This is one of my favorite arguments, I must say. I don’t quite understand why I like this argument so much, probably because it is of a little funny type, or maybe hard to refute, I don’t know. Its defenses also fascinate me, as did the recent one, to which I am going to respond in this article. Here it is, titled “The Cosmological Argument for The Existence of God.”
The particular reason why I choose this particular article is that this defense is singularly simple to understand and in the same time quite appealing, or as it appeared to me. The author, Kelvin, attempts to refute some common objections to this argument point by point. What I am going to do in this article is to object to each of those responses, if any one of the responses stand, the argument fails, but just to be safe I will attack every one of those and then raise some new objections of my own(not really, they are different than the referred ones, nevertheless). So, let’s begin.
Let us first sum up the argument;
P1. Whatever begins to exist, has a cause.
P2. The Universe began to exist.
C1. Therefore, the Universe has a cause(following from P1 and P2).
P3. If the Universe has a cause, it is God.
C2. Therefore, God exists(following from C1 and P3).
And here are the referred objections;
O.1. “Causes don’t apply to the beginning of the Universe.”
He asserts that because we live in a universe where causation rules, the idea that the universe itself can have a causeless beginning, is hard to hold. That is a very naive reason. It is not hard to see that he is committing the ‘fallacy of composition’, which is basically deducing the nature of X as a whole by the nature of the part or parts of X. For example, every single part of the aeroplane can’t fly, it does not follow that the aeroplane as a whole, can’t fly. Or, as Peter Millican points out in this debate, “Every sheep in the flock has a mother, it does not follow that the flock has a mother.” And if I can go that far, I can make another same kind of deduction, remember that everything in this universe are not just caused but ‘physically’ caused. If I go by Kelvin’s logic, we live in a universe where everything is physically caused, so the universe itself can pop out without a physical cause seems absurd. By this kind of reasoning, an idea of an immaterial magical being creating a universe, seems absurd because our experiences cope with ‘physical’ causes only. But hey, that argument has the same flaws as the one I am objecting to! So, let’s put that aside. The point is that just because everything in this universe has a cause, it does not follow that the universe must have, and it does not imply any such kind of a thing. So, new objection(N.O.) number 1, the fallacy of composition.
Another form of this objection is that causation is necessarily temporal, so causation doesn’t apply where time doesn’t exist(i.e. The Big Bang). He says “Actually causes can exist “before” or “around” the universe in a timeless, causeless, or perfectly self-causing state.” I don’t think so, it is pure speculation. We have no experience of non-temporal causes in the universe, so the idea that the universe itself could have a non-temporal cause is hard to hold(Get the irony). However, I will not object to this in that way, I would rather say that the term ’cause’ loses its conventional meaning when excluding its obvious temporal aspect and it also seems to be a kind of special pleading. All causes in our experience are temporal, so making the cause of the universe non-temporal just to establish the premise is special pleading. N.O.2. Special pleading.
O.2. “If everything has a cause then what caused God?”
That same argument and that same response. Everything that ‘begins’ to exist has a cause and God never ‘began’ to exist. And that is special pleading. Let’s formulate the argument accordingly to its meaning;
P1. Everything, except God, has a cause(Seriously, this is the first premise, because according to the author, everything, except God, began to exist, and it is equivalent to what I have formulated).
P2. The Universe is not God.
C. Therefore, the Universe has a cause.
As you should see, the above argument is completely ridiculous and is not going to seriously convince anybody, but that’s what the KCA looks like when you just equate the terms! There are two problems with this argument, circular reasoning and special pleading. So, N.O.3. The argument itself submits to circular reasoning and special pleading.
He also asserts as a objection that the current cosmological evidence ‘strongly’ suggests that the Universe ‘began’ to exist 13.8 billion years ago, I will highlight it in O.4.
O.3.“The universe can come into existence from nothing.”
Okay, Kelvin’s refutation of this point seemed absurdly funny for me, you may understand how in a minute. He objects to the point saying that this strange notion is popularized by Prf. Lawrence Krauss and his ‘Nothing’ is not ‘Nothing’, rather nothing. To quote Kelvin, “The “nothing” Krauss prescribes to is actually as he calls it “empty space”, a quantum vacuum, which are two totally different “nothings”. Empty space is something, not nothing. This a categorical mistake on his part.” I am afraid that you’re wrong, probably because you haven’t even read the book, or the whole book. Let me quote the book;
“While inflation demonstrates how empty space endowed with energy can effectively create everything we see, along with an unbelievably large and flat universe, it would be disingenuous to suggest that empty space endowed with energy, which drives inflation, is really nothing. In this picture one must assume that space exists and can store energy, and one uses the laws of physics like general relativity to calculate the consequences. So if we stopped here , one might be justified in claiming that modern science is a long way from really addressing how to get something from nothing. This is just the first step, however. As we expand our understanding, we will next see that inflation can represent simply the tip of a cosmic iceberg of nothingness.”
~A Universe From Nothing, Page 153, last paragraph of the 9th chapter.
As you can see, Prf. Krauss admits that empty space is not ‘nothing’ and gives a ‘hint’ as if he will dig deeper into nothingness. And let us see the last paras of the next chapter;
“Does this prove that our universe arose from nothing? Of course not. But it does take us one rather large step closer to the plausibility of such a scenario. And it removes one more of the objections that might have been leveled against the argument of creation from nothing as described in the previous chapter. There, “nothing” meant empty but preexisting space combined with fixed and well-known laws of physics. Now the requirement of space has been removed. But, remarkably, as we shall next discuss, even the laws of physics may not be necessary or required. ”
~A Universe From Nothing, Page 169.
It seems that Prf. Krauss have explained(in the in-between pages) that how can spacetime itself emerge from nothing and is going to explain how laws can too. As Kelvin says that all the heck of ‘nothing’ professor Krauss says is nothing but empty space, it appears dishonest as the above quotations from original book strongly resist this claim and even seem to defend the objection that empty space is not nothing. Same book, isn’t it? N.O.4. Strawman argument.
He quotes David Albert who criticized this notion, but seriously, I didn’t find anything interesting in that quote except climsy analogies and unclear opinions. If you found anything, leave it in the comments, I will then think again.
And then he says that if particles can pop out in certain way, that doesn’t mean that the universe can too. Please, this is precisely what Prf. Krauss explains in his book. How can an entire universe emerge and stay for a long time without seriously violating any known laws. Some requirements for it is that the universe has to be flat, the total energy of the universe must be zero, and then quantum hocus-pocus does the job, but I am not gonna do the explanation part. Read the book, as I have shown sufficiently that the book does account for your objections.
And then again, let’s accept that the initial physical state is not nothing, so what? Replace it with God, take it as an idea! I can also say that the state existed eternally in the past, or should I say necessarily. It is completely compatible with all the data available.
N.O.5. “Nothing or not nothing” doesn’t trouble the argument a bit.
O.4. “We don’t have a quantum theory of gravity. So we really don’t know if the universe definitely began or is eternal.”
Kelvin agrees that this is true, but he goes on saying that there are still good reasons to suppose that the universe began. I should first clear out the apparent misconception here, Big Bang is not “Nothing….BANG…The Universe..”, it is “The Universe as a singularity…BANG…inflation..”. Big bang theory does not account for any kind of absolute beginning, it accounts for the beginning of our comprehension. As Sean Carroll puts it in his essay ‘Does the Universe need God?’;
“While the Big Bang model – the picture of a universe expanding from a hot, dense state over the course of billions of years – is firmly established, the Big Bang itself – the hypothetical singular moment of infinite density at the very beginning – remains mysterious. Cosmologists sometimes talk about the Big Bang, especially in popular-level presentations, in ways that convey more certainty than is really warranted, so it is worth our time to separate what we know from what we may guess.
The success of primordial nucleosynthesis gives us confidence that we understand what the universe was doing about one second after the Big Bang, but anything before that is necessarily speculative.
[…]One sometimes hears the claim that the Big Bang was the beginning of both time and space…This may turn out to be true, but it is not an established understanding. The singularity at the Big Bang doesn’t indicate a beginning to the universe, only an end to our theoretical comprehension….we will need to formulate and test a working theory of quantum gravity.”
He also presents the entropy problem, but doesn’t seem to understand that that principle is only valid after the big bang happened, it is not applicable to the singularity itself. N.O.6. The Entropy problem does not pour any water to the discussion.
Kelvin also considers the Loop Quantum Gravity as a solution, but says that it suffers from empirical suitability. Well, forget that it is a scientific matters, you are offering God as an explanation or solution, I am offering this story as an explanation. The difference is that my story has mathematical compatibility, thus, mine seems to be more plausible than not. The same can be applied to string theory.
He refers to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to give us some problems regarding LQG, well, you are proving the point that we have not yet formulated the correct theory of quantum gravity, however, with these problems with LQG and the Omnipotence paradox with your God, both seem to balance the equation.
N.O.7. Empirical suitability is not a problem when the mathematical interpretations are presented only as a coherent explanation.
As it turns out, all of the refutations of the objections seem to rise from either misconceptions on misrepresentations of the objections. I hope Kelvin to address each of the N.Os to fully establish the argument.
I do not think, with so many inconsistencies, the argument succeeds to provide an adequate solution of the ‘why’ questions.
Thanks for reading.