient Cause but can exist without a Material Cause. We have something new.
NOTE: I don’t want you to think that I am venturing into the realm of ‘miracles’ and things like that. That is for another day, perhaps. When I say ‘from nothing’ I really only mean that what we call natural came from something in which nothing natural was present.
2. The universe began to exist.
I think that this can simply be reworded into: The universe (as is meant by physicists) can be traced back to a singularity.
Here is a recent (2012) published article debunking some of the theories which aimed to show that the universe is eternal: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.4658v1.pdf
Of course, as I alluded to, you do point out that we are too quick to believe time is linear. However, by changing the straight line into a ball or a circle of sorts we are not avoiding the problem. Remember, as I stated at the beginning, that we are no longer trying to talk about something which existed BEFORE the natural world but rather something which is OUTSIDE OF the natural world. Whether we are looking at a straight line or a circle, there is space which is outside of it.
In summary it would look something more like this.
1. Anything that can be traced back to an initial singularity must be the creation (product) of something which is independent of its conditions and dimensions
2. The universe has been traced to an initial singularity.
3. The universe is the product/creation of something which is independent of its conditions and dimensions.
Of course, this is a very primitive foundation for something I hope you would work with me to refine. It is not, by any means, a religious problem (If we cannot use these terms, how might we talk about, say, the multiverse?). I think your arguments against WLC went well beyond just rhetoric, I assure you. But I do not feel that is the end of a Cosmological foundation for the belief in that which is super-natural (whatever that may be).
Thanks for reading! And I am wonderfully pleased that you found my article so thought provoking!
I can understand your desire to patch the Kalam into a usable state. Of all the arguments for the existence of God which I have encountered, this one seems (on the surface) to have the most potential for scientific confirmation, and therefore seems like the best possibility for convincing skeptics of the necessity of God. Unfortunately, I really don’t think that the argument can be rescued.
1. Anything that can be traced back to an initial singularity must be the creation/product of something which is independent of its conditions and dimensions.
Unfortunately, I think this premise fares even worse than the original Kalam premise. It is not at all clear that anything which can be traced to an initial singularity must have been created or produced by something independent of its conditions and dimensions. Once again, in the absence of time, the words “created” and “produced” lose all cogency. Even if they didn’t, the proposition that all things traceable to an initial singularity were created/produced is even less intuitive, and certainly no more demonstrable, than the idea that Aristotelian causation is universal.
2. The universe has been traced to an initial singularity.
There are two major problems, here. The fact that some specific models of a past-eternal universe have been debunked is neither a disconfirmation of past-eternality for the universe nor a confirmation of past-finitude. As such, it has not been shown that the universe traces back to an initial singularity.
The other problem is that this premise still seems to include a fallacy of equivocation. You start by saying that you want to define “the universe” as the physicists do, but end by positing the existence of something outside of the natural world. Physicists do not define “the universe” as being the whole of the natural world, in their papers. For example, those cosmologists who posit the existence of a multiverse would still hold that the multiverse is a part of the natural world.
I certainly agree that the base question “Is our universe all that exists?” is not an inherently religious question. However, I will still maintain that belief in the supernatural is not something which can be vindicated by the physical sciences.
That may just be the single best takedown of Kalam. Thanks for writing it.
Oh, and, I just shared this post on a debate page I admin on Facebook.
Thanks for sharing my work! And thank you for the compliment!
My pleasure. By the way, the other admin at that FB page (and the page’s creator) asked me to send along an invitation to become an admin there if you’d like. No worries if you’d rather not, but you’re certainly welcome if you’d like.
I would actually enjoy that, I think! Send me an email ( BoxingPythagoras at gmail ) with details!
Fantastic piece. Thank you for taking the time to write it.
I was wondering if I could be as bold as to ask you for some feedback on my own little article about the KCA.
Forgot to attach the article. Here it is: http://amitoben.com/2014/06/14/the-kalam-cosmological-argument/
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Thank you for leaving your comment on my blog inviting me to read you post; i thoroughly enjoyed it my friend.
It must be noted, the reason the argument is so popular is because if the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily follows…and people often view the premises as more plausible than not.
You offer objections to the premises – but there are certainly no grounds to say your objections are absolute truths which correspond with the reality of the topic. Given there are arguments for and against each position, grounded in science; either position is justifiable in science.
I hold several concerns with your positions;
Fallacy Of Equivocation
You dismiss the universe being all material reality, and state: Generally, physicists define “universe” as meaning something akin to “a 4-Dimensional manifold of three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension.”
Is not all of material reality part of the above definition?
Definition of universe: “all of space and everything in it including stars, planets, galaxies, etc. : an area of space or a world that is similar to but separate from the one that we live in.”(Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Further, the question at hand offers two alternatives; the universe is eternal, or it is not.
With respect to the BGV theorem; Vilenkin himself, in email with Dr Craig, says:
My letter was in response to Lawrence’s email asking whether or not I thought the BGV theorem *definitively* rules out a universe with no beginning. The gist of my answer was that there is no such thing as “definitive ruling out” in science. I would say the theorem makes a plausible case that there was a beginning. But there are always caveats[…] “I think you represented what I wrote about the BGV theorem in my papers and to you personally very accurately. This is not to say that you represented my views as to what this implies regarding the existence of God”
So in essence; you purport there was no beginning; but your position is not absolutely, irrefutably true. Just as there are reasons for affirming an eternal universe, there are reasons for affirming one that is not eternal. Both positions have justifications based in science. So to say the position of the universe not being eternal is wrong, is simply unfounded.
Here you state that the theist purports: God created the universe from nothing, even though nothing cannot come from nothing.
I agree something cannot come from nothing (if the something is not eternal)
But this seems to be a play on words. The proposition by the theist is not that god created the universe from “nothing”; we need to get rid of such concepts when speaking on this topic. The proposition that god (entity) is what is attributed for the universe coming to be, rather than the universe not having a beginning. How such could happen, we cannot observe; we weren’t there, we never will be; it by definition is not of the universe. But if we are to affirm the universe is not eternal; then it is reasonable to seek to what we could possibly attribute to a universe which was not eternal. The theist ultimately concludes the buck stops somewhere, at an eternal entity. It seems you have no problem with the concept of eternity; but you do with the concept of an eternal entity.
If one is to say there was a time at which the universe did not exist, then it is circular talking as “time” only exists in the universe. Again, what is proposed is that the universe had a beginning – and there is an antecedent to the beginning. In other words, if the universe is not eternal, then it follows there is an antecedent to the universe.
You assert that a paradox exists in saying the universe cannot come to be from nothing, yet affirming god can create the universe from nothing.
I do not propose “god” created the universe from “nothing”.
I propose the universe is not eternal, it has an antecedent; and that antecedent is an entity which self evidently has the capacities to do such a thing as bringing the universe to be; and that the entity is eternal in that it is aseitic; for it seems more plausible for that to be so rather than be a contingent entity. I see no reason why we humans should be able to fully comprehend such an entity – but we can surely describe certain characteristics.
So you may wish to call it “nothing”; but it seems you are viewing this in a reductionist, material way. I think it is much more abstract than that.
It seems to me, again – one must decide between either an infinite regress or that the buck stops somewhere; if the buck stops somewhere – are we to assume it is material, or immaterial?
Is one really expected to affirm that material, mindless and unguided as it is, always was, and somehow propels itself to do all that is has, to this very point in time? Such a conclusion is not based upon empiricism and induction.
I wish to conclude by saying that the objections you raise are not 100% irrefutable facts. For every objection you raise, there are certainly objections to your objections (the literature is abundant). This is the problem; is it possible to ever truly know how it all came to be? Is it probable that if we did find the answer, everyone, scientists included, would accept it?
Also, i apologize if any of this is repetitive or rambling…I am quite tired.
There is a video in which Dr Craig answers common objections to the argument…It’s a long watch but he raises certain important points: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtfVds8Kn4s
I’m very glad you enjoyed it, and quite thankful for the conversation!
That’s part of it, but the same is true of a great many arguments for God’s existence. The difference between these and the Kalam, in general, is the apparent simplicity of the KCA. That seems to be why it is more popular than the others.
Not necessarily. It’s entirely possible that there exists more to the whole of material reality than the particular space-time manifold which we observe.
Again, scientists do not claim that all of material reality is accounted for in, say, an anti deSitter space. If Dr. Craig would like to say that these two different concepts are equivalent, it is incumbent upon him to prove that this is so.
I actually do not purport that there was no beginning. I said that Dr. Craig has not shown that the second premise of the KCA is true. In order for the KCA to be useful, its supporter must demonstrate that its premises are true (or, at the very least, far more plausibly true than their contraries). Dr. Craig has not done this.
In that self-same email, Dr. Vilenkin notes that there are models of the universe which do not fall under the scope of the BGV. The BGV only holds if (a) the universe under discussion is, on average, expanding over its entire history; and (b) if classical views of space-time hold at quantum scales. Models in which these conditions are not present are not discussed by the BGV, at all.
If Dr. Craig wants to say that the BGV applies to the universe which we observe, it is incumbent upon him to demonstrate that (a) and (b) hold for our universe.
I do not have any problem with the concept of an eternal entity. I have a problem with the claim that a thing which was literally never non-existent could have been created. Whether the universe had a beginning (as Dr. Craig defines it) or not, it is still tautologically true that the universe was never non-existent.
This is incoherent. There cannot be an antecedent to the first moment of time. If there is an antecedent to a particular moment of time, then that moment cannot be the first, as its antecedent is obviously ordinally prior to it.
I’ve actually never seen good responses to the objections which I raise, despite the fact that I have actively sought after them. If you are aware of any, I’d be sincerely appreciative if you would share them with me!
I’m actually familiar with that video. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually address any of my objections.
My issue with the KCA solution as proposed by WLC is simple and focuses on a single matter.
WLC asserts Agent Causation (by the Last Man Standing principle) and says that the First Causer exercises His causal power in order for the universe to be created. The First Causer uses His Free Will to choose to exercise this causal power. But there is a problem.
1. If we look at the definitions of beginningless we have several. One is “a negative infinity (by counting or a stream/continuum) of a degree of freedom”. A second is “a special case in which the context and content are changeless with no degree of freedom”.
2. By asserting that the first phase of existence of the First Causer is changeless and beginningless, WLC has used the second definition.
3. By asserting that the First Causer “exercises His causal power”, WLC has used the first definition – because the only situation in which Free Will can be exercised is where there is a degree of freedom for that choice.
WLC wants to have it both ways – but the two definitions are mutually exclusive. Thus his KCA solution of a changeless/beginningless First Causer who chooses to exercise causal power within a degree of freedom is impossible.