The Kalam Cosmological Argument (or KCA) is an argument for God from the beginning of the universe. After years of thinking through it and the objections, I’ve come to think it a pretty decent argument. I think both premises are likely true, and so the conclusion is true as well. Before giving a new defense of the Kalam, let’s take a look at a contemporary formulation of the argument:
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) The universe has a cause.
This argument is aptly defended by Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig. He gives three arguments in support of (1), and another three in support of (2). He then gives a conceptual analysis of the cause of the universe and concludes that this cause is God (or something very close to God).
What I want to do here is give a new defense of the Kalam’s first premise.
A New Defense
The basic idea is this. Imagine a world where God exists, yet doesn’t decide to create anything. All that exists in this world is God. There are no planets, no galaxies, no humans, just God. Call this God-world. It’s important to note that I’ve articulated God-world in this way for the sake of brevity and readability. If you’d like to read the more rigorous version based on incomplete states of affairs, see .
Now we want to ask, what is the probability that a universe like ours would spring into existence uncaused in God-world? It’s intuitively obvious that this scenario is highly improbable, if not impossible. Any universe that comes into being in God-world would be caused by God. Duh. God would bring it into existence.
Taking God out of God-world doesn’t make this event any more or less likely. On this hypothetical scenario, the universe isn’t caused to exist by God. It has the property “not being caused by God” which is the same property it would have on Naturalism (or any other -ism). Thus, the probability of it coming into being uncaused is very low regardless of what else exists (or doesn’t exist).
Someone might say, “Wrapped up in the concept of God is that He is the creator of anything that exists outside of Himself. So this scenario is impossible or improbable on Theism but not impossible or improbable on Naturalism.”
Putting aside the fact that Christian Platonists like Peter van Inwagen reject this thesis, an easy way around this objection is to alter the thought experiment to be about Clark-world instead of God-world. Clark is a super powerful being that can bring universes about. He is spaceless, timeless, immensely powerful, and personal. The same defense goes through on Clark-world.
Another objection might be something like, “You’re just appealing to your own personal intuitions and not everyone shares those intuitions.”
First, I agree that I’m appealing to intuitions that not everyone shares, but what of interest follows from that? Not everyone shares the intuition that other minds exist. Not everyone shares the intuition that the external world is real. Nothing follows from the fact that some intuition isn’t universal among humans. It could still be the right intuition.
Second, appealing to commonly held intuitions still constitutes a defense. In philosophy, this is called an intuition pump (a term coined by atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett). Dennett calls intuition pumps a tool for thinking. It’s the same sort of thing that happens when ethicists think up wacky hypothetical scenarios (like the trolly problem).
Does this new defense of the Kalam conclusively show that (1) is true? No. It’s unreasonable to expect such a thing. What it does is show that (1) is intuitively probable. It’s nonsensical to think there is a world where God exists alongside a finite universe uncaused by God. If anything, this scenario is incredibly unlikely. But if this is intuitively unlikely on Theism, it’s equally unlikely on every hypothesis (as argued above), and so (1) is probably true.
This is an interesting formulation of the Kalam argument as I’ve always previously heard it as: 1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2)The universe began to exist. Therefore: the universe has a cause. I’ll assume the Christian God in this thought experiment. The reason that we wouldn’t expect a universe like ours to pop up in “God-world” is because the Abrahamic God is a jealous control freak (according to the Bible) who doesn’t allow things to happen in his universe without his prior knowledge, not to mention, according to apologists, he is literally the only thing in “God-world”.… Read more »
Cameron, I really think you should check out Bayesian inference – talking basically about probabilistic arguments. They give rigorous methods for arguing with the types of conditionals you’re talking about here (if God existed, you’d expect… if naturalism…) I’ve often thought that the objections to the POE should go along these lines too, but be about good/evil. So it’s not just that a world exists, but a world which is on balance good. On a naturalistic point of view, most universes you can imagine are either morally neutral (say, those which don’t contain life are this way) or morally evil… Read more »
I’ve always thought it strange (though perhaps I’m missing something) that defenses of the first premise don’t appeal (as far as I’m aware) to the lack of a relevant asymmetry between things popping into existence and popping out of existence. Presumably if the atheist rejects (1) on the grounds that efficient causation is not a necessary condition for ontological becoming, then not merely is it inexplicable that we don’t see things simply popping into existence, it is also inexplicable that we don’t see them popping out of existence. Nomologically speaking, I don’t see that citing the First Law of Thermodynamics… Read more »