Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Followup on the Kalam Cosmological Argument

I have had some interesting twitter feedback on my recent post on the Kalam Cosmological Argument and thought it would be worthwhile to share some of it, mostly because it illustrates some of the response that you might expect from an atheist when making this argument.

Before looking at the response it is worth pointing out my position in regard to this argument.  First, I do not believe that it is possible to prove the existence of God, and I do not use the Kalam argument for that purpose.  Second, I believe in God because of my own personal experience with him, not because of any argument.  And third, I use the Kalam argument only to demonstrate that it is rational to believe in a creator.

Alternatives

The primary objection to the Kalam argument seems to be that there are alternatives to a creator, including:
  • An oscillating universe
  • A multiverse
  • A self created universe
  • Generated by a super intelligent civilization

I have read about all of these alternatives and find them interesting.  But they are no easier to prove than a creator.  We cannot look outside of our universe, or back before it began.  Science is driven to find answers, and all of the suggestions above, with lots of variety, have been proposed as solutions to where the universe came from.  But for none of them is there any hard evidence; only paper models.  It is worth noting that I was given a link that was supposed to provide evidence for a multiverse, but it appears to be a controversial interpretation of data rather than concrete evidence.

I have no issue with science proposing models and trying to provide an explanation for how our universe came to be.  But I also believe it is important to realize that just because science can propose a model that has some explanatory power does not make that model correct.  If so, there are multiple causes for the beginning of our universe, since there are multiple models

And even should an oscillating universe, or a multiverse be true, it does not ultimately address the issue of what started it all initially.  Only a self-starting universe could eliminate the need for a creator, and the only one of these theories I have studied proposed that ultimately we were the creators, due to some exotic properties of the quantum world.

Belief In God Is Irrational

A second point of attack is that it is just irrational to believe in God/god/gods.  But just why is never explained, apart from "there is no evidence".  Which always leaves me wondering why belief in a multiverse, with no real evidence, is rational.

Rational means "based on or in accordance with reason or logic".  So is belief in God rational?

  • A creator seems more logical than no creator.  
  • Our universe does appear to be finely tuned for life.  
  • I have experienced something in my life that is foreign to some and common to others that I am convinced is the work of God.  
  • I have seen firsthand the transformation that occurs in the lives of some who commit their lives to God.
  • I have read of similar experiences for many other people.  
  • History supports a nearly universal belief in the supernatural across cultures.  
  • Miracles sure seem to happen, and they demand a supernatural.  


None of these alone might be good reasons for believing in God.  Nor are they evidence in the scientific sense of the word.  But they are evidence, and to me at least, the logical response to that is to believe in a god of some kind, and I have chosen the God of the Bible.  Belief in God is rational.  Disbelief in God, given the evidence I have at hand, is irrational.  But it is too easy to dismiss evidence that is inconvenient.  You see it in nearly all areas of life, and everyone is guilty of it at times.  So it is not surprising that those who find belief in God to be inconvenient will dispute any available evidence and claim that there is none.

Attacks On Objectivity

When all else fails you can expect to have your intelligence, objectivity or sanity challenged.  That has not happened much with this most recent experience, but has been pretty common in the past.  And it is not something that only one side in the debate is guilty of.

Too often the assumption seems to be that if I disagree with one of your cherished positions, then something is wrong with me.  The alternative is to admit that you (or I) might not have something right, perish the thought.  It is much easier to simply disregard anything that doesn't fit with ones own particular world view, rather than evaluating it to determine if it is truth and should be adopted.  And Christians are as guilty as atheists in doing that.

And so, when agreement does not quickly happen, we too easily revert to childishness and accuse our opponent of being ignorant or closed minded.  And while sometimes that is true, more often it is simply because of how tightly we hold to our positions, a position that appears foolish to the other side.

I believe in the God of the Bible.  It is ingrained so deeply that it is hard to consider any other alternative, although I do make the attempt on occasion, mostly because I value the truth.  While I understand atheism at some level, it is so contrary to everything I hold to be true that I find it difficult to fully appreciate their perspective.  And I have no doubt that it works the other way as well.  And I try to remember that when involved in a discussion with an atheist.

I do have a moderate level of intelligence.  I make every attempt to be objective and see all sides of an issue and make decisions accordingly.  And apart from belief in God, no one has ever given me any indication that they questioned my sanity.  I am devoted to God and embrace science, finding little real conflict between the two.  And I find it both humorous and sad when people on both sides of the debate are offended by where I stand, often in the same debate.

Kalam Revisited

Whatever begins to exist has a cause:  This seems to be pretty obvious but is sometimes countered with an example from Quantum Mechanics.  QM is a field of physics that deals with the very small; sub-atomic particles.  At this level particles have been observed appearing from nowhere, similar to what one might expect if they had suddenly come into existence without a cause.  Yet those particles could just as easily be involved in a Star Trek type teleport, which is know to happen in QM.  Using this as a disproof of this first premise is at best grasping at straws.

The universe began to exist:  Few challenge this premise any longer.  The scientific evidence for the universe having a beginning is pretty overwhelming.  One thing that is important to note here is how one defines 'universe'.  Some define it as everything that there is.  Others more narrowly as the space/time and mass/energy that came into existence at the big bang, leaving open the possibility of something bigger beyond that is unreachable with our powers of observation.  And I personally use this term in the second sense.

Therefore the universe has a cause:  This conclusion seems to be one that should be unquestioned, and yet it is.  Although in all fairness what is actually questioned is what that cause might be.  While the person challenging the conclusion may just appear to be rejecting the whole argument, when you question them you will find that they readily accept that the universe probably had a cause.  They just don't like to include the possibility of a creator as a cause; preferring instead to attribute the cause to a multiverse, an oscillating universe, self creation, or some other solution that doesn't include a personal creator.

They will argue that there is no evidence for a creator, which is true, while ignoring that there is no real evidence for their favorite cause either.  They might also argue that because of the lack of evidence that it is best not to draw any conclusion, while at the same time rejecting one of them that is contrary to their world view.  And they will argue that it is irrational to accept the possibility of a creator, but rational to accept that the universe might have created itself.  And, in this most recent exchange, that it is rational to accept that some advanced civilization might have created the universe, but irrational to accept that an advanced individual being might have created it.

All in all, I still believe that the Kalam argument is a valid one when used to demonstrate the rationality of acceptance of a creator.  But do not expect to be able to use it to prove the existence of the God of the Bible.  It just does not work for that.

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