Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

How the progress of science strengthened the kalam cosmological argument

This is the first of a two-part series. Part two is here.

The kalam cosmological argument

The argument goes like this:

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

The most important thing for you to realize is that nothing can be sustained in a debate unless it can be phrased as a valid argument according the rules of inference. All of Craig’s arguments can be broken down into logical propositions that use the standard laws of logical reasoning in order to force their conclusions deductively, so long as the premises are true.

Proving the premises

Can the atheist deny that either or both of these premises are true?

  1. “Whatever begins to exist requires a cause”
    If the atheist denies this premise, then they are denying a fundamental law of natural science, namely, that matter can neither be created or destroyed. That is natural law.
  2. “The universe began to exist”
    The universe came into being. If the atheist denies this they are denying the state of the art in modern cosmology.

Common objections

First, quantum mechanics is not going to save the atheist here. In QM, virtual particles come into being in a vacuum. The vacuum is sparked by a scientist. The particles exist for a period of time inversely proportional to their mass. But in the case of the big bang, there is no vacuum – there’s nothing. There is no scientist – there’s nothing. And the universe is far too massive to last 14 billion years as a virtual particle.

Secondly, atheists will say that the big bang is speculative physics that could change at any moment. But the trend is in favor of an absolute beginning out of nothing. We have had a string of solid, recent scientific discoveries that support the idea that the universe came into existence at some point in the finite past, as follows:

  • Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and the scientific confirmation of its accuracy
  • measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • red-shifting of light from galaxies moving away from us
  • radioactive element abundance predictions (from supernovae)
  • helium/hydrogen abundance predictions (nuclear fusion)
  • star formation and stellar lifecycle theories
  • the second law of thermodynamics

So, insofar as atheists question these discoveries and the origin of the entire physical universe out of nothing, they are opposing the progress of science.

What came into being at the moment of creation?

You need to understand that the big bang theory states that space, time and matter were all created at the moment of creation.

  1. There was no space causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  2. There was no time causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  3. There was no matter causally prior to the universe beginning to exist

All of these things began to exist at the first moment.

What can we infer about the cause?

So, space, time, and matter began to exist. What could have caused them to begin to exist?

  1. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not inside of space, because there was no space causally prior to the creation event. The cause must therefore be non-physical, because physical things exist in space.
  2. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not bound by time (temporal). It never began to exist. There was no passage of time causally prior to the big bang, so the cause of the universe did not come into being. The cause existed eternally.
  3. And the cause is not material. All the matter in the universe came into being at the first moment. Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist cannot have been matter, because there was no matter causally prior to the big bang.

So what could the cause be? Craig notes that we are only familiar with two kinds of non-material realities:

  1. Abstract objects, like numbers, sets and mathematical relations
  2. Minds, like your own mind

Now, abstract objects don’t cause of any effects in nature. But we are very familiar with the causal capabilities of our own minds – just raise your own arm and see! So, by process of elimination, we are left with a mind as the cause of the universe. As Sherlock Holmes says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

This cause created the entire physical universe. The cause of this event is therefore supernatural, because it brings nature into being and is not inside of nature itself. The cause of the universe violates the law of conservation of matter is therefore performing a miracle.

Responding to alternative naturalistic cosmologies

In this published research paper from the journal Astrophysics and Space Science, William Lane Craig responds to the several naturalistic attempts to evade the implications of the kalam argument. I will list each one by name and explain the main problem with each. I highly recommend you read the paper and become conversant with the arguments and evidences.

  1. The steady-state model: disproved by recent empirical observations of radio galaxy distributions, as well as red-shifting of light from distant galaxies moving away from us at increasing speeds
  2. The oscillating model: disproved in 1998 by more empirical measurements of mass density which showed that the universe would expand forever, and never collapse (was named Discovery of the Year)
  3. The vacuum fluctuation model: the theory allows for universes to spawn at every point in space and coalesce into one extremely old universe, which contradictions observations of our much younger universe
  4. The chaotic inflationary model: does not avoid the need for an absolute beginning in the finite past
  5. The quantum gravity model: makes use of imaginary time which cannot be mapped into a physical reality, it’s purely theoretical

Comment warning

Everybody seems to like to comment on these things without making any claims or citing any authority or evidence. So if you are leaving a comment critical of this post, then cite the part you disagree with, quote someone who agrees with you who is an authority, and link to a piece of peer-reviewed evidence. I’d like to see some observations, please. Some data. If you cannot disagree with a specific point, and cite something specific to support you, then please – don’t leave a comment. Try to keep it short. I’ll delete any comments that go over 300 words, say.

If you would like me to cite some evidence for an assertion, you can leave a comment asking a question.

Further study

A good on this topic is the debate between William Lane Craig and atheist physicist Victor Stenger, (audio here). Also, a lecture titled “Beyond the Big Bang”, was delivered at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in front of Victor Stenger and other physicists (audio here). There is a period of Q&A in which Bill must face challengers. These are both available on DVD. More Bill Craig debates are here.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

33 Responses

  1. john says:

    Hi,

    Could you please help me with this question, it may be a bit off topic, but hope you would help I would love to hear your insight:

    What would you do if you find out christianity is not real?

    Thanks

  2. john says:

    Wintery,

    The same exact one we have now. Thanks

    • Oh, that won’t work then. This universe has a Creator, a fine-tuner, an intelligent cause for the origin or life, biological information in DNA, an intelligent cause for phyla, we have consciousness, free will, an awareness of an objective moral law and human rights, evidence for an after-life, a historical record showing the resurrection. Etc. I could go on.

      Nope. It won’t do. Make up a new universe where I don’t have all that evidence, and then I’ll tell you what I would do. Assuming that this new universe even allows for intelligent carbon-based life of any kind, which would imply an intelligent designer of some sort, since human beings are incredibly intricate creatures.

      • john says:

        wow, that’s very insightful, I knew you’d have a good answer. I need to work up to your level of strength with my faith, that’s my goal. Thanks for your great answer, as always.

      • Will says:

        There is no evidence for any presence of God or outside interference at any level of evolution, not in the ‘creation’ of the universe, no ‘fine tuning’, there’s no inherent biological information in DNa aside from what it combines to code within a strictly evolved cell, no intelligent cause for phyla only natural selection, consciousness and free will are still debatable on psychological grounds, no objective moral or human rights laws, no evidence of the afterlife, no record of any resurrection at any point.

        You’ve just made that up.

        • Do you have any reasons for thinking that, or is that just blind faith?

          The rules here are simple. If you have a point to make, make it. I want to see an authority quoted to sustain the point, with a link to the evidence. And I want an academic publication or peer-reviewed paper. You got anything like that? And please don’t cite Wikipedia.

          Tell what scientific discovery you want to deny…

          Is it the red-shift? Is it the cosmic microwave background radiation? Or is the light element abundance predictions? Which one? Be specific. Link to a piece of evidence from a recognized source.

          This is you first and last warning. I don’t have to waste on people who have no idea what they are talking about. There was a warning in the post about how to comment. I guess you didn’t read that. Show me the data.

  3. feilong80 says:

    That is an excellent rebuttal, because it doesn’t go in the expected place it would go. Being that I am myself not an expert debater, I would probably quote Pascal’s dilemma (which I know a lot of scientific types don’t like, but its always worked for me, even though I appreciate its weaknesses as an apologetic).

  4. Michael says:

    This is a great article- is it a repost from “How to defend the Kalam Cosmological Argument just like WLC” or has it been updated?

    Either way, it’s good stuff but I was wondering what you thought of Betrand Russell’s response that you cannot take the law of causation which applies to the parts of the universe and apply it to the universe as a whole. He argued that it is something like saying that each member of the team is born of a woman, therefore the team itself must have been born of a woman. Clearly, though, this is not the case, as what applies to the parts does not apply to the whole.

    The response that I’ve thought of (which I’m sure is what loads of other people must have come up with first) is that clearly being born of a woman is a biological principle, it is only applicable to certain things. It is very limited in its scope. This biological principle, along with other scientific principles, are contingent upon the parties involved. The law of causation, however, is a metaphysical principle which is not contingent but necessary, ie it must apply to everything for that thing to even make sense. It is logically impossible for something to begin to exist without a cause. And so this is a false analogy because we are not talking about a physical, chemical or biological law of principle, but a metaphysical law of causation which applies to everything, including the universe.

    But what, then, about the next objection that “no, we are still talking about applying a rule of the parts to the whole.” Do you think this idea of being a metaphysical principle suffices to refute this argument? What are your thoughts?

    • It’s a re-post but I cleaned it up a little.

      The argument doesn’t argue from a composition. The argument says that whatever begins to exist requires a cause. If Russell wants to deny that premise, then let him do so. There are no parts and wholes in the argument. It applies to things that begin to exist.

      • Michael says:

        Yeah, true. Though I guess Russell was not familiar with WLC’s Kalam form of the argument ;)
        So what of the objection to the 1st premise that says that just because all of our experience show causation inside the universe, does not mean we can extrapolate that causation to absolutely eveyrhting that has a beginning, especially the beginning of the universe as a whole?

        • Ok, so then you are arguing with a person who thinks that things come into being, out of nothing, without causes. And at that point, I would leave it there. There are a lot of background issues people bring to the table when they debate these things, and if they have some sort of personal issue then there’s no point in trying to argue with them.

          • Richard Ball says:

            Since atheists always manage to wiggle out of every argument, I still think they could argue along these lines:

            OK, we can’t see past the moment of the Big Bang, so it sure looks like this material universe popped into existence from nothing. But, like design in evolution, it is just the appearance of nothing. The actual cause is a natural, material cause, but in another dimension outside of this universe that we have no access to, and which pre-existed the creation of our universe. [If it existed, we would not be able to see it; we cannot see it; therefore we have scientific evidence that it exists!]

            As a result, it appears to us that this universe came from nothing, but we know that in fact there is a natural cause lying behind it.

            Just keep repeating:

            “It just appears to have come from nothing”

            “It just appears to be fine-tuned”

            “It just appears to be designed”

            “The origin of life just appears to be too complex to have happened by itself”

            “It just appears to be information embedded in DNA”

            “Consciousness just appears to be immaterial and real”

            “The mind just appears to exist apart from the brain”

            “Humans just appear to have agency apart from impersonal molecular forces”

            “Life just appears to be purposeful and meaningful”

            All is maya — illusion. The Hindus and atheists should get together.

          • gb says:

            Just because our experience shows causation IN nature, it does not mean that this is so when there is NO nature (at t=0).

          • Right, that’s your view. You think the entire physical universe popped into being uncaused out of absolute nothing, despite having no experimental evidence of ANYTHING popping into being that we can see out of absolute nothing.

            It’s like a magician taking a rabbit out of a hat. Except three is no hat, and no magician. The rabbit just appears. And that’s atheism in a nutshell.

          • Teralek says:

            agreed… it is impossible to make EXISTENCE our of absolute NOTHINGNESS. Even cosmologists know this, that’s why they keep guessing. An example is that string theory nonsense…

  5. contrararian says:

    The argument fails because I do not know that premise 2 is true.

    I DO NOT KNOW what caused the universe. Q.E.D.

    • Can you tell me which of the scientific discoveries you deny? Is it the measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation? Or is the light-element abundance predictions? Or Hubble’s measurements of red-shift in light from distance galaxies? Or do you deny the star formation lifecycle? Or the second law of thermodynamics? Or the radioactive isotope abundances?

      Please pick one. Link to a peer-reviewed paper that challenges it. If you “DON’T KNOW” that the universe had a beginning, then cite a scientist who can support you in denying THE EVIDENCE. Which piece of evidence from science do you deny? Name it, show me the paper that contradicts it, and then cite the author of the paper denying the discovery. I am pro-science. Where is YOUR science?

      (Actually, you’ll have to refute each of them, but start with one, and don’t appeal to invisible pink unicorns – I want real data)

  6. contrararian says:

    I do not have to prove anything. You have tried to support the Kalem argument and you have failed.

    Science cannot explain how the universe came into being. It is as simple as that. That leaves your premise 2 unproven – and worse, you cannot explain why if p2 is true, it should not also apply to your “god”.

    • If people don’t cite any authority for their points, then I get to make fun of them. My readers like it when I do. And I want links and quotes. In context. With peer-reviewed literature support. I can do that for my discoveries. Let’s see you cite some evidence.

      Regarding “who made God?”, I have a whole post here. Basically, the cause of time itself cannot come into being, it must be eternal. The cause of space cannot be material. So you are looking a spiritual, eternal cause that brought the material, temporal universe into being. You infer attributes of the cause from the effect.

  7. Richard Ball says:

    People who ask “who made God” think they have come up with something really, really clever. In reality, they are making a category error and displaying inflexible mental facilities — a form of materialistic fundamentalism.

    We rightfully think of things beginning to exist because that is the reality we live in — God’s created reality. But God by definition and necessity stands outside of this created reality, timeless, eternal, without beginning or end. The “I Am” neither begins, nor ceases to exist.

    Praise God that we can, through Christ, participate in his everlasting, unending life! What a wonderful thing that God became man, so that man might be incorporated into the godhead — man in Christ and Christ in God!

    Those who mock now will one day stand, with noses pressed up to the glass, looking on in amazement and regret. Those who deemed God not worth knowing, and a relationship with him in this life not worth having, will find their wishes granted and extended forever, into eternity. There will be weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

  8. Michael says:

    Also, with regards to the “Who Made God?” objection, check out this article here written by an atheist taking down this terrible argument:

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6113

    • contrararian says:

      The article at Common Sense Atheism says that explanations need not have explanations. Thus “what made the universe” is every bit as much of a “terrible argument” as “who made god”.

      It is special pleading to insist that the Universe must have a cause if you insist “god” doesn’t have to have one. Thus the Kalam argument fails.

      • I think you are missing out point about the fact that the cause of time coming into being cannot itself be in time, and therefore cannot begin to exist since there was no time causally prior to the creation of time.

        The Big Bang is the beginning of all space, time, matter and energy.

        The cause of of the beginning time is outside of time because there was no time causally prior to time beginning – so the cause of time is eternal. The cause of matter is non-material. The cause of space is non-spatial. These are attributes of God.

        Perhaps in your next comment, you can deny a specific piece of evidence and link to a piece of peer-reviewed evidence to support your claim? This is your last warning. So far, you have not linked to anyone nor have you produced any quotes to support your view. This is not church. Make your point, and show me the evidence. No blind faith is allowed.

      • Michael says:

        No I don’t think you’ve understood the article. It does not say that explanations do not need explanations. It says that in order for an explanation to be the BEST explanation, you do not need an explanation for the explanation. The theist agrees. He believes that the Big Bang IS the best explanation. The question of what caused the Big Bang is a different one, though. The atheist might say that the universe popped into being out of nothing, or he might disagree with every major scientist and claim that the Big Bang never happened. The theist, on the other hand, says that the best explanation for the universe is God, since the Big Bang was the beginning of time and space, the cause must be timeless and spaceless and of unimaginable power to create the whole universe out of ntohing.

        The article at CSA atheism essentially asserts that God is not the best explanation for the beginning of the universe because God is always a bad explanation for anything, not because we don’t have a cause for God. Basically, it seems to be that he objects to any arguments which conclude that God exists because he doesn’t. So it’s circular reasoning.

        The universe needs a cause because it began to exist at the Big Bang, and because things don’t just pop themselves into existence. God doesn’t need a cause because he is timeless, and didn’t begin to exist. How can something begin to exist when there is no time for it to do so?

        • I’ve given give several opportunities to QUOTE A SCHOLAR and LINK TO A PIECE OF PEER-REVIEWED EVIDENCE, and he has declined to do so. He seems to be more interested in ranting rather than denying a specific piece of evidence.

  9. KDC1977 says:

    I was curious, In your “proving the premises” section you write…1.“Whatever begins to exist requires a cause”
    If the atheist denies this premise, then they are denying a fundamental law of natural science, namely, that matter can neither be created or destroyed. That is natural law.”
    As an atheist and an astronomer I agree that natural law does state that matter AND energy(you left that part out) cannot be created or destroyed, but how does that support the idea that the universe has a cause? Doesn’t the law actually support the idea that matter and energy have simply always exsisted? If M and E can not be created, then why assume some supernatural being must have created it? seems illogical to me. and if all things have a cause why does god get a pass?
    Michael stated “God doesn’t need a cause because he is timeless, and didn’t begin to exist.” Michael, you got any evidence to back that up?

    • If you are an astronomer, then you know that virtually no one in the field denies the big bang.

      Do you deny it? If so, which of the evidence(s) do you deny? Quote a scientist, link to the peer-reviewed paper denying the data? Is it red-shift, cosmic microwave background radiation? Which scientific discovery of the ones I listed do you deny?

      I think in the post I am pretty clear about the requirements to comment here. Did you read the comment policy mention in the post? Where is your quote? Where is your authority? Where is your link to peer-reviewed data?

      This is your first and last warning.

      If your next comment does not provide a quote, a link, or some evidence, then you understand that it will not be approved. You can go complain about it on your atheist blogs though. Just not here.

  10. Michael says:

    Hey WK. i was wondering what you thought of the objection regarding the first premise, that actually there is no way of knowing that? To be honest I think a case can be made with the following argumentation. What we see in physics and the world around us is never REALLY something beginning to exist. At least not in the sense that the christian means when he talks about the universe beginning to exist. We have never ever experienced something beginning to exist out of nothing, either with a cause or without. We have only seen things change and develop. For example, you could say, “Look at the when a human being begins to exist.” However, that is the joining of things that already exist, the sperm cell and the egg cell. When those distinctive things join together, they create something new and this something was not something that was there before and therefore has now begun to exist. However, we don’t mean this when talking about the universe beginning to exist. 1) it is impossible to speculate before the big bang (they say), 2) we cannot make any speculations as to whether this must have been caused or not because we have never ever experience anything beginning to exist from nothing.

    What would you say to this refutation?

    • Paradox says:

      I think I can answer this: The assertion “What we see in physics and the world around us is never REALLY something beginning to exist,” is false. Just because the little bits and pieces exist doesn’t mean that the object the compose does. That is the fallacy of composition.
      In the sense of the thing being created from nothing? If that’s the case (as you use the term in a strict way), then not even the universe began to exist; when the Bible says that God created the world from nothing, it means God didn’t use stuff that existed outside of Him (for there was no such thing); He used His own power, without anything else (the word ‘nothing’ is used in a soft fashion).

      1) What happened `before` the big bang, is ultimately irrelevant; either there was a caused being at this time, or there was not. If there were no caused beings, then the big bang is the beginning of the universe. And we can be certain that an infinite regress, though (maybe) logically possible, will never be realized: what is to keep this chain from breaking? Over an infinite interval, it must break; it is a simple matter of probability. We can be certain that there was a beginning, period.
      2) This objection makes no sense to me. Mere stipulation has that effect on me, so I’m tempted to write it off as meaningless. But here’s a problem: if things that are created from nothing can come into existence uncaused, then what is stopping such a miracle right now? As William Lane Craig and others have pointed out, it is impossible to prevent such an occurrence. It should have happened by now!
      Finally, notice how these people want to push cosmology into a stand still. What could be driving them to that? Only a fear of what will be found if we open this veil of ignorance. They know, they just don’t want to admit it.

  11. Yndrd1984 says:

    Regarding your defense of the premises:

    1. “… matter can neither be created or destroyed.”

    2. “The universe came into being.”

    As #2 requires the creation of matter, these statements appear to be somewhat contradictory. Could you clarify?

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