The Kalam Cosmological Argument: Objections/Replies in regards to the doctrine of ex nihilo/ex materia, efficient cause vs. material cause, and metaphysical “cherry picking”.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument as posed by Dr. William Lane Craig is one of the most (if not the most) used arguments used by theists these days to support the existence of God. This argument however has not come without its critics. Some of the main criticisms to this day focus on what Craig means when he talks about causes. There are generally four recognized causes:
1. Efficient Cause: A father is the efficient cause of a boy
2. Material Cause: Wood is the material cause of the table
3. Formal Cause: Roundness is the formal cause of the ball
4. Final Cause: The final cause of the roof is to protect
The first two causes are the ones that we are focused on right now.
1. Whatever begins to exists has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause
Craig leaves the first premise open to be either material and/or efficient cause. So he is not guilty of equivocating on the word cause.
In regards to God creating the universe ex nihilo, it is not self-evident or obvious that God can’t do such an act. I only know of one philosopher who thinks it’s logically impossible for God to create the universe ex nihilo.
But what about the fact that we don’t seem to experience creation out of nothing in our everyday life? Well, it is true that we do experience many things that are created ex materia, but as Dr. Craig has pointed out, we do in fact have some experiences of things being created out of nothing as opposed to material.
What could that be? Well Craig gives an analogy or examples like:
1. Creating new ideas in our mind
2. Imagining things in possible worlds
3. Abstraction and innate knowledge
I’m aware that this view might presuppose a certain kind of view of the mind. For the purpose of the scope of this work, I am not going to go into that. All that Craig is trying to show is that if we assume naturalism than of course efficient causes without material causes is absurd.
Now it’s obvious that it would be doubly absurd if the universe arose out of no material cause nor efficient cause. But I don’t grant that there necessarily has to always be a material cause. That’s not obvious a priori.
But now we get to the point when someone can argue that it’s more rational to conclude that God created the universe out of something rather than nothing. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it seems to assume that an omnipotent being can’t do something that seems entirely within his power. A priori, I don’t see any reason to favor one or the other. But from the evidence, the universe appears to have had a beginning of time, space, energy, and matter. This deals with the origins of the universe, which isn’t accessible from our experiences.
Couldn’t an eternal universe give an account? We could say that eternal substance is the efficient and material cause of the universe. The problem with this though, is that contemporary science is currently against such a philosophical stance. But if we also reflect on it, I don’t see how eternal energy just randomly exists eternally outside of space and time. Such a concept seems unintelligible. Also substances aren’t exactly “causes”. All they have potentiality rather than actuality. There needs to be an efficient cause of the eternal substance.
Is Bill Craig cherry picking or special pleading when he appeals to our intuitions for the claim “Everything that begins to exist has a cause,” yet ignores that our “intuitions” don’t affirm, “God can create out of nothing.” (I don’t think the God creating out of nothing is something our intuitions affirm as being absurd.)
One needs to realize that you can make exceptions or deviate the course if you have good reasons to do so. So special pleading is not “special pleading.” If your have reasons for deviating, then it’s not cherry picking.
“Everything that begins to exists has a cause”, is predicated on the idea that from nothing, nothing comes. There’s no denying this principle. It is so obvious that it’s not worth discussing. We are NOT talking about the Quantum Vacuum. The Vacuum is something. The vacuum is not the absence of anything. The absence of anything is what we mean when we say, “nothing” in philosophy.
But is creation out of nothing intuitively obvious? Craig never claims it is! Rather, there does not seem to be anything intuitively obvious with it being false either like the principle, “From nothing, something comes.” Nobody has ever really disputed that it’s metaphysically possible for God to create out of nothing. A fortiori, Craig would never claim that both principles are even on equal footing ground.
We have reasons to think that the universe wasn’t created ex materia because it had a beginning of space, time, matter, and energy. This is indicated by the current evidence in current cosmology.