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Are the premises of the Kalam cosmological argument correct?

  1. Apr 3, 2012 #1
    The Kalam cosmological argument as presented by William Lane Craig is as follows:

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its
    existence.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    (semi-intellectual nonsense involving infinity)
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its
    existence.
    4. ....
    5. That cause is god.


    Most times I see this argument refuted it is done between step 3 and 5. I think a more fundamental problem with this argument is the premises, 1 and 2.

    The argument asserts that time has a least element (let's call this t=t0), and then goes on to make causal arguments about this least element. If event A at time=tA is the cause of event B at time=tB, then tA<tB necessarily. If tB=t0, then by our current understanding of causality, B could not have had a cause.

    Is this a valid rebuttal to Kalam, or am I missing something?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2012 #2

    Evo

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    Sorry, but discussions of religion are doomed to fail as they come down to personal beliefs and are not based on science. Discussions based on whether a supernatural being created everything isn't going to work. I'm going to allow your question to be answered, but as soon as this becomes an argument for Design or creators/supernatural explanations, it will have to be locked.
     
  4. Apr 3, 2012 #3

    Office_Shredder

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    Why must there be an event at time t0?
     
  5. Apr 3, 2012 #4
    The event at t0 in this case would be the universe (including time itself) beginning to exist. My thoughts are that we are unable to address causal claims about this event because our understanding of causality requires the cause to occur before the effect.
     
  6. Apr 3, 2012 #5

    apeiron

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    But if you are claiming that B MUST have an A, then B can't equal t0 by your own argument?

    At any time where you can definitely say B exists, then by implication, there has already been A.

    Of course I agree that this is still paradoxical as we can't then imagine what A would be - a natural cause of existence that is not itself already a form of existence. Which is where Craig would then assert you need a supernatural first cause.

    And I would take a quite different route to avoiding the paradox - considering other natural models of causality which do not rely solely on the notion of efficient cause and crisp localisation.

    But I don't think the paradox itself can be so directly refuted. Or maybe I am not understanding your argument yet?
     
  7. Apr 3, 2012 #6
    I agree with everything you just said apeiron. I suppose my point is that Craig applies our current causal logic to the beginning of the universe in order to prove point #3, but then points out that our logic fails at t0 in order to get to point #5.
     
  8. Apr 3, 2012 #7

    Gokul43201

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    Where does LtP claim that "B must have an A"? I think you may have misinterpreted LtP's argument. I believe the only statement made in this regard is an application of causality, namely: if B is caused by A, then t(B) > t(A).

    I don't see any good reason to accept #1 in Craig's summary of Kalam. Why does it have to be true?
     
  9. Apr 3, 2012 #8

    apeiron

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    Yes, the argument successfully shows that regular cause and effect thinking fails at the boundary case of where universes begin, but then continues to want to apply that same thinking.

    So Craig and other theists exploit people's need to continue to believe in cause and effect to argue that the only possible such first cause will have all the supernatural qualities - the unlimited powers coupled to a personal agency - traditionally assigned to the concept of a creating god.

    As I say, I think the best defence against theism (apart from pointing out the fact that the causal powers being granted a deity only magnify the problems of an efficient cause-based ontology, it does not diminish them) is to move on to larger natural models of causality.

    That was largely the angle taken in the "why anything?" thread - https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=525749

    And in particular, there were a couple of references in this post that addressed the issue of time being sliced infinitely finely to arrive at a first moment where t = t0.

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=3775231&postcount=182
     
  10. Apr 3, 2012 #9

    apeiron

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    Quite possibly I misinterpreted LtP, but so far he seems to think I didn't. :smile:

    It seems to me he was saying that both "tA<tB" and "tB=t0" cannot be true. For both to be true would be contradictory and hence the paradox.

    I would agree there seems in fact no argument from logical necessity.

    As I say, this is because I don't start out by accepting "cause and effect", or efficient cause, to be true. Or certainly not the whole (holistic) truth.

    If on the other hand you were to defend the premise that all events or forms of existence must have some definite effective cause, then you would by logical necessity be pushed towards statement #1.

    And the irony is that most atheists do quite deeply still believe in the primacy of efficient cause. It remains an article of their "reductionist faith". And so they become quite vulnerable to Kalam style attacks by theists.
     
  11. Apr 3, 2012 #10
    This is a large part of what I wanted to show. I wanted to make the point that we don't yet know how to deal with this kind of discontinuity in time, and Craig's version of the Kalam relies both on causal logic both holding and failing simultaneously.
     
  12. Apr 6, 2012 #11

    Gokul43201

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    Sure. But I think one has to be very careful in framing such a premise. Here's a close analogy: given some infinite bounded set of real numbers, the assertion that every number in the set has a smaller number is true of all but one member of that set. It is essentially a universal truth, and any number of fleeting passersby tasked with testing the validity of the assertion will almost certainly decide it is true, after applying it to some large, randomly chosen sample of test-elements. In fact, the only element of the set for which this seemingly universal truth fails to hold is what we'd call the least element. I see no reason why a similar, singular exception can not (or even: should not) exist to the premise of a definite effective cause.

    PS: This is not to say that I accept the premise (of effective cause, as spelled out above) in general. I'm just making the argument that accepting (or defending) this premise still allows, or even requires, one to reject Kalam/Craig's #1.
     
  13. Apr 6, 2012 #12

    Office_Shredder

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    (0,1)? It seems to be true of all members. So the question is: why is there a first time at which events began, and not simply an infimum of the set of times for which events were occuring?
     
  14. Apr 6, 2012 #13

    Gokul43201

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    That's a more fundamental objection, and a valid one IMO. My objection is limited to cases where #2 is interpreted such that the universe maps onto something like [0,1).
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2012
  15. Apr 6, 2012 #14
    If time maps on to some open set of numbers, I'm still not sure if that would negate the problem I have with it. God is still required to preform causal actions in a "timeless" state. I don't really comprehend all of the implications, and my point is that I think Craig is using the complexity of the endpoint of time carelessly.
     
  16. Apr 6, 2012 #15

    Gokul43201

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    I may have misunderstood O_S's point. I thought he was using the possibility of time looking like an open set to argue against Kalam/Craig construction, but I may be wrong. It seems to me like Kalam/Craig is implicitly defining the beginning of the universe as the earliest event in time (i.e., the least element in the set). Such a definition precludes the possibility of the age of the universe mapping onto an open (or half-open) set (which has no least element). I can't think of a definition for the "beginning of the universe" as a meaningful element of an open set.
     
  17. Apr 6, 2012 #16

    apeiron

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    Given that we are talking about a cause, and so an element of physical reality, I don't think that you can employ an unphysical concept like the least element here.

    Consider again Craig's arguments for why the universe/reality must have had a first moment.

    Here from Wiki...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalām_cosmological_argument

    So if you are claiming the actually infinite does exist (the least element is also part of the reality it bounds) then that appears to give those arguments a problem.

    But it seems clear Craig is talking about an infinite series of actual events, not mathematically-imagined points.

    Surely you are just talking about the labels of these events (the very first one of an infinite series being labelled the least element). Whereas Craig is talking about a physical chain of action itself.

    So it comes back to the standard physicalist claim that every event must have a prior event as its cause. And the question of how you get out of that bind to deal with the fact of existence itself.
     
  18. Apr 7, 2012 #17
    Your rebuttal isn't a rebuttal. The key step is #5. What does the term 'god' refer to? If we assume that the universe is finite, and the term 'god' refers to the originating cause or event, and if we can't specifiy or ascertain the precise physical referents for that term, then saying that 'god' created the universe is equivalent to saying that we don't know how the universe was created.

    If we assume that the universe has existed forever, ie., that it had no beginning, then these considerations are obviated.

    But the well-supported mainstream theories of universal evolution suggest that our universe is finite and did have a beginning. And then we're back to the fundamental question: how did it happen? No way to ever know. And, again, the term 'god' refers to our ignorance.

    So, the Kalam cosmological argument proves nothing.

    For those who choose to believe in a personal god that listens to their prayers and has a plan for our world, there is simply no evidence of this. No doubt it's a comforting belief, but a childish and silly one nonetheless.
     
  19. Apr 7, 2012 #18

    apeiron

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    In fact Craig does make an argument for the qualities a creating god would thus have as a result of KCA...as Wiki says....

    Craig's more detailed arguments on each of these qualities is here....
    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-smith1.html

    Of course, on examination, the arguments are lightweight. But they are arguments nonetheless, rather than merely beliefs.
     
  20. Apr 7, 2012 #19

    Ryan_m_b

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    Lightweight is a strange way of putting it. Illogical and badly formed would be better.
     
  21. Apr 7, 2012 #20
    when one can argue this way, it can be used to describe pretty much anything metaphysical. Thats why it is a weak argument.
     
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