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The Kalam Argument: infinite regress and more

The Kalam Argument: infinite regress and more June 14, 2021

The Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) is a modern variant of the old “But Someone had to be there to start it all off, right?” argument. It has a common sense appeal, but it falls apart under inspection.

This is the final installment of a critique of a Christian defense of the KCA (part 1). We’ll look at “Your explanation requires another explanation,” “God has no ‘but what created God?’ infinite regress” and a few more.

Here is the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA):

1: Whatever begins to exist had a cause

2: The universe began to exist

3: Therefore, the universe had a cause

Below, the skeptical argument is shown in bold and the Christian response in italics.

8. Even if the universe has a beginning, there are possibilities besides God.

If you’re thinking of aliens or the multiverse, that just pushes the problem back a step.

What is it with this obsession for an immediate answer? Can’t we just say, “I don’t know”? That approach has done well for science because it puts the spotlight on interesting questions, which then tend to get answered.

Of course, it’s clear why apologists demand an answer right now. They know that science regularly replaces supernatural explanation with evidence-based explanations. Their time window is brief, and they want to score some points for “God did it!” before their question du jour is answered. Then they’ll move on to another unanswered scientific question and hope that everyone forgets that last one.

As one example of a non-God beginning of our universe, maybe it’s a computer simulation like the Matrix. Perhaps such a simulation will for advanced civilizations be no more difficult than a homework assignment. And there are plenty of theories with natural causes. We’re beyond “I don’t know” but haven’t advanced to “here’s the overwhelming scientific consensus” yet.

Let’s return to the Christian challenge that any explanation for the universe—aliens created it, or there’s a multiverse—just creates another thing that must itself be answered. These would indeed demand an explanation, but why imagine that God is it? God has never been the answer to anything. If God is the explanation, show that he exists first and then infer that he created the universe/multiverse. The Christian god who loves us and desires a relationship would be obvious, and the obtuse KCA wouldn’t be the way to find him. Every clue points to naturalism as the explanation for this and other unknown puzzles.

When religion begins to answer interesting questions like these, let me know. Until then, the idea that religion will provide the answers to questions it could never dream up is ridiculous.

9. Popular-level science teaches the universe had a beginning, but someone says the real science shows it doesn’t.

“We aren’t given any argument as to why it’s really the case that a potentially successful model for the beginning of the universe shows no finite beginning. We’re simply to take someone’s word for it, when we actually have physicists and scientists admitting these theories don’t work.”

There’s not much to respond to here, but I include it for completeness. I’ll just note that cosmologist Sean Carroll’s list of proposed models for the universe (there are many) includes a beginning-less universe (more).

10. The KCA relies entirely on current science, and science can change.

“First, simply because some claim remains open to change does not mean that claim cannot be accepted as true. . . . Of course we can claim it is true!”

I reject the phrasing of your statement, but you’re welcome to use science as the basis for an argument that concludes God exists. KCA isn’t a sound argument, as I’ve shown before, but have at it.

“Second, the KCA does not rely entirely on science. In fact, the second premise (“the universe began to exist”) can be defended solely on rational argumentation.”

I think we’ve found your problem: thinking that “rational argumentation” (do you mean “common sense”?) is reliable at the frontiers of physics (see claim #3 above). The origin of the universe is within the domain of quantum mechanics, remember? You check your common sense at the door.

Quantum mechanics has already defeated the first premise, “whatever begins to exist had a cause” (see claim #1 above).

11. Your first cause falls to the infinite regress problem. If God is your first cause, what created God?

God didn’t begin to exist. The First Cause must logically precede all else. There simply can’t be, by definition, anything that came before.

Be cautious when a definition brings something into existence. Like the Ontological Argument, which just thinks God into existence, that may be too good to be true.

You didn’t say this, but let me just add the caution that apologists shouldn’t respond to a scientific question with a theological claim. “My religion says that God was uncreated” is no answer in the real world.

So you’re telling us that God didn’t have a cause . . . just because? That’s magic, and I need evidence. Why does God not need a cause if everything else does? Why is God eternal, but nothing else is? How did God create something out of nothing? How can he create the universe when he was outside of time—doesn’t deciding and acting require time?

The most charitable view is that you’ve resolved “What caused the universe?” with God, but you now have these new questions about God. You’ve simply repackaged the question, not answered it.

And if God can exist eternally, maybe that’s true for the universe (or the multiverse).

Wrapup

The author concludes:

Each objection has been dealt with by providing an answer. This means that each Christian, and each person, is rationally justified in accepting the KCA. If that is true, then it seems that the KCA’s truth implies God—not just any God, but the God of the Bible!

Nope. My original post is intact. I leveled five attacks on the first premise and three on the second. None of those were addressed in this article. No, rational people are not justified in accepting the Kalam Kosmological Argument.

You’ve probably seen the famous Sidney Harris cartoon where one scientist points to an involved equation on the blackboard and says to his colleague, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two,” where step two says, “Then a miracle occurs.” God is the step two—the implausible savior of Christians’ apologetic arguments.

The universe that we observe
has precisely the properties we should expect
if there is, at bottom,
no design, no purpose,
no evil, and no good,
nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
— Richard Dawkins

.

I feel like I’m diagonally parked
in a parallel universe.
— seen on the internet

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 11/7/16.)

Image from NASA, public domain

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