I get the feeling that arguments like the Kalam aren’t convincing to cosmologists the same way ID arguments fail to impress biologists.
So, this reads like Siegel heard a 1 minute video clip of William Lane Craig stating the premises of the Kalam cosmological argument, and decided to write a popsci article about it without actually bothering to learn anything more about how Craig defends the premises or responds to these kind of objections.
In fact, the whole point of the article is to attack something of a strawman, because Craig (who I’m using as an example here, since he is probably the most prominent proponent of the Kalam argument) doesn’t say that modern cosmology proves the existence of God. What he says is that modern cosmology provides evidence or reasons in support of one of the premises of the Kalam argument, namely, the premise that the universe began to exist. (And he certainly says more in defense of that claim than Siegel’s glib “oh, yeah, but BGV theorem has loopholes” can justifiably dismiss.)
Cosmologists? Heck, I’d be disappointed in a cosmetologist who thought the Kalam argument was worthwhile.
“Does modern cosmology prove the existence of God?”
What puzzles me is the leap from proposition to conclusion without the middle bit explaining the connection from creator of the observable universe to, for example the Southern Baptist God, the Mormon God, the Catholic God. Where’s the connection?
I don’t think the article is “something of a strawman” argument.
- The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem tends to be cited front-and-centre as, arguably, the ‘main’ piece of evidence cited in support of Kalam’s (second) premise that “The universe began to exist”. Whilst there are other arguments (2LoT, impossibility of physical infinities, etc) for this premise, these appear to be both less frequently cited and even more contentious than BGV. It is therefore not unreasonable for an article-length treatment to deal with the main foundation for this premise. Full coverage of all the arguments for its premises would most probably require a book.
To legitimately attack the article as a strawman, I think you would have to demonstrate that there are arguments for the Second Premise that are more prominent and/or more solid than BGV.
- The Kalam Cosmological Argument is, as its name suggests, an argument from cosmology. So asking if “modern cosmology” (and physics more generally) does in fact support this argument’s premises would appear to be both a legitimate and pertinent question.
First, we don’t know that the universe began to exist. So the Kalam argument fails before it ever gets off the ground. Also this argument commits the fallacy of composition. The law of cause and effect applies only to that which exists inside the universe, not to the universe itself. Plus by claiming the universe needs a cause you are assuming without any evidence that the universe is an effect. When your conclusion is part of your opening premise your argument proves nothing at all.
It occurs to me that the KCA can be deconstructed:
There are two possibilities:
Either something existed prior to the Universe-as-We-Know-It.
Or the Universe-as-We-Know-It came into existence without a prior cause.
(Acknowledging that as we learn more, things may move from the category of ‘something prior’ into being part of ‘Universe-as-We-Know-It’.)
The second option is excluded by the KCA, and would seem to be of little utility to apologists, so I will leave it to one side. (I would note, for reasons of completeness, that these two possibilities need not be mutually exclusive – you could conceivably have ‘something prior’ that didn’t cause the ‘Universe-as-We-Know-It’.)
The possibilities for this ‘something’ would seem to include (without making the claim that this list is exhaustive):
- a natural explanation (e.g. a prior universe, a multiverse, or something even more esoteric).
So the question then is, why insert God as this ‘something’?
Unless we can disprove all potential natural explanations of this ‘something’ (and any other non-natural explanations necessary to make the above list exhaustive) – which would seem to be impossible, and thus be left only with God as a potential explanation by elimination, there would seem to be only potential answers to this question: (i) because we have some substantive a priori reason to believe God exists, or (ii) by assumption.
Under (i) KCA becomes redundant, and we should simply be discussing the merits of this “reason” instead. Under (ii) KCA is simply begging the question. It is therefore hard to see, from this perspective at least, what heavy lifting the KCA does.
William Lane Craig had the chance to defend his version of the Kalam against a theoretical cosmologist in the person of Sean Carroll back in 2014 and all Craig did was rigmarole and not answer Sean’s objections. From the horse’s mouth:
Ethan and Sean are essentially saying the same thing and Sean is familiar with Craig’s work. Sean’s comments also probably reveal why many cosmologists are atheists. There is nothing in the observable universe that pushes them to seriously consider God as its cause.
PostScript: I deleted a part of this comment accusing Ethan of strawmanning Craig as his article doesn’t even mention Craig at all.
According Wikipedia, Craig adds another premise to the basic KCA to get (somewhat in the vicinity of) there:
- If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists who sans (without) the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
This is of course a real doozy of a premise.
Inserting the word “prove” is what creates a straw man. Science does not prove it provides positive evidence. To show the article is a straw man Matthew simply has to show the argument was changed.
Indeed. Such things are the sign of a deeply unserious “thinker.”
Then get ready to be disappointed by a lot of cosmetologists in my area .
There isn’t one. It’s a “This is God” argument.
There are a lot of these around, and they all have two stages:
- Establish the existence of something.
- Say “This is god”.
Stage 2 is never justified or explained.
God either had a beginning, and therefore a creator, or God suffers from an infinite regress problem or the impossibility of an eternal past in a causal universe. Each moment before creation was the result of God actively choosing not to create the universe and those moments go on ad infinitum. In Ephesians 1:11-12 we read that God said “I chose you even before I planned creation.” In Psalm 139:15-16 God is quoted as saying, “All your days are written in my book.” So here we have a chain of events. Before God created the universe he planned creation. But before he planned creation he chose you and other people, everybody. Before or after he did that, it doesn’t say which, He wrote everybody’s days in a book. So God must have done something before those things and something else before that on back forever. You may argue that God exists outside of time but if God existed outside of all time then it would be impossible for it to create the universe. God could not perform a sequence of events. It could never go from non-creation to creation. This means that the claim that God exists outside of all time fails as an answer. While you may say I do not understand the concept, I would love for somebody to explain it to me in a logical and intelligible manner how God could go from non-creation to creation without at least a moment of time. Even claiming that God created time does not solve this problem because to create time would take a moment of time. It looks like you have a problem there. Anybody want to solve this problem? I’ll wait.
KCA is an apologetic argument for the existence of God, and apologists regularly label such arguments “proofs of God” – e.g.
Therefore the claim that this makes the article’s title a strawman is ludicrously silly. The author is merely adopting apologists’ own terminology.
Indeed. And the Kalam argument is not founded on empirical evidence. It’s just a case of “pure reason” which, like most such cases, makes one realize the limited value of purity. But as an argument in pure reason, it is in the nature of a “proof”; it’s just a very, very, very bad one.
How does the argument only contain “pure reason”? If the universe was eternal then does the argument still work?
So this article is about demonstrating “proof of God” is a labeling fallacy?
No. Whether it talks about “proof” or “evidence” is a trivial point having nothing to do with the critique of the Kalam argument in that article.