The Kalām Cosmological Argument is a terrible argument – 1. Induction

Not the induction we're talking about here...It’s quite amazing how often the Kalām Cosmological Argument, or some version of it, is still used by believers to justify their faith. It seems like a naive understanding of modern cosmology, coupled with confirmation bias, conspire to keep this tired argument on life support. In this series of posts, my intention is to explain some of the ways in which KCA is a terrible argument, one problem at a time. In this first post, I’ll focus on whether it’s reasonable to apply inductive reasoning to the universe.

As a reminder, here’s how the KCA usually goes:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. The universe has a cause

The first clause is an unjustified generalization that really is inductive reasoning in disguise. Inductive reasoning is a perfectly legitimate and inevitable way to reason –because it works– if you understand its limitations.

A more accurate version of the first clause could be:

Every thing that we’ve seen begin to exist has had a cause

I’ll address in a future post how even this formulation is false, but let’s focus on the induction issue for now. In this version, I removed the excessive generalization, thus pulling the induction from under the carpet and putting it in plain sight. I’ve also replaced “everything” with “every thing”. This is a really important nuance: in a similar way that “nothing” is not a thing, but is really “no thing”, the universe (i.e. the set of all the things that exist) cannot be treated like an ordinary thing. It’s in a category of its own. Inductive reasoning is the application of probability to a set of similar objects. It cannot, therefore, be applied to the universe, because there are no objects similar to the universe. And before you ask, yes, some physicists are guilty of doing exactly that.

And that is not even all that’s wrong with the first premise…

Archived comments

  • Huseyn Qurbanov said on Saturday, November 26, 2016

    Cosmological concept which is complete from logical point of view Initial composition of boundless space from the point of view of element: 1.It is suffucient to declare existence of two elements, SIMPLE and COMPLEX, possesing closed systemic appearance in order to imagine different (homogenous) and completed one. 2.It is sufficient to declare existence of Lord and Almighty in other element, possesing non-closed systematic appearance in order to imagine it as different and incomplete as heterogenous (in other words: various type). It is not difficult to presume that simple and complex compression is happened in possible minimal widening from permanent widening level, first, inclination to descending, from material component of God from non-material component of Divine Spirit/separation happened as maximum possible diversity (1H) on essence of God on minimum possible numeric homogeneity regarding with blockage of start of non-material components, permanently widening, inclined to their increase of essence/God widens minimal possible homogeneity as maximum possible numeric diversity (2H) to His essence on the basis of 1H material components. Closing process starts only from time, known to God, starting from completion of 2 H opening process. Closing process reopens according to initial opening level of Divine Spirit 1H-1H process of God to 2H process and conversion possibilities of 2H process to 1 H process!
  • bleroy said on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

    That comment is a great example not only of circular reasoning, but also of apologetic obfuscation. It's quite a feat to write so obscurely: only post-modern academic literature can rival this :D