I hadn’t intended on making this into a series, but I received an email from an atheist concerning my previous post. So I am putting up his arguments to my arguments and then supplying my defense.
Here was my response:
Issue 1 – Kalam Cosmological Argument
1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Why do you assume that the universe had a cause?
“Our” universe came into being however many billions of years ago, but who is to say what was there before. The matter within this universe could have always existed, just not necessarily in its current form.
It is necessarily true that in any universe where matter decays it must also have a beginning. Thus, even if we say there was something prior to the universe, we’re still left with the problem of infinite regress – at some point, there has to be something beginning everything.
Regardless, mathematically the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem shows that all energy, matter, time, and space came into existence at the Big Bang – that is, it didn’t use anything else.
Philosophically, however, an infinite universe under a naturalistic understanding is simply impossible. Based on the following syllogism:
1) An actually infinite number of things cannot exist
2) A beginningless series of events in time entails an actually infinite number of things.
3) Therefore, a beginningless series of events in time cannot exist.
We all know that the Big Bang is a series of events, or at least begins a series of events and – under your argument – was preceded by a series of events. The problem with this is that it’s mathematically impossible. If I want to get from 1-10, but there is an infinite number of events preceding 1 and proceeding 10, then mathematically I’ll never reach 10. That is, if the universe is truly infinite then the present shouldn’t be happening, because the series of events prior to it is infinite. For instance, a man claims he has been counting down from infinity. He reaches 0 today, but we can never really say (a) when he began to count or (b) why he didn’t finish yesterday, last year, or 100 years ago. If a thing is infinite, then the events coming after the infinite events should never actualize.
The bigger problem is that scientifically this can’t work. Due to thermodynamics, an infinite universe should already be dead. According to the second law of thermodynamics, a closed system will always tend toward a state of equilibrium. Unless there is energy being constantly pumped into the closed system, the energy will eventually be evenly distributed. This is why if you are in a closed room with no ventilation, the temperature will be the same in every part of the room. If you begin to pump in air then the temperature will lose its state of equilibrium.
This, of course, forces us to ponder why there is no state of equilibrium in the universe if the universe is eternal. At some point all the energy should ether lead to equal heat or equal cold – regardless of which extreme it goes to, the temperature of the universe should be the same everywhere. Yet, it’s not; this is impossible in an infinite universe. In short, the universe should be “winding down” as it reaches its equilibrium, indicating that it had to be “wound up” at some point.
So yes, it is necessarily true that the universe has a finite beginning point in which time, matter, energy, etc came into existence.
Issue 2 – Do things that exist have an explanation and/or cause?
If we combine this with Leibnizian cosmology:
1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
If God exists then what is his explanation? If God can have special rules that allow him to be exempt from whatever rules you give the universe…why can’t the origins of the universe have those same exceptions?
That’s really an absurd argument. It ignores the premise given – everything that has a cause began to exist. Or, everything that began to exist has a cause.
It’s like asking, “what’s the name of that bachelor’s wife?” If the universe requires a beginning, then it requires an immaterial, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful mind to bring the physical world about. All of these would be part of the nature of the being that caused the universe, thus satisfying the requirement of premise (1). The universe, as it is, fits none of the above descriptors, thus requiring an explanation.
Issue 3 – How do we define God?
2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
Wouldn’t you actually need to define what you mean by God?
God is the maximally great being.
Issue 4 – Does the universe exist?
The universe exists.
…But does it….
That’s a bit childish. Everyone knows the universe exists. Even Hindus, who’s entire belief system is based on the physical world not existing, will not drink rat poison nor will he leap of tall buildings in an attempt to fly. We can believe all we want that the universe doesn’t exist, but we all know that if we perform action A will be end up with consequence B.
Issue 5 – Does the universe have an explanation for its existence?
4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.
If it does have an explanation of its existence (and it would be great to know) it could be entirely due to natural rules governing the universe, why do theists need to invoke a divine creator?
As shown by the examples I gave from mathematics and physics, it’s quite impossible. Due to naturalism requiring a physical reality, we would end up in an infinite regress and/or circular argumentation in order to substantiate that the Big Bang was caused by natural forces. Even if we can concede this point (which ignores that in the Big Bang, time and space came into existence), we must point back further and ask for the cause of the other physical cause.
So a naturalistic argument ends in an illogical infinite regress – mathematically (as shown previously) it is impossible.
Issue 6 – Does the cosmological argument prove the Christian God?
Even if we grant all of the above premises, and we come to the conclusion that “God” exists (and by God I mean Divine Creator), how do you move on from there to Yahweh? Why could this creator being not be Buddha? or Allah or Gaia or Odin?
It doesn’t, what of it? If anything, my belief in the Christian God still leaves me in a far more intellectually satisfying position than the atheist.
Regardless, the ontological argument is simply one argument in many for the Christian God. When coupled with multiple other arguments, you can justify a belief in the Christian God.
However, the question you ask is very irrelevant as the ontological argument doesn’t seek to prove the personality of this God, merely that He exists.
Surely that argument at best states that a deistic deity exists?
Again – this still leaves the atheist (you) in a horrible situation because your entire belief is based upon there not being a God. If you concede, “Yes, but I’m just a Deist” you’re still closer to the Christian faith than you are to atheism. Deism is actually a Christian heresy, not an atheistic one. So to accept Deism still puts you in the theist camp, which is a long shot away from Christianity.