Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God

Discussion in 'Religion' started by James R, Jan 11, 2016.


Does the Kalam Cosmological Argument convince you that God exists?

  1. Yes.

    1 vote(s)
  2. No.

    25 vote(s)
  3. I'm not sure that I properly understand the argument.

    1 vote(s)
  4. No opinion or would rather not answer.

    0 vote(s)
  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Let us discuss the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This is a more modern variant of the plain-vanilla Cosmological Argument that aims at proving that God exists. However, both arguments are flawed.

    The traditional Cosmological argument runs as follows:
    1. Everything that exists must have a cause.
    2. The chain of causes cannot be infinite, so there must be a First Cause which is itself uncaused.
    3. The First Cause is God.
    One problem with this argument is that it tries to make a special pleading for God. If we accept (1), that everything must have a cause, then it follows that God must have a cause too. However, (2) and (3) plead that there is a single exception to (1), namely God. No reason or argument is given as to why God should be an exception, other than the assertion in (2) that the chain of causes cannot be infinite.

    The Kalam Cosmological Argument attempts to avoid this special pleading by modifying the argument. One version of the Kalam argument, put forward but Christian apologist William Lane Craig runs as follows:
    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    4. That cause is God.
    There are a number of objections that have been raised against the Kalam argument. I'll start this discussion by explaining just one of them. We may investigate further objections later in the thread.

    Dan Barker has referred to the "curious" first premise here. What is meant by "everything that begins to exist"? He points out that this clause implies that reality can be divided into two sets: items that begin to exist, and items that do not begin to exist.

    We may ask: what items are in the set of items that do not begin to exist? Is God the only item in that set? If so, then the Kalam argument can be re-written as follows:
    1. Everything except God has a cause.
    2. The universe is not God.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    4. The cause is of the universe is God.
    Notice that in this case premise (1) assumes what the Kalam argument is supposed to prove, namely that God exists. It follows that in this case the Kalam argument is merely begging the question.

    The only way the Kalam argument can be saved is by asserting that there are other things apart from God that did not begin to exist. But in that case, the cause of the universe might not be God and step (4) of the Kalam argument fails as a proof that God exists and created the universe.

    Can anybody here name a thing that did not begin to exist, apart from God?
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
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  3. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    And the implication is God. Job done.

    This is trickery because the first premise implies God as merely being an exception to the rule.
    Which is why you mistakenly think the question is being begged. The second premise does not follow from the first. Why should the universe be or be not God. We already know the universe was caused, and the cause is God, or whatever you want to call it. But that conclusion cannot be derived at from the first two premises.

    I doubt that matter/material energy began to exist.
    Which is why I think there is a good argument to be had regarding the origin of the cosmos.

    Can matter organise itself? Does consciousness arise out of matter?

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  5. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    The reformulation is stated as being so only if God is considered to be the only exception...:
    "Is God the only item in that set? If so then the Kalam Argument can be re-written as follows:"
    If this is the view taken, that God is the only exception, then it is indeed question begging for the reasons given.
    If it is not the view taken then the reformulation doesn't apply.
    Not sure I understand why you think they should need to?
    They are premises only.
    One need not be a logical conclusion of the other.

    Take the classic syllogism:
    "All men are mortal.
    Socrates is a man.
    Therefore Socrates is mortal."

    The 2 premises do not necessarily follow one from the other, it is merely the conclusion that should follow from the premises.
    Please note that in the original form of the KCA that JamesR has written, the 2 premises (lines 1 and 2) also do not follow one from another.
    Again this is based on the reformulation given which only applies IF one thinks that God is the only item in the set of things that do not begin to exist.
    You are arguing for therefore arguing against the logic when actually it is the premise you question.
    If you do not accept the premise behind the reformulation (that God is the only exception) then there is little need to consider the rest of the rewritten form.
    We know the universe was caused?
    We know the cause is God?
    And whether we call it God or something else is actually quite important: would you consider the collision of 2 branes to be worthy of the label of God, should brane-theory be the reality of the cause of the universe (if it had one)?
    Many do not think so.
    So please do not lump the label God with just any old causation of the universe.
    That is another criticism of the Cosmological Argument that I'm sure we'll get on to but for now let's stick with the matter of question-begging IF one believes God to be the only thing that does not come into being.
    Once again, IF the additional premise is introduced that God is the only item in the set of things that do not begin to exist, then logically the universe must have come into being.
    Thus it must have had a cause.
    That cause is God.
    Or so the re-written version would go.
    And this is a case of question-begging as JamesR has explained.
    So you don't agree with the KCA, then, even in the form written by Craig?
    But not one that I think we will ever be able to answer.
    It seems to.
    Ever seen the perfect crystalline structures of metals, of diamond, graphite etc?
    If we do not start with the assumption that it requires a God/spirit/immaterial force, or jump fallaciously to the conclusion that it requires that simply through inability to understand the complexity behind it, then yes, it would seem to arise out of matter.
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  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    The evidence seems to be that yes, matter can organise itself. We see that all around us every day, even in such humble things as the formation of an ice crystal. The whole of kinetic theory and statistical thermodynamics is devoted to showing how organised properties of matter arise, quantitatively, from random, you might naively say "disorganised", behaviour at the atomic and molecular scales. This is, in my view, one of the most powerful and beautiful theories in physical science.

    And again, yes, why should consciousness not arise out of matter, given that consciousness is a process taking place in a neural network (analogous to the operating of the software on your computer). The presumption of consciousness/body dualism results, in my view, from a category mistake. Consciousness is not a "thing" that is out there somewhere, it is a collection of processes, occurring within a particular organ in living animals.

    I know traditional Christianity employs Cartesian dualism, but I am afraid I cannot ignore what seems now obvious, in the light of developments in neurophysiology and computing.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
  8. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    God is not an exception. God is the logical conclusion.

    The reformulation does not apply.

    This is not a good example. The second premise is related to the first premise (maybe I should have used related rather than follows)

    • Everything except God has a cause.
    • The universe is not God.
    • Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    Why is there a need to posit God, in the first two premises?
    Unless you are presupposing God as being an exception to the rule.
    The original argument, rightly, posits God as the conclusion for the cause of the universe.
    This reformulation of the KCA is a strawman.

    Socrates WAS a man, so the conclusion is valid because it is accepted that all men are mortal.
    The idea that God is an exception to the rule, is an atheist concept of God. Poor.

    Are the 2 branes self existing, or are they contingent?
    Do the 2 branes contain anything that could be considered consciousness, that could give rise to consciousness?

    It doesn't matter what you want to call it, if it gave rise to the universe , and God is the spiritual origin all causes (I'll include spiritual so that we comprehend the difference), then whatever you want to call God, is up to you.

    I do, but I take it one step further. That God is the Supreme Cause of ALL Causes. That includes the entire cosmos. Material energy, unless supervised by a spiritual agent is dead, it has no function.

    Speak for yourself.

    How does it organise itself?

    How does it seem to?

  9. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Therefore it is the reason for the universe we observe today?

    Where in the neural network does the process of consciousness take place?


    Are you a theist exchemist?

  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    1) I was merely answering the questions you posed, no more, no less. If you now want to proceed to drawing conclusions from those answers about "the reason" (if there is one) for the universe we observe, please do so and I shall respond.

    2) The process of consciousness takes place in the brain, primarily. You can even do brain scans that show bits lighting up, in response to various stimuli, and/or associated with various responses. All this is well known, surely, isn't it?

    3) As for my personal beliefs or lack of them, I think they could become a distraction from the topic under discussion, so I will keep my counsel on that subject, for the time being at least.
  11. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    How do you know that it is the universe itself, organising itself?

    So when the little green light on my computer comes on when downloading has completed, does it actually know, in the sense that we know, that the software has downloaded. Or is it a device that was put in by the creator of the computer?
    I ask that because that is what you're basically telling me. Consciousness is in the brain because it lights up when we are stimulated in various ways.

  12. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    You are not reading what has been written.
    Do you believe everything begins to exist?
    If yes, then God, as part of everything, began to exist and the KCA does not apply and can not be used to argue for the existence of God.
    If no, what do you consider to be inside the set of "things that do not begin to exist" (I.e. things that had or needed no beginning)? Is it just God or is it other things as well?
    If it is just God then, as JamesR's post details, you are begging the question.
    If it is more than God then the KCA fails, again as detailed in JamesR's post above.
    Okay, so God is not the only thing that did not begin to exist.
    In which case the KCA fails as proof that it was God that caused the universe, or indeed anything, as detailed above by JamesR.

    I guess you could say that God, while not the only thing that did not begin to exist, is the only thing with causal power that did not begin to exist.
    In which case you're back to question begging.
    How is "All Men are mortal" not related to "Socrates is a man"?
    Both premises are about Man, one a general statement, one about a specific Man.
    The example is good, I'm just not sure you grasp it.
    No, it's not a strawman.
    As detailed in the OP, the issue is about what "everything that begins to exist" means, as it presupposes that everything can be divided into "things that begin to exist" and "things that do not begin to exist".
    It is then a matter of if one considers God to be the only thing in the latter set.
    If you argue that there is no need even at that stage to posit anything about God then you are left with being unable to show that the latter set is limited to just God, and thus the KCA fails as already mentioned.
    Not at all.
    Either God is the only thing that does not begin to exist or God is not.
    It is not a matter of being atheist or theist as to which of those is true.
    But if the former then the KCA begs the question, and if the latter then the KCA does not prove God to exist.
    No idea to the first.
    If it is the correct theory then we arose from it so it could give rise to consciousness, yes.
    But "giving rise to" is no indication of itself being conscious, unless you again want to beg the question.
    this thread will undoubtedly move onto this issue, so I'll park it here.
    What is that one step, other than simply an assertion?
    What does it mean "to have function"?
    How can you prove, via something akin to the KCA, with your additional step, that this is correct?
    I do, thanks.
    Through complexity built up over billions of years through a process of evolution.
    We are yet to have a definitive answer, though, as to the precise mechanics.
  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    duplicate post - deleted
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Careful. You asked whether matter organised itself and that is the question I answered. (I see Baldeee gave much the same answer as I did). I repeat, if you now want to extend the issue to "the universe", please explain what you mean by the universe organising itself.

    A computer clearly "knows" when a download is complete, in that it has the ability to sense a stimulus, respond and remember things. Whether it knows "in the sense that we know" depends on how you want to define "the sense that we know". Would you care to attempt this?
  15. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Well here are a couple of dictionary definition of knowledge. Does a computer gain knowledge in the same way, or is it programmed by something with superior knowledge.

    facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

    awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

    I assume that if matter is capable of organising itself, it is capable of creating a universe, and all the things that make this universe what it is, including the Earth planet.
    Is that too much of a big step?


  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    1) Do you think that definition is suitable to apply to a fish, say? And do you think a fish is conscious?

    2) I think it is a very large step to go from matter organising itself to matter creating a universe from nothing. You are jumping from the kinetic theory of matter (which I know quite a lot about, naturally) to cosmology, on which I am far from expert. What I think one can reasonably say, though, is that we have solid evidence that matter at any scale, from quarks to galaxies, can and does organise itself. As for the origin of the universe, I am aware of the evidence for the big bang (CMBR and all that) and the theory of the inflation of the universe seems to make sense, scientifically and fit with observation.
  17. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    What is everything?
    Thing: an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to, or, an inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being. ''Every'' as in everything means all as in all objects. So God isn't part of everything, that is your error. God is distinct from everything, and is the cause of everything.
    I think you're the one who is not comprehending what is written.

    It's not begging the question because God is not an exception. If all men are mortal, and Socrates, being a man, is immortal, that is what we would call an exception. God is not material.

    JamesR did not make it clear why there needs to be other things that didn't begin to exist. He actually quoted Dan Barker, which doesn't really do him any favours regarding the subject matter of God.
    So can you explain why asserting that other things are beginning-less, saves the argument?
    As I stated, I think that matter/material energy is beginning-less, so how does that save the argument, or how is it possible that matter itself can cause a universe such as the one we live in?
    I said it's related. What are you reading?

    The example was not good, because it made sense, whereas what you and JamesR propose doesn't really make much sense.
    It's bit of a fudge.

    That presupposition is unecessary. We know what ''things'' are, it follows therefore that everything means all things. It's a no brainer. If all things are caused, then eventually we must come to an uncaused agent whose nature is different from the things it causes. Job done. What's your problem?

    God is not a thing.

    How, and more importantly, why did we give rise to consciousness?

    So the branes do not have to contain consciousness in any form, to be the cause of consciousness?
    So how did consciousness come into being?

    And I'm the only one making assertions, heh?

    The way the universe functions today.

    It's a pointless road to go down. Nobody here is presenting proof for any of their assertion, so why should I?

    Are you sure about that?

    Why does it organise itself uniformly

    God of the gaps equivalent.

  18. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    A fish is both, an object and (spiritual) consciousness. Just as we are.

  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    OK. Now how about answering the 2 questions I asked?

    Because if you think a fish is conscious (I would agree) then I rather think the definition of consciousness you pasted may not be the one we need here.
  20. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    We don't know whether everything requires a cause.

    We don't know the universe had a beginning.

    We don't know that a first cause, if there is one, is the same as the religious conception of a god. Meaning that a first cause didn't have to know what it was causing. It could be the simplest thing possible, and complexity evolved later as the result of cooling, which made possible more complex interactions between particles.
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  21. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    I comprehend.
    I don't need to require definitions be specifically narrow and excluding the commonly understood understanding just to try to make a point.
    Everything - as in all there is - object, abstract, existing, having existed, will exist.
    The opposite of nothing.
    So how is God not an exception?
    Are you not saying that "God isn't part of everything"?
    That makes God an exception.
    Because if you did that you would no longer be begging the question.
    But the KCA would then fail to identify God as the cause rather than any of the other beginning less things.
    It doesn't save the argument.
    Either one thinks that matter can cause a universe, in which case you now have two things (God and matter) and the KCA's conclusion of God fails, or one thinks that matter can not cause a universe, in which case you are again limiting yourself to just one thing in the set, and thus back to the matter of question-begging.
    Apologies - I thought that statement was referring to the KCA/re-formulation and thus highlighting a weakness in the Socrates example.
    It's not a fudge, and it does make sense in the case that you put God in it's own set of things not beginning.
    KCA - 1 - Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    Remember, the reformulated version is for the case where we have put God in a set of things that don't begin to exist.
    Therefore the KCA - 1 can be reworded as: Everything except God has a cause, because we have already put God in that set of things that don't begin to exist.

    KCA - 2 - The Universe began to exist.
    Since we have God in his own set, this can be reformulates as: The Universe is not God.

    The conclusions are worded the same, but it is clear from the reformulated version that we are merely concluding that which we have already assumed.

    Just the small matter of begging the question.
    And in the version you have provided, a small matter of special pleading (the uncaused agent).
    But let's dispense with the semantics.
    Possibly just an evolutionary path that offers an enhanced means of survival in our current environment.
    Should we die out because our consciousness means we become too successful and ultimately destroy our own planet before we can move off, for example, then it will prove to be an unsuccessful trait.
    Ever heard of emergent properties?
    Properties that are not part of the constituent parts that only emerge at a level of complexity above that of the consituents.
    Don't know.
    Probably through the long process of evolution.
    So you're not going to answer the question?
    You're simply going to make the assertion and run?
    Then that is question begging: Premise - God caused the universe to function.
    Premise - The universe functions.
    Cnclusion - God thus exists.
    As you can see, I hope: question begging.
    I'll take that as an admission that you can't and that it is simply an unsupported assertion on your part.
    Sorry, I'm not a chemist.
    Not at all - I don't believe it as truth without possibility of being wrong.
    It is simply the explanation that I find satisfies Occam's Razor and all other measures of rationality that I hold.
    But it could be wrong.
    Hence not a "God" of anything.
  22. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Good subject for discussion. Thanks for starting the thread.

    Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    Do we really know that's always the case? (If so, how did did we learn it?) Or is our belief in universal causation actually a heuristic cognitive principle of some sort? What's more, causality is an idea lifted out of the physical realm. As such it would seem to be most applicable when both cause and effect are natural events. Can it be extended to hypothetical non-physical 'things' outside the physical realm?

    The universe began to exist.

    I guess we could say that if we accept a certain interpretation of the meaning of the word 'universe' and of big-bang cosmology.

    Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    That's questionable. Can we justifiably expand the concept of causality from being a relationship between individual events taking place inside physical reality to a relationship between the universe as a whole and something else that hypothetically exists outside physical reality entirely? That certainly wouldn't be physical causality, which is where the idea of causality seemingly originated. It seems to just be a speculative analogy that might not even be plausible.

    That cause is God.

    Why should we conclude that?

    Apparently there's a couple of unstated premises hidden in there, first that whatever hypothetically caused the universe to come into existence must not be the kind of thing that comes into existence itself, and second, that God is the only thing that didn't come into existence.

    The first unstated premise might have two possible justifications, neither of which persuade me. We might try to argue that 'the universe' represents the totality of everything that comes into existence such that the only thing left is eternal being. Except we don't really know that and seemingly have no way of knowing it. And second, there's the traditional 'no infinite regresses' idea. But that's just an assertion, not really an argument. It's entirely possible to deny it, and early Indian speculations often did exactly that. Buddhists and Jains both imagine an infinite chain of causation extending endlessly into the past with no initial first-cause or creator.

    The second unstated premise, that God is the only being that didn't come into existence, just seems to be a statement of monotheistic faith and doctrine. How can anyone really know how many uncaused beginningless beings might possibly exist outside the universe? And why should we assume that any of them correspond to the various depictions of 'God' in human religious mythology?
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
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  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Arguably, mathematics and logic. The 'laws of physics' perhaps. I'm not entirely convinced that any of those are 'things'.

    Of course I don't believe that God exists. Anything that doesn't exist and has never existed can be said to have never come into existence. Round squares and married bachelors.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016

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