Thursday, October 27, 2011

William Lane Craig on the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence

I wanted to find the best argument in a video format for the Kalam Cosmological Argument.  I refer here to a YouTube video series covering a presentation by Philosopher and Christian Apologist William Lane Craig.  The poster of the videos has included a very useful outline of the argument from Craig's perspective, which I've quoted below the videos.  It's a rather long presentation.  Each video is 30 or more minutes in length.  I will open this up to discussion on the basic premises of his argument.  The video presentation is in Eight parts:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six: 

Part Seven:

Part Eight:

The poster of the videos included the following outline of Craig's argument, which I believe is helpful:


1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

2.1 First Philosophical Argument

2.11 An actually infinite number of things cannot exist.

2.12 A beginningless series of past events involves an actually infinite
number of things.

2.13 Therefore, a beginningless series of past events cannot exist.

2.2 Second Philosophical Argument

2.11 An actually infinite collection of things cannot be formed by
successive addition.

2.12 The series of past events is a collection of things formed by
successive addition.

2.13 Therefore, The series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

2.3 First Scientific Confirmation

2.4 Second Scientific Confirmation

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

4. If the universe has a cause, it is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, unimaginably powerful, and personal.

4.1 The cause is uncaused.

4.2 The cause is beginningless.

4.3 The cause is changeless.

4.4 The cause is immaterial.

4.5 The cause is timeless.

4.6 The cause is spaceless.

4.7 The cause is unimaginably powerful

4.8 The cause is personal.

5. Therefore, a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful.

Thoughts on Part One:

"Nothing comes from nothing, " or Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

That's the very first premise in the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence.

I want to point out some very important statements by Craig in this video.

First off, he states that "common experience and scientific evidence" confirm premise one.  More importantly, he addresses one common objection from materialists and atheists: that the premise is an a priori theistic assumption.  Pay particular attention to what Craig states in response:  that materialists initially contended that the universe had no beginning.  So they argue from the same premise, that if the universe had no beginning it did not come into existence.  It was uncaused.  So the premise is at least common to both theists and non-theists alike.  It's not something that just popped into theistic thinking in order to have a basis for an argument.

One thing he doesn't address here though is the argument (or rather rhetorical question) "Who created God?"  

This is another reason why premise one is carefully worded: "Whatever begins to exist...;" Thus the question becomes absurd in light of the premise, and is also maintained as absurd given that the premise is invoked by both materialists and theists.  If the rhetorical question is invoked towards the materialist it would go something like this: "Who created the universe?"  The materialist would insist that this is absurd, since the universe had no beginning.  We are then left with the question:  "Did the universe have a beginning?"  To state otherwise is to beg the question.  Craig maintains that science and common experience confirm the premise.  Science in that we know that the universe had a beginning, and experience in that we know that things that begin to exist have a prior cause.

Another important distinction he makes is in regard to things as opposed to events.  Things require a cause, but events do not necessarily require a cause.

Thoughts on Part Two:

This seems more like a question and answer presentation than an at length speech presentation.  

I did particularly find a problem with part of what Craig presented regarding the infinite hotel, that does not in any way as far as I can tell, detract from the overall argument regarding the untenable nature of actual infinites in space and time.  That one illustration regarding moving people from one room to another to make room for one more is rather confusing and I believe unnecessary.  The stronger argument is in removing just one or any number of an infinite quantity of guests from a hotel containing an infinite quantity of rooms.

It seems to me that if we had a "finite" hotel; that is a hotel with a finite quantity of rooms, a manager couldn't simply move one person from one room to another to make space; given that all the rooms are full.  So logically speaking, it shouldn't work for a hotel with an infinite quantity of rooms.  I think this may be the area where some of his students were confused; which shows that they are not about to accept an explanation simply because their professor asserts that it is true.

However, you begin to get a grasp of the absurdity of an actual infinite once you propose subtracting just one or any other number of members from an infinite set.

This becomes the premise for arguing that the universe is necessarily finite, and thus, had a beginning.  The argument also works for time as well as for matter or space.

The time argument usually goes like this.

Suppose that time is infinite.  This would mean that the amount of time prior to the present moment we find ourselves in is infinite.  Yet the time we find ourselves in - the present moment seems to be finite in that we can account for moments in our lives that came before.  An exercise in refuting actual infinite time would have one count from 0 (zero) to negative infinity.  Since passed time would be symbolized by a negative, while the future would by symbolized by a positive number.

If we can account for finite events in time, then time is itself necessarily finite or we would not be able to account for finite events in time.  In fact, the now would never be arrived at, since it would require traversing an actual infinite spans of time.

Another way of looking at it would be to divide a finite period of time; for example, divide an hour into two equal parts and we get a half hour.  Divide an infinite span of time into two equal parts and we don't get a half an infinite span of time.  What we get are two spans of time that are equally infinite; which is logically untenable.

Thoughts on Part Three:

Infinite Possibilities of Time and Space?

Here Professor Craig seems to have more fine-tuned his arguments regarding infinity and space/time.  I'm certain there are more in-depth philosophical presentations of these issues elsewhere, but I think he does a good job of summarizing some of the thought.  His focus is on the views of Abu Hamed Mohammad ibn Mohammad al-Ghazali (1058-1111), who was a proponent of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

I found the discussion regarding the question of an infinite future to be most interesting.

Two Theories of Time

A-Theory: The future does not exist, but is a pure potentiality.  It is potentially infinite.

B-Theory: The past, present and future are real and stretched out like a line.  Time is only finite, and illusory or subject to one's standpoint.

al-Ghazali, Craig, as well as scripture support an A-Theory view of time.

B-Theory of time would of necessity impart some rather problematic theological views regarding freedom and responsibility.  If time is illusory, or subjective to one's standpoint, then it could be interpreted that we are different persons from one point in time to another; such that the person (me) 20 minutes ago who might have  committed a particular sin at that time, would not be the same person (me) that is in the present (now).  Therefore the person (me) that now exists could not be held responsible for the  acts of the person (me) that existed 20 minutes ago.  Confusing?  Yeah.  For some it might up a whole new world of possibilities, but from a logical standpoint it just doesn't seem tenable.


  1. Hi CY:

    Great start.

    On causality and the significance of NECESSARY causal factors for things with evident beginnings like our observed cosmos, cf this post at UD. (Advocates of quantum indeterminacy who imagine the presentation is classical/deterministic and outdated by the quantum world, kindly cf. point 14.)

    (I would limit the blog's width to 1,000 though.)

    GEM of TKI

  2. PS: Given the incidence of internet vandalism, you may find using moderation a necessity.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, KF, and thanks for the suggestions. Regarding moderation: I think I will probably tighten things up as I go along, as it's difficult to get readers and contributors initially when all the limiting factors are in place.

    I have a pretty wide monitor, so the width to me looks good, however, for those with narrower monitors I can see how it could be a problem. I'll try some things out. This is just a start, and I'm certainly open to suggestions on how to make it more attractive and readable.

    Regarding Necessary causal factors:

    I doubt if Dennett (in particular) pays much attention to Necessary causal factors in his understanding of causality; which is one of the areas where I think he's short-sighted. He has his thoughts in other areas with regard to philosophy - particularly in science, which he admits to not comprehending (in some areas). Yet, clearly to him science is an end-all, rather than merely a branch in the path of philosophy.

    Feel free to post links to any posts from UD.

    I will add my own thoughts on these issues once I've completed viewing all of the videos. I'm not really completely up to speed on them, as I viewed them initially a while ago, but I wanted to post them simply because they help form the basis for the blog's title. So it's initially more for reference purposes than presenting any of my views.

    One issue I will make pretty clear is that God is necessary. I think that's a main part of Craig's argument. God is not simply an intellectual possibility, but a necessity.

    If you'd like to contribute a post on necessity in causality, I would definitely welcome it.

  4. KF, for some reason, when I first read your first post the link you provided didn't seem to materialize, and I went searching for the post in vain. Now it appears. Can't figure out what went wrong, but I do remember that particular post (and thread) well, and I am definitely motivated to point the readers in that direction. Perhaps I'll include a separate post on that particular link. Thanks.

  5. Hi Brandon! Just stumbled onto your blog from a link on Elizabeth's Skeptical Zone.

    A simple, fundamental comment on the *Kalam argument* (that I am of course not the first person to voice, although in my own words and according to my own logical analysis):

    "1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    [...]common experience and scientific evidence confirm premise one."

    I completely agree concerning everything existing WITHIN this universe. However, in cosmology (which the Kalam-argument is concerned with) the universe is defined as the space-time-continuum that we experience and observe. This means that BOTH space and time as we know it, define it and use it (e.g. to define a cause as something that must occur PRIOR IN TIME to an effect), BEGAN to exist with the beginning of this universe. So, what could the concept of time and the intimately related concept of causation(something that occurred PRIOR IN TIME to it) possibly mean in relation to anything not inside this universe, i.e. inside space and time? In other words: What does it mean to ask what happened PRIOR IN TIME to the EXISTENCE OF TIME?

  6. madbot,

    I'm hoping you have email links to your responses, because my reply comes rather late. For that I apologize. I've been without internet in my home for almost a year now, and have to rely on a local library, that limits my time online. As such, I haven't maintained my blogs since that time.

    Anyway, in response:

    Since this is the only universe we know to exist, your statement "I completely agree concerning everything existing WITHIN this universe," seems without meaning. What other universe is there besides those about which theorists speculate, but have no evidence? We have to go with what we know exists; and for this, the Kalam argument relates profoundly. Prior to 20th Century speculating on other univesrses, human beings spoke of the universe as everything that exists: hence, "everything that began (begins) to exist."

    But you do raise a very important question in my view: "What does it mean to ask what happened PRIOR IN TIME to the EXISTENCE OF TIME?" That certainly is one for the mind-boggle list. To simplify this question, however; the Kalam suggests that since God exists, "He" is not "before time," but beyond time. "He" is eternal. "He" would have to be in order for the Kalam to work. This is not so much a circular proposition as it is a necessary one. We don't escape problems with infinite regresses without something or someone existing eternally. It's not a tossup between an eternal universe or an eternal necessary entity. There's really only one choice. That's why we believe according to the Kalam, that God is necessary. Since "He" is necessary, the question of what existed prior to time is answered: Nothing existed if we mean anything related to the physical universe, including it's properties. It's absurd to even think that anything can exist prior to time. However, it's not absurd to think of God existing eternally and "prior" (as inadiquate as the term is) to creation. We don't have an adequate vocabulary when it comes to describing God. Also, a bit of theology can help here. Theologists often refrain from referring to God in reference to His "existence," rather in reference to His "essence." It's still inadequate, but we must be able to distinquish between temporal and eternal when it comes to differences between God and His creation. Essence seems to work, and it implies something that is beyond temporal.