Saturday, June 28, 2008

Leibniz' Cosmological Argument

William Lane Craig sets Leibniz' cosmological argument as follows (Cosmological Argument, 274):

1. Something exists
2. There must be a sufficient reason or rational basis for why something exists rather than nothing.
3. This sufficient reason cannot be found in any single thing or in the whole aggregate of things or in the efficient causes for all things.
a. Things in the world are contingent, that is determined in their being by other things such that if matter and motion were changed, they would not exist.
b. The world is simply the conglomeration of such things and is thus itself contingent
c. The efficient causes of all things are simply prior states of the world, and these successive states do not explain why there are any states, any world, at all.
4. Therefore, there must exist outside the world and the states of the world a sufficient reason for the existence of the world.
5. This sufficient reason will be a metaphysically necessary being, that is, a being whose sufficient reason for existence is self-contained.

Premise one is undeniable; for in order to deny the existence of something, one must first exist. Thus, such a denial would be self-defeating. Likewise, in order to affirm the existence of something one must exist. Leibniz is making an affirmation here. Thus something certainly exists.

Premise two is a bit ambiguous. What does Leibniz mean by rational basis? It seems to me that this premise can be taken in two ways. Either it means that there is a knowable explanation for why the "something" from premise one exists or it means that there is a purpose for its existence. I think that taking "rational basis" in the second way will explicitly beg the question for the existence of God. However, there is a sense in which taking the premise in the first way implicitly begs the question—since it assumes an order to the universe. And order is not a given in a materialistic world. Nonetheless, to be charitable, I will grant that the order of the universe is a brute fact and allow the second premise on the first understanding, that "rational basis" applies to our ability to know the efficient (material) cause of something, rather than the purpose.

But then we find that Leibniz, in premise three, tells us that the reason cannot be found in the order of efficient causes. Thus his "rational basis" is premise two must be an appeal to a purpose. But this seems to beg the question. You cannot have a purpose without having an intelligent agent. Thus the very assumption that a purpose is a necessary condition for existence implies a necessary intelligent agent, or God.

Thus the rest of the argument put forth by Leibniz is mute. The whole "proof," since it relies on this assumption, fails.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Kalam Argument for God's Existence

The Kalam Cosmolog-ical Argument is one of the most basic and effective proofs for the existence of God. It is also one of the most highly challenged proofs. It can be stated as follows:

Premise 1: Everything that began to exist had a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe had a cause.

This argument carries a logical form that guarantees the conclusion is true if the premises are true (modus ponens). Therefore, a successful defense of this argument need only prove the two premises to guarantee its soundness. My goal here will be to briefly mention some criticisms of each premise, then to defend each premise, and finally to draw some implications of this proof.

Premise 1: Everything that began to exist had a cause.

For the most part, this premise is a generally accepted one. However, some have challenged whether or not we can know this to be true. To defend it against such doubt, I would like to point out that—for things that began to exist—there are only three possible explanations:

1- It was uncaused
2- It was caused to exist by itself
3- It was caused to exist by another

Now to say that a thing that began to exist was uncaused seems to go against all reason. Indeed this explanation is one that must rely on pure faith and that goes against everything in our experience. Some may argue that research in Quantum Mechanics supports the idea that things can be uncaused, but this hypothesis is highly questionable and there has not been given a demonstrable proof of it to this point.

The second option is absurd, seeing as the thing would have to exist before it existed in order to cause itself. I have never heard of this option defended.

Thus, the third option is by far the most plausible. In all of our experience, we can say that of all things that have begun to exist that they have had a cause.

One final note that should be made here regards an objection that has been around since Kant. It is the claim that, if everything needs a cause, then so does God—thus the first premise is half of an antinomy. But this argument is based on a clear misreading of the claim. The first premise states that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Not that everything needs a cause. Thus the objection is misplaced.

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

This premise can be defended in two different ways. One by a priori reasoning (reasoning that comes in a way that is separate from experience) and one by a posteriori reasoning (reasoning that comes by way of experience). The a priori defense of this premise argues from the impossibility of an infinite number of moments. The main claim is that one cannot traverse an actual infinite. Consider this: if today is here, could it be possible that an infinite number of days were prior to today? If so, then how did we reach today? Wouldn't there always be at least one more day prior to this day? Some will argue that an infinite can be shown to exist in the fact that all measurements are infinitely divisible. Take for instance a line 3 inches long. Mathematically, there are an infinite number of points on this line—thus within an apparent finite measurement there are an infinite number of length-moments. Therefore there is no reason to believe that within an apparent finite amount of time there are an infinite number of time-moments.

So can this problem be solved? Yes. In response to the skeptic here, it needs to be pointed out that the example fails. It is treating the mathematical points as if they were units of measurement, when in fact they have no actual dimension in the space-time world. It is because they are dimensionless beings of reason that one can say that they total an infinite number of possibilities. If points were real beings of which can be equated with length, then the total number of them that would fit into a 3 inch line would be finite. The same thing can be said with regards to time. A moment cannot be considered as a timeless measurement, because each moment, as they are considered in this argument, actually spans time. In conclusion, the mental-existence of potential infinites is not sufficient to prove that it is possible for an actual infinite to exist, let alone to be traversed. Therefore, this premise is demonstrable on an a priori basis.

Now, for those who are earthier and lovers of the evidence from the senses—like me—there is the a posteriori evidence for this argument. Simply put- Big Bang cosmology and the Laws of Thermodynamics support that the universe had a beginning. A full defense and explanation of this right here is not possible, so if anyone desires the particulars of this evidence, please ask. Otherwise, I will move right into the objections. Some say that the First Law of Thermodynamics proves that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; thus implying that the universe is eternal. But this is a misreading of the Law, which states that in a closed system the amount of energy is a constant unchangeable value. Some will say that the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that the amount of useable energy in a closed system is always decreasing, does not apply since the universe may be an open system. But this is ad hoc, since there is no reason to accept the hypothesis except to reject the implication that the universe was created. Likewise, appeals to other theories such as the ever expanding-contracting universe are also ad hoc. In the end, the most reasonable interpretation of the scientific evidence points to a beginning of the universe.


Hence, since the premises both appear to be true, the conclusion must also be true. The most rational belief is that the universe must have had a cause. It is often at this point that many theists stop and many atheists will admit a cause but reject that the cause is God. But I would like to show that the cause demonstrated can ultimately be shown to be a theistic God, fully compatible with the picture of God described by Christianity.


There are many conclusions that can be drawn from this argument. First, because the cause is the cause of time, it must be eternal. Second, if Einstein's Theory of General Relativity is correct—as is generally accepted by most scientists—then the cause must also be non-spatial and non-material as well since time, space and matter are correlative. In other words, the cause is unlimited omnipresent spirit. Third, since time is the measurement of befores and afters and since the cause is non-temporal then there can be no befores and afters for the cause. Thus the cause must be unchanging. And since the cause is unchanging, then all that it is is all that it could ever be. Thus the cause must be Pure Actuality, with no potentiality. Fourth, given the existence of this cause, it is apparent that it is a necessarily existing thing. This is not to say that it is logically necessary, as the Ontological Argument wrongly tries to prove, but that it is actually necessary. We can know this because it exists and could not not-exist since it could not change. Fifth, the cause must be super-powerful since it created space, time, and matter out of no space, no-time, and no matter—or nothing. Finally, since the being is unlimited, then it must be one—for if there were two unlimited spirits, they would have to differ by something. But to differ, one must be lacking in something had by the other. But a lack implies a limit, thus one would not be the cause, but an effect of some sorts.

In summary, the Kalam argument can be used to demonstrate that a single super-powerful eternal, unlimited, omnipresent, unchanging, actually necessary spirit being exists. And, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, this being we call God.