- Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause.
- The universe had a beginning.
- Therefore the universe had a cause.
- That cause must be God.
In essence, the KCA is arguing that:
- There can be no natural cause for the universe.
- Therefore the cause must be supernatural.
- The only possible supernatural cause must be whichever god the argument is being used to promote.
Clearly, we only need to refute 1 for the entire argument to collapse since this is the premise from which the rest is assumed to flow. We only need to show that a natural cause is possible to refute the KCA. The onus of proof lies with those using the KCA to prove their implicit claim that the cause MUST be supernatural, so the onus is upon them to refute our possible natural cause AND show that there are no other possible natural explanations.
Unless they are able to do so, reliance on the KCA is dishonest and disingenuous.
Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause.This ‘law of causality’ is simply untrue, as quantum mechanics has established. There are two well-known phenomena which illustrate this:
- Decay of the energy state an excited electron to its ground state, with the emission of a photon, is known to be random and unpredictable. Based on observations, science can calculate the probability of this event occurring in any given time period, but there is no way the precise moment of decay for any given excited electron can be predicted.
- The decay of a radioactive atom by emission of a particle has no cause. There is no detectable difference between a radioactive atom which is about to decay and one which is not. As with the decay of an excited electron to its ground state, science can calculate the probability of radioactive decay in any given period of time but can never predict the moment of decay for any one atom.
The ‘law of causality’ is assumed to apply (note ‘assumed’, as it has not been established for all events) at the level over which Relativity applies, but not at the quantum level, where relativity is known not to apply. The Big Bang was a quantum event so, even if causality is accepted as a law, it demonstrably does not apply at the quantum level.
The universe had a beginning.This argument assumes that, with space and time being part of the universe (something which has been known since 1905 when Einstein formulated the Theory of Relativity) there can be any meaningful sense in which a ‘beginning’ can be defined in the absence of a time and a place for it to begin.
But why do we need to assume a beginning? Why is it not possible for the universe to have come from something else? In fact, there is no reason to assume it didn’t; that our universe could not have arisen as a quantum fluctuation in a non-zero energy field in some pre-existing universe. The assumption that our universe is all that there is is just that, an assumption, not an established fact. It simply has no validity.
There is nothing in Relativity or Quantum Theory which prevents a universe from originating in some pre-existing universe. Indeed, there is no fundamental law requiring that ‘nothing’ should be the default state of existence rather than something. Apologists who challenge science to explain why there is ‘something rather than nothing’ have the onus of proof that ‘nothing’ should be assumed in the absence of a reason for ‘something’.
It must be said that those who devised the KCA in the middle ages knew nothing of quantum mechanics, nor that the ‘beginning’ of universe was a quantum event, so can be excused for this error. Neither were they aware of Big Bang cosmology or Relativity which show that the Universe as we experience it must have once been very much smaller and could have arisen from an earlier Universe with its own internal space and time.
However, the same cannot be said for modern day apologists either for Christianity or for Islam, for whom ignorance of quantum theory and cosmology, and its basic refutation of the Kalām Cosmological Argument can only be due to choice. These modern-day proponents of the KCA can no longer rely on assumptions which seemed valid and obvious to mediaeval thinkers; they now have to refute the many arguments physicists can put up and show there are no other possible natural explanations. Unless they are able to do so, the KCA is dishonest and disingenuous, based as it is on false premises.
But, let us put that all to one side and assume for the sake of argument, that apologists have established the basic premises of the KCA so there MUST be a supernatural explanation for the universe.
Why does it follow that the only possible supernatural explanation, of all the possible supernatural explanations, is the actions of the god they are promoting? The fact that precisely the same argument is put forward to support the god of the Qur’an, indeed that the KCA used by Lane Craig and other Christian apologists is a straight plagiarism of an Islamic argument, shows that the final conclusion does not flow from the argument at all. In fact, one could substitute the name of any god, or indeed any other notion and the argument would have the same validity. Using the KCA it is just as easy to make a case for the universe being created by Zeus, a Flying Spaghetti Monster, a committee of Graeco-Roman gods or indeed a peanut-butter sandwich.
And, perhaps more importantly, why do all the assumptions they make regarding the origins of the universe - that it must have had a beginning, therefore it must have had a cause – not apply to their preferred god? Why do they need to abandon the very principles upon which their argument relies in order to make it work for them?
How do they all get away with the same trick? They do it by begging the question. It's a sleight of hand of which any conjurer, card sharp or flimflam man would be proud. The trick is to assume that, in addition to the set of things which begin to exist, there must be a set of things which don't begin to exist from which to select a 'cause'. Apologists like William Lane Craig rely on their audience to unconsciously populate this set with the locally popular god and only the locally popular god. Having set the audience up with this begged question, they then let them draw the 'obvious' but invalid conclusion; invalid because the assumptions of the existence of this set of things which don't begin to exist, and what it contains, is invalid. Even if such a set exists there is no reason we can't put any daft notion we wish in it. More importantly, there is never an explanation of why it could not contain something perfectly natural, requiring no supernatural involvement at all.
Clearly, given the state of our knowledge of cosmology and quantum mechanics, we can now confidently state that the basic premises of the KCA are not valid. Given the modern availability of information on these subjects we can, with equal confidence, state that those who use it are being dishonest and disingenuous, and very clearly pursuing some other agenda than truth.
A moment’s thought will show that the KCA is merely the God of the Gaps, the Argument from Personal Incredulity and the Argument From Ignorance fallacies dressed up to look respectable. It is no less dishonest for all that. In essence, the argument is nothing more than "I don't know how it happened, therefore no one knows how it happened, therefore it is unknowable, therefore it must have been supernatural, therefore it must have been [insert required answer]".
What is plainly going on here is that apologists are aiming their arguments not at non-believers and scientists who can see through their fallacies but at those who are ignorant of science and/or those who merely want their pre-existing superstitions ‘confirmed’ by scientific-sounding or seemingly logical arguments without being too concerned about their validity. The argument is aimed at those who, through parochial ignorance, are culturally pre-disposed to assume that, if one can make the case for a supernatural explanation for something, it stands to reason that it must be the locally popular god - the one assumed to be the only god on offer - and that this then proves the locally popular god is real. It does nothing of the sort of course. All it demonstrates is the ability to ascribe something not understood to whatever cause one wishes it to be.
There is no truth-seeking agenda at work, merely a desire to exploit a credulous and gullible market and milk it for all it’s worth.
[Later edit] For a formal debate on the KCA between myself and Christian blogger, Richard Bushey, see Debate - The Kalam Cosmological Argument
- God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Victor J. Stenger, Jan 2007. Prometheus Books. IBSN 1591026520.
- A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. Stephen W. Hawking, 1988. Bantam. IBSN 9780553109535.
- The Kalâm Cosmological Argument. William Lane Craig. August 2000. Wipf and Stock Publishers ISBN 9781579104382