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A refutation of the Kalam cosmological argument for god

William Lane Craig is a theologian whom I have encountered before because of his advocacy of what is known as ‘divine command theory‘ that asserts that “things are morally good or bad, or morally obligatory, permissible, or prohibited, solely because of God’s will or commands”, and results in him justifying the most horrendous atrocities, both biblical and contemporary.

Lane’s other project is to try to logically argue for the existence of god without actually providing any evidence. These attempts to argue for the existence of any entity on purely logical grounds and without any empirical support other than the brute fact of the universe’s existence seem to me to be a futile exercise on the face of it. However theologians have a long history of trying to do so and Lane spends a lot his energy trying to provide scientific and mathematical support for the so-called Kalam cosmological argument.

This argument depends crucially on the idea that the universe had a beginning in time and essentially has the following logical structure:

(1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe has a beginning of its existence.

Therefore:
(3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
(4) If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.

Therefore:
(5) God exists.

The catch is that if you want to challenge Lane on his own terms, then you have to wade through a lot of stuff, since he will throw a lot of scientific and mathematical terminology at you.

Fortunately one of this blog’s readers CounterApologist has taken the time and trouble to do all that work for us. He has a series of four posts titled Countering the Kalam where he carefully refutes the argument, and also has created a short five-minute video below that gives a summary of his refutation.

Taken together, you should have all the information you need to deal with this argument if one of Craig’s acolytes should spring it on you.

Comments

  1. Kevin Dugan says

    Cool! Thanks for sharing this. Wm Lane Craig is a slimey disingenuous SOB.

    I watched him the other night on youtube debating with 5 other xians against Christopher Hitchens. At the end, he summed up the 30ish arguments the xians had proposed and said Hitchens had failed to address them all; therefore Xianity is true. As if! It’s nearly impossible to do justice to just one argument in a 10 minute rebuttle period. Debate format is inherently unfair, let alone when 5/1. My hat off to Christopher Hitchens for jumping into that lion’s den.

  2. mobius says

    Interesting video. I will have to watch the long 4 part series now.

    The problem with Lane’s argument that jumped out at me immediately is his statement (4)…

    If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.

    He assumes that if a cause for the beginning of the universe exists, it must be God. As we know, there my be other causes, such as quantum fluctuations, which can be a cause for the universe as we know it. Lane simply ignores all of these and goes straight for the God assumption.

    He then concludes in statement (5)…

    (therefore) God exists.

    Which is merely circular reasoning because Lane assumes the existence of God in statement (4).

  3. khms says

    This argument depends crucially on the idea that the universe had a beginning in time and essentially has the following logical structure:

    (1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
    (2) The universe has a beginning of its existence.

    Therefore:
    (3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
    (4) If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.

    Therefore:
    (5) God exists.

    And the answer to that, AFAICT, should be:

    (1) False, see quantum physics.

    (2) Undecided, we don’t know that.

    (3) Undecided.

    (4) Non sequitur.

    (5) Not shown.

    The longer forms have been done before.

  4. wholething says

    I like to ask for an example of something that began to exist that wasn’t a rearrangement of things that already existed. I point out that virtual particles fit fhat description but they aren’t caused. How do we know the universe isn’t a quantum fluctuation?

  5. MNb says

    “there are some interpretations that are deterministic – and he’s right.”
    Well, sort of. What Craig conveniently forgets is that these deterministic interpretations have their problems too. I am more or less familiar with two. The first one is Dieter Zeh. Hhe has a website on its own, which is not really helpful as it mainly consists of statistical jargon. I’m not sure if it bears any relevance towards causality. The second one is most famous, originated by David Bohm of course. I have understood that it’s a causal interpretation indeed, but that it contains additional entities. It has the same predictions as original Quantum Mechanics. If this is correct it falls under Ockham’s Razor. Possibly even worse causality seems to disappear if it is expanded to cover Quantum Thermo Dynamics as well.
    Maybe MS could write something more about this subject – I know more than one theologian and philosopher of religion who uses the “but the Copenhagen interpretation is not the only one thus we are safe to assume causality” argument.
    As far as I can see – not that far, me just being an ordinary teacher – decisive will what the Grand Unified Theory will look like. The signs I have seen is that it will be probabilistic. If that’s correct the Kalam version of the Cosmological Argument will just be irrelevant.

  6. says

    I pretty much agree, the problem with QM is that while we have the equations locked down pretty well, deciphering what the equations mean is pretty hard – hence the interpretations.

    It’s that area of “unknown” that Craig can take refuge in to try and avoid objections to his premise. My point in the philosophy video was to show exactly that we have no idea which interpretation is correct, and whether or not QM actually violates causality. The follow on for that is that this produces more problems for Craig than he lets on about, especially in front of an audience.

    The most popular deterministic QM interpretation, as far as I can find, is the Many Worlds interpretation, which entails infinities (a big no-no for Craig) and the concept of “other worlds” where possibilities are actual has a lot of problems for Craig’s specific brand of theology.

    I’m not familiar with the interpretations you’ve mentioned, but the reality of the matter is that we’re not settling how to interpret QM, so we have to assume it’s an unknown – which puts Craig in a precarious position when it comes to his claim that Premise 1 is certain.

  7. says

    That’s one track I tried to tackle in the Philosophy video, you’re basically talking about material causation. Craig’s got a pretty neat response here, which shifts the objection over into territory on Premise 2.

    Craig’s is as slick as a used car salesman in Premise 1, specifically in how he defines “cause”. He knows the claim of “Efficient Causation” being universal has issues, so he leaves “cause” open to mean Material, Efficient, or Material+Efficient Cause. What he wants to do in Premise 2 is rule out “Material Cause” being a possibility because his definition of “Universe” literally means “all of material reality”.

    So the heart of your objection is in Craig’s having to prove Premise 2 – the problem is that while he doesn’t technically equivocate in his formal Cosmological argument, an untrained audience that doesn’t hear the explicit definition of Universe will equivocate Science’s “Space-Time Universe” with Craig’s “All of Material Reality Universe”, and follow right along until he’s got them thinking Jesus made everything.

  8. says

    I haven’t watched the video, but I’d say

    (1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.

    Stop right here. Prove that this statement is true. If, for example, the universe doesn’t have a cause, but began to exist, that would make this premise untrue. He’s begging the question right from the very start.

  9. GentlemanX says

    Let’s be extremely generous and give Dr. Craig points 1, 2, and 3. How would he prove the universe wasn’t created by an advanced alien being rather than God? Let’s be even more generous and give him God…how does this tell us anything about God? How does it justify Christianity? KCA is not a good argument, but I feel even more sorry for him because if it were, he’d still have all his work ahead of him.

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