The Kalam Cosmological Argument

This video was just put out by the YouTube channel, drcraigvideos. It explains the basics of the KCA wonderfully, so I felt the need to transcribe it and post it here. The words are not mine, they are directly from the video. I take no personal credit for the information.
For more information on the youtube channel, drcraigvideos, click here.
For more information on ReasonableFaith (Dr. Craig’s website), click here.

Here it is:

“Does God exist, or is the material universe all that is or ever was or ever will be?

One approach to answering this question is the cosmological argument. It goes like this:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Is the first premise true?
Lets consider.

Believing that something can pop into existence without a cause is more of a stretch than believing in magic. At least with magic you’ve got a hat and a magician.
And if something can come into being from nothing, then why don’t we see this happening all the time?
No, everyday experience and scientific evidence confirm our first premise. If something begins to exist, it must have a cause.

But what about our second premise?
Did the universe begin, or has it always existed?

Atheists have typically said that the universe has been here forever. “The universe is just there, and that’s all” (Bertrund Russell)

First lets consider the 2nd law of thermodynamics. It tells us the universe is slowly running out of usable energy; and that’s the point. If the universe had been here forever, it would have run out of usable energy by now. The 2nd law points us to a universe that has a definite beginning.

This is further confirmed by a series of remarkable scientific discoveries.
– In 1915, Albert Einstein presented his general theory of relativity. This allowed us, for the first time, to talk meaningfully about the past history of the universe.
– Next, Alexander Friedmann and George Lemaitre, each working with Einstein’s equations, predicted that the universe is expanding.
– Then, in 1929, Edwin Hubble measured the red shift in light from distant galaxies.

This empirical evidence confirmed not only that the universe is expanding, but that it sprang into being from a single point in the finite past. It was a monumental discovery, almost beyond comprehension.

However, not everyone is fond of a finite universe, so it wasn’t long before alternative models popped into existence. But one by one, the models failed to stand the test of time.
More recently, three leading cosmologists, Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin proved that any universe that has on average been expanding throughout it’s history, cannot be eternal in the past, but must have an absolute beginning.
This even applies to the multiverse, if there is such a thing.

This means that scientists can no longer hide behind a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning. Any adequate model must have a beginning, just like the standard model.

It is quite plausible then, that both premises of the argument are true. This means that the conclusion is also true.
The universe has a cause.

Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 2.18.44 PM

And since the universe cannot cause itself, its cause must be beyond the spacetime universe. It must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused and unimaginably powerful.

Much like…
God.

The cosmological argument shows that, in fact, it is quite reasonable to believe that God does exist.”

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Here’s another post that discusses some of the objections to the Kalam, by @_garretthogan

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45 thoughts on “The Kalam Cosmological Argument

    1. Elijiah Post author

      Hey NotAScientist, I don’t know of anyone who says that God popped into existence without a cause, but I think I understand your misunderstanding.

      The first premise of the KCA (as laid out here) is “whatever begins to exist has a cause”. If something does not “begin to exist”, then the first premise of this argument is not relevant to it.

      I feel like this could lead to a discussion about the difference between metaphysical necessity and contingency, but I’ll wait for your response before moving on.

      Reply
      1. NotAScientist

        “If something does not “begin to exist”, then the first premise of this argument is not relevant to it.”

        But the only reason we have to think that anything didn’t have a cause is an unsubstantiated claim. Show good evidence for the claim and I might just give you your first premise. Until you do, that first premise remains false.

      2. Philosogetics

        Hi, NotAScientist.

        The first premise is a metaphysical statement, it is about causality and not about specific physical or mathematical laws of nature. It transcends our scientific knowledge of the physical universe. Furthermore, people who deny the first premise essentially deny the rationality of scientific or philosophic knowledge.

        It’s not a unsubstantiated claim to say nothing comes from nothing. Ex nihilo nihil fit is the utmost basic metaphysical truth we adhere to. I would in turn ask you to give me a good reason to believe something can come into existence uncaused, out of nothing since that goes directly against our intuition. And, just for the sake of proper argumentation, I am talking about the philosophical definition of nothing, not Lawrence Krauss’ definition of nothing (quantum vacuum).

  1. NotAScientist

    “I would in turn ask you to give me a good reason to believe something can come into existence uncaused, out of nothing since that goes directly against our intuition”

    So something caused your god? There seems to be no way out of that. Unless you’re merely claiming that your god didn’t have a cause. In which case, it’s special pleading and (as I said in my earlier post) a claim that requires evidence.

    Reply
    1. Elijiah Post author

      NotAScientist,

      All worldviews must have an explanation as to why there is something rather than nothing. This isn’t something that is unique to a religious perspective.

      In metaphysics, there are 2 possible ways that something can exist. There’s a formal name for this, but I can’t remember it off the top of my head… but something can either be metaphysically necessary (meaning it cannot not exist) or metaphysically contingent (it is possible for it to not exist).
      Because it is absurd to say that a past infinite series of prior causes exists (for reasons we can get into if you’d like), there must be something metaphysically necessary. There is no way out of this.
      This means that we both have to say that something exists eternally (metaphysically necessarily).

      So both of our perspectives require a metaphysically necessary… something. The real question is: “What is the most reasonable metaphysically necessary something?”

      At this point, God is an incredibly reasonable answer to that question.
      A metaphysically necessary something is not caused, it is uncaused.
      It is not special pleading to say that God is metaphysically necessary, it is a logical requirement do to the impossibility of an actually infinite number of past events.

      Reply
      1. NotAScientist

        “At this point, God is an incredibly reasonable answer to that question.”

        No. No it is not.

        The universe being eternal is a much more reasonable answer. Some sort of being with, for lack of a better term, magical powers that also cares who you sleep with…is one of the most unreasonable of unreasonable possibilities.

      2. Elijiah Post author

        The universe has been demonstrated, both philosophically and scientifically, to have begun to exist at some point in the past. Approximately 13.7 billion years ago, as per the most up to date dating methods.

        The big bang theory is the most well established scientific theory of cosmological origins right now, NotAScientist. And it is philosophical nonsense to say that the universe is eternal, for reasons explained in the video (and transcript) above.

      3. Philosogetics

        At this point, you are merely interjecting your unsubstantiated opinion. You must show two things according to your assertion:
        1- the evidence we have that shows our universe to be finite is wrong
        2- a proper model of the universe that can withstand the critiques of having an eternal past

        And, by the way, you are throwing around straw man arguments when you say it’s special pleading that God did not have a cause. The first premise of the argument states: whatever BEGINS TO EXIST has a cause. God did not ‘begin to exist’ in the first place so it is a nonsensical argument.

      4. Philosogetics

        Also, I know we are talking about the Kalam here which states the universe had a beginning, but don’t think that the cosmological argument needs the universe to be finite in order to work. Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, and Thomistic versions of the argument do not rest on the fact that the universe is finite. Arguing for a First Cause doesn’t necessarily mean “first” in the way we think about it (first in an order of things extending into the past). The ‘First Cause’ merely shows there must be a fundamental cause of things which keeps them in existence at every moment, whether or not the series of moments extends backwards into the past without a beginning.

  2. NotAScientist

    “The universe has been demonstrated, both philosophically and scientifically, to have begun to exist at some point in the past”

    No. The known universe has been demonstrated to have taken its current form at some point in the past.

    We have no idea if the universe, in one form or another, existed prior to the change of form.

    Your mistake is that you are using a different definition of the word ‘universe’ than science does.

    Reply
    1. Elijiah Post author

      Please define “universe” and I’ll attempt to use the term consistently (if you’re right about my equivocation).

      And to reiterate what Philosogetics has said:
      “At this point, you are merely interjecting your unsubstantiated opinion. You must show two things according to your assertion:
      1- the evidence we have that shows our universe to be finite is wrong
      2- a proper model of the universe that can withstand the critiques of having an eternal past”

      Reply
      1. NotAScientist

        “Please define “universe””

        Everything that could be said to exist is the universe.

        The Big Bang is a barrier to our knowledge. We do not know if anything took place before it, but if something did then we wouldn’t be able to know. At least at this point. Was there another type of space and time? An alternate reality? I don’t know. But whatever might have been there would have to be included in what we call ‘the universe’. Which means, the Big Bang is not the start of the universe. Merely a transition point.

      2. Elijiah Post author

        “We do not know if anything took place before it”
        So you accept the first premise that the universe began to exist. Great.

        “but if something did then we wouldn’t be able to know”
        That’s not necessarily true. Whatever caused the universe MUST be outside of the forces of the universe. So if there was time, it was a different time. If there was space, it was a different space. We can infer the type of cause from what we have in the universe.

        Also, defining the universe as “Everything that could be said to exist”, is begging the question. Unless you’re ok with saying something caused the universe.
        Which is the logical conclusion of this argument.

        If you’re denying the logical conclusion of this argument with an atheistic assertion, then there’s nothing I can do to respond to it.

  3. NotAScientist

    “So you accept the first premise that the universe began to exist. Great.”

    No. “We don’t know” means “we don’t know”. That doesn’t mean your theory is correct. Something existing before the big bang is just as likely as nothing existing before the big bang. So no, the first premise is not agreed to.

    “Whatever caused the universe MUST be outside of the forces of the universe”

    Again, you’re using two different uses of the word ‘universe’. Nothing can be outside the universe, because that outside part is still the universe.

    “If you’re denying the logical conclusion of this argument with an atheistic ”

    The logical conclusion is fine. It’s the premises that are faulty and full of unproven assertions. I can logically show how I’m the Pope and it will be logically valid. But the premises will simply be false. Which is what is happening here.

    Reply
    1. Philosogetics

      Hey mate, am I going to get a response to any of my points?

      Also, it’s a very dishonest way of debating to only respond to a single cherry picked sentence out of a whole paragraph. Please respond to each post as a whole.

      Reply
      1. NotAScientist

        As your posts are full of unsubstantiated claims, like this: ” God did not ‘begin to exist’ “, I see no reason to respond.

        My pet invisible dragon Fergie didn’t begin to exist. So I guess he must have created the universe.

        Prove me wrong.

      2. Philosogetics

        Well, by definition, dragons are material beings so, unfortunately, Fergie cannot be invisible or uncaused. Unless of course you want to violate the utmost basic laws of causation. Dragons also (by definition) do not have causal power to the extent of creating a universe. Dragons (by definition) are also not known to be timeless or spaceless which puts another damper on your theory. So, no your dragon Fergie could not have created the universe.

        On the other hand, God is by definition a being which is uncaused, immaterial, timeless and extremely powerful.

        I’m afraid you don’t actually understand what the cosmological is trying to show. It’s not a direct argument for God, it merely shows us that there MUST BE a necessary “first cause” being that is timeless, spaceless, and extremely powerful which caused the universe into existence. It just so happens the classic definition of God fits that exact description.

  4. NotAScientist

    “On the other hand, God is by definition a being which is uncaused, immaterial, timeless and extremely powerful.”

    You can’t just define something into existence. If you think you can, then I’ll have you meet the uncaused, immaterial, timeless and extremely powerful dragon Fergie.

    “it merely shows us that there MUST BE a necessary “first cause” being”

    It doesn’t. And even if it did, it wouldn’t show that cause was a ‘being’.

    Reply
    1. Philosogetics

      All you just did is replace the definition of God with your dragon Fergie.

      Regarding your point about it not showing it would be a ‘being,’ I ask you what sort of thing fits the definition of being timeless, spaceless, immaterial and extremely powerful? Abstract objects and immaterial minds are the only things we know of. Abstract objects (like numbers) don’t have casual power, therefore, it’s an unembodied mind.

      And, once again you only responded to a couple of short sentences rather then my whole post. If you keep this up I am going to have to retract myself from this conversation.

      Cheers

      Reply
      1. Philosogetics

        I see you neither respect my plead to respond to my full post nor even begin to comprehend what the Kalam Cosmo. argument is actually trying to show. I thought I could perhaps have an intellectually stimulating conversation about this with you to correct your misunderstandings but I have now lost all hope for that.

        Have a good day.

  5. Fanghur Freethinker

    Okay, there is something that we REALLY need to get straight right here and now, and that is this: the natural world does NOT necessarily consist only of time, space and matter. While it is true that these are all that we are capable of directly observing, it does not follow that these are all that compose the natural world; that is a non sequitur fallacy. Yes, modern science does indeed strongly indicate that our universe, that being the space and time that expanded in the Big Bang. But so what?

    When you try to say that a god somehow is responsible for our space and time coming into existence, all that you are in effect saying is that a completely unknown process mediated by an unknown entity who’s nature you cannot even begin to conceive of and which you label ‘God’ resulted in our universe ‘beginning to exist’ as we know it. I’m sure you can appreciate that this is a completely useless argument. I could just as easily say that some completely unknown process of the natural world resulted in our universe spontaneously coming into existence from some previous spaceless and timeless state by mechanisms which are beyond our understanding, and it would have at worst identical explanatory power to the ‘God Hypothesis’.

    So even if the Kalam Argument were valid, and there is no way to prove that it is, as the one thing that has been made abundantly clear since the discovery of relativity and quantum mechanics is that human intuition and common sense more often than not fail utterly at such levels, it wouldn’t matter. Because in neither the theistic or the naturalistic world view did the universe ‘pop into existence’ out of the philosophical ‘absolute nothingness’ that dishonest apologists (and this is not necessarily directed towards you since I don’t know if this is your position or not) always use to straw man a naturalistic universe with.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      Hello Fanghur,

      1. Does the universe contain time, space and matter? Or does it contain more than that? Or possibly less than that?
      Either way, whatever caused the universe must be (because of the way causation works) outside of the universe. So, if the universe contains time, space and matter… the cause must be outside of those things.
      I’m not sure how it is a non-sequitur. If time did not begin at the moment of the big bang, then the cause need not be timeless.

      2. I am not saying “… a completely unknown process mediated by an unknown entity who’s nature you cannot even begin to conceive of and which you label ‘God’ resulted in our universe ‘beginning to exist’ as we know it”
      The KCA says that whatever caused the universe must have certain attributes, necessarily (there’s no way around it).
      The cause of the universe “…must be beyond the spacetime universe. It must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused and unimaginably powerful.”
      So, in essence, this argument isn’t concluding with God as the result. It is concluding with an entity of some kind that has those necessary attributes. God has those necessary attributes, therefore it is more than reasonable to posit God as being the cause of the universe.

      “I could just as easily say that some completely unknown process of the natural world…”
      Actually… you can’t say that. Because if nature is the effect, nature cannot be the cause. Nature cannot cause itself, because nature did not exist in order to have any causal power.

      3.
      “So even if the Kalam Argument were valid…”
      Actually, it is valid. Logically valid, that is. It commits no logical fallacies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Validity#Validity_of_arguments)

      “…in neither the theistic or the naturalistic world view did the universe ‘pop into existence’ out of the philosophical ‘absolute nothingness’…”
      Are you making a distinction between ‘philosophical absolute nothingness’ and some other kind of nothingness? I can assure you that if something exists (like a quantum vacuum, for example) it is not ‘absolute nothingness’… because something exists.

      Thanks for your comment, by the way.

      Reply
      1. Fanghur Freethinker

        “Either way, whatever caused the universe must be (because of the way causation works) outside of the universe. So, if the universe contains time, space and matter… the cause must be outside of those things.”

        You worded this poorly. It would have to have existed outside THIS space, time and matter, but it does not follow necessarily that it would have to been entirely aspatial, atemporal and immaterial. And in fact, I don’t have the first clue what that would even mean, if anything.

        “If time did not begin at the moment of the big bang, then the cause need not be timeless.”

        THIS timeline began at the Big Bang, but we have absolutely no idea what, if anything, the state of existence was that causally preceded our own, only that there logically must have been one.

        “The KCA says that whatever caused the universe must have certain attributes, necessarily (there’s no way around it).”

        Of course, that is simply the Law of Identity, everything necessarily has a nature and is not what it is not.

        “The cause of the universe “…must be beyond the spacetime universe. It must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused and unimaginably powerful.”

        First of all, it does not follow that it must be ‘immensely powerful’. Big things have small beginnings, to quote Ridley Scott. And if Lawrence Krauss is correct, and I have no particular reason to dismiss his work outright and neither does the scientific community as a whole, our universe had extremely simple beginnings, so simple in fact that he has chosen to dub the ground state of existence which he believes causally preceded our universe “not nothing, but ‘nothing’.” So I do not accept that the inference drawn from Kalam is necessarily true, especially the part about it needing to be personal, which Krauss has soundly debunked with his work.

        “Actually… you can’t say that. Because if nature is the effect, nature cannot be the cause. Nature cannot cause itself, because nature did not exist in order to have any causal power.”

        Okay, you are now using extremely vague terminology. If what you mean by ‘universe’ is simply the region of space time which expanded at the Big Bang then this question is a non-issue for a metaphysical naturalist such as myself. If however what you mean is the sum-total of absolutely everything in existence, then to a metaphysical naturalist, asking what caused the natural world to exist is absolutely meaningless and incoherent, as the natural world by definition would encompass every state of affairs that has ever been in all possible senses. And it is not at all incoherent to say that one aspect of the natural world (say, Krauss’ ground state of existence) caused a second aspect of the natural world (our particular bubble of expanding space-time) to ‘begin to exist’, or rather to causally precede it.

        This video completely debunks the notion that you just stated.

        And yes, I reject the notion of there ‘ever’ being absolute nothingness. Whether we live in a theistic/deistic or a naturalistic universe. Creatio ex Nihilo is a figment of Christians’ imaginations.

      2. ElijiahT Post author

        I don’t think I worded it poorly, I just didn’t flesh out all the details. But hey, my job is to communicate things properly, so I’ll do better next time 😛

        You’re right. The cause doesn’t necessarily have to be timeless, spaceless or immaterial. The cause does, however, have to be outside of the time/space/matter realm *as we know it*. It could have been in a different temporal, spatial or material realm, one that is completely different than the one we currently experience.

        No matter how you slice it, whatever it was that caused the entire universe to come into existence must have had adequate power to do so. If you want to deny that it was impressively powerful, that’s fine. The amount of doesn’t have to impress a particular person… it just has to be powerful enough to have caused the universe to come into existence from whatever state was before it.

        If you don’t think the cause needs to be personal, I’d love to know why. I don’t know how Krauss has ‘soundly debunked’ that idea, so I’d be grateful if you could inform me.
        The cause has to be personal because of the way that causality works. If an impersonal cause exists, then its effect will exist as long as the cause exists. Impersonal causes cannot exist without their effect. However, a personal cause can exist before its effect because it can choose to bring that effect into existence. This is exactly what we see when it comes to the universe. If the cause of the universe were impersonal, then it would not have just begun at a particular point in time. The universe would have existed as long as the cause existed.

        I’m not trying to use vague terminology. If X began, X cannot be the cause of X’s existence, because that would require that X exists before X existed, which is absurd.
        I’m not sure how you can say that self-causation is a non-issue for anyone, even metaphysical naturalists. You seem to be suggesting that because you’re a metaphysical naturalist, you don’t need to question the origin of the universe. On your view… nature metaphysically necessary or something?

        You said, “…the natural world by definition would encompass every state of affairs that has ever been in all possible senses.”

        According to this statement, you are either (1) begging the question in every possible way or (2) suggesting that the cause of nature would be a part of nature, which cannot happen.
        Hopefully you have a third option, because those two positions aren’t exactly tenable.

        “I reject the notion of there ‘ever’ being absolute nothingness”
        I’d expect that from a metaphysical naturalist. After all, if there was a time where there was absolutely nothing, there would be a creation event… and you can’t have that.
        So, to ask the question again, do you believe that the natural world is metaphysically necessary? Eternally existent, if you will?

      3. ElijiahT Post author

        I guess I’m ultimately confused at the larger point.
        If you trace space and time back, you will eventually hit a boundary where space, time and matter cease to exist as we know it. All of the scientific evidence supports this.

        If you look at all of the philosophical evidence, it is impossible for there to have been an infinite regress of prior events. We cannot traverse an actual infinite, but we must have traversed this infinite if (1) today exists and (2) the natural world has existed eternally.

        There doesn’t seem to be any way around affirming an absolute beginning, both scientifically and philosophically. And this would require either a rejection of modern cosmology and philosophy or a radically new model that provides a better explanation than all of the data that we have, currently.

  6. Fanghur Freethinker

    I don’t have time to give a complete answer to this right now, but I can clearly tell based on what you said that you didn’t bother to watch the video, as if you had you would know precisely why most of what you said was fallacious. Watch the video. I’ll give a full reply when I have time.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      I did watch the video.
      Here are some criticisms:

      “where did the universe come from” is not a meaningless question. The universe has an explanation of its existence… what is that explanation? Was it caused by some external cause or does it exist by necessity of its own nature?

      Saying “I don’t know” is fine, but in the face of a perfectly reasonable explanation, resorting to “I don’t know” in order to avoid the conclusion isn’t exactly a virtue.

      The idea that an apple committed a murder is absolutely nothing like saying God created the universe. The fact that this dude compared the two shows that he’s not interested in an actual discussion; he just wants to make crappy analogies in order to dismiss cosmological arguments.
      I love when he says, “Divine beings have not been demonstrated to exist”, because that is begging the question, pure and simple. Cosmological arguments are designed to show that God exists, and he dismisses them because God has not been demonstrated to exist. Seriously?
      And when he talks about attributing properties to an entity that hasn’t been demonstrated to exist, he’s not following the logic of the arguments. Based on the fact that the universe began, we know that it is contingent. Based on how causality works, we can conclude what attributes must have caused the universe, minimally. Because matter began to exist, the cause must not be matter itself. However, we cannot deduce anything about the cause’s moral nature based on a cosmological argument. This is just simple logic.

      And then he dives into the conversational brick-wall of ignosticism.
      Do you want me to keep going?

      Reply
  7. Fanghur Freethinker

    “The cause does, however, have to be outside of the time/space/matter realm *as we know it*. It could have been in a different temporal, spatial or material realm, one that is completely different than the one we currently experience.”

    I don’t know if that is necessarily true or not, but for the sake of argument I will grant the possibility. That doesn’t help your case at all, though, as the natural world does not necessarily consist solely of our region of space-time, or even of space, time and matter alone.

    “No matter how you slice it, whatever it was that caused the entire universe to come into existence must have had adequate power to do so. If you want to deny that it was impressively powerful, that’s fine. The amount of doesn’t have to impress a particular person… it just has to be powerful enough to have caused the universe to come into existence from whatever state was before it.”

    Let’s simply say that IF the universe did have a beginning, whatever causally preceded it, whatever that might have been, must have been capable of giving rise to our universe; but then again that is nothing more than an obvious tautology. ‘Powerful’ is a misleading term in this situation and it borders on begging the question, as the first state of existence in a theistic worldview is defined as being powerful, while in a naturalistic worldview this is not necessarily the case or even a meaningful description.

    “If you don’t think the cause needs to be personal, I’d love to know why. I don’t know how Krauss has ‘soundly debunked’ that idea, so I’d be grateful if you could inform me.”

    Read his book ‘A Universe From Nothing’. If the ground state of existence (i.e. The original state of existence is an unstable state of ‘nothingness’ as Krauss wittily calls it, or a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, non-personal state of existence which is inherently unstable and will inevitably undergo a phase shift to give rise to space, time and matter, which the mathematics does support based on our current understanding of the natural world. The recent revelation that the total energy of our universe is most likely exactly 0, with the positive energy of matter being precisely balanced by the negative energy of gravity, it is plausible that our universe could indeed have originated out of nothing, or rather ‘nothing’. Not nothing but ‘nothing’. 😉

    “The cause has to be personal because of the way that causality works. If an impersonal cause exists, then its effect will exist as long as the cause exists. Impersonal causes cannot exist without their effect. However, a personal cause can exist before its effect because it can choose to bring that effect into existence. This is exactly what we see when it comes to the universe. If the cause of the universe were impersonal, then it would not have just begun at a particular point in time. The universe would have existed as long as the cause existed.”

    That is not REMOTELY the way causality works. Is the single snowflake that is responsible for triggering an avalanche and thus can be said to be the ‘causal agent’ of the avalanche a personal cause? Of course not. It is an impersonal cause, and yes, if it didn’t exist then no avalanche would have occurred that was triggered by it. What’s your point? The very notion of a personal cause existing atemporally, aspatially and immaterially and yet still being capable of not only thought but also actions, foreknowledge and intent is completely incoherent, as all of those things are by their very nature temporal processes. Lawrence Krauss’ “not nothing but ‘nothing'” is the perfect example of how the ’cause’ of the universe could be an impersonal one. Again, I suggest you read his book and also to consider that the overwhelming majority of the world’s most brilliant cosmologists also happen to be at worst atheists, at best some kind of pseudo-deists or pantheists.

    “I’m not trying to use vague terminology. If X began, X cannot be the cause of X’s existence, because that would require that X exists before X existed, which is absurd.”

    And if by X you mean the natural world in its entirety, meaning not simply our universe, and not merely space, time and matter/energy, but the sum-total of every natural entity and the natural world as a whole, then I do NOT believe that X did begin to exist; I believe that X is eternal. The fact that our expanding region of space-time demonstrably has a beginning does NOT mean that the natural world in its entirety also has to have a beginning. And you can’t argue against that because you believe that very same thing about god.

    “I’m not sure how you can say that self-causation is a non-issue for anyone, even metaphysical naturalists. You seem to be suggesting that because you’re a metaphysical naturalist, you don’t need to question the origin of the universe. On your view… nature metaphysically necessary or something?”

    Because self-causation does not occur in the metaphysical naturalistic worldview, any more than a Christian will argue that Yahweh caused itself to exist. The Christian says that god simply has always existed, the naturalist says that the natural world (not to be confused with our expanding region of space-time) has always existed in some form. In my view, everything that exists, not excluding a deity if one existed, would be definition be part of the natural world, as to me ‘supernatural’ is a completely meaningless term and a necessary case of the argument from ignorance fallacy, as since there by definition can be no direct evidence of the supernatural, there is no point in even discussing it. If you can show it, you don’t know it,

    “According to this statement, you are either (1) begging the question in every possible way or (2) suggesting that the cause of nature would be a part of nature, which cannot happen.”

    Accepting the null hypothesis (naturalism, since we KNOW that the natural world exists and have absolutely no evidence of anything existing ‘outside’ of it, or even what that would mean) is NOT begging the question. If you want to argue that something other than the natural world exists, the onus is on you to provide evidence for it. So far, in all of history theists have done nothing but put forth completely unfalsifiable assertions, and if they are unfalsifiable then they are also unverifiable, and thus useless conjecture. And as I said previously, I do not believe that nature has a cause, not in the sense you are talking about. Watch the video.

    “I’d expect that from a metaphysical naturalist. After all, if there was a time where there was absolutely nothing, there would be a creation event… and you can’t have that.”

    There was never absolute non-existence in the Christian/theistic world view either, as you believe that ‘god’ has always existed and the universe arose from or out of god by some completely unknown mechanism. So you are actually being disingenuous here, since you are in the exact same position as I am, with the only difference being that you ascribe intelligence and various other properties, most of which are completely ludicrous in the case of the Christian god (caring about who we fall in love with, for example), to the state of existence causally preceding our universe, whereas I am perfectly comfortable in saying ‘I don’t know, but see no reason to ascribe any personality to it’.

    “If you look at all of the philosophical evidence, it is impossible for there to have been an infinite regress of prior events. We cannot traverse an actual infinite, but we must have traversed this infinite if (1) today exists and (2) the natural world has existed eternally.”

    And it is impossible to walk from one location to another location because to do so one would have to traverse an infinite number of points in between those two locations. The “actual infinite” argument is nothing more than an appeal to Zeno’s Paradox, and a false dichotomy as well. Again, watch the video. And at any rate, the one thing that modern physics has taught us is that human intuition very rarely is concordant with how reality is, especially in the fields of quantum mechanics and cosmology. Just because infinities are completely counter-intuitive is not an argument against them any more than appealing to Newton’s laws of motion, which are intuitive, refutes the entirely counter-intuitive reality of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity at relativistic speeds.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      I want to try to make this response as concise as possible… so if I skip over something that you’d like to address further, feel free to bring it up again. I’m going to address the most pertinent points.

      Matter as we know it began to exist at the big bang, correct?
      Then how could the cause be contingent upon the existence of matter as we know it?
      Something creating itself? That’s nonsense.
      Same goes for time and space.

      I see what you mean about the adjective ‘powerful’. The only reason I use that is to show the difference between other immaterial entities (like numbers, for example) and whatever caused the universe. It must have power of some kind. Numbers do not have “power” to do anything.

      I plan on reading Krauss’ book… although I have listened to lectures/debates/discussions with him where he doesn’t seem interested in defining ‘nothing’ in the normal sense. His primary goal seems to be to affirm the idea that the universe came from *something*, but he also wants to stick with the word *nothing*, for no reason whatsoever.
      Krauss’ nothing is not nothing. Its something. When he says “nothing is unstable”, that is nonsense. Nothing does not have properties; nothing cannot be unstable. Nothing is not-anything.
      It’s rather sad that this entire discussion has devolved into nothing more than an equivocation.

      My point about causality is pretty simple.
      If a cause is eternally existent, then the cause and the effect will exist eternally. The cause of the universe (or multiverse) must be eternally existent (metaphysically necessary). The only type of eternally existent cause to be able to cause something to BEGIN to exist (as opposed to existing eternally with the eternally existent cause) is something that is able to make a decision. Hence; the cause must be personal.
      The snowflake is not eternally existent. Which is why that example fails.

      Keep this in mind when you say that the natural world is eternally existent. If the impersonal natural world is eternally existent and it caused something to happen… how did it do that? Did the natural world cause the universe to exist? And if so, how did an impersonal, eternally existent thing cause something contingent to exist? If it existed eternally, why isn’t the universe that it caused to exist eternally existent as well?

      “Accepting the null hypothesis (naturalism, since we KNOW that the natural world exists and have absolutely no evidence of anything existing ‘outside’ of it, or even what that would mean) is NOT begging the question. If you want to argue that something other than the natural world exists, the onus is on you to provide evidence for it”

      You don’t see how this is begging the question?
      I’m giving an argument for the existence of something outside of the natural world, and you are essentially saying ‘no, the argument doesn’t work because nothing you have to argue for the existence of something outside of the natural world’.
      You’re denying the argument by just asserting atheism.

      And lastly, a geometrical point is not an actual object. It’s just a location in space. So when we walk from X to Y, we’re not actually traversing an infinite number of anything real. We’re even traversing a finite number of quantum particle spaces. So to appeal to the ‘infinite number of points’ is not to appeal to anything real.
      It’s a position in space, not anything that has any dimensions.

      Reply
  8. Henry K

    “You said, “…the natural world by definition would encompass every state of affairs that has ever been in all possible senses.”

    According to this statement, you are either (1) begging the question in every possible way or (2) suggesting that the cause of nature would be a part of nature, which cannot happen.”

    “Accepting the null hypothesis (naturalism, since we KNOW that the natural world exists and have absolutely no evidence of anything existing ‘outside’ of it, or even what that would mean) is NOT begging the question. If you want to argue that something other than the natural world exists, the onus is on you to provide evidence for it. So far, in all of history theists have done nothing but put forth completely unfalsifiable assertions, and if they are unfalsifiable then they are also unverifiable, and thus useless conjecture. And as I said previously, I do not believe that nature has a cause, not in the sense you are talking about. ”

    “You don’t see how this is begging the question?
    I’m giving an argument for the existence of something outside of the natural world, and you are essentially saying ‘no, the argument doesn’t work because nothing you have to argue for the existence of something outside of the natural world’.
    You’re denying the argument by just asserting atheism.”
    ————————————————————————-
    An argument is simply an argument but it is not evidence. The argument must also stand up to scrutiny. We establish hypotheses as arguments in science but then we test them.
    It appears that he was not saying “the argument doesn’t work because nothing you have to argue for the existence of something outside of the natural world”
    He said “If you want to argue that something other than the natural world exists, the onus is on you to provide evidence for it.” essentially prove it or show me evidence to sway from the default position.
    Then he says that your arguments are “unfalsifiable assertions” and “thus useless conjecture” essentially saying if you don’t have evidence all you have are words without backing.
    This is not a “because” relationship like you state.
    More of a “You have nothing to argue for the existence of something outside of the natural world because your argument doesn’t work and you aren’t providing evidence”
    Stating it the wrong way will make you think its BTQ – reversing the reasons for conclusion and the conclusion for the reasons.

    Lacking belief in existence until evidence is provided is asserting atheism?
    Seems more like atheism in this case is the default position. A default position does not usually just get asserted but established usually pragmatically. Occam’s razor for example is pragmatic. The simplest explanation until you have more evidence to back up a less likely explanation.

    Does waiting for proof for any statement make one beg the question?
    Does skepticism of a claim mean ones begs the question?
    Does choosing pragmatically until provided evidence contrary to current pragmatism make one biased and beg the question?

    I don’t think so.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      //“An argument is simply an argument but it is not evidence.”//
      You, my friend, should really reconsider what you consider to be evidence. Here! I’ve written something on that and have yet to get anything but “nuh-uh” in response.
      Maybe you can do better.
      A valid and sound argument is, in fact, evidence for the conclusion.
      https://hashtagapologetics.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/arguments-and-evidence-should-an-argument-be-considered-evidence/

      //“The argument must also stand up to scrutiny.”//
      Scrutinize away, then. Go for it.
      The kalam has stood up to all of the scrutiny I’ve given it and heard of.

      Then he says that your arguments are “unfalsifiable assertions” and “thus useless conjecture” essentially saying if you don’t have evidence all you have are words without backing.

      Words without backing?
      I could give a stupid “I know you are but what am I?” response (because that statement is likely self-defeating), but I’ll leave you to answering that question yourself by reading my post on arguments and evidence.

      Also… I honestly have no idea how someone can just appeal to this idea that atheism is this mysterious “default position”. What if I said that theism is the default position?
      Especially in light of the fact that I have presented reasons for belief in God, the proper response is not to appeal to a default position, but to interact with the arguments themselves.

      None of those things are examples of begging the question. However, in context of what you’re referring to, he could have been begging the question. Fanghur said that “the natural world by definition would encompass every state of affairs that has ever been in all possible senses.”
      This was supposed to have been a response to the Kalam; an argument for the existence of God. If your only response to a logical conclusion is to deny the conclusion, then what else are you doing but begging the question?

      The argument is for the existence of the supernatural.
      The argument itself is evidence for the supernatural.
      He just denied the conclusion by saying there is no evidence for the supernatural. Begging the question is when you assume the conclusion. This is begging the question.

      Reply
  9. Mark Jones

    Perhaps I am being stupid, but if scientific evidence and our own experiences is that things do not come into existence, then this does not prove that things do not come into existence without a cause, it proves that things do not come into existence at all.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      I’m not sure how you can say that “scientific evidence and our own experiences” confirms “that things do not come into existence”.

      Everything that I’ve ever experienced has, at one point in the past, not existed. And that particular thing went from non-existence to existence.

      Reply
      1. Mark Jones

        Hello ElijahT. Thank you for your reply.

        I take your point about everything you have experienced having not existed at some time, I have the same experience as you do, but surely this is a different point to the one being made in the Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Argument is about things popping into existence. Surely nothing that you have experienced popped into existence.

        To answer your question, I am not stating that things do not come into existence, the Kalam Cosmological Argument posted above is. Though I admit that I find it persuasive. We do not see things coming into existence.

        The point I made is about Dr Craig’s conclusion that things do not come into existence without a cause is not supported, as the the evidence he refers to shows that things do not come into existence period.

      2. ElijiahT Post author

        The argument doesn’t necessarily entail the universe “popping into existence”, it just entails that it “began to exist”. But I think that’s just being nit-picky about terminology.

        “I am not stating that things do not come into existence, the Kalam Cosmological Argument posted above is”
        I don’t know how you can say this. The 2nd premise is “the universe began to exist”… so the argument is not “stating that things do not come into existence”.

        If you have an example of something coming into existence without a cause, feel free to show me this example. However, until we actually have an example of something coming into existence without a cause… it is considerably more reasonable to embrace P1 of the Kalam than to reject it.

      3. Mark Jones

        Hi Elijiah T, thanks for the response. Two good points, but I do not think I agree with either.
        I can state that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is about things popping into existence because this is the phrase Dr Craig uses, and a little later he makes it clear that he is referring to things beginning to exist from nothing.
        I do not have an example of something coming into existence from nothing without a cause. I accept that we do not see things coming into existence from nothing without a cause, but my point is that we do not see things come into existence from nothing with a cause either. We do not see things come into existence from nothing, period. The reason why I am not convinced by P1 is that it implies that things can come into existence from nothing, when the argument begins with evidence that this does not happen. Does that make sense?

      4. ElijiahT Post author

        I know its strange to talk about the existence or non-existence of nothing, but when there is something… there is not nothing. And given that the universe exists, that means there is something; not nothing.

        Because we’re physical beings in the universe, we cannot directly experience nothingness. So, we have to infer certain things based on our experience. Have we ever experienced anything coming into existence out of nothing? No. But we can infer this from the evidence.
        Given that the BBT implies a time at which there was no space, and given that no things can fit in no-space, it seems reasonable to believe that there was a point at which there was nothing (even though stating that makes it sound like nothing is something… it is not).

        Have we ever experienced anything coming into existence without a cause? No. And we have no reason to think this is the case.

        So this is what we have.
        There was a time at which there was no things in existence (a conclusion based on the evidence).
        Anything that comes INTO existence always has a cause (also a conclusion based on the evidence).
        The fact that something currently exists, rather than nothing (a conclusion based on the evidence).
        These facts together, plus a logical inference, imply that the universe has a cause; and that cause was able to bring the universe into existence out of non-being.

      5. Mark Jones

        Dear ElijiahT
        The argument you put forward still seems to me to be wrong for the reasons I gave earlier. The Big Bang Theory does not state that there was once nothing in existence, it states that the Universe was once in an extremely small point which is not the same thing. Also, the fact that we have never seen anything come into existence from nothing without a cause is not proof that something can come into existence from nothing with a cause as this has never been seen either. The only part of your argument that is correct is that something exists now.

      6. ElijiahT Post author

        Are you just flat-out denying that there was a time where the universe did not exist?
        That maybe the universe never actually *began to exist*?

        Because that would entail that the universe has existed eternally. And that comes with a lot of problems, scientifically and philosophically.

      7. Mark Jones

        Dear ElijiahT,
        I am not going so far as to deny that the Universe cannot have not have existed in the past and state that the Universe must have been eternal. An assertion that substantial would be for a separate post. Maybe later?
        However, I am questioning that the evidence that Dr Craig puts forward does actually support the truth of Second Premise that the Universe came into existence from nothing. The Big Bang Theory does not state that the Universe came into being from nothing as Dr Craig implies and which you repeated in your last post; it states that the Universe was condensed in an extremely hot, dense, small point. This is hardly beyond comprehension as Dr Craig states. It is actually rather easy to understand, which is surely one of the reasons the Big Bang Theory is considered so elegant.
        I take your point about an eternal universe being problematic, but this is not an answer to my question that Dr Craig puts forwards science that does not support the premise that the Universe came into being from nothing.

  10. Mark Jones

    “This empirical evidence confirmed … that the universe … sprang into being from a single point in the finite past.”
    I am fairly sure that the Big Bang Theory is that billions of years ago all the material in the Universe was contained in a single extremely dense high temperature point, not that it sprang into being. That is is different statement entirely.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      You seem to be suggesting that there was something at that point (the ‘singularity’), are you not? Something that has the characteristics of being extremely dense and extremely hot?

      If we extrapolate backwards, there becomes a point where there is no more space.
      How much stuff can you fit into no space?

      Reply
      1. Mark Jones

        Hello again ElijahT.

        I am not suggesting that there was something at the point of singularity. As for your question, how much stuff can we fit into no space, I do not know the answer.

        I am questioning Dr Craig’s assertion that the Big Bang Theory demonstrates that the Universe sprang into being. This statement seems to me to be misleading because the Big Bang Theory, as I understand it, is that all of the matter and energy of the Universe were contained in an extremely dense, extremely hot, extremely small point. There is no mention in the Big Bang Theory of the Universe springing into being.

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