kalam criticism

The Bill Craig version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument goes like this:

p1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
p2. The universe began to exist.
c. The universe has a cause.

Some have put forward the objection(s) that we’ve never observed anything ‘come into existence’ in the sense of ‘ex nihilo’ (out of nothing).  Everything that we might normally think of as a freshly existing object has not come into existence ‘ex nihilo’, but from prior existing materials.  Premise 1 and 2 thus become the same point, and the ‘argument’ becomes an assertion.

I think I agree.

If we divide “coming into existence” into the senses of a) from prior-existing things and b) from non-existence, then it seems to me (I’m happy to be shown wrong?) that Craig’s form of the argument involves either an error of repetition (collapses into an assertion) or an error of irrelevance (leaves out other premises):

The repetitive error could be stated as such:

p1. Whatever (the only possible thing is the universe) begins to exist (from non-existence) has a cause.
p2. The universe (i.e. the only possible thing that could begin to exist from non-existence) began to exist.
c. The universe has a cause.

The irrelevant error could be stated as such:

p1. Whatever begins to exist (from prior existing things) have a (shaping kind of) cause.
p2. The universe began to exist (from non-existence).
c. The universe has a (??? kind of) cause.

* * *

And now for a completely random attempt by yours truly at constructing an argument which gets to the same conclusion by a different route… (which turns out to be an adaptation of Aristotle)

p1. In any possible world, a mobile is contingent upon a mover (which itself may be moved).
p2. In any possible world, an infinite number of moved movers is impossible.
c. Therefore, all mobiles, including moved movers (i.e. the universe), are contingent upon an unmoved mover.

2 thoughts on “kalam criticism”

  1. This is the same line of thinking that reduced Aristotelian physics to the dustbin. Two problems here that immediately comes to mind.

    First, a ‘mover’ implies directed agency, and with that, of course, an agent with a goal. The problem here can be shown in the same sense that understanding the formation of a canyon by assuming erosion as a directed agency is not served in any way by assuming erosion must be evidence for an agent with a goal.

    Second, what does this before ‘coming into existence’ even mean? Seriously. Is it like an absence of time before time? Is it an absence of material, of energy, of anything… except some exempted cause of something? What can that mean if we also allow a special exemption from exactly this? Not only does the exemption negates the very premise of ‘before anything coming into existence’ but reduces this concept of ‘before’ time itself to be incomprehensible.

  2. re ‘mover’, this doesn’t have to imply agency, in the argument a ‘mover’ could have as much agency as a cue ball in billiards (i.e. 9-ball is the mobile, cue ball is the mover; and yes, then you have the cue stick which is moved, but in a very different way, then you have the player, etc.).

    as for ‘coming into existence’, My bias is that it is not so much incomprehensible, as much as it is hard to describe with language. No descriptions of anything, I suggest, are perfect, because all language is metaphor. We do what we can :)

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