The Kalam cosmological argument

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I thought I'd discuss the Kalam a bit.. As this seems to be one of the most discussed arguments for the existence of God.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore the universe has a (transcendent) cause.

Why do you agree or disagree with this argument?

#1 and #2 are unproven.
#3 includes an attribute (the transcendent nature of the cause) that is not derived from the premises.

--> @drafterman
My plan was to unpack number three as the discussion went on a bit. I do think transcendent is the only logical conclusion when we see what it means to be a cause of the universe.

Why do you feel 1 and two are unproven? What do you mean by prove to be exact? Would that require 100 percent epistemic certainty?


Honestly, I think there are good reasons to believe one and two

--> @OntologicalSpider
My plan was to unpack number three as the discussion went on a bit. I do think transcendent is the only logical conclusion when we see what it means to be a cause of the universe.
But that has to be demonstrated or at least stated as an axiom.

Why do you feel 1 and two are unproven?
For 1, because there are events which appear to be spontaneous (arise without a cause) such as radioactive decay.
For 2, because there is no indication that the universe has a begining.

What do you mean by prove to be exact?
That it's the conclusion of a sound logical argument.

Would that require 100 percent epistemic certainty?
No.

Honestly, I think there are good reasons to believe one and two
For example?
good argument

There can never be an infinite amount of events in the past

It has to start somewhere
--> @Dr.Franklin
There can never be an infinite amount of events in the past
Why not?

It has to start somewhere
Why?


--> @drafterman
Ok so, I agree with your definition of prove. I think we can work from there. In regards to the beginning two premises:


My understand of spontaneous radioactive decay is that it means nothing external caused the isotope to decay, that doesn't mean there's not an internal cause or explanation. But even if that wasn't the case, I still don't see this as being relevant to the first premise. The first premise, although it has confirmation from inference, is a metaphysical truth.

And that is being cannot come from non being. Nothing cannot create or actualize something because nothing has no properties and no causal relation to any thing. It's non being.

The decay of isotopes doesn't really negate this principle. So really, this principle is definitionally true. Non being by definition of what it is, has no ability to bring anything into being. No scientific truth or discovery could negate that.

So it seems to me the first premise is definitionally true.


In regards to the second premise, as Dr Franklin alluded to, there are both philosophical and scientific reasons why the universe began to exist.

Firstly, the scientific evidence is there in the Borde, Vilenkin, Guth theorem. The big bang, the fact the universe is expanding, and perhaps most strongly the second law of thermodynamics.

Philosophically, to say the universe is past eternal would mean an actual infinite can and has been instantiated. We argue that's just not possible.


--> @OntologicalSpider
Ok so, I agree with your definition of prove. I think we can work from there. In regards to the beginning two premises:

My understand of spontaneous radioactive decay is that it means nothing external caused the isotope to decay, that doesn't mean there's not an internal cause or explanation.
There is no known cause of spontaneous radioactive decay, which is why we can only speak of it in terms of half life.

But even if that wasn't the case, I still don't see this as being relevant to the first premise. The first premise, although it has confirmation from inference, is a metaphysical truth.

And that is being cannot come from non being. Nothing cannot create or actualize something because nothing has no properties and no causal relation to any thing. It's non being.
But this presupposes the "something" in question was created or actualized. It is not demonstrated that everything that begins to exist did so because it was created or actualized.

The decay of isotopes doesn't really negate this principle. So really, this principle is definitionally true. Non being by definition of what it is, has no ability to bring anything into being. No scientific truth or discovery could negate that.

So it seems to me the first premise is definitionally true.
Ok, so you submit it as an axiom. I reject the axiom.

In regards to the second premise, as Dr Franklin alluded to, there are both philosophical and scientific reasons why the universe began to exist.

Firstly, the scientific evidence is there in the Borde, Vilenkin, Guth theorem.
Which is a mathematical theorem based on relativity and may be invalidated by quantum mechanics.

The big bang, the fact the universe is expanding, and perhaps most strongly the second law of thermodynamics.
The main issue unaddressed is the fact that the known laws of physics break down when describing the early universe. They can't prove that the universe had a beginning or was created.

Philosophically, to say the universe is past eternal would mean an actual infinite can and has been instantiated. We argue that's just not possible.
Ok, then argue it.
--> @drafterman
So I would just like to make a few points regarding some things you've said.


If it is both simultaneously true that radioactive isotopes decay without a cause, and we cannot apply the law of physics to the early universe, then there is no reason to apply the facts about radioactive isotopes as being relevant to this discussion in regards to causality and the early universe. Whatever models we have of physics or causality, or lack thereof will not be relevant based on this reasoning, because they, according to you, break down. This sword cuts both ways...


Secondly, you  say that it has not been demonstrated that everything that exists has been actualized by a prior cause... Unless you can empirically provide an example of being coming from non being, or something being actualized from nothing, this is really just an argument from ignorance. What you're in essence arguing in this:

We have not seen every single example of a triangle, therefore the claim triangles have three sides is unproven.

Well that would be fallacious. We don't need to experience every single triangle before we can state they have three sides. It's definitionally true. Whether we accept the axiom or not.

As I argued earlier, the causal principle is confirmed by inference, but it's definitionally true based upon what we are dealing with. Non being cannot bring about being... It's non being.

In regards to premise two, did the universe have a beginning, you seem to have cast doubt on the BGV theorem...I am not a cosmologist so I will grant you this. What we still have though is the second law of thermodynamics.


In short, the universe is rapidly approaching a state of complete entropy. If the universe were eternal, we would have been in that entropy by now. Another way of looking at it, the usable energy in the universe is running out. If the universe were eternal, we would have run out by now.

Now, moving on to the possibility of an actual infinite:


There are several different ways this can be fleshed out, but to be succinct, there are two types of infinity. A potential infinity and an actual infinity. An actual infinity  is never instantiated. There are several reasons:

1. It would lead to absurd and impossible consequences.

Suppose I had a library with an actually infinite number of red and blue books. Now suppose I subtracted all the blue book (an infinite amount) from all the red books (an infinite amount). How many books are left? An infinite amount still.

So in this instance infinity - infinity = infinity.

But now let's say, I subtracted every book greater than 3

How many books do I left? 3.

So in this instance infinity - infinity = 3.

This leads to a logical contradiction

And because logical contradictions cannot be instantiated in reality, it follows an actually infinite series of things, cannot be instantiated. But it gets worse. Suppose for a minute we imagine the universe as past eternal. That would mean that everyday prior to today went on into infinity. If we look at the reverse of this, in order to get to today, there would be an infinite number of past events to traverse.

And that simply isn't possible. There would always be one more event to cross and complete before we could arrive at the present. Which means we would never arrive at the present. But we are in the present. So the number of past events leading up to today was finite. We couldn't traverse an infinite.

I know this post was lengty.  but I tried my best to explain why I think premise one and two stand. Thoughts?
Kalam: This so that so there.

1. What is God and what was it's cause?

2. So we assume that everything including God begins.

3. We assume that the universe and more appropriately matter began to exist.

4. Therefore we assume that the universe and more appropriately matter has a cause.

5. And the notion of transcendency is what it is. A fanciful higher brow word intended to define something that is only notional.

6. And arguments such as Kalam attempt to give validity to notional assumptions. Which in terms of knowledge leaves us still firmly stuck at the beginning of something without a clue.

--> @OntologicalSpider
If it is both simultaneously true that radioactive isotopes decay without a cause, and we cannot apply the law of physics to the early universe, then there is no reason to apply the facts about radioactive isotopes as being relevant to this discussion in regards to causality and the early universe. Whatever models we have of physics or causality, or lack thereof will not be relevant based on this reasoning, because they, according to you, break down. This sword cuts both ways...
I don't see what one has to do with the other.

Secondly, you  say that it has not been demonstrated that everything that exists has been actualized by a prior cause... Unless you can empirically provide an example of being coming from non being, or something being actualized from nothing, this is really just an argument from ignorance. What you're in essence arguing in this:

We have not seen every single example of a triangle, therefore the claim triangles have three sides is unproven.
That is not what an argument from ignorance is. An argument from ignorance would be to claim that something doesn't exist because we have yet to observe it. I'm not claiming that. It's ironic, because cosmological arguments such as these are essentially arguments from ignorance:

"We've never seen something come from nothing, ergo something can't come from nothing."

That is basically text book argument-from-ignorance format.

Well that would be fallacious. We don't need to experience every single triangle before we can state they have three sides. It's definitionally true. Whether we accept the axiom or not.

As I argued earlier, the causal principle is confirmed by inference, but it's definitionally true based upon what we are dealing with. Non being cannot bring about being... It's non being.
For the sake of argument, I'll concede the point on premise 1.


In regards to premise two, did the universe have a beginning, you seem to have cast doubt on the BGV theorem...I am not a cosmologist so I will grant you this. What we still have though is the second law of thermodynamics.

In short, the universe is rapidly approaching a state of complete entropy. If the universe were eternal, we would have been in that entropy by now. Another way of looking at it, the usable energy in the universe is running out. If the universe were eternal, we would have run out by now.
It is rapidly approaching a state of complete entropy relative to the Big Bang. I will agree that there cannot have been an infinite time since the Big Bang, otherwise the things you said would be true. But we cannot say anything about the state of the universe at or prior to this point in time. None of the known laws of physics are known to hold. What that means is we cannot use those laws of physics to make claims about the universe beyond that point.

Now, moving on to the possibility of an actual infinite:

There are several different ways this can be fleshed out, but to be succinct, there are two types of infinity. A potential infinity and an actual infinity. An actual infinity  is never instantiated. There are several reasons:

1. It would lead to absurd and impossible consequences.

Suppose I had a library with an actually infinite number of red and blue books. Now suppose I subtracted all the blue book (an infinite amount) from all the red books (an infinite amount). How many books are left? An infinite amount still.

So in this instance infinity - infinity = infinity.

But now let's say, I subtracted every book greater than 3

How many books do I left? 3.

So in this instance infinity - infinity = 3.

This leads to a logical contradiction
Except that is not a logical contradiction. Firstly, subtraction is not a valid mathematical operation you can perform on infinite quantities. Your statement might as well be:

"Blue - daffodil = car"

It is a nonsensical statement that has no truth value.

As stated, the manipulation of infinite values that you describe are perfectly fine and acceptable within mathematics, which is a branch of logic. If what you said was a logical contradiction, then that would basically toss out all of set theory, which is a corner stone of mathematics. Yes, dealing with infinite quantities results in some counter-intuitive results, but they are all mathematically (and, hence, logically) viable.

These types of thought experiments fall into the category of the Hilbert's Hotel Paradox. But it is only a "paradox" in the sense that the result is counter-intuitive, not that it is a logical contradiction. 

And because logical contradictions cannot be instantiated in reality, it follows an actually infinite series of things, cannot be instantiated. But it gets worse. Suppose for a minute we imagine the universe as past eternal. That would mean that everyday prior to today went on into infinity. If we look at the reverse of this, in order to get to today, there would be an infinite number of past events to traverse.

And that simply isn't possible. There would always be one more event to cross and complete before we could arrive at the present. Which means we would never arrive at the present. But we are in the present. So the number of past events leading up to today was finite. We couldn't traverse an infinite.
This entire line of logic only makes sense if you presume some starting point from which you "leave" to "arrive" at the present, but it doesn't make sense to talk about the starting point of an infinite series. There is no requirement to "traverse" an infinite.

Furthermore, there is nothing logically special about the direction of time. Anything you say about the past would apply to the future, meaning to suggest the past is finite would be to suggest the future is finite as well. If infinity can't be instantiated in reality then that includes an infinite future, meaning there must be an end to all existence, including God.

--> @OntologicalSpider
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause

I do not see how questioning this axiom is reasonable, because it is the evident truth that everything that begins to exist came into being through causal forces. 


2. The universe began to exist.

Merriam-Webster defines the universe as "The whole body of things and phenomena observed or postulated"

That being the case, the universe's existence is contingent on consciousness. Contingent on observation and postulation. 


3. Therefore the universe has a (transcendent) cause.
The Ultimate Reality is bigger than the universe, so to speak. Within God is contained The Universe, and it is from God that everything that exists derives being.




Why do you agree or disagree with this argument?
I think someone with theological understanding can make good use of arguments like this, but I tend to shy away from logical arguments lest people think that God was discovered through logic rather than revelation. As there is no reasonable doubt concerning the existence of God, I find that proving God is not nearly as important as identifying God.

The Ultimate Reality is God. God is The Truth.

There is no reasonable doubt concerning the existence of God.




--> @drafterman
Ok, I'm going to work in reverse a bit here. Starting with the infinite discussion.


You first said that subtraction is not a valid operation you can perform on infinite quantities. That's exactly my point. That's the whole issue. If a mathematical quantity could be instantiated in the actual world, not just in abstracts, and we couldn't perform a most basic and fundamental operation on it, that becomes a problem very quickly. This is confirmation of my point.

You stated that mathematicians would have to throw out all of set theory if what I said was logically contradictory. Well for starters, what I said is logically contradictory, it's mathematically provable. But more importantly, you have to remember I said there are two types of infinites.

A potential infinite (represented in math by the lemniscate)

An actual infinite (represented by the aleph null

Set theory and things like transfinite arithmetic deal with potential infinites all the time, and there is no logical contradiction or any problem in doing this because they're abstract ideas. Even the aleph null and any operation done on that would be abstract.

The question is can an infinite be exemplified outside of the world of abstracts. When we try to conceive of that, when we try to put them in the space time world, we get logical contradictions as my above operation showed.



You stated my contention with an infinite past only works if I presume some starting point. There is no starting point, and that is exactly the problem. Think of it this way

If we are at zero right now, that means we traversed ALL the negative numbers. Now let zero be the present. And all the negative numbers be past events. If we're at zero we traversed all past events. If they're infinite that's not possible.


You stated that whatever applies to the past must apply to the future, and if there couldn't be an actual infinity there couldn't be an infinite future. But again, the future is only potentially infinite. One more event can always be added, it's not that we have to traverse one more event that had already been added. And since God by definition is outside of time, whatever applies to time does not necessarily apply to Him.

In regards to your argument from ignorance analogy, I never stated that we have never seen anything come from nothing, therefore it's not possible, so I'm just going to leave that one off to the side.

It seems to me you seem a little biased against the big bang and relativity. I think this might be the heart of the issue.

So I will ask what model do you personally prefer?
--> @Mopac
"There is no reasonable doubt concerning the existence of God"

I would agree!
--> @OntologicalSpider
You first said that subtraction is not a valid operation you can perform on infinite quantities. That's exactly my point. That's the whole issue. If a mathematical quantity could be instantiated in the actual world, not just in abstracts, and we couldn't perform a most basic and fundamental operation on it, that becomes a problem very quickly. This is confirmation of my point.
There is no rule that says for some idea to be instantiated in the actual world you need to be able to perform specific mathematical operations on then. Division is a basic mathematical function and there are plenty of things you can't perform division on in the real world.

You stated that mathematicians would have to throw out all of set theory if what I said was logically contradictory. Well for starters, what I said is logically contradictory, it's mathematically provable. But more importantly, you have to remember I said there are two types of infinites.

A potential infinite (represented in math by the lemniscate)

An actual infinite (represented by the aleph null

Set theory and things like transfinite arithmetic deal with potential infinites all the time, and there is no logical contradiction or any problem in doing this because they're abstract ideas. Even the aleph null and any operation done on that would be abstract.

The question is can an infinite be exemplified outside of the world of abstracts. When we try to conceive of that, when we try to put them in the space time world, we get logical contradictions as my above operation showed.
You're confusing language here.

1. While math does deal with different kinds of infinites, it does not distinguish between "potential" and "actual" infinities in the sense of what can and cannot exist in the real world.
2. Aleph null - what you call an actual infinity - is what set theory deals with.
3. If something can exist in a mathematical framework but not a physical one, then it is a physical impossibility/contradiction, not a logical one.
4. As I explained, you did not demonstrate a logical contradiction. Your "proof" wasn't valid because it did not use valid mathematical operations. It no more demonstrates a contradiction then all of the "proofs" that say 1 = 0 that sneakily insert invalid operations such as dividing by zero.

You stated my contention with an infinite past only works if I presume some starting point. There is no starting point, and that is exactly the problem. Think of it this way

If we are at zero right now, that means we traversed ALL the negative numbers. Now let zero be the present. And all the negative numbers be past events.
If we're at zero we traversed all past events. If they're infinite that's not possible.
Except the idea that we can't traverse infinities is not true. We traverse them all the time (re: Zeno's Paradoxes).

You stated that whatever applies to the past must apply to the future, and if there couldn't be an actual infinity there couldn't be an infinite future. But again, the future is only potentially infinite. One more event can always be added, it's not that we have to traverse one more event that had already been added.
The future is as real as the past.

And since God by definition is outside of time, whatever applies to time does not necessarily apply to Him.
I'm not talking about God, I'm talking about the universe.

In regards to your argument from ignorance analogy, I never stated that we have never seen anything come from nothing, therefore it's not possible, so I'm just going to leave that one off to the side.

It seems to me you seem a little biased against the big bang and relativity. I think this might be the heart of the issue.

So I will ask what model do you personally prefer?
Wut? I'm not biased against them. I simply note the fact that relativity breaks down when describing the Big Bang. This is like a big, known issue in science.

Our scientific models cannot describe the universe past a certain point, so we can't say anything about the universe beyond that point, including making statements like: "it had a beginning."
--> @drafterman
You said there's no rule that says because you cant do certain operations on something doesn't mean it can't be instantiated, the point is not we can't do operations on it, it's that when we try to do operations on infinity the answers are undefined or contradictory.  That's not the case with things that are actually instantiated. Two hundred tomatoes minus one hundred tomatoes always equals a hundred tomatoes.



 You said the answer isn't logically contradictory, just physically contradictory. What's the difference? How can a contradiction be instantiated no matter what we call it?


It's interesting you bring up Zeno's paradox. Aristotle actually takes my side here in answering that:


For motion…, although what is continuous contains an infinite number of halves, they are not actual but potential halves. (Physics 263a25-27). …Therefore to the question whether it is possible to pass through an infinite number of units either of time or of distance we must reply that in a sense it is and in a sense it is not. If the units are actual, it is not possible: if they are potential, it is possible. (Physics 263b2-5).
 

Hmm, that line of reasoning sounds familiar....

You keep saying we can't say anything about the universe beyond a certain point.... What point exactly are you referring too? That the laws of physics break down may be entirely true, but we're dealing with math and metaphysics at this point, it's just frankly not relevant.


PS. I'm posting from my phone so please pardon my brevity, it's too tedious to copy paste and block quote every point you're making, but I am enjoying this discussion.

--> @OntologicalSpider
You said there's no rule that says because you cant do certain operations on something doesn't mean it can't be instantiated, the point is not we can't do operations on it, it's that when we try to do operations on infinity the answers are undefined or contradictory.  That's not the case with things that are actually instantiated. Two hundred tomatoes minus 100 hundred tomatoes always equals a hundred tomatoes.
Reality isn't limited to the mathematical operations we can perform on tomatoes, though.

You said the answer isn't logically contradictory, just physically contradictory. What's the difference? How can a contradiction be instantiated no matter what we call it?
Something can be a logical possibility but a physical impossibility. I was simply noting the difference between those two concepts.

It's interesting you bring up Zeno's paradox. Aristotle actually takes my side here in answering that:

For motion…, although what is continuous contains an infinite number of halves, they are not actual but potential halves. (Physics 263a25-27). …Therefore to the question whether it is possible to pass through an infinite number of units either of time or of distance we must reply that in a sense it is and in a sense it is not. If the units are actual, it is not possible: if they are potential, it is possible. (Physics 263b2-5). 
Hmm, that line of reasoning sounds familiar....
Okay, so you picked a person who agrees with you. That doesn't exactly prove the point. Consider that the possibility of the universe being infinite in size isn't ruled out. If there was such an obvious, proven concept that infinities cannot exist in physical reality, then this possibility would have been ruled out long ago.

You keep saying we can't say anything about the universe beyond a certain point.... What point exactly are you referring too?
The Planck Epoch.

That the laws of physics break down may be entirely true, but we're dealing with math and metaphysics at this point, it's just frankly not relevant.
Then, frankly, I don't know why you brought them up, then. I asked why the universe has to have a beginning and you brought up scientific evidence. I'm simply refuting that. If it wasn't relevant, why bring it up in the first place?