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kalam cosmological argument

This tag is associated with 6 posts

Move Over, Kalam, Here is the best argument for theism

100_2744Yeah, I said it. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is in vogue, and for good reason. It’s an extremely powerful argument for the existence of God, the first Cause. Nothing I say here should be taken as a condemnation of the Kalam. However, I don’t think it is the most powerful argument for theism. In fact, I don’t think it’s even close. The Argument from Religious Experience wins that prize, and it is a landslide.

Is it so powerful?

The obvious question is this: what makes the Argument from Religious Experience (hereafter ARE) so powerful? Here are just a few reasons:

1. The ARE is malleable and may be used as an argument for a) merely the existence of the transcendent–anything beyond the physical world; b) theism specifically c) Christianity specifically.
2. The ARE does not rely upon anything more than things we already do in everyday life, such as trusting that people are reporting the truth.
3. The ARE has evidence backed from millions of persons across the world and time.
4. It is possible, though not at all certain, to have personal confirmation of the ARE.

Why Not ARE?

Okay, well if it’s so strong, why don’t more apologists use the argument? There are a number of reasons, and some are basic: they haven’t read about the argument in much popular apologetic literature and so are unfamiliar with the argument, they know of it but are unsure of how to formulate it in a helpful way, or they simply haven’t thought about how powerful the argument is. Another reason may be (as I suggested elsewhere) that apologists prefer arguments that are useful in debate formats.

To be honest, though, I think the primary reason is because the ARE has almost an inherent strangeness to it. There is a kind of spiritualism about the argument itself which might turn off apologists who would prefer a purely deductive argument. If one wants to talk about a religious “experience,” there is a kind of feeling to that phrase which an argument like the Kalam does not share. Just admitting that there is a category of religious experience itself admits to a kind of transcendence, and I think that apologists–I include myself in this category–are overly cautious about spirituality. So let’s get over it and start using this powerful argument, okay?

What is the ARE?

As I noted in point 1 in favor of the ARE’s strength above, the argument itself is malleable and may be formulated in different ways (for some examples, see my post on the usefulness of the argument). Here’s a way to formulate it to merely defend a transcendent reality:

1. Generally, when someone has an experience of something, they are within their rational limits to believe the experience is genuine.
2. Across all socio-historical contexts, people have had experiences they purport to be of a transcendent realm.*
3. Therefore, it is rational to believe there is a transcendent realm.

Just consider this for a second. The argument leaves a few spaces to fill in for the sake of making it deductively valid, but we’ll just look at how it stands now. Suppose that 2 is true. In that case, one who wants to deny the ARE’s strength would have to say that all of the experiences of these people have been in error. Frankly, when it comes down to it, that’s a pretty big claim, because reports of religious experience really do come from all times and places.

The argument, though, can be narrowed to defend theism specifically or even Christianity. For more on this, see my post talking about its strength as it narrows.

Now point 2 above suggested the ARE doesn’t rely on anything more than what we do in everyday life. I am speaking, of course, of the principle of credulity: the notion that when x appears to someone in way s, it is rational [barring some epistemic  defeater]** to believe that x is s (or some other formulation). Moreover, we also trust the principle of testimony: when person x tells us that y occurred, it is prima facie rational to believe y. When you read a news story and someone says they saw a woman running from the scene of a crime, it is rational to believe them. Similarly, when millions say they have experienced a transcendent realm, prima facie it is rational to believe them.

religious-symbolsThe Knock Down Objection?

The most common objection is the objection from competing religions. That is, if person x has an experience that purports to prove Christianity, and person y has an experience of the truth of Buddhism, what then? Often it is suggested that x and y’s testimony would just cancel each other out. But of course that’s not the case in any other area of experience. If I am a witness in court testifying about a murder, and I say I saw a tall dark male commit the crime, while another witness says they saw a short pale male, does each testimony cancel the other? Well, suppose the criminal was of average male height and fairly tan. To me, a short very pale man, he would appear tall and dark. To someone who is taller than I and of darker skin, the person would appear short and pale.

The point is that even with religious experience, different facets may be recognized even were the experience the same. Now much more nuance needs to go into this argument, but I think cogent answers have been provided in the relevant literature. The point is that even the most common and strongest objection to the ARE really isn’t that powerful in the end, particularly when weighed against the cumulative force of religious experience.

Conclusion

I readily admit this post has only very briefly touched on issues which could each take entire volumes to discuss. There is so much more to consider, and so many avenues to explore, but I think my overall point stands: The ARE is the strongest argument for theism. Fellow apologists, I suggest you research the argument (see the suggested reading list at the end of this post and also check out my other posts below) and use it! Let’s integrate it into our defense of the faith. Let me know your own thoughts below.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

The Argument from Religious Experience: Some thoughts on method and usefulness– a post which puts forward an easy-to-use version of the ARE and discusses its importance in apologetic endeavors.

The Argument from Religious Experience: A look at its strength– I evaluate the different ways the ARE may be presented and discuss how strong the argument may be considered across different formulations.

The image above to the left was a photo taken by me and I claim all rights noted below. The image to the right is from Wiki Commons.

*[thanks to a commentator for correcting this error- see comments]
**In the interest of shortening this post, I glossed over tightening of the principle of credulity and have added this clause to make it more clear.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Really Recommended Posts 1/17/14- Gospels, Abolish Human Abortion, the Kalam, and more!

postHere we have another round of really recommended posts. This one features a couple posts directed inwards at fellow Christians or people with whom we agree alongside a range of interesting topics. It is important to maintain a high standard, so sometimes it is necessary to give criticism where it is due. Drop a comment, let me know what you thought.

A Fundamental Flaw Behind Abolish Human Abortion– A group which I came out strongly in support of some time ago has really started to take a few turns with which I cannot agree. The group is known as Abolish Human Abortion. I think a lot of what they were doing is quite excellent, but I cannot abide by a few of their primary beliefs. Check out this great analysis of one of the major issues with the group.

The kalam cosmological argument defended in a peer-reviewed science journal–  The title says it all, though the post does have some nice quotes and bits of information. The kalam cosmological argument is an extremely powerful argument for the existence of God. I have a few posts on it myself.

Dear Parents with Young Children– The importance of bringing your children to church is inestimable. Moreover, choosing a church where Law and Gospel are clearly proclaimed, and a basis for belief is preached is essential. Thank you to those parents who bring their children to church! Check out this great post about the topic.

The Case for the Eyewitness Status of the Gospel Authors– Are there any reasons to think those who wrote the Gospels knew what they were talking about? Here, J. Warner Wallace–who, as a homicide detective, has some experience with eyewitness accounts–argues that the Gospels show good evidence for thinking they are eyewitness accounts.

A Review of 5 Views of Biblical Inerrancy– I do not agree with everything Norman Geisler has to say, but I think portions of this review are of critical importance. I haven’t quite finished the whole article, and I’ve only just started reading the book, but I thought this post was worth passing along for others who find the topic of interest.

Really Recommended Posts: 6/23/12

Charles Darwin, Meet Friedrich Nietzsche– Really challenging post on Nietzsche’s thought as a reaction to Darwin’s theory. In particular, Max Andrews focuses upon the secular teleology of Nietzche’s system of thought, “Nietzsche’s attempt to construct a secularized teleology is subjective and produces no objective purpose or meaning.  He understands this to be true, particularly more so if God is dead.” Very interesting.

“This is the End of America”– Eric Metaxas weighs in on the HHS mandate. I think this is spot on: ‘The requirement that religious institutions violate their consciences proves “the government, with all its power, can bully people,” he said. “This is the end of America.”‘

Even if the universe is eternal, it still needs a cause– Atheists miss an important point in regards to the Kalam Cosmological Argumentwhich Jason does an excellent job drawing out. Namely, a denial of the first premise of the Kalam does not show that the universe is acausal.

From Jesus to Us: A Look at P.O.W.E.R.– Eric presents a unique way to remember the evidences about Jesus.

‘Prometheus’ raises big questions– A look at the recent movie, Prometheus and the big questions it raises about life’s origins and the universe.

MP3 Podcasts on Presuppositional Apologetics– I’ve been prepping a post on presuppositional apologetics for a while now, and was delighted to find these discussions of the topic.

Ask an Egalitarian (Response)– An insightful post to how egalitarians (those who are for ordaining women) respond to various complementarian (people against) questions. For my own discussion of this issue, see my posts on egalitarianism.

Thermodynamics, the Past, and the Multiverse: Arguing about the Kalam Cosmological Argument

[I]t seems impossible to disprove, a priori, the possibility of an infinite past time. -J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, 93.

I wrote recently about several objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, but I wasn’t able to cover even the most common objections in one post. Here, I’ll examine a few more objections to the argument, as well as offer critiques and more links to read.

Matter can be neither created nor destroyed

A common objection to the Kalam Cosmological Argument (hereafter KCA or Kalam) is against its principles of causation. The atheist points out the principle of the conservation of energy: that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but only change forms (it can equally be said that “matter can be neither created nor destroyed…”). Applying this to the Kalam, they argue that because the KCA asserts the universe began and was caused, it cannot be true–matter cannot come into existence.

There are several problems with this objection. First, it assumes a causal principle: that only material causes exist. For it is true that the conservation of energy applies to material causation, but it may not apply to immaterial causation. “Ah,” the atheist may counter, saying, “but why think that there is immaterial causation anyway?” Why? Because that’s exactly what the KCA is made to demonstrate: that the universe was caused by an immaterial entity. The first premise (Everything that begins has a cause) would indeed have to surrender to the conservation of energy… but only if it is assumed that the cause is material. The Kalam is presenting an immaterial cause, creating the universe ex nihilo–out of nothing. For more on this objection, see William Lane Craig’s answer to the question “Must everything have a material cause?”

Second, using the conservation of energy to argue against the beginning of the universe reveals confusion about cosmology to begin with. Scientists can extrapolate back to the beginning of the big bang–which is the moment when both space and time came into existence, along with all of the material world (Craig and Copan, cited below, 222ff). So we know scientifically that there was a moment when there was no matter at all. It was created, not out of other matter, but out of nothing. Here is the key to note: it is once the universe came into existence that the laws of nature came into effect–before the universe, there was nothing.

Third, if it is true that matter has never been created or destroyed, matter and energy would be eternal. But if that is the case, then due to another law of thermodynamics–entropy–the entire universe would have evened out all the energy by now. There would be no stars burning, no people breathing, etc. Thus, it is easy to see scientifically that the universe is not eternal.

Infinite Past is No Problem

The late atheistic philosopher J.L. Mackie objected to the Kalam from a different perspective. He felt that there was a problem with the way William Lane Craig tried to establish a finite past. He argues that “[The Kalam] assumes that, even if past time were infinite, there would still have been a starting-point of time, but one infinitely remote, so that an actual infinity would have had to be traversed to reach the present from there. But to take the hypothesis of infinity seriously would be to suppose that there was no starting-point…” (Mackie, 93, cited below).

William Lane Craig and Paul Copan point out that, “On the contrary, the beginningless character of the series of past events only serves to underscore the difficulty of its formation by successive addition. The fact that there is no beginning at all, not even an infinitely distant one, makes the problem worse, not better” (Craig and Copan, 214, cited below). It’s not that defenders of the Kalam argue that if the past is infinite, one could not count to the present–rather, it’s that if the past is literally infinite, there is no beginning, and one could never reach the present moment by successive addition.

If one finds this line of reasoning unconvincing, however, one must also deal with the empirical problem with an infinite past: entropy. If the universe has existed forever, then all the energy in the universe should have evened out by now. We would simply not observe the universe we do. Thus, both philosophically and scientifically, we can discount the idea of an infinite past.

The Multiverse, Redux 

I addressed the multiverse in my previous post on the topic, but it should be noted how much of a difficulty there is for those wishing to use the multiverse to discredit the Kalam. Jeffrey Zweerink points out that according to Arvind Borde, Alexander Vilenkin, and Alan Guth, “any cosmos that expands on average (like an inflationary multiverse) must have a beginning in the finite past” (Zweerink, 32, cited below). The multiverse does not help those trying to avoid a beginning for the universe, it merely pushes the problem up one level.

Conclusion

Again, after subjecting the  Kalam Cosmological Argument to multiple objections, it emerges unscathed. It establishes its conclusion: the universe has a cause. What does this mean? That’s a question we should all consider of utmost importance.

Links

An outline of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Dawkins and Oppy vs. Theism: Defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument– A survey of some philosophical and popular attacks on the KCA along with rebuttals.

Sources

William Lane Craig and Paul Copan,Creation out of Nothing (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).

J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (New York, NY: Oxford, 1982).

Jeffrey Zweerink, Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse? (Reasons to Believe, 2008).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 9/23

The World’s First Talking Chair Shows Up in the UK– one of my favorite websites, No Apologies Allowed, has recently featured a comic on Dawkins’ failure to man up and meet William Lane Craig in a debate on the existence of God. Given the absolute trouncing Craig gave to Dawkins’ buddy, Sam Harris, it’s not surprising Dawkins is hiding as far from this debate as possible.

Thinking Christian is another site I follow closely, and he recently had two fantastic posts. The first is a review of the Intelligent Design movie, “Metamorphosis.” I recently purchased the film but have yet to watch it. I anticipate it greatly. The second post points out some pretty interesting aspects about how the “person” status of slaves was revoked–just as people now revoke the unborn’s “person” status. Check out his post, “Non-Persons Yesterday and Today.”

Holly Ordway over at Hieropraxis has another interesting post which reflects on why we should be “Reclaiming Story for Christ.” Holly has a ton of awesome posts, and I highly recommend her site.

“God is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of ‘Love Wins'” by Kevin DeYoung. I think the title says it all.

Randy Everist over at “Possible Worlds” has a fun post reflecting on the “Worst Objection to the Kalam Cosmological Argument.” For some reason I can’t get a direct link, so simply go to his site http://randyeverist.com/ and scroll down.

Readers should recognize that I’ve also been focusing on the Kalam recently, and can check out my more recent posts on the topic: Dawkins and Oppy vs. Theism: Defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument; “The Multiverse Created Itself” and “Who Made God after all?”- The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Do you like Biblical Archaeology? I do! Jason Dulle over at Theo-sophical Ruminations has featured another post in his series on the topic. This one features the ossuary of Caiaphas.

Image Credit:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_Fence_Post.JPG

“The Multiverse Created Itself” and “Who made God after all?” -The Kalam Cosmological Argument

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.

The Multiverse?

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.

Conclusion

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.

Links

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.

Sources:

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).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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