Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why is it here? Why is there something rather than nothing? Did the universe have a beginning or has it always existed?
Through the centuries many Atheists have held that the universe has always existed; eternally and uncaused. However, the evidence, both philosophical and scientific, seems to cut against this position. As the evidence for an absolute beginning to space-time continues to build, there is less and less credibility to the ancient Greek philosophical notion of a beginning-less universe.
The cosmological argument is, in my view, the most important argument in all of philosophy. If successful, it shows that the cause of the universe must be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, unembodied mind. In other words, this argument, relying solely on philosophy and cosmology, shows that a theistic God exists.
The cosmological argument is also notable for its ancient roots. Three hundred years before Christ, Aristotle argued for the logical necessity of a “prime mover” and in the 11th century, the Islamic scholar, Al Ghazali formulated something like the modern iteration. However, one of the most compelling aspects of the cosmological argument is that is so well supported by modern cosmology and astrophysics.
The form of the argument which I will defend here is known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument, revitalized by Christian apologist William Lane Craig and so named for its origin in Islamic scholarship. The argument consists of two premises and a conclusion:
- Anything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Premise 1: Anything that begins to exist has a cause. This claim is, for the most part, uncontroversial in contemporary scholarship. The law of causality is foundational to science. After all, science is a search for causes. It is based on the idea that there are causal connections to every effect. To assert that anything can come into being without a cause is to completely undermine the work of science. Denying the first premise of the cosmological argument is a deadly pill for the person committed to seeking truth.
Even the great skeptic, David Hume, eventually affirmed this principle.
“I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause…” – David Hume
Even so, there have been some notable objectors. Enter prominent theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss.
In his book A Universe from Nothing , Dr. Krauss argues that the universe could have sprung into being from nothing. There is much that could be said about his book, but the fatal flaw in Dr. Krauss’ objection is his definition of “nothing”. Quantum vacuums, simply put, are not nothing! Nor is gravity, nor are the laws of physics! Nothing literally means “no things”, or to use Aristotle’s definition, “what rocks dream about”. So we are still left with explaining how matter can come from non-matter… And that is another matter (see what I did there).
Premise 2: The universe began to exist. This premise is supported by “big bang” cosmology, the second law of thermodynamics, Aristotelian philosophy, and even, as I have argued, by evolution. But I will focus here on only a few lines of scientific evidence and philosophy:
- The “red-shift” of distant galaxies: Light, like sound, travels in waves. When an object is moving away from us, it appears red because the light waves are stretched out. Conversely, light moving towards us appears blue because the waves are compressed. The red shift observed in distant galaxies shows us that the universe is expanding and we can extrapolate from the whole of our observations that the universe was once condensed into a very small initial point.
- Cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB): Present everywhere in space, CMB is the residual heat of creation predicted by the big bang theory and discovered by accident in 1964 by Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias. Read more about CMB and its implications here.
- The 2nd law of thermodynamics: Simply put, this law states that, as energy is transferred, more and more of it is wasted. What this means is that our universe is that it is running out of usable energy and will eventually end in heat death. If the universe were eternal in the past, this “death” would have already occurred. If the amount of time in the past were infinite, we would have run out of energy by now according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Therefore, the universe is not eternal in the past, but had a beginning.
- The Impossibility of an actual infinite number of past events. As Aristotle recognized, there were good philosophical reasons to deny the past infinitude of the universe well before the rise of modern science. I.e. If the number of days in the past were INFINITE, we would have never reached the present day. Likewise, if you could travel back in time, no matter how far back you go, there would still be an infinite number of days in the past. This is metaphysically absurd. For further reading on the absurdity of an actual infinity, I recommend Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig
Many Atheists have resisted this premise because of the obvious theological implications. As such, it seems as if there is a new theory every day devised to avoid an absolute beginning to space-time, but most of these models are evidence free and ALL of them fail to resolve the philosophical absurdities.
Thus, the second premise “the universe began to exist” is true.
Conclusion: Therefore, universe has a cause. And since the universe is composed of time, space and matter, the uncaused first cause of the universe is, by definition, timeless, space-less and immaterial. In other words, the cause of the universe is what Christians would call “God”.
Or am I wrong? Let me know in the comments section and click follow if you want to see new posts as soon as they are published!
17 responses to “Keep Kalam and Carry On: The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God”
The first premise is easy to refute as it makes a category error. Sure it seems to be the case that anything INSIDE the universe that begins to exist has a cause, but we have no justification to apply this reasoning to the universe as a whole. Causation is a temporal concept, and time is a part of the universe, the universe is not a part of time and so causation has no meaning when applied to the universe.
The second premise is refutable on similar grounds. When we physicists say that “the universe began” we say that because it vaguely conveys what we mean and language isn’t very good at saying it precisely. In actual fact it’s incorrect, the universe did not “begin”. A beginning is an event in time, but the universe as a whole is not in time, so the universe can’t technically have a beginning. A more accurate way of putting it would be to say there’s a point in the universe’s history at which you can’t go any further backwards in time.
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Hi Matthew, thanks for your response!
I don’t think it’s a very strong objection, however. Let me explain –
To begin, I think the error that you’re actually accusing me of is the fallacy of composition. I.E. What is true for a part of a whole must be true of the whole itself. But I don’t think this is accurate. Yes, I would argue that the first premise affirmed by our experience of the natural world, but I do not say, “because everything in the universe that begins to exist has a cause, therefore, the universe itself has a cause”. Rather, I am saying that we can intuit, by order of logic, that ANYTHING that begins to exist must have a cause. Or, if you like, that it is metaphysically impossible for being to come from non-being. This is a metaphysical truth that applies to both events inside the universe and to the creation of the universe alike, but it does not apply to the creation event BECAUSE it applies to events inside the universe. So I don’t think a category error of fallacy of composition objection works here.
“A more accurate way of putting it would be to say there’s a point in the universe’s history at which you can’t go any further backwards in time.” This is precisely what is meant by “beginning”. That is to say, the universe is not eternal in the past but has an end point a finite time ago – or, as I put it, it had a “beginning”. And if you accept your own definition here, on what grounds can you deny the 2nd premise?
So, it seems to me, we’re still left with a valid syllogism with true premises. It follows then that the conclusion is true and unavoidable. The universe has a cause that is timeless, space-less, and immaterial. I would also argue that we could further deduce a personal agent from this data, but that is beyond my aim this morning 🙂
Taylor, interesting that you said on the other persons post the Kalam was never intended to go as far as proving the existence of god, and this post of yours is attempting to do just that. Cheers
Oh, no. You misunderstand me, grabaspine. I do think Kalam establishes the existence of God. Just not necessarily the Christian God. It’s compatible with Christianity, but not dispositive. It is not intended to establish Christianity. Just an uncaused, first cause which is timeless, spaceless and immaterial… This happens to be exactly consistent with the Christian and Jewish understanding of God.
The Kalam says nothing about the existence of any God. It’s being stretched and misused to that purpose. I understood you. Have a great day
Grabaspine, apologies but, I don’t think you do… Would you concede that Kalam shows that there is a first cause that is timeless, spaceless and immaterial (or at least that this is not “stretching” the argument)?
If so, it would seem to me that the word “God” may carry some baggage for you. For, in this context, the above attributes is precisely what I mean by “God” – an uncaused, first cause; timeless, spaceless and immaterial. This is not beyond the scope of the argument. Christian particularism, however, is – as we have agreed.
Have a great day also.
Sorry, Kalam doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of an actual physicist. Which I am not, are you? https://youtu.be/g5iiHV4yo7M
Sorry, Dr. Carroll’s critique doesn’t stand up to an actual philosopher. Which Dr. Craig is. Are you?
I am neither. Just someone who is more interested in what actually is vs what some philosopher can think of, but can’t justify by reality. Have a great day.
And by the way… Neither is Craig a physicist. He’s an apologist using whatever he can find that seems to support what he’s already concluded. Circular, and filled with confirmation bias.
It’s simple not honest.
Yikes, grabaspine… There’s no argument here, just complaining (and an ad hominem).
Let’s try a thought experiment here. Take this comment and replace Craig with grabaspine and try that on. Sit with it for a minute and see how it fits.
Either way, please no more comments unless there’s an argument that advances the discussion. I’ll do the same. Be well.
If you could please read this :
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Thank you sir.
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I was reading your comment on The Platonic Realm and stumbled across a further defense of the first principle of the cosmological argument that I thought I would respond to. You claim that, in stating that the universe did not have a cause of its beginning-to-exist, one is resorting to magic. This, however, I would maintain, is false. Magic, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “the use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces.” However, to quote Hume, “[i]t is sufficient only to observe that when we exclude all causes we really do exclude them,” including supernatural causes solicited by charms or spells. Thus, denying the first premise is not an endorsement of magic. Magic, by definition, is committed to the existence of causally efficacious supernatural forces and agents and denying the premise that “whatever begins to exist has a cause” is perfectly consistent with denying the existence of all supernatural agents and forces. If we suppose that there are none but natural causes and none but natural causal entities, then we are committed to the view that there is no magic and, moreover, that natural reality cannot have a cause of its beginning to exist, supposing, of course, that natural reality began to exist. In other words, this seems to be a rhetorical strategy, rather than a sophisticated argument that ought to sway skeptics of the causal premise. This argument, it seems to me, doesn’t work. There is another argument that you put forward: if something can come into being uncaused out of nothing, it is inexplicable why anything and everything cannot
or does not do so. Hence, it is impossible for anything to come into existence without a cause. This seems to me to be a rather weak argument, as well. There is no metaphysical absurdity in saying that, among the possible objects, they can be divided into two kinds: those that can exist only if there is no segment of causal reality prior to them and those that can exist only if there is some segment of causally reality prior to them. With this in mind, it becomes perfectly explicable why the initial state of the physical universe is the only eligible segment of causal reality not preceded by some anterior segment and why, necessarily, all segments distinct from and posterior to the initial segment are brought into existence by a prior parts of reality. This does not, pace Craig, force us to suppose that “nothingness” discriminates between states of reality. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. In stating this, Craig is supposing that “nothingness” has the impetus to bring everything it possibly could into existence, and that only the existence of some causal process can prevent this from happening. The truth of the matter is exactly the opposite. The idea is that things can only come into being when the necessary and sufficient causal prerequisites for their existence are present. Absent such prerequisites, it is impossible for them to come into being. They needn’t be constrained from coming-into-being without a cause. Rather, certain causal prerequisites need to be present in order for their existence to be possible. Ex hypothesi, the causal prerequisites for non-initial segments of causal reality are grounded in prior non-initial segments, while the initial segment itself has no causal prerequisites at all, and thus, necessarily obtains without cause. Hence, it seems that we have a perfectly plausible explanation why the initial segment of natural reality is the only eligible segment that can obtain without cause and why all segments distinct from the initial segment necessarily are brought into existence by prior part of reality that does not imbue nothingness with the power to discriminate between entities, such as initial singularities and, say, tigers and bicycles.
Good grief! Another apologist and would be philosopher who wants to make the Kalam.” his own”.
Isn’t William Lane Craig enough?
How many more times must this worn out old horse be flogged?