Part 3 of my Mapping the Kalam series.
One of the most popular and complex arguments for God’s existence is Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). Because of its complexity, I have decided to map all its supporting arguments and counter-arguments before deciding whether or not it succeeds. Today I give a brief sketch of the argument as presented by William Lane Craig and James Sinclair in their chapter of The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (2009). At first, the KCA appears to be quite simple:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
But this says nothing about God, so Craig & Sinclair add:
- If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans 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.
And that, as Aquinas said, is what everybody means by “God.”
The argument is logically valid, so if it’s premises are true then it’s conclusion must be true.
Premise 1 seems innocent enough. It would be quite strange indeed to think that something could pop into existence without any cause.
Premise 2 also seems uncontroversial. Isn’t this what scientists have been telling us, that the universe began 13.7 billion years ago with the Big Bang?
Step 3 follows logically from the first two.
Premise 4 comes from a conceptual analysis of what a First Cause must be like. It must be uncaused, or else we would have an infinite regress of causes. We need not think the universe has many causes (a pantheon of gods, perhaps), because Occam’s razor enjoins us not to postulate more entities than necessary, and we need only one. The First Cause must be without a beginning, or else it would itself require a cause. Craig & Sinclair also say the First Cause must be changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, personal, for reasons we’ll get to later.
Step 5 follows from 3 and 4, and establishes the existence of what we call God: an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe.
Of course, like nearly all theistic arguments, the KCA gives no reason to think this creator God is any particular God: the Christian God, the Muslim God, the Sikh God or an unworshiped God. At most, it establishes deism: belief in a distant creator god, who might not care to reveal himself to his creation or interact with it. But if the argument succeeds, and if when combined with other theistic arguments it is stronger than atheistic arguments, then this would defeat atheism.
Now we have the beginnings of an argument map for the KCA:
Next, we’ll begin to investigate the supporting arguments for premise 2. Did the universe begin to exist?