One rebuttal to The Kalam Cosmological Argument I’ve seen is the argument that the first premise (i.e “whatever begins to exist has a cause”) cannot be confirmed because we have no examples of anything beginning to exist. We only have, they argue, examples of matter being re-arranged into other things. According to some atheists nothing ever begins to exist because the stuff of what something is made of is nothing more than rearranged matter.
I think this might be one of the worst objections to The Kalam Cosmological Argument I have ever heard. To say that nothing ever begins to exist is not only absurd, but I would have thought that this would be a self evident truth that no one would even think to question. Things beginning to exist is even more self evident than things that begin to exist requiring a cause for their beginning. If you, my dear reader, disagree, then let me ask you a question. Where were you the night the dinosaurs were killed by a meteor? Were you lying back in a canopy sipping coconut milk? Now that I think of it; where was I when that happened? I have no recollection of seeing the meteor wipe out the dinosaurs. Maybe the presupposition behind these questions is wrong. Maybe we weren’t there at all. Maybe, just maybe, we didn’t exist yet.
The problem with this objection is that it confuses X with the material stuff that X is made out of. Even if the material that comprises X has always existed, that doesn’t mean that X itself has always existed. Even if the matter and energy that composes my body have always existed, it doesn’t mean that I have always existed. The reality is that we actually have a lot of examples of things coming into being; cars, trucks, galaxies, planets, people, houses, computers, telephones, animals, etc. These things didn’t always exist even if it were true that the matter these things were made of always existed.
By “material cause” I mean the stuff which was used to assemble the object in question, the material out of which the object was made. By “efficient cause”, I mean something or someone which brought about the beginning of the object. For example, the material causes of this blog post are the computer and the program Microsoft Word which was used to comprise the document. However, the efficient cause of this blog post would be the author of the content (i.e yours truly). This distinction between material and efficient causation was made famous by the ancient philosopher Aristotle.
The objector is presupposing that everything that begins to exist has a material cause, but that presupposition is irrelevant to the truth of the 2 premises of The Kalam Cosmological Argument. I would agree that our experience shows us that whenever something comes into being, it had a material cause as well as an efficient cause, thus rendering us with as much inductive evidence for material causation as we do for efficient causation, but this inductive evidence can be overridden if we have powerful evidence that all physical reality came into being out of nothing a finite time ago. We saw in my blog post “The Kalam Cosmological Argument” that we do in fact have powerful scientific evidence as well as philosophical arguments which show us that the whole of physical reality (space, time, matter, and energy) had an absolute beginning.
The various strands of evidence supporting The Big Bang Theory, the second law of thermodynamics, and two philosophical arguments concerning the nature of actual infinites, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe began to exist ex nihilo.
What a rational person can’t say is that the universe began to exist without either a material cause or an efficient cause. To say that something could begin to exist in the absence of either a material or efficient cause would be to assert that it popped into being with no cause whatsoever, which is irrational. Ex nihil, nihil fit. Out of nothing, nothing comes. However, there’s nothing metaphysically absurd in saying that something could be created by an efficient cause but no material cause.