Kalam cosmological argument
The kalam cosmological argument is a version of the cosmological argument founded within medieval Islamic philosophy of religion. Kalam is different to the more general cosmological argument when the history of its development is analyzed. This is because kalam contends for a first or beginning cause of the universe. The cosmological argument merely argues for there to be a necessary cause that endures contingent things in existence at all times. There isn't a requirement for a beginning of the universe with the latter.
Although first posited by al-Ghazili within Islam, Christian philosophy, through the work of William Lane Craig has continued the legacy. William Lane Craig, a world-renowned philosopher is the most prominent defender of the kalam cosmological argument in the public sphere. From his contemporary work on the subject is where the argument is taken from. The kalam cosmological argument contains two premises and a conclusion. It is from the premises that the conclusion follows necessarily. The whole argument is internally logical and therefore consistent. There are no defeaters for the self-evident premises as well once a priori and a posteriori arguments are presented in defense of the premises. There are however defeaters for a natural cause of the universe which is the current mainstream position within the scientific establishment being opposed to theism. Therefore the argument leads inexorably that the cause of the origin of the universe coheres with and is best explained by theism rather than atheism.
The kalam cosmological argument is;
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause. (Premise 1)
- The universe began to exist. (Premise 2)
- Therefore, the universe has a cause. (Conclusion)
Premise 1 is a type of first fundamental law of metaphysics basically stating that things do not pop into existence from non-being, being only comes from being. This fundamental to metaphysics parallels biogenesis which is a scientific law of Biology. Any other avenue attempting to deny premise 1 would be trying to prove something far less obvious. This is because premise 1 is on the side of everyday experience of humans. Some atheists will actually argue against premise 1 but this is usually a fail safe last resort point on complete fabrication and irrational belief. It is considered by defenders of the cosmological argument that when critics question premise 1 the argument has been won.
David Hume, a noted Scottish skeptic philosopher, has said;
|“||But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without cause: I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falshood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration; but from another Source.||”|
A very important distinction is that premise 1 is not a physical principle but a metaphysical principle. It only addresses the whole of the universe, not observation within the local events of universe, concerning itself with philosophical presuppositions in other words. The scientific method is a way to explore natural events within the cosmos, but metaphysics (and by extension philosophy) concerns being for beings sake grappling with the cause of the origin of life and the universe.
Quantum physics objection
In the sub-atomic realm particles offer evidence for a contradiction or negation of premise 1 seemingly. Particles seem to just pop into physical space-time for mere moments not caused by anything, out of nothing they appear, and then immediately disappear out of physical space-time. While on some models this may be the hypothesis, but there is something causing these particles to appear. Behind physical observation there is a rich field of energy called the quantum vacuum that fluctuates, spinning off particles giving them an excited state, which creates empirical observation by the physicist analyzing this phenomenon. This can give the appearance of particles spontaneously popping into existence out of what seems and is argued for, by many physicists, as nothing. This becomes characterized and popularized that particles do in fact spontaneously pop into and out of existence.
Appealing to the realm of quantum physics and trying to question premise 1 because the particles seem not to have any causal determinate behind their spontaneous actions, is a very popular theory within science generally. There are two important understandings of quantum physics that often go overlooked within popular works. First, the quantum vacuum is actually something, not nothing. What seems to be popping into existence are fluctuations of the vacuum, that in of itself is a determinate, and secondly there are viable alternative models of quantum physics that give causal determination and maintain mathematical consistency.
The crucial premise of which seems to spawn the most public debate and discourse is premise 2. Premise 2 states that the universe began to exist. There must be some type of cause whether transcendent (supernatural) or natural.
Before the Big bang theory was theorized in the 20th century, scientists and philosophers generally thought that the universe was eternal. An eternal universe did not have a beginning and thus always existed forever into the past. This eliminates the necessary supernatural creative power of a personal being like God. If there was no beginning to the universe and space-time then divine acts of creation were superfluous. When theistic characteristics of God are brought under materialism they deny their source within God, and thus gain natural explanations.
Actual infinite cannot exist
In the attempt to refute premise 2, actually makes the universe always existing or eternal and necessarily needs an actual infinite. More specifically the actual infinite is of a specific type called an infinite temporal regress of events. Within completely physical and materialist worldviews this is a re-occurring issue. Along with being infinite it is temporal because it relates to causes within time, which likewise always existed. There then is an infinite temporal regress because it goes into the past forever. The universe must be explained this way in order to avoid an absolute cosmic beginning to all of space-time reality. It requires there exist an actual infinite within natural reality, because past causes and events have to go on forever into the past by definition given an eternal universe. This perennial philosophical problem is not an issue under theistic accounts which produce arguments for transcendent being like a personal God because traditionally God is considered the only non-contingent or always existing, non-caused cause. The infinite regress is stopped by an ontological commitment to a supernatural personal agent that is the ultimate cause of the existence, and according to the kalam cosmological argument, the beginning of the universe.
|“||... if there has been a sequence composed of an inﬁnite number of events stretching back into the past, then the set of all events in the series would be an actually inﬁnite set.||”|
Positing that the universe is eternal then does two things for supporters;
- reduces supernatural characteristics of a personal being to naturalistic mechanisms
- requires an actual infinite to exist in reality
If good arguments are supplied for the existence of an actual infinite, then the infinite temporal regress problem is not only solved for the atheist and materialist but premise 2 of the kalam cosmological argument can be regarded as illegitimate or not as self-evident as is implied. The implicit question of premise 2 is: Can an infinite collection actually exist? The argument against an actual infinite existing, is put succinctly by William Lane Craig.
An actual infinite cannot exist.
- An actual infinite is a collection that has an actually infinite number of members. The number of its members is greater than any other natural number (0,1,2,3 etc). It is not growing toward infinity, it is infinite. There literally exists an actually infinite number of things in the collection. This is irrational or presents logical impossibilities like "subtracting identical quantities from identical quantities and finding non-identical differences." This is why within transfinite arithmetic such procedures are prohibited.
- Potential infinite - Collection is at every point finite, but always growing to infinity as a limit. It is indefinite, finite in any point in time, but is always growing toward infinity but never reaching it. Potential infinite, is seen as a limit. Christians would accept this view of whether or not there could be an infinite number of past events.
- Main Article: Borde-Guth-Vilenkin singularity theorem
The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin singularity theorem (or BGV theorem) was developed in 2003 by three leading cosmologists; Arvind Borde, Alan Guth and Alex Vilenkin. Subsequently in recent years since, the BGV theorem has become widely respected and accepted within the physics community. The theorem is based on, what Alan Guth calls a "well-known fact", something traveling on a geodesic through an expanding universe becomes redshifted. Geodesics within general relativity are what describe the motion of what are called "point particles". A meteor, a satellite or anything traveling in space has geodesics within space-time, and are also considered point particles. Words like expansion and contraction of the universe have to do with "congruences of timelike geodesics (the potential trajectories of test particles)." Important to the 2003 finding was the assumption of a single congruence "with a positive average expansion rate throughout some specified region." Discovered by Edwin Hubble (1889 – 1953) expansion of the universe has become a law. According to Hubbles law; "The apparent recession velocity of a galaxy v is proportional to its distance d from the observer: v=H0d, where the constant of proportionality H0 is known as the Hubble constant."  Borde, Guth and Vilenkin follow an imagined observer back into time by way of a "timelike or null geodesic", which according to Guth will be blueshifted within a universe obeying Hubbles law. A timelike or null geodesic have a tangent vector with a norm of negative and zero, respectively. A spacelike geodesic has a tangent vector that is positive. A vector is for example the velocity and acceleration of an object. While a tangent is the point on a curve of a vector. So that a tangent vector is the velocity and acceleration at a particular point on a curve. The world line of a geodesic is the sequence of events that relate to the point particle in question. Under some circumstances the blueshift will reach "infinite rapidity" or the speed of light within a "finite amount of proper time (or affine parameter)". Along this trajectory with an affine parameter shows that such trajectory is "geodesically incomplete."
The BGV theorem is a groundbreaking and widely respected scientific theorem. Not only does it prove a space-time boundary and thus cosmic beginning. It is used by defenders as a specific a posteriori argument (empirical) for premise 2 of the kalam cosmological argument.
Modern mathematical set-theory objection
In set theory, the set of all natural number is said to be an infinite set, it contains an actually infinite number of members in the set. Not all mathematicians would agree on this however, some suggest that natural number sets are potentially infinite but is a minority view. Existence in the mathematical realm does not mean existence in the real world, because philosophical assumptions need to govern this realm but there isn't good reason to suggest that these assumptions are true. Infinite set theory still leads to the same type of self-contradictions as does the math of actually infinite number of members.
- J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument Response by William Lane Craig (requires free registration)
- New Atheist Arguments Against God's Existence Refuted (1 of 5) By William Lane Craig
- David Hume to John Stewart, February, 1754, in The Letters of David Hume, ed. J.Y.T. Greig (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), 1:187
- Why are (some) physicists so bad at philosophy? Edward Feser blog
- Cosmological Argument #1 Teaching class by William Lane Craig
- Cosmologist claims Universe may not be expanding--Particles' changing masses could explain why distant galaxies appear to be rushing away By Jon Cartwright. 16 July 2013. "For Wetterich, the lack of an experimental test misses the point. He says that his interpretation could be useful for thinking about different cosmological models, in the same way that physicists use different interpretations of quantum mechanics that are all mathematically consistent."
- William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell Publishing 2009), pg. 115
- Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2011), pg. 905
- Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2011), pg. 906
- Cosmological Argument Part 2 By William Lane Craig
- William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell Publishing 2009), pg. 142
- Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Intercollegiate Studies Institute 2011), pg. 498
- Geodesic By Wikipedia
- A. Borde, A. Guth and A. Vilenkin, Inﬂationary space-times are not past-complete, Phys. Rev. Lett. 90 151301 (2003), pg. 1
- Peter Coles, Routledge Companion to the New Cosmology (Routledge 2004)
Why Christians should not use the Kalaam argument David Snoke, University of Pittsburgh.
- Question 246: A Contradiction in the Kalam Cosmological Argument? Response By William Lane Craig