Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kalam's Cosmological Argument

After watching yet another debate where William Lane Craig uses this argument, I figured I would take a stab at it. We are going to focus on the beginning of the argument before getting into the part about the cause needing to be both personal and timeless. So, here is the basic syllogism we are going to start with(as presented by Craig):

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

In my attempt to refute this argument it is important to understand these fallacies:

The fallacy of equivocation- Equivocation ("to call by the same name") is classified as both a formal and informal logical fallacy. It is the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning or sense (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time). It generally occurs with polysemic word. (

The fallacy of Composition-The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part)(

The fallacy of division-A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically that something true of a thing must also be true of all or some of its parts(

Now that we have clearly defined some fallacies we can begin our rebuttal of the KCA. The first thing we can point out is that, the argument may well be equivocating the universe as just another thing. A point was made by famous Christian philosopher,Alvin Plantinga, that the universe is just another thing. The universe is actually the set of all things. So, we can look at the universe this way. This rebuttal to me does not seem enough so we shall go a step further. Since now the universe is the set of all things, or all things are parts of the universe, we look at how the argument works. Premise 1, is obtained by using inductive reasoning to see that everything we observe that begins to exist has a cause. The problem here is that everything that we observe to begin to exist is a part of the universe. To then try and say that this means the universe must have a cause, is to attribute this characteristic of the parts of the universe to the parts. This by definition as we have seen is the fallacy of composition.

I have also heard other philosophers go the other direction. The universe is the matter and the energy that everything is made of, in other words the universe is just the parts that everything is made of. You then try to make argument work by making the attributes of the whole( the things made from matter and energy) to the matter and energy itself. If you look at the universe this way, by definition the argument has now committed the fallacy of division. Thinking about the argument this way can bring us to another problem.

That problem is this, everything that we have known to exist was caused by the rearranging of matter and energy. Which is a different kind of causation then to cause from ex nihilo, or from nothing. The argument equivocates the idea that causation follows the same rules for things that come from matter and energy and things that do not. These are too different categories of beginning to exist and you cannot draw conclusions about going from nothing to something, based on going from something to something different. This is fallacious thinking.

You may still be saying at this point, well something can't come from nothing, right? Well how do you know? What nothing have you ever seen? We have not ever observed nothing in the philosophical sense(not the physics sense) to draw any conclusions about what will or won't happen with nothing. That claim is not very justified. (this section I credit to an episode of the atheist experience from Tracy Harris).

So, now we have seen that the argument can't make it through the first part without being fallacious, but lets say for the sake of it that you still think that the universe has a cause. If we are drawing that conclusion from our experiences, in spite of that being fallacious, then you should come to the conclusion that the cause is non personal. Why inductive reasoning shows that the set of complex things caused by non personal causes, far outweighs the set of complex things created by personal causes. Here it is:

Set of things with no evidence of a personal cause(solar systems, planets,start, galaxies, comets, forests, plants, animals.....) > complex things made by design(man made things)

So, in conclusion we are forced to say that Kalams Cosmological argument fails to prove god on a number of different levels. The syllogism is fallacious in many ways, and even if the syllogism were sound the same type of inductive reasoning used to get us to the cause, can be used against it to say that the personal cause is unlikely.

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