The Cosmological Argument for the existence of what, exactly?

I was chatting to a friend who isn’t agnostic in the “true” sense of the word, but is agnostic about what he believes regarding deity, and he had something interesting to say. We were talking about arguments for the existence of deity (I don’t like to say God since this implies a specific character and conception and produces a false alternative) and he revealed the worst argument he had ever heard: “the universe exists, therefore God must exist.”

Now you might believe there is a god, or even agree with the speaker, that it is the Christian God, yet realise how bad this is. You may even go as far as saying no intelligent person would accept this, but, many of our favourite apologists use a more sophisticated version known as the cosmological argument. This argument has various forms, but the simplest I’ve heard is what William Lane Craig (normally with much excitement) calls the Kalam Cosmological Argument, here it is:

Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
The universe has a beginning, therefore it has a cause.

I agree, this syllogism is a valid modus ponens deduction, and due to the expanding universe the idea that it had a beginning is seldom in question. So there is nothing wrong with the argument as I see it here, except I’m not sure what it’s supposed to prove. I can’t see how you go from cause to a god, let alone a Christian God. Since just about anyone will agree with that syllogism, you’re not far off claiming that the existence of a finite universe is evidence of a deity.

You would need to argue that the cause required an intelligence, which is what is argued in teleological (design) arguments. Since the finite nature of the universe, & the requirement for a cause, is seldom an issue, this seems like an unnecessary crutch for that argument.

In order to salvage something, theists will ask what other causes would be possible, which actually doesn’t require an answer. “I don’t know” doesn’t make your opponent wrong (it doesn’t make them right either). If Big Bang is offered, then you could respond with the theist’s version of the Ultimate Boeing 747 Gambit, and ask where the singularity came from. If they offer the same response you would, that it is eternal, they would be justified if eternity is not a long time, since before would be an irrelevant statement outside of time. I’m actually not the first person to see these problem ask wikipedia, which provides other arguments for both sides.

Here is the big issue, I agree with the users of the argument, it is logical. I also agree that there is some kind of deity (I even agree it’s the Christian God), my problem is, there isn’t a logical link between the first cause argument & the deity, except that God is already assumed to be the first cause by Christians, and let’s face it, what you believe isn’t evidence for what you believe.


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