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The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Irish Literary Studies)
~William Lane Craig
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Media: Hardcover
ISBN/ASIN : 0064913082
Manufacturer : Barnes & Noble
Release data : January, 1979

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    1 star1 star1 star1 starNo star    An Excellent but Outdated Defense

    In "The Kalam Cosmological Argument," William Lane Craig explains and defends a frequently overlooked argument for God's existence. Craig contends that the Kalam version of the Cosmological Argument, which seeks to establish a First Cause responsible for bringing the temporally finite universe into being, is a sound and persuasive argument for the existence of God.

    In this book, Craig first surveys the history of the argument, particualarly as it is defended by al-Kindi, Saadia, and al-Ghazali. These three philosophers defended the minority view that the universe had a beginning a finite time ago. Using philosophical and mathematical arguments, they attempted to establish the impossibility of an actual infinite in the real world.

    After a brief overview of these philosophers' arguments concerning the beginning of the universe, Craig attempts to construct a modern case for the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is:

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

    Turning first to the second premise, Craig builds a four-fold defense of the conclusion that the universe began to exist. First, he argues that it is impossible for an actual infinite to exist in the real world. He shows that Cantorian set theory, though perhaps a consistent and useful mathematical system, cannot be applied to the real world without insuperable inconsistencies and contradictions. Using illustrations, he demonstrates that infinite quantities cannot be subtracted or divided without logical contradictions in the real world. But, argues Craig, it is illegitimate to simply stipulate that infinite quantities cannot be subtracted or divided in the real world, since in the real world there is nothing to stop someone from removing a book from a library with a supposedly infinite number of books. Since an actual infinite cannot exist in the real world, concludes Craig, the universe must have had a beginning, for it is impossible for an infinite number of events to have occurred or an infinite number of hours to have elapsed.

    Second, Craig argues that it is impossible to form an infinite by successive addition. No matter how many numbers you count, you can still count one more. Yet, the temporal series of events occurring in the universe is a formed by successive addition. Thus, it is impossible for the universe to have existed forever.

    Turning to scientific confirmation, Craig's third argument is that the expansion of the universe, and the resulting Big Bang cosmological model, demonstrate that the universe began to exist. The evidence for the expansion of the universe, and thus the beginning of the universe, is overwhelming- confirmed by galactic redshift and microwave cosmic background radiation. Due to these findings and others, virtually all scientists now acknowledge that the universe is expanding. Such an expansion, extrapolated backwards in time, confirms that the universe began to exist.

    Fourth, Craig argues that the second law of thermodynamics guarantees that the universe has not existed forever. The second law stipulates that all systems have the tendency to pass from a state of lower entropy (disorder) to higher entropy (disorder). Consider, for example, that our sun is currently using up energy, and will eventually run down. Inevitably, all the stars will burn up all their energy. Likewise, the entire universe is going to run out of usable energy, and the universe will experience a `heat death.' But if scientists know that the universe will eventually be in a state of maximum entropy and heat death, then why is not the universe already in this state, if it has already existed forever? Since we are not currently in a state of heat death, it follows inescapably that the universe had a beginning a finite time ago.

    After constructing an elaborate case for the second premise of the Kalam Argument, Craig briefly addresses the first premise. He contends that the premise "everything which begins to exist requires a cause" is so intuitively obvious that any argument one could make for it is bound to be less convincing than the premise itself. Craig briefly mentions two arguments. First, he notes that the causal principle is constantly verified and never falsified in our experience. Second, he claims that the Kantian mental category of causality may be used to defend the principle as an a priori intuition that makes rational thought possible.

    Having defended both premises, Craig briefly reflects on the conclusion, that the universe began to exist. He then argues, via the principle of determination, that the cause of the universe must necessarily be a free personal agent, for such an agent is required in order to bring a temporal effect (the universe) from eternity.

    Overall, The Kalam Cosmological Argument was a good read and an excellent contribution to natural theology. However, as a result of being outdated, Craig's work here is largely irrelevant. Craig constructs an extraordinarily powerful case for the second premise, but unfortunately, it is the first premise which has largely come under attack in recent discussions. Thus, this book does not really address the most important contemporary objections to the argument. Craig has a number of other works in which these concerns are addressed. Therefore, unless you are looking for an historical overview of the Kalam argument or you are seeking a robust defense of a beginning of the universe, The Kalam Cosmological Argument is simply not relevant enough for contemporary discussion.

    1 star1 star1 star1 star1 star    One of the most discussed books in philosophy of religion

    William Lane Craig's 1979 book THE KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT is one of the most discussed books in philosophy journals since the emergence of realist theism in the 1970s (more precisely, with Plantinga's 1967 book GOD AND OTHER MINDS). Counting articles, one arrives at the result that Craig's book and Plantinga's 1974 book THE NATURE OF NECESSITY are the most discussed books in this field. One difference is that Craig's book has remained fairly constant in terms of the number of articles written about it in the past 25-27 years, with Plantinga's second and third WARRANT books replacing his 1974 book as his most discussed books. In terms of influencing the topics of thought in the field of philosophy of religion, Craig's book, along with Swinburne's THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, William Rowe's books (and his "forest fire" article) and Plantinga's books, have formed the set of works that have been more influential than any other set of works with a comparable numbers of members (say, 10 or so works).
    Craig's book is distinctive in another respect; it is the first theistic book to present a detailed discussion of big bang cosmology and its relation to theism and it remains today the most important theistic discussion of big bang cosmology, conjoined with his co-authored book THEISM, ATHEISM AND BIG BANG COSMOLOGY [1993], which includes the most substantive part of THE KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT. In the latter book, Craig is able to present technical material in a very accessible manner.
    (As an aside, his DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE AND HUMAN FREEDOM [Brill] is an extensive, exhaustive, highly erudite book, perhaps being the most rigorous and informative book on the topic. It is virtually inaccessible and Brill has given it an excessive price. It should be made available in some way to philosophers of religion. In addition, his four books on time (2000, 2001), published by Kluwer, should be published in affordable paperback editions.)

    1 starNo starNo starNo starNo star    What a waste of words

    The kalam is basically a trick to make the Design Argument for the existence of god(s) look like a serious one. The trick is also in asserting that "the universe" is everything when all it is is what we can perceive. If everything that we perceive had a beginning, and it appears that it does, it does not mean that the cause was god(s). Indeed, if one is going to speculate about things that might or might not exist because we cannot perceive them, it is best to keep one's speculations as simple as possible. God(s) are not the simplest explanations. Other realms of reality, other universes, universes spewing out of holes in other universes and other things that are at least consistent with the *kind* of things that we know exist, are far simpler and more reasonable. If one is going to put "God" as the cause, then why not a supernatural grizzly bear? Or any number of other things (look up the flying spaghetti monster, folks!)? Think of a barnacle on the hull of a ship on one of the earth's oceans ... how much could such a barnacle tell about the nature of reality? But would it make sense for it to conclude that, therefore, a supernatural barnacle was out there?

    Here is the bottom line: something exists. And there is no reason to suppose that something hasn't always existed even though it has changed its form/appearance over time. It simply doesn't follow that because we don't know what that something was like before the beginning of spacetime that we can perceive that, therefore, the God of William Lane Craig exists.

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