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TLblog- The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Part 2- Philosophical Observations) by Rand Wagner
In my last post I began to argue for the Cause of the universe using the Kalam Cosmological Argument. The argument is basically this: that whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist, the universe has a cause.
In making the case for the beginning of the universe we start with the self evident principle that “something cannot come from nothing.” Nothing is nothing; nothing can do nothing; therefore nothing can cause nothing.
In the last post I argued very briefly that current scientifc theory accepted by both naturalist and theist alike points to a beginning of the universe. Dr. Robert Jastro a self proclaimed agnostic who founded NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and earned his PhD in Theoretical Physics from Columbia University writes: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mouintains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” He also adds, “that there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.” Furthermore, current scientific data has also caused one of the world’s leading atheists for the past few decades, Antony Flew, to convert to theism.
In this post I will make a case for the beginning of the universe using two philosophical arguments.
The first argument is from the impossibility of an actually infinite number of things existing in reality. Much of this argument is built on the work of mathematician David Hilbert who has been recognized as the greatest methematician of this century. He argued that, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought…The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.” The point Hilbert is making is that the concept of an actual infinite amount of real things instantiating in the real world is nonsense. The idea that one could have an infinite amount of apples and take away all the odd number of apples and still have an infinite amount of apples does not make sense. Even if one could possibly conceive of an actual infinite in the mind, to have an actually infinite collection of things make sense in reality, is impossible.
The second argument is the impossibility of forming an actually infinite collection of things by successive addition. The argument denies that an actually infinite number of things can be formed by adding one member after another. This argument is sometimes called the impossibility of traversing infinity. Philsopher William Lane Craig writes that “a beginningless temporal series of events ending in the present seems absurd.” This means that unless the universe had a beginning moment, the present moment could not have arrived. If the universe was infinitely old then reaching the present moment would be impossible. It would be like trying to jump out of a bottomless pit. Not only could you not do it, but you could not even get started. The present moment could not arrive unless there was a first moment. Consider this illustration: Suppose that before you, the reader, reached this word in the post you had to read the word before it, and that before you read the next word you had to read the word before it, and so on, going all the way back to the first word in the post. Since the post has a first word, only a finite number of words need to be read to get to the present word. Suppose you added an 100 more words to the front of this post. It would simply take you a little longer to get to the present word. Now suppose that you added an infinite amount of words to the front of the post. When will you get to this word if you must first read an infinite amount of words to get here? Answer: Never. So if you find yourself reading this word after reading all the words before it, then you know that you’ve only read a finite amount of words.
The point is that from both scientific and philosphical observation it is reasonable to conclude that the universe had a beginning.
Emmanual Kant agrees, “Now the infinity of a series consists in the fact it can never be completed through successive synthesis. It thus follows that it is impossible for an infinite world series to have passed away, and that a beginning of the world is therefore a necessary condition of the world’s existence.”
Lord willing- next post I will discuss the cause of the beginning of the universe.