Tag Archive | "Kalam Cosmological Argument"

The Eternal Universe

Let’s get back to basics. The following is a case against a cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Intelligent (not “folk”) Christians will repeatedly tell you that faith and reason are both used in their theologies. Unlike the laity and the unwashed masses, they don’t rely completely on faith, or belief without evidence. Indeed, the Christian religion in its many forms has a long history of logical attempts, from Aquinas to Calvin, at trying to prove the existence of God and the plausibility of their doctrines. This is perhaps due to the fact that certain intellectuals in each tradition simply cannot reconcile their rationality with their religion’s doctrines.

Through tireless philosophical refinement of initially primitive and unimpressive doctrines such as the Genesis myth, we get sophisticated logical arguments such as Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways. Seeing these attempts at logical proof, though, I am personally baffled by the intelligent theist’s recourse to faith. If God is provable through reason, of what use is faith? If faith is sufficient, why use imperfect human reason?

Philosophical arguments for God take various forms, such as the cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments. There are, of course, many criticisms against most, if not all, of these. The cosmological (first cause) and teleological (purposeful design) arguments are empirical arguments, taking the world as it is and reasoning that there must have been a Creator.

One of the most interesting of these arguments, for me, is the Kalam cosmological argument. Unlike most arguments for God, it intends to at least be scientific in its attempt at proving that a personal God exists. Through its most vocal proponent, theologian William Lane Craig, the Kalam is used to argue that the universe must have had a cause. Formally stated, the Kalam appears as such:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) The universe has a cause.


Everything that begins to exist has a cause

Premise (1) asserts that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This statement evades criticisms such as those that Bertrand Russell put forward against Aquinas such as, “Who made God?” Since the Kalam argument states that everything that begins to exist has a cause, God, who is eternal and never began to exist, does not have a cause.

Physicists such as Victor Stenger have argued that not everything that begins to exist has a cause. When an electron increases in energy to an excited state and returns to its ground state, a photon appears. This appearance of the photon occurs spontaneously and is not a deterministic consequence. That is to say, in Stenger’s words, it is “without cause.” The same is true for the radioactive decay of the atomic nucleus. We can know the probability of decay but it is impossible to say exactly when the decay will occur.


Atomic nucleus decaying an alpha particle (helium nucleus)

William Lane Craig readily counters this by saying that that is not true causeless existence since nature, which God presumably made, is necessary for such events. However, Craig must now accept that probabilistic causes, if they are “causes” at all, are possible mechanisms for the beginning of the universe. This severely weakens the notion that a personal God predetermined the moment of creation with a purpose.

However, even accepting Premise (1) as true, we can move forward and still see that the Kalam argument ultimately fails in its misuse of time.


The universe began to exist

The discovery of the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe was very popular among theists. The Big Bang, they suggest, is proof positive that the universe began to exist. When Georges Lemaître first proposed the model, Pope Pius XII saw this as scientific evidence for creation, “it seems that science of today, by going back in one leap millions of centuries, has succeeded in being witness to that primordial Fiat Lux when, out of nothing, there burst forth with matter a sea of light and radiation, while the particles of chemical elements split and reunited in millions of galaxies.”


Timeline of the universe

Theologians and apologists such as Craig and Dinesh D’Souza find that since the universe as we know it began 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang, then the universe began to exist and it had a cause for its existence. Craig, in the Islamic tradition of the Kalam, suggests that since the universe began to exist 13.7 billion years ago, then there must have been a “particularizer” to decide to begin the universe at that moment and not a moment before. And since this particularizer has the capability to decide and distinguish between moments, then this must be a personal kind of God with a mind analogous to ours (therefore not the deist’s God).

Remember, though, that Craig can no longer require this decision to create the universe to be particularized by a personal God since he must allow that probabilistic causes are possible causes for the universe. The mechanical circumstances necessary for atomic decay are all already in place, even though the effect of a decayed nucleus is delayed. The nucleus could decay in 2 seconds, it could decay in 100 billion years. This defeats the necessity of a personal God deciding to create the universe 13.7 billion years ago and not 12 or 20.

As James Still has seen, Craig’s view of time results in severe problems for the Kalam. It seems that in his view, time exists not in the physicists’ definition of time. Physicists use time in the relational view, where time exists relative to bodies in motion, like ticking clocks. This is integral to Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity, where the experience of time changes depending on velocity and the presence of mass. This effect has been confirmed and global positioning systems would fail without the corrections predicted by relativity. More importantly, general relativity shows that, if the universe did begin to exist, time itself began along with space, energy, and matter.

It makes no sense in the relational view of time to suggest that the universe could have had begun a moment before since there were no moments “before” the Big Bang, which is when time started ticking. Therefore, Craig seems to see time as absolute in his metaphysics. Personally, his view makes no sense to me. Perhaps he believes that events can be absolutely simultaneous regardless of frame of reference, which goes against special relativity. At the very least, we know that Craig clearly does not mean “time” in the way it is used by scientists.

It has been suggested that it is possible that the universe has simply always existed—a “brute fact,” in Russell’s words. This would remove any need for a creator since the universe did not “begin to exist.” However, Craig counters this by supporting Premise (2) with the following argument:

(4) An actual infinite cannot exist.
(5) An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
(6) Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

Through this argument, Craig contends that it is impossible for the universe to have always existed since this would require an infinite temporal regress of events. Craig uses the example of Hilbert’s Grand Hotel to show that an actually real infinite would lead to absurdities.

Briefly, David Hilbert’s paradox of the grand hotel shows that if you have a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, it can accommodate an infinite number of guests. It should then be full after checking in an infinite number of guests. But, if another infinite number of guests should wish to stay in the hotel, one would only need to move the first set of guests to odd numbered rooms and the second group into even numbered rooms. You have now accommodated another infinite number of people in a supposedly full hotel. Craig argues that since this is a counter-intuitive result, then an actual infinite must be impossible.

It is important to note, however, that counter-intuitive results show up in science all the time. The greatest example of this is the discovery of wave-particle duality. A particle can be at many places at the same time. A particle can have many states at the same time. It is therefore not true that counter-intuitive results are necessarily impossible. However, we need not reject Craig’s use of Hilbert’s Hotel to see that Premise (2) in the Kalam is problematic.

Contrary to how Craig views the Big Bang model, the standard model of cosmology does not necessarily see the universe as beginning from a single infinitely dense point—a singularity. This prediction that the universe began as a singularity, via the Penrose-Hawking theorems, was because the Big Bang was erroneously viewed purely through the lens of General Relativity. Both Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking would later revise their position. Taking into account the physics of quantum mechanics, which would dominate at the extremely small scales of the earliest moments of the Big Bang, Hawking says, “There was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe.”


Imaginary time can be described as time as if it were like a dimension of space.

It is completely possible, as Hawking suggests in A Brief History of Time, that the universe has no boundary in time. This means that t = 0 (where t = time) is merely in the middle of a continuous line of imaginary time (a concept necessary to describe quantum tunneling), like how the South Pole is not the end of the Earth, but just another point along the longitudes. Trace the longitude going through the poles of the Earth and you get a finite but unbounded geometry—a great circle; the same could be true for four dimensional space-time. It therefore stands to reason that time need not have a beginning, as a singularity would suggest.

In quantum tunneling, a particle can break through a potential energy barrier even if it has less than the energy necessary to overcome the barrier. The very much real physics of the particle when inside the barrier can be described using complex, or imaginary, time.


In any case, singularity or no singularity, the scientific relational view of time avoids the problem of an infinite addition of events leading up to today because, although the age of the universe is finite, it is also true that the universe is eternal and has always existed. There has never been a time when there was no universe.


The universe has a cause

Craig asserts through an absolute view of time that actual infinities cannot exist. This would also apply to God. God cannot have existed through an actual infinite addition of events going back to nowhere. To get around this, theologians can assert that God is eternal not in the infinite number of events sense but because he is timeless. Unfortunately for the theist, since God is timeless, there would also never have been a time when God did not create the universe. The eternal universe would also be timeless in the same sense.

If Craig is to retain his absolute view of time, he must also reject the impossible timelessness of God. God must have begun to exist and himself have a cause. We can repeat Bertrand Russell’s challenge, “Who made God?” If Craig is to accept the physicists’ relational view of time, he must also accept that the universe is “eternal” in the same sense that God is eternal. Premise (2) fails and God is then an unnecessary explanation for the universe’s existence.

As Paul Draper notes, another problem with the Kalam cosmological argument is that it equivocates two senses of the phrase “begin to exist.” The strength of the Kalam cosmological argument is that it purports to be a proof of God from the evidence. It uses inductive reasoning to show that since everything begins to exist from causes, then the universe must also have begun to exist from a cause. However, the things we see to begin to exist begin in time. The universe, if it began to exist, began with time 13.7 billion years ago. We have no experience, no valid intuition, of things, let alone universes, beginning with time. Craig therefore commits the fallacy of equivocation in reasoning from the example of ordinary objects that the universe must also have a cause. Even if we accept Premises (1) and (2), the conclusion of the Kalam cosmological argument remains invalid. The eternal universe remains a brute fact.



The Kalam cosmological argument was a very strong case for the existence of not just a supernatural creator, but a personal one with a mind and thoughts. Because of the supposed impossibility of infinities in the real world, there is indeed a real problem for the naturalistic existence of the universe.

All of these arguments, however, have been fatally challenged by what we know today about the universe. The necessity of a personal creator is refuted by the existence of natural mechanisms for probabilistic causes. This means that naturalistic causes need not have their effects occur immediately after. The eternity of the universe is also supported by the dependence of time on space. In other words, without the universe, there was no time. Without time outside the universe, there was never a time without a universe. Hence, the universe has always existed and a creator is unnecessary to explain its existence.

It was perhaps impossible to have been an intellectually satisfied atheist until the discovery of relativity and quantum mechanics. The refutation of the Kalam heavily depends on the evidence that supports these theories. This did not have to be how nature is. As we learn more about the peculiarities of the universe, the God-shaped hole at the end of the universe is all but plugged.


All images are public domain except image on quantum tunneling by Jean-Christoph Benoist. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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Is this Necessary?

When we talk about any form of cosmological argument whether it’s from Thomas Aquinas or something as sophisticated as Dr. Craig’s Kalam Argument, the issue about “necessary” will always enter the picture.
So let us just talk about what most theists meant when they use the word “necessary.”

A Brute Fact?
I’ve notice that whenever God believers talk about the cosmological argument they always start the conversation that God as a necessary Being is a brute fact. That prompts Prof. Richard Dawkins to say, “They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress” (The God Delusion, p 101). That means before everything else, I have to accept the fact that God exist.

Getting a little bit technical, that means God is a necessary truth – if you conceive of it as false, you’ll end up contradicting yourself, because its truth is built right into the concept that composed it. To know that it is true, you don’t have to know anything but the meaning of those concepts; you don’t have to know any other facts about the world. So it is either God exist or the whole universe is unexplainable. This has something to do with the Principle of Sufficient Reason. According to this principle, nothing can exist without a sufficient reason for its existence.

This is an advance form of Anselm’s ontological argument. According to Norman Malcolm what we have to accept in talking about God is the following: (1) Either God’s existence is logically impossible or (2) it is logically necessary for God to exist. But we can’t select the first option since God is the greatest conceivable being we can think of. For God not to exist is a defect which contradicts the concept of God’s very nature. (Not a very good selection to choose eh?) So when we apply the Principle of Sufficient Reason, then VIOLA! God exist!

And what is the “sufficient reason?”

Bertrand Russell explained that the contingency argument rest on a misconception of what an explanation is and does and singularity on what it is that makes phenomena “intelligible.”

Suppose we have been asked to explain why Benigno Aquino III won the 2010 election. Do we have to look for his genealogy or to go back to Prehistoric Philippines to answer this? We can always answer things like his popularity on his rivals or the fact that because of his famous mom and dad, he became too popular to most Filipino voters. We can think of different reasons (causes and effects) but what matter is that we understand the reason. As stated by Russell, in order to explain a phenomenon or to make it intelligible, we don’t need to posit a necessary being.

God believers says that the Principle of Sufficient Reason can’t be wrong since it has been a part of the scientific worldview for a long time in the sense that scientists are committed not only in figuring out the way the world is but also the reason why it is that way. That’s true…but science is controlled by rules of discourse. In science necessarily entails objectivity whose propositions are constructed from data.

Going back on the issue, the facts of the matter in the issue of “necessary” is that there really aren’t any established reason to say that the existence of anything (including God) as necessary. Can you tell me one?

Necessary truths are not established on the basis of sense-experience. They are either intuitively analytic or deduced from intuitively acceptable premises. Logical and mathematical truths are generally regarded as the paradigms of necessary truths. It is a difference between “matters of logic” from “matters of facts”.

Want to know the difference?

OK…It is matters of logic to say that a triangle is an angle with 3-sides…Now to say that it doesn’t you are contradicting yourself. But it is a question of fact which logic alone cannot settle whether there’s a giant triangle standing in the middle of EDSA near Cubao’s Farmer’s Plaza on October 27, 2010 at exactly 7:30 AM.

Necessary truth can only be applied to statements because logic applies only on statements. So to accept that God is the most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine is a necessary truth and to say that it doesn’t exist will lead me to a contradiction. But to say that this “most perfect, conceivable being I can imagine” is here, talking to me right now and He’s wearing a pink boxer short…well…we’ll have a problem with that.


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Kumakalam Nanaman

In my recent article regarding the Kalam Argument on the existence of God, I have a…well…a reaction from a certain Christian reader. Ok…let me address his comments and at least the said comments can serve as an update on how Filipino Christian apologists approached the Kalam argument (as I have said in the last article, we all need an upgrade).

Christian: on Premise 1, William Lane Craig has already answered the atheist’s question. (Link: Question 106: Is God Actually Infinite?)

Is that the answer of premise 1? Let see…

(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.

I don’t even see any question to this premise.

I think what the premise is saying is that everything that came to existence has a cause.
Now going back to the issue, it seems the Christian taught that I was talking about the infinite existence of God. The issue here is if actual infinity cannot exist and God is infinite then how did He have lived through an infinite number of hours. I’m not talking about God but on the infinite “hours” that God have lived His life in another dimension.

Well, the best response here that a Christian can used is that God is outside time.

So again, that brings us to the problem of a God that is outside time.

Another response is that God’s time is different from the time in our universe. God’s time is different than our way of viewing things. It is much larger. Really?

So how can we be certain of this “God time?” Well, Dr. Craig calls this a “God’s metaphysical time.” (For more about Craig’s metaphysical time see this link.

According to Dr. Craig, metaphysical time is tensed, dynamic, and non-relative. There is an ever changing fact of the matter about which events are future, which present, and which past. Future events become present, present events become past, and past events sink further and further into the past. Now does this metaphysical time have a beginning? Yes according to Dr. Craig and the very first event in metaphysical time must be a timeless person.

If I’m going to accept this God could have created this metaphysical time long before creating the space-time of our universe, it follows that there could have been something temporally prior to the earliest point in space-time, and Dr. Craig’s argument for creation ex nihilo would then be false.

Anyway, according to Dr. Craig, “denying that God is actually infinite in the quantitative sense in no way implies that God is finite. This inference does not follow, since the quantitative sense of infinity may be simply inapplicable to God.” In short, only finite things are under that rule (pwera ang diyos).

So here’s the problem. Actual infinite cannot exist, yet an absolute infinite time can exist (that’s the time when God created the metaphysical time of course)..weh?

Those who started the Kalam argument feels that time is finite…for example, al-Kindi felt that time was finite because an actual infinite is impossible and time is a quantitative thing that must be finite in measure (1979, 25). Saadia also felt that the concept of infinite time is reduced to absurdity because of the problem of regressing an actual infinite (Craig, 1979, 39).

So that’s it…time is finite, yet God existed for an “infinite time”…oh well…

The Christian may not have been updated after all when he said: “God is outside our universe. He is also not subjected to time.” For WLC, God is “timeless, spaceless”(http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5180), which is different from the Christian’s response.
Moreover, I wonder where the Christian got the idea when he said,“God created this ‘place’ on his own being.” Actually he was led into it by the previous answer of the atheist, because he himself gave the wrong answer to the atheist.

On timeless and spaceless:
“For as the cause of space and time, this entity must transcend space and time and therefore exist atemporally and non-spatially, at least sans the universe. This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial, since timelessness entails changelessness, and changelessness implies immateriality. Such a cause must be beginningless and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any antecedent causal conditions. Ockham’s Razor will shave away further causes, since we should not multiply causes beyond necessity. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, since it created the universe out of nothing.” —WLC (http://www.euroleadershipresources.org)/resource.php?ID=51)

What are the problems to such claims? According to John R. Lucas, “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” (Concepts of Person and Christian Ethics by Stanley Rudman p. 154) He continues, “if I will try to resolve the problem of God’s omniscience by making him timeless, I may create a worse problem by denying to Him the essence of what it means to be a person.”
Ah OK…so a timeless and space less God is not a person. I can’t make a relationship with a non-person, can you?

The western Christian God is a personal god. He is a deity who judge people. This god in not a mere impersonal being – he thinks, imagine, act, he has emotion – he can be jealous, happy, sad and angry (a lot)

Being outside time.
The guy to be blamed here is the pagan philosopher Plotinus (204-207 CE). Plotinus took the idea from Plato who took it from guys like Parmenides. So, if you guys want a God who is quite beyond intellectual discourses, you can always rely on Plotinus to do the job right (Yep, Plotinus is also the guy who invented the Trinity Doctrine).

Now, since God is considered immutable (cannot and does not change) it was deem to be compatible on being timeless (again…thanks to the Neo-Platonists). Immutability and being eternal are Greek ideas of a perfect god.

If you believe that God is a person, well…you might encounter some problems.

A timeless being cannot think since mental events and successions of thought use up time. He doesn’t have any intelligence since thinking and planning requires time. Also, a timeless being is a block of stone since time is necessary for movement. In relation with space, a being who is timeless and space-less will be trapped in his own attributes.

On Premise 2:
With the introductory statement:
Pinoy Atheist just dumped Physics’ own definition of the universe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe). I wonder how he could even start discussing about the universe with an atheist-physicist, if he could not even agree with the physicist in the definition of the universe.

With Pinoy Atheist’s question:
“Now if the universe is not included (or the same as) everything, then how can its beginning (the universe) the same with the beginning of everything?” he should ask a physicist, because that is physics’ claim.
Defining the Universe.

The Christian seems to define the word universe base on a physicist’s definition…now, how can we define the word “universe?”

According to his own source, the Wikipedia, it defines the universe as commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all physical matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, although this usage may differ with the context. The term universe may be used in slightly different contextual senses, denoting such concepts as the cosmos, the world, or nature.

The word universe was derived from the Old French word Univers, which in turn derives from the Latin word universum.The Latin word was used by Cicero and later Latin authors in many of the same senses as the modern English word is used. The Latin word derives from the poetic contraction Unvorsum — first used by Lucretius in Book IV (line 262) of his De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) — which connects un, uni (the combining form of unus’, or “one”) with vorsum, versum (a noun made from the perfect passive participle of vertere, meaning “something rotated, rolled, changed”). Lucretius used the word in the sense “everything rolled into one, everything combined into one”.

So what’s the difference between everything and the universe?

Well just look at your dictionary folks. Everything means, “All things or all of a group of things.”

Now again…is the universe included with everything or is it separate? If ‘universe’ is defined as the same as ‘everything’ (or vice versa) then a set should not be considered a number of itself. Now if the universe is not a member of itself, its beginning is not the same with the other beginning. Simple rule huh? And of course I don’t need to bother a physicist about it.

Pinoy Atheist claimed he dumped Premises 1 & 2. I did not even see any falsification that “The universe began to exist” in his presentation/imaginary discussion. I can’t even trace what he believes about the universe: if it eternal or temporal or what? So how does this dump the idea that “the universe began to exist,” if Pinoy Atheist affirms spontaneous cause of the universe? Did he not just agree with Premise 2?

Now let’s see, did I agree with Premise 2? In syllogism, the axiom or premises are not independent with one another. That means each premise is in relationship with each other. Now let see… In premise one: Everything that exists has a cause must follow premise 2 that the universe began to exist so we can have the conclusion that the universe has a cause.

Let’s review the following syllogism:
(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe has a beginning of its existence.

So how did I eliminate those two?

In Premise (1) we found a problem in the word “everything”. 1.) It doesn’t include God. Remember that the Kalam argument is proving the existence of God, right? So why he is already excluded in the argument?
In Premise (2) I am questioning if the universe and “everything” (in premise 1) is the same entity?
So if Premise (1) and Premise (2) has a problem, how can we arrive at the conclusion?

If he says that I agreed to premise two that…”the universe began to exist in spontaneous cause” that violates premise one and that will have an effect with the conclusion. Oh, and why talk about what I believed? The article is not about me.

There are at least 10 possible interpretations of quantum mechanics, including determined and indeterminate. It cannot be conclusively said that quantum mechanics are spontaneous and accidents, not yet! Moreover, physicists are having a hard time proving that quantum mechanics can cause a universe. Probabilistic Causation is not WLC’s own. It is part of Philosophy

Who’s saying the term probabilistic causation is Dr. Craig’s own invention? You can find some references about this on Dr. Craig and Dr. Smith discussion on that matter (Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology By William Lane Craig, Quentin Smith).

Dr. Craig claims that quantum events are caused in a non predetermined manner which he calls probabilistic causality. That means the cause could be accidental, spontaneous – not predetermined.

I’ve already wrote a response to this base on David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779)
According to David Hume, “In such a chain too, or succession of objects, each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes which succeed it. Where then is the difficulty? But the whole, you say, wants a cause. I answer that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct counties into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable should you afterwards ask me what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.”
That means when we speak of causes there must be an explanation for an event. Spontaneous events don’t have any explanation. No explanation, no cause.

Let’s be a little scientific here… According to Quintin Smith, “The wave function of the universe in Hartle and Hawking’s paper gives a probabilistic and noncausal explanation of why our universe exists. More precisely, it provides an unconditional probability for the existence of a universe of our sort (i.e., an expanding [and later contracting] universe with an early inflationary era and with matter that is evenly distributed on large scales). Given only their functional law of nature, there is a high probability that a universe of this sort begins to exist uncaused.” (Philo: A Journal of Philosophy, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1998, pp. 75-94.)

Until next time.

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