I received a question from someone regarding the Kalam Cosmological Argument. They had come across objections from Matt Dillahunty of Atheist Experience and wanted to know how to respond to them.
My response is below:
I’ll list the points below that I could gather from your e-mail as I understand them and respond to them in turn.
- The Kalam cosmological argument is not an argument for the existence of God.
- The Kalam begs the question by containing its conclusion in one of its premises.
- The Kalam arbitrarily qualifies the first premise to say, “everything that has a beginning.”
- Inferring God from the Kalam cosmological argument is post-hoc rationalization.
- We don’t know that the universe had a beginning because we cannot investigate prior to plank time.
1) This just seems silly. If he didn’t think that the Kalam cosmological argument had theistic implications, then why would he be addressing it on the atheist experience? The argument leads us to conclude that there is an uncaused, immaterial, personal creator of the universe. It would be a strange form of atheism to admit the existence of such a being!
2) This just seems false. I’ve listed the three premises of the argument below. The conclusion follows from the premises, but is not contained within them. No proponent of the Kalam would argue for the truth of either premise 1 or 2 from the conclusion.
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
3) Are we to understand that Mr. Dillahunty thinks that even things that do not begin to exist should have a cause? This seems like a nonsensical premise. In fact, there was a time when cosmologists thought that the universe did not begin to exist but was past eternal. At that time they did not think the universe had a cause. It seems far from arbitrary. Even so, who cares? If it is our argument then it seems we can construct the premises however we like, and if the construction that we have is fallacious then let the critic show us where the fault lies.
4) The theistic implications seem to be immediate and obvious. The first cause must transcend that which it causes to exist, and thus must have been timeless and immaterial. It must have been unimaginably powerful as well to have brought the cosmos into being. Finally we can determine that the first cause must be personal. If the first cause were an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then they would bring about the universe whenever the first cause was present. Since, as we have seen, the first cause existed in a timeless state prior to the creation of time then it would have been present from eternity past. Thus we should expect that the universe should be eternal if the first cause is an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions. That we do not experience an eternal universe is thus reason to think that the first cause is not impersonal.
Notice that these are all attributes inferred from the argument. They are not read back into the argument post-hoc.
5) This is just a denial of the scientific consensus and the philosophical argumentation for a beginning. The best available evidence leads to the conclusion that the universe began to exist, and thus premise 2 of the argument seems to be on solid ground.
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