During my many interactions with theist apologists I have often come across a curious version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Essentially the argument in its simplest form looks like this:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe has begun to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause.
There are problems with the first and second premises but I will not go into them here. Rather I want to focus on something else. So, for our purposes, let is grant the above argument and (again just for our purposes) agree that there's a cause of the universe. We can call it UC (Universe's Cause).
The obvious problem is that this doesn't prove a god. It only proves a cause of the universe. There's no proof here that UC is self-aware, intelligent or personal.
This is where it gets curious. The theist extension of the above argument often goes like this:
4. A backward infinity in time is logically impossible (ie time must have had a beginning)
5. Therefore the event causing the Universe to exist (often referring to the trigger of the Big Bang) must have been non-temporal.
6. The only conceivable non-temporal event is a CHOICE.
7. Therefore UC made a choice.
8. Therefore UC must have free will and be personal.
9. Hence, UC is God.
There are problems at many of the above steps but my issue here is with step 6. The apologists declare by fiat that the only conceivable non-temporal event is a choice.
What leads them to consider a non-temporal event is their rejection of infinite regression. The triggering event had to have no cause itself as otherwise there would be an infinite number of backwards causes and if that were the case we would never get to THIS point in time (current point; today). That's because, the argument goes, there would be an infinite number of preceding points, placing us at the end of infinity which is impossible.
Of course the above reasoning takes a shortcut. UC may have itself had a cause and may have been preceded by a sequence of 100000 causes that all follow a First Cause (the one and only UNCAUSED cause). But this shortcut is not the problem with the argument as, even if we avoid the shortcut (as I just did), we do end up with a First Cause. The apologist can turn around and call THAT cause "god".
Whether the First Cause is in fact the one that caused the universe immediately is not important. If we are to avoid infinite regression, we still have to end up with an Uncaused Cause, no matter how far it is causally removed from the Big Bang.
Thus the correct theist contention must be "the First Cause must have exercised a choice as there's no other conceivable uncaused action, except for a free-will-choice".
Let us consider this proposition.
A. Choice in the traditional sense
Choices, as we know them, don't appear out of nowhere. They are not uncaused and they are not non-temporal. They follow deliberations. There's input (emotions, data), there's processing (consideration of consequences, options, competing interests and emotions) and there's the final result; a choice, a decision.
If FC (First Cause) is said to make a choice in the sense that we know it (as in the above paragraph), then each step in that process must be preceded by another step. It's a causative sequence of events; each one leading to the next. This takes us back to infinite regression, unless the apologist can identify a first-ever event in the process.
Short breather to handle an anticipated objection
Note that it doesn't matter if we call this infinite regression "non-temporal". I say this because apologists are likely to pose that objection at this point. If the Law of Causality applies then we need a sequence of causes and effects. Each cause precedes its effect in SOME SENSE. Otherwise, there would be no telling between Effect "follows" (arises from) Cause and Cause follows (arises from) Effect. And if that were the case, we can't say the Law of Causality applies in the first place. In this sense, it must be possible to trace back Effects and their Causes to a first (sequentially, not temporally) Cause. Failing that, we are trapped in infinite regression (albeit in the causal and not in the temporal sense). Trying to escape that trap by saying "but all these Cause-Effects happen at the same instant as they're not temporal") might resolve that problem.
However, in that case the Choice Argument fails.
Once it's proposed that a reality can exist with an infinite sequence of Cause-Effects but in a non-temporal order, "choice" is no an attractive option even on the apologist's argument. For the claim would now amount to "Even though a non-temporal sequence of infinite Cause-Effects is possible, the creation of the Universe could only happen by choice". Such a statement of course makes no sense and, without its own support, would fail.
It amounts to saying that a non-temporal infinite sequence of events have lead to the choice. In these circumstances, there's no merit in saying "choice is the only conceivable option". Once an infinite number of Cause-Effects has been involved, the "Infinity+1st event" might simply be a mechanical effect of its own cause.
So, infinite number of steps in God's decision to make the Universe is out and there must be a first-ever step in this process.
Back to the argument
But how can there be a first-ever event in the process? What this would entail is a dormant entity (FC) who does absolutely nothing and then out of the blue, embarks on an uncaused process of deliberation. And what triggers THIS event? Apparently nothing. It's a random, uncaused event. But if we agree that the choice process was triggered by a random, uncaused event, what's the relevance of CHOICE in the process at all? How do we exclude the Big Bang itself being caused a random uncaused event (BBCE - Big Bang causing event)? Or how do we exclude some other event that CAUSED BBCE and itself was a random, uncaused event? Or how do we exclude a longer sequence of causes and effects all beginning with a random, uncaused event but NOT involving a choice? We can't exclude any of these propositions. And all of them are more economical (ie involve less unnecessary assumptions) than a random uncaused event in the so-far-dormant mind of a pre-existing self-aware entity. This makes God redundant.
B. A special kind of choice - no processes
What if the choice to create the Universe (or to cause the Big Bang as the case may be) was itself a special kind of choice? One that, unlike all the choices we have ever observed, is uncaused and is not preceded by deliberations/considerations/inputs?
Such a "choice" is so unlike any choices we know of, that it's difficult to even call it a choice.
But the problem gets worse. This event is itself random and uncaused. And again, once we propose a random and uncaused "choice", it would be more economical to consider a random uncaused trigger that does NOT involve a heretofore dormant and yet omniscient self-aware entity. Once again, God is redundant.
C. What if making that uncaused choice was in God's special nature?
Of course, that is special pleading.
And of course, the same question arises. What caused God to have in his nature the inexplicable tendency to make this sudden choice to create the universe (or trigger the Big Bang as the case may be)?
Of course the theist will answer that god's nature is uncaused. But if we are prepared to propose a special entity that has an uncaused nature leading it to make this sudden "choice" to create the Universe, it would be more economical to propose a non-sentient First Cause in whose inexplicable and uncaused nature it is to trigger the generation of the Universe.
In short, consider the two propositions:
1. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly create the universe. We don't know how.
2. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly make a conscious decision to create the universe AND who is self-aware, personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, capable of emotions and of will. We don't know how.
Both propositions are sufficient for a First Cause. But the the second proposition is MORE than sufficient. It contains a number of unnecessary attributes. It is therefore erroneous to propose it.
Occam's Razor shaves God away.