Why the Various Cosmological Arguments for god Fail
Perhaps the most common arguments for the existence of a god are the various cosmological and teleological arguments. Today, I want to address the cosmological arguments. I will get to the teleological arguments sometime in the future. For further reading, let me suggest that you check out Grundy’s work(s) on the subject, which you can find on his blog Deity Shmeity or just click this link. Cephus from Bitchspot also has a great article on the subject which you can read here.
There are various forms of the cosmological arguments for god. The most basic is:
- Everything that exists has a cause of its existence.
- The universe exists.
- The universe has a cause of its existence.
- If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
- God exists.
Educated theists do not usually employ this version of the argument. The reason can be found in premise 1. If everything that exists needs a cause, then what caused god? This leaves them scratching their heads. After much head scratching, they will return with the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This argument has been made popular (again) by famed apologist William Lane Craig. It works better than the above because it accounts for the Big Bang and some fancy math on infinities. This is ironic as it originated in the Muslim world in the 9th century. Anyway, it reads as follows:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
- If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
- God exists
This is the version of the cosmological argument that is most common and the one that I would like to deal with today. Please realize that the scope of this blog post cannot possibly cover all of the aspects of this argument. That would require a book length treatment. I mean simply to highlight some of the more common objections and problems with the argument. There are a few other formulations of the cosmological argument which I do not have time to deal with here today. They are the Leibnizian and Thomistic Cosmological Arguments. It is worth nothing that they generally fail for the same reasons as Kalam. This going to be a long post, for those of who you want the short “Cliff’s Note’s” version, skip to the end, where I write a brief summary.
The Kalam cosmological argument attempts to correct the problem we find in the original formulation of the argument above. It simply adds the word “begin” to premise 1. While no one today would disagree that our universe had a beginning, we know precious little about how that occurred. We also know of nothing that “began to exist” without a cause. William Lane Craig then launches into a whole series of (poor) math about infinities. This can best be summed up in a syllogism that I am going to copy from Deity Shmeity:
- An actual infinite cannot exist.
- An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
- Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
We find arguments that use Herbert’s Hotel, and infinite lines, and counting backwards, and all sorts of other things that are designed simply to fool those who are not astute mathematicians. Here is the problem, most people who get math will tell you that Craig has most of his arguments incorrect. I am not going to get into that today because, in truth, it is irrelevant. The entire discussion of his math is just a side-show, a distraction technique from the real issue at hand—god and vocabulary.
Craig, and others who employ this argument state that the universe cannot be infinite. Okay, fine, let us say we grant them that (though we need not do so, again, it is irrelevant). The natural next question to ask would be, “Wouldn’t god also need to be finite?” This is where the theist will smile and tell you, “No”. They will tell you that only things that “began” to exist need a cause and cannot be infinite. God, did not “begin” to exist, therefore he needs no cause, and is in fact infinite! You will also often hear theists point out that only “material” things need a cause or must be finite and that since god is “immaterial” he needs no cause and can be infinite. In short, you will get all sorts of wild answers explaining why “god” is the exception to this rule. This of course assumes a great deal of unwarranted claims to be true. There of course is zero evidence for anyone to think that an immaterial god exists and is eternal. A leap of faith, has been made. Simply because we do not know what caused the Big Bang, the theist wishes to insert his specific god into that spot. This is logically fallacious—it is an “argument from ignorance”, and in truth, the entire Kalam cosmological argument can be dismissed at this point. (Though there are many more objections, so please keep reading). This is also where the vocabulary comes in. One does not need to understand complex math to understand the following: The theist just spent a great deal of time explaining why infinities cannot exist. Then, in the next breath, he/she just posited this creator/god as infinite. It simply does not work, no matter how hard the theist tries to wiggle out of this self-created dilemma.
From the start, in premise 1 of the Kalam argument, we see that it is logically fallacious. It, by its nature, is nothing more than a fancy argument of “special pleading”. We have already discussed that we know precious little about the start of the universe. We know nothing about what/when existed prior to the Big Bang. With the Big Bang, it was not just matter that was created, but also space-time. There is no “prior” to the universe that can be coherent to us at this point in our knowledge. However, the theist is making an argument for exactly that—coherency prior to space-time. They are positing a sentient being/agent existing prior to the Big Bang that is all powerful and infinite. How in the world could they possibly know such a thing? The answer is that they cannot, no matter how much they want to philosophize this being into existence. As previously stated, we have almost no knowledge of things prior to the Big Bang. We certainly do not have the knowledge of an infinite sentient agent!
This is where the special pleading comes in. The theist is quite happy to tell us that everything that begins to exist needs a cause and that nothing can be finite—except for the premise (god) that they are trying to prove with this argument. It is completely and utterly fallacious to make this argument, for all of the reasons pointed to above.
The Kalam argument is also guilty of the logical fallacy of False Dilemma. It assumes that we must have a cause that is infinite, powerful, and has agency or we would not be here. These are not the only two choices. There are many hypotheses out there that could show us how our universe originated naturally from nothing. Some hypotheses that propose a natural solution to our problem are Quantum Tunneling hypothesis, Black Hole hypothesis, Multiverse or Bubble hypothesis, the Oscillating Universe hypothesis, the Ekpyrotic Model, and all sorts of others dealing with quantum mechanics. It is also important to note that we have no idea if there are all sorts of infinite “things” prior to the Big Bang. Perhaps some of these things are not sentient at all. Perhaps they are an “energy”, or perhaps the “nothingness” is also governed by some laws of physics that insist it must create stuff (there is a good deal of work being done on just that premise). The fact of the matter is that the choices are not “god” or “nothing”.
This argument is also a Fallacy of Composition. The very first premise, “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is simply not a proven statement. Just because everything within our universe that begins to exist needs a cause, does not mean that the universe itself needs a cause. We know nothing about “before the Big Bang”. (In fact using the word “before” is a bit silly as time did not yet exist, but it is a useful word for this discussion). Perhaps, the universe did not need a cause at all. We simply do not know. What we do know is that assuming knowledge of this sort (needing a cause) is unwarranted. It is something that the theist is doing/philosophizing, while science is quite okay with accepting the truth—“we don’t yet know”. (It is worth pointing out that modern cosmology has some ideas that “nothingness” would be unstable and would need to “create”, though these ideas are not yet proven).
The Kalam Cosmological argument fails the test of Occam’s razor. We do not need to posit an incredibly complex, infinite, non-material, omnipotent, sentient agent as a creator. We have the potential for much simpler answers.
So to sum up, the Kalam Cosmological argument fails for a few reasons.
- It is a Fallacy of Argument from Ignorance. We do not know what caused the Big Bang, or what existed/did not exist prior to the Big Bang. The theist cannot simply insert his version of a deity into that spot. There is no evidence to warrant this.
- It is a Fallacy of Special Pleading. It argues against “uncaused” beginnings and infinities, yet claims the answer to creation of our universe is an “uncaused and infinite” being who just so happens to look just like their god. There is no evidence that this exception should be granted.
- It is a Fallacy of False Dilemma. There are more options available for how the universe came to be than a) God or b) nothing.
- It is a Fallacy of Composition. It assumes that because things that “begin to exist” within our universe need a cause, that the universe itself must also need a cause. There is no reason to assume this is true as we know nothing about the state of affairs prior to the creation of our universe.
- It fails the test of Occam’s razor. God is just clearly not the most simple answer to the problem of our universe’s origination. As Grundy wrote in one of his pieces, positing “god” is just solving one mystery by creating another.
- Lastly, the Kalam Cosmologial argument fails, like all other arguments for the existence of god, because there is zero evidence to back it up, it assumes much, and perhaps most importantly, it posits answers to questions whose only honest answer at this point is: “we don’t yet know”. What we do know is that the probability that a god is responsible is far less likely than any natural solution. The various natural hypotheses to explain the creation of the universe are all based on some solid empirical evidence. The god-hypothesis is based on absolutely nothing but certain people’s imaginations.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments.
If you have a blog please feel free to promote it on my “Promote Your Blog” page above.
I invite you to follow me on Twitter @logicalbeing
If you would like to share your story of how you became an atheist, please do that on my “Share your Atheism Story” forum. Our stories may help to encourage others with similar feelings to know that life is more than just okay without god(s).
If you have not yet checked out Alltop.com’s Atheism Blogs….what are you waiting for?