Defense of Premise 2: The Universe Began to Exist
The more controversial premise is premise 2. Scientific discoveries of the 20thcentury, however, have not only revolutionized our understanding of the universe, but they have also provided a solid foundation for the truth of premise 2.
Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (published in 1915) assumed that the universe existed in a steady state and was not expanding. The implication of this assumption was that the universe was eternal. It was not long though before Russian mathematician, Alexander Friedmann, found that Einstein had made a terrible mistake in his calculation when he divided by zero. When this mistake was corrected, Einstein’s theory predicted an expanding universe. Friedmann’s math would later be justified when Belgian astronomer, Georges Lemaitre, came to a similar conclusion. Following Friedmann's discovery, in 1929, Edwin Hubble, using large telescopes, verified that the galaxies in the universe were moving away from each other at rapid speeds. From this, Hubble developed the law of the expanding universe in which the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it moves. The implication of Hubble’s finding was that if you were to rewind the timeline of the expansion of the universe, you would come to a singular moment in the past at which the universe began to exist. With these discoveries, it was becoming increasingly clear that the universe was not eternal, but rather that it came into existence at some point in the finite past.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics also provides good scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning. Thermodynamics is the science of energy. The second law states that in a closed system, natural processes move toward a state of equilibrium or entropy. A more straightforward definition is that in a closed system, things move from order to disorder. Scientists predict that given enough time, the universe will reach maximum disorder and minimum energy,or “heat death.” This presents a problem for those who believe that the universe is eternal, namely if the universe is eternal and the amount of energy in the universe is limited or finite, the universe would have already reached heat death. But, the universe has not reached heat death because there is still energy available for use. The logical conclusions issuing from this fact are that the universe 1. is not eternal; 2. had a beginning; and, 3. has a cause of its existence.
At the turn of the millennium (in 2003) Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin published a paper introducing the BGV Theorem (Borde-Guth-Vilenkin). This theorem states that any universe which has a history of cosmic expansion must have a beginning. Vilenkin writes,
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe.
It may be an understatement to say that the BGV Theorem, with its bold claim and persuasive mathematics, sent a shockwave through the scientific community. It is not, however, an overstatement to say that the BGV Theorem gives scientific support to the second premise of the Kalam – that the universe began to exist.
Considering the monumentally great discoveries of the 20thcentury along with the introduction of the BGV Theorem, the scientific evidences for the beginning of the universe are truly impressive. Taking all of these lines of evidence together, it seems that any reasonable person should conclude that the universe had a beginning, that is, that premise 2 is true.
Objections to Premise 2.
One objection to premise two is the Oscillating Universe Theory. This theory denies an absolute beginning of the cosmos in favor of a cyclical process of creation and destruction.In other words, this theory holds that the universe is in a cycle of expansion, contraction, and expansion again. Some call this the Big Bang-Big Crunch model. As appealing as this theory might be to some, there are several problems with it. First, this theory contradicts the known laws of physics by claiming that after all the energy which could be used in the universe is depleted, the entire universe somehow “bounces” back into existence. There is simply no known mechanism by which this could take place. Second, the model itself predicts what it is attempting to avoid—the beginning of the universe. How so? As disorder accumulates between cycles, each cycle becomes larger and longer than the one before it. This means as you trace the cycles back in time, they get smaller and smaller until you come to a first cycle and the absolute beginning of the universe.
Another objection to premise 2 is the Bubble Universe Theory. This theory suggests that our universe is just a bubble in a much larger “multiverse” or “foam” of bubble universes. The significant point of this objection is that theorists who support the bubble universe model claim that the second law of thermodynamics only applies to closed systems, but if our universe is but one of many universes, it could be that it is not a closed system, that is, it could be that our universe is open to energy inputs from the multiverse. Even if this is the case, though, the BGV theorem still applies. Instead of applying to our universe, it would instead apply to the multiverse.In other words, this theory only pushes the problem of a beginning back a step, but it doesn’t get rid of it. So, what is an atheist to do? It seems the only recourse is to bite the philosophical bullet and concede that the universe does have a cause. This leads to a third popular objection.
Some argue that the universe caused itself. Atheist philosopher, Daniel Dennett, states in Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,
It couldn't all just be an accident, could it?...It [the universe], we have seen, does perform a version of the ultimate bootstrapping trick; it creates itself ex nihilo, or at any rate out of something that is well-nigh indistinguishable from nothing at all.
Dennett’s folly here is that things do not and cannot create themselves. For Dennett’s argument to be true, it would have to be the case that the universe already existed so that it could be the cause of its existence. It would have to exist before it existed. This makes no sense! How could something exist in order to bring itself into existence? In his effort to avoid the necessary conclusion of the Kalam, Dennett’s chooses to abandon reason itself.
In the absence of any good defeater for the second premise and on the basis of both philosophical and scientific evidence in its support, we have sufficient warrant for believing that premise 2 is true and that the universe began to exist. Therefore, because whatever begins to exist has a cause; and, because the universe began to exist, it follows that the universe has a cause.
Conclusion: The Universe Has a Cause
So, what is the universe’s cause? The best candidate for the cause of the universe is a transcendental agent or person. As noted previously, the universe cannot bring itself into existence out of nothing. And, the universe is not eternal in the past. Accordingly, the properties within the universe are also not eternal. Through conceptual analysis then, we can determine that because time, space, and matter came into existence a finite time ago, they are not eternal and the do not constitute origin-making properties. Therefore, the first cause must be timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. Furthermore, the cause of the universe must be extremely powerful, having brought the universe into existence. Additionally, the cause must be personal. As there were no initial conditions in place to generate the universe, the creation of the universe must have been the result of choice or agency. Putting these pieces together, we conclude that the cause of the universe is timeless, spaceless, immaterial, extremely powerful, and personal. This description, of course, sounds a lot like the one whom Christians call “God.” And, the conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument sounds a lot like the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers. 2nded. (New York: Norton, 1992) 14-19.
J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity.(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987) 34.
Douglas Groothius, 226.
Alexander Vilenkin. Many Worlds In One: The Search for Other Universes. (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), 176.
Groothius, Christian Apologetics, 230.
William Lane Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument(Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1979), 135.
William Lane Craig, On Guard, 97.
Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: religion as a Natural Phenomenon(New York: Penguin Books, 2006) 243-244.