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. You're right to be suspicious of P5. This premise is equivalent to the assertion that there are no points on a line.

    Moreover, the assertion that there are no infinities in reality demolishes the Kalam comprehensively, because the assertion that time began at the big bang is rooted in the existence of the singularity, an actual infinite existing in reality (two, in fact; infinite density and infinite curvature).

    I may do a critique of this if you're interested, because you've touched on some interesting points but they lack flesh and rigour.

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