Do We Have Examples Of Things Beginning To Exist?
One rebuttal to The Kalam Cosmological Argument I’ve seen is the argument that the first premise (i.e “whatever begins to exist has a cause”) cannot be confirmed because we have no examples of anything beginning to exist. We only have, they argue, examples of matter being re-arranged into other things. According to some atheists nothing ever begins to exist because the stuff of what something is made of is nothing more than rearranged matter.
I think this might be one of the worst objections to The Kalam Cosmological Argument I have ever heard. To say that nothing ever begins to exist is not only absurd, but I would have thought that this would be a self evident truth. Did I exist before my conception? If so, where was I? What was I doing when the dinosaurs got killed by a meteor? What was I doing when Moses parted the Red Sea? Where was I when George Washington was president? Was I having fun? Was I bored?
The problem with this objection is that it confuses X with the material substance of X. Just because the material that comprises X has always existed, it doesn’t mean that X itself has always existed. Even if the matter and energy that composes my body has always existed, it doesn’t mean that I have always existed. The reality is that we actually have a lot of examples of things coming into being; cars, trucks, galaxies, planets, people, houses, computers, telephones, animals, etc. These things didn’t always exist even if it were true that the matter these things were made of always existed.
I think one problem objectors who make this argument has is a presupposition that everything that begins to exist has a material cause. Before I go on, let me define my terms here. When I say "material cause", I mean that the thing which came into being had material constituents which preceded the arrangement of the object in question. By efficient cause, I mean there existed something to produce the effect in being. The objector is presupposing that everything that begins to exist has an efficient cause, but that presupposition is irrelevant to truth of the 2 premises of The Kalam Cosmological Argument. I do think it’s true that in our experience, things do not begin to exist without material causes, so that we do have just as powerful inductive evidence for material causation as we do efficient causation, but if we have powerful evidence that the material realm had an absolute beginning, preceded by nothing, this can override the inductive evidence. I do think we have powerful evidence that shows that the entire universe came into being out of nothing a finite time ago. I talk about this evidence in my blog post “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”, and in my video presentation “Evidence For Divine Creation (Night 1) – The Kalam Cosmological Argument”. The various strands of evidence supporting The Big Bang Theory, the second law of thermodynamics, and two philosophical arguments concerning the nature of actual infinites, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe began to exist ex nihilo. To read about the evidence for the universe’s beginning for yourself, go check out those blog posts.
What we cannot reasonably assert is that the universe began to exist without either a material cause or an efficient cause. Why is that? Very simply because being doesn’t come from non-being. Something doesn’t come into being from nothing. I don’t think that there’s any metaphysical absurdity in saying that something can have an efficient cause but no material cause. What’s metaphysically absurd is to assert that something can come into being with neither an efficient or material cause.