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Tuesday, January 10, 2023


At the end of Paragraph 3 of the essay “On Human Suffering and the Concept of God,” I suggested that the so-called “Kalam” argument for the existence of a creator god is nugatory.  What follows is my explanation.

It is generally conceded that the modern “Kalam” argument for the existence of a creator god rests on syllogistic reasoning ultimately based on Aristotles philosophy of causes, on innate ideas, and on interpretations of quantum physics, among other things.  My immediate source is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument , quoted in part below (in italics):  

The most prominent form of the argument, as defended by [the fundamentalist Christian apologist] William Lane Craig, states the Kalam cosmological argument as the following syllogism:[4]

    Everything that begins to exist has a cause.  

    The universe began to exist.

    Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Given the conclusion, Craig appends a further premise and conclusion based upon a conceptual analysis of the properties of the cause of the universe:[5]

    The universe has a cause.

    If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists who sans (without) the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.

    Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.

However, this reasoning has crippling flaws that are exposed by the following objections:

“Everything that begins to exist has a cause.”  

This statement is an assertion based on common observations of experience, not all of them scientific, and most of them casual or random.  (Induction is very useful, but it has limitations.  For one, it is always incomplete; no one can observe all the events of a particular kind, especially not future events.)   

More important, all of these observations are contained within the universe that we perceive, and cannot necessarily  apply to anything outside it—such as any supposed cause of the universe would be.

To amplify:  If the universe as we know it has a cause, that cause must exist either within the universe or outside it.  If the cause exists within the universe, then in effect the universe causes itself, which is the same as having no cause outside itself.  

If the cause exists outside the universe, then we have to deal with the question of infinite regression. There is no rational basis, no logical or philosophical principle, no “meta-concept” which dictates that there is a limit to causation.  To postulate a cause for anything is to postulate that causation exists as an operation of real things acting upon real things; and if causation exists, as the Kalam argument claims, as much beyond this universe as within it, nothing in this causation outside the universe provides a basis for denying an infinite regression of causes.  Therefore the “causeless” or “uncaused . . . cause” of Kalam apologetics cannot be regarded as having any basis in reality.   

Furthermore, the concept of cause-and-effect is itself a construct of the human brain, the result of the innate compulsion to ask (and to answer) the question “Why?” in response to challenging or surprising events or situations.  This is both a factor and a product of the evolution of the species.  The objective reality of the causal relationship was convincingly shown to be open to question by David Hume in the 18th century; and Hume has never been conclusively refuted.  

Since the Major premise is an undemonstrated and undemonstrable assertion, the conclusion that proceeds from it (“Therefore, the universe has a cause” ) may be syllogistically valid, but is not necessarily true.

But that is not all.

“If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists who sans (without) the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.” 

This statement contains a number of undemonstrated, unjustified claims.  The worst of them is the claim that a cause must be a personal Creator,” that is, a personality/ character distinct (separate) from but similar to what we conceive human persons and personalities to be.  This falls neatly within the Abrahamic myth, but otherwise has no value, except possibly as an example of how the human mind instinctively personifies/ anthropomorphizes everything.  (Or perhaps as an example of the intellectual dishonesty required by Abrahamic monotheistic apologetics.)  The universe no more requires a person as a cause than does an earthquake or a volcano.  

Besides this, the possibility of infinite regression, never disproved, precludes the idea that the supposed Creator must necessarily be uncaused, as well as the idea that it must be beginningless.   

The other qualities, “changeless … and enormously powerful,”  are simply fantasies of the polemicist; there is no need for the supposed Creator to have those attributes in order to create the universe as we know it, and we have no evidence that they exist.  As for being changeless, in fact, in the Hebrew Bible and the Abrahamic scriptures based on it, the CreatorYaweh can be manipulated by the prayers of believers and the saints in Heaven to change his mind, as he did concerning certain inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; and he even repents of having created the human race, causing the Flood associated with Noah, after which he changes his mind again, as demonstrated by the rainbow.  An even greater change is demonstrated by the late and extravagant decision to make a bloody sacrifice of his only begotten son, the Second Person of the Christian Trinity.

As for this supposed Creators power, there is the analogy of a simple inert wooden match, which can be extinguished easily, yet can start a devastating forest fire and other conflagrations.  No one would claim that the match itself is “enormously powerful.” 

To summarize: Given that the Major premise of the first syllogism is an unsupported assertion, and that the conclusion is therefore not necessarily true; and that in the second syllogism what takes the place of the minor premise (“If … then … ” ) is an accumulation of assertions that are unjustified, and that they are simply repeated as the conclusion; we must admit that neither conclusion has been demonstrated, and that the “Kalam” cosmological argument for a creator god is without value. 

The question can also be approached from the point of view of modern physics: For most of us who were nurtured in the Western tradition, Creation” and the “Big Bang” are almost synonymous—two opposing ways of conceptualizing the same event.  And the Kalam” theory can be refuted in terms of the “Big Bang,” the current generally accepted scientifice theory of the origin/beginning of the universe, based on the work of the Belgian theoretical physicist, mathematician, and astronomer Georges Lemaître. 

The following is taken from https://world-of-humanism.blog/2020/05/23/georges-lemaitre-and-the-hypothesis-of-the-primeval-atom/ :

“… [Lemaître] proposed that due to the neighbouring galaxies moving away from us in different directions, then an obvious conclusion would be a massive cosmic force and he proposed the Big Bang theory using ‘Albert Einstein’s’ [sic] theory of general relativity ... published 11 years prior.  Georges [Lemaître] never actually referred to the cosmic event as the Big Bang ...[;] he named it ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’.…  His theory was in simple terms that to explain why the universe was expanding, it must have had a point of origin where everything within the universe was packed within an object of infinite density. This object of infinite density is what he described as the primeval atom.” 

And the article continues with a quotation from Lemaître:

    The radius of space began at zero; the first stages of the expansion consisted of a rapid expansion determined by the mass of the initial atom, almost equal to the present mass of the universe. If this mass is sufficient, and the estimates which we can make indicate that this is indeed so, the initial expansion was able to permit the radius to exceed the value of the equilibrium radius. The expansion thus took place in three phases: a first period of rapid expansion in which the atom-universe was broken into atomic stars, a period of slowing-down, followed by a third period of accelerated expansion. It is doubtless in this third period that we find ourselves today, and the acceleration of space which followed the period of slow expansion could well be responsible for the separation of stars into extra-galactic nebulae. – Georges Lemaître

Obviously, the “primeval atom” must have been as infinitely small as it was infinitely dense.  And according to the description of the material world given by quantum mechanics, causation does not exist at the “nano” level of the quantum particle/wave.  Instead of causal relationships, there is only probability.  The Big Bang was a phenomenon of the infinitely small (Georges Lemaître’s “primeval atom” in which “The radius of space began at zero”) and therefore no causal relationship was involved in it.  The Big Bang had no cause, and therefore the universe had no cause. 

Support for this idea may be found in an article in Nautilus (“The Remarkable Emptiness of Existence,” 4 January 2023) by Dr. Paul M. Sutter, research professor in astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook University and a guest researcher at the Flatiron Institute in New York City (https://nautil.us/the-remarkable-emptiness-of-existence-256323/ ):

“We live in a quantum universe; a universe where you can never be quite sure about anything. At the tiniest of scales, subatomic particles fizz and pop into existence, briefly experiencing the world of the living before returning back from where they came, disappearing from reality before they have a chance to meaningfully interact with anything else.”

This may well be the way that our current universe came into existence.


For readers who desire references and greater detail, I append an excerpt from an article from Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre 

“… [In] 1925, he became a part-time lecturer at the Catholic University of Louvain and began the report that was published in 1927 in the Annales de la Société Scientifique de Bruxelles (Annals of the Scientific Society of Brussels) under the title Un Univers homogène de masse constante et de rayon croissant rendant compte de la vitesse radiale des nébuleuses extragalactiques (A homogeneous Universe of constant mass and growing radius accounting for the radial velocity of extragalactic nebulae), that was later to bring him international fame .[2] In this report, he presented the new idea that the universe is expanding, which he derived from General Relativity. This later became known as Hubble's law, even though Lemaître was the first to provide an observational estimate of the Hubble constant.[16] The initial state he proposed was taken to be Einstein's own model of a finitely sized static universe. The paper had little impact because the journal in which it was published was not widely read by astronomers outside Belgium. Arthur Eddington reportedly helped translate the article into English in 1931, but the part of it pertaining to the estimation of the Hubble constant was not included in the translation for reasons that remained unknown for a long time.[17] This issue was clarified in 2011 by Mario Livio: Lemaître omitted those paragraphs himself when translating the paper for the Royal Astronomical Society, in favour of reports of newer work on the subject, since by that time Hubble's calculations had already improved on Lemaître's earlier ones.[4]…. 

“In 1931, Arthur Eddington published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society a long commentary on Lemaître's 1927 article, which Eddington described as a brilliant solution to the outstanding problems of cosmology.[20] The original paper was published in an abbreviated English translation later on in 1931, along with a sequel by Lemaître responding to Eddington's comments.[21] Lemaître was then invited to London to participate in a meeting of the British Association on the relation between the physical universe and spirituality. There he proposed that the universe expanded from an initial point, which he called thePrimeval Atom. He developed this idea in a report published in Nature.[10] Lemaître's theory appeared for the first time in an article for the general reader on science and technology subjects in the December 1932 issue of Popular Science.[22] Lemaître's theory became better known as theBig Bang theory, a picturesque term playfully coined during a 1949 BBC radio broadcast by the astronomer Fred Hoyle,[23][24] who was a proponent of the steady state universe and remained so until his death in 2001.

“Lemaître's proposal met with skepticism from his fellow scientists. Eddington found Lemaître's notion unpleasant.[25] Einstein thought it unjustifiable from a physical point of view, although he encouraged Lemaître to look into the possibility of models of non-isotropic expansion, so it is clear he was not altogether dismissive of the concept. Einstein also appreciated Lemaître's argument that Einstein's model of a static universe could not be sustained into the infinite past.”

The Creationist Faithful may be consoled by the fact that this has an Augustinian perspective:  Augustine says that without the Creation, time did not exist—it came into being with the Creation.  Apparently it did not occur to him that causation cannot exist independently of time, any more than it can exist independently of space.  Therefore, for the Creation itself, there was no cause: the universe had no cause.   

A final note: Given the nature of human language, the creationist argument might be less problematic if it were reframed in terms of the source or origin of the universe, rather than of its cause.  This shift might give the Abrahamic theologians something more amenable to their anthropomorphic tendencies to work with, and it might divert them from pseudoscientific metaphysical explanations based ultimately on Aristotelian philosophy.