The first premise of the kalam cosmological argument is “whatever begins to exist had a cause.” This premise is sometimes objected to in very sophisticated ways, and sometimes not as much. The particular objection I have in mind is the objection that says nothing really begins to exist. The idea is that everything just is different arrangements of matter and therefore nothing begins to exist. Rather, all we have are new formations of matter.
There are multiple objections that can be lodged against this view (e.g., the absurdities that “we” existed as matter, or that we don’t really exist at all). However, I have something else in mind to critique the view. My contention is that both of the main reasons for affirming this objection to the premise are fallacious.
The first main reason for affirming that nothing begins to exist is that some kind of reductionist-materialist-naturalist-physicalist (please forgive this clumsy wording) view of the world is true. But that is just to beg the question against the conclusion of the argument in its full form (e.g., it is to say “there is no God”). No one who does not already agree with the objector here will find this helpful.
The second main reason, if the first way of reasoning is rejected, is also fallacious. It assumes that any being is just identifiable with its particular collection of material atoms or parts. Not only does this seem bizarre, but it also seems particularly like the fallacy of division. The fallacy of division occurs when one attributes, illicitly, the truth of the whole to the truth of all of the parts. “The basketball team has been in existence for 75 years; therefore every member of the basketball team has been in existence for 75 years,” is one such example. So here, the objector assumes “you are made up of atoms; therefore each atom is you.” At best, “you” is an indexical term pointing to some kind of abstract object that we call a particular arrangement of matter. However, since we do not have any reason to think a being is just nothing more than a particular collection of atoms, we do not have any non-fallacious reason for denying the causal premise. It simply does not follow that because I am made up of atoms, each atom is in fact me. It is surely bizarre to think that every person who will ever exist is and has been out there in the universe (or, more properly, in the earth somewhere).-----------------
All posts, and the blog Possible Worlds, are the sole intellectual property of Randy Everist. One may reprint part or all of this post so long as: a) full attribution is given (Randy Everist, Possible Worlds), b) all use is non-commercial, and c) one is in compliance with the Creative Commons license at the bottom on the main page of this blog.