Friday, May 20, 2011

Why the Cosmological Argument Fails

If anyone is unfamiliar with the cosmological argument and its variants, here are a few links to help you get started.:

Also, here is a brief summary from William Lane Craig:
  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
If you watch any of Craigs debates or interviews, you will find that he often starts his version of the cosmological argument with the Big Bang. He states that since the Big Bang happened, it must have had a cause. And what must this cause of the Big Bang have been like? Craig's conclusion is that it must have been a powerful entity apart from time, space, and energy. Sounds quite a lot like... God.

I disagree with Craig because one of his fundamental assumptions is wrong (I suspect that he does not realize that he is making this assumption).

At the Big Bang, the entire universe was crushed into a singularity- a point of infinite (or very very high) density and zero (or very very close to zero) volume.

We have no reason to believe that physics or reasoning as we understand them would apply in a singularity.

For example, physics as we know it does not apply at the quantum level (there is a different set of rules). When we start examining things that small, nothing makes sense anymore. A singularity occurs at a place lower than the quantum level.

Therefore, Craig's argument applies to everything after the Big Bang, but not necessarily to anything before or at the start of the Big Bang. The best answer to "what happened before the Big Bang?" or "what caused the Big Bang?" is not "it must have been a god" but rather "we don't know."


  1. Howdy Josh,

    That was an interesting post. I agree that the cosmological argument assumes that the laws of physics apply during the Big Bang. I think that they do.

    Look at black holes. As I understand it the laws of physics apply to black holes which are also singularities. Conservation of mass/energy seems to be the important physical law in this argument. It is possible to observe the gravitational field of a black hole, which should tell you the mass of a black hole. I think that it is fair to assume that if conservation of mass applies to one singularity that it applies to another.

    Would you place the burden of proof on the cosmological argument to show that a black hole is fundamentally the same as the Big Bang? Or, would you you place the burden of proof on the challenger to show that there is a fundamental difference between a black hole and the Big Bang? Why do you place the burden of proof where you do?

  2. Thanks for posting Peter!!! This is certainly the best response I have ever heard to my argument. As I read over my response to your comment, I can tell that what I think is being changed because of what you said.

    You said "It is possible to obvserve the gravitation fied of a black hole, which should tell you the mass of a black hole. I think that it is fair to assume that if conservation of mass applies to one singularity that it applies to another."

    I agree that the area around a singularity abibes by the laws of physics, and that you can measure the mass of the singularity. I will have to take some time to think about this and decide if it is relevant.

    How is it that singularities form? From a star collapsing. If the analogy of black holes and the big bang is drawn, then wouldn't the only conclusion you could draw be that the big bang came from the collapse of something very large (super star?).

    In response to your last paragraph, I would want there to be evidence that the big bang and black holes are comparable. Until two things are shown to be similar I don't think it is a good idea to operate under the assumption that they are.

    Or even better! I would go with option 3, "I do not know what the relationship is between these two entities." Then possible similarities and differences could be demonstrated with evidence.

    Your comment was good to read. I think we need to gather more information on black holes and the big bang.

    Here are two sites a friend sent me:

  3. You might want to look at the Schwarzschild radius and the size of the universe (the estimation for all of it, not just the observable) and the mass of the universe (again the estimation for all of it, not just the observable). You should work it all through yourself, but when you do, you will find that the radius of a black hole with that mass is pretty huge. We may still be within a black hole!

    Note that the Schwarzschild radius is for a uncharged black hole with no angular momentum, but the difference between that and a general black hole is only up to a factor of 2. Last time I did the sums, there was more than enough room for that factor.

    Anyway, if we are in a black hole, then everything in the universe has always been in a black hole, and (probably) will always be in a black hole. There are some follow on conclusions one can draw from all this, but it's probably a bit too technical (not to mention speculative) to go into here.

  4. This is a fascinating possibility. I have never heard of this before! I will certainly go check this out.

    Thanks for the suggestion!