“You erroneously paint the origin of the universe as an atheist problem. It’s not – it’s a Physics problem. And science continues to work that problem, but you know what? It’s a hard problem. Give them some time. There are countless phenomena that science didn’t understand – until they did. Your whole argument is essentially a “god of the gaps” one. And if history is any predictor of the future, the number and sizes of the gaps that theists can attribute to their god(s) will continue to shrink day-by-day.”
Pendergrast doesn’t deny that the beginning to the universe is a “problem,” in fact he calls it a “hard problem.” However, he contends that it isn’t a problem for atheism, rather it’s a problem for physics and thus a scientific problem. This, he argues, proves that arguing for God’s existence, as a metaphysically necessary being, from the Kalam cosmological argument (KCA) commits a god-of-the-gaps fallacy. Essentially he believes that I am plugging in a lack of of knowledge concerning the beginning to the universe by putting God in as an explanation. In other words, why put God as the explanation of the origin of the universe when a naturalistic explanation might at some future point become available? To this there are several replies I wish to make.
Firstly, the KCA cannot commit a god-of-the-gaps fallacy because it doesn’t actually mention God at all. Syllogistically it reads:
1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2 – The universe began to exist.
3 – Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Note premise 3 the conclusion, “Therefore, the universe has a cause.” That’s not plugging in God as an explanation and therefore the Kalam cosmological argument cannot be said to be a god-of-the-gaps argument. In other words, contemporary cosmology provides persuasive evidence in support for a conclusion that has theological significance. Thus, since the argument uses scientific evidence to prove, not the existence of God, but the beginning of the universe it cannot be accused of god-of-the-gaps reasoning. Moreover, what the argument persuasively implies is that there is a transcendent cause to the universe. At this point the cause is not inferred to be God. Instead, we first deduce several properties of this cause, namely that it is timeless, spaceless, beginningless, uncaused, changeless, immaterial, powerful, and personal. Now, there are two entities that could fit this description, either abstract objects or God. We can disqualify abstract objects simply because abstract objects cannot cause anything, and thus the existence of the universe can only be found in the existence of God.
Subsequently, the beginning of the universe is not comparable to a gap. Rather, it is a closure, a stopping point. There isn’t anything on the other side of a beginning so there can’t be a gap since a gap would imply there is something on the other side. Essentially, the logical deduction of the KCA is exactly that the cause of the universe must not be natural, since nature came into being via the Big Bang. That deduction is clearly problematic for atheists, hence why we’re correct to note that this is a problem for atheism.
Thirdly, the beginning of the universe is certainly not a “physics” or a scientific problem. It’s also not a scientific question. Science deals with phenomena that already exists within the universe, and thus the beginning of universe is a metaphysical question. The universe is the domain of physics and in order to look beyond the universe one must look beyond physics. And since there was no physics before the existence of the physical, including the universe, physics can have nothing to say about how physics began to exist.
Fourthly, and finally, we can turn this on Pendergrast. Essentially he accuses us of a god-of-the-gaps, which we’ve now seen is misplaced, but we could easily challenge him on proposing an equally fallacious naturalism-of-the-gaps. Just because in the past science has discovered natural causes for phenomena doesn’t necessarily mean that in the future science will discover natural causes. In fact, science is very much against Pendergrast’s atheism since it is he who is the one resisting scientific evidence for the universe’s beginning. Why, one might ask, does he refuse to follow the evidence where it leads? Well, that’s easy to answer because he doesn’t like the supernatural implications implied by the KCA. His atheistic naturalism prevents him from following the scientific evidence since, he almost certainly hopes, that it will be able to uncover an internal nature of the universe. Naturalism thus proves to be a hindrance to consistency and good science.