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The Kalam Cosmological Argument is not sound

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/3/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,403 times Debate No: 24046
Debate Rounds (4)
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A deductive argument is sound if and only if it is both valid, and all of its premises are actually true. I will be arguing that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is not sound.

First round for acceptance.


I accept this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting this debate.

P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
P2: The universe began to exist.
P3: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

What Does It Mean To "Begin To Exist"?

Well the first premise appeals to intuition. Everything we see at that begins has a cause, but first off what does it really mean to "begin to exist"? You could say that a "chair" began to exist and had a cause, but in reality all a "chair" is, is a re-arranged version and changed state of previous materials and nothing new was actually added to reality that wasn't there before in some form. So it's clear there is some confusion on what it exactly means to begin to exist, and there may be some glossing over involving the words "begins to exist" to mean both creatio ex-materia and creatio ex nihilo.

In the video I provided at the top right, William Lane Craig describes what it means to him for something to begin to exist:

“x begins to exist at t, if and only if, x exists at t, and there is no time prior to t at which x exists” – William Lane Craig

Unfortunately for him, according to this God began to exist:

“God begins to exist at t, if and only if, God exists at t, and there is no time prior to t at which God exists”

Any theist will gladly admit that God existed at the first moment of The Big Bang, so I doubt they will have a problem with God existing at t. However there was no time prior to this moment, thus there was no time prior to t in which God existed (if there was time prior to t in which God existed, then this would mean there was time prior to t, which is not the case when it comes to The Big Bang). So Craig’s own explanation for what it means to begin to exist, applies to God. Therefore, according to William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument and his explanation of “begins to exist”, God has a cause.

Also, philosophers such as Atheist Adolf Grunbaum and Theist Richard Swinburne have argued that something only begins to exist if there was a time earlier at which it didn't exist [1]. This wouldn't apply to the universe however, because the Plank Epoch (zero-10-43 seconds) [2] is the earliest period, so there could not have been a time earlier in which the universe didn't exist.


The Kalam Cosmological Argument seems to rest on the assumption that the A-Theory of time is true. This theory states that the past existed, now exists, and the future will exist. B-theory however, states that the past, present and future all exist (in a 4d or n+1d block), and the present is just the present image seen on progression through this block, and no more real than those before or after. Physical theories such as special relativity, and latterly Quantum mechanics provide the B-theory with compelling support, and this is the most accepted theory of time in physics and the philosophy of physics. However under this theory, something doesn't "begin to exist at t", so the Kalam Cosmological Argument seems to be under a shaky foundation in light of this.

Why is B-Theory superior to A-Theory? Well for example, what is happening on Mars if I clap my hands? That answer depends on your frame of reference to me, and this can be explained by special relativity and fits well with B-Theory. A-Theorists on the other hand would have to say there is one correct answer, which means that theory seems to have less explanatory power.

Quantum Fluctuations

Spontaneous productions of particle and anti-particle pairs occur in what otherwise be empty space, and this seems to violate the conservation of energy (however, this is allowed by the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle). Many physicists believe these quantum fluctuations are uncaused, and believe they have explanatory power when explaining the possible origins of our universe.

"Quantum events have a way of just happening, without any cause, as when a radioactive atom decays at a random time. Even the quantum vacuum is not an inert void, but is boiling with quantum fluctuations." - Taner Edis. Department of Physics Truman State University Kirksville [3]

"Uncaused, random quantum fluctuations in a flat, empty, featureless spacetime can produce local regions with positive or negative curvature" - Victor Stenger. American Particle Physicist [4]

One could say that we "just don't know the cause" but these fluctuations do not behave like something which had a cause they take place in a very counter-intuitive domain. Also, the very possibility that these fluctuations are uncaused disproves that whatever begins to exit must necessarily have a cause. And If anything begins to exist, I think these spontaneous particle/anti-particle creations count as such.

Alexander Vilenkin's Model Of Cosmic Origins

Well, we know that a vacuum fluctuation is an uncaused emergence of energy out of empty space that is governed by the uncertainty relation delta-E • delta-t >= h/(4*pi). However, Alexander's model of comic origins describes the universe emerging from a quantum tunneling event (without a cause) with a finite size (a = H-1) and with a zero rate of expansion or contraction (da/dt = 0). It's plausible that the universe emerged in a symmetric vacuum state without an initial cause, which then decayed with the inflationary era beginning; and after this era ended, the universe evolved according to the standard Big Bang model.

Since the universe emerged from "nothing" (but not absolutely nothing, it is a geometry described by mathematics) under this model without a cause, and it is consistent with observation then the Kalam Cosmological Argument simply does not stand because it's conclusion is based on the necessity of a cause of the universe.

Stephen Hawking's No Boundary Proposal

Stephen Hawking calculated that time can behave like another direction of space, and even though there is a finite past there may not be an actual boundary. This would mean that the universe didn't have an actual beginning (this is consistent with Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin’s Past-Finite Universe paper), and thus had no cause

The main criticism to this is Hawking's use of "imaginary numbers", however there is no reason to think they are not useful in explaining reality.

"[Imaginary numbers] turn out to be invaluable in many applications of mathematics to engineering, physics, and almost every other science. Moreover, these numbers obey all the rules which you already know for ‘real’ numbers” (John Conway and Richard Guy: The Book of Numbers, pg. 212).

Something From Nothing

Well one could talk about a mathematical geometry governed by the laws of physics with no space-time or energy being nothing, because laws are no-"thing". However absolute nothingness (what a rock dreams about) seems logically incoherent. If absolutely nothingness exists, then the fact that absolutely nothing exists, exists. If theists accept that abstract things like 'facts' are real, then absolute nothingness is impossible. If there is allowed a fact to exist, then why not the fact that there are laws of physics?


Premise 1 seems to be most likely false if we accept the common notion of what it means to begin to exist like I'm sure advocates of the Kalam Cosmological Argument do. These spontaneous, uncaused, and random quantum fluctuations that occur in empty space simply seem to falsify this premise. Also, if we assume B-Theory (which an overwhelming amount of physicists and philosophers of physics do) then nothing "begins to exist at t". Also, there are models of cosmic origins which work without a cause, and models which do not necessitate a beginning of the universe. As far as the concept of ex nihilo nihil fit is concerned, the very idea of absolute nothingness is incoherent so it may be irrelevant to the discussion.





The Kalam Cosmological Argument was layed out in my opponent's last argument. In order to win this debate, I have to show that the Kalam Cosmological Argument does indeed work and is sound. In this round, I will lay out my case in favor of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I will respond to criticisms in the third and fourth rounds.

The Universe Began to Exist

The core of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is about the existence of existence. It should be clear that the universe exists. After all, we, as humans, perceive reality, therefore we exist. That is fairly simple, and I don't believe my opponent would dispute that.

Futhermore, it is also clear that the universe began to exist. The standard and widely accepted theory is the Big Bang theory. According to this theory, the universe began to exist at time t (about 14 billion years ago). The universe existed at time t and did not exist at any point before time t [1].

So, according to the standard theory of the development of the universe, the universe did begin to exist. Again, I would be surprised if my opponent disputed this.

So, the premise that the universe began to exist has been proven. There doesn't seem to be much dispute that the universe began to exist.

Everything that Begins to Exist has a Cause

The next premise that I must prove is that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This is obviously true.
So, we have defined beginning to exist as something that exists at time t that did not exist at any point before time t. Let us take the example of a chair, that my opponent referenced in his last argumentNow, first, the question of whether or not a chair even exists must be adressed. After all, as my opponent pointed out, what is a chair but a rearrangement of previously existing matter?

He is right about this. A chair is just rearranged matter. In fact, if you really think about it, everything, including humans themselves, are simply rearranged matter. Does that mean that we don't exist?

We, as humans, decide what exists and what doesn't exist to ourselves. You could say that the whole idea of existence is totally subjective. But, that does not mean that existence doesn't exist. After all, clearly, we as humans can perceive a reality. The very fact that we can perceive this reality means that something exists.

Furthermore, to go back to the example of a chair, existence of a chair is defined as matter taking that particular shape. Before that chair existed, the matter that made up that chair existed, but the chair itself did not. Only when the matter came into the shape of that chair did the chair exist. So, yes, things do come into existence.

Now, all things that begin to exist in any way do have a cause. For a chair to exist, someone or something must have caused that chair. The action that leads to something existing does not necessarily have to be rational or in any way "thought out". In fact, most things that began to exist were caused by totally non human, non intelligent forces.

But, still, everything that has began to exist has had a cause. There is not a single thing that exists in any way, shape, or form that did not have a cause. Everything that exists according to everyone had some cause to create this existence.

So, everything that begins to exist does, indeed, have a cause.

Therefore, the Universe has a Cause

Given that we have shown both that the universe began to exist and that everything that began to exist has a cause, we can conclude that, indeed, the universe has a cause.


I have shown why the Kalam Cosmological Argument is valid. I eagerly await my opponent's response.

Debate Round No. 2


The Universe Began To Exist

My opponent sites The Big Bang theory in an attempt to show that the universe began to exist, however a universe with a finite past doesn't automatically equate to a universe with a beginning. For example, if we go with Richard Swinburne and Adolf Grunbaum's explanation for what it means to begin to exist, then something begins to exist if at a time earlier, it didn't exist. This wouldn't apply to the universe however, because there is no earlier to the universe in which is could have not existed.

Con also seems to have no problems with William Lane Craig's explanation of what it means to begin to exist, unfortunately this explanation also applies to God if you fill the variable with God. Of course, this is a huge problem for advocates of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Now, Stephen Hawking's no boundary proposal infers a finite past but with no beginning (like how a sphere has a finite surface area but no real starting point) which is consistent with The Big Bang theory [1] . Also nothing "begins to exist at t" if B-Theory is true (I already explained how this theory is superior to A-Theory) [2].

Thus, even if we accept The Big Bang theory there are good reasons to think the universe didn't have a true beginning. Not even Alexander Vilenkin (one of the main scientists behind the Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin’s Past-Finite Universe paper) believes his paper necessitates a beginning:

"[I]f someone asks me whether or not the theorem I proved with Borde and Guth implies that the universe had a beginning, I would say that the short answer is “yes”. If you are willing to get into subtleties, then the answer is “No, but…” So, there are ways to get around having a beginning, but then you are forced to have something nearly as special as a beginning." - Alexander Vilenkin

Everything That Begins To Exist Has A Cause

My opponent says this premise is obviously true, well if this is the case, then why am I debating him on this specific issue? I'm an intelligent rational human being and I think this premise is absolutely false, I'm not the only one either:

"Let's consider the first premise of the argument, that whatever has a beginning to its existence must have a cause. What reason is there to believe this causal principle is true? It's not self-evident; something is self-evident if and only if everyone who understands it automatically believes it. But many people, including leading theists such as Richard Swinburne, understand this principle very well but think it is false. Many philosophers, scientists, and indeed the majority of graduate and undergraduate students I've had in my classes think this principle is false. This principle is not self-evident, nor can this principle be deduced from any self-evident proposition." - Quentin Persifor Smith. American contemporary philosopher, scholar and professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.[3]

Also with my chair example, my opponent seems to be making a philosophical error when it comes to labels. Now the word "thing" must be defined physically because this argument is for a cause of the universe which has physical properties. However, someone may say that "I began to exist because I didn't exist 100 years ago", but "I" is not physical, "I" is just a concept describing the sum of the brain experience of itself. Also, a "chair" is just a label we give to certain re-arrangements of matter but as far as physical reality is concerned, nothing actually was added or began to exist in physical reality when the chair was made (basically, nothing really began to exist). It would even be difficult to pin point exatly at what time some beginnings occur. I mean, at what time does a chair "begin to exist"? When the first leg was positioned? Second leg? What the seat gets screwed in? When you can sit on it? When the arm rests go on? These words like "chair" only describe pre-existing things that have changed form of been re-arranged in a particular way. As far as physical reality is concerned, we don't have any examples of anything beginning to exist to reference to support the concept this argument is trying to put forward. Maybe quantum fluctuations could fit in the category of " beginning to exist" because they violate the conservation of energy for short periods of time, but these appear spontaneous and acting without external initial causes for these events. Once again, the Kalam Cosmological Argument clearly stands on shaky grounds.

Now, my opponent states:

But, still, everything that has began to exist has had a cause. There is not a single thing that exists in any way, shape, or form that did not have a cause. Everything that exists according to everyone had some cause to create this existence.

There are so many things wrong with this. If there is not a single thing that exists in any way, shape, or form that did not have a cause then this means that God must have had a cause (since this is an argument for the existence of God, the argument under the context presented by my opponent appeals to an infinite regress). Also this causal principle is not accepted by everyone as I have already proved in this debate by quoting physicists and philosophers who disagree with this principle. This causal principle does not have much of an effect when dealing with quantum fluctuations, which seem to be governed by acausal principles.

Therefore, The Universe Had A Cause

This conclusion is based on the assumption that the first two premises have been demonstrated sufficiently. Since I clearly showed this is not the case, this conclusion can be dismissed.


The Big Bang theory and other support for this theory indicate a finite past. However, common sense definitions of begin to exist (Swinburne and Grunbaum's) clearly don't apply to The Big Bang (and William Lane Craig's definition hurts his own case). Stephen Hawking's no boundary proposal is consistent with evidence and doesn't require a beginning of the universe as well. Also, B-Theory is more scientifically supported than A-Theory, and under B-Theory nothing "begins to exist at t". Thus, we have good reasons to not accept Premise 2.

Now as previously stated, the Kalam Cosmological Argument rests on the assumption of the A-Theory of time, when the B-Theory if time has more scientific support. Also, even if B-Theory wasn't true, the only examples we have of anything which could be considered something physically beginning to exist are quantum fluctuations, which seem to be governed by acausal principles. Thus, Premise 1 can be dismissed as false.





Winner2 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Well it seems my opponent has ran off... Too bad.


I must concede this debate.

I still believe that the Kalam Cosmological Argument IS sound.

And, I would like to debate this same opponent on this topic later.

The reason that I am conceding is that this debate, as it turns out, will require much more research than I have time to undertake before this debate expires.

I plan on purchasing William Lane Craig's book on this topic.

So, for this debate, vote Pro.

But, I would like to debate this again in the future, when I am more prepared.

My opponent has clearly done his research on this topic, and it would not be fair if I did not do the same.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by warpedfx 5 years ago
Not really. You only have the problem of you change the definition of the key phrase "beginning to exist" in the argument
Posted by PabloM 5 years ago
Con's definition of "begins to exist" is that existing material becomes arranged into the form of the thing. Seems to me then that, in order for Con's argument to make sense, he needs to show that the material making up the Universe existed before the Big Bang, but in a different form.
Or to put another way, a cause must occur before the effect (eg: something beginning to exist), therefore no such cause can exist for the Universe (since it encompasses Time itself).
Posted by Winner2 5 years ago
I assume that I should only lay out my initial argument in round 2 and then respond to you in later rounds.

Sorry, I am new to this site. Is that standard practice?
Posted by Stephen_Hawkins 5 years ago
Trolls debate.
Says you can hear "Kalam".
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