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

    Just to be clear, I didn't quite summarise the whole of Craig's version of the Cosmological argument. The first part is the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which appears in my opening post:
    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    Up to this point, if the argument is accepted, it has only been shown that the universe has a cause. The nature of that cause is not specified. But Craig goes on to conclude: 4. The cause of the universe is God. His justification for that conclusion is as follows, approximately:

    4a. If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe (God) exists, who did not begin to exist, is changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
    4b. The universe has a cause (based on the Kalam Cosmological Argument given previously).
    4c. Therefore God exists.

    Craig bases 4a on what he says is an "ontological analysis" that draws on the Kalam argument.

    Needless to say, premise (4a) is also open to criticism on a number of grounds. For example, it seems difficult to justify the assumptions that there must be a single creator of the universe, and that that creator must be a conscious or "personal" agent.
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Jan Ardena:

    From your first and subsequent responses to this thread it is apparent that you have not understood the argument in my opening post. Baldeee has done an admirable job in trying to explain it to you. Despite that, you still wrote:
    So, let me have one more try before giving you up as a lost cause. Here's the Kalam argument again:
    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    Now, (1) implies that there are two kinds of things:
    A. Things that begin to exist.
    B. Things that do not begin to exist.

    There must be a least one thing of type B, or else we could re-write premise (1) as:
    1. Everything that exists has a cause.
    If we accept this premise, then we are back to the traditional Cosmological Argument.

    Question: Are there any items of type B apart from God?

    Suppose the answer to this question is "No".
    Then our two types of things can be re-labelled (note that the meaning doesn't change) as follows:
    A. Things that begin to exist = Everything Other Than God.
    B. Things that do not begin to exist = God.

    Premise (1) of the Kalam argument can then itself be re-written as:
    1. Everything Other Than God (i.e. everything that begins to exist) has a cause.
    which is supposed to lead to the conclusion:

    4. God exists.
    The problem is that in (1) we now have God as a premise in the argument. But the Kalam Argument is supposed to lead us to conclude by force of logic alone that God exists. By assuming God's existence from the start, the Kalam argument is assuming what it is meant to be proving. This is called begging the question.

    Suppose on the other hand that there is at least one other item that did not begin to exist apart from God.
    Then, the conclusion (3) of the Kalam argument is that the universe indeed has a cause. But what is the cause?

    All we know is that the cause of the universe is something that did not begin to exist. It might be God, or it might be anything else that happens to be on the list of possible Things that Did Not Begin to Exist.

    In this case, the Kalam argument has not established the existence of God, but only the possible existence of a number of things, one of which is (presumably) God.

    Now, it seems likely to me that the Kalam argument is formulated specifically to beg the question of God's existence by sneaking in the assumption of God's existence at the start. One thing that might presuade me that this is not the case is if somebody who believes in this argument can name at least one thing apart from God that did not begin to exist.

    Can you?
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2016
    Yazata and exchemist like this.
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Just to expand on this, which Baldeee also mentioned...
    Even if one can name something apart from God that did not begin to exist! the question-begging still remains unless you can name something apart from God with causal agency. Jan has previously expressed that perhaps matter/energy did not begin to exist (seemingly a noticeable addendum from conversations long since held, it must be said), and so it seems to me that it is the causal agency that is important in the question-begging, not just the "did not begin to exist".

    Jan is also prone to the outburst that god is "defined" as the "cause of ALL causes" as if the definition itsel provides proof of existence, or at least proof of God being on its own in the set of "all things with causal agency that did not begin to exist". But this is ultimately also just question-begging.

    However, as it applies to the KCA, we might conclude from the argument presented in the KCA (if we get over the other hurdles) that the universe was indeed caused. We could then define "God" simply as a placeholder-label for whatever it is that caused the universe and thus conclude that "God" (as now defined) does indeed exist.
    But as you allude to, how do we determine the attributes and properties of such a "God". We can not base any argument on the notion of God being the "cause of ALL causes" because that has not been concluded and is not the definition of God (which we now define simply as whatever caused our universe).

    Thus we overcome one hurdle of the KCA but run up against another.
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    The assumption that there is a "cause of all causes" or "supreme cause" or "ultimate cause" or whatever you want to call it, is in itself an assumption that needs justification.

    Recall the original Cosmological Argument:
    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.
    Note that the argument relies on premise 2, which claims that "the chain of causes cannot be infinite". But that is an assumption that needs its own justification. If it cannot be justified, then there is no logical requirement that a First Causes / ultimate cause / cause of all causes must exist, and then the whole Cosmological Argument falls apart. This applies equally to the Kalam version, too.

    Supposing that theists can somehow clear that hurdle (which seems impossible in itself), we are still left with the problem that the Cosmological Argument tells us nothing about the nature of the First Cause; it merely tells us that a First Cause exists. For example, how are we supposed to get to the point where we conclude that the First Cause is a personal God, like the God of the bible, for instance?
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2016
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Picking up a couple of other strands from Jan's replies above:

    Let us assume for the sake of argument that God and the universe and God are the same thing. The Kalam argument then seems at first glance to be pointless. If the universe and God are one and the same, then assuming we agree that the universe exists then we also agree that God exists, by definition.
    Of course, if God = the universe, then if the universe began to exist then God began to exist. In that case we could apply the Kalam argument to prove that God has a cause. And then, if you accept the Kalam argument, you are forced to conclude that God is not the Cause of All Causes, because God himself is caused by something else.

    The Kalam argument - indeed the Cosmological argument in general - assumes that God is not the same thing as the universe. Moreover, as a matter of common experience, people in general do not think that the universe and God are the same thing.

    One final point, which should be obvious, is that the universe can't be God and not be God. It's a simple matter of logic. Either the universe is the same as God or it isn't. The universe and God can't be the same as one another and different from one another at the same time. That's the simple and obvious answer to your question.

    Who is this "we" you're talking about who already knows all that? Not you and me.
    And if "we all" already know, then what is the point of the Cosmological argument in either of its forms?
    You speak as if everybody agrees that God exists. Clearly, they do not.

    So, are matter and energy on the list of Things that Did not Begin to Exist? If so, then by the Kalam argument matter and energy are not things that require causes such as God. Agreed? And since the universe is made of matter and energy, it looks like you're saying the universe doesn't need a cause.

    Are you aware that from a small acorn a mighty oak can grow? What do you think is going on there?

    Have you ever seen an animal or a baby? What do you think is going on there?
  9. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Didn't McTaggart come up with 2 different views of time, and our view of change?
    And didn't one of those views effectively do away with the very notion of "begin to exist" and the need for a First Cause?
    If I understand it correctly, if spacetime is viewed as a 4-d block where past, present and future are equally real then time is tenseless.
    We certainly know more about the past than the future, and psychologically we perceive a flow of time into an as yet unreal future, but we also psychologically adhere to the notion of freewill, of choice, of being a free causal agent, and these are also disputed as being real.
    Special relativity and the notion of simultaneity suggests something like the 4-d block, where each person has their own slice of it that they call their present
    Jan has already explained the view that without a cause, matter and energy is dead / inert / motionless etc.
    Hence the need, as Sarkus has highlighted, the additional matter of the important set being that of things that did not begin AND which are able to cause.
    Which just results in question-begging as per your original post.
    And Jan would also say that God "caused" the universe... I.e. Brought motion, change etc to the matter and energy that we know and understand.
    Or something like that.

    So I don't think it is an issue that other things may not begin to exist.
    It is the uniqueness of God being deemed the only one with causal power that is key to the question-begging.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2016
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Yes. From my reading, the two views are sometimes called the A view of time and the B view of time. The A view says that time progresses from past through present to future. The B view is more like the view taken by the theory of relativity: that space and time are a fixed tapestry on which events are points.

    Suppose I drop an egg and it breaks. According to the A view of time, the egg was intact at some time, then at some time it broke and from then on it was broken. We could talk about when the egg "began to break", for example. According to the B view of time, the egg was intact, breaking and broken at three different points in a fixed tapestry, with the breaking occurring at a later time than the intactness, etc. The important point for the present argument is that according to the B view the egg never "began to break". The entire sequence of breaking the egg is just a sequence of events that always existed, just like every series of events in the fixed time tapestry.

    Did the universe begin to exist, then? Assuming we accept that the universe started at a particular time, then in the A view of time the universe began to exist at that time, but in the B view of time there is only a sequence of times, some slices of which contain a universe and others which do not.

    It should be noted too that this whole argument about A times and B times of the universe sidesteps the issue of whether it is meaningful to talk about time at all in the absence of a universe.

    If this is what is claimed, then it seems to me that the word "cause" is potentially being used in two different senses. A rock falling onto an egg and causing it to break would be explained as not a real cause, then? Would we have to trace back to find what caused the rock to fall, what caused the rock to be there in the first place, what caused the rock to exist, etc.?

    If the only "cause" that counts as a cause is the willed action of God, then it seems to me that the question is being begged again, just in a slightly different way.

    Premise 1 of the cosmological argument says

    1. Everything that exists must have a cause.​

    If the only thing that counts as a cause is the will of God, then premise 1 becomes:

    1. Everything that exists must have the will of God.
    But then we're assuming from the start that God exists, again. And the argument is supposed to prove that, not assume it from the start.
  11. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Ah, that's it: A-theory of time and B-theory of time.
    And I understand physics tends toward the B-theory these days, in one guise or another.
    Well, yes, perhaps.
    I would see A-theory as supporting the notion that wherever there is change there must be time.
    If the universe "began" then there must exist the passing of time from past (no universe) to present/future (universe exists).
    Thus time would seem to exist in such a view of time.

    With B-theory, however, the notion of time is simply one of the dimensions of the block that is the universe.
    There is no change, thus no need for a passing of time outside of the universe.

    No, I think "cause" is being used in the same sense.
    In your egg analogy, the rock would be the cause, just not the "original cause" or "cause of ALL causes".
    If the matter and energy never began and has always been, then the original cause of everything that follows would be the will of God, to use your expression.

    So Jan seems to allow for two categories of things that did not begin to exist: those with causal agency and those without.
    If there are only items that did not begin to exist that do not have causal agency then nothing ever gets caused.
    So there has to be at least one, or so the argument goes.
    If one concludes that there is one and only one then this returns to the question-begging.
    It's actually an issue with the KCA rather than the original, and really just an extension/clarification of it.
    You said previously that if one is assuming that God is the only thing that does not begin to exist then the KCA begs the question (as per your re-formulation), and asked Jan to provide an example of something else that does not begin to exist, and in doing so would remove the question-begging.
    However, there may be other things that do not begin to exist (and Jan has suggested matter and energy).
    But in order to be deemed a cause (first or otherwise) it must have causal agency.
    Jan suggests matter/energy does not.
    Therefore there are two classes of things that do not exist: those with and those without causal agency.
    So while there may be more than one thing that does not begin to exist, it is the assumed uniqueness of God in also having causal agency that means the argument still begs the question even if there is more than one thing that does not begin to exist.
    Now, if there were two things that did not begin to exist and both had causal power... then the KCA passes that particular criticism of question-begging (although others may arise).

    So, to reword the KCA again, in the situation where more than one thing (e.g. god and matter) does not begin to exist:
    1. Everything that is not (God or matter) has a cause.
    2. The universe is not (God or matter).
    3. Therefore the universe had a cause.

    and now we need to introduce another premise:
    4. Only those things with causal agency can be a cause.
    5. Matter does not have causal agency.
    6. The cause of the universe is God.

    This remains question-begging unless there are more than one thing not just in the set of things not beginning to exist, but in the set of things not beginning to exist and with causal agency.
  12. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    To be an exception, it to be excluded from the need to follow a rule. Socrates would have to be an immortal man, to be an exception to the rule of mortality, simply because it is accepted that man is mortal as a rule. God is NOT a man, neither is God material (from the KCA), therefore God is not an exception to any rule that He commands. Is He a part of everything? No. God is the whole because the argument maintains that God is the cause of the universe, not bits and bobs.

    God has yet to be established as the cause.
    You are simply using the conclusion (because you know what it is) in the premises so you can control the outcome.

    Same as above.

    That is a logical conclusion (as explained by the argument) which explains how the universe got here, not just something whimsically thrown into the mix.

    It is not semantics, this conclusion is drawn from the argument. God is distinct from His cause.

    You're being dishonest. You asked, what does it mean to have function, and I gave an example of what functionality means. I was not trying to prove God's existence. The KCA does that beyond any criticism, or reformulation you demonstrate thus far.

  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I don't think that we should concede that. If we are going to be more accurate, we probably should reword 1. to read:

    1. Every physical event that occurs within the universe has a cause.

    Of course we don't actually know that's true, it's more of a metaphysical assumption. So we are already having difficulty with the first premise.

    We perhaps should to add an additional premise 1a as well, to help clarify things:

    1a. The universe as a whole is not a physical event within the universe.

    So what we have is:

    1. Every physical event that occurs within the universe has a cause.

    1a. The universe as a whole is not a physical event within the universe.

    2. The universe began to exist.

    Presented this way, it should be obvious that 3. is a non-sequitur, it doesn't follow logically from what went before it.

    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    The universe may or may not have had a cause, depending on how loosely we want to employ our concept of 'cause', but we haven't proven that the universe must have a cause.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2016
  14. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    The point about logical arguments, Jan, is that they should not bring in any assumption that is not stated within the premises upon which the argument rests.
    So there is no "as a rule" to consider, the conclusion should follow directly from the premises as given, okay?
    In my example, the premises are that Socrates is a man, and all men are mortal.
    Whether this is true in reality or not is irrelevant, as is whether there is any general rule at all.
    It is simply a matter of logic.
    The question of how sound the conclusion is is then dependent upon the veracity of those premises.

    So, in the KCA, as initially written by JamesR, the first premise is that "Everything that has a beginning has a cause".
    This immediately separates out things that have a beginning from things that don't.
    If God is the only thing doesn't have a beginning then it is, by definition, an exception from everything else that does have a beginning - as it is not included in the set captured by the premise.
    Where in the KCA does it say that God is not material, either as a premise or as a conclusion?
    All it says is that God does not have a beginning.
    You yourself have suggested that matter may also not have a beginning, so how do you distinguish between the two?
    I suggest it is because you are also defining God as having causal agency.
    But, as argued, this simply returns us to question begging as demonstrated above, as the argument now follows the reworded version, albeit with a slight adjustment that I previously detailed.
    It's not about being an exception to what He commands, it's about being an exception to the premise, as in sitting outside those things captured by the premise.
    The premise is that everything that has a beginning has a cause.
    God is not included within this (as god does not have a beginning) thus God is an exception.
    It's no more difficult than that.
    Not "part of" as in just a specific chunk lesser than the whole, but "part of" as "included within the label of" even it is synonymous with the label as a whole.
    If you maintain God is the whole then he is by definition part of everything... Otherwise you claim that God stands apart from everything, I.e. Is not everything.
    No, as shown, you have established as a premise, albeit hidden and not explicitly stated, through definition, that God is the only thing capable of being concluded.
    This is why it is question begging.
    And is demonstrated (I thought quite clearly) by JamesR's OP, although subsequently amended by me to account for your notion that matter might also be something that does not begin.
    At best the KCA in this regard (I.e. ignoring any other criticism) should conclude that the universe is caused.
    To conclude beyond that (I.e. that the cause is God as already defined) requires question-begging.
    It might seem like that because it is a case of question begging.
    To show how it is not you need to explain why the reformulated version that JamesR documented is fallacious.
    But you haven't.
    Oh, it explains it.
    No one disputes that.
    It just isn't proven as truth by the KCA, for the reasons explained (e.g. the issue of question-begging).
    So now God is not the whole?
    Just moments ago you said that God is the whole... Not just a part of everything (using your understanding of what I meant) but indeed the whole.
    You said you take the KCA one step further, and as part of that you stated "material energy, unless supervised by a material agent is dead, it has no function."
    Unless you were trying to use this as part of an argument, I'm not sure why you raised the mere unsupported assertion.
    But if that is what it was, please do ignore the argument I thought you were making.
    You mean other than the criticism thrown at it so far, and your defense against the criticism of question-begging being to merely beg the question elsewhere?
  15. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    I think JamesR is only suggesting that to so as be able to focus on and highlight the question-begging issue currently being discussed.
    There are numerous criticisms - the "problem with induction" that you detail being one for sure.
  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Apparently Craig presents his "ontological analysis" in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology as follows:

    1. A first state of the material world cannot have a material explanation and must originate ex-nihilo in being without material cause, because no natural explanation can be causally prior to the very existence of the natural world (space, time and its contents). The cause must be outside space and time (timeless, spaceless, immaterial and enormously powerful).

    2. Even if positing a plurality of causes prior to the origin of the universe, the causal chain must terminate in a cause which is absolutely first and uncaused, otherwise an infinite regress of causes would arise.

    3. Occam's razor maintains the unicity of the first cause should be assumed.

    4. Agent causation, volitional action, is the only ontological condition in which an effect can arise in the absence of prior determining conditions. Therefore only personal free agency can account for the origin of a first temporal effect from a changeless cause.

    5. Abstract objects, the only other ontological category known to have the properties of being uncaused, spaceless, timeless and immaterial, so not sit in causal relationships nor can they exercise volitional causal power.


    I think that most of us (with the exception of Jan perhaps) will be able to find countless excellent reasons to be doubtful about every step of Craig's "ontological analysis".
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2016
  17. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

    I think that the real purpose of the KCA is to ferret out those people who do not understand argument. If they find the KCA compelling, then they cannot be reasoned with.

    Thanks, Yazata, for posting Craig's stuff.
    Even here, Craig cannot help but add in superfluous details to his main point. What could "enormously powerful" mean in this context? The immaterial cause that is part of 1. could by a simple thing with only one power, i.e., the power to cause the universe. This immaterial cause could have no other power. Craig is appealing to his religious audience with this, not an argumentative audience.

    (Sadly, Craig's theology is apparently very bad as well.)
    Here, too, Craig goes beyond the premise. Yes, if a causal chain has no beginning, then it has no beginning. But that doesn't mean all chains have beginnings. That is something that one would have to establish.
    This is a great example of why Occam's Razor should just be forgotten. Craig is waving it like a magic wand and not providing any reasoning. Why should we not accept an infinite amount of physical events over an infinitely powerful immaterial being with features that are either unknown or are taken on faith to be exactly the kind that allow Craig and his friends to persecute others?
    Talk about facts not in evidence. This is essentially claiming not only that dualism is true, but that physical events have non-physical causes all the time. This is a strong claim for which there is not only no evidence, there is a substantial amount of evidence to the contrary.
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  18. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    The point of logical arguments, Baldee, is to demonstrate, or prove a statement.
    You're the one bringing in assumptions.

    And the KCA, the premise is Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore the univverse has a cause. The first premise has to be shown to be false. Not make unwarranted assumptions. Especially one that includes the conclusion, to design a fallacious argument.
    Deal with the argument as it stands.

    It simply states that everything that begins to exist has a cause. If thati s not true then explain why. It concludes that God is the original cause. Now if you object to the conclusion then it's up to you to state why.

  19. Waiter_2001 Registered Senior Member

    Does the following convince you(?):


    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!


    The population can be discovered with knowledge of the generation(G):


    So then balanced:


    To discover the generation from this population:

  20. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    How do you know that?
  21. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    That's not the point.

  22. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Where have I brought in an assumption?
    What assumption have I brought in?
    I am, Jan.
    It is you who is not.
    Again - where is the unwarranted assumption?
    And why does the first premise have to be shown to be false?
    We are not talking issues of soundness here but of the validity of the logic.
    Do you understand the difference?

    As has been stated already, if the KCA merely stopped at "therefore the universe has a cause" then we could move on, but as formulated by Craig - at least as detailed in the OP - the conclusion is "that cause is God" (please see the OP in case you have forgotten).
    This is the begging of the question - clearly shown by Dan Barker's reformulation that remains logically consistent with Craig's KCA.
    That is what we have done, Jan.
    The issue being discussed, at least initially, is one of the fallacious logic in the conclusion that God is the original cause, which as shown is a case of begging the question.
    What you are now trying to do is ignore that and move to merely matters of whether the premises are sound or not.
    That is a separate matter entirely, one raised by Yazata and others.
    It is no less a reasonable line of criticism but I am discussing with you what is seen as the fallacious logic of Craig's formulation of the KCA as laid out in the OP, not the veracity of the premise.

    So are you the lost cause on this matter that JamesR seems to suspect you might be?
    Are you able to actually discuss the logic and explain why the criticism is invalid?
    The criticism of Craig's formulation, as detailed in the OP, has been quite clearly laid out, the question-begging highlighted.
    So far all you have done is made assertions that the criticism is wrong.
  23. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Isn't it? If we don't know the universe had a beginning, the argument fails.

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