How Did the Universe Begin to Exist?: The Kalam Cosmological Argument
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.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument Online
- Cosmological Argument--Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Kalam Cosmological Argument - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Cosmological Argument
- The Kalam Cosmological Argument--Hubpages Forum
I participated in a discussion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument in the HubPages Religion and Beliefs Forum.
© 2010 William R Bowen Jr