William lane craig arguments


As an atheist, the Kalam Cosmological Argument produces more questions than it answers. Just a short list:

  1. Does everything that exists really need a cause?
  2. Why is a Creator deity the only proposed uncaused cause? Why couldn’t the uncaused cause or the eternal process be something like M-branes, or some impersonal and natural process?
  3. Excluding God from needing a cause looks a lot like special pleading.

On top of that, it isn’t very convincing because it starts with a conclusion and looks for premises that get to that conclusion. God just appears out of nowhere in the argument instead of flowing logically from the premises. The only way I see of getting to God as the cause of the universe is if you start with the belief that God caused the universe.

(Juan Romero) #9

The Messianic Maniac? Really? The good thing is that the video you show there was posted by my good friend Johanan Raatz. You should check out his other videos.

No, just things that have a finite past.

That’s a good one. We need to have a cause that does not require an external explanation for its existence.

No, it is not. Necessary things (logic, numbers, God, etc) do not require a cause because the explanation for their existence is the necessity of their own nature.

(Stephen Matheson) #10

There’s no clearer example of special pleading. These cosmological arguments are ridiculous.


Where is the proof of that?

Now you are asserting that God is a “necessary thing” without any logical reason to reach that conclusion.

(Luca) #12

I am too dumb to be sure :stuck_out_tongue:
But i think things that begin to exist need a cause?
I would say either the universe began, or it was always a thing.
Like in the small singularity at the very beginning of the big bang.
Excuse my poor english!

EDIT: or was what you meant: where is the proof for a beginning?


It isn’t about being smart or dumb, so no need to go in that direction. A good example of what I am getting at is found in a recent thread about Douglas Axe and the unreliability of human intuition:

When a premise relies on human intuition then it is a weak premise, at least in my estimation. In our everyday lives we see that things require a cause, but our experiences as humans are extremely limited. The discoveries made in the field of quantum mechanics over the last 50 years have shown us how fallible our intuitions can be.

The main point is that the very first premise may not be true. Maybe there are things that come into being that don’t have a cause.

(Luca) #14

Doesnt that make the premise at least plausible?
Ive heard/Seen people resort to multiple universes and stuff but i dont see how that helps?
I would not say its completely human intuition because if we look at things in the world.
We dont really see anything just pop up. So i would say it is at least reasonable to think that there is a cause to the start?

EDIT: i only just got that thread to open on my tablet so sorry if i missed a thing because of that.

(Peter Wolfe) #15

The patheos blog crossexamined features a number of posts taking on WLC positions and arguments. This is authored by a former christian now atheist. Some of the stuff I read is consistent with what others say below.

check it out: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/10/how-does-the-kalam-cosmological-argument-suck-let-me-count-the-ways/

(Luca) #16

Thats a pretty cool thing but awefully weird to think that the universe just… well for a lack of a better sentence "told/brought itself into existence."
I will look into it more tomorrow as its pretty late and im tired.
See you then :slight_smile:

EDIT: i couldnt help myself from reading it a little and for the 1st objection made the person in the blog directly reffered to vilenkin.

I did a quick search and this is WLC’s view on that.


Oh goodness, Bob Seidensticker’s blog? Without any offense directed at you, that blog has to be one of the most insufferable things I have clicked on from time to time. I’d hate to be Bob in a debate with Craig. There are logical responses to the Kalam that are worth discussing. The following is not included in that;

  1. Things don’t need a cause. Contrary to WLC’s intuition, things may indeed pop into existence without cause. That’s the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. For example, virtual particles and the electrons that come out of a decaying nucleus qualify as things that “began to exist,” and they didn’t have a cause.

This is just an embarrassing misunderstanding of quantum mechanics. I just wanted to mention I’ve just finished reading Brian Greene’s book The Elegant Universe (Greene is a professional physicist, professor at Columbia, and doesn’t believe in God) which is a fantastic explanation of general relativity, quantum mechanics, and all in all, superstring theory. Greene goes over things like this in an unrelated discussion, basically pointing out how these virtual particles ‘pop in and out of existence’ – they don’t. Here’s a basic overview: As physicists (and educated laymen) know, there is an energy everywhere. I think it’s a field or something. Anywho, energy and mass are basically interchangeable (remember Einstein’s equation e=mc^2?), one can convert into the other. So, sometimes, on the quantum level, energy in the universe quickly converts into mass (a particle), and then materializes back into the energy field in a fraction of a second. The particle doesn’t come in and out of existence. It’s just mass that materializes from energy, and then goes back to being energy. The total amount of mass/energy never changes, the stuff is already there, thus keeping us all toe to toe in with the law of the conservation of mass/energy. As Sean Carroll himself says, this is crap. By the way, Greene’s book, as it turns out, is actually available online. Highly recommended book on string theory. I’ll only discuss one more thing Bob says:

  1. We know nothing about supernatural creation. “Whatever begins to exist has a cause” has a common-sense appeal, but the only “whatevers” that we know that began to exist (stars, oak trees, a dent in a fender, tsunamis) are natural. Why imagine that this common sense rule of thumb would apply to supernatural causes? And why even imagine that the supernatural exists? WLC doesn’t bother even acknowledging the problem.

Someone has to ask what on Earth Bob is talking about. Bob would immediately tell you he believes the universe is natural. So why wouldn’t this law of causality, which applies to everything natural we see, not also apply to the beginning of the universe? There’s no reason to think otherwise. What about supernatural causes? Bob basically asks what reason there is to think the cause is supernatural (more specifically, God). Craig actually explains that rather in depth. Bob seems to have no such awareness of Craig’s explanation. As it turns out, everything I’ve responded to here has already been said by Craig over and over and over and over and … Craig already knows these responses to the Kalam like the back of his hand. It would be fruitless for me to endlessly repeat Craig’s arguments.

(Juan Romero) #18


(Matthew Pevarnik) #19

I think you’re wrong on this one in what he is actually saying. He’s not arguing that virtual particles and a decaying nucleus come from nothing, but the process is related to a random probabilistic occurrence. That is a very different type of causality than anything in the everyday world. Let’s say that Rubidium 87 decays to Strontium 87, what caused that to happen? There is no direct explanation of what ‘caused’ this, but rather it was simply each particle that hit the ‘barrier’ at the edge of the nucleus had a probability of tunneling through this energy barrier. In the same way with virtual particle production; it can be completely understood as Greene writes as due to random quantum fluctuations of the vacuum energy density of space. What caused a virtual particle production pair? Nothing, it was just an event that randomly occurs and is allowed by the fundamental laws of physics.

I think I see what you are getting at… do you mean that because the universe is a natural thing, it should have a cause? I think without granting him the quantum point your objection is understandable. But he does go into some ideas in other points related to perhaps our universe can be thought of tunneling through a barrier (when on the quantum scale) so in that sense did not have a cause in the same way that a neutron or alpha particle decay didn’t have a cause either.

What does it look like to have a supernatural cause for something? With what mechanism or method would this supernatural agent interact with the natural world? What kinds of supernatural explanations would be allowed? What kinds of supernatural explanations would not be allowed? How would we judge between supernatural explanations if various supernatural agents are invisible and untestable? If we don’t have any explanation for the beginning of the universe, then why immediately go right to a supernatural cause for something in the natural world when literally everything else has some natural explanations. The Kalam argument is a repackaged, recycled god of the gaps argument that is only effective because we do not yet have a good scientific explanation for what happened 13.8 billion years ago to our universe.

It also reminds me of this video:


I disagree. Bob says, flatly, that these particles pop into existence without a cause:

  1. Things don’t need a cause. Contrary to WLC’s intuition, things may indeed pop into existence without cause. That’s the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. For example, virtual particles and the electrons that come out of a decaying nucleus qualify as things that “began to exist,” and they didn’t have a cause.

Of course, this is a simple misunderstanding of quantum mechanics as detailed above. And therefore the objection is entirely moot. WLC’s premise is “everything that begins to exist has a cause”. Bob’s response is “Oh, but WLC, virtual particles come into existence without a cause, therefore this argument is wrong.” But since they don’t come into existence at all, then WLC’s premise remains as it is. I’m not sure about anything regarding physics and whether or not radioactive decay has a cause (surely it does), but to note, even random chance instills causation. Electrons move around the nucleus of an atom pretty quickly. If the electrons ‘gather around’ at one end of the nucleus by mere chance during their orbit for a fraction of a second, then that creates a partial negative charge at that end of the atom in that time. So, while it is something caused by complete random chance, it is not causeless – it is a product of the natural movement of the electron, not causeless.

do you mean that because the universe is a natural thing, it should have a cause?

Well, what I’m saying is that since the entire natural world began to exist, and all we know regarding natural phenomenon involves causation (besides perhaps some quantum processes which simply are not understood well at all, and therefore aren’t good sources for argument here), there is no reason to single the universe out. And I must bring a reminder that all quantum processes occur within spacetime. So how would any quantum processes explain the beginning of spacetime if quantum processes didn’t even exist before spacetime so as to cause it? At the most fundamental level, quantum process (like quantum funneling) don’t exist themselves if the universe doesn’t. And so I’ve always been confused by attempts at using quantum mechanics to explain the beignning of the universe. One could postulate a barrier between an eternal quantum world to the big bang, but that simply begs the question: why did the quantum world do nothing for eternity and then finally big bang?

What does it look like to have a supernatural cause for something? With what mechanism or method would this supernatural agent interact with the natural world?

The only thing required for something to be classified as ‘supernatural’ is if it can be traced to a source that isn’t natural. That’s all there is to is since, as you point out, we simply can’t really know much beyond that. It is supernatural, after all. And Craig offers that. By painting the kalam as a “recycled god of the gaps”, it looks to me as if you’ve entirely lost the point of the argument.

(Luca) #21

Hey guys, can you put what you are in an edit or something?

(John Dalton) #22

Hi @Totti ! I’m an agnostic atheist.

I’m not quoting you to counter you, but to highlight what I believe is a serious problem for the first premise.

WLC engages in a bit of subtle equivocation in his statement in the quote. We think of things beginning to exist in everyday reality, but as with quantum particles doing their thing, all that ever really happens is some kind of reordering of existing matter and energy. The set of things that we have ever experienced truly “beginning to exist” in the sense of appearing from nothing is an empty set. (Some might point to the Big Bang, but it isn’t at all clear that it represents a literal emergence of matter from nothing. Anyway, the argument isn’t predicated on this kind of empirical observation, but on the supposition that the universe somehow must have begun to exist.)

So, since we have no experience of anything “beginning to exist”, how can we definitively say anything about the concept? How do we know that the concept truly applies to our reality, and is even a necessary characteristic of it, making it somehow “contingent”? How can we say that there are other things that it doesn’t apply to? Certainly, saying that something else that didn’t need to begin to exist made it begin to exist doesn’t get us anywhere as far as I can see. For this reason, the question “Who created God” is a valid objection to this concept for me. I don’t see how Craig can go anywhere from this first premise. Anyway, it should be clear that the argument itself doesn’t get to any particular God, though I’m not familiar with his other arguments that support that point.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #23

Radiometric decay would be different in the sense that it there is nothing ‘natural’ about it tunneling through a barrier. We can understand the process of radiometric decay-I can for example walk a class through it who has at least had some first year Physics. They won’t really understand solving the Schrodinger equation which forms the foundations of quantum mechanics, but that is the last bit of the derivation. There is no such thing as cause and effect in the probabilistic processes in the same sense as the world we are familiar with. We can certainly understand the process, but it did not have any cause for why one atom just decayed and the other million did not.

Bob is also correct in that you actually can have models of the universe that do pop into existence out of nothing, i.e.:

It is far from reaching a consensus, but basically the timeline of Cosmology/The Return of Kalam has been something like this:

  • Early 1900s: Universe was infinitely ‘old,’ Kalam argument not used
  • Early 1930s: The redshift of light and equations of General Relativity provide evidence that our universe was once confined to an infinitesimal region
  • Early 1950s: The Pope makes a proclamation that this is scientific proof of God. Georges Lemaitre, the one who was the leader of Cosmology since the early 1930s, and also a Belgian Priest, says “no no, this scientific theory is neutral; it does not affirm or deny the Christian faith;” The Pope listens and stopped making such proclamations
  • Later 1900s: The Kalam is back in business! It begins to appear in an endless stream of apologetics arguments
  • Early 2000s: A nice gift for apologists is the so called BGV Theorem which states that “which says that a universe with an average expansion rate greater than zero must be geodesically incomplete in the past.” WLC writes a lot about this and has some nice emails from Vilenkin himself. Basically a summary of his reponse is: http://now.tufts.edu/articles/beginning-was-beginning
  • The BGV Theorem is now a standard part of Christian apologetics on this topic and is combined with the Kalam argument.

Today, nobody knows what happened at the beginning of the universe. It is now a scientific question. While many cosmologists are discussing, debating, performing experiments Christian apologists seem content to sit back in their chair, smoke a pipe and say “we know what happened.” To which any scientist gets wide eyes and say, “what what what?” Then lean forward, take the pipe out of their mouth and say “God.”

To which the scientist then asks, “well how did God do it? What mechanisms did he use? How does an immaterial being interact with the natural world? How can we test your idea?”

The Apologists then leans in and says “Kalam baby. You can’t beat it.”

The scientists then all spontaneously poof out of existence and it is hailed as more proof of God.


I would say that it is possible. The problem is that if you are trying to make a logical argument you can’t start with premises that may or may not be true. They need to be demonstrably true. The point of logical arguments is that you start with a foundation of what you know to be true (within reason) and then build towards a conclusion.

Actually, what you describe is exactly what I would call human intuition. This is where we extrapolate from our very limited experiences.

I would also like to point out that Christians believed in God well before WLC or others put this argument forward. I am not trying to attack a belief in God, only pointing out the deficiencies in a very specific argument which no one would claim is the single foundation of Christian belief.

(Luca) #25

I understand.
I know very little about logical arguments or anything like it so thats why i asked.
@pevaquark Hello sir, Are you an atheist/agnostic?

(Luca) #26

I am always looking up what WLC thinks about these objections etc and this is what he says about validity of a premise:

"What makes for a sound deductive argument? The answer is: true premisses and valid logic. An argument is sound if the premisses of the argument are true and the conclusion follows from the premisses by the logical rules of inference. If these two conditions are met, then the conclusion of the argument is guaranteed to be true.

However, to be a good argument, an argument must be more than just sound. If the premisses of an argument are true, but we have no evidence for the truth of those premisses, then the argument will not be a good one. It may (unbeknownst to us) be sound, but in the absence of any evidence for its premisses it won’t, or at least shouldn’t, convince anyone. The premisses have to have some sort of epistemic warrant for us in order for a sound argument to be a good one."

On another question it is revealed that WLC doesn’t keep it a secret that he uses or has “metaphysical intuition” that something cannot come into being from nothing”

i think this is what you are reffering to when you say it is not good to make a premise on intuition?

This was the objection the person made:
“But is that really it – he intuits it? Because human intuitions about the nature of reality have a less than impressive track record. This is why I’m guessing Dr. Craig fortifies his admission with a bit of intellectual intimidation by warning that anyone who disagrees with him has “quit doing serious metaphysics and resorted to magic” [quoting you there, Bill]. Of course this leaves us wondering why Craig would cite philosophers such as Quentin Smith, Graham Oppy, and Adolf Grünbaum as having lodged substantive critiques of kalam’s first premise when according to him these men have quit doing serious metaphysics and resorted to magic.”

This sounds alot like what you are saying right?

He gives a couple of reasons why he thinks the universe has a cause or why his intuition may be right.
“The first one is, that it is a kind of first principle of metaphysics that something cannot come from nothing; out of nothing nothing comes. Aristotle put it that being only arises from being, it doesn’t come from non-being. And I think that this is a metaphysical truth that we do intuit rationally when we think about it.”

Now he gives his reasons for his intuition:

Now I think that the questioner doesn’t understand, perhaps, what philosophers mean when they talk about intuition. It’s not like women’s intuition, some sort of mysterious feeling or something; rather this would be a way of knowing some sort of a truth that is so basic, it’s so primitive, that it is grasped as evidently true without needing to provide some deeper proof of it. Examples would include, for example, the truths of logic: p implies q; p; therefore q. Now how do you know that that logical truth is in fact true? There’s no way to prove it because any proof would have to appeal to logic. So the truths of logic are something that one simply knows by a rational intuition when you look at them; it’s just clear that they are true. Or modal truths, for example, that I could not have been an alligator. When you think about that I think it’s obvious that being a person is something that someone has essentially, so that I could not have been a non-person like an alligator or a chair; that would be a different being than me. How do I know that? Well, you can’t prove that but it just seems evident when you think about it, that I could not have been an alligator, for example. Or other sorts of intuitive truths. This table could not have been made of ice. When you think about it that seems intuitively true; it’s not that you can prove it but it just seems evident.

And I would say in the same way when you think about the metaphysical principle that something cannot come from nothing, that seems to me to just be evidently true. And I don’t think that this is idiosyncratic to me; on the contrary this is one of the oldest principles of metaphysics, Kevin, that has been recognized since the time of ancient Greek philosophy right up through the present day, so that I stand well within the mainstream of philosophical thought in saying this.[1] To quote from Plato himself in his Timaeus sections 27 and 28, he said,

We must in my opinion begin by distinguishing between that which

always is and never becomes from that which is always becoming but

never is. . . . everything that becomes or changes must do so owing to some cause; for nothing can come to be without a cause.
As for the world – call it that or ‘cosmos’ or any other name acceptable to

it – we must ask about it the question one is bound to ask to begin with

about anything: whether it has always existed and had no beginning, or

whether it has come into existence and started from some beginning.

The answer is that it has come into being . . . And what comes into being or changes must do so, we said, owing to some cause

This fundamental metaphysical principle has been recognized down through history. Even David Hume, the great Scottish skeptic, wrote to John Stuart in 1723 I believe it was, “I have never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something might come into being without a cause. I only maintained that our certainty of the falsehood of that principle stems neither from intuition nor experience but from some other cause.” So even Hume recognized the truth of the principle even though he disputed the typical basis upon which we know it. So I think that this is a fundamental metaphysical first principle that anyone who thinks about it ought to see is true.

Now that does not mean that this is known infallibly. I noticed that later in his question he equates intuition with an infallible certainty that whatever begins to exist has a cause. Well, I’m not claiming that, and the argument doesn’t depend on that. All it depends on is your seeing that this principle is more plausibly true than not, and that’s enough for the argument to go through. Ask yourself, if you were on a sort of serious game show where you can win five hundred million dollars and the question to you was “Can something come into existence uncaused out of nothing?” how would you answer? Well, I think you ought to answer, “No, it can’t; whatever begins to exist has a cause.”

Sorry for the huge amount of texts and sorry for not making those pretty quoting windows, i have no clue how!

But i think this does answer your objection a little @T_aquaticus


Precisely. What WLC attempts to do is claim that his first premise is on the same level as 2+2=4. In other words, he tries to claim that it is an axiom or metaphysical truth that can’t be questioned. For many of us, we find that claim to be less than satisfactory. The claim that something can’t come from nothing has the potential to be testable through scientific means. It is an open question, not a metaphysical truth or axiom. @pevaquark has a great example of quantum tunneling in atomic nuclei where radioactive decay can be said to be uncaused. There are many ideas within quantum mechanics whereby something can come from nothing.

To use other examples, it was once thought that the universe had to be eternal and unending. It was treated with the same metaphysical weight as WLC is giving his first premise. It also turned out to be untrue. What WLC is essentially betting on is that science will not figure out if something can come from nothing, and when you are betting on humans not discovering something then you are no longer using logic.