The Kalam Cosmological Fallacies


I didn't think I would need to continue writing about atheism, but circumstances force me. Noblesse oblige, and all that shite.

In other words, I ran into somebody who thinks you can prove god logically... in the twenty-first century, using the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Well, let's rip that one apart, shall we?

I'll focus on the formal logic here. Others have more practical objections to Kalam.

The form of the argument is as follows.
Premise A: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise B: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion C: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

If premises A & B are true, conclusion C must be true. While it can be argued that premise A may not be true, let's just accept this argument. “The universe has a cause”

So far, so good, nobody got hurt in this exercise?

Now, Kalam makes magic happen... [see the update below]

Let's do a “non-sequitur” logical fallacy

“therefore cause of the universe is god”

Whoa! Wait one second! We were not discussing god there, did we? What happened?

Introducing:
Conclusion D: Therefore, the cause of the universe is god.

See, we were happily jogging along with the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and all of a sudden, a new conclusion was introduced, as if that was a logical result of the premises.

Let's rewrite that:
Premise A: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise B: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion D: The cause of the universe is god.

Formally speaking, the conclusion D doesn't logically follow from premises A and B.

Let's do a “Logical Tautology”

Maybe, we got this wrong, and the conclusion D is correct, so let's fix premise A.

Premise A: Whatever begins to exist is caused by god.
Premise B: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion D: The cause of the universe is god.

Now, we have eliminated that nasty non-sequitur logical fallacy. Maybe people have problems accepting the premise A (without proper indoctrination), but we have to consider another problem. As we're focusing on the formal logic side of Kalam, we see that it takes the following form: “If A therefore A”. This is a logical fallacy.

It's true, of course, but it's true for every value of A. If “god” therefore “god”. If “no god” therefore “no god”.

This fallacy is called a “logical tautology”, “begging the question” or plain and simple “circular reasoning”... Many names for the same error.


Let's do a “Special Pleading” logical fallacy.

But even if we accept the Kalam Cosmological Argument and we do suppose that god is indeed the cause of the universe, we have another problem. Let's apply Kalam to god.

Premise A: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise B: God began to exist.
Conclusion C: Therefore, God has a cause.

Wait, god did not begin to exist? That's a clever little construct to prevent regression and save god from scrutiny. Why would god not begin to exist? That's a special pleading logical fallacy. You declare god to be outside time and space, he doesn't begin to exist but still exists?

Can we agree on premise B, that god began to exist? Should we say:
Premise X: Whatever exists has a beginning.
Premise Y: God exists.
Conclusion Z: God has a beginning.

Now, we're introducing Premise Y and we're not going to agree on that one, are we... without evidence?


Let's do a “God of the gaps” logical fallacy.

The problem with the beginning of the universe is that it happened billions of years ago, and physics... breaks down before the beginning of time-space. In other words, physicists do not know what happened.
“We don't know therefore god” is placing a deity in the gaps.

Let's jump to conclusions.

Not a logical fallacy, but just a little finishing note. Even if god (a deity) does exist, or did exist, or did cause the universe to begin... what does that mean? Does that mean that he still exists, that he still causes the universe to exist?

There is no evidence in physics, to assume that there is a god (so why assume there was a god?) who acts on the physical world.

The problem is that, even if we say that god diddit, does that mean that *your* god diddit? Ra, Vishnu, Thor, Zeus... Yahweh? That's a huge leap, going from 'a deity' to 'your god of choice'.

[Update]
I've received some critique that I need to include the “magic” part of the argument as well. The author of the original piece tells me I'm committing a strawman logical fallacy, and who would want to continue committing logical fallacies?

The reason I didn't include the “magic” babble in my original piece is simple: I was analyzing the formal logic of the argument as presented. Premise A, Premise B, Conclusion C.

Formal logic is a tool for understanding one another better. The text should reinforce the premises and conclusion. Period. The babble part of the “logical” argument, as presented, doesn't reinforce the formal argument, but takes the conclusion one (or more) steps further.

At any rate, Alex (@SelfExamineLife) was so kind as to transform the informal “magic” babble into a formal logical form.

To take the argument seriously, you need to include all the premises, like so:

P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
P2: The universe began to exist.
C1: The universe had a cause.

C1: The universe had a cause.
P3: There are two known kinds of causes: material and mind.
P4: A material cause would entail an infinite regress (an actual infinity in time).
P5: Actual infinities in time can't exist because we never would have reached the present.
C2: The cause of the universe was a mind.

Laid out like this, the premises are easier to deal with and challenge. There is plenty of room for error here, but I don't see a non-sequitur being one of them.

I must accept Alex' verdict that this is not a non-sequitur logical fallacy... 

Short look at the new premises.
P3 seems suspect to me, as the (human) mind doesn't seem to affect the real world. 
P4 seems to be a "proof by assertion" logical fallacy. 
P5 seems to be a bit silly, but I'm not a philosopher.

My biggest gripe is with P3.

Comments

  1. For an actual proper representation of the kalam, go to my blog:
    http://hashtagapologetics.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/the-kalam-cosmological-argument/

    1. No one ever argues for (D), explicitly or implicitly. Therefore, your mischaracterization of the argument is nothing more than a straw-man, and the kalam is not a non-sequitur.
    At most, the theist will make inferences (from the universe & our understanding of causation) and apply certain attributes to the cause.
    The cause must be outside of time, outside of matter/energy, beyond nature, be uncaused and powerful. This does not say that God is certainly the cause, but the attributes are consistent with our current understanding of God.
    God is a potential explanation, but not a guaranteed explanation.

    2. I don't know of anyone who would affirm "Whatever begins to exist is caused by god."
    Things that begin to exist have a wide variety of causes, not all of them being God.
    My car began to exist. It was caused by a Dodge assembly line.
    This comment began to exist. It was caused by me.
    Beethoven's 5th symphony began to exist. It was caused by Beethoven.

    2.5. "A therefore A" is not a logical fallacy. Its a tautology, or possibly a strange manifestation of the law of identity, but its not a logical fallacy. But either way, no one is making an "A, therefore A" argument. Please represent the argument properly.

    3. Again, nobody is arguing for (D). Absolutely nobody.
    So there is no reason to fix premise (A).
    Also, you apparently don't know the philosophical considerations regarding the origin of the universe. It is not special pleading to say that the cause did not begin to exist, because according to the argument, the cause is uncaused because it has to be. There must be some uncaused first cause from every possible perspective because it is impossible to have an infinite regress of prior causes. This is a very well known philosophical principle of 'metaphysical necessity'. All perspectives must have something that is metaphysically necessary. So, to say that the cause of the universe is uncaused is to say that the cause of the universe is metaphysically necessary. It is not special pleading.

    4. "Premise X" is clearly false; not everything that exists has a beginning. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either because it was caused by something external to itself or by the necessity of its own nature (Principle of Sufficient Reason).
    Again, this is not exactly an unknown philosophical principle, but you seem to be completely ignoring it (or you might be unaware of it).

    5. There will never be a natural explanation for the origin of nature. This type of reasoning is absolutely nonsensical.
    If something began to exist, it could not have caused itself. In order to cause anything, X must exist. Therefore, to say that X caused itself to exist would be to say, "X existed before X existed", which is nonsense.

    6. This is not a "God of the gaps" argument. It is a positive reason to think that a cause (with certain attributes) is responsible for the universe. It is not saying "I don't know, therefore God". If you still don't understand why this isn't a 'god of the gaps' argument, feel free to check out my post on that: http://hashtagapologetics.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/god-of-the-gaps-really/

    7. Because the argument does not conclude with 'therefore God exists', your last questions are category errors.

    And lastly, I find this response interesting.
    You did not address the premises, you just misrepresented the argument and declared victory.
    I'd like to know whether or not you agree with either premise. Did the universe begin to exist? Does 'everything that begins to exist' have a cause? This is how logic works, Hans. Represent the argument accurately, and then analyze the premises.
    What, on your view, is metaphysically necessary?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kalam is a "logical proof of god", but god isn't mentioned in premises A or B, nor in conclusion C. Where do you proof god logically?

      Delete
    2. The Kalam is not a "logical proof of god".

      It is a logical argument designed to show that the universe has a cause. After establishing that, we can determine the attributes of the cause.

      The conclusion of the argument is *not* "... therefore, god exists". It never has been, and it never will be. One of the most important things to understand about an argument is that it has a very specific conclusion.
      To conclude anything else would be to be a non-sequitur. So, when you say "the kalam is a logical proof of god", that statement is a misrepresentation of what the kalam actually is.

      Delete
    3. Bollocks, Elijiah. Your own words: https://twitter.com/ElijiahT/status/362180683466149890

      Also "The argument postulates that something caused the Universe to begin to exist, and this first cause must be God." Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kal%C4%81m_cosmological_argument

      Delete
  2. There is no logical argument that can justify the assertion that "the first cause must be God".

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent point, but even it the first cause was a deity, we don't know which deity... Kalam was a Muslim, so he concluded Allah. Elijiah is a Christian, so he concludes Yahweh. So many deities to choose from :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Quantum events, such as the Big Bang, don't require a cause. And even if they did, why could that cause not have been something natural? Who gets to decide what to include in the presupposed set of things which don't begin to exist and why can they not be natural?

    ReplyDelete

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