Kalam cosmological argument

Kalam cosmological argument

The Kalām cosmological argument is a contemporary version of the cosmological argument taking its form from Kalām, a form of dialectical argument used in Islamic philosophy.Fact|date=February 2008. It attempts to prove the existence of God by appealing to the principle of universal cause. Similar arguments are found in the theologies of Judaism (for example, in the work of Maimonides) and Christianity (for example in Thomas Aquinas), where it is known as the "uncaused cause" or "first cause" argument.

The argument

Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig has recently revived the argument and formulates it as follows:

Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

Conclusion 1: Therefore, the universe must have a cause.

Craig asserts that the first premise is "relatively uncontroversial". He defines "begins to exist" as "comes into being," and argues that we know from metaphysical intuition that things don't just pop into being uncaused. According to Craig, this establishes premise 1.

The second premise is usually supported by the following argument:

# An actual infinite cannot exist.
# A beginningless series of events is an actual infinite.
# Therefore, the universe cannot have existed infinitely in the past, as that would be a beginningless series of events.

According to some authors, the definition of an actual infinite comes notions of set theory, some of which were known to the Arabs from the Hindus. However, there is little doubtFact|date=July 2008 that the concept of the actual infinite reached Arab scholars through the works of Aristotle. Aristotle's own account of actuality vs. potentiality is a fundamental part of his metaphysics. As actuality is often interpreted as the fulfillment of being, it is a short step in reasoning to reach the position that there is no actual being of infinite processes. The possibility of an actual infinite is often disputed, and is the focal point of this argument.

Craig describes the impossibility of an actual infinite like an endless bookcase. For example, imagine a bookcase that extends infinitely on which there is an infinite number of books, colored green and red, green and red, and so on. Obviously there would be an infinite number of books. Imagine removing all red colored books, leaving an infinite number of green books remaining, leading to the conclusion that "infinity" divided by two is also "infinity". Craig claims that the inability to sensibly extend the standard definitions of division on finite, nonzero numbers to include infinite numbers demonstrates the physical impossibility of actual infinities. Therefore, since the universe cannot have existed for an actually infinite amount of time, it must have (been caused to) come into existence at some finite time in the past.

In summary, the Kalam Cosmological Argument rests on the premise that the universe is not infinite in the past, but had a finite beginning which necessitates a cause for its existence.

History and alternate formulations

A more concise expression of this argument is known as the argument from contingency, which found recent articulation by the late Mortimer Adler. In any form this argument has its ultimate origin in Aristotle's argument of the Prime Mover. This was later reconstituted by Maimonides and Aquinas for their respective monotheisms as well as by Ibn Russhd (Averroes) for Islam during a time in history when each of these faith systems had to come to grips with the intellectually modernizing effects of Aristotlean thought.

Objections involving actual infinities

Work by Georg Cantor demonstrates that actual infinities are consistent and useful objects; Zeno's paradoxes exhibit examples of actual infinities in the real world - specifically, the number of points in time or points in space. Infinity is now considered a valid, functional and real object by mainstream mathematics. The sets of natural numbers, rational numbers, and real numbers all contain an infinite number of elements and these number systems consistently find widespread use. The bookcase analogy above is flawed as it fails to distinguish between set inclusion and cardinality; claiming that there are as many green books as there are red and green books together is a consistent (if somewhat counterintuitive) position, once the notion of "as many" has been adjusted to tolerate infinite quantities. There are several ways to define consistent arithmetic upon groups of infinite sets; examples include cardinal arithmetic and the surreal numbers.

Further, time is considered continuous; under this view, within any finite passage of time an uncountably infinite number of distinct points of time are passed. Whether this constitutes passage of "infinite" time depends on whether cardinality or measure is being considered. In any case, the logical validity of actual infinites does not invalidate the Kalam cosmological argument since it is only required that the universe has not existed for an actually infinite amount (by measure) of time.

Objections from analysis

One immediate objection to the Kalam argument was raised by Bertrand Russell in his collection "Why I Am Not A Christian". If a divine being exists, then that being must have a cause. This leads to an infinite regression of causes, which undermines the use of this argument to support the existence of one or more supreme divine beings. Common responses to this objection include assuming, proving, or defining the first cause to not be caused itself, or to be somehow "outside" of time and/or space. Aristotle takes as his first cause the final fixed point in the regression, so that the entity discussed is not necessarily the creator of the universe, but rather the agent responsible for the chain of causes that eventually led the universe to come into being.

A second objection is that the Kalam argument does not establish the existence of any particular deity, nor even describe any properties that the "first cause" must have beyond that of predating the universe and (eventually) causing its existence. The argument provides equal support for Christianity, Islam, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a supernatural (but not spiritual) creating force, and a scientific law that merely resides "outside" of the causal universe as we experience it. This is not so much a logical flaw as a fundamental limitation; after the Kalam argument attempts to demonstrate the existence of the first cause, other arguments are typically introduced to attempt to establish its nature. This is the line that Craig describes when claiming that "the simple syllogism lying at the heart of the Kalam cosmological argument should be supplemented by a conceptual analysis of what it is to be a cause of the universe, an exercise which serves to recover many of the traditional divine attributes." [http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/kalam-oppy.html]

Objections rejecting the premises

One challenge to the argument would be to question why the first premise is the most natural to come out of the normal laws and practical experience of causation. One could build similar arguments from any number of inferences from the human experience of causality and reach different conclusions: the Universe does not have a cause (causation requires antecedence) or God, or any cause for the Universe, requires a cause (any thing that exists has a cause). There is no self-evident justification for accepting the validity of the Kalam argument's first premise than any other similar supposition one might make. Indeed there are arguments that could be made against it: a beginning only has bearing on causal matters as a guarantee of antecedence - there could be gradual processes that have no defined beginning, yet allow for antecedence, and still require causation. These objections, though not logically demonstrating the argument as invalid, reduces the force of the argument as a whole considerably.

Another challenge to the argument would be to question whether finite objects can self-cause. Philosopher Quentin Smith states that "the universe...both caused itself to exist and caused the later states of the universe to exist." [http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-smith_harvard01.html] He says that the whole universe does not need an extra cause; if all parts of the universe cause each other to exist, that logically implies that the whole exists. Smith claims that "the first state of the universe consists of an indefinitely or infinitely long chain of simultaneous events that are causally connected to each other." This view may rely on two controversial concepts: that of a physically existing actual infinite; and that of a cause simultaneous with its effect.

Objections from scientific theory

The Big Bang theory, though generally held to be committed to a finite age of the universe, does not commit to a view of infinity that supports the Kalam argument. Mathematical models of the Big Bang generally end in a singularity that has a location in time that is a finite distance from any given event. However, there is also an infinite number of events between this singularity and any given point. This behavior of space and time is allowed by the differential geometry and topology underlying general relativity, the physical theory on which the Big Bang theory is based. Additionally, some Big Bang models are infinite in spatial extent or have an infinitely long past, such as some models devised by Georges Lemaître or Sir Arthur Eddington. However, as Phillip James Edwin Peebles writes, in his "Principles of Physical Cosmology" as well as other publications, the Big Bang theory does not really concern itself with universal origins (cosmogony).

Developments in quantum mechanics have resulted in the concept of imaginary time, which may provide a mechanism whereby the big bang is not considered a singularity at all and does not require an external prior cause. The very presence of a second dimension of time calls into question the simple one-dimensional nature of causation central to the Kalam argument.

Further reading

*Rüdiger Vaas. "Time before time" [http://sammelpunkt.philo.at:8080/1754/1/vaas.pdf Time before Time: How to Avoid the Antinomy of the Beginning and Eternity of the World] .

*J.P. Moreland. "Scaling the Secular City: A Defence of Christianity" (1987) ISBN 0-8010-6222-5. Chapter 1: "The Cosmological Argument".

*William Lane Craig. "A Swift and Simple Refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument?" (1999) [http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/kalam-oppy.html]

*Paul Copan and William Lane Craig. "Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration" (2004) Chapters 6-8.

*Derrick Abdul-Hakim. "God's Paradox: A Comment on William Lane Craig's Cosmological Argument" (2006) Presented at San Jose State University Philosophy Conference

ee also

*Natural theology
*B-Theory of time

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • kalām cosmological argument —    see argument, cosmological …   Christian Philosophy

  • Cosmological argument — The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a First Cause (or instead, an Uncaused cause) to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an unconditioned or supreme being, usually then… …   Wikipedia

  • Kalam — Kalām ( ar. علم الكلام) is the Islamic philosophy of seeking Islamic theological principles through dialectic. In Arabic the word literally means speech . A scholar of kalam is referred to as a mutakallim (Muslim theologian; plural mutakallimiin… …   Wikipedia

  • Kalam (disambiguation) — Kalam might refer to:*Kalam, Islamic philosophical theology *Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of god *Kalam (tribe), New Guinea *Kalam (poetry) mdash; in Persian and Urdu poetry, kalam refers to a writer s total poetic work. *Abdul… …   Wikipedia

  • Kalâm — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Kalam.  Pour l’article homophone, voir Qalam. Kalām (Discussion en arabe, perse: كلام) est une des sciences religieus …   Wikipédia en Français

  • argument, cosmological —    The cosmological argument argues for the existence of God from the starting point of the existence of the cosmos (or, in van Inwagen s formulation, the possibility of the existence of the cosmos). The argument typically proceeds by way of the… …   Christian Philosophy

  • Ilm al-Kalam — For other uses, see Ilm al Kalam (disambiguation). This article is part of the series …   Wikipedia

  • Tawhid — This article is part of the series …   Wikipedia

  • William Lane Craig — Infobox Philosopher region = Western Philosophy era = 21st century philosophy color = #B0C4DE name = William Lane Craig image size = 150px birth = birth date and age|1949|8|23 Peoria, Illinois death = school tradition = Christian philosophy main… …   Wikipedia

  • Mu'tazila — This article is part of the series …   Wikipedia