Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Welcome to Tuesday Morning Apologetics (TMA). Let’s talk about the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA):
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Back in KCA 02 I mentioned that some people go so far in attacking the first premise as to say that nothing actually “begins to exist”. I said in that blog that the first way they attack the premise is by leaning the Law of Conservation of Energy (The First Law of Thermodynamics):
“Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another."
If everything is energy and energy can neither be created nor destroyed then that means energy has always existed. So, it’s not the case that anything “begins to exist” because all we see and experience is the same eternal energy merely transformed or transferred from one form to another. Sometimes people will say that everything we see is only a composition of “simples”. These “simples” are the fundamental building blocks of the things in our universe. They are also the only things that really exist. And that, sadly, means that you and I don’t really exist. At least, not in the same sense as the simples that we are comprised of. And those simples are just a form of energy. So, we (and everything else) are just energy doing its thing.
If you’ll recall, I briefly mentioned this scenario in KCA 05. That post laid our foundation for combating these kinds of challenges.
I have no reason to doubt that our bodies are comprised of “simples”. As we noted in KCA 05, that type of knowledge and the knowledge of how those “simples” interact to produce something like me, only goes to enhance our knowledge of our Material Cause. It goes no distance in proving that the “composite” that is Simon never began to exist just because I am (possibly) made out of stuff that never began to exist. This model/explanation of material entities doesn’t even come close defeating my belief that I began to exist. It also doesn’t make any progression on justifying doubts regarding the beginning-to-be of the birdhouse I made. Or doubts about the car in my driveway having begun to exist. Or any other composite thing.
Forms are still being actualized in the physical world even if those beings are comprised of “simples”. Though the Material Cause of that being can be full explained by those “simples” and how those simples interact with each other, those “simples and how they interact” don’t fully explain the being itself (1). However, there are those who will agree, roughly saying,
“Yes, composite things come into and out of existence. And we actually agree with the first premise. We agree that being cannot come from non-being. And that is exactly why we must reject the second premise of the KCA. Because that is an example of being coming from non-being; which is, as you claim, metaphysically impossible.”
Since this challenge (which I think is more interesting) is focused on the second premise of the KCA, I won’t talk about it now. But we’ll talk about it when we start focusing on the second premise ourselves. For now, just know that they think that we only have examples of creatio ex materia and that the universe beginning to be would be an example of creatio ex nihilo. And we have no experience/evidence of creatio ex nihilo (2).
I hope that in this blog you can see why the challenge, “nothing begins to exist because energy has always existed” not only isn’t a strong defeater to the first premise of the KCA, but it’s also constantly disconfirmed by our experience. Things still begin to exist even if the stuff they are made out of has always existed. All of us are prime examples of things beginning to exist. Our own beginning-to-be is the kind of experience that would need a much stronger defeater than this to stop believing in it.
Please read the whole four part series called What Even Are “Causes” to see what I mean.
Creatio ex materia is the notion of creating something from pre-existing material. Relevant to this blog, that means the composites are created from simples. Creatio ex nihilo is the notion of creating something from nothing. There is no pre-existing material out of which to create. Creatio ex nihilo is mostly associated with God. “Let there be light!”