Refuting Objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence

by Josh Hickok

     It is my opinion that the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) is one of the best arguments that one can use as evidence of God’s existence.  Not only are its premises hard to deny, its conclusion seems as sound as almost any other that could be drawn from speculative and observational arguments.  Nonetheless, skeptics have worked hard to create objections towards it.  The purpose of this is to give a sampling of the objections aimed at KCA’s current defenders and to look at some of the historical figures of this debate to see what they’ve said about it.

Objection #1

     “Why shouldn’t God need a cause if the universe does?”  Thanks to Bertrand Russell, this was one of the more popular responses to the KCA in the early 20th century.  In his “Why I Am Not a Christian” essay, he quotes J.S. Mill that “the question ‘who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question ‘who made God?’”  He adds, “Very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause.  If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause.”[1]  We as Christians simply stack the deck and pre-define God as the First Cause.

Answer: Most defenders of the KCA hear this one quite often.  Should we be worried about it?  I don’t think so.  First off, Russell misstates the case the theist delivers (unless he was referring to the principle of sufficient reason, as some think).  The KCA says that everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence.  The whole point of the argument is to show that something CAN exist without a cause, namely, God.  But are we wrong in assuming that God doesn’t need a cause, while the universe does?  Absolutely not!  The point that the theist needs to reinforce is the reason why the universe needed a cause.  This is the “Impossibility of traversing an infinite” rule that is talked about in the KCA article.  God escapes this because there is nothing successive about God’s nature.  He is traditionally viewed as unchanging, and this is metaphysically necessary as well.  God did not have to endure through an infinite timeline as the world would have needed to.

Objection #2

     David Hume argued that the finite nature of the universe only necessitates (I used the word necessary as a joke for those familiar with Hume’s views on causality!) a finite cause.  Therefore, we are beyond our epistemic rights to posit an infinite cause.

Answer: This objection does not take into account that a finite cause could NOT be the first cause.  If the first cause was finite (not perfect in every way) then it is not the greatest of all possible beings, and therefore not God.  So while it is possible that the creation of our universe was caused by another universe, or some sort of minor god (like an angel or demon), it still would have to have a cause behind that one.  Hence, an infinite cause is the only way to break the regress of causes.

Objection #3

     There is evidence that particles can just pop out of nothing.  Quantum fluctuations can provide any combination of particles.  It is therefore false to assume that everything that began to exist had something to cause it.

Answer: This oft-cited “evidence” of uncaused creation is misunderstood.  While it may be true that “virtual particles” are the result of the activity of a quantum vacuum, this vacuum is not “nothing” in the real sense of the word.  This vacuum is teeming with energy, has physical dimensions and is still governed by quantum laws.  All the apologist must do to answer this is to ask, “Well, where did the vacuum come from?”

Objection #4

     The KCA commits the four-term fallacy.  This means that the predicate[2] in the first premise does not match the one used in the conclusion.  For example…

All cats are fish eaters.

Some mammals are cats.

Therefore, some mammals are bird eaters.

Of course, the problem is easy to spot here.  The terms have been switched, so the argument doesn’t work.  For the argument to work, the term “bird eaters” would need to be changed to “fish eaters.” 

     The skeptic does the same thing for the KCA…

Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The skeptic maintains that the cause in the first premise is much different than the one referred to in the conclusion.  They say that cause in the first premise means a finite cause, but the one in the conclusion means infinite cause, hence two separate terms here.  This is what they say the argument means…

Everything that begins to exist has a finite cause.

The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe has an infinite cause.

Is it true that the argument is rendered invalid because we are using a sleight of hand to sneak in an infinite Creator?

Answer: This objection seems rare, but many criticisms of the KCA stem from this misunderstanding (like Hume’s analysis).  Actually, the solution is quite easy.  There is a possibility of two successful answers here.  The first deals with the actual meaning of cause.  One must only reply that the word cause doesn’t stand for any particular type of cause, but the meaning in general.  In other words, it doesn’t mean finite or infinite, just something that brings something else into existence.

     The second answer, which I find more agreeable, is to elaborate on the term cause in both the first premise and the conclusion.  Then, tell them that the argument is valid because the conclusion is not greater than the first premise, but is merely a reduction.  What does all that mean?  Here’s the modified argument (which I only do when this objection comes up)…

Everything that begins to exist has either a finite cause or an infinite cause.

The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe has a finite cause or an infinite cause.

Using the answer to objection 2, you can rule out the finite cause option.  The KCA stands yet again!

Objection #5

     It is possible that an infinite timeframe has taken place.  Bertrand Russell proved that a person yelling out an infinite amount of numbers is only a physical impossibility, but not a mathematical one. 

Answer: This indeed would be possible, but Bertrand Russell is giving an example of a potential infinite rather than an actual one.  What this means is that Russell proved a potential infinite timeline could be crossed, because you will always have a real number.  But what he doesn’t realize is that the universe’s timeline would be an actual infinite.  In Russell’s case, you would never reach infinity, but in the universe going backwards in time (like we have to try to do to find a beginning), you have a set of numbers, albeit an infinite one.  On top of that, to start out with a potential infinite is starting with a number and counting forever, while in actuality you don’t have this number to start with—you could never begin at a number on a timeline that doesn’t begin!  Some would say (and have in debates) that you can just start arbitrarily at some number and go on to infinity.  However, this presupposes that the number chosen is the first number in time, which presupposes a start, and the starter.[3]

Objection #6

     Stephen Hawking says that the universe could be unbounded.  He says that “The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behavior at the boundary.  There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time.  One could say: ‘the boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.’ The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside of itself.  It would neither be created nor destroyed.  It would just BE.”[4]

     He basically says that time is not something that is linear.  Rather, it is more like a ball, a sphere at which there is no absolute starting point, but is also finite.  Rather, Hawking invokes “imaginary time”, which avoids the trouble of an infinite regress.  If so, then God is rendered superfluous.

Answer: Imaginary time is a concept in mathematics, but cannot be explained when applied to reality, much less imaginary time.  What is it?  Is it time or not?  If not, then what started the time we experience now?  If it is time, then what differentiates imaginary time from real time?  There is nothing to suggest “imaginary time” correlates to reality, or is even a possibility. 

     Even if imaginary time could indeed exist, it does not avoid the singularity that occurs when it turns into real time.  It is my (like many others) opinion that Hawking is avoiding something, and is going through a host of bad metaphysic to get there.  Mind you, I'm not saying Hawking is an irrational man- I presume him to be the worlds foremost authority on theoretical physics in general.  Unfortunately, we are all prone to mistakes and errors, which some feel he has committed here.[5] 

Objection #7

     Perhaps God did cause the universe, but who’s to say He still exists now?  Isn't it possible that God has expired just like the many things that have already?

Answer: By definition, God is one that cannot not exist.  If He ever did exist then he has to exist now.  But granting that God could die, there is still a major problem here – what could cause God to not exist?  If there is something that is more powerful than God, then this “God” is not really the Supreme Being.  Hence, we were at fault to call this lesser being God.  But isn’t this just a linguistic sleight of hand?  I don’t think so.  Especially when you take into consideration that God is the uncaused Causer, the Infinite and the All-powerful.  He is also a spirit not subject to the wears and tears of the physical world.  This is a source of many problems, that is, anthropomorphizing God and making Him subject to the laws governing the finite universe.

Objection #8

     Who's to say that the cause is God? 

Answer: I considered this in my Martin book review (coming soon).  My reply was this-

“He raises two objections here – the first is that the “cause” need not be God.  But is this a fair assessment?  I don’t think so, at least.  What sort of cause could we infer as the “efficient cause” of the series of events?  A cause cannot give something it hasn’t got.  So when a cause produces something (say a match producing a flame) the cause had that potentiality stored in it.  So what Aquinas’ does is argue that since everything around us must have been produced by an able cause, this cause must at least resemble the effects.[6]  Now when we see something like intelligence, is it not fair to presume that intelligence was actualized by a greater cause?  And must not this cause have intelligence to give?  If so, then you are looking at something that possesses an enormous amount of intelligence, power and also must have been the efficient cause.

     But couldn’t this efficient cause been something other than God?  Perhaps the universe[7] is the efficient cause.  The theist can answer that the universe is made of only potential effects (that is, our existence is only possible).  Since the universe is composed of potential effects, than the universe as a whole is only potential.  Indeed, one can imagine the universe not existing as possible.  The universe is not a necessary cause.  But wait a minute; aren’t I committing the composition fallacy?  That is, aren’t I suggesting that just because the universe is made of contingent parts it too must be contingent?  A mosaic may be made out of square pieces, but this does not make the mosaic square.  This is where a distinction must be made between the two types of properties: qualitative and quantitative.  Quantitative would be a property that changes when added up, and qualitative would be something that is static not matter what the quantity is.  Quality is about-ness.  For example, no matter how many bricks I put into a brick wall, the bricks will have the same physical makeup.  This is the same as such terms as “potential”, and “contingent” – no matter how many contingents I put together, there will just be a greater number of the same thing – a contingent collection, if you will.

     So if the universe cannot be the efficient cause, what could?  This is where I must infer a personal cause.  There is nothing that says that universe is necessary, and the possibility of something does not explain why it was actualized.  So, to end this regress, I’ll give an example of the two sorts of efficient causes.

     The first cause can be termed as scientific.  This means that independent of motive, we know what causes what.  For example; my wife goes to put a chicken in the stove.  The scientific effect is that the chicken will heat up and broil.  So when I ask her why a chicken’s cooking, she replies that it’s because the oven is so hot it changes the physical makeup of the chicken.  Or, she could answer with a personal reason, or give a personal cause – it’s because we were hungry and her intention was to cure this negative feeling.  That is a personal cause. 

     The point is that you cannot give an efficient scientific cause to the universe – only a personal one will do.”

     Despite their numerous attempts, the skeptics and critics have failed to lodge a successful argument against the KCA.  As such, the KCA stands as overwhelming evidence for God’s existence.

[1] Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian.

[2] When used in logic, the term “predicate” does not necessarily refer to the same term(s) as it does in English.

[3] This objection also fails for scientific reasons.  There is a finite amount of usable energy in the universe.  Once expended, the universe would undergo a “heat death.”  If the universe has been here for an infinite amount of time (an impossibility) then there would not be any energy left.

[4] Hawking, A Brief History of Time, 136.

[5] This is not the first time Hawking intentionally avoided an issue.  He repeatedly fails to address the problem (for Big Bangers) of galaxy formation.  He has occasionally included this problem in a list but has never provided an answer other than citing imaginary concepts such as dark matter and a parallel brane world.  This is not science – it is imagination.

[6] I don’t mean, of course, resemble in an aesthetic sense, only that the potentiality was there in the originating cause.

[7] I am suggesting that the term “universe” means the sum total of the physical.


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