I received a question from someone presenting the Kalam Cosmological argument, and receiving the objection that Superman could just as well be God on that argument. He wondered how to respond.
My response is below:
Let’s start by recalling the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It consists of the premises below:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
In the context of the argument, we are using the term “universe” to refer to all of space-time reality, including all matter and energy. Now if the first cause is the cause of matter coming into existence, then he cannot be a material being. Superman is a material being, and so this first cause cannot be like Superman. This “first cause” must also be un-caused since it brought about the existence of everything apart from itself (otherwise that would be the first cause). Superman came into existence and thus is not un-caused. You point out as well that Superman is a fictional character, but fictional characters cannot bring about the existence of things in the actual world. The Kalam describes what must be true of the actual world, and thus any reference to fictional characters is just irrelevant. Therefore, there is no sense in which Superman can fit the bill for the “first cause” prescribed by the Kalam.
In general, if someone raises an objection and you’re unsure of how to respond; a good strategy is to ask them which premise the objection is meant to oppose and in what way it defeats that premise. Most often an objection will only seem daunting because it is so unclear. If we ask the critic to be specific with the objection, they are bringing we can often cut to the heart of the matter quickly and show that their objection does not get them very far. Notice, for example, that it is entirely unclear that the Superman objection relates to either of the first two premises in the Kalam. It seems, rather, that the critic is saying that the conclusion does not necessarily imply theism (as it could just as easily imply that Superman exists). We’ve seen above why this won’t work, but rather than launching into that topic I would ask the critic if they are conceding the Kalam argument at this point and want to move on to its implications or if they still have a disagreement with the argument itself. If they concede the argument and want to move on to its implications, then we have made significant headway in the conversation.
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