Questions about the Cosmological Argument

This simple argument for God’s existence, sometimes called the Kalam argument, goes something like:

  1. Anything that has a beginning has a cause.
  2. The universe has a beginning
  3. Therefore the universe has a cause.
    …various arguments…
    X. This cause is God.

Here go my questions:

  1. Do you find this argument convincing?

  2. If not, why not?

  3. If you do find this argument convincing, how do you answer the objection that things may be self-caused?

  4. What about the objection that something that has a beginning may not be caused?

  5. Finally, what arguments do you use to go from (3) to (X), and how do you eliminate alternative causes, such as some eternal pre-universe, etc?

Hi. If we define God to be this first cause, does that just not raise the question what caused God? And put us back to square one? Thank you.

Sure. Most people accept that God would be an uncaused cause. He doesn’t have a beginning, so applying the Kalam argument to God would show us that God doesn’t need a cause or explanation.

One of my objections to the argument is, if God can be eternal, why not the laws and principles of the universe? Why can’t they be eternal?

I was going to say that. Whatever it is about God that means that God doesn’t need a cause, why can’t that apply to the universe instead. So we don’t need the explanation of God.

Maybe so.

God is probably very different in nature from the universe, so maybe this argument works well for him and not so well for the universe.

Maybe someone will develop a better version of the cosmological argument in the future that will incorporate the differences between God and the rest of reality, or maybe this has already been accomplished and I do not know about it.

1. Do you find this argument convincing?
When stated in its entirety, yes.

2. If not, why not?
N/A

3. If you do find this argument convincing, how do you answer the objection that things may be self-caused?
“Prove it”. AKA: show me one ACTUAL item which is provably self-caused.

4. What about the objection that something that has a beginning may not be caused?
Again, show me one ACTUAL item which has a beginning and which is provably not caused.

5. Finally, what arguments do you use to go from (3) to (X), and how do you eliminate alternative causes, such as some eternal pre-universe, etc?
There is no argument to go from 3 to X. 3 is merely a statement that we consider the uncaused cause to be God. It requires no argument because it makes no assertion other than assigning a name to a variable (no different than a math equation stating “let X = 3”)

Except we know as scientific fact that the universe and even all of its dimensions, including time itself, had a beginning… so we can scientifically verify that everything in the universe at one point did not exist.

First, I’d like to point out that just because something is uncaused doesn’t mean that it doesn’t require an explanation-it does. Really, one has to define what they mean by cause; Aristotle did and it has been traditionally understood under Classical Theism that God is uncaused but contains his own explanation within himself.

Second, there are no problems with those summarized by Aquinas’ Five Ways. If you wish to read a good intro to the subject check out Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition and his Aquinas.

Third, Aquinas’ Third Way allows for many necessary beings… the world could be understood as necessary… it doesn’t matter for his argument to succeed. But again the terminology needs to be precise and terms need to be defined if we really want to get anywhere.

Thank you for the interesting thread.

Objections So Bad I Couldn’t Have Made Them Up (Worst Objections to Kalam Cosmological Argument)

I think we should suspend belief in (1). Kalam presupposes A-theory, so B-theorists should read no further. After you analyze the notion of ‘beginning’, you wont find (1) intuitive. Beginning must mean something very specific or it backfires. For instance, it can’t mean ‘X begins if there is no time t < t1, and X exists at t1’ (which describes the universe on a standard big bang model) because then God begins.

Further, all of our experiential support confirms things which begin in time as having causes. None of it confirms things having a cause which begin to exist with time.

So, I think we should be more modest with our evidence and say something like ‘most things which begin have a cause’, the evidence simply doesn’t extend confirmation beyond that.

[quote=“Samuel Monosov”]1. Anything that has a beginning has a cause.
[/quote]

American Heritage: The producer of an effect, result, or consequence.
Reasonable. I can’t think of anything that has a beginning that doesn’t have someone or something that started it.

  1. The universe has a beginning

Unproven. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the gate to Ravenclaw asks, “Which came first, the Phoenix or the Ashes?” Luna Lovegood answers, “A circle has no beginning and no end.”. The gate says that’s reasonable, and opens. I’ve never seen a convincing proof that the universe had a beginning so I don’t buy this point.

  1. Therefore the universe has a cause.

This only follows if you agree with statements one and two and I do not.

…various arguments…
X. This cause is God.

Those “various arguments” are important, no? I mean, a horse race has a cause. That cause is a start pistol. It you define “God” as “A starter pistol” then I freely admit there is a God, but that’s a silly definition of the word! Certainly, we can’t just to the assumption that there’s an omnipotent, omniscient being in the universe. That’s unfounded. :slight_smile:

  1. What about the objection that something that has a beginning may not be caused?

Can you provide an example? It’s late, but I cannot think of one.

I see many scientists proposing cyclical models of the universe. It’s by no means accepted as a fact that the universe had a beginning. For example, Penrose/2010–

“The discovery doesn’t suggest that there wasn’t a Big Bang - rather, it supports the idea that there could have been many of them. The scientists explain that the CMB circles support the possibility that we live in a cyclic universe, in which the end of one “aeon” or universe triggers another Big Bang that starts another aeon, and the process repeats indefinitely.”

The argument is simply irrelevant, because it does not lead to a functional description of the properties required by a Creator of the universe. You need to fill in the little dots on the vacant line you left between 3 and X.

The “beginning implies cause” argument makes sense, and I assume that the universe is a “caused” phenomenon.

Most thinkers on the matter of the beginning are divided into what they pretend is two different camps, religionists and atheists. But they are like the gang of egoistic crooks and dimwits in Congress, some calling themselves Democrats and others Republicans, undistinguished from one another by any semblance of common sense or honesty.

Each side believes that the universe began with a single, uncaused, thing of great complexity. One side calls it God, the other, a “physical singularity.” I propose the more interesting alternative that neither such thing has ever existed.

The cyclic model is generally ruled out as all current evidence points to a universe which is expanding at an accelerating rate, meaning it will end in a Big Rip or Big Freeze rather than a Big Crunch.

And in a universe without a beginning you run into problems with actual infinities.

And then there is the Borde, Guth, Vilenkin thesis which shows that all models of the universe’s past must account for entropy and therefore must be finite.

Interesting! The times they are a-changing. :slight_smile:

newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/12/nobel-prize-in-physics-2011/

Yeah, but the accelerating universe has been noted for the past decade or so - what will really be a huge shock to physics/cosmology is if we can’t find out why those neutrinos at CERN seem to travel faster than the speed of light.

Now that would be exciting!

I suspect a simple explanation will surface, or has surfaced, that resolves this mystery. But I am hopeful that it is a real mystery, and will require completely new physics and a radically different way to see the world.

Borde Guth Vilenkin only holds if the average of the Hubble expansion parameter is > 0 over past time. Sean Carroll’s idea that there is an eternal pre-universe, or Hawking’s idea that the forces or principles acting on an eternal ‘vacuum’ can account for the existence of the universe. These sorts of things would be the first causes.

What does the argument look like when stated in its entirety?

Show me one ACTUAL item which is provably self-caused.

How would someone prove that something is self-caused/uncaused? Is proof necessary?

There is no argument to go from 3 to X. 3 is merely a statement that we consider the uncaused cause to be God. It requires no argument because it makes no assertion other than assigning a name to a variable (no different than a math equation stating “let X = 3”)

Let X = Gravity. Or let X = eternal pre-universe. Or …

Why not this sort of thing?

1 thru 5 are a pendulum of unreason!

How can something that “has a beginning” not have a cause. How did it begin??

How can something be self caused??? unless it had some self consciousness of itself and even so how can it bring itself into being or into cause???where did its first thought of self awarness stem from???

“Some eternal pre-univers blah, blah, blah???” Come on! You can’t even formulate a coherent premise.

THis is precisely why God is necessary and not contingent.

No. The first statement says that everything that has a beginning has a cause. The argument does not say that God has a beginning.

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