Debating the Kalam argument in a YouTube thread

A new reader to the blog read my article on the Kalam cosmological argument, and he decided to try it out on youtube here. He presented the argument PERFECTLY, and then he got some responses. He asked me to comment, so I will below. But I want you guys to comment, too! (UPDATE: Comment in this post – I don’t recommend commenting in YouTube discussions)

Anyway, here’s the page. (I didn’t watch the video)

And here’s his initial presentation of the argument:

1 Whatever begins to exist requires a cause
2 The universe began to exist
3 Therefore, the universe requires a cause

The cause for the universe (time, space, matter, etc) must be something entirely different (outside the realm of time, space, and matter) since a thing cannot be the cause of itself.

Now I’ll reply to his opponents, but you can reply too in the comments, because he’s reading this post, and we should all try to offer him our thoughts. At the end, I recommend some additional resources, all free online, to help everyone understand the details of this fine argument.

Responses to the Kalam argument

Here’s the first reply:

Just because we don’t know the cause yet doesn’t mean it’s not something scientific. I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying it’s possible.

By “scientific”, I am thinking that this challenger is hoping for a material cause, but the problem is that the origin of the universe is the origin of all space and matter – so no “scientific” cause is possible. So it is not possible that the origin of the universe was caused by something “scientific”, because it’s an absolute origin of all matter, and the physical laws that govern matter, as well. Tell him that there is only one kind of non-material entity capable of causing effects and that is a mind.

Here’s another reply:

What if the universe always existed? We don’t know that it has started to exist, we just know that it exists and that it has existed for very long. So it is possible that it has always existed. So that doesn’t prove anything.

I would ask this person why they hate science so much to deny the good data about the measurements of red-shift in light from distant galaxies, the helium-hydrogen abundance measurements, the cosmic microwave background radiation, the second law of thermodynamics, the star formation cycle, etc. As them what is wrong with science, and why must they push their religion (naturalism) on science?

Here’s another reply:

The same principle can apply to god as well, so this argument doesn’t prove or disprove either it is just pointless.

My response is that the cause of the universe causes the beginning of time as well, and so therefore the cause exists necessarily, outside of time. Things that exist outside of time are eternal, they don’t not exist at time t1 and then begin to exist at time t2. The cause of time’s beginning cannot come into being itself, because there is no t1 and t2 before time is created.

Here’s another reply:

uhm .. no, there is no definition of god like that and even if it is it’s invalid, why ? well mostly because apart from a book “The Bible” there is no real proof he existed, no one has seen him and I’ll wager that no one ever will, henceforth you cannot define something that you really know nothing about, something that might not even exist, it’s like saying that bigfoot is a mammal. you can’t prove that either since you haven’t seen it and don’t even know if it exists

Notice that onlinesid produced an argument for the existence of God, and now this guy is bringing in the Bible (red herring), no proof (red herring), why can’t I see God (red herring), no one knows anything about God (red herring and self-refuting), and bigfoot (red herring). This person is clearly brain-damaged and not one of the things he write is worth a response. Note: I am being mean, but you can’t be mean when you reply to him, you have to tell them to stay focused on your argument and deny premise 1 or premise 2.

And here’s another:

You assume that the universe began to exist.

We currently don’t know if it did or not; the present hypothesis is expansion from a single point that is infinitely small.

You also assume that the cause of the universe doesn’t have a cause. You need to account for the cause of the cause, and the cause of that cause, ad infinitum.

And on “God being outside of” reality, then he shouldn’t be able to affect reality in any observable way. God is untestable.

Again, tell him he is a science-hating flat-earther and ask which of the empirical evidences for the Big Bang he denies. We need to get off of his speculations and evasions and ask him to deny a premise or to deny some scientific data. As soon as he does, ask him for peer-reviewed data that refutes the scientific observations. The cause of the universe doesn’t have a cause because it is outside of time and doesn’t begin to exist. The premise is that only things that begin to exist require a cause. Regarding God not being able to cause effects, you should say that God is a mind and causes effects in time subsequent to creation the same way that humans cause effects using their wills on their bodies.

Here’s another:

It’s called the “Big Bang” hypothesis. Even simple Wikipedia will besufficient for an understanding of it. Or videos on Youtube, if you are that lazy and/or ignorant.

The “evidence” for it is background electromagnetic radiation and the appearance that the universe is expanding. Among other things

The “mind” we perceive is the function of electrochemical impulses between our brain cells. We classify it as a “mind”. And as a physical system of reality, it is affected by physical reality..

Again ask him what is his scientific evidence that the universe is eternal, and ask him what is wrong with your scientific evidence showing that it isn’t eternal. You must make him make a claim and supply evidence for his claim. You need to buy a book called “God and the Astronomers” by agnostic Robert Jastrow and read it. It explains all the discoveries that led to the Big Bang, but get the second edition. Also, if he thinks that mind is biologically determined, then you need to explain that biological determinism makes rationality impossible, since all of our outputs are determined by inputs and DNA programming that has the goal of reproducing, not finding truth.

More challenges:

…The beginning of the universe need not be “God”. Could have been made by a pencil. Or could have always been, like a trigonomic function, repeating and diverging into two dimensions.

I think our boy is beginning to wear him down. He now thinks a pencil caused the entire physical universe to appear out of nothing. But the problem is that a pencil is made of matter and cannot have caused the beginning of all matter. But do go on and make him identify what he thinks the cause is. It can’t be in time, it can’t be matter.

More:

And the theist-point-of-view actually can in no way prove God because there are many OTHER ways it could have happened. A pencil could have been the original cause of the big-bang, or it could repeat like a trig function, eternally epanding, collapsing, expanding in another
dimension, etc.

He’s raising the oscillating model, which is falsified theoretically and observationally. In 1998, the discovery of the year was that the universe would expand forever. The oscillating model also faces theoretical problems with the “bounce” mechanism. Sid, if you still can, try your best in physics class, and take astronomy and physics in university, along with philosophy and logic. It will help you to have more fun in these debates and you’ll know more details.

More:

I did not say that the physical realm is all there is. (Thought there could be two realms, or more.) BUT asuming that an entity exists outside the physical realm and created this universe from that dimension IS illogical.

Ask him for a logical argument that proves that God cannot create matter out of nothing. These assertions need to be backed up with deductive arguments, with premises supported by scientific observations. You can’t just throw around that word “illogical”. It sounds like he is just saying “I don’t like it”. Make sure that you ask him for peer-reviewed papers for anything he says about science, and formal arguments for anything he says is “illogical”.

This time he argues quatum mechanics:

Small particles of matter, at least as I understand it, CAN be “created” from energy. The only real “trouble” is the creation of energy, which “god made it” faces the problem of “what made god?”…

If he wants to argue quantum mechanics, you need to remind him that virtual particles can only appear in a quantum vaccuum, which exists in space. It is not nothing. Also, virtual particles are not as massive as a universe, and those virtual particles only stay in existence for a fraction of a second. So this is not a good analogy for the origin of the entire physical universe.

Further study

You did well, you just need to be meaner in demanding that he bear his share of the burdern of proof. Ask him why you should accept his speculations and assertions, where are his arguments, where is his scientific evidence.

I think that this book would be a good one along with God and the Astronomers, second edition. But read this paper, too, and every William Lane Craig debate you can get your hands on, especially the one with physicist Victor Stenger (video, audio), the follow-up lecture at UC Boulder where Stenger is in the audience, and the second Craig-Dacey debate. When you’re done with that, listen to this lecture and this lecture (I know it’s similar to the first one, but tough!) and this lecture and this lecture. And study more physics if you’re still in school!

God meant for us to enjoy ourselves arguing in his universe. Jesus cured the paralytic to provide evidence for his claims. Similarly, we can use the evidence of nature miracles that science is just now discovering to get the same effect as though we could perform miracles. But we need to understand philosophy and physics down to the details.

15 thoughts on “Debating the Kalam argument in a YouTube thread”

  1. WK — not sure if you are a fan of historical apologetics, but I ran across some 19th cc. references to what amounts to the Kalam argument.

    1. The doctrine of descent and Darwinism. By Oscar Schmidt … with twenty-six woodcuts. Schmidt, Dr. (Eduard Oskar), 1823-1886. Page 15.

    having provisionally averted uncalled-for objections and conflicts with ambiguous ideas, we may quietly consider the limits of natural science. Let us first pause at the address delivered with general approval by the physiologist Dubois-Reymond, at the fiftieth assembly of German Naturalists and Physicians. He made reference to a passage in the classical works of Laplace, in the Introduction to the Theory of Science, which we cannot refrain from quoting in full. The author of the “Mechanism of the Heavens,” says: “Present events are connected with the events of the past by a link resting on the obvious principle that a thing cannot begin to exist without a cause which produces it. This maxim, known by the name of the Principle of Sufficient Cause, extends likewise to events with which it is not supposed to come in contact. Even the freest will cannot evoke them without a determining impulse.”

    http://tinyurl.com/yd65p6q

    2. Essays on the powers of the human mind: to which are added, an essay on … By Thomas Reid Page 453.

    “That things cannot begin to exist, nor undergo any change, without a cause…. etc.

    http://tinyurl.com/y9rspvp

    Like

  2. “The cause for the universe (time, space, matter, etc) must be something entirely different (outside the realm of time, space, and matter) since a thing cannot be the cause of itself.”

    If there’s a weakness to the argument, it lies here. It could be argued that “like begets like” — we use this argument all the time — life begets life, a moral cause begets morality in humans, etc.

    It could be argued that this universe was caused by some other logically or temporally* antecedent material cause. *Just because time came into existence in our universe at a certain point, does not mean that time may not have existed in some other universe, or in some other dimension — just like there can be immaterial mind (God) and material mind (us), why couldn’t there be immaterial time?

    Like

    1. It can’t be a material cause, all the matter came into being out of nothing, that’s the theory.

      Just think of the way you are causing words to appear in the comments with your non-physical mind. That’s what God did, only he gets to create things out of nothing, whereas you have to create new information from the material already there.

      Like

    2. It can’t be a material cause, all the matter came into being out of nothing, that’s what the observations imply. The entire universe including space and time, matter and energy came into being out of nothing.

      Just think of the way you are causing words to appear in the comments with your non-physical mind. That’s what God did, only he gets to create things out of nothing, whereas you have to create new information from the material already there.

      Like

  3. There are several possible grades of certainty associated with an argument like Kalam:

    a) weak — “it is possible” — it’s rational to believe this
    b) medium — “it is probable” — inference to best explanation
    c) strong — “it is irrefutably proven” — QED

    How far do you think Kalam goes?

    Like

    1. Well, it’s a deductive argument which provides certainty if the premises are true. Premise 1 seems undeniable. Premise 2 is supported by multiple lines of scientific observations, but also deductive mathematical arguments about the impossibility of an actual infinite set of objects existing in nature (e.g. – events). And the conclusion follows from the premises. So I think it’s practically c) but a really really strong b). I have never seen anything even close to refuting this argument in 15 years of watching every debate I could get my hands on. There just is no answer to this argument, no one is able to wiggle out of it given what we know today about the universe.

      As the original commenter said there are alternative cosmologies but there is no experimental evidence for those speculations, and I think that God deliberately left it that way so that Christians would have evidence but atheists would have have to speculate.

      Like

  4. Hi,

    thanks for this post :) I will bookmark, re-read and study the links and arguments until I grasp this topic well.

    Like

  5. BTW, the Youtube video is just a silly video targeted to preach to the choir of atheists. The video claimed that the author hasn’t decided if he believes in God or not, so I commented that I don’t believe that he hasn’t based on his video. Then people started to debate me on all sorts of stuffs :)

    I didn’t bothered watching the video to the end.

    I found the video from one of my old friends who posted it on Facebook.

    Like

  6. Hi: I’m a 1st time poster so please be patient!I’m somewhat suprised you would recommend contributing to the YouTube site. Having read many of your comments before and having checked out some of your links, I was hoping for better.After reading the first couple of dozen posts,it quickly became apparent that the so called debate is nothing more than a farce.Too bad, as I was eager to comment but felt the venue would only serve to promote responses from the “idiot crowd”.

    The main problem,as I see it, with threads like the YouTube “debate” is that people start off with the wrong premise.Most simply want to prove(to themselves at least) their alleged debating “prowess” or bash christians or others who’s greatest sin is to disagree with so called conventional wisdom. One can only wonder what some of these people are like around the dinner table and what gems of “wisdom” they are bestowing on their children/spouses etc.Rarely will you find someone who is honestly trying to determine the truth of things and (even rarer) someone who is prepared to change their opinion as the result of collegial debate.Kudos to Anthony Flew for his intellectual integrity.

    As to the KCA, history has shown this to be a very persuasive argument for the existence of a Creator. The fact that no one cites any source as a generally accepted logical refutation of this position speaks volumes. Believe me, if there was a critically accepted counter argument that defeated it, we would have long since been overwhelmed by atheist websites hailing their victory.At it’s most basic level, not accepting the KCA for a Creator is simply another way of saying I want to do things my way. Life is a lot simpler when you only have to account to yourself.Adam and Eve anyone? With all of the scientific data supporting a creation( and thus a Creator), it’s time for the non believers to man up and admit they know their is a God but they just don’t like Him very much.Just don’t insult my intelligence with things popping into existence from nothing, which is all the atheist is left with.

    And Wintery, keep up the good work!

    Like

    1. Thanks for you comment.

      No, no! I didn’t recommend commenting THERE! I recommended commenting HERE! I don’t really recommend getting into debates on youtube. It’s better to have your own blog because then you can just delete stupid comments that don’t really add anything and are off topic. So I agree with you and I recommended to the reader who was debating there to start his own blog, since they’ve started to vote down his comments. Bleh!

      Like

    2. I got into those debates on Youtube only because I couldn’t help it.

      My friend on Facebook posted link to that Youtube page. While I was watching the video, I couldn’t help and left ONE comment, and people kept replying to me. It’s my first time debating on Youtube.

      And yeah, a couple of my comments got voted down, even though they’re not at all offensive, no name calling, and no personal attack.

      I like to debate in medium like Youtube/Facebook from time to time to hone on my skills to debate street/everyday folks.

      And sometime it’s good to pop into these medium even to just show that we exist. That we’re not ignorant, but rather we study our beliefs seriously, not just accepting everything blindly (although I will point out that obviously there are parts that we have to accept by faith).

      I don’t blog because I’m terrible at blogging. I’ll leave it to blog expert such as WinteryKnight here :)

      Like

  7. Having spent years on the Internet in various forums, using various chat services and engaging with many different people on many different issues, I’ve come to know that there are just some places you don’t go debating.

    Youtube is one of them. Any unmoderated forum for expressing opinion seems to be a breeding ground for bigoted and disrespectful response. Ad hominem is almost always how an argument is responded to, and with no intellectual merit whatsoever. In short, even if you show all the respect in the world, some idiot is going to flame you into the next millenium, and vote your comments into oblivion. Youtube is probably among the worst I’ve ever seen for this type of behavior.

    I love seeing these videos where somebody claims to have “refuted” William Lane Craig by taking select pieces of his statements and pasting them together to show an apparent logical fallacy of one of his arguments. It’s good for a laugh now and then. I wonder why if these people are so smart, why they aren’t debating him one on one then.

    Like

    1. It’s still fun to at least try once, because then we can see what they think and then blog about it. It really seems to bring out the real nature of atheism as being hostile to science and not conducive to fostering open debate or good moral character, e.g. – humility.

      On the other hand, there was that famous case of one of the major commenters on the RichardDawkins.net forum becoming appalled by the mean treatment that atheists gave one of the Christian commenters (first part, second part).

      One of the biggest arguments against atheism is “I don’t want to be one of those immoral, hateful people”. And debating in forums brings out that ignorance and hatefulness. So if you can handle it, it may have some value – but it won’t be a substantial discussion. People don’t want to lose in public. And being able to be evil behind a pseudonym can be very appealing to some people. But you can’t do that in a real relationship with a co-worker or a friend or a family member.

      I sometimes listen to Bill Bennett on days where I have to get into the office for a 9 AM meeting (I like going in late and staying later normally). He has a 3-part formula for good discussion: candor, intelligence and goodwill.

      I think the best way to try to convince people is by not really trying too hard to win, but trying really hard to be open about who you are, and to be ready to explain why you have your views. Sometimes shaming them for the irrationality of their views is useful, but usually not. I never talk about their personal morality, but only their ideas, too. And if a tragedy hits the person, I would switch to 100% listening mode until they work through it.

      I’ve had former co-workers tell me they hate it when Christians swoop in like vultures on their misfortunes. I prefer to meet them head-on when they’re at their strongest. I think that when atheists have to wrestle with a misfortune, that’s the time to withdraw and pray for the Holy Spirit to do its thing. It’s a tag team.

      Like

      1. Absolutely, the best way to promote Christianity is to show that we are not ashame of the Gospel! Be who we are and show the world we are not ashame to show display our faith publicly.

        A preacher once said “If they can’t see us, they can’t be us”

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s