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…