Revisiting the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Revisiting the Kalam Cosmological Argument October 31, 2016

KCA WLC CraigThe Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) is a favorite of many Christian apologists. Here it is:

1: Whatever begins to exist had a cause

2: The universe began to exist

3: Therefore, the universe had a cause

And from this conclusion, they’ll move on to argue that the cause was God. I’ve replied to that argument here, finding numerous problems with both the first and second premises.

One frustration in this business is critiquing an argument and getting no response. It’s like hitting a tennis ball back over the net with no one to return it.

But the Force is with us today. “11 Objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument” by Randy Everist is a recent Christian response to objections to the KCA. He says, “I believe each objection can be satisfactorily answered so that one is justified in accepting the KCA.”

Let’s take a look to see if the KCA has been made any stronger and how much of my argument is left standing. (I’ll give the objection to the KCA in bold and then the Christian rebuttal to that objection in italics.)

“1. ‘Something cannot come from nothing’ is disproved by quantum mechanics.” Premise 1 is “Whatever begins to exist had a cause.” This is often misunderstood as “something can’t come from nothing,” and then this is refuted with quantum mechanics. In the first place, that’s not premise 1, and in the second, while virtual particles do come into existence, they came from vacuum energy, not nothing.

There’s no need to misunderstand premise 1, because it’s nicely refuted by stating it correctly. “Whatever begins to exist had a cause” is refuted by quantum mechanics. The Copenhagen interpretation of QM says that many quantum events can be described statistically but don’t have causes—the decay of a nucleus or the creation of an electron, for example.

“2. Truth cannot be discovered wholly from reason. It’s true that one needs some level of empiricism in order to judge many things. However, one absolutely needs reason to judge all things.” The KCA, by its nature, is an argument that can be reasoned out.

(These eleven arguments aren’t mine, and some don’t deserve much attention, such as this one.)

Since we’re talking about the origin of the universe, experimentation is essential. Since the KCA is a logical argument, reason is essential. While I don’t know where the objection is headed, I guess we agree.

“3. Some truths are counterintuitive, and therefore intuition cannot be a guide to truth. This is a classic non-sequitur, on par with ‘some people have incorrect thoughts, therefore thoughts cannot be a reliable guide for truth.’ The point is this: why should I doubt my intuition because someone else got theirs wrong?

Other people’s intuition sometimes leads them astray, and you’re wondering what relevance that has for your use of intuition? I’m puzzled that this needs to be explained, but very well: while this doesn’t prove your intuition wrong, it means that your intuition is unreliable.

As for the claim you’re attacking—“intuition can’t be a guide to truth”—yes, that’s wrong. One that I would support: Intuition is a poor guide at the frontier of science. If common sense unlocked the puzzles, scientists wouldn’t still be puzzling over it.

Quantum mechanics is an example—quantum entanglement, quantum tunneling, virtual particles popping into existence, a single particle taking two paths to different destinations at once—it’s a crazy violation of common sense. It also happens to be true, thoroughly verified by experiment.

(This objection reminds me of William Lane Craig’s nutty claim that his personal experience of the Holy Spirit was reliable evidence. What do you do when someone from another religion has a contradicting religious experience? Since each party appeals to the supernatural, how do you judge which, if either, is correct? Craig says, “Why should I be robbed of my joy and assurance of salvation simply because someone else falsely pretends, sincerely or insincerely, to the [Holy] Spirit’s witness?” That’s right, he just assumes the other guy is wrong so that he can dismiss the claim. Problem solved.)

“4. Since science is not itself a metaphysical enterprise, the arguer cannot apply science to a metaphysical argument.” Yes, science isn’t metaphysical, but science can still be a tool to study a metaphysical claim.

The KCA is a metaphysical argument? I don’t see how. It makes a claim about the universe, which is squarely in the domain of science. And when it’s tested by science, it fails.

Continued in part 2.

My own suspicion is that
the universe is not only queerer than we suppose,
but queerer than we can suppose.
— J. B. S. Haldane

Image credit: NASA

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  • Joe

    The KCA is a metaphysical argument? I don’t see how

    You’re right, it absolutely isn’t. It may be arguing for a metaphysical concept, that uses metaphysical means of causation, but it uses purely physical things (‘whatever begins to exist’) as a basis for the argument.

    • Greg G.

      The KCA makes a big non sequitur when it infers from things that begin to exist that are made of things that already exist to get to the universe beginning to exist from nothing.

      • Joe

        Well yes, I agree. There is only one thing that seems to have ever began to exist: space. Everything else is just re-formed matter or energy.

        I was only trying to address one particular problem with this argument, because people can and have written entire books debunking it.

        • Greg G.

          Alan Guth has a hypothesis that space is like the negative of energy. Separating two wavicles creates potential energy with all the forces interacting which is equal in magnitude but opposite in sign to the energy of the wavicles themselves. The net energy is zero but space and energy come into being together. I’m sure Guth’s hypothesis is more complex than my summary.

        • Greg G.

          Remember in science class how they demonstrated the law of conservation of energy, showing the potential energy of a mass in a gravitational field and how it changes to kinetic energy as the mass falls or rolls downhill? AIUI, according to a theory by Alan Guth, the energy that particles* consist of is like the kinetic energy while space and the total forces between the particles is like the potential energy, so the law of conservation of energy is conserved and the creation of space and energy is a zero-sum game, or a free lunch.

          * I think the particles are more like quark/anti-quark pairs. I COULD BE WRONG, THOUGH. (I accidentally hit the Caps Lock, but it may have been Freudian, and that emphasis should be always be kept in mind.)

      • epeeist

        The first premise is dubious for a number of reasons:

        1. I would argue that it should be expressed modally, i.e. “whatever begins to exist necessarily has a cause”. However that is purely my take.

        2. The premise is inductive in nature but makes claim to universal quantification. How does one get from something that is particular, contingent and probabilistic to something that is universal, necessary and certain?

        3. The reason I responded to your post. Even if the premise was true of all the things within the universe there is no reason to assume that it applies to the universe itself. In other words a fallacy of composition.

        • Greg G.

          3. The reason I responded to your post. Even if the premise was true of all the things within the universe there is no reason to assume that it applies to the universe itself. In other words a fallacy of composition.

          Right. If it could be proven that all balloons are made by a balloon-making machine, it does not follow that the balloon-making machine was made by a balloon-making machine.

        • epeeist

          Right

          Exactly that, though the canonical example is “All atoms are invisible; Bodies are made of atoms; Therefore bodies are invisible”. They need to show that the requirement of causality (something we have inferred from a limited number of cases at specific scales for a short period of time) distributes to the universe.

          I would amplify the point you made slightly. I would argue that we have never actually observed anything beginning to exist, all we have ever observed is a re-arrangement of the configuration of matter and energy within the universe. Do they want to argue that this is actually what was done to “create” the universe? That something actually existed “before” the universe did? This certainly goes against Catholic teaching which defines (sic) the universe to have been created from nothing.

  • adam

    “1: Whatever begins to exist had a cause”

    And of course, presuming an Omni intelligent being with no beginning… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2e7c85f83a051737489a88bbc6af7ae1f629a7c020304dd72287796458bc2580.jpg

  • hrurahaalm

    the arguer cannot apply science to a metaphysical argument.

    Like all the premises of the KCA, this seems wrong. Consider the Mathematical Macrocosm Hypothesis, which is sometimes called Tegmark IV. It says that not only do we live inside a mathematical object defined by the laws of physics, but every mathematical object exists in the same way. The number four would be real in the same way you are, according to this claim. Existence would be existence within a mathematical system.

    This hypothesis has major problems. Naively, for every universe like the one we seem to live in, we would expect there to be many variants with discontinuities like green and purple cats raining from the sky whenever anyone sneezes on Tuesday, Nov 1, 2016 (Samoa Standard Time). There are too many places to insert such a discontinuity. This would lead to predictions which contradict what we see. Now, we may be confused about how to assign probabilities in a theory like Tegmark IV, but in principle this is a question for science to settle. That seems much more promising than trying to figure out what ‘being’ is directly.

  • Gregory Mullaley

    The universe has always existed, the so-called Big Bang of our known (current) universe was just the latest reboot: Problem solved Christians. And next time, don’t borrow some other religions (Kalam = Islam) argument, get your own!

    • Greg G.

      Or our universe may be a bubble inside a long sequence of universes where the space containing superclusters of galaxies travel at greater than light speed. Nothing can travel through space at greater than light speed but there is no limitation on space itself with the accelerating expansion.

      • Robert Templeton

        Don’t forget about ‘spooky action at a distance’ (Bell’s Theorem) wherein entangled quantum particles can ‘interact’ instantaneously across any distance.

  • Michael Neville

    This objection reminds me of William Lane Craig’s nutty claim that his personal experience of the Holy Spirit was reliable evidence. What do you do when someone from another religion has a contradicting religious experience? Since each party appeals to the supernatural, how do you judge which, if either, is correct?

    I know a Hindu priest. He claims that the spirit of Brahma moves within him. I’d like Craig to explain why Jitendra is wrong.

    Craig says, “Why should I be robbed of my joy and assurance of salvation simply because someone else falsely pretends, sincerely or insincerely, to the [Holy] Spirit’s witness?” That’s right, he just assumes the other guy is wrong so that he can dismiss the claim.

    Craig may be the one who sincerely but falsely pretends to be the Spirit’s witness. Being the self-appointed witness is pure hubris. Craig better watch out because Nemesis, the Greek goddess of inexorable divine retribution, punishes hubris.

  • Keith Roragen

    How can something that does exist cause something that does not exist to do anything?

    • Greg G.

      How can a cause acting on nothing have any effect?

      • TheNuszAbides

        *smuggles in !%^^DIVINITY(TM)^^%!*

  • MNb

    1. “Whatever begins to exist had a cause.”
    Even if we accept this premisse (for instance by stretching the meaning of ’cause’ to such an extent that probabilistic events also qualify) “hence god” is a non-sequitur. That becomes especially clear if the apologist brings up “they came from vacuum energy”. That only makes sense on accepting quantum fields, which never began to exist in the first place! They are the ’cause’ in the widest possible meaning of that word.

    2. “The KCA, by its nature, is an argument that can be reasoned out.”
    Wow, already this contradicts point 1. There the KCA is supposed to be backed by Modern Physics, which of course confirms that “Truth cannot be discovered wholly from reason.”

    3. “The point is this: why should I doubt my intuition because someone else got theirs wrong?”
    Excellent question! I will immediately apply it to everything Everist writes. So what we’re going to do? Ah – use the scientific method, which contradicts point 2.

    4. Agreed. However the KCA is not a metaphysical argument given “Whatever begins to exist had a cause” applied to our Universe (or Multiverse). I think the correct term here is self-defeating.
    When will apologetics avoid self-contradictions? When Eastern and Pentecost are celebrated on the same day?

    • Susan

      When will apolegetics avoid self-contradictions?

      It doesn’t bother. It just employs equivocation. Equivocation protects all self-contradiction.

      See “Whatever”, “begin”, “exist” and “cause”.

      For starters.

      I can’t believe the KCA has any influence on anyone interested in what it’s trying to claim.

      I can’t believe Donald Trump is a credible president to
      anyone either.

      Humans.

      • MNb

        It was a rhetorical question, which you undoubtedly knew.

    • Well said. I’ve always thought it was funny how materialists used essentially the same reasoning (even in ancient Greece, where Aristotle gave his first cosmological argument) and came to different conclusions. Heck they even began the “nothing comes from nothing” idiom!

  • Raging Bee

    One frustration in this business is critiquing an argument and getting
    no response. It’s like hitting a tennis ball back over the net with no
    one to return it.

    Actually, in tennis that’s called “winning.” It’s not THAT frustrating unless you were psyched up for more of a challenge.

    • Good point. I guess I keep thinking that there must be more to their sad collection of arguments. But I guess that’s all they’ve got.

      • TheNuszAbides

        i reckon many atheists, particularly of smug and/or high-strung varieties, would do well to realize that critical faculties don’t develop themselves. plus, Sturgeon’s revelation.

        Sturgeon had originally deemed Sturgeon’s Law to mean that “nothing is always absolutely so” in the story “The Claustrophile” in a 1956 issue of Galaxy.
        The second adage, variously rendered as “ninety percent of everything is crud” or “ninety percent of everything is crap”, was originally known as “Sturgeon’s Revelation”, formulated as such in his book review column for Venture in 1957. However, almost all modern uses of the term Sturgeon’s Law actually refer to the second, including the definition listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

        [wikip]

  • Kodie

    This relates to the stupid question “how can something come from nothing?” in which there is nothing, and somehow, it causes itself to become something. On the other hand, the immaterial god breathed everything into existence from nothing, and that is an answer? I don’t know where he got his materials to build the universe. I ask all the time. So, for some reason, theists doubt a godless world, some simply on the basis they can’t figure out how something came from nothing – this singular issue is the one that nags at them night and day and day and night, such that they could believe many other silly beliefs and never ever risk questioning any single one of them. It keeps getting pounded into their heads, that it is ridiculous to believe something came from nothing. Wave your hands now, enter god. Immaterial god the magic wizard character, existing eternally in a substance-free void, one day decided to start a project, and with no materials at hand created the miracle of everything you see, every leaf on every tree, every wave on every sea, the “evidence” of something, therefore not nothing, but god. That’s this awesome story that they don’t seem to notice how stupid it is. If they believe something can’t come from nothing, then their god idea contains the same flaw, and they really don’t know. “God makes more sense than no god”? No, not at all.

    • What I find funny is that ancient materialists used the “nothing comes from nothing” idiom to argue that matter always existed (in fact they originated that). This seems more feasible than an immaterial being creating matter (at least to me).

  • Jeroen Metselaar

    The most obvious problem with the KCA that most people ignore is that it contradicts itself.

    1. IF everything must have a cause THEN a god needs a cause. (Turtles all the way down!)
    2. IF a god can exist without a cause THEN the very first premise is false.

    Any attempt to solve this is poisoning the well (writing the premises to suit a wanted conclusion) or blatantly circular.

    • MNb

      The escape route is “but God never began to exist”. That’s rather begging the question, because it can’t be empirically tested and hence means it’s defining something into existence. Worse: the non-supernatural quantum fields offer a natural example of something that never began to exist.

      • Jeroen Metselaar

        As I said, you either contradict the first premise or rewrite it to suit your conclusion and you will beg the question/poison the well/assume the conclusion etc..

    • epeeist

      1. IF everything must have a cause THEN a god needs a cause. (Turtles all the way down!)

      You ignore what David Stove called “The Ishmael effect”.

  • T-Paine

    T-Paine: If something cannot come from nothing, then what did God make the universe out of?

    Apologist: “…..”

    T-Paine: If something can come from nothing, then why is God necessary to explain the universe?

    Apologist: “……I’ll pray for you.”

    • Raging Bee

      That’s funny, you don’t sound as white as you look…

      • T-Paine

        What’s that supposed to mean?

        • Raging Bee

          There’s a rapper named T-Paine. Or maybe it’s T-Pain.

    • TheNuszAbides

      then what did God make the universe out of?

      ummmm … Divine Creator don’t need no stinking building materials!

      except, errr, Adam was, like, super-extra-complex-and-nifty, so Eve got rib-cloned instead of, uh, God having to expend too much of his, uh, infinite energypowermagic …

      • Ignorant Amos

        Ehhh?

        Didn’t the Big I Am use dust for Adam construction?

        • TheNuszAbides

          did they even know what dust was when they cooked up a word for it? checkmate!1!

          (how dare you undermine my off-the-cuff post hoc reductia ad absurdum!)

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ha ha!….it must’ve been the Big I Am that said so, cause it was the only thing around that knew what stuff was used.

          But, but, but…..

          Depending which version ya believe.

          In the “made from dust” version, 2.0, man was made before all other living things, so God was the source of the data. If man was made from dust, then that’s what he was made from. God says dust. God wouldn’t lie, would He?

          In the other version, 1.0, the beast of the Earth were brought forth after there kind first. Man was the after thought. So the source of the data might have come from the talking serpent, who was obviously about the place to see God bodge the creation of man in his own image. No dust mentioned though.

          All a bit of a quandary.

          Given that God in the story is generally a lying bastard and the talking serpent told the truth, you’re probably right about the dust ballix, but it is not as clear cut as is being made out by certain folk.

        • Kodie

          I’m not sure where it says so, but god had to create the dust. I guess that is the firmament part. He had no original materials to create the light and the firmament and the creatures. Then he made a man out of this dust, and … just dust? No water? The story from creationists about life coming from non-life are basically anthropomorphizing natural forces with plans and intentions for humans in general and them individually as well. There’s this dust and just dust, and they don’t come out with a person-shaped brick, because “god” breathed life into him. Now, you know what you’re made of, right? You’ve got organs and bones and blood, and so, what is one of your bones, a rib. Let’s think clearly. Is this something that could have been created from dust, and just dust, but …. a banana can’t become a tiger, y’all, so evolution isn’t true. Take any of your ribs, just break it off, and set it outside your skin without any surgery, and pretend that’s your new girlfriend, because god said it is. The mechanism is never explained but a wizard.

          Some time down the road, god decides this was a huge mistake and destroys most of it. He had a recipe, it didn’t turn out right. He evicted his dust and rib couple of humans out of the paradise of earth he created from no materials, out of spite. They continued sinning for generations, until god finally couldn’t stand it. He had a recipe. He could have killed everyone and started over completely, learning from his mistakes, but oh no, he is perfect. He recycles. Drown the earth, purge not just every person but every animal who didn’t do shit, but save a crew of people, a guy deemed close enough to perfect, and just, no reason (sentimentality just isn’t valid considering Job), his family, and a few of every animal so he wouldn’t have to start from scratch, which he had already demonstrated he could totally do.

          And that yielded disappointing results even further. Oh, we suck, yes, humans suck. I think this is the point. But why is that a reason to glorify god? He could have done something else, at any time, and they know that, but he didn’t, which means they got born, and that has to mean something to god. So, naturally, they give glory to god for choosing the course that allowed them to live on this earth made from nothing, and that he has the power to make another decision to wipe them out at any time.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Why get bogged down in such minutiae as where the dust originates and all that other awkwardness when “magic!” does the job?

          Anyway, Lawrence Krauss told me where the dust comes from….stars. }8O)~

        • TheNuszAbides

          did Adam have time to name the dust mites? was the dust properly run through God’s Own Autoclave to separate them out, or was Adam really itchy until Eve received divine instruction on how to scratch him properly?

          that reminds me, i need to get out there and study this Lilith character — from the Hebrews’ more polytheistic days, i’m guessing?

        • Ignorant Amos

          did Adam have time to name the dust mites?

          Good question.

          I quite like Alice and Sammy for the two of them maself. But I don’t suppose Adam was that fussy.

          that reminds me, i need to get out there and study this Lilith character — from the Hebrews’ more polytheistic days, i’m guessing?

          Hmmmm…and Yahweh’s bit of fluff Asherah, or was it Israel that was the other woman? Am never awfully sure which was which.

          http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/biblianazar/esp_biblianazar_jehovah02.htm

        • adam
        • Ignorant Amos

          Feckin’ creationists and their piss arse awkward questions, pah!

          First off…it was dust, DUST, my man…don’t ya know the difference between dirt and dust fer frig sake?

          Now. Of course it was a special one of a kind type dust not seen since. Just enough to make one man. He had to clone a rib to make yer woman, so that’s how we know it was just one man’s worth of special dust. In a sense, a bit like the gopher wood Noah used…limited special high tensile strength big boat building wood that was all used up on the first and one job. That’s how it get’s done in the buybull.

          Jeez Adam, don’t ya read?

  • kraut2

    If LQC as a hypothesis can be confirmed as a viable theory than there is no further need to argue for a Universe that began to exists. The eternity of the physical Universe then does not require a singularity and gets away from a “beginning of existence” for a Universe.
    http://www.igcscience.org/2016/03/13/loop-quantum-cosmology-and-the-early-universe/

    • MNb

      While I like models like this one there is a problem:

      “a contracting phase that should have existed in the far past”
      The issue hasn’t been decided yet, but currently available evidence suggests our Universe won’t go through a contracting phase in the future.

      • kraut2

        Here a model for “our flat” Universe contracting again eventually.

        https://arxiv.org/pdf/1507.00226.pdf

        We discuss how a cyclic model for the flat universe can be constructively derived from Loop Quantum Gravity. This model has a lower bounce, at small values of the scale factor, which shares many similarities with that of Loop Quantum Cosmology. We find that quantum gravity corrections can be also relevant at energy densities much smaller than the Planckian one and that they can induce an upper bounce at large values of the scale factor.

        “Let us take the current state of the universe as a starting point of our investigations and find out what is its future (and past) evolution. Currently, the cosmological constant dominates and it will be even more sizable in the subsequent expansion of the universe.”

        “We see therefore that the universe undergoes first exponential expansion,then it stops at the transition point, which we call the
        ‘upper bounce’ and denote B(+), to be followed by a period of exponential contraction which brings the universe essentially back to the today’s state.”

        “which means that it is going to take about 88 ages of the current universe,i.e., about 2800 billion years before the upper bounce is reached”

        “After reaching the upper bounce the universe starts contracting again.”

        “We presented a cyclic model of the universe motivated by LQG, in which quantum gravity corrections are responsible not only for the lower bounce taming the initial singularity, but also for the upper bounce, after which the universe enters the contracting phase.”

        The math included you have to read in the article…it doesn’t copy well

        • MNb

          I have read the article, thank you.
          What you quoted doesn’t really contradict what I wrote.
          And you know how science fares – develop tests that can decide between the two models.

  • epeeist

    1. ‘Something cannot come from nothing’ is disproved by quantum mechanics.

    Putting the word “quantum” in a statement doesn’t make it automatically true.

    Personally I am sick to the back teeth of people appealing to “quantum” (to quote Terry Pratchett), especially when they are incapable of stating the difference between a Hamiltonian and a Hermitian.

    • Let’s drop “quantum” and fall back on the old reliable “vibrations.” Any sentence with that in it has just got to be true.

      • Susan

        the old reliable “vibrations.” Any sentence with that in it has just got to be true.

        I don’t know.

        I’m not sure I’m feeling your vibe on that one.

        If I’m not feeling it, it must not be true..

        If I were feeling it, it would have to be true.

  • It’s false of them to say science and metaphysics don’t interact, for as you note they use physical evidence (observed causation here) for that. I don’t think originally there was such a strict separation. Metaphysics is the study of fundamental reality. Some think that reality is physical, in fact that’s the oldest view around.

  • Raging Bee

    I can’t believe anyone takes this sort of argument seriously. Even if we all took the Kalam argument at face value, it wouldn’t even prove the atheists wrong, simply because it doesn’t really prove anything ABOUT the “cause” they so arbitrarily label “God.” Okay, you’ve proven the Universe was caused by something or other. I’ll give you your cookie when you can tell me what this cause looks like. Just a general picture will do for now. Take your time, I’ll just be getting on with my life while I wait…

    • Kevin K

      Yes, even if you grant this part of the argument, the theist’s work is all ahead of them, isn’t it? Not only “god” (an incoherent concept, but whatever) but their specific flavor of Middle East Sumerian storm god adopted by the Jews as first their primary god and then their all-powerful deity (except for that Stan fellow) before finally being declared the only god in existence (ditto).

      I’m fond of the “cause” of the universe being interdimensional alien monkeys who shat the universe into existence out of their red monkey butts. There is precisely and exactly as much evidence for that as for “god”.

      This is why the Kalam is useless. It’s classic begging the question.

    • It just replaces one question (“What caused the universe?”) with a whole bunch of other ones that are raised by their positing God. How does he do it? How does he create from nothing? How does he exist eternally? How does he create outside of time?

      And so on.

  • Raging Bee

    Truth cannot be discovered wholly from reason.

    …say the people who insist they can use something called “pure reason” to prove that their God exists and doesn’t want us to have sex.

  • Dannorth

    As for the claim you’re attacking—“intuition can’t be a guide to truth”—yes, that’s wrong.

    I would argue that it’s not wrong. Intuition can and often is the starting point of inquiry but a common mistake is stoping there.

    The intuition must be tested, and discarded if found wanting.

    • RichardSRussell

      I agree with Dannorth. Intuition can be a guide to truth — and often is, as Malcolm Gladwell makes clear with some of the examples from his book Blink, in which subject-matter experts develop a “gut feeling” that has welled up from their subconscious (and which they can’t articulate or explain) that proves upon further investigation to be correct.

      The same observation has been made about Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. How many millions of people over the centuries had looked at the effect of moldy bread on bacteria and never thot twice about it, until somebody with a medical background did get one of those “that’s odd” feelings? Or Kekule’s inspiration about the molecular structure of a benzene ring, which came to him in a dream about a snake eating its own tail (after he’d been gnawing on the puzzle non-stop for days)?

      Bob’s right, of course, that intuition’s being a guide to the truth is hardly the same as being assured that you’ve found it. As Dannorth says, it’s a good starting point, and may be aiming you in the right direction, but that hardly accomplishes the work of arriving safely.

      • kraut2

        Malcolm Gladwell…you mean Malcolm Gadfly..

        I had heard an interview with him on CBC about it and was less than impressed with his style, research and conclusions. He sounded more like a huckster and a book saleman – his own book – than somebody whose pronouncements should be seriously considered being of any value.

        https://newrepublic.com/article/68000/blinkered
        “The example is actually a bad one for Gladwell’s point, though it is a good illustration of the weakness of this book, which is a series of loosely connected anecdotes, rich in “human interest” particulars but poor in analysis.”

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/headcase/201006/challenging-gladwells-blink

        “Without comparing how frequently intuitions outperform analysis for both genuine and fake items, there is no way to draw general lessons about the power of intuition.
        … It is ironic that Gladwell (knowingly or not) exploits one of the
        greatest weaknesses of intuition—our tendency to blithely infer cause from anecdotes—in making his case for intuition’s extraordinary power.”

        https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/feb/19/scienceandnature.highereducation
        “The more examples Gladwell adduces of first impressions calculated to turn out right, and then of other ones that come out badly wrong – such as the time an innocent man was shot by panicking police officers – the more his big point gets buried under a heap of caveats and conditions and provisos. ”
        “. It leads Gladwell to advise against the very practice he started off selling: “Too often,” he says, “we are resigned to what happens in the blink of an eye.”

        • RichardSRussell

          Indeed, my own main criticism of Gladwell’s thesis is that he mainly cites how subject-matter experts are good at what they do. This can hardly be generalized into thinking that any random schmuck can do the same, tho he does score some points on how a good deal of learning new things seems to occur at the pre-conscious level before we become cognitively aware of it, kind of like the way your hand jerks back from the hot stove before your brain even realizes that it’s hot.

        • Michael Neville

          Similarly I’m a touch-typist, having learned the skill in 1965-66 (senior year of high school). I was a professional typist for years and can zip along at 70-80 words per minute on an electronic keyboard. But if I conscientiously look at my hands to see which fingers hit which keys then my speed goes down and my error rate goes way up.

        • Raging Bee

          …or how your hand doesn’t want to go near a burner even when your brain knows it’s not turned on.

    • Kevin K

      The problem is that if you give that inch, theologians will take the mile.

    • eric

      Just to confuse the issue, I’ll say that I don’t think a binary right/wrong judgement is useful here. If you consider a simple description of the scientific method as ‘form hypothesis; test to gain evidence; analyze that evidence and revise your hypothesis; repeat until you have a high-confidence theory”, then intuition can be legitimately part of the “form hypothesis” phase. Where creationists go wrong is in thinking intuition is a form of evidence.

      Using this understanding of the role of intuition, reliability isn’t a major philosophical issue. Unreliability may cost you time and money, but when used in the ‘right place’ in the scientific method, it can’t lead you to a wrong conclusion.

    • I think we’re saying the same thing.

  • Sophia Sadek

    There was a time when the material Creator of the flat and immobile Earth did not exist. It has a cause, and that cause has proven to be quite unjust.

  • RichardSRussell

    1: Whatever begins to exist had a cause
    2: The universe began to exist
    3: Therefore, the universe had a cause

    This is in the style of a logical syllogism, which means that it derives correct conclusions from correct premises. As I pointed out in my recent guest essay on “How We Decide”, the following 2 statements also use that structure:

    Example #1: If all men are fallible, and if Aristotle is a man, then Aristotle is fallible.

    Example #2: If all squares are round, and if this triangle is a square, then this triangle is round.

    That’s why Bob is correct to challenge both of the premises of the Kalam argument.

  • Kevin K

    In addition…

    * Who says the universe “began to exist”? All we can tell for certain is that this particular space-time continuum began to exist about 14-15 billion years ago (or thereabouts).

    * Who says that an all-natural inception of the universe would violate causality? Certainly not cosmologists. This demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of cosmology and physics.

    • epeeist

      All we can tell for certain is that this particular space-time continuum began to exist about 14-15 billion years ago (or thereabouts).

      Nope, all we can say is that universe was in existence after the Planck time. Before that (if “before” has any meaning in this context) we do not know.

      • Kevin K

        Actually, what I said is in complete agreement with what you said. So…what the fuck is your problem?

        • epeeist

          Actually, what I said is in complete agreement with what you said.

          Actually it isn’t. You said that “we can tell for certain that this particular space-time continuum began to exist”.

          I would disagree with this in that our theories break down at the Planck time, we can’t therefore tell for certain that the space-time began to exist. On top of that I am unaware of any empirical data that shows that the continuum began to exist.

        • Kevin K

          “THIS PARTICULAR”…read for comprehension. THIS PARTICULAR. From the point of Planck time to the present instant. THIS PARTICULAR.

          FFS.

        • MNb

          He’s nitpicking, but indeed technically he’s right that all we can say is that universe was in existence after the Planck time. It bears little relevance to your comment though; it’s just more precisely formulated.

        • epeeist

          “THIS PARTICULAR”…read for comprehension.

          Actually it seems to be you having the comprehension problems.

          Let’s take it one step at a time:

          Do we have observational evidence for an expanding universe? Yes we do.

          Do we have a theoretical underpinning for an expanding universe? Yes we do.

          Do we have observational evidence for the beginning of the universe? No we do not.

          Do we have theoretical justification for the beginning of the universe? No, in that current theories break down at the Planck time.

          Do we have speculations about things like Steinhardt and Turok’s ekpyrotic universe, Penrose’s cyclic conformal cosmology, Guth’s eternal inflation or the other multiverse ideas catalogued in something like Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, most of which would lead to the conclusion that our universe did have a beginning? Yes we do.

          Is there any observational evidence for such ideas? No, there is not.

          Is there any theoretical justification for such speculations? In some there is, in others there is not.

          Can one therefore say “All we can tell for certain is that this particular space-time continuum began to exist about 14-15 billion years ago (or thereabouts).” No, we cannot. It simply isn’t justified.

  • Gehennah

    One of the more annoying things about the KCA is that even if it was a valid and sound argument, and proved that a god or gods existed (which it doesn’t), it still isn’t supporting the god that they actually believe in.

    WLC doesn’t seem to ever really argue for the god he believes in, but some more deistic like god. He’ll say something along the lines of “the Bible then shows that the Christian god is the real one” but he doesn’t seem to really defend it.

    • Greg G.

      Hamza Tzortzis is a Muslim apologist who uses the Kalam as well. I have seen a couple of videos of him, one debating Dan Barker with many WLC arguments and another where he ambushed PZ Myers not knowing who he was and tried to stump him with microbiology, which was Myers’ field.

      • Gehennah

        I’m aware of Hamza too, and he’s so horrible at defending the Kalam. At least WLC comes across as knowledgeable of physics and such when he speaks of it (although when he’s discussing it with a theoretical physicist he’s often called out for misrepresenting what is being said).

    • MNb

      It’s a three-stage rocket.
      Stage one: argue for a deistic god.
      Stage two: argue for a personal god.
      Stage three: argue for the christian god.

      Of course jump to and from one stage to another as needed, because f**k consistency.

      Stage four, arguing for the version of your specific denomination is usually omitted these days.

      • T-Paine

        I have a formula”

        Let D be the Deistic god
        Let C be the Christian god
        Let R be Reason
        Let L be Logic
        Let E be Evidence
        Let F be (Religious) Faith

        If: R + L + E = D, D =/= F, D > F

        But: R + L + E =/= C, F = C, F = -R – L – E

        Then: C = -R – L – E, D > C

    • James

      It’s far easier to argue for a very vague, unspecific “cause” than it is to defend the very specific claims of Christianity (or any other religion), which quickly wither under the glare of critical scrutiny. To me, it smells of intellectual dishonesty to read Genesis and glean from it nothing at all more than the singular bold assertion “God exists and created everything from out of nothing.” It makes the apologist’s job far simplier to not have to either 1) deny vast quantities of inconvenient empirical facts or 2) re-interpret the Bible to make it completely unfalsifiable, baring little to no resemblance to what it actually says and has historically been understood to mean.

      • The core problem IMO is that our domain is now quantum physics, a place where common sense is out the window. Christian apologists can’t import their ideas of causality and other bits of common sense. And yet they do so anyway.

        Fail.

  • Eric Collier

    I must say, I’m still confused about the something-from-nothing paradox, the response to which being “if you got quantum mechanics/gravity you can get something from nothing”. Great. But QM/G is still not nothing.

    • Greg G.

      But if the nothingness is unstable, you would get QM/G.

      A stable nothingness is a philosophical concept which is not seen in nature, like a perfect equilateral triangle or a perfect circle. Perhaps a stable nothingness is a false premise which leads to wrong conclusions.

      • eric

        A stable nothingness is not nothing, because it has the property “stability.” So the only true nothingness would be one in which something could come from nothing.

        • MNb

          Correct. But the thing that has the property “stability” (might well be quantum fields) did not begin to exist.

        • Kevin K

          A stable “nothing” would also never cease to exist. So, there would be eternal “nothing”, and we wouldn’t be here. So, the concept of stable nothing in this context is disproved by the evidence of the existence of our universe. There might be stable nothing somewhere outside our universe; but we would never know it. Nor would we need to … because it’s nothing.

        • MNb

          “So, there would be eternal “nothing”, and we wouldn’t be here.”
          You threaten to confuse nothingness in physics and nothingness in philosophy. Philosophically speaking quantum fields are not nothing. In physics all values of all quantum fields equaling zero is nothing indeed. In that state expressions like “begin to exist”, “cease to exist” and “eternal” probably are even meaningless; spacetime depends on the values of quantum fields being non-zero.
          It seems to me that Wittgenstein’s motto applies here:

          Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

          It’s beyond me why the Cosmological Argument in general impresses so many believers. I think it one of the weakest, if ordering from weak to strong makes any sense.

        • Kevin K

          STABLE nothing, as discussed upthread. STABLE nothing. Read for goddamned comprehension. I was DISCOUNTING the concept, not defending it.

          STABLE nothing is incompatible with quantum theory; if nothingness was STABLE, there would be a permanent state of NOTHINGNESS. So, it fucking WASN’T. Philosophy has fuck-all do to with it.

        • MNb

          “STABLE nothing”
          Could you repeat it a couple of more times? Just to be sure?
          Of course fuck-all philosophy has fuck-all to do with fuck-all it, because fuck-all Cosmological fuck-all Arguments are fuck-all philosophical fuck-all arguments fuck-all philosophers fuck-all argue fuck-all about.

        • Kevin K

          WHO THE FUCK IS ARGUING THE FUCKING COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT?

        • Michael Neville

          Who the fuck wants to know? And knock off the fucking yelling.

        • kraut2

          Yeah, it got kind of noisy in here…

        • Kevin K

          This has nothing to do with you. Why are you inserting yourself?

        • Susan

          Why are you inserting yourself?

          Public discussion.

        • Michael Neville

          Why not?

        • Kevin K

          Fuck off.

        • Michael Neville

          You first, asswipe.

        • adam

          Did you block me yet?

        • MNb

          I can’t hear you. Could you talk a bit louder? I’m not sure if you said “Ontological” or “Cosmological” Argument. Or did you say Temperament? You’re mumbling.

        • Kevin K

          …and you’re blocked.

        • MNb

          I’m so disappointed by this harsh punishment that I won’t sleep tonight.

        • Ignorant Amos

          OOooooohoooooh!!!

          Spat your dummy tit out have you?

          Why did ya feel it necessary to announce such a toothless action I’m wondering?

        • adam

          Can I get blocked?

        • kraut2

          I think there is one fuck too many somewhere. Not that I give or take one.

        • epeeist

          A stable nothingness is not nothing, because it has the property “stability.”

          Presumably the laws of physics would not apply to such a nothing since otherwise it would not be nothing. In which case who can say what would happen.

    • Otto

      It confuses me when it is claimed something can’t come from nothing…and then it is claimed God created something from nothing…wait what? So then something CAN come from nothing.

      It is special pleading at its finest.

    • MNb

      See underneath. The something might well have come from quantum fields. Sure, quantum fields are not nothing either. But neither did the begin to exist.

    • Lawrence Krauss explains how a universe might come from nothing, but here again the “nothing” is only no space, time, or matter. I’m not sure what he starts with–the laws of physics, fields, vacuum energy, or what–but apologists have complained that his nothing isn’t the philosophers’ nothing (that is, absolutely nothing).

      It always amuses me when someone like Wm. Lane Craig barges in to a field of science as if he has anything useful to say to help illuminate the issue for the professionals.

      • epeeist

        I’m not sure what he starts with–the laws of physics, fields, vacuum energy, or what–but apologists have complained that his nothing isn’t the philosophers’ nothing (that is, absolutely nothing).

        The philosophers (not the theologians) would be right about this, there is a difference between a physical nothing and a metaphysical one. However, who can say whether either ever obtained?

        • Anyone would be right about this. The philosophers bring nothing new to the table. What I’m complaining about is WLC (or equivalent) stepping in as if he knows what the initial conditions were.

      • MNb

        If the laws of physics, as apologists like to maintain, ground (or rule or govern or whatever) our Universe (which I dispute) then they have to show that laws of physics began to exist. Without this there is no reason for the jump “god created the laws of physics” according to rules of the KCA itself.

    • Cygnus

      Nothing is everywhere, anytime 🙂

    • epeeist

      I must say, I’m still confused about the something-from-nothing paradox

      It tends to be hand waving. Ask the person who quotes the adage what they mean by “nothing”. They tend to find they have an urgent appointment elsewhere.

      If they actually make an attempt at it then ask them whether the state of affairs they are proposing ever obtained.

  • Msironen

    Also, Relativity of Simultaneity basically pulls the rug out from under Kalam so you need a non-standard version of Special Relativity in order to salvage Kalam. WLC seems to acknowledge this in that he’s actually worked and published said work on such a version of SR but apparently gained very little, if any traction, in physics circles (or any other circles, for that matter).

    EDIT: Correction, it seems a bit more complicated than that. WLC doesn’t seem to think the Kalam argument requires absolute simultaneity, but it does required tensed theory of time (A-theory) rather than the tenseless B-theory and Special Relativity is usually considered to favor B-theory. Relativity of Simultaneity in SR is especially linked to this issue.

    • Kevin K

      Yeah, his book on “god’s time” doesn’t seem to have earned him a Nobel Prize in physics. I wonder why?

  • James

    Excellent article Bob!

    I’ve recently come across a new objection to Kalam that I hadn’t previously considered; it starts by examining what the Kalam argument *is* as opposed to examining what it argues. Kalam is an a priori argument; a priori arguments use logic, i.e. rules that are known or assumed to be true, in order to create a new rule that is also known or assumed to be true. Logic are the rules learned from experience to be useful within any given system – in general “logic” are the rules that are learned within the universe that have proven useful for successfully navigating our universe. The central conceit of the Kalam argument is that it attempts to take rules that are known (actually merely assumed) to be true *within* our universe and then attempts to apply them *outside* of the universe, both in time and in space. This is like taking the rules we know to be true for poker and applying them to football; like taking the logic learned by experience to be useful for mechanical engineering and then applying them to medicine. There could be similarities, of course, but we’d first have to have experience with whatever it means to actually be “outside” or “before” our universe before we could then compare and contrast them with the universe we know from experience. The whole argument is a massive non sequitur before we even examine the premises themselves, which as you pointed out, are not universally true and therefore the conclusion does not necessarily follow. The icing on the cake is that a “cause” is a very, very far thing from being a specific deity concept – a key point quickly glossed over by William Craig as he descends into pure rhetoric.

    Another problem with Kalam stems from its use of the word “cause”
    – implying one, singular cause. This is a very convenient assumption slipped in by the apologist, which helps make the case much easier for a monotheistic deity being that cause. There’s no good reason to assume “cause” as opposed to “causes.” Virtually all known phenomena that we’ve examined and gained an understanding of has been shown to have multiple causes; not just one. The weather, for example, has no one cause – it has many of them. William Craig imagines something outside our universe and before our universe, but then he arbitrarily limits himself to but a single cause. If one is going entertain pure speculation, open up Pandora’s Box and begin to image what it’s like to be outside our universe – a purely hypothetical “place” that we have zero experience interacting within and know nothing about – then it seems a terrible poverty of the imagination to then limit ourselves to but a single thing that can somehow exist outside the universe.

    • kraut2

      God and causes:

      http://exapologist.blogspot.pt/2016/08/theism-naturalism-and-final-causes_11.html

      “God’s life is also meaningful and purposeful according to classical theism. On classical theism, therefore, final causes are built into God’s nature without a prior cause. But if that’s right, then classical theism entails the existence of final causes at the metaphysical ground floor that God cannot create. And if that’s right, then theism entails base-level final causes that do not require intention.

      The moral: Theism entails that non-conscious teleology is a more fundamental feature of reality than teleology caused by intelligence, in which case it’s not at all clear why base-level final causes are problematic for naturalism vis-a-vis theism. “

    • MNb

      “rules that are known (actually merely assumed) to be true *within* our universe and then attempts to apply them *outside* of the universe, both in time and in space.”
      As Dutch theologian and apostate Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis remarked at theend of the 19th Century:: deriving a divine world from our concrete one requires a salto mortale.
      Since I began to recognize those acrobatics I can’t unsee them anymore.

      • James

        Well said!

    • See my summary of the problems with premise 1 here. When researching the KCA, I was amazed at how many things Craig was actually talking about with premise 1 that he didn’t state. (Conceivably, he might not’ve even realized that he was making these assumptions; he certainly hasn’t admitted to them.)

      Back to your point: yes, that’s excellent. The axioms we know work in our world (“everything has a cause”) don’t even apply in the quantum physical realm in our own universe; why imagine that they’ll work when pulling in the supernatural?

      Re cause vs. causes: yes, another good point. This guy with 2 doctorates just blunders along, sticking in Christian presuppositions into his argument, either clueless to the error or doing it deliberately and hoping we don’t notice.

    • Jonathan Morgan

      Yeah, I’ve made your first argument many times myself. Additionally, I would have thought that causality is related to the directionality of time. Since this first cause is outside our universe’s time, it seems simplistic to me to make assumptions about causality. Would anyone more expert on causality than me like to give a yea or nay on that?

      • MNb

        “causality is related to the directionality of time”
        Yeah, but at that point (and if you doubt it and can stomach him, ask Edward Feser) the cosmological argument suddenly is a metaphysical argument, so that the direction of time is irrelevant and you are guilty (according to apologists, not me) of a category error. This is not about a chronological order but about a logical order in the metaphysical meaning of that expression (I feel something nasty bubbling up inside). God is the first cause because he is the a priori cause (I can’t believe that I write this stuff with a straight face) of our Universe (Multiverse), not a chronological one (I must have read too much apologetics; please please don’t take this seriously!).

        Eek, I need a remedy. Badly. Now.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9xyWxXyOOg

        • kraut2

          “(I feel something nasty bubbling up inside)”

          Slowly step away from the keyboard.

      • curtcameron

        I recently read Sean Carroll’s book The Big Picture. As he explains there, physicists working at the fundamental nature of the world don’t speak of causality; causality is something that you get as a result of entropy, the result of statistics of large numbers. Fundamental physics works both forwards and backwards in time, so causality doesn’t come into the picture.

        So if the Big Bang was a quantum event, I’m not sure how the concept of causality would even apply.

  • T-Paine

    T-Paine: If God resides outside of space, then where is God?

    Apologist: God is everywhere.

    T-Paine: So God doesn’t reside outside of space.

    Apologist: “……….”

    T-Paine: If God created time and space, then when and where did God create them?

    Apologist: “…….You need Jesus.”

  • Peoples! I have just written a book on the KCA, endorsed by Bob:

    https://www.amazon.com/Did-God-Create-Universe-Nothing-ebook/dp/B01MAWBA7O?imprToken=lpdcbfuGnR9xVI3hTslslw&slotNum=0&tag=atipplingphil-20&linkCode=w13&linkId=JGKCPPPE4UQHXVT2&ref_=assoc_res_sw_gb_dka_crp_c_result_1&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.patheos.com%2Fblogs%2Ftippling%2F2016%2F11%2F04%2Fsusan-sarandon-support-of-third-party-candidates-i-dont-vote-with-my-vagina%2F

    Did God Create the Universe from Nothing?: Countering William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument

    available on both ebook and paperback. Hopefully, it covers in some way all of the many issues with the argument. Keep up the good work, Bob!

    • Ignorant Amos

      Just added it to my Kindle library…looking foreword to reading your taking apart of WLC’s nonsense.

      Thanks.

    • Congratulations for making it to publication!

      Best wishes for success of the book.

    • Randy Everist

      Hey man, you may not remember me at all, but I remember we had an interaction quite a while back, and I was rude to you. I apologize for that, and ask for your forgiveness (even though I don’t deserve it!). People shouldn’t be treated the way I did treat you, and I am truly sorry. Hope things are going well for you!

  • Randy Everist

    Thanks for interacting with my article, Bob! I’m afraid, though, that you might still be misunderstanding the claim of premise 1, and it may indeed be my own fault. When you write, “The Copenhagen interpretation of QM says that many quantum events can be described statistically but don’t have causes—the decay of a nucleus or the creation of an electron, for example,” you are engaging in two presuppositions: first, that the Copenhagen interpretation is the correct one. This is unproblematic for now. More importantly, (2): that premise 1 is speaking of *events*. No such interpretation of premise 1 is permitted. Rather than *events*, premise 1 speaks of *things coming into existence*, where philosophy distinguishes between “events” and “existents” (things that exist). As I mention, this is my fault for not making it explicit (it is implicit in what I say, but I wasn’t clear enough). I hope this helps someone!

    • Randy: Thanks for responding.

      you are engaging in two presuppositions: first, that the Copenhagen interpretation is the correct one.

      No, I don’t presuppose that. I’m saying that it might not be the case that all things have causes, and premise 1 devolves into “Whatever begins to exist might have a cause,” which kinda makes the entire argument useless. Admittedly, I’ve used a shorthand here, but I’ve made that qualifier clearer in previous posts.

      More importantly, (2): that premise 1 is speaking of *events*. No such interpretation of premise 1 is permitted. Rather than *events*, premise 1 speaks of *things coming into existence*

      Is there a difference? Isn’t an electron coming into existence an event? That’s the kind of things the Copenhagen interpretation is talking about.

      • Randy Everist

        Sorry I didn’t realize that’s what you were claiming (I haven’t seen your posts before). So, without presupposing the Copenhagen interpretation, we’re back to where we were with events. Yes, there is a difference between an event (say the event of a ball striking a window) and the concrete objects that can make up such events (namely, the ball and the window). They are not identical. In the case of QM, the virtual particles aren’t coming into being from nothing (in the “exposition” of the causal principle, what people mean here is that some thing comes into existence from some thing, and that’s what is going on with virtual particles, even if we don’t know, say, what, if anything, triggered the event in which they are involved). I hope you have a great 4th!

        • without presupposing the Copenhagen interpretation, we’re back to where we were with events.

          I’m not presupposing Copenhagen. Copenhagen changes premise 1 to “Whatever begins to exist might have a cause,” and the argument is no longer compelling.

          Yes, there is a difference between an event (say the event of a ball striking a window) and the concrete objects that can make up such events (namely, the ball and the window). They are not identical.

          I never said that they did. I’m simply saying that “Whatever begins to exist” is referring, among other things, to the electron (which wasn’t there before) flying out of the decaying nucleus. Hence, Copenhagen is relevant to our discussion.

          In the case of QM, the virtual particles aren’t coming into being from nothing

          The electron isn’t a virtual particle.

        • Randy Everist

          I never said the electron is a virtual particle; I’m giving an example from QM. 🙂 I acknowledged that you aren’t presupposing Copenhagen, but Copenhagen only becomes relevant if, in fact, you think the principle applies (this is all I meant by presupposing). Next, events are not the same as objects (note you did say that you didn’t know the difference earlier!).

        • I never said the electron is a virtual particle; I’m giving an example from QM.

          But I was talking about my example, which referred to a created electron coming from a decaying nucleus. It’s not a virtual particle. Are you saying that this creation event isn’t something covered by Kalam’s first premise?

          Copenhagen only becomes relevant if, in fact, you think the principle applies

          How can Copenhagen not apply to premise 1?

          events are not the same as objects

          Obviously. How is this relevant? I’m talking about the object (an electron) having a beginning without a cause.

    • Greg G.

      Can you give an example of something that began to exist that isn’t just a changing of states of something that already exists? The causes are just acting on things that already exist.

      I do not think it is rational to say that everything that begins to exist has a cause. A universe coming into existence is different than things being caused to change form and states in the universe. You cannot make the extrapolation of causes acting on something having an effect to a cause acting on nothing having an effect.

      • Randy Everist

        Sure, presumably you are just such an example. Hopefully you are something over and above a mere reshuffling, otherwise “you” don’t exist; “you” is just an abstract name. But yes, cars, chairs, and others. Metaphysical reductionism is far more controversial in philosophical literature than the first premise! 🙂

        • epeeist

          But yes, cars, chairs, and others.

          But they don’t “come into existence”, they are simply rearrangements of substances that are already present in the universe.

        • Randy Everist

          Hello. I hope you’re having a great 4th! This of course entails that there are no cars, chairs, people, or other objects. And this is a far more controversial assumption than the causal principle. 🙂

        • Michael Neville

          There are cars, which before they became cars, were metal and plastic and rubber and various other things. Chairs are made from wood, metal, plastics, clue, etc. People begin with two cells, one from each parent, and grow into people while absorbing various substances which had previous existences. So your comment “This of course entails that there are no cars, chairs, people, or other objects” is a non sequitur.

        • Randy Everist

          Well let’s remember the dialectic! 🙂 I was asked to provide an example of something’s beginning to exist that isn’t “just” a particular rearrangement of matter. So suppose there are no such things. It then follows that there isn’t such a thing as a car, there is nothing but a particular arrangement of matter that we merely *name* a car. And so on.

          Now, as you rightly point out, there are indeed cars and such things, and they are arrangements of matter. But then where does that leave us? That that are not “nothing-but” these arrangements. This is getting us, I think, far afield, as it isn’t even clear to me yet why I was asked this question.

        • epeeist

          This is getting us, I think, far afield, as it isn’t even clear to me yet why I was asked this question.

          Quite simply, it shows that we have never seen anything come into existence. So why should we take the first premiss to be true?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yep, we’ve no examples of something coming from nothing because we only know of a state where something exists.

          When was there nothing?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7XDNomPwK0

        • Michael Neville

          as it isn’t even clear to me yet why I was asked this question.

          You’re not the only one wondering why you asked this question.

        • Greg G.

          I was asked to provide an example of something’s beginning to exist that isn’t “just” a particular rearrangement of matter. So suppose there are no such things. It then follows that there isn’t such a thing as a car, there is nothing but a particular arrangement of matter that we merely *name* a car. And so on.

          The matter that the car is made of would exist as ores in planets whether anybody was around to rearrange it and call it a car. Rearranging the atoms and molecules of ores is not the same as creating the atoms and molecules or a universe.

          That the example that was requested of you. The Kalam is dead at the first step if you can’t give a single example of matter/energy being caused to exist.

        • epeeist

          Hello. I hope you’re having a great 4th!

          I’m British.

          This of course entails that there are no cars, chairs, people, or other objects.

          I’m sorry, what entails that there are no such objects?

          And this is a far more controversial assumption than the causal principle. 🙂

          It isn’t a “principle” though is it, it is simply a generalisation from observation at human level scales of things like mass and velocity.

        • Randy Everist

          Hello again. I still hope British people have a good day, and today is the 4th, so I hope you have a good 4th! 🙂 And 5th, for that matter.

          So I was asked to provide an example of something’s beginning to exist that isn’t “just” a particular rearrangement of matter. So suppose there are no such things. It then follows that there isn’t such a thing as a car, there is nothing but a particular arrangement of matter that we merely *name* a car. And so on.

          No, very few people (and no professional philosophers) argue for the causal principle on the basis of observation. I hope this clears some of what I am saying up. I look forward to being back in the UK this Fall. I love your area of the world!

        • What’s the causal principle? That all things have causes?

          In the first place, Copenhagen makes it unlikely. And in the second, what besides observation would support the causal principle?? “Why did that billiard ball move?” Because the other billiard ball hit it, and so on.

          An additional challenge, which I believe epeeist is alluding to, is that the only examples we have are of something coming from something. If you want to argue that God made the universe from nothing, you need to ground the Kalam argument with evidence that these events have beginnings (a la premise 1).

        • Randy Everist

          I can answer that! Ex nihilo, nihil fit. Out of nothing, nothing comes. 🙂 Given that it’s postulated as a metaphysical principle, intuition, thought experiments, etc. Observation confirms, and never contradicts, this, but it’s not as though intuition plays no role. Next, I’m not sure how this follows, given: a) we’re not talking about *events*, and b) this doesn’t dispute any of the premises. If you have any other questions, I’m happy to answer them for you, but I have to run for now. Hope you are well!

        • Ex nihilo, nihil fit. Out of nothing, nothing comes. 🙂

          You’ve made short work of the idea that that’s how God did his thing. Well done.

          Given that it’s postulated as a metaphysical principle, intuition, thought experiments, etc.

          Is your argument cosmological/physical or philosophical? Are you pointing to evidence and observation or not?

          I’m not sure how this follows, given: a) we’re not talking about *events*, and b) this doesn’t dispute any of the premises.

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about now. My claim that you need to ground the Kalam argument in creation from nothing?

        • epeeist

          I can answer that! Ex nihilo, nihil fit. Out of nothing, nothing comes. 🙂 Given that it’s postulated as a metaphysical principle, intuition, thought experiments, etc.

          And again this isn’t a “principle”, it is simply a left over piece of argument from authority from Parmenides. At best it is another piece of inductive generalisation from human scale observations.

        • Greg G.

          Ex nihilo, nihil fit.

          Who are we to believe, an ancient Greek or people who have studied quantum mechanics? Alan Guth theorized that energy and space could come into existence together where energy is like kinetic energy and space is like potential energy, equal and opposite so the total energy in the creation of them is precisely zero.

          Edit: Guth’s theory has stood for more than three decades with a few adjustments and no contending theories.

        • epeeist

          No, very few people (and no professional philosophers) argue for the causal principle on the basis of observation.

          It is a good job they don’t given that we don’t observe causality, we infer it.

        • Joe

          It then follows that there isn’t such a thing as a car, there is nothing but a particular arrangement of matter that we merely *name* a car. And so on.

          Yes.

          What’s the dividing line between a car and a truck?

        • Kodie

          El Camino

        • Joe

          I’m British.

          In hindsight, it turned out to be a good day for us after all.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ya think so Joe? Depending on who the us is that ya mean of course.

          We [the British] are among the most secular theocratic countries.

          You are amongst the most theocratic secular countries.

          There is wiggle room in there, because of my facetiousness.

          Just recently, 58% of Jocks claim no religion and the revolution going on in Ireland is astonishing.

          My American comrades are fecked.

        • Joe

          I was speaking in my capacity as a Brit, through birth.

          Although, since my old country is keener on extracting itself from the largest free market in the world than it is to implement basic fire safety legislation, I’m glad my Australian citizenship came through last week.

          The UK is going the same direction as the USA, whereas the rest of the world is trying to steer away from the precipice of populistic nationalism.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It’s not all about extracting anything from the largest free market in the world, wtf that even means?

          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_consumer_markets

          Don’t convoluted market and economy.

          And apparently you seem a tad ignorant on the fire legislation thingy…am guessing it’s the Grenfell Tower catastrophe to which you are alluding?

          Please don’t.

          You sound to me like a bit of a citizen whore with a remark like…

          I’m glad my Australian citizenship came through last week.

          The irony is that the Aussie’s are among the most vervently growing, when it comes to populistic nationalism.

          At the federal election, minor parties won a record 34% of the Senate vote, thanks to factors now familiar to pundits in Britain and the US – growing income inequality, nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-free trade sentiment, and backlashes against “political correctness” and globalisation.

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-39111317

          So you go Joe.

          Please note my facetiousness caveat…. alcohol has been embibed.

        • Pofarmer

          “My American comrades are fecked.”

          That’s just hurtful.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Certainly not intended to be chum.

          Just an observation that if ya can’t get the fuckwits reigned in, the rest of ya will be doomed. As it is, the rest of the free world seems to be motoring on in the right direction when it comes to religious beliefs and adherent numbers.

        • Pofarmer

          If you look at the numbers, we’re headed in the right direction. If you look at the politics? Yeah, not so much. Captain Cassidy thinks this is a last ditch by the Evangelical far Right. I hope she’s right.

        • Ignorant Amos

          If you look at the numbers, we’re headed in the right direction. If you look at the politics? Yeah, not so much. Captain Cassidy thinks this is a last ditch by the Evangelical far Right.

          Fair dues.

          I hope she’s right.

          Me too!

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Pofarmer

          LOL.

        • I like that idea. The Evangelical Right is all in on the Trump hand of poker. If/when they lose, they’ll have wagered and lost everything–credibility, reputation, and so on.

          Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s how it worked out?

        • Pofarmer

          Well, as in poker, it could get really bad before they’re forced from the table.

        • Kodie

          It can at times be embarrassing to be an American. The fuckwits can’t be reigned in, they’re mavericks with guns and shit.

        • Kodie

          You see, at the time, England was still a monarchy. It was some time along that you decided to be a democracy like us. No taxation without representation.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Democracy? Your kidding, right?

        • Kodie

          My kidding what?

        • Ignorant Amos

          That we Brits are living in a democracy in the pure sense of the word.

          http://www.notademocracy.uk/

          And don’t even get me started on why us folk in N.I.don’t even factor in on who get sits in the big seats in Westminster.

        • Kodie

          Let’s just call it a day on world politics. I was just repeating what I learned at school.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Fair enough…I was just replying to your comment.

        • Joe

          This of course entails that there are no cars, chairs, people,

          I am a person, sat on a chair, as I type this.

        • Greg G.

          Happy Independence Day! It’s been great for me except for having to chauffeur my wife and her sister to the outlet mall.

          My mind is one function of my brain as vision is a function of my eyes and visual are of the brain. The memory systems of the brain that give me a sense of continuity is based on material structures of proteins. The process I call me is an emergent property of the matter, energy, and space which is part of the universe. The religious answer of me is one of spirit that is nothing like the universe, so it is an even worse example.

          So you still don’t have an example of something beginning to exist. One thing you could offer is virtual particles but they seem to cause themselves by using time that is more bidirectional than the time we experience as are experiences are entropy driven.

          As far as we know, universes coming into existence are extremely rare events that inevitably happen, given that there are no restrictions on time.

        • Joe

          Hopefully you are something over and above a mere reshuffling,

          Hope doesn’t make it so.

          But yes, cars, chairs, and others.

          Where does the matter come from to make a chair?

    • Joe

      you are engaging in two presuppositions: first, that the Copenhagen interpretation is the correct one.

      Even if that were true (it’s actually a deference to the best supported explanation), aren’t you presupposing that it isn’t the correct interpretation?

      Rather than *events*, premise 1 speaks of *things coming into existence*

      So “events” are not things? You’d be among the first theists to hold such a view.

      • Randy Everist

        No, I’m not presupposing it at all. I just like to point out presuppositions. Right, events are abstracta, not concrete objects (even if they involve them). This is a normal view in contemporary philosophy, at least. I hope you have a good day!

        • Philosophy? I thought we were in the field of cosmology.

        • Randy Everist

          The first premise is a metaphysical principle.

        • Joe

          Right, events are abstracta, not concrete objects

          Do they exist though? You can’t have your abstract cake and eat it too.

    • epeeist

      first, that the Copenhagen interpretation is the correct one. This is unproblematic for now.

      It is irrelevant any way, one doesn’t need to invoke the Copenhagen interpretation.

      premise 1 speaks of *things coming into existence*,

      Could you give of an example of something “coming into existence”?

      EDIT: You seem to have done this below.