The Cosmological Argument for God’s existence is often adopted as a pillar of belief for contemporary theists. To my mind, the most notable iteration of this argument is the Kalam Cosmological Argument, or ‘KSM’, frequently associated with William Lane Craig.
The argument is provided below:
P1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
P2. The universe began to exist.
C. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
As a deductive argument, it follows that if both premises are true, the argument’s conclusion follows inescapably and necessarily. In order to refute the KCA, we have two options:
- Show that the argument’s premises, or the argument’s conclusion from its premises do not logically follow. In other words, show that the argument is logically invalid.
- Show that while the argument follows logically, one or more of its claims are factually untrue.
The logical progression from P.1 > P.2 > C. has been widely accepted, and as such I don’t intend to spend time rehashing an old debate here.
On to point two. Based on our best scientific knowledge, it has become more and more difficult to charge the KCA with false premises. It is at best incredibly unlikely that there are things which exist that do not have a cause. There are no known instances of objects coming into existence uncaused. As a result, it appears P.1 is true. Moreover, our best understanding of the universe today through the Big Bang theory teaches us that the universe (and space and time within it) is indeed finite in the past. Thus, P.2 appears to be true also. Prima facie there appears to be no way to jump off of the KCA train – its conclusion follows logically from its premises, and its premises appear to the best of our knowledge to be true.
For Christians, this conclusion is interpreted as an argument for the existence of God as so conceived. In this video published by Reasonable Faith, the universe’s cause is given five key predicates that, when taken together, form a powerful cumulative case for the existence of God. The first cause of the universe is considered to be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused and immensely powerful.
Notwithstanding the above there have been a plethora of arguments levelled at the KCA. The rebuttal I have historically found most challenging to wrestle with in my mind was the argument from causality. Namely, that outside of space and time, the laws of cause and effect do not necessarily apply. As such, it makes no sense to invoke a cause to the universe because causality is a necessarily temporal phenomenon, and, as our best science tells us, time is finite in the past and began at the Big Bang – time cannot exist prior to itself in order to allow for causality to take place between C: (God), and E: (the universe).
It’s been a while since I delved deep into philosophy, so to offset the troubling idea that I was beginning to lose grip on my own worldview, I tried to unpack this criticism and come to a metaphysical understanding of whether or not causation can be an atemporal event. Briefly, here’s what I found:
The principal argument for causal events being spatio-temporal is the argument from ‘pushing‘, which attempts to draw the distinction between things that are about the world (like rules of logic or laws of nature), and things that are exist physically within the world. The argument from pushing maintains that only objects in the former category can represent causes and effects.
To argue for the transcendental-ness of causality one can adopt the argument from ‘absences‘. This argument asserts that there can in fact be causal relationships between things which do not exist in the patio-temporal world. As per the SEP’s example, ‘in the case where rock-climbing Don does not die because he does not fall, Don’s non-falling and non-dying are causally related, without there being any events or other immanent entities to relate.’
This argument is similar to how we can understand a first cause (God), causing the universe into existence outside of time and space. The charge that a causal relationship between God and the universe is nonsensical presupposes that causality is a necessarily spatio-temporal phenomenon. If non-spatial and non-temporal things can be causal, then positing a spaceless and timeless first cause to the universe need not commit us to any weak metaphysical foundations. Rather, we arrive at the metaphysical necessity of spacetime’s cause being spaceless and timeless. Otherwise, we would be positing the existence of a cause of time and space sitting within spacetime – the definition of a circular argument. Our only other alternative at this point would be to commit ourselves to a strange exception, where the universe came into being simply uncaused and independently. If that was the case, then, why don’t we see other things coming into being uncaused and independently in the universe?