Arguing from the Evidence: The Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological Argument

Can we know anything about God outside of the Bible or the historical record? That’s what we’re looking into with this mini-series. What does the information we know about the Universe tell us? Where does the evidence lead?

In this first of three classical arguments for the existence of God we want to suggest that there are good reasons to believe in the existence of God, and that these arguments begin to get some way to describing what that God is like.

In the beginning … 

Not so long ago it was popular to believe that the universe simply always existed. Carl Sagan famously stated that,

“The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”

But then along came a chap by the name of Georges Lemaître – working with ideas from one Albert Einstein – who said that actually, it looks like the scientific evidence points towards a starting point. We now commonly refer to this point in history as ‘The Big Bang’.

Science  – and our experience – points to the fact that the Universe began to exist, and this is where we jump into our argument for the existence of God with one version of the cosmological argument, ‘The Kalam Cosmological Argument’.

1st Point: Whatever begins to exist has a cause

Think of something, anything. Anything at all. Now think about how that ‘thing’ got there. In your mind or in reality, we instinctively know that things do not just pop into existence out of nothing.

My credit card bill is proof of this. It didn’t just get appear out of nowhere, it is very the result of a cause (rightly or wrongly, but that’s a different argument). Likewise, the means to pay my bill won’t just spontaneously appear out of thin air, no matter how hard I wish. Things that begin to exist have a cause.

2nd Point: The Universe has a beginning

Cue Einstein and friends with their scientific research. Science, as the exploration of what is, is of great help to us with this point. Established scientific theories today, such as the redshifts found by Hubble (the man, not the telescope), point towards a beginning for the universe. This is very much in agreement – not opposition – with faith.

(By the way, if you’re interested, we’ve looked at Science vs. Faith in two previous articles: ‘Hasn’t Science Disproved God?’ and ‘Religion vs. Science’)

Additionally, we can take this second point to be true outside of science by employing a bit of logic.

If the Universe has always existed and did not have a beginning then the history of the universe would be infinite. Sounds good, but as none of us possess the talents of Mr Buzz Lightyear, it’s impossible for us to traverse an actual infinite.

Let my try to explain. Mr Chris Evans, of current BBC Radio 2 radio fame, is known for his large collection of Ferraris, all painted that classic Ferrari colour, white. Imagine that one morning Chris wakes up and finds that his collection has expanded and now he possesses an infinite number of Ferraris (for some of us, believing in owning one Ferrari as akin to believing in owning an infinite number of those beautiful machines).

Chris is happy and as he muses over this increase in his collection he decides to break his own rules and paint every other car in his (infinitely long) garage, oh, I don’t know, red. Chris now has one red Ferrari sitting next to a white Ferrari and on and on …

Some time (in the not-too-distant future, perhaps), the BBC is faced with budget cuts, Chris has to take a pay-cut and decides to self off half of his beloved collection. The red cars must go. So Chris sells all of his red Ferraris and is left with just the white. But how many cars is Chris left with? He had an infinite amount of cars and removed half of them. What is half of infinity? It’s not a number, like 6, because that could be doubled to produce another number, which would not be infinity. Chris still has an infinite amount of white cars. So what happened with those red ones? What exactly did Chris lose?

The reality is, actual infinite series of anything just don’t exist. In this way, logically, the universe cannot have existed for ever and had an infinite series of past events leading to the present moment.

3rd Point: The Universe therefore has a cause

So we have shown the universe to have a beginning, and in point one we showed that all things that have a beginning have a cause. Great. Let’s think about the nature of this cause …

The cause of the existence of the Universe must have been very powerful (to create the Universe from nothing), outside of time (the cause created time as well), as well as existing infinitely. We’re not quite yet at Jesus of Nazareth but you can definitely see a strong shape of a higher power coming into focus.

What’s more, this first cause, as well as having amazing attributes, must also be in some way personal because it chose to create the universe. An eternal, extremely-powerful thing doesn’t have to do anything. Nothing can compel something that large to do anything, in much the same say that I can’t force Martin Johnson to smile – or do anything for that matter – unless he wants to do it himself (ps – thank you for 10 years ago, today).

Let there be light

As we’ve noted before, Blaise Pascal said that, ‘there is enough light for those who only desire to see …’ The Kalam Cosmological Argument doesn’t reveal a specific deity nor point to only one religion, but what it does do is turn on a light.

Over the next two weeks we’ll add a couple of further arguments to this one, building a cumulative case for the existence of God, outside of Scripture and the historical record. As these lights turn on, take a look, see what they reveal. Perhaps they will lend themselves as starting points on a journey. We hope that you will discover that there are good signs within this universe that point to the existence of the divine, outside of space and time, incredibly large, complex, and powerful, who we call, God.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument from Reasonable Faith

The Christian philosopher William Lane Craig has done much work on the Kalam Cosmological Argument. He has written about it in several places and his team at Reasonable Faith have put together this great little video on the argument:

  • MyGoatyBeard

    Is it reasonable to apply the same rule of cause and effect that we find within the known universe to the origin of the universe itself?

    http://www.closertotruth.com/video-profile/Why-is-There-Something-Rather-than-Nothing-Bede-Rundle-/368

  • “1st Point: Whatever begins to exist has a cause” – OK, is logical in classical physics.
    I can think of quantum physicists who would disagree, and would be comfortable with the concept of things spontaneously occuring (quantum physics does defy logic, but explains a lot of things).
    In QM, there is a process of quantum fluctuations, where a pair of virtual particles, one matter, one antimatter, spontanteously appear out of the vacuum for a limited period of time – the lower their mass/energy (same thing!) the longer the pair can exist for before annihilating each other.
    If a pair of these “virtual” particles appears very close to the event horizon of a black hole, then one can fall in during that brief period of time. As a result, the other one has not opposite particle to annihilate, and becomes a “real particle”.
    This is the process of Hawking radiation, and although it appears that the black hole has emitted a particle, the two events – black hole shrinking slightly and the particle being created – can be traced back to the pair of virtual particles appearing spontaneously.
    For a quantum physicist, there is something that has begun to exist (the particle) that does have a cause (the spontaneous creation of a pair of virtual particles) but that cause does not itself have a cause.

  • ChrisB

    In response to Graham Pointer, the quantum phenomenon he describes arises, I believe, from the Uncertainty Principle. This is a fundamental characteristic of the space time universe which was built in when the universe began. Can we, therefore, apply that principle to the situation, out of space and time, from which the universe arose?

  • A really good point, Graham. I think that William Lane Craig has dealt with this really well here – http://www.reasonablefaith.org/in-defense-of-the-kalam-cosmological-argument (P. Davies’s Critique – some way down the page).

    I’m not going to pretend that I know the ins and outs of Quantum Mechanics, but I’ve found the logic of Craig’s response to be reasonable.

  • I have read it (and indeed some of WLC’s other stuff on this), and it is the strawman argument that he comes out with.

    The issue is whether virtual particles begin to exist without a cause. WLC chooses to take this to mean being created out of nothing – which it doesn’t – and then argues that the quantum vacuum isn’t nothing and does things like try to ridicule the objection with “But I do not think that any sane person sincerely believes that things, say, a horse or an Eskimo village, can just pop into being out of nothing without a cause.” (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s4-6#ixzz2mdBil2em)

    Nobody is talking about horses or Eskimo villages popping into being out of nothing without a cause – or indeed popping into being out of nothing with a cause. What those objecting are talking about is virtual particles beginning to exist without a cause.

    In the link I referred to WLC states “And when you do, as in this case, you can say it is simply not the case that virtual particles are instances of things coming into being out of nothing. Notice that I might add that this premise doesn’t say that every event has a cause. This would be consistent with quantum indeterminacy, to say that events like, say, the decay of a radioactive isotope, isn’t precisely determined causally. It is consistent with saying events can be without a cause; but what it is claiming is that things cannot come into being without some kind of causal conditions.”

    Note that he talks about “instances of things coming into being out of nothing” – which is not the objection being made to the KCA. If I have read him right, then he admits that events can be uncaused and gives the decay of a radioactive isotope as an example. But what is the event of beta decay – a down quark spontaneously emitting a W- boson (thus becoming an up quark) which decays into an electron and an anti-neutrino? The W- boson simply begins to exist. It wasn’t there before. Its creation was a spontaneous event.