How Did the Universe Begin to Exist?: The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Several adherents to monotheism have employed the Kalam Argument including the Muslim scholar al-Ghazali (above) of the eleventh century. Today, a major proponent of the Kalam Argument is Christian philosopher William Lane Craig (below).
Several adherents to monotheism have employed the Kalam Argument including the Muslim scholar al-Ghazali (above) of the eleventh century. Today, a major proponent of the Kalam Argument is Christian philosopher William Lane Craig (below).

Why are we here?

That's perhaps the most profound question that's ever been asked. Some philosophers have answered the question by saying that we are here because there exists a “First Cause” that brought the universe into being. This First Cause is what the Old Testament refers to as "God," who we are told in the first sentence of Genesis "created the heaven and the earth."

But, not everyone is satisfied with this response. Other answers have followed, from the counterintuitive “we don’t exist” to “the universe has always existed.” Since the Old Testament posits an absolute beginning, scholars from the world’s three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, have offered a family of arguments for proof that the universe began to exist. This collection of causal arguments is called the Cosmological Argument.

The Cosmological Argument posits a first cause of the universe. A proponent of the Cosmological Argument believes that the universe began to exist at a point in the finite past. A current and prominent Cosmological Argument that has been used by Islam, Judaism, and Christianity is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. The remainder of this essay will review the argument, discuss its two premises and respond to critics of the argument.

A leading proponent of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is philosopher William Lane Craig. In his book, Reasonable Faith, Craig states the Kalam Argument this way:

  • P1 Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  • P2 The Universe began to exist.
  • Therefore, the Universe has a cause.

Note that the Kalam Argument doesn't say that “everything has a cause.” If the universe is going to begin to exist in the finite past, there would have to be some “uncaused cause” that brought it into being. Otherwise, you end up with an infinite regress of causes. Let’s consider each of the premises:

First, Premise #1—Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
If any premise is self-evident, it’s this one. All our experiences tell us that things don’t just wink into existence, uncaused, from nothing. Apparently, for the sake of argument, some try to argue against this premise by saying that such an event might be possible. But, on what basis can such a claim be made? Where is the evidence for what could only be termed a “miracle”? It’s not an exaggeration to say that all the evidence comes down on the side of the first premise. Craig says that premise #1 is not so much a scientific truth as it is a metaphysical one: physical entities have causes.

William Lane Craig Employs Kalam Argument in Debate on God's Existence

Second, Premise #2—The Universe Began to Exist
This premise is more controversial because it had been believed for millennia that the universe might be eternal in the past. Some Greeks, for example, believed that God was eternal and that the universe simply flowed from that Eternal Being. However, this claim was also challenged by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, claiming that the universe had a beginning in the finite past. Today, there’s evidence to support premise #2.

First, absurdities result when you try to arrive at infinity by using successive addition. No matter how high you count, you can always add one more second, minute, day, or year. And, if you can’t count up to infinity from this point, it doesn’t seem possible how you could count up to it from the infinite past. Finally, we just don’t see anything infinite in our universe. This has led some to claim that the infinite has no real world expression, except that of an idea.

Second, there is scientific evidence that the universe came into being in the finite past. Craig appeals to the standard Big Bang Model which posits a universe of finite age. Second, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, says that the universe is moving to a state of equilibrium. But, if the universe has existed from eternity, then why are we not now in a state of maximum equilibrium?

If it's true that everything that begins to exist has a cause and that the universe began to exist, then it follows that the universe has a cause.

Finally, to say that “the universe began to exist” is not the same thing as saying “God created it.” However, once the finite status of the universe is established, we have to ask ourselves the question we began with, "how did the universe get here?" If the Kalam argument is true, then saying “the universe has always been here” is not an option. The universe began to exist.

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Peter Bartnicki profile image

Peter Bartnicki 14 months ago

P1 isn't really supported by anything though. Everything within our universe is certainly caused, but we also have to remember that everything within the universe is embedded in the four dimensions of space and time. Therefore it makes sense to discuss causality because we can separate events by saying some are spatially or temporally prior to others.

Outside of these dimensions causality doesn't really make much sense, because you can't separate events from each other. If all events are inseparable, then on what basis can any event cause the other? For causality to be possible, it may be necessary that there be a 'space' (or a spacetime) in which events can occur. Much like for electrostatic attraction to be possible you need two charged objects.

You may wonder if not causality then what? I think that it is entirely possible that there is another mechanism besides causality that can generate events, that we simply can't comprehend or aren't aware of yet. Thankfully I don't have to prove it because I'm not making definitive claims. The theist needs to justify why (a) Only causality exists and can operate outside of spacetime (b) Only what he can currently comprehend actually exists in reality. These need to be justified to a level where one considers them 'probably true'. Then Kalam's argument will be convincing; but until then, the assertions are unproven and so there is no reason to take it seriously. The default state is uncertainty about the 'cause' of the universe (or whatever other mechanism may exist).

As far as I can tell this counterargument is never addressed by theists. At best it is simply claimed that 'everything which begins to exist has a cause' is a metaphysical truth, but the claim lacks any justification and so can't be taken seriously. Furthermore there is no reasoning as to why it should be considered a 'probable' truth, as if events within our universe are any indication of what occurs 'outside' of it (notice we don't even have a good word to describe what is outside of space-time).


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 4 years ago Author

If you grant P(1) and P(2), you have to embrace the conclusion. The argument is a deductive one and the argument is valid.


wayne92587 4 years ago

First, Premise #1—Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Second, Premise #2—The Universe Began to Exist

Third, Premise#3- You can not have Knowledge of something that does not exist in the material sense of the word, Knowledge only being derived through Experience!

The Reality of Everything that exists has a cause—True.

It is just that the Reality of First Cause is Uncaused, the Law of Cause and Effect not in existence prior to the Creation of the Reality of First Cause, First Cause being an Effect born of the Primeval State of Emptiness, of Chaos; the Reality of First Cause being the direct Material cause of the System of Chaos that has brought about the manifest Reality of the Heavens and the Earth, the Universe, the Reality of EveryTHING; The Reality of First Cause, the First Singularity to have a material effect being born of the Primeval State of Chaos, of Emptiness, was born of Stillness, was born of the Steady, Static, Quantum State of Singularity; the Reality of First Cause being the direct material cause of the System of Chaos that has made manifest the Heavens and the Earth, the Universe, the Reality of EveryTHING.

Prior to the Creation of the Reality of First Cause, Chaos the Primeval State of Emptiness, of Chaos was all that existed, relativity not being a factor, cause and effect non-existent; Time and Space and Motion were not relative, each existing in its own rite as an Individuality, as an Undifferentiated Singularity; there being no possibility of the existence of the Heavens and the Earth, the Universe, the Reality of EveryThing as we know it to be.

The Heavens and the Earth, the Universe, the Reality of EveryThing that now exists within the Infinite Emptiness of Space-Time, having been made manifest Reality by the System of Chaos; the System of Chaos being born of the Reality of First Cause, being an effect born of an affect; the Reality of First Cause, the First Singularity to attain relative, numerical value being an Affect born of a State of Calmness, a Steady, Static State of Quantum Singularity, the Reality of First Cause being the direct cause of the System of Chaos that has made manifest the Reality of Heavens and the Earth, the Universe; the Reality of EveryThing that exists within the Infinite Reality of Time, Space and Motion.

The possibility of Space-Time, the Four-Dimensional Continuum coming into existence becoming more than a mere Possibility after the Creation, random generation of the Reality of First Cause; it being determined that the possibility of the existence of the Heavens and the Earth, the Universe, the Reality of EveryThing that now exists within the Infinite Emptiness of Space-Time to be a matter of fact.

chaos (physics)

A state of disorder and irregularity whose evolution in time, though governed by simple exact laws, is highly sensitive to starting conditions: Long-term behavior of chaotic systems cannot be predicted.


soumyasrajan 4 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

oh! I am also not saying p2 is not true. But I feel different from you. I feel p2 is an assumption which helps in building up a little more exactness in current models, like Big Bang etc. That is nice.

But I feel evidence or logically analyzing models for it or for eternally continuing universe are practically equally convincing. For example it is possible that Big Bang may have happened but over all universe may be much bigger than the one we see during our waking state (empirical universe -which is the one in science one studies) as described in some of models in eastern philosophies. But any way that is a little away from your focus.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 4 years ago Author

I would be interested in knowing what evidence you find compelling to hold the premise opposite of P(2). It seems to me that the logical and empirical evidence favors it.

I'm not claiming that P(1) and P(2) are "confirmed truths," but only that the evidence for them seems to be greater than the evidence against them. These are certainly modest claims.


soumyasrajan 4 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

Thanks Bibowen The statements you describe P1 and P2, seem to be axioms only, they are practically assumed. It is difficult to think of them as some confirmed truth.

The current scientific evidence only suggests that some of the deductions based on axiom P2 are true, as far as I know. Does that mean one has to assume that P2 is a true statement? I am not so sure, Scientists will want to say in so clear terms right now. Scientists are generally very careful about their statements.

If statement is Universe exists then I can see ok one can see that as truth, though in some western philosophies even that is not assumed.

If you want to take them as truth, it is of course your choice. Any one can have beliefs of his choice. For me it is pleasure to learn beliefs of others pr axioms they assume for a theory and "see" their world-view, restricted or full, via their "eyes" with such restrictions.

It was a pleasure, discussing with you Biboven.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 4 years ago Author

soumyasrajan,

I have no problem with not making a model "reality." But the Kalam can also be stated as a deductive argument and the propositions of that argument are either true or they're not. William Lane Craig has been responsible for a revival of interest in this argument among evangelical Christians, and in western philosophy in general. He states it as

P(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

P(2) The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe has a cause.

P(1) is one of the most universally-confirmed statements of human existence. Namely, that events have causes. As for P(2) there is good scientific evidence to support this premise. So, I think this version of the Kalam has much to commend it.


soumyasrajan 4 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

Hi! Bibowen

Thanks for your reply. So essentially you are saying that you are interested in Kalam because Kalam has been used by the three great monotheistic religions of the world and is still used today and has persuasive power. It essentially says that your study is restricted to studies and relationships with three monotheistic religions. Then it is fine.

My reservation was not about using words so much. It was more about presenting a model of universe as a reality itself. As long as one is clear about the idea, that it is only a model of universe (to study its origin and existence), and not necessarily truth about what may have happened, it is fine.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 4 years ago Author

soumyasrajan,

In response to your message, I'd first say that I think the Kalam is a good start to show that the universe had a beginning. The fact that other cultures have entertained questions about the universe's origins does not strike me as important to the claim's truthfulness. The Kalam has been notably robust and has been used by the three great monotheistic religions of the world and is still used today and has persuasive power. And I am certainly not claiming that this argument is the final word on existence and causation. It's an argument, nothing more.

Second, you expressed a reservation about the role that words can play in knowing the truth of a matter. Well, you need not explore an event or fact exhaustively in order to know true things about it. I know I exist. This is not a topic that I have explored exhaustively, yet it is true nonetheless. It is something I know truly without knowing about it exhaustively.

Thank you for your comments and insights.


soumyasrajan 4 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

Interesting article Bibowen. Though I find it a bit surprising that you want to give credit for these three statements to Kalam who lived as you mention around 11th century. Such statements have been analysed in various cultures for more than 4000 years (in India, in China, in Greece and also in other cultures like middle east) so much earlier than Kalam and of course in recent science too.

The analysis of some of those people has been much more extensive and developed several interesting theories Much earlier than Kalam. This is not to belittle any achievements Kalam may have had.

The main problem and confusion occurs when presenting these models to understand universe people start presenting them as reality. While it is clear that efforts of people (including most likely Kalam) was to build up a model of universe to help is us understanding universe better. I do not feel last word has been yet heard about such topics. Many experts, I feel have right intuition that just like universe words to express these ideas will also continuously ev0lve and only approximate to reality better and better. (see links below).

It is not at all clear that words can really convey a truth easily and completely. Still a proper method to convey and express a reality to another persons or more generally to group in general has to be discovered.

I have written some articles on such analysis- Let me just give links to some of those articles.

http://www.speakingtree.in/public/spiritual-blogs/...

http://www.speakingtree.in/public/spiritual-blogs/...

on hubpages also once I wrote an article on a related topic.

http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Truth-what...


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 5 years ago Author

loneliberalpk,

Thanks for reading and your comments. My response:

First, how is pointing out that Craig is a philosopher a claim against the argument? I guess you'll tell me next that Einstein was just a patent clerk.

Second, there was no "before" the bang.

Third, if you want to maintain that the universe came from nothing, go ahead, because there's nothing more absurd than to say that "nothing" begets "something."


loneliberalpk 5 years ago

Craig is not an astronomer, or a theoretical physicist. He's a professor of religious philosophy and it's ridiculous how he thinks he can rebut Professor Hawking with his non-sequitur arguments.

Also, the universe doesn't come from "infinity". We know that the universe before the bang was very small and very dense, but not infinitely so. We've evolved past Einstein's initial idea of singularity.

Thirdly, the author failed to mention that the fact that the universe's total net energy is zero, alone is evidence that the universe came from nothing. Bibowen, you did an amazing job at gathering up one-sided arguments.


abdul razak mohd amin 5 years ago

Your topic of discussion is a profound one but to me the matter has been settled after series of Prophets visitations to this humble earth.Those Prophets main mission is to tell mankind that God is the Creator of heaven an earth.Those with deaf ears and blind heart resort to challenge and stay disbelief.Those who are guided by the Holy Scripture seek to indulge in research and gather sufficient reasons,both Scriptural and Scientific.This life is final human prospect for heaven life in Hereafter,provided you are believers not atheists.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago Author

God is irrelevant only if there is not one. But if there is one, and He has revealed himself via propositional truths, and has placed upon us certain expections, it makes all the difference.

The scope of this hub is the question of whether or not the universe has a cause. It strikes me as a capitulation to ignorance to say "well, we can't know" or "whether or not God exists isn't important so long as people believe." Why should we stop asking the question because it is a difficult one? If people are going to say "we just can't know," my response is "How do you know that"? If you don't have enough knowledge to know, you also don't possess enough knowledge to know whether or not it's possible to know.


OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago

Religion works with or without a god, as long as there is a belief in a god. But it really doesn't matter if there really is not a god.

My point is that this current state of the world even with religion and the belief in god is pretty dismal.

It would actually be beneficial if a god were to be visible rather than a Socratic one. So it is more probable that the biblical god was created by man to give people an answer to why they are here.

I guess that I am outside of the scope of this hub, in which case, my apology.

~:}


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago Author

I’m not saying there is not a creator; merely that this argument does not posit one. Some using the Kalam argument posit that the cause of the universe would have to be timeless, changeless, a being that willed the universe into existence. These characteristics are what most people mean by "God."

I think that simply positing a meaningless and purposeless universe is a problem because it leads to nihilism, which has not been one of our most productive philosophies. Of course, if you do posit nihilism, then being unproductive isn’t a problem. The difficulty is that people don’t (and probably can’t) live without some purpose.

Whether or not the universe is real or not is going to matter to our behavior. If people matter, then we will treat them differently than if they don’t’ matter (in our opinion).


OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago

Then my opinion is that it really doesn't matter why we are here, or how we got here, just that we are here. It doesn't matter even why we go from here.

All we have is here and now.

Oh, The universe is meaningless to us, it is like the backdrop in a movie, it doesn't matter if it is real or not, we can only look at it.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago Author

OD,

The Kalam does not deal with the existence of God (let alone the Bible). It just asserts that the universe had a cause for its existence. I mentioned the Old Testament, but this was not in defense of the argument, it was simply a historical account.


OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago

The Bible is not self authenticating.

It was written by the hand of Man, and not so well that it didn't need another to be written.

Read my hubs on Genesis, God, and Heaven.

my opinion..

~:}


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago Author

Nothing (do you really want to be called that?), the Kalam Argument posits a finite beginning of the universe. That is not the same thing as saying that God created it. You could offer some other explanation besides God having created it. However, I do think that the other explanations are nonsensical and that the best explanation is that God created it. Thanks for stopping by...


Nothing? 6 years ago

Finally, to say that “the universe began to exist” is not the same thing as saying “God created it.”

Yes it is.

I think Fatfist is going to arrived on this hub with a vengeance.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago Author

Tina Marie & Aka, thanks for reading and best wishes on hubpages...


aka-dj profile image

aka-dj 6 years ago from Australia

I still don't understand why so many "just don't get it"!

Is it really such a hard question to answer? As believer, I am constantly being told that there is no god, and that everything "just happened". Daahh? Really? How? Etc. Etc.

Anyway, nice approach you take. I don't have time to view to the video clip now,

but will check it out later. Thanks.


TinaMarieTad profile image

TinaMarieTad 6 years ago from Michigan

Wow..very interesting.

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