A response to the kalam/cosmological arguments

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A response to the kalam/cosmological arguments
jorndoe
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Posted Jan 1, 2010 - 4:01 PM:
Subject: A response to the kalam/cosmological arguments
Since the validity of this class of arguments seems to be taken for granted (by some at least), I find it worthwhile exploring a bit more.
Additionally, these arguments reappear somewhat regularly, so why not try to be away with anything unsound/invalid?
The objections below, largely due to forum members (you know who), are intended for further debate/support/refutation.   smiling face
There are some repetitions of earlier debates (apologies in advance), but the reponse below is a more concentrated summary, and primarily targeted at WL Craig's variation of this argument, though also relevant elsewhere such as JP Moreland's arguments.
Feel free to comment/complain/refute at your discretion.



Is the kalam/cosmological class of arguments a viable/tenable logical means to establish a transcendent entity responsible for the existence of reality?

Augustine was among the first to whom is attributed a recorded (written) argument in this class.

WL Craig's contemporary formulation of this argument:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.
2.1. Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:
2.1.1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.1.2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
2.1.3. Therefore an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
2.2. Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition:
2.2.1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
2.2.2. The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
2.2.3. Therefore the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause of its existence.

And some select objections..

First the alternate "argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite" (2.1. above):

2.1.1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.1.2. An actual infinite God cannot exist.
2.1.3. Therefore, God began to exist, or God does not exist.

Now a quick round-up of some objections in bullet form:
  • the cosmological argument is an invalid a-posteriori inductive argument because experience does not justify extrapolating/transcending from experience to beyond
  • first cause assumes without warrant that causal relations are linear, successive and enumerable (also see the "positive feedback" phenomenon, continuity vs discreteness, the "butterfly effect")
  • first cause assumes without warrant that the universe itself, in it's entirety, is an effect (composition fallacy)
  • first or unmoved mover assumes without warrant that some rest-state is fundamental, and that movement is not irreducibly basic, requiring an ignition or catalyst (also see laws of conservation)
  • it is meaningless to speak of time itself as a cause of an effect (time is prior causation; causality presupposes time); similarly it is incoherent to speak of a cause of causation
  • insisting on contingency of our reality, and shifting non-contingency to something else, something unknown, might be charged with double standards (arbitrary)
  • seeking to explain "creation of the everything" with a single uncaused cause (transcendent), merely defers one mystery to another, and thus lacks sought explanation anyway
One common theme among these arguments is (e.g. JP Moreland, and 2.2. above):

2.2. The present cannot be reached from minus infinity.

Well, yes it can, if given an infinite amount of time (more accurately, that same "infinity", to avoid equivocation).
Otherwise the argument can be charged with petitio principii, since it already presumed a finite past.
But, note, minus infinity is not a vantage point — there was no time that properly can be called "minus infinity" (misconception potentially leading to confirmation bias).

An "infinite regress" is not a fallacy, nor a logical impossibility.
If there was no time when our universe became an effect of a cause, then we effectively have an uncaused universe.
Besides, such an "extra-universal" cause suffers the exact same counter-arguments as anything else proposed as being self-caused or un-caused; it requires strictly bare assertions to shift self/un-caused from the universe to God, which does not carry much merit in a philosophical context.

Ok, let us assume for a minute that something is responsible for the emergence of our universe (which is presumed to have emerged).
Having created even time itself (a dubious sentence), such an act of creation would be constant and unceasing (always was, always will be), suggesting that we should be able to detect it at this very moment.
  • if we accept simultaneous causation in this context (the cause (God's creation act) and the effect (the emergence of our universe and time) would be "simultaneous"), such a situation would collapse causation temporally, which cannot be maintained (contrary to experience/observation)
  • entertaining such an a-temporal cause would lead us to expect an infinite past; without a sufficient reason for a finite past, arguments of this nature can be charged with petitio principii and/or bare assertion fallacies
If some (potentially benign) law of nature is discovered that can account for such an emergence (e.g. by rigorous scientific investigation), then this law of nature is God (according to the kalam/cosmological class of arguments), which is disconnected from the multitude of other divine predicates (e.g. conscious, intelligent, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, perfect, personal, (self)aware, sentient); without further qualification, this can be charged with unwarranted anthropomorphization/personification.

Thus, reasonably, the answer to the original question is: no.
Aetixintro
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Posted Jan 1, 2010 - 7:51 PM:

It should be possible to assume two (or more) time-lines: an infinite for God, in whatever way it happens, and one for (each) universe. Universe should (or not) have a beginning and some kind of end (eg. extinguished energy sufficient for life, not to say intelligence).
Making the appropriate changes in the light of something like Deism should please an existing (the natural) God.

You? smiling face
180 Proof
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Posted Jan 1, 2010 - 11:37 PM:

jorndoe wrote:
Since the validity of this class of arguments seems to be taken for granted (by some at least), I find it worthwhile exploring a bit more.
Additionally, these arguments reappear somewhat regularly, so why not try to be away with anything unsound/invalid?
The objections below, largely due to forum members (you know who), are intended for further debate/support/refutation. smiling face
There are some repetitions of earlier debates (apologies in advance), but the reponse below is a more concentrated summary, and primarily targeted at WL Craig's variation of this argument, though also relevant elsewhere such as JP Moreland's arguments.
Feel free to comment/complain/refute at your discretion.



Is the kalam/cosmological class of arguments a viable/tenable logical means to establish a transcendent entity responsible for the existence of reality?

Augustine was among the first to whom is attributed a recorded (written) argument in this class.

WL Craig's contemporary formulation of this argument:



1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.
2.1. Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:
2.1.1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.1.2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
2.1.3. Therefore an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
2.2. Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition:
2.2.1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
2.2.2. The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
2.2.3. Therefore the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause of its existence.



And some select objections..

First the alternate "argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite" (2.1. above):



2.1.1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.1.2. An actual infinite God cannot exist.
2.1.3. Therefore, God began to exist, or God does not exist.



Now a quick round-up of some objections in bullet form:


  • the cosmological argument is an invalid a-posteriori inductive argument because experience does not justify extrapolating/transcending from experience to beyond
  • first cause assumes without warrant that causal relations are linear, successive and enumerable (also see the "positive feedback" phenomenon, continuity vs discreteness, the "butterfly effect")
  • first cause assumes without warrant that the universe itself, in it's entirety, is an effect (composition fallacy)
  • first or unmoved mover assumes without warrant that some rest-state is fundamental, and that movement is not irreducibly basic, requiring an ignition or catalyst (also see laws of conservation)
  • it is meaningless to speak of time itself as a cause of an effect (time is prior causation; causality presupposes time); similarly it is incoherent to speak of a cause of causation
  • insisting on contingency of our reality, and shifting non-contingency to something else, something unknown, might be charged with double standards (arbitrary)
  • seeking to explain "creation of the everything" with a single uncaused cause (transcendent), merely defers one mystery to another, and thus lacks sought explanation anyway


One common theme among these arguments is (e.g. JP Moreland, and 2.2. above):



2.2. The present cannot be reached from minus infinity.



Well, yes it can, if given an infinite amount of time (more accurately, that same "infinity", to avoid equivocation).
Otherwise the argument can be charged with petitio principii, since it already presumed a finite past.
But, note, minus infinity is not a vantage point — there was no time that properly can be called "minus infinity" (misconception potentially leading to confirmation bias).

An "infinite regress" is not a fallacy, nor a logical impossibility.
If there was no time when our universe became an effect of a cause, then we effectively have an uncaused universe.
Besides, such an "extra-universal" cause suffers the exact same counter-arguments as anything else proposed as being self-caused or un-caused; it requires strictly bare assertions to shift self/un-caused from the universe to God, which does not carry much merit in a philosophical context.

Ok, let us assume for a minute that something is responsible for the emergence of our universe (which is presumed to have emerged).
Having created even time itself (a dubious sentence), such an act of creation would be constant and unceasing (always was, always will be), suggesting that we should be able to detect it at this very moment.


  • if we accept simultaneous causation in this context (the cause (God's creation act) and the effect (the emergence of our universe and time) would be "simultaneous"), such a situation would collapse causation temporally, which cannot be maintained (contrary to experience/observation)
  • entertaining such an a-temporal cause would lead us to expect an infinite past; without a sufficient reason for a finite past, arguments of this nature can be charged with petitio principii and/or bare assertion fallacies


If some (potentially benign) law of nature is discovered that can account for such an emergence (e.g. by rigorous scientific investigation), then this law of nature is God (according to the kalam/cosmological class of arguments), which is disconnected from the multitude of other divine predicates (e.g. conscious, intelligent, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, perfect, personal, (self)aware, sentient); without further qualification, this can be charged with unwarranted anthropomorphization/personification.

Thus, reasonably, the answer to the original question is: no.


Well done as always. cool
jorndoe
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Posted Jan 2, 2010 - 12:28 AM:

Aetixintro (#2) wrote:

It should be possible to assume two (or more) time-lines: an infinite for God, in whatever way it happens, and one for (each) universe. Universe should (or not) have a beginning and some kind of end (eg. extinguished energy sufficient for life, not to say intelligence).
Making the appropriate changes in the light of something like Deism should please an existing (the natural) God.

You? smiling face

Me?   smiling face
Not sure; maybe there is a coherent layout with multiple temporal dimensions.
There would have to be some kind of "interdimensional" causal structure if you will (feel free to elaborate).
So, this God is not the "creator" of all those temporal dimensions (including God's own)..?

As for (scientific) cosmology, here's a brief comment:

#6 wrote:

To my knowledge, and to echo To Mega Therion, extrapolating back to a singularity (or zero dimensional spacetime) is not warranted per se by the models (physics).
The big bang models are not (per se) models of the "beginning", though they do seem to indicate a "beginning" at least.

In the more speculative areas, there are various scenarios being seriously considered..
cosmic timeline

The big bang models as supported by evidence is roughly like this diagram:
wmap timeline

It may be worthwhile also mentioning this (just a brief summary on creatio ex nihilo), which is related to this youtube video (about an hour long), though there is some conjecture involved (perhaps until we have observed a universe emerge from quantum soup).

180 Proof (#3) wrote:

Well done as always. cool

Well, I'm afraid some of the blame is on you.   wink
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Posted Jan 2, 2010 - 10:31 PM:

jorndoe wrote:
  • the cosmological argument is an invalid a-posteriori inductive argument because experience does not justify extrapolating/transcending from experience to beyond

  • But it's clearly a valid deductive argument. (Also, all inductive arguments are invalid and they're usually a posteriori). Maybe you meant that the inductive argument sometimes used for (1) is weak since we're extrapolating to cases very unlike those with which we're familiar? That may be a concern, but it's not a knockdown objection alone. You'd also have to show that those unlike cases are relevantly disanalogous.

  • seeking to explain "creation of the everything" with a single uncaused cause (transcendent), merely defers one mystery to another, and thus lacks sought explanation anyway[/list]

  • I also think this misunderstands the nature of the argument. It's not an inductive argument, so it's not it's not an argument to the best explanation. It's a deductive argument that uses a form of the PSR to conclude that the universe has a cause.

    Well, I'm being critical here, but one more objection, this time to the scope of your response. You're asking whether the argument will "establish a transcendent entity responsible for the existence of reality," but why stop there? It's an argument (or usually put forth as part of an argument) for God, so why not ask if it establishes God? The obvious answer is "no": a cause of the universe need not have all properties that classical theism considers essential to God -- I think even Craig would admit that if you asked him point blank.
    jorndoe
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    Posted Jan 3, 2010 - 12:32 AM:

    Hey Incision.

    The argument invokes induction on causation: (a) cause and effect are assumed, i.e. causal chains; (b) causal chains have a start.
    In support of (b) 2.1. and 2.2. are put forth, so as to argue against infinite causal chains.
    One objection here is that causal chains are derived from experience (a-posteriori), which puts the domain of the induction within experience.
    However, the argument (invalidly) attempts to "transcend" the domain that was utilized in the first place.
    That is not to say there is no such thing as a "first cause" altogether, rather, it is to say that such a potential "first cause" can only be validly derived within (prerequisites for) experience, such as spacetime, physicalities, etc.
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    Posted Jan 3, 2010 - 10:07 AM:

    Incision wrote:
    But it's clearly a valid deductive argument.

    Only if we stick to points 1, 2, and 3 above. But there is no good reason to suppose that this is a sound argument. Those who offer the kalam argument always make an appeal to some sort of inductive reasoning in order to justify points 1 and 2. Craig, for example, uses what we could loosely call an inductive argument: he misrepresents mathematical and physical reasoning and draws the conclusions that he wants.
    Maybe you meant that the inductive argument sometimes used for (1) is weak since we're extrapolating to cases very unlike those with which we're familiar? That may be a concern, but it's not a knockdown objection alone. You'd also have to show that those unlike cases are relevantly disanalogous.

    The task of showing why the entire universe is a relevantly similar case is the job of the entire kalam argument. Showing the relevant similarity would establish that the universe had a beginning. If one merely wants to assume the conclusion, why offer an argument?
    The obvious answer is "no": a cause of the universe need not have all properties that classical theism considers essential to God -- I think even Craig would admit that if you asked him point blank.

    I suspect that Craig would not answer directly and drag the debate to another area entirely.
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    Posted Jan 3, 2010 - 3:41 PM:

    Kwalish Kid wrote:
    Only if we stick to points 1, 2, and 3 above.

    I agree that the argument isn't sound, or at least not obviously sound. What I'm interested in here is whether jorndoe's response to it succeeds. As he framed the argument, "points 1, 2, and 3 above" are the cosmological argument, and since we agree that this is a deductive argument, we should agree that his claim that "the cosmological argument is an invalid a-posteriori inductive argument" is false.

    jorndoe wrote:
    One objection here is that causal chains are derived from experience (a-posteriori), which puts the domain of the induction within experience.
    However, the argument (invalidly) attempts to "transcend" the domain that was utilized in the first place.

    Hey jorndoe, if I understand, this means that we can only know that (1) is true if we can infer its truth inductively from experience without "transcending" the domain of our experience. Well first, I'm not sure what you mean by "transcending" the domain. After all, it's common for inductive arguments to infer something from one set (all swans in our data sample) to another larger set (all swans, even those we haven't tested). So I don't see an obvious sense in which it's problematic to "transcend" the domain.

    But second, suppose that we can't know that (1) is true. Even then, the cosmological argument could still be sound; we just couldn't know that it's sound. You'd have made an epistemic point rather than a logical one. And no matter how you cut it, (1) - (3), which you've set up as the cosmological argument, is definitely a valid deductive argument.

    Kwalish Kid wrote:
    I suspect that Craig would not answer directly and drag the debate to another area entirely.

    Also a possibility, unfortunately.
    jorndoe
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    Posted Jan 4, 2010 - 12:57 AM:

    Hey Incision, on post #8:

    Agreed, "X had a cause of its existence" follows from "anything that began to exist had a cause of its existence" and "X began to exist" (for the most part).
    Just like the standard example, "Socrates was mortal" follows from "wo/men were and are mortal" and "Socrates was a man".
    However, induction on causation does not imply that "there is a cause for causation itself", only that a potential "first cause was uncaused".
    These lines of arguments replace X with "existence itself".
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    Posted Jan 30, 2010 - 7:53 PM:

    I usually try to stay out of debates concerning the existence of God (been there, done that), but I thought I'd give this interesting thread a bit of a bump. I think that arguments which posit the necessity of a "first cause" or "prime mover" for the universe in arguing for God's existence are undercut by scientific discoveries of uncaused phenomena (at the quantum level). If events can be uncaused, there is no reason for supposing that the universe's origin requires any sort of cause at all.


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