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Allow me to provide a critique of the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, which is not talked about enough on socials. My aim is to utilize this critique to develop a new positive argument against the existence of God. The Kalam argument posits that anything that begins to exist has a cause, and since the universe began to exist, it must have a cause, namely God.

It is worth noting that the most straightforward way to refute the Kalam argument is to point out that even if we accept the conclusion that the universe has a cause, it does not necessarily follow that God is that cause. The argument fails to provide any evidence for the existence of a personal, disembodied mind with moral concerns, infinite knowledge, and the ability to cause events by merely thinking about them. All attempts to bridge this gap between the universe having a cause and the existence of God have proven unsuccessful. However, I will not delve into this aspect at this point.

It appears that one of the reasons why the Kalam argument is appealing to apologists is because it seems to be an argument that is suitable for the modern age. By invoking what we know from Big Bang cosmology, the Kalam argument seeks to bridge the gap between theology and science. However, it is essential to consider what science has to say regarding the Kalam argument’s other premise, namely that anything that begins to exist has a cause.

Thermodynamics suggests that nothing actually begins to exist. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy, which is what everything is made of, including matter and atoms, can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only change form. Therefore, how can we assert that anything that begins to exist has a cause when we have no verifiable account of anything ever beginning to exist?

Some may argue that things begin to exist all the time, citing examples such as people, plants, and chemicals. However, these entities are not examples of things that genuinely begin to exist, as they are merely specific configurations of the same matter that has existed since the beginning of time. The components that make up an individual, a building, or a chemical existed before the formation of these entities. In essence, these entities are nothing more than specific relationships between tiny components, and their existence is a mere occurrence. The concept of a specific number of components that must come together to create an entity is arbitrary, as anything we perceive as an entity is just a specific relationship between components that have existed since the beginning of time.

Some may argue that scientists have demonstrated that the universe began to exist, which supports the Kalam argument’s second premise. However, while the Big Bang was responsible for the universe as we know it, we have no way of knowing what happened before the Big Bang, or if the concept of the universe beginning to exist is even coherent. There is no consensus on whether it is accurate to assert that the universe began to exist, and individuals who claim otherwise are either misinformed or deliberately spreading falsehoods.

Even if we assume that the universe is the only entity that truly began to exist, this does not support the Kalam argument. If we were not around to observe the universe begin to exist, and nothing else besides the universe has ever begun to exist, then we have no empirical basis for asserting that if something begins to exist, it must have a cause. It is a groundless assertion that lacks empirical and philosophical basis.

In conclusion, the Kalam cosmological argument fails to prove the existence of God. The notion that anything that begins to exist must have a cause is not supported by scientific evidence or philosophical reasoning. Therefore, the argument cannot bridge the gap between theology and science, as it is based on faulty premises.

Transcription from Scott Clifton.

Full Transcription

I can kill two birds with one stone here. I want to present a critique of the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, which I’ve never done before in a YouTube video, and then I want to take that critique and use it to make a new positive argument against the existence of God. It’s risky, I know, but risky is not my middle name. That’s not true. Risky’s not my middle name. My middle name is underwhelming, and I can’t do anything cool with that in conversation, so thanks a lot mom, thanks dad. Moving on, so for the four of you on YouTube who have not heard the Kalam cosmological argument, it goes like this: premise one, anything that begins to exist has a cause. Premise two, the universe began to exist. Conclusion, the universe has a cause, and by the way, that cause is God.

Now, it should go without saying that the easiest and most obvious way to refute this argument is to point out that even if you completely grant the conclusion of the argument as truth, that doesn’t lead you to God. Nothing about the universe having a cause means that there exists a personal, emotional, disembodied mind with moral concerns, infinite knowledge, and the superpower of causing events to occur just by thinking them. And of course, every theological attempt to bridge that gap, at least every attempt I’m aware of, has failed miserably. But I’m not going down that road. I’ll save that for another day, maybe. But for now, I’m going to try to tackle this from a different angle.

I suspect that one of the things that makes the Kalam argument so appealing to apologists is the fact that it’s sort of seen as an argument for the modern age. I mean, it bridges the gap between theology and science by calling upon what we know from Big Bang cosmology in order to support its key premise that the universe began to exist. But what does science have to say regarding Kalam’s other premise? I mean, it seems highly intuitive that anything which begins to exist has a cause, but thermodynamics tells us something a little different. What it tells us is that nothing actually begins to exist. The first law of thermodynamics says that energy, which is what everything is made out of, even matter, even atoms, can be neither created nor destroyed. It only changes form. So how can we possibly know that anything which begins to exist has a cause when we have no verifiable account of anything ever beginning to exist?

“Well, things begin to exist all the time, right? This is observable to anyone. People begin to exist, plants begin to exist, chemicals begin, once Scott even you began to exist.” “You may say, ‘Well, not really. You can break me down into smaller and smaller pieces, remember?’ And by no account that we have has any of the stuff of which I’m composed ever come into existence, at least not in the same way that creationists believe the stars and planets literally came into existence. Everything that makes up me existed before I ever did. Scott isn’t its own thing. Scott is just the configuration in which these seven billion billion billion atoms are assembled. Everything you see in the universe today is the same exact stuff you would have seen in the universe five billion years ago or ten billion years ago. Nothing’s been added, nothing’s been taken away.

The only thing different is the shape, the form that this stuff has taken. Now, in everyday language, when we say that something has come into existence, like a stapler or a person, we’re really just referring to the fact that the tiny little pieces of stuff making up that thing have assembled into a shape they’ve never ever taken before which we then perceive as that thing. So saying that a person or a chemical is an example of something that’s actually come into existence is no less absurd than saying, “Look, I’ve brought a fist into existence, and now I’ve removed the fist from existence.” A fist isn’t an entity. It’s a specific kind of relationship between my fingers and my palm. Likewise, a person or a building or a chemical is nothing more than a specific kind of relationship between very small stuff. And the only reason that this seems counterintuitive to us is because we can’t see things that small. When our human brains look at these trillions and trillions and trillions of tiny things interacting with one another, we think we’re looking at one big thing, but we’re not. What our brains perceive as that big thing isn’t a thing at all. It’s an occurrence. It’s just something that trillions and trillions and trillions of tiny things are doing with each other.

Imagine you have a bird’s-eye view of a team of cheerleaders practicing their formations on a football field. Or in one moment, they position themselves so as to form what looks like a triangle, and another moment they form a straight line. No one would be deluded into thinking that each of these formations they take is its entity, a thing with its existence. A formation is just a relationship between certain things, namely cheerleaders in this case. Now imagine that the football field is several trillion times its current size, the cheerleading team practicing on it has several trillion members, and the formations they take are several trillion times larger. Has anything qualitatively changed about the ontology of those formations? Is there a certain number of cheerleaders that would need to be in a formation for that formation to stop being a relationship between certain entities and start being an entity itself? No, of course not. That would be absurd. Anywhere you try to draw the line would be arbitrary. But this is all that’s going on in the instance of a person or a building or a chemical beginning to exist. What we perceive as people, buildings, and chemicals are really just what tiny things are doing with each other. And those tiny things we know from thermodynamics do not begin or cease to exist.

“Aha,” you might say, and you would say just like that, you’d go, “Aha!” But scientists have proven that the universe began to exist, hence the second premise. Well, we know that the Big Bang was responsible for the universe as we know it. So in that sense, the Big Bang is what created the universe we see. But as for what happened before the Big Bang, we aren’t capable of knowing that or if that’s even a coherent concept. The is not in on whether it’s accurate to say that the universe began to exist. And anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or lying to you. Of course, that doesn’t stop an apologist from cherry-picking quotes from experts that lend any support to the idea that the universe’s existence had a definite beginning, all the while ignoring experts in the field with anything different to say.

But the point is, even if it could be demonstrated right now that the universe is the one thing, the only thing that did literally begin to exist (and I say that in the sense that the stuff of which the universe is composed didn’t exist at one point and then existed in the next), it still wouldn’t do anything to support the Kalam argument. Because if we weren’t around to observe the universe begin to exist, and nothing else beside the universe’s ever began to exist, then we have zero empirical basis for knowing that if something begins to exist, it has a cause, and therefore we are not justified in making the claim that the universe couldn’t have come into existence without being caused by something else.

That’s just a groundless assertion, however intuitive it may seem to human brains on a surface level. And it’s not merely a lack of empirical data; even philosophically, even logically, if a thing ever did begin to exist, it’s impossible to demonstrate that it could have been caused to do so by something that already exists. Riddle me this: how does something that exists cause?

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