The Kalam cosmological argument is formulated as follows:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
The argument uses scientific evidence to come to the conclusion that has theological significance. The real question is whether the two premises are more plausibly true than their denials. Whether or not the universe began to exist is precisely a question that science has tried to answer, and as far as our best scientific evidence goes, the universe began to exist.
Premise 1: “Everything that begins to exist has a cause.”
Premise 1 seems to be obviously true. Everyday experience and scientific evidence confirms our first premise, namely, that if something begins to exist it must have a cause. This is more convincing than its negation. The alternative would essentially be to believe that things could pop into being uncaused out of nothing. We clearly wouldn’t consider that to be rational; if a universe can pop into existence out of nothing then why can’t anything else? Again, premise 1 seems obviously true.
Premise 2: “The universe began to exist.”
Premise 2 is supported both by philosophical argument and scientific evidence. Philosophically, one can show that it is not possible to have an infinite regress of past events. It is impossible for an infinite number of things to exist which would suggest that an infinite number of past events cannot exist. The conclusion is that the series of past events must be finite and have had a finite beginning. Scientifically, the evidence is grounded by the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the expansion of the universe. Alexander Vilenkin explains that “any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal in the past, but must have an absolute beginning” (4).
By far the overwhelmingly accepted scientific model is the Big Bang which says that all physical space, time, matter, and energy came into existence at a finite point some billions of years ago. According to Stephen Hawking, “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang” (1).
Now, one shouldn’t deny that alternative theories have been proposed attempting to negate a finite beginning to the universe. However, the Big bang has been widely affirmed within the scientific enterprise unlike these alternative theories that have commanded, at best, minimal acceptance. As Guth and Vilenkin have shown, namely, that a universe such as ours that is expanding, or in the state of cosmic expansion, must have had a finite beginning. Vilenkin explains that scientists “can no longer hide behind a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (2). Moreover, our evidence from the Second Law of Thermodynamics persuasively shows that in the future the universe will end up being in a cold, dark state. However, if one accepts a universe that has existed eternally then it show now be in a cold, dark state. But is is not, thus it must have a finite beginning.
Premise 3: “Therefore the universe has a cause.”
The implications of premise 3 are quite significant. If we grant that the universe has a cause then whatever caused it must be spaceless (since it created space), timeless (it created time), transcendent (it exists beyond the universe it created), supernatural (it created the natural), and overwhelmingly powerful (it created the universe without any material cause). The first cause must also be metaphysically necessary since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. In other words, something has always had to have existed for everything to exist now.
Philosopher William Craig, arguably the most widely known defender of the argument, concludes “on the basis of an analysis of the argument’s conclusion, we may therefore infer that a personal Creator of the universe exists who is uncaused, without beginning, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful (3).
1. Hawking, S. 1996. The Nature of Space and Time. p. 20.
2. Vilenkin, A. 2006. Many Worlds in One. p.176.
3. Craig, W. The New Atheist and Five Arguments for God. Available.
4. Audrey Mithani and Alexander Vilenkin, “Did the universe have a beginning?” 20 Apr 2012.