Revisiting the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Revisiting the Kalam Cosmological Argument June 7, 2021

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

But today is different. “11 Objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument” by Randy Everist is a Christian response to objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). He says, “I believe each objection can be satisfactorily answered so that one is justified in accepting the KCA.” Let’s see if we can respond to these responses.

What is the Kalam argument?

The 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.

Let’s take a look to see if the KCA has been made any stronger and how much of my argument is left standing. (The objection to the KCA is quoted from the article and shown in bold and then the Christian rebuttal to that objection is 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 benefit to skeptics to misunderstand premise 1 when it’s nicely refuted by stating it correctly. “Whatever begins to exist had a cause” is refuted by quantum mechanics. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics 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.)

I think the goal here is to imagine that the KCA can be effectively evaluated with reason alone. But no, since we’re talking about the origin of the universe, experimentation and the weighing of evidence are also essential. Theorize all you want, but your predictions must be evaluated with evidence.

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—indeed, everyone’s—is imperfect.

As for the claim you’re attacking—“intuition can’t be a guide to truth”—yes, that unequivocal rejection is 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 is close to 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. And with this article defending the KCA, we’re seeing the intuitive equivalent.)

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.

The remainder of the 11 arguments will be explored in upcoming posts.

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

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 10/31/16.)

Image from NASA, public domain
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