The Kalam Argument & A Logic Lesson

First a bit of a logic lesson. Formal logic is a bit structured and tedious, but quite beneficial to learn. We are told that:

1. S is an M.
2. All M’s are P.
3. Therefore, S is P.

This form is called a syllogism, and the example here meets the formal structure required by logic. The important thing to note here is that if 1 and 2 are true, then S is P is 100% absolutely certain, without any doubt or opinion. The problem is that S, M, and P are abstractions, and we cannot tell if there are such things in the real world.  So let’s move to the next example, and make it a bit more real:

1a. Abe Lincoln is a man.
2a. All men are mortals.
3a. Therefore, Abe Lincoln is mortal.

We now have something that we try to relate to the real world. Practical people like you and I are called common sense realists, and we can be absolutely certain that the logic here is solid, and Abe is a man, and he is mortal.

Philosophers, however, are generally not common sense realists. They would have a couple of objections. First, are we absolutely certain Abe is a man? It could be he was a woman and fooled everyone. It also could be that all the history books are mistaken. Second, 2a presents us with the problem of induction, which simply says that we cannot know that all men are mortals unless we somehow test every single man to see if they are all mortal, a task that is quite impossible. So the philosopher would say that while the logic is solid, we cannot be absolutely certain due to these objections.

We will call these ridiculous philosophical objections (RPO), for practical people like you and I do not put any weight to such nonsense as all the history books being wrong, or that somehow Abe was the one person ever found who was not mortal. At the very least such RPO are not reasonable, and if we were to use them, we would be guilty of not being reasonable. But since you and I are practical, reasonable people, we will not fall for such nonsense.

Now we move to the area we care more about, namely the kalam cosmological argument. The current champion of kalam is Dr. William Lane Craig, but there are others. It says:

1c. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
2c. The universe had a beginning.
3c. Therefore the universe had a cause.

Now you and I both know that any objections to 1c fall under the heading of RPO, for everything we’ve ever experienced that has a beginning was caused. We are too practical to base our eternal destiny on such nonsense as philosophical objections that we both know do not apply to reality. That leaves us with 2c. The evidence keeps pointing to the conclusion that 2c is true. Since we have limited time, I will merely point out that the experts in cosmology claim to accurately tell the age of the universe. If it has an age, then it had a beginning. The universe either had a beginning, or it is eternal, without beginning. The age of the universe, plus all of the other signs that support the idea of a beginning, make it harder and harder to deny 2c.

Practical, reasonable people will therefore conclude that the kalam argument is certain proof that the universe was caused. Since appealing to RPO moves us to the realm of unreasonable conclusions, we know better than to go there. For those philosophers in the crowd, or even scientists who think they have an objection, I would point you to Dr. Craig’s several dozen journal articles over the last couple of decades, where he deals with the strongest objections that could be levied by the proponents of RPO and scientific speculations. If we have doubts, we will do our homework properly, and will not fall guilty to basing our eternal destiny on what we find on YouTube.

Practical, reasonable people will then conclude that the kalam argument is a certain demonstration for the existence of a creator who is outside the universe.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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17 Responses to The Kalam Argument & A Logic Lesson

  1. dwwork says:

    Check you conclusion on the Lincoln syllogism.

  2. Grundy says:

    You are basing your assertion that everything that has a beginning has a cause on experience. I agree, we have no reference for an uncaused origin for anything. However, by the same experience, we have no reference for anything eternal. Everything we know is finite, so how is an eternal God any more likely than an uncaused origin?

    • humblesmith says:

      This is a valid question.

      We conclude that something must be eternal due to the cosmological argument, both the horizontal (kalam) cosmological argument and the vertical cosmological argument. The details of these arguments prove that there cannot be an infinite string of causes….the arguments lead to a first, uncaused cause, a first mover, one that is not caused and has no beginning. So an eternal being is the logical conclusion of the cosmological arguments….it is not based in experience. These arguments demonstrate that an eternal cause necessarily exists.

      We have no such logical proof for something that would come into being without a cause, or that an uncaused effect must necessarily exist. Further, an eternal cause would merely be one that does not change, an idea which does not violate any aspect of logic. An uncaused effect would go against the logic that all effects are caused. I would hold that 1c above is more than just universal experience, but a statement of logic that is very close to a first principle.

      • Grundy says:

        Take this argument:

        1. Everything in existence is finite.
        2. The universe exists.
        3. The universe is finite.

        This argument demonstrates that an uncaused effect or a infinite string of finite causes necessarily exists because the universe exists and an eternal creator can’t exist. Why, specifically, is your argument more valid than the above?

        • humblesmith says:

          Thanks for this….interesting comment.

          The logic of this sylogism concludes that the universe is finite. Your following statement is that it “demonstrates that an uncaused effect or infinite string of causes necessarily exists.” A couple of comments:

          –The distinction is that premise 1 is not demonstrated. You would have to show that it is true that everything in existence is indeed finite. One of the main points we are trying to demonstrate is whether or not all things are indeed finite, and this sylogism assumes it from the start.
          –If this sylogism is trying to be used to conclude that an eternal creator cannot exist, then the conclusion is assumed in premise 1, and is therefore circular. It would then be saying, ’1: Everything in existence is finite, therefore a non-finite does not exist.’ A tautology at best.

          –the conclusion 3 does not contain the conclusion that an uncaused effect can happen, nor that an infinite string of causes is possible, or that a creator cannot exist. 3 merely says that whatever is assumed in “universe” in 1 is finite.

          –this sylogism does not negate the fact that everything that has a beginning is caused. Even if we call it valid, it merely concludes that the universe is finite, not that a finite thing does not need a cause.

          –2 is most likely not making a statement. I assume you take “universe” to mean “all that exists.” If so, then 2 says something like ‘[all things that exist] are [things that exist].’ In the kalam, universe would be included in all things that had a beginning, but not all things that exist, which is the point of the kalam argument.

          Interesting, though. I appreciate the comments.

          • Grundy says:

            Exactly! Now apply that same reasoning to the Kalam.

            “Everything that has a beginning has a cause” is an assumption, exactly as “everything in existence is finite.” Both are generalizations taken from what we know about reality and applied to what we don’t know. How is “everything in existence is finite” any less demonstrated than “everything that has a beginning has a cause?” From there, your problems can be applied to both arguments.

          • humblesmith says:

            This is false for the simple reason that the kalam does not treat either of these as assumptions. The first is demonstrated routinely to be true and has no counter-examples to disprove it — the best that can be done is an argument from silence or unsupported speculation. The second is demonstrated to be false…all the demonstrations we have show that everything with a beginning has a cause and there is no counter-example, while we can also demonstrate that everything in existence is not finite. This is the point of the kalam, and much work has been done here.

            As the post states, we should not be making such claims without doing the research. Much of this is dealt with specifically here:
            http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-existence-of-god-and-the-beginning-of-the-universe

            More can be found in this list:
            http://www.reasonablefaith.org/scholarly-articles/the-existence-of-god

            You can also see William Craig’s book The Kalam Cosmological Argument, where he goes over all of this. Craig has dealt with every objection extensively in the journals.

          • Grundy says:

            “This is false for the simple reason that the kalam does not treat either of these as assumptions. The first is demonstrated routinely to be true and has no counter-examples to disprove it”

            Whether it treats it as an assumption or not, it still is an assumption in the same way as “everything in existence is finite”–which is also demonstrated routinely and has no counter-examples to disprove it.

            And this is just one problem with the Kalam.

  3. T-money says:

    How about the fallacy of composition… just because the parts exhibit particular characteristics, does not entail the whole exhibits the same characteristics. But the argument fails on an even more subtle level.

    You see, the problem begins to take form when we ask what is meant by “begins to exist”. In the first premise, we are lead to believe that objects begin to exist as a result of causes that preceded them. But what does this mean. In our experience, the matter involved has been a rearrangement into a different form. Babies for example, do not grow from nothing, but from nutrients provided by food, water and air, rearranged into a growing baby. So, we can agree that “begins to exist” in this case, means the rearrangement of matter into a different physical form.

    On the other hand, the notion expressed in the phase “the universe begins to exist”, we get another meaning of “begins to exist” all together. Instead of the rearrangement of matter into a different form, the argument implies the universe begins to exist, ex nihilo, from nothing at all. So the parts of argument now change and the conclusion is not valid.

    • humblesmith says:

      This post did not pretend to present kalam in full. The main point was merely that logical proofs, when valid, are indeed proofs. But since I did state kalam was a proof, I’ll go down this path for a while. We will not exhaust all of kalam here.

      The fallacy of composition is a fallacy of ambiguity, not a formal one. This means that it only applies in situations where it is indeed a fallacy, not in all cases as a formal fallacy would. For example, the fallacy of composition would say that just because every floor tile is square, it does not follow that the entire floor is square. However, it is true that if every floor tile has a geometric shape, is brown, and plastic, then the entire floor has a geometric shape, is brown, and plastic. I maintain that the fallacy of composition only applies to some accidental characteristics, and never to characteristics of essence. Existence is essential, and therefore the fallacy of composition does not apply to coming into existence.

      Your second point makes the correct distinction between accidental change and creation ex nihilo. However, this distinction does not invalidate 1c, for whether we speak of accidental change or creation (or, substantial change), they both are something that are caused. Neither one moves from potential to actual without a cause, so the first premise applies to both.

  4. T-money says:

    As a result, practical, reasonable people would conclude the Kalam argument needs more work…

  5. T-money says:

    “This post did not pretend to present kalam in full.” – To my recollection, no one said it did.

    “The main point was merely that logical proofs, when valid, are indeed proofs.” – Proofs are proofs…. insightful.

    “This means that it only applies in situations where it is indeed a fallacy, not in all cases as a formal fallacy would.” – so you are ready to demonstrate why individual instances of objects within the universe (parts) “begin to exist” extend to the entire universe (whole). Can’t wait for this one…

    “For example, the fallacy of composition would say that just because every floor tile is square, it does not follow that the entire floor is square.” – Now we’re making progress! Just replace “floor tile” with object, “square” with ‘begins to exist’, and “entire floor” with universe!!! So glad I’m getting through…

    “I maintain that the fallacy of composition only applies to some accidental characteristics, and never to characteristics of essence.” – OK, we just took 14 steps backward… And I was so hopeful. Not sure what you mean by this, unless you are attempting to distort some notion of ‘essence’ posited by Saul Kripke. Perhaps, as I have relayed to you in other posts, definitions would help clarify your statement, since its mean is completely lost. Please explain how “characteristics of essence” differ from “accidental characteristics”, and why it does not apply to the fallacy of composition.

    “Existence is essential.” – its essential alright! Without it, life would be difficult. Not sure what else you might mean by this…

    “…therefore the fallacy of composition does not apply to coming into existence.” – Not sure how that jump in logic occurred… or what is meant by it. Maybe somebody can illuminate me.

    “…whether we speak of accidental change or creation (or, substantial change), they both are something that are caused.” – I think I have sufficiently addressed that the two notions of “begins to exist” mean different things in the separate premises. The construct of the argument changes and no longer forms the classic Aristotelian syllogism.

    ” Neither one moves from potential to actual without a cause, so the first premise applies to both” – Whoa? Not sure what you mean by this, or how this applies to my contention that “begins to exist” changes meaning mid-way through the Kalam. Again, we seem to have difficulty communicating our definitions, i.e. your post on “absolute truth”.

    • humblesmith says:

      I’ll keep this going for a while, but not forever.

      Metaphysics divides change into two categories: substantial change and accidental change (or sometimes, per accidens). Substantial change is a change of substance or essence, a change that changes from one essence to another. Ex nihilo creation would be a substantial change. Accidental change is a change that is a peripheral change, one not essential to the thing. A red ball changing to a blue ball would be accidental change, since the essence of the object, a ball, did not change. Color is accidental, but ball-ness is subtantial. So a tree being created ex nihilo would be a substantial change, while a seedling growing into a giant oak is an accidental change.

      Further, anything that changes is a thing that moves from potential to actual. The seedling can potentially grow to a giant oak, and when it does, it moves from potential to actual. Something cannot move from potential to actual except by something that is already actual, which causes it to change.

      Still further, existence is a component of substance. If an object exists, its existence is essential to the object, not accidental to the object. So far, all this is not my opinion. This is just standard explanation of the concepts that you can find in the literature.

      My comments were that you made a correct distinction between types of changes. Babies growing are fundamentally different than things beginning to exist. However, you incorrectly concluded that because the nature of the change is different, then the we cannot conclude that the change needs a cause. It is false that because “begins to exist” is disctinct from babies growing (accidental change) then we do not need a cause for something changing. Both examples need a cause, since they both move from pontential to actual. This is what I said previously.

      As to the fallacy of composition, I pointed out that this is an informal fallacy that does not apply universally. I gave a few counter examples….if every floor tile has shape, the entire floor has shape. If every tile is plastic, the entire floor is plastic. On the other hand, it is false that because every part of a machine is light, the entire machine is light. It is true that if every part of a machine has weight, the entire machine has weight. So it does not follow that becuse certain accidents of an object fall under the fallacy of composition, that the fallacy of composition applies to the kalam argument. Existence is not accidental, but is substantial (essential, of the essence of the thing), and I made the case that the fallacy of composition does not apply to substantial characteristics. If every part of the universe is caused, the entire universe is caused. I said this previously also.

      I have not read Saul Kripke. The metaphysics originated with Aristotle, and has been used by many.

      “begins to exist” does not change meanings midway through the kalam. You are correct that there are two instances of types of change (substantial and accidental), but kalam does not change the terms midway. In the argument, even the accidental changes must begin to exist, move from potential to actual, and are therefore caused.

      This is getting repetitive, and somewhat afield from the post. If you want a defense of Kalam, Craig has done quite a bit of work that I will not repeat here. You might want to start here:
      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/scholarly-articles/the-existence-of-god

  6. T-money says:

    “I would point you to Dr. Craig’s several dozen journal articles over the last couple of decades, where he deals with the strongest objections that could be levied by the proponents of RPO and scientific speculations.”

    I thought this was a great appeal to authority… by the way, don’t mention that 95% of Craig’s publications were to philosophy of religion and theology journals – it might damage the credibility of his theoretical and scientific expertise in defending the argument from Kalam-ity. The other 5% seem to be mere historical presentations of known and rejected theories of the universe.

  7. T-money says:

    “I’ll keep this going for a while, but not forever.”

    I don’t blame you, soon you’ll be talking about spirits, unicorns and leprechauns.

    “My comments were that you made a correct distinction between types of changes.”

    Again, please read the post. I did not say this, YOU did. My contention is with the MEANING associated with the phrase “begins to exist”, not the types of causation YOU wish to impose. I guess this means I don’t need to address your imposition of causation because it is irrelevant to my contention. I wouldn’t want to “go on forever” either, it would be too exhausting trying to convince others my strawman is their actual position. Regardless, I will take your avoidance to mean your concession.

    “Babies growing are fundamentally different than things beginning to exist”

    So “begins to exist” does NOT mean that objects constructed of matter are rearranged to form different looking objects?…. Do these objects within the universe “begin to exist”, ex nihilo? Have you ever observed this ex nilhilo phenomenon within the universe?

    Regardless, your assertion might fly in the face of the most basic principles of physics, namely, matter and space are neither created nor destroyed. I wonder how your “absolute truth” concept would apply to such statements when compared to other statements I’m sure you would posit, like “God created matter and space”. Are both statements “how the world is”? Are they both “absolute truths”? You most certainly would not want to “entertain” that discussion, but I digress…

    “Existence is a component of substance.”

    Finally, we get to some definitions! But I see your definitions still need work. What is meant by ‘substance’, the object? Its dimensions? The matter it is composed of? Further, What do you mean by ‘component’? Property? Characteristic? To use your obvious affection for appealing to authority, many philosophers, to include Kant, would contest that existence is not a property… its in the literature.

    I do not expect you will respond to any of these rebuttals I have presented, I only hope to encourage you to start thinking for yourself, use clear and concise definitions and employ rational explanation if you expect to be taken seriously as a “Christian apologist and philosopher”.

    I would further critique your response, but I think you do not wish to address my concerns. From your own admission, you do not wish to entertain critical debate, but are only interested in asserting your claims, as if to preach from the pulpit. If you do not like critical examination of your claims, I recommend you do not post them in a medium such as the internet, or peer-reviewed journals.

    Predictably, you have pre-empted your response as every religionist does; to run for the hills! I find your self-proclaimed title of ‘philosopher” intellectually dishonest. Let’s just call you what you are, a curb-side preacher, professing “the end is near, the end is near!” But no attempt to espouse philosophical sophistry will not go without someone calling your bluff. So, assert your ‘claims’ as ‘absolute truth’, your flock of mindless monkeys requires their daily dose of verbal garble to feel good about. I will take my leave as your “flock” needs tending…

    • humblesmith says:

      I’ve attempted to explain concepts here for an area of philosophy that you do not appear to have studied. You repeatedly request definitions of terms that I have already given basic explanations for. So that it does not come across like I’m making this stuff up, I submit the following:

      (Runes’ Dictionary of Philosophy is good, and available online. Unfortunately the online interface is not be best, so you’ll have to scroll down to find the definitions)
      Substance: http://www.ditext.com/runes/s.html
      http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/s9.htm#sub

      Accidents: http://www.ditext.com/runes/a.html
      http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/a.htm#acc

      Existence: http://www.ditext.com/runes/e.html (note: not Husserl’s definition)
      http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/e9.htm#exist

      You can also see longer explanations in Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/

      Your post of 12/18 said, “In the first premise, we are lead to believe that objects begin to exist as a result of causes that preceded them. But what does this mean.” When I answered this with an explanation of causes of beginning to exist, you then replied “My contention is with the MEANING associated with the phrase “begins to exist”, not the types of causation YOU wish to impose.” You asked about causation, I answered it, then you said you were not asking about causation. I cannot respond to such incoherence. “Begins to exist” is what I was explaining. Your comments tend to follow this pattern, which is why I stopped responding.

      Have I ever observed ex nihilo creation? This implies that the kalam claims that ex nihilo happens more than once, which it does not. The answer is no, I’ve never observed it. This means nothing about whether it actually happens. Many things I never observed are true.

      The rest of your post is quite insulting, which seems to be a pattern. I tried to explain something to a person who was not familiar with the topic, and in return I am insulted. Too bad. If you were less contentious and more polite we might have both learned something.

      This has gone about as far as it can, and has started to violate the comments policy, so we’ll stop here.

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