Time and the Kalam Cosmological Argument

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 27, 2010 in Kalam Argument,Science

William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) requires that an “A Theory” of time is correct. As Craig explains,

From start to finish, the kalam cosmological argument is predicated upon the A-Theory of time. On a B-Theory of time, the universe does not in fact come into being or become actual at the Big Bang; it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block that is finitely extended in the earlier than direction. If time is tenseless, then the universe never really comes into being, and, therefore, the quest for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived.1

This is a big problem for the KCA, since every cosmologist I’ve ever spoke with or read on the issue of time rejects the A-Theory of time. In fact, the standard concept of spacetime we’ve had since Einstein rejects the A-Theory of time. (There are many defenders of the A-Theory, but they seem to be mostly philosophers, not physicists.)

So, about a century after Einstein’s seminal work on relativity, how does Craig argue in favor of an A-Theory of time?

Craig’s major work here is found in two very expensive books, The Tensed Theory of Time: A Critical Examination and The Tenseless Theory of Time: A Critical Examination.

A quick aside: I chuckle whenever I hear atheists complain that “Craig is ignorant of cosmology.” Really? Have they read his 50-page discussion of contemporary cosmological models in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology? Looks pretty freakin’ not-ignorant to me. And how many cosmologists have spent more than 600 pages examining the arguments for and against the various models of time? Not many. So stop kiddin’ around: Craig knows more cosmology than nearly all his published critics.

Anyway, I haven’t read Craig’s professional books on the subject, but his two-chapter summary of the material in Time and Eternity should be adequate to at least begin a conversation about the nature of time. But before I come back to Craig, I need to explain why most physicists reject the A Theory of time in the first place.

Our Everyday Experience of Time

Most people believe that time is dynamic. Only the present moment is real: past states of the universe no longer exist, and future states do not yet exist. Our language reflects this common belief, for we have different verb tenses for talking about the past, present, and future. We can say Bob walked, or Bob is walking, or Bob will walk.

Most people also believe that time flows continuously from the past into the future. We remember the past, because it existed before, but we cannot remember the future because it hasn’t happened yet. The “present moment” flows ever forward so that what was in the future is now in the present, and a bit later has fallen into the past.

That is, most people are “presentists” because they think only the present moment exists. Or, they might be “possibilists” because they think the past and present exist, but not the future:

(click for source)

Presentism is how we all experience time. It is how I experience time. So why have most physicists rejected this view ever since Einstein?

Einstein and Time

A few decades after publishing his theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity, Einstein concluded:

It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four-dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three-dimensional existence.2

The same view can be found in any popular-level book on spacetime written by a physicist, for example those by Greene and Carroll. Philosopher Rudy Rucker explains:

As it turns out, it is actually impossible to find any objective and universally acceptable definition of “all of space, taken at this instant.” This follows … from Einstein’s special theory of relativity. The idea of the block universe is, thus, more than an attractive metaphysical theory. It is a well-established scientific fact.3

Or, here is philosopher Vesslin Petkov:

…special relativity [by itself] appears to provide a definite proof of the block universe view.

However, acceptance of the block universe view may not be as universal as I had recently thought. Physicist Hrvoje Nikolic ought to know, and he wrote a paper called “Block time: Why many physicists still don’t accept it?” (He suggests that some physicists cling to the old notions of time not because of the physics, but because of our everyday language and our intuitive sense of the flow of time.)

So let’s look at the arguments. But first, we need to be reminded of what Einstein taught us about space and time. Stay tuned.

  1. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, pp. 183-184. []
  2. Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, 15th ed. pp. 150. []
  3. The Fourth Dimension, p. 149. []

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{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

ildi September 27, 2010 at 4:27 am

A quick aside: I chuckle whenever I hear atheists complain that “Craig is ignorant of cosmology.” Really? Have they read his 50-page discussion of contemporary cosmological models in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology? Looks pretty freakin’ not-ignorant to me. And how many cosmologists have spent more than 600 pages examining the arguments for and against the various models of time? Not many. So stop kiddin’ around: Craig knows more cosmology than nearly all his published critics.

The last I remember, you said that you didn’t have the knowledge base to evaluate the accuracy of his discussion in the Blackwell Companion. What do physicists say regarding his understanding of cosmology?

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Jeffrey Shallit September 27, 2010 at 4:48 am

Frankly, I doubt Craig has a good grasp of either mathematics or cosmology. Without advanced training in mathematics, few people could.

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Andy September 27, 2010 at 4:51 am

You should read Yuri Balashov and Michel Janssen’s paper where they argue “that the argument from physics against Craig’s metaphysically motivated proposal is on a par with the argument against proposals to return to the days before Darwin in biology or the days before Copernicus in astronomy.”

It’s pretty good.

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lukeprog September 27, 2010 at 5:00 am

ildi,

Let’s put it this way. Every time I take the time to understand some particular concept in contemporary physics, I look back at what Craig wrote about it and find out that he wrote about it fairly.

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lukeprog September 27, 2010 at 5:02 am

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 5:03 am

Andy, maybe Craig wishes to roll more back than just the enlightenment? :-/

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Tristan D.I Vick September 27, 2010 at 5:28 am

Yeah, people always get hung up on the arrow of time.

Einstein is right however, and we ought to think about time not so much as a progression of one moment to the next, all daisy-chaining to make up a series of moments, but rather as a dimension.

Yet our senses evolved only to sense in three dimensionality, thus seeing in 4-D is just beyond our human capacity. So it’s really a little difficult to wrap our minds around time not being time but being part of the fabric of reality.

My problem with the Kalam Cosmological Argument as argued by Craig is not that it is based on no more than five fallacies (which it is) but that even if we assume it is philosophically valid… it doesn’t prove a personal God.

As I see it, the problem lies in the fact that it doesn’t identify or distinguish between any particular number of possible creator gods–one or a thousand creator gods–it doesn’t matter. In fact, there is nothing in the theory which says the universe couldn’t have been created by a committee of gods and goddesses–an entire pantheon of divine beings.

So if Craig wants his theory to prove the Christian God, he has to find a way how to make it suggest one deity instead of three, four, or five thousand deities.

And when you think about it, until this objection is overcome, the theory is rendered moot. How so? Because it fails to prove that even just one God (the Christian God) is the cause of the universe.

At best it could be considered an inference for the possibility of deistic causality, but that’s not how Craig promotes it. Which just goes to show how much special pleading is involved any time Craig offers it as a valid proof for God.

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Dima September 27, 2010 at 6:00 am

Tristan,
Could you clarify the supposed five fallacies you see with the KCA? Concerning your criticism of the argument due to there being a possibility of many gods on the KCA, wouldn’t Ockham’s razor pretty much take care of them, since it gives us a good principle of not multiplying causes beyond necessity?

Thank you!

Luke,
I am greatly enjoying your blog. It gives me a much needed challenge to evaluate my own beliefs.

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Andy September 27, 2010 at 6:10 am

Luke,

Where you write, “Every time I take the time to understand some particular concept in contemporary physics, I look back at what Craig wrote about it and find out that he wrote about it fairly.” I have to disagree.

I mean, he’s certainly no Kent Hovind or Ray Comfort (i.e. he doesn’t completely butcher the field), but he tends to present an extremely biased view. Take, for example, his discussion of the standard Big Bang model – most physicists don’t think that it can even describe the origin of the universe, let alone that it describes the origin of the universe “from [Craig's definition of] nothing.” Yet, you would have no idea of this fact if you’re just listening to Craig rattle off his misleading quotes.

Or, take special relativity. Going back to that paper I mentioned earlier, the authors write, “[Craig's] volume should be looked upon not so much as a ‘philosophically-informed introduction to relativity theory’ … but as an exposition of a highly controversial view of this theory by a philosopher who has an active agenda (and much at stake). For this reason, we would not recommend it to a philosophically-minded beginner wanting to learn SR.”

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Joel September 27, 2010 at 6:13 am

Tristan,

Craig’s Kalam has a third premise, which does not often come up in discussions.

I’ll try to present it succinctly, but you can peruse one of Craig’s essays at http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html Just scroll down to the Conclusion.

Basically, the argument goes:
P1) The cause of the universe is timeless and eternal.
P2) A non-intentional cause will be eternally sufficient, and thus its effect (the universe existing) is eternal as well.
P3) The universe is not eternal (i.e. it is 13.7 billion years old).
C1) The universe does not have a non-intentional cause.
P4) An intentional (personal) cause is the onyl explanation of temporal becoming from an eternal cause (Craig’s example: a man sitting from eternity may will to stand up; hence, a temporal effect may arise from an eternally existing agent)
C2, from C1 and P4) Ergo, intentional (personal) cause.

Numerous problems:
1) Craig uses probabilistic causation to defend his first premise against examples of quantum indeterminacy (e.g. radioactive decay, virtual particles). If probabilistic causation, in the sense of causation in a non-deterministic way is true, then a timeless non-intentional cause is possible.

This ties in with the general relativity-quantum mechanical model that Hawking, Krauss, Stenger et al posulate. Space-time is flexible, and can bend, or even come into being, and such becoming happens at the quantum level, where all possibilities are explored (e.g. the famous double slit experiment). Stenger explained this as “nothing” (i.e. a “world” without space or time) being unstable, and thus undergoing spontaneous phase transition into something stable (e.g. 3d world with 1 temporal dimension), via the aforementioned mechanism.

2) Inconsistent with our general knowledge of minds being a function of the brain. Intentional action as we know it is reducible to the physical level. This applies directly to Craig’s example of the man standing up. As Dan Dennett says, the entire point of philosophy of mind and neuroscience is to explain consciousness without resorting to supernatural explanations, and they’re doing quite a good job. So an intentional cause does not seem to hold any more efficacy than the non-intentional cause.

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Thomas September 27, 2010 at 6:13 am

Just a side note..

There are many defenders of the A-Theory, but they seem to be mostly philosophers, not physicists.

So what? Isn´t the question of the nature of time more a philosophical than a scientific question?

This unjustified assumption of scientism just bothers me… But that´s of course totally another topic.

Good post btw. I agree that the assumption of the A-theory of time is the biggest problem of the KCA (although I hold to the A-theory). I´m looking forward for more.

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Patrick September 27, 2010 at 6:22 am

The thing that people don’t get about Craig is that its very hard to distinguish dishonesty from incompetence. Craig is dishonest, not incompetent.

For example, is the Kalam Argument as Craig presents it a deductive argument, and therefore a massively fallacious argument from ignorance? Or is it an inference to the best explanation, and therefore extremely weak, as all such inferences are when we reach the present limits of our knowledge?

Well, which one it is depends on what rhetorical point Craig needs to make at the moment. When he wants to claim virtues like truth-preservation, its deductive. When he wants to avoid criticism by saying as little as possible, its abductive. And he’ll happily change positions within the same discussion, or even paragraph. So for a while I assumed that Craig was an idiot who didn’t understand the difference between deductive and abductive logic. And he reinforced this view by posting things on the internet about logic that were just flat out stupid.

But I’ve come to believe that I should not attribute to incompetence what can be adequately explained by malice.

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Jacopo September 27, 2010 at 6:57 am

When you look at books on the A theory of time on Amazon, half the recommended books are on apologetics and ID creationism and the like.

As interesting as all this is, it’s a fairly safe bet that nontheists will be B theorists and theists will be A theorists. And the really clever nontheists will really cleverly defend B theory, and the really clever theists will defend the A theory really cleverly (though I admit there will be exceptions to this).

I know this proves nothing whatsoever about the arguments, but the obviousness of how much prior biases determine one’s views on this does not encourage me to jump in, and I’d guess I’m not alone on this.

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Muto September 27, 2010 at 7:05 am

At least every time I hear Craig talk about physics or mathematics he strikes me as incredibly simplistic. In the books by him that I read, it is not better.

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Rob September 27, 2010 at 7:58 am

What Patrick said.

Also, Craig cherry picks from cosmology, presenting outdated notions that he must know are outdated. Yet he presents these notions as if they are widely accepted.

Craig is not a jackass because he is not well-read. He is a jackass because he is well-read is so dishonest in his debates.

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Dima September 27, 2010 at 8:17 am

Patrick,
In his work Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview, Craig defines a sound deductive argument to be such that has true premises logically (both formally and informally) leading to a conclusion. Of course,the truthfulness of each premise should be assessed separately before judging whether a deductive argument is, in fact, a sound one. But how do we do this? It is here, perhaps, that one brings in the inference to the best explanation with its probabilities judgements. Is Craig being dishonest in doing that? I don’t think so. If you disagree, then please let me know how you would argue for the truthfulness of any particular premise in a deductive argument. It is when the truth of each premise is established that the deductive argument gains its full force with the conclusion coming logically and inescapably. Now, for the deductive argument to be a good one, the truthfulness of each premise or steps leading to a conclusion does not have to be 100% certain. There are few things in life that we can prove with such certainty anyway. What we can do, however, is to judge whether a premise is probably more true than its negation. This is what Craig does and again I do not see why this approach can be called dishonest. What would be an honest approach on your view?

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Ajay September 27, 2010 at 8:40 am

Who is saying Craig is ‘ignorant’ of cosmology, per se Luke? Rather, he holds no advanced degree in cosmology. And if his work were influential in cosmology, wouldn’t more…um…cosmologists…agree with him?

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Ajay September 27, 2010 at 8:44 am
Robert Gressis September 27, 2010 at 8:50 am

Joel wrote,

“2) Inconsistent with our general knowledge of minds being a function of the brain.”

Leave aside the somewhat controversial claim that minds are just a function of the brain (many materialists would disagree with this; for instance, any materialist who is not a functionalist). That said, I often hear the above claim made in conjunction with another claim against the fine-tuning argument that goes like this:

“the problem with the fine-tuning argument is that it assumes that any life that can come to exist must be like our own. But for all we know, life could come in all variety of forms, from the extremely simple to the extremely complex.”

It seems to me that there is some tension between these two views. If one argues that non-physical minds are extremely unlikely, on the grounds that all the minds we know of are physical, then one should probably say that almost every other kind of universe probably couldn’t house complex life. On the other hand, if you want to hold that there are lots of possible ways life could go that are compatible with lots of different kinds of universes, then one should probably say that, even if all the kinds of minds we know of are physical, it doesn’t really follow from that that all minds must be physical.

Note that I’m not saying there’s a contradiction among the above two views; just a tension. Also, theists who argue that God is a non-embodied mind should probably be a little wary of arguing that life can only come in a few forms, i.e., that forms that manifest themselves in our universe.

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Patrick September 27, 2010 at 9:01 am

Dima- Its so fun when you quote Craig, because that means I get to quote Craig saying the opposite. Here’s a quote where he contradicts what you just said.

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8273

“What makes for a sound deductive argument? The answer is: true premisses and valid logic. An argument is sound if the premisses of the argument are true and the conclusion follows from the premisses by the logical rules of inference. If these two conditions are met, then the conclusion of the argument is guaranteed to be true. ” (sic)

Got that? A deductive argument needs to be “sound” and “valid.” That’s classical logic there, no disagreements from me. And an argument that is both “sound” and “valid” will be guaranteed to be true. That’s also correct.

So OBVIOUSLY we can know that any future argument from Craig will, if he calls it “deductive,” be both “sound” and “valid,” or at least will contain Craig’s best, honest effort at soundness and validity, right?

“If the premisses are true, then it follows necessarily that conclusion is true, period.”

Assuming logical validity, yes. In context, I believe he’s alright with this quote.

“In a sound deductive argument the most we can say about the probability of the argument’s conclusion is that it cannot be less than some lower bound; but it could be as high as 100%.”

Wait, what? A “sound deductive argument” is one in which the premises are true, that’s the definition of “sound.” So this is a direct contradiction of the previous quote. He’s clearly describing induction here, but he’s not admitting it.

“It’s logically fallacious to multiply the probabilities of the premisses to try to calculate the probability of the conclusion.”

That’s factually wrong in many contexts. Its perfectly appropriate to multiply the probabilities of premises in many contexts.

Look… I’m not going to be able to get through to you on this if you’re emotionally committed to Craig, and you’ve never studied formal logic outside his sphere of influence. He’s mixing all three forms of reasoning, claiming the virtues of whichever one suits him at the moment, and sliding to the others when it makes defending his point easier.

Take the following.

1: If A and B, then C.
2: A
3: B
4: Therefore C

That’s a deductive argument. If the premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true.

1: If A and B, then C.
2: A has probability X.
3: B has probability Y.
4: The probability of C is X times Y.

That’s induction, or probability theory.

1: If A and B, then C.
2: A is more likely than not.
3: B is more likely than not.
4: Therefore C is more likely than not.

That’s just stupid. It also appears to be what Craig defends, but what Craig defends shifts with the winds, so I don’t really know. If the probability of A is just over 50%, and the probability of B is just over 50%, then the probability of C is going to be just over 25%. What Craig wants you to do instead seems to be this:

1: If A and B, then C.
2: A is more likely than not.
2a: Therefore A.
3: B is more likely than not.
3b: Therefore B.
4: From 1, 2a, and 3a, therefore C is more likely than not.

At this point we’re in the land of crazy talk. And to make it worse, he’ll happily call this argument “deductive.”

And… I just don’t have the time or patience for this last bit, but if you ever hear Craig refer to an argument as “deductive” and then later refer to it, or to some portion of it, as an “inference to the best explanation,” you’re being scammed. If you don’t understand this, study deductive and abductive reasoning. One has to do with things that logically follow from true premises, and cannot abide by the fallacy of the argument from ignorance. The other is perfectly happy to engage in arguments from ignorance because its arguing from informally calculated probability. The former leads to very certain conclusions, the latter is highly error prone at the edge of our knowledge.

A deductive fallacy:

1. We don’t know where the rain comes from.
2. No natural process can account for the rain.
3. Gods can account for rain.
4. Therefore, gods make it rain.

An acceptable abductive argument

1. We don’t know where the rain comes from.
2. No natural process can account for the rain.
3. Gods can account for rain.
4. Therefore, if you accept the use of gods as an explanation, it is reasonable to assume, for now, based on our present knowledge, that gods make it rain.

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Jim T September 27, 2010 at 9:05 am

Luke this is very interesting. In the debates, he always sounds 10 years behind the current thinking of cosmologists.

One of the issues we have now, is what is the definition of the universe? Multi-verse?

One of the most stunning scientific “discoveries” in my lifetime has been the discovery of dark matter and dark energy. When I was an undergrad in the 70′s we thought we essentially knew all of the components of the universe.

I’m just guessing that in another decade the ideas about the origin of the universe will have changed massively.

I’ll check back in with Dr. Craig then

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

Thomas:

‘There are many defenders of the A-Theory, but they seem to be mostly philosophers, not physicists.’

So what? Isn´t the question of the nature of time more a philosophical than a scientific question?

This unjustified assumption of scientism just bothers me… But that´s of course totally another topic.

It’s not an issue of ‘scientism’, and I’m a bit bothered that you make that divisive accusation so casually.

To keep things civil…

If the philosophers who advocate a-theory had a chain of support as strong as that of the consensus conclusions of the physicists, then they would have an equally strong case and both conclusions would have to be examined to see which one yields the better case.

Once the better case is arrived at, then all fields that dip into these questions will be better informed and they should be in agreement with the best possible conclusion based on the best possible support regardless of the source.

So, here’s the question;

In the case of a-theory philosophers, do they have an equally strong case?

If they do, what current assumed facts that point towards a b-theory of time are likely to be invalid? Relativity?

Keep in mind that the a-theory philosophers inhabit the same reality as the physicists. They can’t have different facts and be equally correct. If that were allowed, then there would be no way to share knowledge reliably across those disciplines or with any other field of inquiry.

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 9:33 am

Patrick, thanks for the clear and complete analysis. Maybe I’ll actually learn something today?

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Dima September 27, 2010 at 10:04 am

Patrick, thank you for you thorough reply! I have a couple of questions though.
Could you please clarify for me how you assess the truthfulness of the premises in any deductive argument? It would really help our discussion if you could also give an example of a sound deductive argument with true premises and valid logic?

Cheers

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lukeprog September 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

Andy,

As you may guess, I’ll be detailing my reaction to Craig’s work on cosmology in this series. Stay tuned.

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Andy September 27, 2010 at 10:18 am

Hermes,

It also might be worth pointing out that it’s not just most physicists but also most philosophers who hold to a tenseless (b-theory) of time… at least, that’s according to Craig Callender, a philosopher who does a ton of work on the philosophy of time.

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Josh September 27, 2010 at 10:24 am

Patrick, great post! Do you have a blog? I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter!

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 10:43 am

Luke, re:’stay tuned’; absolutely.

Andy, agreed. I decided to leave that out to streamline the discussion.

I would like to see Thomas either offer support for what the a-theory philosophers advocate and show how it is about as good of a case as what the b-theory physicists advocate — or if he is incapable of offering that support to have him admit that he does not have a roughly equivalent case, was guessing, or was voicing the opinions of others who may be more knowledgeable. If that is the case, then he should retract the ‘scientism’ accusation as well as it would not have merit.^^

^^. (Well, actually, unless someone claims that knowledge only comes through the sciences and/or must be validated by the sciences, they can’t be blamed for ‘scientism’. Having the sciences available as a resource where it is applicable is just smart. Who would advocate discarding any applicable resource unless they had an inherent bias against a whole field? In this specific case, I don’t understand how someone can say that Luke is advocating ‘scientism’. I’ve not seen a hint of it, and it would be a strange thing for someone with such a deep interest in philosophy to make. From what I’ve seen, Luke reasonably goes with what seems like the best available sources. If that’s a field of science, then that’s not ‘scientism’, it just shows good judgment. In this case, it’s hard to argue against bringing in physicists at all in a discussion about the cosmos. After all, what justification can be made for throwing out any fact laden and massively cross-correlated field of investigation?)

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Rob September 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

Dovetailing with Patrick’s analysis of Craig’s shiftiness, youtuber urbanelf has a whole series about this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PHX7c0Nj2M

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Reidish September 27, 2010 at 11:22 am

Patrick,
You wrote:

Craig: “In a sound deductive argument the most we can say about the probability of the argument’s conclusion is that it cannot be less than some lower bound; but it could be as high as 100%.”

Patrick: Wait, what? A “sound deductive argument” is one in which the premises are true, that’s the definition of “sound.” So this is a direct contradiction of the previous quote. He’s clearly describing induction here, but he’s not admitting it.

I think you are conflating the measure of certainty the subject has in a particular premise with the prior probability of a claimed fact actually being the case. These are two different things. Just because a subject may not be “100% certain” of the truth of a premise doesn’t turn their argument into one of induction or even abduction. There’s no scam in defending a certain premise of a deductive argument via induction or abduction. It simply means that the particular premise might be controversial or unpersuasive. But I don’t find anything remarkable about this, it’s common in philosophy.

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Arnold Guminski September 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

I am a naturalist. That is, I believe that supernatural personal beings, including physically disembodied minds or spirits, do not exist). And I am also an A-theorist and a presentist; and I have been such ever since I seriously considered the problem of the nature of time. So, for that reason alone, I have criticized the Kalam Cosmological Argument with the assumption that the presentist version of A-Theory holds true. (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/arnold_guminski/)

However, I have also asked readers to assume the truth of the presentist version of A-Theory for argument’s sake in discussing the merits of the KCA sinply because the overwelming majority of so-called ‘lay’ people believe, or appear to believe, the A-theory or somethings closely resembling it. The polemical advanatage, it can be clearly seen, rests with Craig in his debates on this issue rather than with those who reject the A-theory.

The fact that a cientific) cosmologist ACCEPTS the B-theory of time provided an insufficient basis for concluding that he BELIEVES (or even opines) the theory to be true. He may, for example, accept an instrumentalist or postitivist philosophy of science with respect to cosmological models based upon the B-theory.

Thus Stephen Hawking professes a postitivist philosophy of science with respect to scientific theories or models: “I shall take the simpleminded view that a theory is just a model of the universe, or a restricted part of it, and a set of rules that relate quantities in the model to observations that we make. It exists only in our minds and does not have any other reality (whatever that might mean).” S. Hawking with L. Mlodinow. A BRIEFER HISTORY OF TIME (2005), p 13.) Neverthtless, Hawking also somehow manages to know many things, i.e., “the laws that govern the behavior of matter under all but extreme conditions …. [and] the basic laws that underlie all of chemistry and biology.” (Ibid., 137.)

I call to your attention EINSTEIN, RELATIVITY, AND ABSOLUTE SIMULTANEITY (2008), edited by William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, in which the issue of absolute simultaneity, the notion of which closely pertains to the A-thjeory, is seriously discussed by several writers. It is interesting that two Christian philosophers (Craig and Richard Swinburne) and two atheist philosphers (Smith and Tooley) defend the thesos of absolute simultaneity.

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lukeprog September 27, 2010 at 11:44 am

Arnold,

Yup! In fact, I link to the Craig & Smith book, above.

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Dima September 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Reidish,

Thank you for follow up on this one. Agreed. That is why I asked Patrick to give an example of a deductive argument to demonstrate this misunderstanding

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Charles September 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Arnold: I call to your attention EINSTEIN, RELATIVITY, AND ABSOLUTE SIMULTANEITY (2008), edited by William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, in which the issue of absolute simultaneity, the notion of which closely pertains to the A-thjeory, is seriously discussed …

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”
- Richard Feynman

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chroma September 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Hmm. How are events distributed across space defined to be “simultaneous” according to Craig? A theory which mathematically models the universe as a manifold with both spacelike and timelike dimensions has this capacity – what else might, and how could it compare to current physical theories as far as sheer explanatory power and minimization of presumptuousness is concerned?

Given the idea of a manifold as the metaphysical framework, especially one where simultaneity is relative and therefore there is no unique non-arbitrary “present,” I can’t see why one could still hold a tensed theory of time. It’s like the universe is acting like a block-universe in every respect possible, but it’s still not a block universe.

One other thing I’m curious about. Have philosophers distinguished between the two types of “nothing”, like they have the two types of infinite? I.e. the difference between the two “nothing”s used in

1. Nothing is better than God
2. A ham sandwich is better than nothing
3. Therefore a ham sandwich is better than God

One ascribes a proposition to sets, in this case the empty set {}, and the other is a logical quantifier as in “there does not exist an x such that P(x).” P({}) is not logically equivalent to !Ǝx,P(x). Say the former is “empty nothing” while the latter is “existential nothing.” Surely a consistent theist would be willing to apply the existential nothing to God – there does not exist an x such that x caused God – but many theists, with the “How did something come from nothing” saying, readily presume the empty nothing as the ontological import from the Big Bang model, when really the existential nothing is sufficient. Intellectual double standard!

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Louis September 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Lorentz’s theory is an equally valid interpretation of the scientific data as Special Relativity and doesn’t entail the block universe. Moreover, GR supplants SR and definitely doesn’t entail the block universe. Further still SR doesn’t even have to entail a block universe either, technically.

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Eric September 27, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Reidish and Dima are right. Patrick’s criticism is pretty popular on youtube, but not so much in philosophy and logic classrooms. It’s amazing how many people are confused by the conjunction of the truth criterion and the plausibility criterion that the premises of a good argument must satisfy (on Craig’s understanding of what makes an argument good, that is).

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Patrick September 27, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Eric- Craig argues that if his premises are “plausible,” by which he means more likely than their negation, then any conclusion that follows from them using the rules of deductive logic is also plausible.

I don’t know what else to call that except a factually wrong statement.

1. A is more likely than its negation.
2. B is more likely than its negation.
3. C is more likely than its negation.
4. D is more likely than its negation.
5. E is more likely than its negation.
6. If A, B, C, D, and E, then X.
7. Therefore… therefore nothing, unless you’re willing to start using probability theory or inductive reasoning.

Ironically, Craig is perfectly happy to argue in other contexts (the argument from evil) that a single, possible counter example is adequate to rebuke a deductive argument, regardless of the degree of plausibility one assigns to the premises. That’s more like the deductive logic I grew up with back on the farm.

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Rob September 27, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Reidish:

1. If A and B, then P.
2. The probability of A is .6
3. The probability of B is .6

Do you believe P?

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chroma September 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I call to your attention EINSTEIN, RELATIVITY, AND ABSOLUTE SIMULTANEITY (2008), edited by William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, in which the issue of absolute simultaneity, the notion of which closely pertains to the A-thjeory, is seriously discussed by several writers.

I’ll be reading it momentarily, and I await to see what arguments could possibly come up for a tensed view of time given relativistic considerations.

Lorentz’s theory is an equally valid interpretation of the scientific data as Special Relativity and doesn’t entail the block universe. Moreover, GR supplants SR and definitely doesn’t entail the block universe. Further still SR doesn’t even have to entail a block universe either, technically.

These claims confuse me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Lorentz’s ether theory just the equations of special relativity, sans geometric interpretation? Doesn’t this mean it lacks all explanation for its mathematical properties, like Lorentz transformations and local time, whereas SR has the geometric explanations? Doesn’t LET also rely on the assumption of undetectable ether? Isn’t SR preferable because GR is developable upon it?

Moreover, doesn’t GR also inflict the non-absoluteness of simultaneity? I looked this up, and according to my source, I am correct.

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Chip September 27, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I’m very interested to learn more. I come to this as a physicist who (based on what little I know of them) actually likes both the A-theory and B-theory of time. I don’t yet see why both couldn’t be correct… but that’s probably because I don’t yet understand them.

I was disappointed to see that the Craig/Smith book seems to defend absolute simultaneity. I do regard anyone claiming there is a “global now” to be clearly mistaken.

I spent some time thinking about this issue today… then, was shocked to discover my resulting views articulated in the article linked from the above figure:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-bebecome/#3.3
In a nutshell:
– There is no “global now”
– The “present” for a particle has no spatial extent
– There is an unambiguous “past” and “future”
– Especially insightful: allowing a tiny temporal extent to the “present” corresponds to a huge spatial extent

I guess I don’t see the difficulty in taking a local view of temporal becoming — and like Einstein, my worldview is doggedly and thoroughly local. Maybe there are difficulties with “local presentism” or “local potentialism”, and as the series continues I’ll see them more clearly.

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Chip September 27, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Rob:

Does independence obtain?
>:)

(Just being pedantic, of course. It’s obvious what you’re trying to say, and your point is a good one.)

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Anonymous September 27, 2010 at 6:41 pm

>>So what? Isn´t the question of the nature of time more a philosophical than a scientific question? This unjustified assumption of scientism just bothers me… But that´s of course totally another topic.

You are correct on both counts.

>>It’s not an issue of ‘scientism’, and I’m a bit bothered that you make that divisive accusation so casually.

Well, it’s true. Luke has very “scientistic” tendencies, and almost all atheists adopt a scientistic worldview which typically involves (i) dismissing non-scientific ways of knowing as somehow inferior to scientific ways of knowing, (ii) radical (indeed rabid) deference to the consensus opinion of scientists. That’s just a fact.

>>If the philosophers who advocate a-theory had a chain of support as strong as that of the consensus conclusions of the physicists, then they would have an equally strong case and both conclusions would have to be examined to see which one yields the better case.

There you go demonstrating my point. As a first point, polling a community is just a miserable and pathetic way to determine what beliefs you should hold. I’ll use philosophy to provide one example. If you polled philosophers on the issue of compatibilism vs. incompatibilism (in the freedom debate), most philosophers would be compatibilists. You can call that the “consensus philosophical position”. However, most philosophers who are experts in the freedom literature are incompatibilists. Of course, that isn’t to say that one should defer to experts in the freedom literature either. You should get a brain and think for yourself, instead of pawning off your thought on others and then pretending you have good reasons for your beliefs.

Once the better case is arrived at, then all fields that dip into these questions will be better informed and they should be in agreement with the best possible conclusion based on the best possible support regardless of the source.

>>If they do, what current assumed facts that point towards a b-theory of time are likely to be invalid? Relativity?

Both the A and B theories of time are compatible with both GR and SR. Not, by the way, that this shows anything of much interest.

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Anonymous, thank you for your reply. If you want to post another one, addressing what I wrote in full as if you were Thomas, then I invite you to give it another go.

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Justfinethanks September 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm

almost all atheists adopt a scientistic worldview which typically involves (i) dismissing non-scientific ways of knowing as somehow inferior to scientific ways of knowing

The day that non-scientific ways of knowing (such as intuition and trusting revealed texts) are able to put cheap food on my table as ably as the very much scientific haber process, I will cheerfully grant them equal respect.

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Jeff H September 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Justfinethanks,

So essentially your argument is that since non-scientific processes are not as successful at providing explanations for physical objects as are scientific processes, therefore they are also not successful at providing explanations for non-physical concepts?

I’d like to see support for that claim. After all, we know that science deals only with physical systems, and is not useful when dealing with non-physical concepts (if there are any). So we have evidence that there are some processes that are only successful in one domain. What if non-scientific processes are only successful in the non-physical domain?

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Justfinethanks & Jeff H, don’t take the bait. The sciences don’t need either protection or excessive promotion let alone to be falsely restrained to be fair to alternate and possibly unsupportable ideas. It’s a false fight. Don’t waste your energy on it.

There are many ways to gain knowledge. Any field or discipline including but not limited to the sciences, if they have anything to note on a subject, will provide answers that are consistent with what is discovered in other fields or disciplines. If this is not true, then the different and incompatible answers can’t all be equally correct. Those incompatibilities, if identified, would point toward possible refinements or corrections in one or more fields or disciplines.

Yet, why are we talking about this?

Some of the religious advocates here are promoting the strange idea that the sciences or some specific scientific claims should be singled out and removed from the conversation. By going along with the all or nothing stance of those religious advocates, you are playing their game. Don’t. It’s not required.

Anyone who denies scientific answers just because they are from the sciences has discarded reality in favor of a preconceived bias. Could the answers provided by the sciences be incomplete or incorrect? Sure. Yet, it’s nutty to argue that the sciences as a whole should be removed from a conversation where they seem to apply or provide some or most of the best results.

Labeling any mention of an answer from the sciences as ‘scientism’ is an admission that facts are inconvenient and that the alternative on offer can’t hold up to proper scrutiny. It is an appeal to hurt feelings and the promotion of ignorance. It is an admission of failure in the face of reality. If it were not the case, they’d offer facts not an emotional appeal, and they would not attack valid information because they don’t like the source or the facts themselves.

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Justfinethanks September 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm

So essentially your argument is that since non-scientific processes are not as successful at providing explanations for physical objects as are scientific processes, therefore they are also not successful at providing explanations for non-physical concepts?

That’s not what I meant to imply precisely. However, I don’t quite see why pointing to science’s nonpareil track record in making models that can make accurate predictions about the natural world shouldn’t make us hold it up as a superior way of knowing. It might be the case that intuition or revealed texts cause us to know how to produce ammonia based fertilizer on a mass scale. But it isn’t. Only empirical observation and repeated experimentation allowed us to discover that. The ways in which scientific answers have been successful and non-scientific ones have failed are simply too numerous to count.

I certainly don’t believe science can allow us to know everything. (For example, it proved pretty useless in helping us to discover the solution to Fermat’s last theorem) But so long as it is possible to employ scientific methods to answer a question (as I think is certainly the case in regards to how time actually works), then the scientific answer should be favored one hundred percent of the time.

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Miguel Oliveira Panão September 27, 2010 at 10:44 pm

The flow or arrow of time is ensured by the second law of thermodynamics. In the world, irreversible processes processes make sure that time flows in one direction. However, I question the figure’s notion of eternalism because it relies on eternity as including “all” temporality, while it should be simply timelessness or even a-temporal.

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Anonymous September 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm

>Anonymous, thank you for your reply. If you want to post another one, addressing what I wrote in full as if you were Thomas, then I invite you to give it another go.

Nah, I did a fair enough job of objecting to your unsupported claims. If you want to try to support some of those claims with arguments, I’ll respond to your arguments. But I’m not going to waste my time responding to your mere assertions. After all, you’re just a random (though frequent) internet commentator. If you want to call our “debate” a stalemate, I could care less.

>>The day that non-scientific ways of knowing (such as intuition and trusting revealed texts) are able to put cheap food on my table as ably as the very much scientific haber process, I will cheerfully grant them equal respect.

That’s got to be a joke. Nobody who has a working brain would ever say anything like that. I could see someone sincerely asserting this kind of garbage only if they believed the mark of truth in every area involves the ability to put cheap food on one’s table. But only an idiot would believe that. Suppose theology doesn’t help put cheap food on your table. Then you, the idiot, would infer that all theology is less truth-directed than food science, or whatever scientific discipline you pick. Go get your brain examined. Or start caring about truth instead of caring about stuffing your face.

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Slappy September 27, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Patrick (quoting William Lane Craig) wrote:
Got that? A deductive argument needs to be “sound” and “valid.” That’s classical logic there, no disagreements from me. And an argument that is both “sound” and “valid” will be guaranteed to be true. That’s also correct.

I’ve seen Craig’s writings with the above quotation before, restated here;

“And an argument that is both “sound” and “valid” will be guaranteed to be true. — William Lane Craig

The literal reading of the above quote seems to indicate that arguments can possess the property of truth. It may just be a typo, because Craig clearly states earlier that an argument that is both valid and sound guarantees the truth of the conclusion (a statement/proposition).

A minor point to be sure, but Craig has written it this way again and again, and he really needs to fix it. Propositions are bearers of truth/falsity, arguments are not. Much like arguments are bearers of validity/invalidity, while propositions are not. All of this may be true only by definition or stipulation, but I’ve never seen classical bivalent propositional logic presented any other way, and I’ve read a lot of logic books.

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Anonymous, you do not understand what I wrote to Thomas. As such, your reply is meaningless.

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Anonymous September 27, 2010 at 11:24 pm

>>There are many ways to gain knowledge. Any field or discipline including but not limited to the sciences, if they have anything to note on a subject, will provide answers that are consistent with what is discovered in other fields or disciplines.

This is a somewhat juvenile sort of response. Let’s assume that “discovering something” is factive. If you’ve discovered that p, then p is true. (I hope you don’t want to allow that falsehoods have been discovered.)

Then you can discover something without having compelling evidence in its favor. If so, there is no reason to believe that everybody has to adopt a system compatible with what you’ve discovered. After all, there isn’t (rationally) compelling evidence in its favor.

I really have no idea what you mean by “what is discovered”. Have we discovered that SR (Special Relativity) is true? Have we discovered that QM (Quantum Mechanics) is true? We certainly haven’t discovered that both are true, since they are not consistent. At least one is false. So what is it we’ve discovered? Please, tell me what the physicists HAVE DISCOVERED. Since “discovering” is FACTIVE, what is it that the physicists have DISCOVERED (WHICH IS TRUE, and must be, since it has been DISCOVERED)?

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Anonymous September 27, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Have fun with that. If you say that the physicists have discovered that SR is true, then you MUST say that QM is false. If you say that the physicists have discovered that QM is true, then you MUST say that SR is false. Which is it?

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Hermes September 27, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Anonymous, you may reply if you want. I’m not interested.

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Josh September 27, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Have fun with that. If you say that the physicists have discovered that SR is true, then you MUST say that QM is false. If you say that the physicists have discovered that QM is true, then you MUST say that SR is false. Which is it?

No, no that’s not quite right. I would like to introduce you to my good friend quantum field theory. Quantum field theory is EXPLICITLY what happens when you combine special relativity and quantum mechanics and is arguably the most successful model of the universe ever proposed in the history of humans trying to explain shit.

What you are thinking of is GENERAL relativity and its supposed conflict with quantum mechanics. But there’s no there there either. GR and QM are both necessarily incomplete models; QM explains 3 of the 4 forces and GR explains the 4th. The hope (though it’s not necessarily the case that this must be true) is that there is some larger theory that explains all 4 forces simultaneously. GR and QM only conflict with each other in the sense that since one neglects a force of the other, they will produce weird results when applied in some strange limit.

For example, since GR neglects the 3 quantized forces, it doesn’t have any explanation for the behavior of molecules. I certainly don’t think this means that you have to reject one or the other.

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Hermes September 28, 2010 at 12:15 am

Josh, thank you for your patience and competence. I appreciate it, even if some do not.

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mojo.rhythm September 28, 2010 at 4:04 am

Luke,

Is this part of your mapping the Kalam series or is it a spin-off?

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Thomas Reid September 28, 2010 at 4:33 am

Patrick:
1. A is more likely than its negation.
2. B is more likely than its negation.
3. C is more likely than its negation.
4. D is more likely than its negation.
5. E is more likely than its negation.
6. If A, B, C, D, and E, then X.
7. Therefore… therefore nothing, unless you’re willing to start using probability theory or inductive reasoning.

Rob:
1. If A and B, then P.
2. The probability of A is .6
3. The probability of B is .6
Do you believe P?

Both of you need to read a reference in first order logic. You will see that premises in such a logic are taken to be true or false. You are mangling it with the above constructions.

When Craig (or many other people) take a premise to be more plausible than its negation, he is explaining the criterion used to run an assumption as “true” through his deductive argument. This simply means that the subject, while not “100% certain” in their belief of the truth of the premise, nevertheless believes that it is true. It seems reasonable to think there are variations in strengths of belief. Observe:
(b1) I believe it is raining outside.
(b2) I believe Abraham Lincoln penned the Gettysburg Address.
I have greater confidence in b1 than b2, nevertheless I think both are true. This is a different sort of confidence than that related to what I’ll call “existential” probability.

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Reidish September 28, 2010 at 5:33 am

Woops, the previous comment was under my old login, sorry for the confusion.

Reidish (the artist formerly known as “Thomas Reid”)

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ildi September 28, 2010 at 5:43 am

(For example, it proved pretty useless in helping us to discover the solution to Fermat’s last theorem)

Not sure what you mean… Andrew Wiles proved Fermat’s last theorem. NOVA had an episode on it: Solving Fermat: Andrew Wiles

AW: There’s no chance of that. Fermat couldn’t possibly have had this proof. It’s 150 pages long. It’s a 20th-century proof. It couldn’t have been done in the 19th century, let alone the 17th century. The techniques used in this proof just weren’t around in Fermat’s time.

NOVA: So Fermat’s original proof is still out there somewhere.

AW: I don’t believe Fermat had a proof. I think he fooled himself into thinking he had a proof. But what has made this problem special for amateurs is that there’s a tiny possibility that there does exist an elegant 17th-century proof.

NOVA: So some mathematicians might continue to look for the original proof.

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Rob September 28, 2010 at 6:00 am

Reidish,

Can you answer my question? Do you believe P?

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Tristan D. Vick September 28, 2010 at 6:45 am

@Dima

Craig’s fallacies arise in how he posits the arguements from Kalam, not with Kalam itself. As far as I can tell the argument is a formal one–although that doesn’t necessarily mean it is correct. I’ve written on this before on my blog http://www.advocatusatheist.blogspot.com

However, to answer your other question:

“Concerning your criticism of the argument due to there being a possibility of many gods on the KCA, wouldn’t Ockham’s razor pretty much take care of them, since it gives us a good principle of not multiplying causes beyond necessity?”

You could apply Occam’s razor if your goal was one of parsimony… but my point was that the Kalam does not presuppose monotheism.

As a rule of thumb we could apply Occam’s razor and cut 5,000 gods down to just *one nebulous creator deity… but then what is to say the “personal” god of Christianity wasn’t cut out of the pack and eliminated? Thus we cannot arrive as the personal god of any particular faith… at best we could only be left with the inference of a creating agent.

That’s all I was getting at.

And maybe that is all the Kalam is capable of. But the inference isn’t enough to take it where Craig does in suggesting the God of his particular religious faith is at all real–let alone the cause behind creation. That’s pulling out an inference specifically to reach the conclusion he wants, and that’s the first fallacy in his arguing of the Kalam proposition. And such an obvious fallacy is always a bad place to begin one’s whole argument from.

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Hermes September 28, 2010 at 6:57 am

Reidish, b1 (rain) and b2 (Lincoln) aren’t dependent clauses and thus aren’t cumulative. As such, the ratio of each individual part has no impact on the conclusions drawn from them. That’s not the case in either of the examples from Patrick and Rob. I really don’t think you are in a position to tell either of them to examine a logic reference.

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Reidish September 28, 2010 at 7:16 am

Hi Rob,
You wrote:

Can you answer my question? Do you believe P?

This was your original question:

1. If A and B, then P.
2. The probability of A is .6
3. The probability of B is .6
Do you believe P?

I see no argument there, so I’m agnostic about “P”. The problem I’ve been trying to explain to you is that you are conflating two things:

(a) A modus ponens of the form:
4. If A and B, then P.
5. A and B
6. P [from 4 and 5]

…and…

(b) A probability statement of the form:
7. P(P) = P(A,B)
8. P(A,B) = P(A)*P(B) [assuming independence]
9. P(P) = P(A)*P(B) [from 7 and 8]

Now, I think 9 is what you want to conclude from the conjunction of your statements 1, 2, and 3. But 9 just doesn’t follow from them. Premises 4 and 5 are not identical to premises 7 and 8 – they convey different information. So there’s nothing yet to deduce regarding P from your original question.

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MauricXe September 28, 2010 at 7:18 am

The goal of the Kalam isn’t to establish the Christian God. Craig makes that case with his argument for the resurrection.

He does make a case for a personal creator in his expansion of the Kalam. He says, and I paraphrase, “The creation of the universe has to be timeless, spaceless, and unchanging. The only things that are spaceless are minds and abstract objects. Abstract objects can’t create or cause things so it must be an unembodied mind. This mind is personal.”

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MauricXe September 28, 2010 at 7:20 am

Small error. The first sentence of the quote should be:

The cause of the universe has to be timeless, spaceless, and unchanging.

He says a good bit here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD6Ci0KK9DQ

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Reidish September 28, 2010 at 7:29 am

Hermes,

Reidish, b1 (rain) and b2 (Lincoln) aren’t dependent clauses and thus aren’t cumulative. As such, the ratio of each individual part has no impact on the conclusions drawn from them. That’s not the case in either of the examples from Patrick and Rob. I really don’t think you are in a position to tell either of them to examine a logic reference.

You missed my point completely, which was to show that “plausibility” in this context is connected to the strength of the belief. We can hold many true beliefs at varying levels of strength. But, if we actually think they are true (which is to say, we find them more plausible than their negations), we consider them as such in deductive arguments, regardless of strength.

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lukeprog September 28, 2010 at 7:33 am

mojo.rhythm,

A spinoff.

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Justfinethanks September 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

I could see someone sincerely asserting this kind of garbage only if they believed the mark of truth in every area involves the ability to put cheap food on one’s table. But only an idiot would believe that.

I agree, that is a bizarre epistemology. But those with basic reading comprehension understand I’m offering an illustration (which is just an example that directs to a larger point) of a way science is a superior way of knowing.

A good mark of knowledge is its ability for us to make predictions about how elements of the universe behave. For example, if you see your toddler about to eat some rice cereal and you state “She’s going to spit that out as soon as she tastes it,” and she does, the only reason you were able to make that prediction is because you possess a superior level of knowledge regarding the nature of your toddler over other people.

Similarly, if you are able to predict that fixing nitrogen by putting it under high temperatures and high pressure and using an iron or ruthenium catalyst will allow you to produce large of amounts of ammonia for fertilizer, you can make that prediction because you possess a superior level of understanding regarding the mechanics of the universe than other people who don’t or can’t make the prediction. And science allows us to make these sorts of confident predictions better than any other way of knowing. People have certainly tried to use theology and sacred texts to make predictions, but they have universally failed. And therefore, we are quite rational in holding up the findings of science as a superior way of knowing over others that have been proposed.

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Hermes September 28, 2010 at 8:19 am

Reidish, I still don’t think you understand what Patrick and Rob attempted to explain to you. You’re talking past them.

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Patrick September 28, 2010 at 9:23 am

Reidish, you wrote:

“You missed my point completely, which was to show that “plausibility” in this context is connected to the strength of the belief. We can hold many true beliefs at varying levels of strength. But, if we actually think they are true (which is to say, we find them more plausible than their negations), we consider them as such in deductive arguments, regardless of strength.”

But if you do that, your deductive arguments will often lead to conclusions which, by your definition of “plausible,” will be implausible.

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Reidish September 28, 2010 at 10:33 am

Hi Patrick,
You wrote:

Reidish: “But, if we actually think they are true (which is to say, we find them more plausible than their negations), we consider them as such in deductive arguments, regardless of strength.”
Patrick: “But if you do that, your deductive arguments will often lead to conclusions which, by your definition of “plausible,” will be implausible.”

Again, in our context here (and consistent with Craig’s criterion), “plausibility” is not identical with “probability”. So to say something is plausible means you accept it as true, even though you may have a less than certain conviction regarding it. That was the point behind my comparison of (b1) and (b2): to demonstrate that it seems we can hold different beliefs we take as true with varying levels of conviction. Consider a trivial counterexample to the claim that plausibility is identical to probability: there is a 1/52 chance that I will draw the Queen of Hearts, but, for whatever reason I am absolutely certain that I will not draw it.

Now a first order logic, such as the KCA, simply establishes rules for the premises to follow, and it considers only true or false premises. There is no method in first order logic to evaluate probability statements as premises – the results derived therefrom are meaningless. Regardless of how convinced you are of the premises, if you take them as true, and if the logical inferences are valid, you ought to accept the conclusion as true as well, regardless of how implausible you find the result.

So Craig is offering a non-idiosyncratic scheme for considering whether we should take the premises to be true in his argument. Of course, one could employ a different scheme to deny a premise. For instance, you could say we need “absolute certainty” before we say acknowledge something to be true, although that seems pretty unpersuasive to me, and difficult to justify.

Finally, to be clear: none of this is to say that you cannot have reasons for being unconvinced by either of the premises. If you think a premise is false, then you ought to think the argument fails, period.

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Tony Hoffman September 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

As a rule of thumb we could apply Occam’s razor and cut 5,000 gods down to just *one nebulous creator deity… but then what is to say the “personal” god of Christianity wasn’t cut out of the pack and eliminated? Thus we cannot arrive as the personal god of any particular faith… at best we could only be left with the inference of a creating agent.

I’m not sure, but I believe that a likely use here of Occam’s razor would be to consider supernatural creators and supernatural creator as being one entity. In other words, I think that entity in the explanation applies to the type of things, not the quantity of one type of thing. If I’m correct about that, Occam’s razor is indifferent about whether or not the supernatural entity part of the equation includes Yahweh or the Pantheon. Not important, but I’m wrong about that I’d appreciate the correction.

Along that line, then…

“The creation of the universe has to be timeless, spaceless, and unchanging. The only things that are spaceless are minds and abstract objects. Abstract objects can’t create or cause things so it must be an unembodied mind. This mind is personal.”

I have other problems with Craig’s argument, but I also think Craig simply assumes in his argument that the universe must be the product of an unembodied mind, rather than minds. I don’t know why this should be the case. There is no reason, for instance, that the universe couldn’t be the collaboration of minds, like a computer program designed by a team. Or Pantheon.

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Patrick September 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

Reidish wrote: “So to say something is plausible means you accept it as true, even though you may have a less than certain conviction regarding it.”

and also wrote: “if we actually think they are true (which is to say, we find them more plausible than their negations)”

and also wrote: “Regardless of how convinced you are of the premises, if you take them as true, and if the logical inferences are valid, you ought to accept the conclusion as true as well, regardless of how implausible you find the result.”

This is a ratchet. Its a rhetorical device designed to take uncertainty and turn it into certainty by sleight of hand.

It is more plausible than not that my brother will sink the next free throw he makes when he plays basketball.

Therefore I accept this as true.

In fact, for any individual free throw, it is more plausible that he will make it than that he will miss.

So for every individual free throw he makes from now on, I accept it as true that he will be successful at that individual free throw.

If it is true that my brother will sink every individual free throw he makes for the rest of his life, then he will never miss a free throw.

Therefore my brother will never miss a free throw.

And that’s how you reason from 51% certainty to 100% certainty using tricks of logic and a condescending attitude towards anyone who points out that its hokum.

To say that you find multiple premises plausible (which you define as more likely than their negation) is NOT the same as saying that you find the simultaneous truth of a combination of multiple premises to be more plausible than their collective negation, which is that at least one of them is wrong.

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Patrick September 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

Most birds can fly.
Therefore for any given bird, it is plausible that it can fly.
Therefore I accept as true the statement “Any given bird can fly.”
If any given bird can fly, then all birds can fly.
Therefore all birds can fly.

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rvkevin September 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Again, in our context here (and consistent with Craig’s criterion), “plausibility” is not identical with “probability”. So to say something is plausible means you accept it as true, even though you may have a less than certain conviction regarding it.

I don’t understand why it doesn’t equate to probability. Suppose I have belief X and I am fairly confident that it is true, however, I am uncertain. Doesn’t that necessarily translate into me being wrong some percentage of the time, for example, being right 97% of the time, and being wrong 3% of the time? If you are uncertain, then you are already admitting that you have a probability less than one of it being true and that uncertainty will lead to less certain conclusions. For example, someone is trying to build a “cumulative case for god” such that If A&B&…&Z, then God, and we’re confident that A-Z are true, such that they are not certain but fairly unlikely to be wrong on an individual basis (suppose A-Z will be correct individually 97% of the time), then we might as well flip a coin to see if the conclusion is correct or not.

I would say that plausible things have some probability attached to them. Kind of like on Mythbusters, busted (not possible, 0%), plausible (possible, some probability attached), and confirmed (has been confirmed to have happened or has been demonstrated that it could, probability of one). If it didn’t have a probability attached to it, then it would no longer be plausibly true, it would be true. That is why I reject your notion that when someone says that something is plausible it means that they accept it as true. I wouldn’t use the word plausible in such a way, so what do you mean by plausible?

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consideratheism September 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Haha, my friend was actually just telling me earlier that he can’t wait in 30 years when all of the present defenders of B-theory are dead. It will “be a memory”. Wonder how hard he’d rage if he read this.

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Rob September 28, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Reidish,

Suppose I have a coin that lands heads 60% of the time. Since it is more plausible that I will throw a head the first time I throw it, and it is more plausible that I will throw a head the second time I throw it, then do you believe that I will throw two heads in a row every time? Do you believe I will usually throw two heads in a row? (Hint: I won’t.)

It seems that you think it is OK to believe things that you know are more likely false than true.

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Tristan D. Vick September 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm

@Tony Hoffmann

Actually that was my original point. I was only applying Occam’s razor in response to a question regarding Kalam’s ability to distinguish between one creating agent or multiple. But I am fully in agreement with you about the fact that it doesn’t allow for the real possibility that here could be a progamming team of universe creating gods instead of one creator being.

As such the argument is a bad one because it fails to predict the nature of causality… whether it was one deity or one mind or a full pantheon of deities and many minds working in tandum. Kalam fails precisely because the inference of any creating agent is complicated by the fact that such a specualative hypothesis cannot be confirmed in light of the other possibilities… not to forget the real possibility that no creating agent was at all necessary to begin with.

Thus Kalam leaves us withno real answers and a slew of possible outcomes.

1) The inference of one creating agent
2) The inference of more than one creating agent
3)Unable to defer to 1 and 2 the possibility of neither/none

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Reidish September 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Patrick,

This is a ratchet. Its a rhetorical device designed to take uncertainty and turn it into certainty by sleight of hand.

I don’t know how else to show you that it isn’t, so maybe we can stop here. We use premises in deductive arguments all the time without deriving them from necessary truths or being “100% certain” (which I’ve tried consistently to put in scare quotes because I’m dubious that phrase applies much to us) about them. There is no sleight of hand here.

Our conversation originated when you attempted to invalidate a deductive argument by using probability statements as premises in it and multiplying the independent probabilities to arrive at an improbable conclusion. But as I’ve said repeatedly, that is not done because there is no method to secure such inferences in first order logic. It’s just not meaningful. Argue some way other than that – maybe use an inductive argument against a certain premise.

Furthermore, this:

Most birds can fly.
Therefore for any given bird, it is plausible that it can fly.
Therefore I accept as true the statement “Any given bird can fly.”
If any given bird can fly, then all birds can fly.
Therefore all birds can fly.

…is not clear enough for me to follow, and I don’t see it as any kind of rejoinder to the position I’m defending here. I don’t know what you’re up to with this nor the examples in your comment that directly preceded this.

rvkevin,

Reidish: “Again, in our context here (and consistent with Craig’s criterion), “plausibility” is not identical with “probability”. So to say something is plausible means you accept it as true, even though you may have a less than certain conviction regarding it.”

rvkevin: “If it didn’t have a probability attached to it, then it would no longer be plausibly true, it would be true. That is why I reject your notion that when someone says that something is plausible it means that they accept it as true. I wouldn’t use the word plausible in such a way, so what do you mean by plausible?”

Right, that was a flub on my part above, sorry. If we think proposition P is plausible, of course that doesn’t necessarily mean we think P true. I should have said: on the scheme offered, when we find it more plausible that P than ~P (given whatever reasons we have considered), then we say that we think P is true. But if we think P is true, we ought to use it as such in deductive arguments.

Of course we still may have some nagging reservations about P, based on whatever reasons we have for believing ~P. In other words, we believe P is true, but with wavering confidence. Sometimes in such cases, valid deductive arguments whose conclusions we are very confident are false but also contain P as a premise can be helpful for giving us more reasons to believe ~P.

This all seems pretty uncontroversial, corresponding as it does very well (in my opinion, anyway) to our everyday usage of these terms.

Rob,

Suppose I have a coin that lands heads 60% of the time. Since it is more plausible that I will throw a head the first time I throw it, and it is more plausible that I will throw a head the second time I throw it, then do you believe that I will throw two heads in a row every time? Do you believe I will usually throw two heads in a row?

No.

It seems that you think it is OK to believe things that you know are more likely false than true.

Well, I don’t. I do, however, think valid deductive arguments can help strengthen or weaken our belief in their associated premises and conclusions, which is to say they can clarify our thinking and belief structure. In certain very rare cases, they can help us discover truths.

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Patrick September 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Reidish-

The short version of what I’m trying to tell you is that if your premises are uncertain, there’s an entire form of logic that tells us a great deal about the way in which the uncertainty of those premises affects the certainty or uncertainty of conclusions drawn from those premises.

You (and Craig) have repeatedly advocated, in very clearly language, over and over, the following system for doing logical deduction.

1. Identify your premises.
2. Decide if these premises are plausible, by which you mean more likely than their negation.
3. If they are, then take them as true.
4. Perform logical deduction.
5. And then argue that the conclusions reached are necessarily convincing or plausible if each step of the above process is accepted.

But 5 is wrong.

Its trivially easy to create counter examples to this process. In fact, there’s a named paradox that’s really just an example of this form of fallacious reasoning. Its the paradox of the lottery, or the paradox of the preface.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lottery_paradox

This paradox was specifically written up to explain why your form of reasoning doesn’t work.

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Rob September 28, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Reidish,

I think we have reached an impasse. So, a Mencken quotation:

“The time must come inevitably when mankind shall surmount the imbecility of religion, as it has surmounted the imbecility of religion’s ally, magic. It is impossible to imagine this world being really civilized so long as so much nonsense survives. In even its highest forms religion embraces concepts that run counter to all common sense. It can be defended only by making assumptions and adopting rules of logic that are never heard of in any other field of human thinking.

Word.

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Hermes September 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Gentlemen, it has been a joy to read your back-and-forth comments. Thank you.

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lukeprog September 28, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Rob,

That’s what I mean by “common sense atheism.” You can’t defend religion with the rules of thinking you use in other domains of life. You have to make up special rules for your own God that don’t apply anywhere else, or to anyone else’s God.

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Hermes September 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Yep, and it’s damn frustrating. I spent over 2 months talking with a Tsoist before they admitted that they did not have any legitimate justification for a specific special exception, and that I was not being unduly irrational not to accept that special exception. Like whack-a-mole, there were other special exceptions. Much of that time, I was being told that I was not just wrong logically for not accepting the exception, but that I was not being ethical because I was not ‘middle of the road’ enough even though there was no actual driveable middle just a painted line.

While I never got an apology, I didn’t expect one. Correction of future statements and behavior are sufficient. The only time I require one is in the case of personal threats.

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ayer September 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Patrick: “In fact, there’s a named paradox that’s really just an example of this form of fallacious reasoning. Its the paradox of the lottery, or the paradox of the preface.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lottery_paradox
This paradox was specifically written up to explain why your form of reasoning doesn’t work.”

Odd that you would rely on the lottery paradox in an attack on Craig, since its validity would seal Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism and render naturalism self-refuting, which is why opponents of the EAAN (which is endorsed by Craig, btw) dismiss the lottery paradox. See pp. 85-90 of:

http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/fitelsoon%20and%20sober%20on%20plantinga.pdf

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Hermes September 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Ayer, how is this an ‘attack on Craig’? The reasons flow regardless of the topic at hand or the persons involved.

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Dima September 29, 2010 at 4:25 am

Patrick,

It is unfortunate that you have not yet answered my two questions to you, because I think it would help us all to see the issue clearer. How would you personally assess the truth of any given premise in any deductive argument? Could you provide an example of at least one deductive argument, which on your view, has true premises, valid logic and 100% certainty of their truth.
I think the main misunderstanding in your view and, hence, your criticism of Craig’s reasoning comes from mixing two different concepts. On one hand, we have premises that can either be true or false. A statement (premise in an argument) cannot itself have degrees of truthfulness, i.e. it cannot itself BE 60% true AND 40% false (Craig makes it explicit that it is not what he is arguing for)! On the other hand, we have the EPISTEMIC status of each particular premise in any given argument. We can judge from our perspective (often limited) something to be more (less or as) plausible than its negation, or more probable than its contradictory and so forth. Us having the supporting evidence for truth or falsity of the claim does not in any logical way necessitate the ACTUAL truth or falsity of the claim. In the similar way, believing that something is true does not MAKE it true. Believing something is probably true does not make something true. This is not what I am arguing, neither does Craig argue this. I will come back to this point later. For now let us think of what makes a sound deductive argument “good” and what one can mean by this criterion.
Suppose there is a deductive argument, which has valid logical inference and premises that happen to be true or are true in actuality, but nevertheless, enjoy little or no epistemic support of its truthfulness. Would you call such an argument sound? Yes, but would you call it GOOD? If the purpose of the argument is to persuade someone else of its conclusion, then an argument whose premises are true, logic valid, but has weak or no epistemic status, can indeed be sound but, nevertheless, UTTERLY useless in persuading someone, which is often why we are arguing in the first place. It is to that Craig is pointing out as an ADDITIONAL criterion for any deductive argument. I want to stress the word ADDITIONAL here because he argues that not ONLY should the premises in a GOOD (persuasive) deductive argument (there is no question that they must be true) be true but, rather, that they also should seem at the very least more plausible than their negations to the one for whom the argument is made. Otherwise, the argument is useless and does not serve its point.
So, basically, when a deductive argument is made in order to persuade another of its conclusion, the person to whom the argument is made evaluates its premises. He knows, if he is familiar with deductive reasoning, that the actual TRUTH of the premises GUARANTEES its conclusion, meaning that the conclusion becomes inevitable GIVEN the truth of the premises with valid logic. Thus, after the validity of logic in any given argument is established, the only thing left is to evaluate whether the premises are true or false. Again I ask you, how do you yourself do that? Do you gather the evidence for it? Perhaps. Do you rely on another deductive argument whose conclusion is the very premise in question? Maybe. But then again, how did you evaluate the premises of a supporting argument, whose conclusion happens to be a premise of the argument in question?
If the only epistemic standard we allow for premises in deductive arguments is 100% certainty, it clearly seems untenable. It leads to radical skepticism, whereas deductive reasoning altogether would not be PRACTICALLY used.
Now back to your point about multiplying probabilities. Is it logically valid to multiply epistemic status’s expressed in terms of probabilities in a DEDUCTIVE argument? It seems to me we both would agree that it leads to absurd results, which your very example illustrates. So my other question to you is whether it is logically correct thing to do with deductive argument in the first place?
I appreciate the time you take for discussing this issue.

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Reidish September 29, 2010 at 6:03 am

Patrick,
You’re misunderstanding my position still:

1. Identify your premises.

Right.

2. Decide if these premises are plausible, by which you mean more likely than their negation.

No, we decide if we are persuaded that these premises are true as opposed to their negations. That is, we find proposition “P” more plausible than it’s negation. Put it still another way: we believe that “P”, and we don’t believe “~P”, but because we are tolerant and open-minded, we also think we could be persuaded to believe “~P” if other reasons or evidences were available.

3. If they are, then take them as true.

Of course, this is practically tautological: if we believe they are true, then we take them to be true.

4. Perform logical deduction.

Right.

5. And then argue that the conclusions reached are necessarily convincing or plausible if each step of the above process is accepted.

But 5 is wrong.

Well, there’s nothing else really to, as you say, “argue”. If the premises are true and the inferences are valid, the conclusion follows necessarily. This is completely above reproach.

I find it highly ironic that you reference the lottery paradox. A consequence of that example is to show that probability statements cannot be used to make inferences in deductive arguments. That doesn’t imply we toss deductive reasoning, rather it means we constrain the form of the premises. Indeed, you are using deductive reasoning right now, as you argue your position.

Rob,
I’m not sure what the Mencken quote is supposed to demonstrate, other than you really like Mencken. You bolded this little bit:

“It [religion] can be defended only by making assumptions and adopting rules of logic that are never heard of in any other field of human thinking.”

I also find that ironic, coming from someone who was trying to make up an argument along these lines:

1. If A and B, then P.
2. The probability of A is .6
3. The probability of B is .6
Do you believe P?

You might want to get squared away on the rules of first-order logic and it’s domain first, before tossing around Mencken quotes about how religionists make up their own rules.

lukeprog,

[To Rob]You can’t defend religion with the rules of thinking you use in other domains of life. You have to make up special rules for your own God that don’t apply anywhere else, or to anyone else’s God.

What “special rules” are being made up? What’s certainly not being made up are the necessary truths of first-order logic. Or maybe you don’t agree that we should use deductive reasoning unless our premises are necessarily true or we hold them without any doubt?

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rvkevin September 29, 2010 at 6:42 am

Is it logically valid to multiply epistemic status’s expressed in terms of probabilities in a DEDUCTIVE argument? It seems to me we both would agree that it leads to absurd results, which your very example illustrates.

How are the results absurd?

Example 1
1. If 2 and 3, I am wet.
2. It is raining outside.
3. I just went outside without rain gear.
C. I am wet.

Example 2
1. If 2 and 3, I will win 10$
2. The next roll of the 6-sided die will be greater than one
3. I bet 10$ that the die will be greater than one
C. I will win 10$

Example one’s premises can be established via evidence to such a high degree of certainty such that the conclusion has a similar high degree of certainty. However, in example two, the epistemic probability of the second premise effects the certainty of the conclusion. The certainty of the conclusion is only good as the second premise, in this case, only ~83%. So, what is more plausible, the die will roll a number greater than one or its negation? Well, its far more likely or “plausible” that it will be true than its negation, but that does little to establish the truth or ontological status of the premise. If we were to accept this criteria for a good argument, one would be able to repeat example 2 ad infinitum and be able to conclude that a “good” deductive argument is able to lead to conclusions that have an infinitesimally small chance of being true, which is what I would alternately find to be absurd.

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Dima September 29, 2010 at 6:55 am

rvkevin,

I was referring to this argument by Patrick:

Most birds can fly.
Therefore for any given bird, it is plausible that it can fly.
Therefore I accept as true the statement “Any given bird can fly.”
If any given bird can fly, then all birds can fly.
Therefore all birds can fly.

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Dima September 29, 2010 at 7:01 am

rvkevin,
Sorry, disregard my last comment!
I have misunderstood you.

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ayer September 29, 2010 at 7:17 am

Hermes: “how is this an ‘attack on Craig’? The reasons flow regardless of the topic at hand or the persons involved.”

Oh, little indications like this:

Patrick: “The thing that people don’t get about Craig is that its very hard to distinguish dishonesty from incompetence. Craig is dishonest, not incompetent.”

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Tony Hoffman September 29, 2010 at 7:28 am

Thomas Reid: What “special rules” are being made up? What’s certainly not being made up are the necessary truths of first-order logic. Or maybe you don’t agree that we should use deductive reasoning unless our premises are necessarily true or we hold them without any doubt?

You appear to be disingenuous or obtuse. What’s evident to any critical thinker who reads Christian arguments is that the conclusion (God exists!) is arrived at first, and the premises are thrown out there in a hodge podge, trial balloon fashion. Coming across the endless stream of Christian arguments for God reminds me of nothing more than the alibis of a bad liar.

I would take Christians to be sincerely interested in the truth-finding abilities of logic if they used deductive reasoning to call into question their premises as often as they used it to prop up their beliefs. Oddly, they don’t seem so interested. (I think it’s fascinating, for example, that something can either begin to exist without a cause, or that the universe did not begin to exist. I favor the second one, but who knows, it could be both.)

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Rob September 29, 2010 at 7:37 am

Reidish,

By using your “logic”, you would be persuaded by an argument with a conclusion that is more likely false than true. I don’t think it is prudent to believe things that are more likely false than true. As I said above, we have reached an impasse. Chow.

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Dima September 29, 2010 at 7:38 am

Tony,
Thank you for your deep and highly rational analysis of Christian arguments!
Would you care, however, to enlighten me, how you can use deductive reasoning to call into question a premise? This would be very helpful for irrational folks like myself, Reidish and others on this forum.

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Hermes September 29, 2010 at 7:41 am

Ayer, Patrick provided an example for why he made that statement. Additionally, Rob provided a general comment along the same lines;

Rob: Also, Craig cherry picks from cosmology, presenting outdated notions that he must know are outdated. Yet he presents these notions as if they are widely accepted.

Do you disagree with Patrick and Rob on the details if not the specific conclusion that ‘Craig is dishonest’? If so, why?

If you do not, how would you phrase WLC’s behavior that Patrick and Rob have identified?

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ayer September 29, 2010 at 7:42 am

Hoffman: “What’s evident to any critical thinker who reads Christian arguments is that the conclusion (God exists!) is arrived at first, and the premises are thrown out there in a hodge podge, trial balloon fashion.”

That’s funny, since that’s the impression I get of many atheist arguments against the existence of God, particularly those of the esteemed logician Richard Dawkins:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6081

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ayer September 29, 2010 at 7:46 am

Hermes,

Are you conceding that calling Craig “dishonest” constitutes an “attack”? If so, then my point is made, because that is the claim I was making.

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ayer September 29, 2010 at 7:52 am

Rob,

And according to your and Patrick’s “argument,” the very concept of deductive reasoning is vitiated, which renders your position self-referentially absurd since it relies on that very deductive reasoning to make its “point.”

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Hermes September 29, 2010 at 8:03 am

Ayer, most atheists don’t argue that gods don’t exist. We simply see no positive support for them, and as such aren’t theists. If you or anyone has something, you are welcome to present it. As can be seen in the Sandwalk challenge to theists that I commented on — http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11828 — there are many problems with the examples that are often presented.

The problem with addressing Christian claims is that they are so varied. There seems to be as many Christianities as there are Christians, so offering a coherent response to that vigorous cacophony is difficult at best. If Dawkins failed to cover that wildly varying cloud, I would not be surprised.

As for any specific deity, I’d have to have a specific description of what the specific person says they believe and why they believe it. That said, most of those descriptions are self-refuting or are tautologies.

The chaos noted in Tony Hoffman’s reply to Reidish (aka Thomas Reid) is illustrative of the comments from Christians that attempt to show their current conclusion about the existence of their specific personal deity before they offer support for how they arrived at that conclusion.

To put it another way; What convinced you that your specific conception of a form of Christian deity is the correct one? If you described what convinced you, would it be coherent and open to an honest inspection? If not, why not?

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Hermes September 29, 2010 at 8:05 am

Ayer, do you have any other name for what Craig did? If not, then Patrick calling him what he seems to be is an appropriate response to his behavior.

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Tony Hoffman September 29, 2010 at 8:05 am

Dima and Ayer, yes, I didn’t suspect that you’d agree with me. I imagine that Reidish would disagree as well. Still, I think it was appropriate given Reidish’s “Shocked, shocked” tone that his interest in logic could be be viewed as a less than purely intellectual pursuit.

Dima: Would you care, however, to enlighten me, how you can use deductive reasoning to call into question a premise?

I didn’t think it was all that absurd a thing to say, especially in light of what Reidish has been saying.

Looking at his arguments here in their best light, I imagined he was saying we could use deductive arguments to investigate premises. Something like:

1. All triangles are geometric shapes.
2. All square are geometric shapes.
3. All quares have four sides.
4. All geometric shapes have four sides.
5. Therefore, triangles have four sides.

If we start out with something we know isn’t true (via other means)), we can look back our premises to examine assumptions that might lead to knowledge. And sure enough, 4 is a bad premise when we assemble a kind of deductive argument using a conclusion we know to be untrue. That’s a trivial example, but it seems possible that more interesting conclusions and premises we could investigate other things in a similar, and more productive fashion. At least that’s what I thought I liked about what Reidish was possibly saying.

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Rob September 29, 2010 at 8:10 am

Ayer, this is my last post.

1. If A and B, then P.
2. A.
3. B.
4. Therefore P.

Is not the fucking same as:

1. If A and B, then P.
2. A is more plausible than not-A.
3. B is more plausible than not-B.
4. Therefore P.

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rvkevin September 29, 2010 at 8:15 am

Let me put it another way. Deductive reasoning could be made in the form of:
1. If A->B
2. A
3. Therefore B
This can then be translated to “If 1 and 2, then 3″. We have different epistemic probabilities for each premise: 1 and 2. To figure out the probability of the conclusion (3), one must multiply those probabilities. If the premises are certain (both 100%), then the conclusion will be certain (1*1=100%). If the premises are near certain (both 99%), then it is still reasonable to accept the conclusion since it still has a high degree of accuracy (.99*.99=98%). If the premises are only more probable or “plausible” than their negations (both 60%), then you can have conclusions that are more likely to be false than true (.6*.6=36%). So, if the premises are true in a deductive argument, they will lead to a true conclusion, but any uncertainty in those premises will influence the certainty of the conclusion.

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ayer September 29, 2010 at 8:58 am

Rob,

I’m sorry, but your attempt to apply the “principle of dwindling probabilities” to all deductive reasoning (and the concomitant implication that each premise must have 100% certainty) is simply bizarre.

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Hermes September 29, 2010 at 9:03 am

Ayer, can you say why Rob’s post is “simply bizarre”? Surely you must have your reasons to make such a statement.

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Tony Hoffman September 29, 2010 at 9:17 am

Ayer,

I find the Christian resort to deductive argument exercises in a vain attempt to prove the existence of God to be one of the greatest arguments against the existence of God. And the implication that Christians are the appropriate guardians of the uses and purposes of logic (while denying the conclusions that its application leads us) is what appears bizarre to me.

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Mazen Abdallah September 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

Does the genius explain a magical superbeing that can conjure universes out of his anus in terms of modern cosmology? Cause i’ll read that. The best counter-argument to Craig isn’t getting a pHd, it’s common sense

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Reidish September 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

Tony Hoffman,

You appear to be disingenuous or obtuse. What’s evident to any critical thinker who reads Christian arguments is that the conclusion (God exists!) is arrived at first, and the premises are thrown out there in a hodge podge, trial balloon fashion. Coming across the endless stream of Christian arguments for God reminds me of nothing more than the alibis of a bad liar.

I understand that’s your opinion, but it’s not relevant to the question I posed, which was: what “special rules” are being made up here?

You did interpret me correctly here, when you said:

Looking at his arguments here in their best light, I imagined he was saying we could use deductive arguments to investigate premises.

Right, I’ve heard this referred to as “modus tollens-ing” our arguments, for example:
(1) If this argument is sound, then God exists.
(2) God does not exist.
(3) Therefore, this argument is not sound (ie, a premise is false or there’s a bad inference)

And yes, that example was just a tweak…

rvkevin,
Regarding your latest example:

1. If A->B
2. A
3. Therefore B
This can then be translated to “If 1 and 2, then 3″. We have different epistemic probabilities for each premise: 1 and 2. To figure out the probability of the conclusion (3), one must multiply those probabilities.

No, given the above, you can’t figure out the probability of the conclusion, because first-order logic is simply agnostic about the probability of the premises. There is no “room”, no method, within the laws to handle probability operations across an inference. I’ve tried saying this in many different ways.

You are interpreting the argument like this:
P(B) = P(If A, then B)*P(A) [assuming independence]

But with the above equation you are establishing a mathematical relationship that simply is not derived from, nor equivalent to, the modus ponens inference.

Look, premises in such arguments must be treated in a binary fashion: they are either true or false. If you think a conclusion is false (say the conclusion to the KCA), then you must either (i) find the bad inference, or (ii) commit yourself to the belief that at least one of the inferences is false. That’s not to say you can’t hold the beliefs about the premises and conclusion with varying levels of conviction. But, regardless of personal conviction, if:
[a] you accept the premises as true, and
[b] the inferences are valid, and
[c] you believe the conclusion is false, then…

What can I say: you’ve got a real quandary on your hands.

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Chip September 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

I can’t help but be amused by this whole exchange. Look: it’s quite simple. Bayesian reasoning is the unique extension of deductive logic to the case where we’re uncertain about our premises. (See the very readable book, “Understanding Uncertainty”, by D. V. Lindley: http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Uncertainty-Dennis-V-Lindley/dp/0470043830/ref=sr_1_1?s=gateway&ie=UTF8&qid=1285779865&sr=8-1 )

Put another way: deductive logic just is Bayesian reasoning, in the special case where the truth status of the premises has no uncertainty. When all the probabilities are zero or one.

If you feel that certain about the truth/falsity of every premise, then go ahead and use the “deductive logic” approximation to Bayesian reasoning. Otherwise, you can’t be lazy about it, and you have to go full-Bayesian. Bayesian reasoning ably takes care of the “lottery paradox” (as is obvious at a glance). It also can show why Plantinga’s EAAN is mistaken (i.e. P(R|E&N) != P(N|E&R); he has mixed up his conditionals).

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Tony Hoffman September 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

Chip: If you feel that certain about the truth/falsity of every premise, then go ahead and use the “deductive logic” approximation to Bayesian reasoning. Otherwise, you can’t be lazy about it, and you have to go full-Bayesian.

vs.

Reidish: No, given the above, you can’t figure out the probability of the conclusion, because first-order logic is simply agnostic about the probability of the premises. There is no “room”, no method, within the laws to handle probability operations across an inference.

It’s Reidish’s last sentence above that I find odd. Doesn’t, as Chip and so many others here have said, the Bayesian formulation take care of handling the probability of the premises in a deductive argument?

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Reidish September 29, 2010 at 11:31 am

Tony Hoffman,

Doesn’t, as Chip and so many others here have said, the Bayesian formulation take care of handling the probability of the premises in a deductive argument?

No, Tony, what I’ve maintained is consistent with Chip’s comments. That is, the premises in a first-order logic must be treated in a binary fashion. Instead, one could also ignore such arguments and instead use full-on Bayesian. But what you cannot do (and what was being done repeatedly on this thread) is simply multiply through probabilities of premises in a deductive argument. If you do that, your results are meaningless.

Chip,
Good comments. While I agree with this:

Put another way: deductive logic just is Bayesian reasoning, in the special case where the truth status of the premises has no uncertainty. When all the probabilities are zero or one.

…I’d disagree with this:

It also can show why Plantinga’s EAAN is mistaken (i.e. P(R|E&N) != P(N|E&R); he has mixed up his conditionals).

He doesn’t attempt to show what is P(N|E&R) or to set that equality. We can set that aside for a different time, though.

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Patrick September 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Reidish wrote:

“Look, premises in such arguments must be treated in a binary fashion: they are either true or false. If you think a conclusion is false (say the conclusion to the KCA), then you must either (i) find the bad inference, or (ii) commit yourself to the belief that at least one of the inferences is false. That’s not to say you can’t hold the beliefs about the premises and conclusion with varying levels of conviction. But, regardless of personal conviction, if:
[a] you accept the premises as true, and
[b] the inferences are valid, and
[c] you believe the conclusion is false, then… ”

This would be true if you didn’t define “accept a premise as true” as “judge that a premise is more plausible than its negation.” Once you do that, I can (using your definition of accepting a premise as true) accept each individual premise as true, then reject the proposition that all the premises are collectively true at the same time. This leaves me in a situation where I “accept the premises as true” one by one, judge the inferences valid, but nonetheless reject the conclusion.

Which, if you’re doing deduction properly, should be impossible. Which is all that’s needed to demonstrate that you’re doing deduction wrong.

What it really seems like you’re doing is taking uncertain premises, then deciding that because you’re doing deduction and the rules of deduction aren’t adequate for dealing with uncertain premises, you can set aside issues of uncertainty. This is incorrect.

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Hermes September 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm

This whole exchange is hilarious.

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lukeprog September 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Chip,

Good rec, thanks.

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Muto September 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I fully agree with Hermes. Let’s stop debating with Craig and start gambling with him^^

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Hermes September 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

LOL! :)

“Well, you see Mr. Craig, that $2,000 I borrowed from you is mostly like $1,100. $1,100 is mostly like $600. Do you follow me? Well, after quite a bit of consideration along those lines, I figure that 18 cents is close enough. If you want to come back later, I can have it so that you owe me money. I won’t mind waiting.”

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rvkevin September 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm

You are interpreting the argument like this:
P(B) = P(If A, then B)*P(A) [assuming independence]

But with the above equation you are establishing a mathematical relationship that simply is not derived from, nor equivalent to, the modus ponens inference.

I realize its not derived from modus ponens, its from basic probability theory. If you have two statements and you have assigned them some (epistemic) probability that they are true and you want to find the probability that they are both simultaneously true, then all you need to do is multiply the two probabilities [assuming independence].

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Eric October 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Oh my gawd! are the atheists on this page seriously trying to teach theists basic statistics? and the theists aren’t seeming to get it? Here take this scenario:

I have two dice. I will win a game of dice if the fist die rolls 3-6 and the second die rolls 3-6. Lets look at this using formal logic:
If (A and B) Then P
A: The first die will roll 3-6.
B: the second die will roll 3-6
P: I will win the dice game

A has a 67% chance of being true. It is more likely that A will be true than not.
B has a 67% chance of being true. It is more likely that B will be true than not.

What are the chances for P?
Statistics 101: A & B translates to A*B
Therefore A&B = .67*.67 = .45
A&B has a 45 percent chance of being true.
Therefore it is more likely that A&B will be false than true… So will you bet that you will win the game?

Now if A and B average over 71% each then A&B = .5041 which means A&B are more likely to be true than not. But you must establish this as the case. Merely saying A is more likely than ~A only established 51% by default…

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Eric October 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Sorry, probability, not statistics… I got a bit frustrated, lol

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Eric October 2, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Or lets take this in the past tense, a guy rolls the dice out of your eye sight and you must guess whether or not the dice both landed at 3-6. Using the logic seen by the theists here, i could say:

A: The first die rolled a 3-6.
B: the second die rolled a 3-6
P: I will win the dice game

It is more likely than not that an individual die rolled a 3-6. So I take it as true that die rolled a 3-6 using binary logic. So A is true and B is true, therefore A&B is true. Then P must be true. No matter how many times i play this game, I must always consider A&B to be true so P must be true.
Seeing as how there is a 45% chance both dice rolled a 3-6, id be a pretty lousy gambler to use this logic…

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Rosita October 3, 2010 at 10:13 pm

The universe came from “nothing”, where “nothing” is defined as a singularity with infinite gravity (that is, “something”). Elements of the universe disappear back to “nothing” (that is, infinite gravity) in the singularity at the focus of a black hole. In other words, the word “nothing” is ambiguously used by apologists like W.L. Craig. If the man is cosmologically sophisticated then he is probably being deliberately misleading.

As for creation, stars continue to explode and be created in “star nurseries” without any obvious need for a complex “mind” to oversee these processes. The laws of physics are sufficient to account for the phenomena. In the same way, the laws of chemistry explain the continuous creation of highly ordered complex hexagonal snowflakes.

The flip side of the argument from complexity: If the universe began from a simple explosion why would it need a complex mind to set it off? If complexity requires design and development then how is such a complex thing as a divine “mind” exempt from such requirements? Our knowledge of existing things indicates that minds only result from highly developed biological life forms; the more complex the mind, the longer the life form has taken to evolve and the longer it takes to mature. If all known minds evolve and mature from “nothing” then why would a divine mind be any different?

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Rosita October 3, 2010 at 10:35 pm

@ayer

You are correct in asserting that Craig is under attack for using deceptive means to win an argument rather than honest ones. You are incorrect in your implication that this is a form of the logical fallacy known as “ad hominem” attack. There is a crucial difference between attacking personal characteristics of the proposer which are irrelevant to the strength of the argument which he (or she) is making and attacking personal aspects of the proposer which have a bearing on the validity of the argument the person is making.

In the case in point, Craig’s dishonest tactics have a huge bearing on the validity of his argument. On the other hand, his condescending and somewhat vicious attacks on his protagonists merely mark him as “not a nice person” and have no bearing on his arguments – unless he is arguing that all Christians are nice people.

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al friedlander October 5, 2010 at 11:42 am

I’ve been plowing through this thread for the last couple of days at work.

I’m still confused.

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Ron October 10, 2010 at 7:19 am

Craig’s major work here is found in two very expensive books, The Tensed Theory of Time: A Critical Examination and The Tenseless Theory of Time: A Critical Examination.

Both links point to the same very expensive book.

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Michael October 10, 2010 at 8:47 am

Craig offers a straightforward argument to disprove the existence of God (Contention 1 in his constructive presentation). I accept his gift and anyone debating Craig should too. This does not endorse his reasoning, but merely points out the extent to which his theology twists his philosophy (and his physics). And he has no reasonable hope of extricating himself from this pit of his own digging in the time allotted in debates.

1. A preferred frame of reference is a necessary condition for the existence of God. According to Craig.

Presentism and Relativity by Yuri Balashov and Michel Janssen in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science( preprint p16 http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/525/1/presentism_and_relativity.pdf )

“His central objection to the space-time interpretation
is that it is incompatible with a preferred frame of reference, which, he claims, is a necessary condition for the existence of God (see conditionals (1)–(4) on p. 173). Such theological considerations lead Craig to embrace the neo-Lorentzian interpretation.”

This is the entire motivation for what Luke has pointed-out is Craig’s Herculean examination of the nature of time, elaborated into a Sisyphusian attempted construction of a neo-Lorentzian interpretation of Special Relativity: Craig is convinced that God cannot exist in the reality of Special Relativity as it is understood using Minkowski’s (and Einstein’s) explication of it.

An original citation would require paying $189 for Craig’s book “Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity” and that action would violate basic precepts of any human morality. The 11th Comandment, “Thou shalt not fund the shenanigans of total D-bags.” for example. So I will trust the reading comprehension of Balashov and Janssen.

2. No such preferred frame of reference exists.

The neo-Lorentzian interpretation fails, leaving the received view by physicists as the only plausible interpretation standing. Einstein was right, there is no preferred frame of reference, and there is no plausible contender for resurrecting one.

Presentism and Relativity by Yuri Balashov and Michel Janssen in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science( preprint p7 http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/525/1/presentism_and_relativity.pdf )

“Because of his metaphysical and theological predilections, Craig wants to resurrect the notion of a preferred frame of reference in physics. We want to show —no more and no less — how forcefully the physical evidence militates against such a return to the days before Einstein. We claim (see sec. 11 below) that the argument from physics against Craig’s metaphysically
motivated proposal is on a par with the argument against proposals to return to the days before Darwin in biology or the days before Copernicus in astronomy.”

And it isn’t just “fronting” either. Craig’s attempted resurrection of a Lorentzian model of Special Relativity is on a par with “creationist” explanations of human origins.

Presentism and Relativity by Yuri Balashov and Michel Janssen in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science( preprint p25 http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/525/1/presentism_and_relativity.pdf )

“No matter how the argument is made, the point is that there are brute facts in the neo-Lorentzian
interpretation that are explained in the space-time interpretation. As Craig (p. 101) writes (in a different context): “if what is simply a brute fact in one theory can be given an explanation in another theory, then we have an increase in intelligibility that counts in favor of the second theory.” We just presented such an argument in the case of the space-time interpretation versus
the neo-Lorentzian interpretation. The argument is not iron-clad and may still be outweighed by the needs of theology or quantum mechanics. But it is on a par with, say, the argument for preferring Darwinian evolution over special creation. That is good enough for us.”

3. God cannot exist.

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lukeprog October 10, 2010 at 9:58 am

Thanks, Ron. I fixed it.

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Hermes October 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Michael, thanks. Very interesting.

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mojo.rhythm October 15, 2010 at 3:04 am

Awesome Michael. Intriguing stuff. The more I read of other metaphysicians reviewing the philosophy of time of Bill Craig, the more I get the feeling he is opportunistically holding to the A-series just to keep the Kalam and Yahweh alive. No other reason.

I also want to know why Quentin Smith is a presentist; it just seems so bizarre. Is he going to be on CPBD Luke?

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Darbaz Dara June 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Sure as i was trying to understand … Time is static and space is variable so the space (Location) changes, so you can be in a different Time in the same location but u can’t be in different location in the same time, that is what we call it dreams, and the Space time is different to our time

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