In Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

New Apologetics has recently posted A Refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. They are mistaken in thinking that they’ve presented a decisive refutation and this post will show why this is the case.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is as follows:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Through a conceptual analysis of this cause, we can infer that it would be immaterial, transcending both space and time, enormously powerful, and personal. The last bit is perhaps the most controversial, but the idea is that an eternal impersonal cause could not bring about a temporally finite effect. But, personal causation could bring about an effect timelessly without temporally prior antecedent causes.

New Apologetics hopes to rebut this argument not by disputing the premises, but by arguing that one can offer a conceptual analysis of the cause of the universe that is compatible with atheism.

They argue as follows:

[We do not think the following alternative explanation of origins is true. It is offered only for the purpose of demonstrating that the KCA does not succeed as a proof.]
Consider, now, for the sake of argument, that independently of the beginning of the physical universe, there exists a vast multitude of non-spatiotemporal minds. Hypothetically, let us say there are at least as many of these minds as there are now quarks and leptons combined in our universe (any finite number equal to or higher than whatever actual number of smallest constituent particles the universe happens to contain will suffice), but among them there is not one superiorly powerful mind – as advocates of the KCA like to think.

Further, let us suppose that this multitude of non-spatiotemporal minds exists eternally in an uncreated, factually necessary way. If Christian theists can grant that God’s mind exists eternally, there is no known reason to suppose that these lesser minds are inherently excluded from existing in such a state. Plurality does not seem to be a clear defeater for aseity as such, and if the Holy Trinity is admitted within Christian metaphysics to exist without beginning in a timeless state, then there is no reason (at least no reason offered by those who defend the KCA) to maintain a presuppositional antipathy towards the possibility of there being a multiplicity of uncreated beings.

Let us also establish, as an important aspect of our speculation, that none of these minds is very smart. Individually, each of them is no more powerful and intelligent than any other. Moreover, they exist in an eternal and eventless gridlock of opposition one to another such that the intentions of any one individual or group are timelessly held in check by the balancing power of the opposing intentions of another individual or group.

To this proposed scenario we add that these minds are not motivated by any praiseworthy moral concerns or goals, but instead are oriented, as they are, by a simple desire to achieve dominance over other minds. We can take this lust for power and the concomitant deadlocked opposition to be a brute fact of metaphysics much like the love and cooperative harmony between the persons of the Holy Trinity is believed by Christians to be a brute fact of metaphysics.

Throughout this article, they refer to this theory of multiple minds, as the quantum minds theory, or QMT. My initial reaction to this argument was that it was not parsimonious and so theism would offer the better explanation. It seems that New Apologetics anticipated this response, saying:

At this point, while QMT seems to be a coherent account of origins, there is no clear reason to prefer it to theism. We grant that the mere possibility of there being multiple efficient causes responsible for ultimate origins is not quite enough to sink the KCA. Contra the generic “multiple efficient cause” objection to the KCA, William Lane Craig writes:

“…it seems to me that the proponent of the kalam argument will justifiably appeal to Ockham’s Razor: one should not multiply causes beyond necessity. One is justified in positing only such causes as are necessary to explain the effect. In the case of the universe’s origin, only one ultra-mundane Personal Creator is needed, so it would be gratuitous to postulate more.” (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/kalam-and-multiple-cosmic-causes)

Craig’s response is quite appropriate against any critic of the KCA who happens to be arbitrarily positing multiple deities as the efficient cause of the universe. One ought to avoid baselessly multiplying causes when one cause suitably explains the data.
However, our critique is based on something more than the mere “multiple efficient causes” objection. Our contention is that QMT accounts for the origin of the physical universe and many other phenomena typically attributed to God, but it does so while cleanly circumnavigating the known problems that accompany traditional theism. If QMT, when looked at dispassionately, overshadows theism in terms of explanatory power, then questions of parsimony are no longer applicable. It is of little use, for example, to hypothesize that the damage caused in World War II was the work of a lone vandal if the hypothesis of multiple warring nations clashing for a period of years suits the data so much more elegantly.

The key to their response is that they have not merely multiplied causes, but provided causes that explain certain phenomena “more cleanly” than theism, viz. evil. Hence, they suppose that QMT has more explanatory power than “traditional theism.” Given that the thesis is supposed to have more explanatory power, they claim that Ockham’s razor does not apply.

Ockham’s razor states that one should not multiple entities beyond necessity. While New Apologetics has taken the time to show that QMT sufficiently explains the data, they have not shown that QMT is necessary to explain the data. As such, they do succumb to Ockham’s razor in my estimation. The Kalam Cosmological argument posits only what is necessary, namely a singular, personal, enormously powerful, transcendent being. There is no speculation within the argument as to the intelligence, or moral character of the cause. The Kalam cosmological argument has no need to show that it is a better explanation for evil, pain, disorder, and suffering (along with fine-tuning, love, and goodness) since those are not the features of the universe for which the argument seeks to give an account.

The mistake that New Apologetics has made is that it treats the Kalam Cosmological argument as though it concluded to a “thick” concept of traditional theism, when it only offers a thin slice of God. The argument is typically taken in tandem with other arguments to suggest that the cause of the universe is morally perfect, and super-intelligent. Those arguments, along with traditional theodicies, e.g. free-will, and soul-making, seek to show that the phenomena we observe in the world necessitates nothing more than a traditionally conceived monotheistic god.

So while QMT has a built in theodicy, that does not exempt it from Ockham’s razor simply because it can account for more data than what the Kalam Cosmological Argument seeks to explain. New Apologetics must show that it is necessary that the cause of the universe be an ensemble of minds in order to explain the physical and moral order we observe. They have not demonstrated that the physical and moral order requires the multiplication of causes, so their rebuttal offers us nothing more than a gratuitous atheistic (or rather, polytheistic) alternative.

I will leave the question as to whether the Kalam Cosmological Argument is a successful argument for some other day.

Posted on January 30, 2014, in Arguments for God and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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