One of the most popular arguments for God is the Kalam cosmological Argument or KCA and it goes something like this.
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
The conclusion of theists who advocate this argument is a separate mind or agency, i.e. a God that must exist outside of space and time which caused the cosmos to come into existence.
My doubts start with the premises, beginnings and causes. I noticed that the first premise explains causality as a simple linear chain of events. Take the Potter and Pot metaphor. Yes, the Potter created the pot, but is that all of the causes and conditions? There also has to be the clay itself; that’s a condition. Knowledge in the Potter’s mind too. There also will be other conditions, a prospective buyer of the pot, (the future affecting the present, backward causality). A market economy needs to exist, a demand for pots.
To say there is a first cause is like asking about the volume of a cube; which comes first, the height, breadth or depth? What we see then is the linear cause-effect relationship is a myopic understanding of a complex Web of causes and conditions; in Buddhism, it is called Dependant co-arising.
Such complex causes and conditions mean there is no first cause. Such complexity is impossible to fully grasp, so we resort to simpler models, then we make the mistake of thinking the world is as simple as the model.
In physics too, the causal principle, “everything that begins to exist has a cause”, appears to break down at the quantum level, and the big bang has a quantum state before the expansion. So if there is a beginning of the universe, there is the ending of another. It’s what Sean Carroll was saying to William Lane Craig. Aristotle is no longer practical to describe the history of the cosmos or it’s origins.
Another question mark is over the idea of beginnings. Consider the Continuum Paradox, (related to the Sorites).
A smooth gradient from black to white through all the shades of grey. The number of greys is infinite. The question is, ‘at what point does black become white?‘ Black and white are not the only states that exist. There’re numerous states in-between.
Insight shows there is no place where black becomes white; that beginning boundary doesn’t exist.
We chop reality up into pieces, like the greyscale below. The chopped version is an abstraction of reality. It doesn’t contain all the grey tones; therefore, it’s more straightforward and has beginnings and endings. But these beginnings are invented fiction by us, the map makers.
To say there is a first cause, it’s like asking, ‘Does a rule begin at the first centimetre?’ It’s a shift in perspective about cosmology, and the world, a liberation of our myopic understanding. Everything that begins to exist is a reordering of things that already exist. We must also remember that every beginning we experience can be seen as an end. The beginning of the Olympic Games is also the end of the preparation for the Olympics.
This argument and others also posit God as outside of time and space, but what does this mean? How can something exist outside space and time? The only existence we know of is with space and time; even ideas are thoughts now in time. It makes the cosmos like a box, with us in it, agency or God outside it.
It implies the cosmos and its contents are separate. Buddhism recognises we are not in the cosmos; we are the cosmos. We make choices in time: The anthropomorphic God also makes choices. So for God to choose, God must be subject to time by the same reasoning. To be outside space and time is not to exist or not to matter.
Further still, if God is the cause of the cosmos, then God is not separate from the cosmos but a part of the interconnected play of causes and conditions. You can’t define something as both separate and connected.
What we have here is a fixation on the Potter and the Pot metaphor like the Design Argument, an example of the type the Subject-object duality. Buddhism sees such separation as helpful but also a illusory falsehood.
What this boils down to is theists are forgetting that ideas are not reality; they point to reality. People over-invested in their worldviews and alter facts instead of fitting theories to fit facts, or Mistaking the map for the territory.
It’s called Hypostasisation or Reification. Alfred North Whitehead called it ‘The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness. Apologists’ are making the mistake of trying to squeeze the cosmos to fit into their ideas and those of Aristotle or Plato. Mistakenly thinking, Aristotle had the last word on causality, infinities, metaphysics and cosmology.
Our description reality is just that, descriptions, ideas, and language; there’s no obligation on the part of the cosmos to conform to our ideas, hope, and needs.
The thing about cosmological arguments is you have to make certain assumptions and follow specific lines of thought. I can think of four:
- The universe requires an explanation
- Infinite regress is impossible
- Everything that begins to exist has a beginning
- Everything requires a cause
If your preference is to have explanations, then you would gravitate to metaphysics and the supernatural, and the arguments put forwards by Aquinas, philosophers and apologists would appeal.
If you don’t accept the above assumptions and don’t need explanations, then cosmological arguments have no appeal, value or validity.
What all points to is a myopic understanding of reality. Biases keep some from noticing that our knowledge and ideas are artificial. Vague language, lack of imagination, ambiguity, and emotion all play a role in closing off alternatives to the mind that doesn’t want to hear them.
It shows apologists have of narrow view the cosmos and also of non believers.