The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)

A pretty spiral galaxy (Courtesy NASA & STScI). It had a beginning, so does that mean it had a cause?

Recently I wrote a post highlighting a form of Leibniz’s cosmological argument and mentioning how nice it was to see him get some press. Actually, he appeared recently in another book I am currently reading that was just about irresistible at the local Half Price Books when I saw it: The Probability of God, by Stephen D. Unwin. Dr. Unwin is a former theoretical physicist and risk analyst who decided to perform a Bayesian analysis of the probability that the statement “God exists” is true (that is, he calculates P(G)). While, on one hand, I don’t fully agree with all of his points so far–in the spirit of the book, I should say that my confidence in the truth of some of the points he asserts is less than 100%–on the other hand, I understand why, for the sake of the analysis he is trying to do, he makes those points. And it’s amazing to me someone happened to stumble on a recipe for a book that my nature virtually requires me to purchase it. (Theoretical physicist? Risk analyst? Bayesian probability calculations? God’s existence? Can my debit card come out of my wallet fast enough?)

His mention of Leibniz is hilarious in a “wow, what a crazy historical tale the discovery of calculus is, huh?” sort of way.  It went like this in a early passage where he is discussing quantum theory:

Isaac Newton didn’t hear of it, since he was already long dead, but if he had, he would have claimed to have invented it. (This is from my pro-Leibniz joke repertoire and is not really relevant.)

Ha! Not that I side with the Leibniz bunch (the Bernoullis and the gang) on the Newton vs. Leibniz matter, since history has shown the matter to be a draw, but the humor is still appreciated, and the book has quite a bit of that so far. (This really does tempt me to write about the role Calculus has played in empowering the end-time Beast power. I’ve got to write that post one day.)

However, that isn’t really what I intended to write about this morning. Having mentioned Leibniz’ cosmological argument, I thought I would follow up and mention the Kalam cosmological argument, which William Lane Craig (a huge fan of the argument) highlights in his book On Guard to which I referred last time. It’s pleasant and clean in its simplicity and well worth a look for those who enjoy such things:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The third statement follows unavoidably from the first two, so the truth of the conclusion boils down to whether or not the first two premises are true. (Note: If one of the premises is false, it does not mean that the conclusion is false, but if both of the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, as well.)

Of course, the conclusion is not a conclusion that many like, so most will argue against one or both of the premises to even extreme limits, but at least the discussion is properly focused. And the two premises have the benefit of seeming reasonable on the surface to most reasonable people: Our common experience in life gives us ample evidence of the likelihood that premise 1 is true (indeed, it is the basis for virtually the entirety of scientific enterprise), and ever since the Big Bang revolutionized thinking in astrophysics, premise 2 has become very reasonable, as well. It is, however, the premise which seems to be debated the most.

Of course, no argument is a “knock down, drag out” winner, because there is always something to debate. Even fulfilled prophecy as evidence for God could be argued by some who are of a mindset like that of unsound thinker Michael Drosnin of “The Bible Code” shame who might claim that the scriptures were inspired not by a prophecy-fulfilling God but, instead, by super-advanced, time-traveling aliens from Zeta Reticuli — an argument-ender if I ever heard one. But arguments can still highlight what is reasonable to conclude, and I think the Kalam argument gives a very strong argument that belief in an eternally existing Creator is entirely reasonable.  (Concerning the groupings in our The Real God: Proofs and Promises booklet, I think it falls under the “Creation Demands a Creator” category.)

Arguments and theological premise-wrangling aside, I really am getting a kick out of Unwin’s The Probability of God, and the math teacher/actuary/minister in me hopes it continues to be as good as it has been so far.  Any guy who ends his book (yes, I’ve peaked ahead, but just a bit!) by helping the reader to create their own spreadsheet to calculate their own probability of God’s existence is a special breed.