That was the question asked by a caller that took up most of the show discussing Kalam last week. And as anyone who watched the show saw—or more likely already knew—there are 1,001 ways to approach problems or issues with this argument. But my main point of contention with Kalam was one that caller failed to understand. And it may have been my fault for not doing the best job of communicating it. During a three-way conversation with one party on a phone over a loud speaker, communication efficiency may not be at its peak.
But let me say there are a few issues that are problematic with a majority of apologetic arguments, that, to me, undermine their efficacy, and result in a situation where the premises of the argument become red herrings. I was trying to point this out, and early in the call I actually leaned over to Russell to say “Wait…he’s answering his own question.”
By that, I meant that the caller, after walking through Kalam’s premises with Russell, ended by agreeing that Kalam does not end with “some god,” but with “some cause.” And then, the caller acknowledged, more work needs to be done, outside of Kalam, to demonstrate that cause is god. That, in a nutshell, is why Kalam is not compelling at convincing me a god exists.
I noted during the call, and the caller agreed: “Things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.” I borrow that quote from George H. Smith’s “Why Atheism?” And that statement is the more correct, far less problematic version of the very sloppy “something cannot come from nothing”—which nobody should ever utter.
In essence, then, what Kalam would get us to—on its best day—is “the universe has some cause.”
Since only things that exist can be the cause of other things, science generally has a “bias” toward things that exist when it seeks out a cause or explanation for events. What else could it do—examine things that do not exist to see if perhaps they might have caused the phenomenon? In essence, we are left with a reality that any cause put forward first has to be demonstrated to exist, in order to be considered as a reasonable cause—because it would be unreasonable to suggest a cause that cannot be said to exist, since “things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.”
So, Kalam, like most arguments and evidences for “the existence of god,” leaves us only with a phenomenon and a claim that it has “some cause.” To reasonably suggest that the cause could be a god, we then would be tasked with what? That’s right: Finding some method to demonstrate the existence of a god, so that it can be said to “exist,” and can then be examined as a reasonable, potential cause for the Cosmological event.
That means, where Kalam leaves off, is a point at which some other method must be employed to demonstrate the existence of a god—in order to come back to Kalam and plug in “god” as not just the cause, but as even so much as a reasonable, potential cause. And if we have to use some other argument or evidence to first show a god exists, before we can use god as the cause in the Kalam argument—then what use is the Kalam argument, if it is put forward as a demonstration of the existence of god?
If someone wants to know why I don’t find Kalam Cosmological argument a compelling argument for the existence of a god, my answer is “because it not only does not demonstrate a god exists, but also necessitates using some other method to make that demonstration—thereby rendering itself useless in demonstrating a god exists.”
And for the record, this can be plugged in for just about any argument or evidence for the existence of a god. Nature exists, and therefore lends itself to examination as a potential cause. God must first be demonstrated to exist in the same way, to be examined as a potential cause for anything. And if your argument for god’s existence ends with “and now we must move to this other argument/evidence to demonstrate a god exists,” it’s not a compelling argument for god’s existence.
I hope that helps to clarify my position on the call, and what I was trying to express, in case it was unclear.