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Evaluation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Religion
Wordcount: 3899 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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In my paper, I will examine the Kalam Cosmological argument for the existence of God. I’ll first start by giving a brief overview of various Cosmological arguments before focusing solely on the Kalam Cosmological argument and its criticisms. Lastly, I’ll go over my opinions on the structure of the argument and some of the assumptions of the argument that weren’t mentioned in other criticisms.

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I.            Overview

God is a supreme being that is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, and eternal. God is also the main figure of three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and a few others around the world. The general idea of God is that it is an infinite being who is supremely good, created the world, is transcendent over and immanent in the world, and loves humanity. But even though the idea of God has always been associated with the concept of a good, and infinite being, it’s been extended to apply to many other principles. Philosophers have used cosmic energy, the mind, the world and the universe as a way to define God.

As such, there are many arguments either for or against God’s existence and several of the arguments for the existence of God are very famous. The four big arguments are the argument for first cause, the teleological argument, the ontological argument, and the cosmological argument. First is the argument for first cause is since everything has a cause and effect, the first effect must have a cause which must have both a cause and effect in itself. God is the only being that would fit those requirements. Next is the teleological argument is that from a comprehensive view of nature and the world everything seems to exist because of a great plan or a great planner. This would mean a great planner (ie. God) has to exist. Next is the ontological argument is that the conception of humans/humanity is of God and is the highest conception humanly possible. Since the highest conception humanly possible must have existed as one attribute, that means God must exist. Finally, there’s the cosmological argument that says that since the world, and all that is in it, seems to have no necessary or absolute existence, an independent existence (ie. God) must be implied for the world as the explanation of its relations. The cosmological argument and the argument for first cause are typically associated as being the same. I’ll be focusing more on the cosmological argument, specifically the Kalam Cosmological Argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is one of the variants of the cosmological argument and had been used to defend the philosophical position of theistic worldviews (AllAboutPhilosophy.org,2018).

II.            The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The Kalam Cosmological argument is an argument from the existence of the world or universe to the existence of God that was popularized by William Lane Craig. The word ‘Kalam’ is derived from the Arabic term ‘Ilm al-Kalām’ (Winter, 2008), which meansscience of discourse’ and was used in order to defend the tenets of the Islamic faith against doubters and detractors (Cosman and Jones, 2008). What separates the kalam cosmological argument from other variations of the cosmological argument is that it rests on the idea that the universe has a beginning in time. Other forms of the cosmological argument are consistent with the universe having an infinite past. According to the kalam cosmological argument, it is because the universe is thought to have a beginning in time that its existence is thought to stand in need of explanation (Philosophy of Religion, 2018). The structure of the premises for this argument are:

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
  3. The universe has a cause of its existence.
  4. If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
  5. Therefore: God exists.

The first premise of the argument is the claim that everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence. In order to infer from this that the universe has a cause of its existence, the premises of the kalam cosmological argument must prove that the past is finite and that the universe began to exist at a certain point in time. This leads us to the second premises which is crucial: “The universe has a beginning of its existence”. This has caused some criticism because how are we supposed to know that the universe has a beginning of its existence, couldn’t the universe stretch back in time for infinity, always existing. In order for the argument to be successful, the premises have to show that this isn’t the case. Supporters of the Kalam cosmological argument claim that it’s impossible for the universe to have an infinite past because of the Big Bang theory. According to modern science, the universe began with the Big Bang and there was nothingness before that. So, if you accept premise one and two, the only logical explanation for a cause that’s outside of time and space is that there must be a distinct absence of physical qualities for it to be the cause of our physical universe. Basically, it has to be a “beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial, enormously powerful, personal creator of the universe” (Craig, 2010). God is the only being that fits that description, so God must exist. The uncaused existence of God, who does not have a beginning in time, is consistent with the first premise of this argument: “Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence” (Reichenbach, 2017).

The Kalam Cosmological argument has been criticized many times and as such, Craig has developed arguments in defense of his premises. In response to criticism of his second premise, Craig developed a priori and a posteriori argument (Reichenbach, 2017). His primary a priori argument is:

  1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
  2. A beginningless temporal series of events is an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore, a beginningless temporal series of events cannot exist.

Since premises 7 is based on validly, Craig has to prove that premise 5 and 6 are true so that the argument is sound. In defense of premise 5, Craig defines an actual infinite as a “determinate totality” that happens when a part of the system can be put into a one-on-one correspondence with the entire system (Craig and Sinclair, 2009). Craig argues that if actual infinities that don’t increase or decrease in the number of objects/subjects they contain were to exist in reality, it wouldn’t logically make sense. It wouldn’t make sense to apply basic arithmetical operations which are functional in the real world to infinites because although actual infinities can have an ideal existence, they can’t exist in reality (Reichenbach, 2017). Next is premise 6, why should we think that a beginningless series, like the universe, is an actual infinite rather than a potential infinite? According to Craig, an actual infinite is a determinate totality or a completed unity, and the potential infinite is not (Craig, 1979). Since the past events of a beginningless series can be grouped together and numbered, the series is a determinate totality, and since the past is beginningless, it has no starting point and is infinite (Reichenbach, 2017). If the universe had a starting point, and events were added or subtracted from this point, we would have a potential infinite that increases throughout time by adding new objects. In his argument, Craig points out that he is using actual and potential infinite in a way that’s different from the traditional ways Aristotle and Aquinas used it. For Aristotle, all the elements in an actual infinite exist simultaneously, but a potential infinite is realized over time by addition or division (Reichenbach, 2017). But for Craig, an actual infinite is a timeless totality that cannot be added to or reduced, “since past events, as determinate parts of reality, are definite and distinct and can be numbered, they can be conceptually collected into a totality” (Craig and Smith, 1993). So, the future is a potential infinite but not the past because in the future the events haven’t happened yet. One of the criticisms of Craig’s argument though is that successive addition can’t actually form an actual infinite. In Craig’s second argument, he does address this by offering the following premises:

  1. The temporal series of events is a collection formed by successive addition.
  2. A collection formed by successive synthesis is not an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore, the temporal series of events cannot be an actual infinite.

Historical events are like a collection that has events successively added to it one-by-one. So, events are not exactly simultaneous, but they do happen over a period of time and along the way they continuously add new events. So even if an actual infinite were possible, it couldn’t be realized by successive additions because even if you add to a series until infinity, the series would remain finite and only potentially infinite (Craig and Sinclair, 2009).

Another huge criticism of the Kalam Cosmological argument is about premise 2, the universe has a beginning of its existence. Craig uses the a posteriori argument for premise 2 which involves the use of recent cosmology and the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins. The idea is that since the universe is continuously expanding if we were to go in reverse and look back in time far enough, we’ll figure out that the universe eventually reaches a state of compression where the density and gravitational force would be infinite (Reichenbach, 2017). The unique situation would create the beginning of the universe, which is where we get the concept of matter, energy, space, time, and all of our physical laws. So, the universe didn’t have a prior state and there wasn’t a time before it but the universe also didn’t expand from some form of infinite density into space because space didn’t exist before the universe either. Basically, the Big Bang started what we know as the laws of physics, so we logically can’t expect any form of a scientific or physical explanation for this event. So, since the universe and all of its material elements came about from the Big Bang, the universe is temporally finite which means it had a beginning, which overall would support premise 2. This means, if you accept these cosmogenic theories, then it would mean premise 2 and conclusion 3 are most likely true. But in response to this, critics have pointed out the Big Bang isn’t an event because of the grand theory of relativity (Reichenbach, 2017). An event has to take place with a space-time context and the Big Bang doesn’t have space-time context (Hawking, 1998). Basically, there isn’t a time or space before the Big Bang, so the Big Bang can’t be considered as a physical event that happened in a moment of time. According to Hawking, the finite universe doesn’t have space-time boundaries, so it lacks singularity and a beginning (Hawking, 1998).

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Finally, there are a few criticisms for premise 4, if the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God. Supporters of the cosmological argument offer two types of explanation for this premises, Natural explanation, and Personal explanation. The Natural explanation refers to precedent events, causal laws, or necessary conditions that invoke natural existents (Reichenbach, 2017). While, the Personal explanation refers to the intentional action of a rational agent (Swinburne, 2004). We can’t provide a natural explanation for the initial event because there are no precedent natural events or natural existents where the laws of physics would apply. So, if a scientific explanation, in terms of physical laws, can’t provide an account for the origin of the universe, then the explanation must be personal. Which would logically point to the universe being the intentional action of an intelligent, supernatural agent (i.e. God). Craig points out that if the cause was an eternal, nonpersonal, mechanically operating set of conditions, then the universe would exist from eternity (Craig, 1979). But since the universe hasn’t existed from eternity, the cause must be a personal agent who chooses freely to create an effect in time (Gale and Pruss, 2003)

III.            Structure/Assumptions of Argument

So, in my opinion, the structure for the original Kalam Cosmological argument flows logically and makes a lot of sense. I also think Craig’s defense of his premises for this section of the argument are well thought out. However, I don’t feel the same way about the additional sections he added on to his argument. I think both of the new arguments are very difficult to understand unless you have a great grasp of this subject in particular and even then, it’s hard to describe the reasoning behind criticisms and the defense against them. This argument also assumes quite a bit. It assumes that everything has a beginning which makes sense, but it also assumes that there has to be a cause to the existence of the universe. If we are operating under the assumption that everything has a cause and effect, then assuming the universe has a cause for its existence would make sense. But we are also assuming that the cause would God. God isn’t the only supernatural being, that people believe in. There are many religions that believe in multiple gods, so if the universe was created by a supernatural being, how can we be sure that the being in question was God. In some of these polytheistic religions there are God’s that are able to create life as well as God, so how can we know who or really what created the universe. So, premise 4 and logically the conclusion of the original argument, premise 5, are mostly based on personal bias. If Craig had been a follower of another religion, particularly a polytheistic religion, would his argument have been drastically different, or would the only difference have been the God names in the argument?

So, in conclusion, overall, I think the Kalam Cosmological argument is good but there are a few areas that I feel haven’t been developed completely that most scholars have been overlooking. I feel like this is probably because there have been multiple types of arguments for the existence of God and people have gotten used to the way things are normally presented by these scholars.


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