A Question for Bill Craig on Time and the KCA

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 16, 2010 in Kalam Argument

Earlier, I submitted a question about theism and objective morality to William Lane Craig’s Q&A page. My question was basically an objection to his moral argument for God’s existence. Craig has not replied to that question, though I’m sure he gets way too many questions to answer.

Today, I submitted another question. This one attempts to assist him in defending his Kalam Cosmological Argument:

Dr. Craig,

You say that the Kalam Cosmological Argument depends on the reality of temporal becoming, and therefore on a “dynamic” rather than a “static” view of time. It is widely held that special relativity is incompatible with a dynamic view of time, though this incompatibility has been denied by philosophers such as Michael Tooley, Quentin Smith, and yourself.

Recently, Bradford Skow at MIT has defended a view that combines eternalism (aka the standard “block universe” view of most physicists) with an assertion of objective temporal becoming – a view called the “moving spotlight” theory of time. (Skow, “Relativity and the Moving Spotlight.”) He has also argued that this theory of time is compatible with special relativity.

Are the assumptions of the Kalam Cosmological Argument compatible with the “moving spotlight” theory of time? If so, it seems this would be one way to invite “block universe” believers to consider the merits of the Kalam Cosmological Argument once more.

Thanks for your time,

Luke Muehlhauser

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Taranu September 16, 2010 at 2:34 am

Luke,

Apart from Special Relativity what else supports Eternalism?

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CJ September 16, 2010 at 3:49 am

@Taranu: Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m under the impression that almost all of the modern cosmological theories (String, M, etc.) either support or are compatible with it.

Not sure, though. I’m not particularly well versed on this area of physics.

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mojo.rhythm September 16, 2010 at 7:31 am

Luke,

It seems to me Craig could never actually use this theory of time in his work, because it assigns an ontologically real status to past and future events. If our current science is correct, the universe is going to keep expanding forever, which, under the moving spotlight theory, would kill Craig’s arguments against the possibility of an actual infinite. Heaven and Hell are also disproved by this reasoning.

Only presentism is compatible with Craig’s arguments against the possibility of an actual infinite.

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mojo.rhythm September 16, 2010 at 8:05 am

Taranu,

Special relativity is the science behind the B-series. The rest of the supporting evidence is philosophical arguments that show (a) the incoherence of temporal becoming and (b) how tensed statements can be reduced to tenseless equivalents.

For an introduction to philosophy of time, I really recommend reading a summary of J.M.E. McTaggart’s paper “the unreality of time”. It was published in the 19th century and claimed to disprove the A-series and B-series, leading to the conclusion that time did not exist! He was the one who coined the phrases “A-series” and “B-series”.

Even before Einstein published his paper on special relativity in 1905, most philosophers of time were eternalists; based on the paucity of the philosophical arguments for an A-series, and the cogent philosophical arguments for the B-series.There is even a C-series apparently, which I would be fascinated to learn about.

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Thomas September 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

mojo.rhythm,

What books, articles, and arguments defending the B-theory of time would you recommend?

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lukeprog September 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Thomas,

I have an upcoming series on the arguments for and against different theories of time. I suspect you’ll enjoy it.

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mojo.rhythm September 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Thomas,

Richard Carrier has got a really good blog post arguing for a B-series based on relativity here. Warning: it’s pretty long. He also totally disses Craig’s philosophy of time tetralogy. Hilarious!

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Taranu September 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

@mojo.rhythm
Thank you

@Luke
“I have an upcoming series on the arguments for and against different theories of time”
I can barely wait. This blog rocks and it’s my nr1

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Ayer September 18, 2010 at 11:51 am

Recently came across this essay from Greg Boyd regarding his take on temporal becoming:

http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/essays-open-theism/scientific-support/

Boyd: “Quantum physics suggests that Einstein was mistaken in his classical-philosophical conclusion that the distinction between the past, present and future is an illusion. Nothing short of an empirically groundless, metaphysically mechanistic assumption kept him, and some other physicists, from affirming that the apparent indeterminacy of reality at a quantum level is in fact real (viz. ontological).”

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lukeprog September 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Ayer,

Thanks for the link.

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Godlessons November 2, 2010 at 2:17 am

I have thought quite a bit about time, and one thing that gets me is Zeno’s Paradox of the Arrow. Essentially, it says that if you were to shoot an arrow, and freeze time at every moment along the path, the arrow would be at only one place at any moment, but in the next moment it would be at its next point, which means that somewhere the arrow must be at two places at once, and since it’s impossible for the same matter to occupy two distinct places simultaneously, the arrow can’t move.

I won’t go into too much detail about why this is. People can look up explanations themselves. Suffice it to say, it is sound. It is also sound to say that there is no discrete increment, which when added infinitely, can only fit between two fixed points. This is essentially what Craig says in his KCA, and I agree with him.

So, since it is mathematically impossible to have an actual infinite number of measures between two fixed points, but we see movement, and time passes, the only option is that the arrow is at two points at once which, although hard to imagine, must be true just because it is the only option that could possibly be explained and not be self contradictory.

So, since it would be impossible for the same exact matter to occupy two different places at once, it must be different matter. On top of that, if the arrow is in two places at once, point a and point b for instance, it must also be at 3 places at once, since in the next moment after the arrow moves from a to b, the arrow is at points b and c instead, which means c must have existed prior to that moment as well for the same reason that the arrow at point b must exist prior to the arrow getting there. This actually must be extrapolated out forever, since every time a thing is at one place, it must also be in its next position, and if you have 3 instances of an object, you must have 4, and 4 instances means 5 and so on.

So, without appealing to quantum mechanics, we can show that time must be tenseless. There is no other option, because every other option is self contradictory.

A-series time does not address the paradox of the arrow. How do things move without being at two places simultaneously? If Craig admits they are in 2 places simultaneously, he must admit they are in all places they ever were or will be simultaneously, which would be tenseless.

There is another option, which is that somehow, outside of our time, everything is destroyed and recreated in the next moment in a new position, but that would suggest a second time line, because that change must exist somewhere. That second time line would be subject to the same paradox, and the same thing must hold there, and since there can’t be an infinite series of time lines, somewhere the vicious circle must fit into what I have proposed, so somewhere time must be tenseless which would still mean all time is tenseless.

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Andrew Gray March 28, 2011 at 1:47 am

mojo.rhythm

@mojo.rhythm
I think you are confusing a potential infinite with an actual infinite. Read Craigs work, and he addresses this well. A potential infinite is a concept we are all familiar with, for example, suppose someone started counting numbers from 0, adding one every second, and somehow never stopped. That is an idea similar to a potential infinite. At any point the number is finite, but that number is endlessly “approaching” infinity. But as I say, it is finite, and not an actual infinite. So if the universe is endlessly expanding, that doesn’t say that the universe is infinite, it merely says it is endlessly “growing” towards infinity, but never reaching it.

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