The most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing. -Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, 135.
Is this so reasonable? Is it true that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing? The Kalam Cosmological Argument is one of the most compelling arguments for theism. The broad opposition to the Kalam (or, more specifically, to its implications) from atheists has lead to some sophisticated arguments (like those of Graham Oppy or J.L Mackie), but it has also lead to some pretty poor arguments. Below, several objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument have been outlined, along with rebuttals of varying lengths.
Some have objected to the Kalam by raising the possibility of a multiverse. They say that this counters the Kalam because it’s possible that our universe is one of nearly infinite past universes, generated as another “bubble” among untold trillions of other bubble universes. There should be one glaring difficulty with this objection that most can see immediately: “Whence the multiverse?” If the multiverse is proposed as eternal, then every objection about actual infinites applies to the multiverse. Not only that, but the multiverse itself would have to account for entropy. How is it that all the energy in this (nearly) infinite multiverse has not been used if it has existed for all eternity?
Ways around these difficulties have been proposed. For example, regarding entropy, some have argued that perhaps different laws of nature apply to the multiverse as a whole. Clearly, this is an extremely ad hoc theory that is really only invented to try to get around the argument. Once we’re allowed to modify reality to our every whim, we could indeed create anything we like–including (nearly) infinite universes.
Another problem with the multiverse objection is that we have startlingly little evidence for such a hypothesis. While there are many hypothetical scientists proposing bubble universes and the like, it’s shocking to read just how little evidence there really is for such a hypothesis.
Finally, even were there an infinite multiverse–as some have proposed due to string theory–this would not avoid an absolute beginning for the entirety of the multiverse. Bruce Gordon points out that the standard inflationary models still use inflation with a finite duration, which would entail that regardless of the number of universes which exist, there would still have to be an absolute beginning to the multiverse (Gordon, cited below, 86-87).
Perhaps, however, this multiverse (or the universe) is finite, but it created itself. There are a number of proposals suggesting just that.
The Universe Created Itself
I don’t think I can do much better than Edgar Andrews did over at his blog when he asks “Could a universe create itself?” He points out that the difficulty with each scenario proposed in which the universe creates itself is that it presupposes the existence of either matter, energy, or the laws of nature–the very things which this objection is supposed to answer. Andrews writes,
Stephen Hawking [who recently proposed the universe created itself] falls into this dilemma by claiming that the universe was created as a result of quantum mechanical fluctuations (in a vacuum) which became stabilized by gravitational forces [Hawking pp. 131-135; Hawking review]. He thus requires the laws of quantum mechanics and of gravity to have pre-existed the universe… But what is the law of gravity but a description of the way materialbodies interact — either with one another or with the space-time continuum? To claim that such a law existed in the absence of matter, energy, space or time stretches credulity and is incapable of demonstration. Only ‘mind of God’ and ‘non-material blueprint’ arguments remain and these are theological not scientific.
Similarly, suppose we took the claim of Smith (above) seriously–that the universe created itself from nothing. Does this even make sense? William Lane Craig writes, “…if prior to the existence of the universe, there was absolutely nothing–no God, no space, no time–how could the universe possibly have come to exist?” This is an extremely important question for the atheist to answer. Most often, however, atheists have instead changed the meaning of “nothing” to mean quantum vacuum or some other physical reality. This is hardly “nothing” that would have existed before the universe. Before the universe, there was no space, no time, no anything.
Edgar Andrews points out the confusion that some atheist philosophers and physicists perpetuate with this conflation of “nothing”:
[Victor Stenger] begins by utterly confusing the pre-creation ‘nothing’ that lies outside of space-time with the ‘nothing’ of a vacuum within space-time. Next, without making it clear which ‘nothing’ he is talking about, he claims that ‘the transition from nothing to something is a natural one, not requiring any agent.’ (Andrews, 97, cited below).
The problem isn’t solved when one lends it the idea of a multiverse, either. Oscillating universe models still imply a finite beginning (Gordon, 86ff). The idea that an infinite number of universes caused each other in a causal loop does no better–it leads only to a vicious regress. Ultimately, such proposals must be rejected for what they are–fiction.
Who Caused God?
Another trite response to the Kalam is the classic “Well fine, you say the universe is caused, well who caused God?” line. Here the atheist commits a number of classic blunders, to steal the phrase from “The Princess Bride.”
First, as in all scientific (and otherwise) inquiry, once one has reached the best possible explanation for an event, one has reached the end of the inquiry. An inference to the best explanation does not require an explanation of that explanation. There’s a reason that scientific inquiry can appeal to laws: they best explain how the world works.
Second, the first part of the Kalam is that “Everything which begins to exist has a cause” not “Everything is caused.” The atheist has merely misread or misinterpreted this principle. Should the atheist want to press the second point–that everything is caused, they have already conceded the weaker principle (that everything which begins has a cause), and they must further argue for a much stronger metaphysical claim. I leave it to the atheist to establish this claim.
“But,” the atheist may object, “you’re just denying the antecedent!” Not quite. I’m not saying that God didn’t begin, therefore God was uncaused–rather, I’m arguing that because God did not begin, this argument does not apply to God. There could be other arguments made to establish that God is caused, but to do so would require, as I pointed out, arguing for the metaphysical principle that “everything is caused.” Again, I leave the atheist to make this argument.
While many objections to the Kalam might be made in good faith, it is clear upon examination that they all fall far short of defeating the argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument succeeds in its goal: to show that the universe is caused. What is this cause? That’s a question we must all consider with fear and trembling.
Those interested in a broad outline of the Kalam Cosmological Argument can read my post on the topic.
For a discussion of one both Richard Dawkins’ and Graham Oppy’s objections to the Kalam, read Dawkins and Oppy vs. Theism: Defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Edgar Andrews, “Could a universe create itself?”
Edgar Andrews, Who Made God (Darlington, England: EP books, 2009). Reviewed here.
Bruce Gordon, “Inflationary Cosmology and the String Multiverse” in New Proofs for the Existence of God by Robert Spitzer (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2010).
William Lane Craig and Paul Copan, Creation Out of Nothing (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).
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I think there is a better objection that could be made, on the lines of the “Who created god?” one.
What’s unsatisfying about the Kalam is most easily seen when you view it together with the teleological argument. Which makes great lengths to describe the fine tunedness of some parameters of the universe as something that needs to be explained. “The numbers are so complex, they must have been designed” by positing a being that is infinity complex to explain this, and also claiming that it is uncaused leaves a remarkable contradiction. The Teleological claims that there must be an cause for complexity, and the Kalam states that there can be no cause for the most complex being of all.
“Ways around these difficulties have been proposed. For example, regarding entropy, some have argued that perhaps different laws of nature apply to the multiverse as a whole. Clearly, this is an extremely ad hoc theory that is really only invented to try to get around the argument. Once we’re allowed to modify reality to our every whim, we could indeed create anything we like–including (nearly) infinite universes.”
Made me chuckle, given the irony here. The Kalam was invented exclusively to support the existence of god. Making very controversial claims as it goes, “minds can exist without bodies!?”, seeming to bend reality to meet it’s end goal. The Multiverse Theory wasn’t thought up to dodge the Kalam, yes it’s very speculative. But, so too is Kalam.
You wrote, regarding the teleological argument: “by positing a being that is infinity complex to explain this, and also claiming that it is uncaused leaves a remarkable contradiction”
This is actually quite false. God, on theism, is thought to be the simplest possible being. Don’t believe me? St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, believed God was omnia simplex–absolutely simple in every way.. to the extent that God’s attributes would be identical. Most theists today don’t hold to omnia simplex, but they do hold that God is as simple as a being could possibly be. Why is this possible? Because God is a disembodied mind with just a few major attributes.
So your reasoning is flawed on this level. Of course this also means you’re wrong when you write, ” the Kalam states that there can be no cause for the most complex being of all.” Again, theists (there may be exceptions) tend to point out that God is the simplest possible being. You’re attacking a straw man.
Not only that, but the Kalam has nothing to say about the cause of the universe. Nothing in the premises says anything of the sort. It isn’t arguing for or against the cause of the cause. It’s only saying that “Whatever begins has a cause.” If God is without beginning, then the Kalam does not apply to God.
You wrote, ” The Kalam was invented exclusively to support the existence of god.”
No it isn’t. It’s designed to show the universe is caused. People extrapolate from that to God.
So each problem you’ve shown you have with the Kalam is actually a problem with understanding theism or the argument.
Good post J.W. Only one question. You refer to a quote from “Smith,” but there is no quote from a Smith in the post. Was this a quote you intended to include, but forgot to do so, or edited out?
The quote from Quentin Smith should appear as the beginning of the post. It’s showing on mine as a block quote.
Per the argument from physical lmind, the idea of disembodied being is vacuous, thereby affirming ignosticism! Ti’s only a it must be or it may be of theological double-talk to claim that such a being could possibly exist when we know only of embodied minds, which are late int the evolutionary processs. Leave that aside, per Lamberth’s teleonomic argument, science only speaks of teleonomic-causal-mechanistic – processes in Nature. To prattle for teleology, then would not only violate the Ockham with convoluted, ad hoc assumptions, but also contradict rather than complement science. Directed- theistic- evolution is no more than an oxymoronic obfuscation, besides lacking explanatory powers!
I’m pretty sure that most of this doesn’t even make sense. “Ti’s only a it must be…”?
Well, anyway, so far your main argument is: ” to claim that such a being could possibly exist when we know only of embodied minds, which are late int the evolutionary processs.’
This argument of course begs the question in assuming the mind is only material.
To claim that God is without beginning special pleads and begs the question of His being different. Besides, per the argument from physical mind, ti’s only an it must be or it may be of theological double-talk-guesswork- that He could have a disembodied mind! Mind cake late in the evolutionary process. Why then this argument from ignorance?
leave that aside, per Lamberth’s teleonomic argument, science reveals that only teleonomy rules, leaving no room for divine intent. To postulate that, one resorts to the new Omphalos argument that He is that wizard behind teleonomy! No, no such being can be satisfactory, despite William Lane Craig and Richard Swinburne.
They as theologians do, resort to the superstition of reduced animism. The Azande know about germ theory but obstinately still resort to the germ spirit. Such is the nature of supernaturalism!
Per Reichenbach’s argument from Existence, as it is all, nothing exists outside it nor whence it comes.
The quantum fields themselves are eternal per the law of conservation. Astrophysicists tell us how the fields came to make this Universe. That rests on an empirical basis whilst to argue for a metaphysical cause contradicts a real physical one! Adjust your metaphysics to science instead of forcing science to obfuscate its findings!
Despite, Alister Earl McGrath, God is a useless redundancy!
Swinburne doesn’t understand the Ockham! Ti’s the number of components of something, but instead the fewer number of assumptions. Scientific hypotheses have some evidence to which scientists add more evidence when possible whilst the supernatural has no evidence but only the argument from ignorance!
Theological fallacies stem from the major two- the arguments from personal incredulity and from ignorance! Scientists have the conservation of knowledge incredulity about matters. Quite a difference!
With their arguments from angst and from happiness-purpose, supernaturalists themselves support Lamberth’s genetic argument, because the heart of both arguments rests on those desires as the genesis for their faith.
John Haught defines faith as the enveloping of ones entire being with spiritual truth to make for certitude. But that contradicts the scientific attitude of tentativeness! This is why William James is such a sophist! With William Kingdon Clifford, we rationalists-skeptics affirm that no, ti’s better to follow claims until warrant declares otherwise. This is the warrant of credible evidence that complements our conservation of knowledge.
And McGrath’s claim that supernaturalists first have the evidence and then use faith for certitude. obviously fails.
Swinburne deserves Peter Atkins’s contempt about his silly rationalization of evil!
I take the position that whether one proceeds form theology itself or from just arguments for Him, He lacks existence!
Please, get Smith to comment if possible!
Of course, this is just adumbration whilst it would take a book to flesh all this and more out!
” Logic is the bane of theists>” Fr. Griggs
Again, I’m borderline on thinking this may be spam, because the sentence structure is off and the thought process seems pretty convoluted, but I’ll assume it is not spam and just say that I literally can’t follow your reasoning.
Also, explain how ” quantum fields themselves are eternal per the law of conservation.”
I didn’t post any spam but yes, my convoluted reasoning appears.
No, I didn’t beg the question about the mind as we only know of physical mind; theists must give evidence thereof rather than using faith, postulating or defining the term God, including Him as having a disembodied mind. You just cannot gainsay that!
Quentin Smith and Hawkins know their science whilst you rely on such misunderstandings as Craig’s.
Swinburne doesn’t impress me whatsoever as far as providing real evidence but rather as another sophisticated theologian who actually misunderstands matters!
Plantinga can use reems of paper to make solecistic,sophisticated sophistry! No sensus divinitatis exists as no evidence comes forth for that- just theological double-talk. God isn’t basic and upon reading the Bible,should one have an epiphany, that does not make for Him being basic: how could an anthology at odds with history and contradicting itself in ever so many places vouchsafe, in effect, Him as basic?
No, supernaturalism is just reduced animism!
Google Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth to see how much effort I’ve devoted to my evangel! I combine and permute my arguments so asshow the links amongst them.
The quantum fields are eternal as their energy itself is eternal- neither created or destroyed per the law of conservation. ” Atheist Universe has a chapter about this.
Oh, my mind does have its flaws so convoluted remarks do occur.
there isn’t any evidence to susgget what the first cause could or couldn’t be and no reasoning or logic based on things that occur within our universe can be used to explain things that operate outside the universeAgain, you appear to know (in advance) enough about these out-of-universe things to know how we can and cannot learn or think about them. We cannot help but use negation, it seems. :)It occurs to me that part of the problem may be that this conversation has been about causality leading to a First Cause; and you’ve raised the objection that we can’t know that the First Cause is intelligent. The converse of this would be if we’d been talking about how intelligence leads to a transcendent intelligence, and then someone had objected that we can’t know that the transcendent intelligence is a causal agent of any kind.Deducing a First Cause follows the path’ of causality to it’s logical end. Likewise, deducing a transcendent intelligence follows not the path of causality, but the path’ of intelligence to it’s logical end.Now, letc = causalityandFC = First Causeand leti = intelligenceandTI = Transcendent IntelligenceIn a causality discussion’, we can talk about whether or not c’ leads logically to FC’. Likewise, in an intelligence discussion’, we could ask whether i’ points to TI’. But just as I don’t think it is helpful to ask:How do we know the c’-ness of the TI’?I also don’t think it’s helpful to ask:How do we know the i’-ness of the FC’?Now, even if one accepts that i’ leads to TI, and that c’ leads to FC, they could still susgget that TI and FC are different things. I think the simplest most elegant explanation would be that they all seek an ultimate explanation, which finds it’s most logical end in an ultimate Being.I’ll leave it there, and get your thoughts. I think these distinctions are key. Dale
Recent results from the LHC support the mutliverse theory, Your argument about physicists assertions that different universes can lack entropy is a cop-out shows that you really don’t understand the multiverse theory. It is the very foundation of the theory that the laws of physics we know will not apply to other universes, hence, entropy will seldom apply to other universe. Why do you think most physicists hate the multiverse theory? Because it means our laws of physics are limit to the universe, making it impossible to understand other universes.
If God is allowed to have no beginning and be uncaused, why can’t the multiverse. I think your first argument From Andrews works; your argument about being uncaused does not work at least as it stands.
Premise 1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
Premise 2. The universe had a beginning.
Premise 3. The Universe had a cause.
Premise 4. This cause is God, because only a mind could have decided when to create the Universe.
I have a question about this argument, that involves Premise 1. If time begin at the beginning of the universe then why does it need to have a cause? As I see it asking what came ‘before’ time is like asking what is north of the north pole. So why not just say that the universe at the 1st moment was the 1st cause? As a Deist I simply replace God with the Universe at the first moment. I wonder if it is even possible for there to be a timeless cause of the universe. How could a timeless God cause a CHANGE from something to nothing? CHANGE REQUIRES TIME.