Mapping the Kalam: Introduction and Index

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 18, 2009 in Indexes,Kalam Argument

kalamWilliam Lane Craig’s version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (1979) is one of the most hotly debated arguments for the existence of God today. Professional philosophers have published literally hundreds of chapters, books, and academic papers about it since its introduction, in addition to thousands of popular-level books, articles, and debates about it.

Hundreds of supporting arguments and counter-arguments have been offered, making the Kalam one of the most complex arguments in the philosophy of religion. The argument involves open debates in cosmology, cosmogony, the philosophy of time, the philosophy of mathematics, modal logic, and many other complex subjects.

How are we to evaluate such an argument? Any one article can only present a tiny fraction of the relevant arguments. One can easily get lost in the uncountable sea of arguments and have no idea what to conclude. Does the argument succeed? Anyone who claims to know has probably not considered all the relevant arguments. So what are we to do?

kasparov-karpovThe Kalam is like a chess game. We know the setup, but how do we know which are the winning moves, and which moves are doomed to fail? Some branches of play – some threads of argument and counter-argument – may lead to success for the Kalam, while other branches of play leave the Kalam easily defeated.

The chess analogy suggests a solution to all this complexity.

How is it that chess computers now regularly beat the world’s strongest human players?

Chess computers win because they can map all possible moves and their results, up to a dozen moves ahead or more. The computer can see what all possible responses to move A would be, how strong they are, what counter-attacks are available, what defenses are available for those counter-attacks, and so on. It can also see all this for move B. And for move C. And for all the moves that are available to it! A poor human just can’t compete with the computer’s ability to map out hundreds of thousands of possible moves and their consequences.

Luckily, the Kalam is not nearly as complex as a chess match. We can map the Kalam argument. This will show us which branches of play – which threads of argument and counter-argument – lead to dead-ends, which ones provide support for the existence of God, and which ones need further development.

I’m surprised that argument mapping is not more popular in philosophy, given how useful it is in clarifying complex arguments. The technique is not new; it goes back at least to 1826. It has enjoyed much theoretical development by scholars like Tim van Gelder. Argument maps have been shown to improve critical thinking, and there are about a dozen computer programs devoted to drawing argument maps quickly and easily.

As an example, see van Gelder’s argument map for Muammar Qaddafi‘s recent New York Times piece advocating a one-state solution for Israel and Palestine:

isratine

(click to enlarge)

We can do the same thing with the Kalam argument. The map will be bigger than the one above, and it will also show arguments in two directions (for and against), but our map will certainly bring clarity to a debate that has been waged in hundreds of articles over several decades by dozens of philosophers. If we’re lucky, mapping the Kalam argument might even lead us to a conclusion about whether it provides good reason to believe in the existence of God, or not.

In upcoming posts I will present the argument as defended by Craig (with some help from James Sinclair) in this year’s Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, since the latest version of the argument should make a few earlier counter-arguments irrelevant, and thus make our map simpler. Then I’ll start explaining the relevant supporting arguments and counter-arguments, and begin drawing the argument map.

And I’ll do all this in plain talk (as with my ethics book), as much as possible.

You’ll notice I have not framed this post series as “How to Defeat the Kalam.” That would be presuming the end result before I get there. I understand the important role that assertive argument plays in philosophy, but for this post series I’ve chosen to simply do the analysis. I’m not going to argue one way or the other. I’m simply going to do the job of philosophy: I’m going to clarify and analyze the argument.

Below is an index of all the articles in this post series:

  1. Introduction (this post)
  2. History of the Kalam Cosmological Argument
  3. The KCA in Brief (map so far)
  4. Did the Universe Begin to Exist?
  5. Hilbert’s Hotel
  6. Objections to Hilbert’s Hotel
  7. Does an Actual Infinite Exist in the Universe?
  8. Infinite Temporal Regress
  9. Can You Count to Infinity?
  10. Did the Universe Begin from a Singularity?
  11. Can Something Come from Nothing?
  12. What Must a Cause of the Universe Be Like?
  13. Grunbaum on the Cause of the Universe
  14. A map of the full 2009 argument from Craig & Sinclair

There are also some posts outside the regular sequence of the series:

Your contributions, corrections, article links, and questions are all highly welcome.

Also, your patience is appreciated. This is a massive project, and I work an overtime job just to pay the rent, not to mention everything else I have going on.

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{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

Reginald Selkirk April 19, 2009 at 6:56 am

The argument involves open debates in cosmology, cosmogony, the philosophy of time, the philosophy of mathematics, modal logic, and many other complex subjects.
That’s quite a range. Lane Craig has said some notably stupid things in the realm of mathematics and science.

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Justin April 19, 2009 at 12:47 pm

My view on the cosmological argument is one relating causality and time.

Essentially I think something like this.

Causal chain goes back forever as long as time exists. (Since causality is temporal)

Without time causality does not apply.

Time can be created without needing a causal explanation. After this all things need a causal explanation.

Time is the first cause that does not need a causal explanation.

Now I can’t get from time exists to planets or to matter, but maybe it’s a second cause argument?

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Sabio April 20, 2009 at 4:59 am

I am very much looking forward to this, both for the content and the method.  Thank you in advance. BTW,  the Japanese have one word for “Thank you in Advance” — it is “ONegaiShimasu”  [OK, the Japanese have a different notion of “word”, but you get my point.
Also, must mention,  as a player of WeiQi (“GO”, in English), I must mention that WeiQi has not be susceptible to brute computer force solution yet.  Thus, in this way, the game is a far better model of reality.  Anyone who has played Go and Chess, has never gone back to Chess.  Try it. (links on my site).

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lukeprog April 20, 2009 at 6:21 am

Go is cool, but I never spent enough time with it to be any good!

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Lorkas April 20, 2009 at 10:30 am

What I never understood about this argument is, if we assert that the universe cannot exist in the infinite past, then why is it okay to postulate a different being which did exist in the infinite past.

If it is okay for any entity (such as God) to have existed in the infinite past, then there is no philosophical reason to reject out of hand the idea that the universe may have always existed (in some sense or another). If it is not okay for an actual infinity to exist, then why are we postulating an infinite creator?

Perhaps you can explain to me why this is considered to be a credible line of argument by so many people, since I don’t seem to appreciate the complexity of the argument.

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Reginald Selkirk April 20, 2009 at 10:59 am

Lorkas: What I never understood about this argument is, if we assert that the universe cannot exist in the infinite past, then why is it okay to postulate a different being which did exist in the infinite past….

Which part of “I get to cheat, and you don’t” didn’t you understand?

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lukeprog April 20, 2009 at 11:58 am

Craig would say that we know the universe (aka spacetime) does not have an infinite past because of evidence for the Big Bang and also evidence from mathematics. For something to cause spacetime, it must be spaceless and timeless, unlike the universe, since the beginning of the universe marks the beginning of spacetime.

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Lorkas April 20, 2009 at 7:32 pm

lukeprog: For something to cause spacetime, it must be spaceless and timeless, unlike the universe, since the beginning of the universe marks the beginning of spacetime.

Perhaps I’m pre-empting your project by exploring one of the lines of argument here, but it doesn’t seem to me that this last claim is substantiated by our knowledge that space and time as we know it began at the Big Bang.

The farthest-reaching claim that seems justified by this line of argument is “The universe must have had a cause that was not part of the universe.” It may have been a natural cause in another spacetime (hence not spaceless or timeless), or it may have been a spaceless, timeless cause bearing nothing whatsoever in common with any deity humans have ever conceived.

It seems to me like a bait-and-switch tactic to assert that the universe must have a cause, and then leap to the conclusion that the cause is a deity bearing all of the characteristics of Yahweh+Jesus+Holy Ghost (or any particular deity–I know this was originally an Islamic apologist argument), or even a deity at all.

I know that you are probably just telling the argument as Craig makes it, but still… I just can’t see why this argument is particularly compelling to anyone who doesn’t start off wanting to believe its conclusions.

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Lorkas April 20, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Perhaps you disagree… what I’m really looking for here is an explanation (in good faith) for why so many thoughtful people seem to take this argument seriously, when it seems a pretty simplistic fallacy to me.

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lukeprog April 20, 2009 at 8:25 pm

No such thing as pre-empting! All this dialogue will only help inform my mapping of the Kalam.

I, personally, agree with the two major points you’ve made here.

People take all kinds of really bad arguments seriously because they WANT to confirm their convictions. This is just as true about arguments for moral realism as for theological realism, by the way.

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toweltowel April 21, 2009 at 12:23 am

Lorkas,

I think you’re right that the empirical evidence does not show that time has an absolute beginning with the Big Bang (though I’m no expert on cosmology). However, Craig also has non-empirical arguments intended to show that time has an absolute beginning. One argument tries to show that it’s impossible for an actual infinite to exist in reality, which means that the past cannot consist of infinitely many events. Another argument tries to show that it’s impossible for an infinite collection to be formed by adding elements to the collection one-by-one, which means there cannot be an infinite collection of past events.

These metaphysical arguments are, of course, subject to serious doubt. But I think they would establish that time has an absolute beginning.

Now, I agree that it is hard to see how to get to anything like theism from the conclusion “the universe has a cause”. But, again, Craig does have arguments. For one thing, any cause of the universe would have to be outside of space and time. Now, I really don’t see how he can get anything like power or knowledge, much less omnipotence or omniscience, though he’ll sometimes say the cause must be powerful enough to produce an entire universe (as if big effects cannot come from trivial causes). But he does have an actual argument that the cause must be a person or an agent, as opposed to a mindless natural process—what Craig calls a ‘mechanical cause’. The thought is that an eternal mechanical cause would have an eternal effect, because with mechanical causation the cause is sufficient to bring about the effect—i.e., given the cause it is impossible for the effect not to follow. So the universe (which is not eternal) cannot have a mechanical cause. Instead, it must have a personal agent as its cause, because agent causes are not sufficient to bring about their effects—a free person is the cause of his actions, and yet even given this cause it is possible that the action not be performed, due to the agent’s freedom of the will. In short, the reason the cause of the universe must be a person is that only persons (i.e., agents with deep metaphysical free will) are capable of serving as the eternal cause of an effect which is not eternal.

Now this argument is also seriously questionable, and like the others it relies on quaint metaphysical claims pulled seemingly from thin air. But it’s an argument.

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Lorkas April 21, 2009 at 6:22 am

toweltowel:
One argument tries to show that it’s impossible for an actual infinite to exist in reality, which means that the past cannot consist of infinitely many events. Another argument tries to show that it’s impossible for an infinite collection to be formed by adding elements to the collection one-by-one, which means there cannot be an infinite collection of past events.

If it is impossible for an actual infinite to exist, then a God with any infinite attribute cannot exist, and he cannot have existed infinitely into the past.

This is a self-defeating argument for theists, since they are trying to prove that an infinite being exists by way of proving that actual infinites are impossible (or, at least, that they do not exist in “reality”).

Then, if we propose that God is not actually infinite, then he must have had a beginning (and, according to the argument, must have had a cause as well), and we’re right back where we started.

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Sindri Gudjonsson April 21, 2009 at 7:39 am

@ Sabic. Computers have not yet “solved” chess. Far, far, far, from it. The best chess computers and chess programs are  a little better at chess than humans (but there are a lot of chess computers and chess programs out there, that are total crap). Best humans win the best chess programs occasionally, but loose a little more often. No one has made a map of “chess” that would guarantee a win. There are extremely many computer programmers that are enthusiastic about chess programs, and chess programs are sold in millions of copies, and there are hundreds of different types of chess computers and chess programs. I guess if people would put as much effort in making GO playing computer programs, computers would be better at playing GO than humans (maybe they are? I don’t know very much about GO).

I seriously doubt that the people you might know that stopped playing chess, just because they tried out GO, were good accomplished chess players. Many people have spend their whole life studying chess, and worked as professional chess players their whole life. I know players that study 8 hours a day. Chess at higher levels is a completely different game, than chess played by people that just play occasionally. Good chess players can play blind-fold chess against many players simultaniously. (I participated in a game where an Icelandic Grandmaster played blindfold chess against 8 players at once, and won all the games.)

Chess is not a very popular sport in the U.S., but in some parts of the world it is, for example in my country, Iceland.

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Reginald Selkirk April 21, 2009 at 8:39 am

toweltowel: L… However, Craig also has non-empirical arguments intended to show that time has an absolute beginning. One argument tries to show that it’s impossible for an actual infinite to exist in reality, which means that the past cannot consist of infinitely many events. Another argument tries to show that it’s impossible for an infinite collection to be formed by adding elements to the collection one-by-one, which means there cannot be an infinite collection of past events.These metaphysical arguments are, of course, subject to serious doubt. But I think they would establish that time has an absolute beginning….

This sort of argument is dealt with at the link I provided above. Here is another mathematician addressing it. I disagree with you that there is “serious doubt” about these arguments. I think they have been clearly shown to be fallacious. They rely on cognitive biases. It goes something like this: Imagine that the world has existed for an infinite time. This means there would have to be an infinite chain of events since the beginning(1). But there couldn’t have been an infinite chain of events(2).

Fallacies glossed over:
1) What beginning? Saying the world has existed for an infinite time means there was no beginning.
2) And why don’t you think there could have been an infinite chain of events? Because that would take infinite time? But that was our starting point! This is not a contradiction, it is a cognitive bias.

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toweltowel April 21, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Lorkas: If it is impossible for an actual infinite to exist, then a God with any infinite attribute cannot exist, and he cannot have existed infinitely into the past.

But Craig does not think that God’s perfection involves the real existence of infinitely many things, nor does he think that God has existed throughout an infinite past (God is supposed to be outside of space and time metaphysically prior to the creation of the universe). So there is no contradiction here.

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toweltowel April 21, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Reginald Selkirk: What beginning? Saying the world has existed for an infinite time means there was no beginning.

Why couldn’t Craig simply say that, if the past is infinite, then the collection of past events is an infinite collection? Why would he need to commit himself to a beginning and run into this contradiction?

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Jeffrey April 21, 2009 at 2:59 pm

>This is a massive project, and I work an overtime job just to pay the rent, not to mention everything else I have going on.
You could consider adding advertisements.  My envelope math estimates that you could make $40 a week.
Here’s the math: <a href=”http://technorati.com/blogging/state-of-the-blogosphere/blogging-for-profit/”>technocrati</a> says that among bloggers with more than 100,000 unique visitors a month, the median income is $22,000 a year. So I’ll say 200,000 unique visitors a month equals $22,000/year. Debunking Christianity posted that they got 50,000 hits in March, so I’ll guesstimate 30K unique visitors. Alexa puts your traffic at two thirds of that, so that puts you at 20K unique visitors a month for a paycheck of $2,200 a year and $40 a week.   The margin for error here is enormous, but I see no reason to think my guess is high.

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unkleE April 21, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Luke,

This is a most interesting idea – I’ll be very keen (and very patient!) to see the outcomes. But while I think this will provide great clarification, I don’t think it won’t “solve” this matter. Even if God does exist, I can’t see how any armchair argument would be able to prove that. It will always, I believe, remain a matter of judgment, and judgment is always partially subjective. For example, which is more probable, a supernatural being or an infinite universe? We each have different judgments on that sort of question. But hopefully your diagram will clarify the issues on which to base that judgment.

BTW, I loved the “live” chess game.

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lukeprog April 21, 2009 at 3:24 pm

unkleE,

No, this will certainly not solve the problem of the existence of God? There are literally hundreds of other arguments to map and weigh. But these arguments are not just armchair arguments, except for ontological ones. They do make use of observation of what exists. So we have to consider hundreds of other arguments for and against the existence of God, too.

The chess game shown is a famous match between Kasparov and Karpov in 1990.

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unkleE April 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Lorkas: Perhaps you disagree… what I’m really looking for here is an explanation (in good faith) for why so many thoughtful people seem to take this argument seriously, when it seems a pretty simplistic fallacy to me.

I wouldn’t pretend to be able to “prove” the argument, but I think it is at least explicable.

1. By “natural” we normally mean relating to the space-time-material universe we are familiar with, and any other similar universe.

2. It is difficult to see how such a universe, or succession of universes, could be infinite in time: (a) because we can never count to infinity, even with infinite time, so (arguably) an infinite sequence of discrete events cannot exist in time, and (b) in infinite time, every conceivable process would have run its course and such a universe (or succession of universes) would have “run down” – the only way out of this would be perpetual motion.

3. But God is postulated as being “outside” time, or not bound by time, so infinity for God is not endless time. Thus the argument in 2 doesn’t apply to God.

4. We may then postulate a universe not bound by time, but that would not be “natural” according to the normal definition in 1. So it would be something “extranatural” or “supernatural” – i.e. beyond nature.

5. Thus, whichever way we come at it, we have to postulate either (a) our universe commencing out of nothing without a cause, or (b) something different from the natural space-time “nature”. Yes, it could be something other than God, but equally it could be God – other arguments might decide that and each person makes their own judgment. 

I hope that at least shows, within the limits of a brief comment, why the infinite time argument has strength and doesn’t rule out God.

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lukeprog April 22, 2009 at 5:10 am

unkleE,

Why do you get to assume that God is outside time, without any evidence of this? Why do you get to assume a “universe” not bound by time, as if that is even coherent? Even physicists who speculate about multiverses test competing multiverse theories based on predictions they make about as-yet uncovered evidence.

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unkleE April 22, 2009 at 5:29 am

Luke,

I don’t have to assume, I can simply define God that way. (He has to be defined before we can properly discuss, and that is the God I am discussing.)

But it is also a corollary of defining God as creator. The scientists seem to say that matter, energy, space and time were all created at the big bang, so if God is defined as the creator, then he created time, and hence must logically be “outside” of time as he is “outside” of space. Interestingly, 1600 years before cosmologists came to this conclusion, the christian Augustine deduced this.

I agree that a universe not bound by time is not coherent. That is part of the argument. If you agree, then you can ignore point 4, and the argument is simpler.

Best wishes.

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lukeprog April 22, 2009 at 5:39 am

unkleE,

I could just as well define “Mrignoc” as a nerdy math student with 14 eyes in a higher dimension who created our universe as a computer simulation in a localized subset of the four dimensions of spacetime. That can “explain” the origin of our known 4-dimensional universe, and is consistent with my definition of Mrignoc, but the problem is that I have no evidence that this is true. And the same is true of your theory about “God.” In contrast, multiverse theorists – while they may be wrong – weigh the competing multiverse theories in terms of very specific evidence based on what the equations predict (I’ll show some examples in an upcoming post). But there are no particular predictions which flow from your theory – at least, not ones that can be changed in a heartbeat to fit new evidence, as Christians have always done. This is a problem in general with magical thinking – no particular predictions follow from magical theories, because it’s all just *poof* … magic!

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Reginald Selkirk April 22, 2009 at 5:51 am

toweltowel: Why couldn’t Craig simply say that, if the past is infinite, then the collection of past events is an infinite collection? Why would he need to commit himself to a beginning and run into this contradiction?

This is discussed at the first link I provided (repeat). This argument is not direct from Craig, but is filtered through his acolyte, Kirk Durston. Something about “You will never traverse an infinite series in reality if you must stop at a discrete amount if time for a constant amount if time in between.” (And why not? You can see the shift from starting with an infinite timeline to assuming that an infinite timespan is a problem.)

Craig himself briefly mentioned a similar argument in his chapter in The Cambridge companion to Atheism, but I haven’t read an in-depth treatment of it by Craig himself.

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Lorkas April 22, 2009 at 8:48 am

toweltowel: But Craig does not think that God’s perfection involves the real existence of infinitely many things, nor does he think that God has existed throughout an infinite past (God is supposed to be outside of space and time metaphysically prior to the creation of the universe). So there is no contradiction here.

I think that the singularity existed outside of time, and it is therefore no contradiction to suppose that the universe exists uncaused. Our competing hypotheses explain (away) the problem equally well, so why propose another entity with no evidence?

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Richard April 22, 2009 at 11:18 am

Luke, you’re right to object to unkleE trying to give God attributes by definition. But he’s free to propose that God has any attributes he likes, as long as they’re not logically inconsistent. He then has to argue for the hypothesis that such a God exists.

Of course, the atheist is also free to propose whatever he likes. If the theist can propose entities that exist outside time, then so can the atheist.

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Jeff H April 22, 2009 at 11:40 am

How about the reverse cosmological argument?

1. Everything that exists, exists inside time.
2. God either exists, or he does not.
3. Therefore, if he exists, he exists inside time.

Problem solved – and it’s based on just as much empirical evidence as the original cosmological argument. The secret to the original one is that the first premise is actually based upon an inductive argument – “Everything [that we know of] that begins to exist has a cause.” Therefore, my reverse cosmological argument does the same – “Everything [that we know of] that exists, exists inside time.”

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lukeprog April 22, 2009 at 11:55 am

Jeff H,

I like it.

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unkleE April 22, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Jeff H: Therefore, my reverse cosmological argument does the same – “Everything [that we know of] that exists, exists inside time.”

Only one problem. We know of at least on “thing” that exists outside of time – God. At least, about 80% of people do.

Of course I jest. But it illustrates that your “argument” commits the fallacy of assuming its conclusions in its premises.

So unlike Luke, I don’t like it – sorry! : )

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unkleE April 22, 2009 at 3:12 pm

lukeprog: the problem is that I have no evidence that this is true. And the same is true of your theory about “God.”

I have to say that I think this is quite inaccurate.

According to the philosophical dictionary “evidence” is defined this way: “A statement S is evidence for (against) a theory T if S is known to be true and there is a theory T’ that is not known to be false and T’ implies that T is more (less) probable given S.”

What scientists have learnt about the universe and its structure, our common human experience and what historians have concluded about history are all facts which imply that the existence of God is more probable. (Notice I do not claim what they say is necessarily true, only that it is a fact that the experts are saying these things are the best conclusions they can make.) That makes my arguments evidence. There may be other evidence (other things that scientists, humans or historians conclude) against the existence of God, but that doesn’t stop what I mention being evidence.

You have offered no evidence for your “Mrignoc”, but I have offered evidence for God. The analogy is not valid. But I would guess you already knew that?

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lukeprog April 22, 2009 at 4:34 pm

That’s just the thing; I don’t think that apparent design or cosmogony or any of those things make the existence of God any more probable…

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Lorkas April 22, 2009 at 4:50 pm

unkleE: your “argument” commits the fallacy of assuming its conclusions in its premises.

If so, then the Cosmological Argument commits the same error. It assumes that everything that begins to exist has a cause. We do not know that this is true any more than we know it is true that all things that exist exist inside time. That’s why the argument is a successful demonstration of the error made by proponents of the cosmological argument.

Also, simply stating that

unkleE: What scientists have learnt about the universe and its structure, our common human experience and what historians have concluded about history are all facts which imply that the existence of God is more probable.

does not make it so. Especially since the experts on the subject (the scientists) are proportionally much less religious than people who don’t dedicate their lives to studying these phenomena.

You don’t have any evidence that God exists that could not also imply that Mrignoc, Allah, or Invisible Pink Unicorns exist. Watch:

What scientists have learned about the universe and its structure, our common human experience and what historians have concluded about history are all facts which imply that the existence of Allah is more probable.

You can even substitute “fairies,” “dragons,” or “ghosts” in the place of Allah, and the assertion is just as (read: not at all) valid.

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toweltowel April 22, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Lorkas: I think that the singularity existed outside of time, and it is therefore no contradiction to suppose that the universe exists uncaused. Our competing hypotheses explain (away) the problem equally well, so why propose another entity with no evidence?

I agree that the argument provides no support for theism. I was just defending it against particular objections.

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toweltowel April 22, 2009 at 10:47 pm

unkleE: Of course I jest. But it illustrates that your “argument” commits the fallacy of assuming its conclusions in its premises.

As Lorkas has pointed out, the same is true of Craig’s argument. Indeed, there is a sense in which any valid argument has its conclusion already contained in its premises: otherwise it wouldn’t follow from them.

The question is (roughly) whether we have good reason to accept the premises. And I think we have little reason to accept the principle “everything that begins to exist has a cause”, seeing as how it takes an empirical generalization about causality and applies it to just about everything, including the beginning of time itself.

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Jeff H April 23, 2009 at 5:58 am

I feel I should also point out that the first premise, when really examined, makes the cosmological argument circular. Because when we see things “begin to exist,” they don’t actually begin to exist. Due to the law of conservation of matter, it can neither be created nor destroyed. The atoms that make up the growing fetus or the sprouting plant have been there since the beginning of time – they didn’t “begin to exist” when the fetus or plant did. So as such, these objects didn’t begin to exist – they only changed form.

When we look at things from this perspective, we realize that the only example of something “beginning to exist” is the universe itself. That is the only time when the matter and energy that we see today came to be. And as such, if the only example of something beginning to exist is the universe, a) basing an argument on a single example is pretty pathetic, and b) it makes the argument circular. You can’t prove the the universe had a cause by assuming it had a cause.

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Lorkas April 23, 2009 at 6:48 am

You might get the objection that a particular arrangement of atoms is an object that we can say begins to exist, even though the atoms that make it up existed before (a brick wall begins to exist when we build it; even though the bricks existed before, they were not a wall).

That’s easily countered, though: the origins of an arrangement of matter tells us nothing whatsoever about the origin of the matter itself.

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toweltowel April 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I think Craig is relying on the common sense notion that e.g. the Berlin Wall didn’t exist in 1870, but did exist in 1970. So ordinary objects besides the universe can count as things that ‘begin to exist’.

More suspect, I think, is defining ‘begin to exist’ so that x can begin to exist even though there isn’t any time prior to x where x didn’t exist. This curious definition is needed in order to claim that the universe began to exist, and he then plays off of the associated confusion when he talks about the universe ‘popping into existence’.

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Daniel April 24, 2009 at 3:38 am

Hi, I think it’s a bit stupid of me to go into this debate, because I don’t have time to follow up (if I am disciplined, which I usually am bad at;))

Anyway, 

toweltowel: More suspect, I think, is defining ‘begin to exist’ so that x can begin to exist even though there isn’t any time prior to x where x didn’t exist. This curious definition is needed in order to claim that the universe began to exist, and he then plays off of the associated confusion when he talks about the universe ‘popping into existence’.

That’s an interesting philosophical problem, but if someone has recognized it, it is Craig I must say, in his defense for the ‘A-theory of time’, as he realized that his version of the Kalam argument presupposes that (even if not all cosmological arguments hangs on that).

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Pablo Stafforini April 24, 2009 at 5:41 am

Jeff, you propose the following argument:

1. Everything that exists, exists inside time.
2. God either exists, or he does not.
3. Therefore, if he exists, he exists inside time.

Craig would, I believe, deny the first premise, for two reasons. First, because the premise presupposes the truth of naturalism, which he rejects both for being too restrictive and for being self-defeating. Second, because it presupposes that if a thing exists inside time, it cannot also exist outside time, contrary to his own view that God exists timelessly but enters time when he creates the Universe.

In assessing the Kalam cosmological argument, I think it is crucial to remember that the argument is predicated on a tensed theory of time. I say this because, to my knowledge, Craig’s opponents have never disputed the argument by denying this theory, in spite of the fact that the A-theory is far from being uncontroversial among philosophers and is rejected by the vast majority of scientists. If you don’t think that temporal becoming is real, it is not true that, as Craig claims, the Universe began to exist with the Big Bang, since nothing really comes into or goes out of existence. Nor is it true that, as Craig also Claims, an actual infinite cannot be formed by successive addition; for nothing needs to traverse the moments in the temporal series for these moments to exist. This is particularly relevant given that the current cosmological evidence suggests that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, and hence that the universe will keep expanding forever. On a tenseless theory of time, this implies that the universe is infinite, and therefore than an actual infinite does exist.

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Jeff H April 24, 2009 at 5:55 am

Pablo Stafforini: Jeff, you propose the following argument:
1. Everything that exists, exists inside time.
2. God either exists, or he does not.
3. Therefore, if he exists, he exists inside time.

Craig would, I believe, deny the first premise, for two reasons.First, because the premise presupposes the truth of naturalism, which he rejects both for being too restrictive and for being self-defeating.Second, because it presupposes that if a thing exists inside time, it cannot also exist outside time, contrary to his own view that God exists timelessly but enters time when he creates the Universe.

Hi there,
Those are good objections. However, I don’t think that premise 1 necessarily presupposes naturalism. All it is saying is that there is no evidence of anything outside time. We cannot, of course, use the example of God, since he is the one in question here, but I dare say that there is more evidence for God than there is for angels, demons, or anything else that might be considered “outside of time” (although depending on the theologian you ask, those examples might not be, either). So the first premise could be defeated with evidence showing the existence of something outside time. I think that’s a fairly difficult task, considering they likely also exist outside of space and are therefore non-corporeal, etc.

As for your second objection, I also do not think this premise presupposes that an object cannot exist inside and outside of time. If anything, the premise asserts, rather, that there is no “outside of time” at all. If everything exists inside time, as the premise states, then there is at least no meaningful discussion to be had about things existing outside of time. And again, we can’t use the example of God here, since he is the object in question – to do so would make the argument circular. So again, in order to attack the first premise, one would need to provide evidence or something existing outside of time, or, alternately, something existing both inside and outside of time. Good luck.

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Pablo Stafforini April 24, 2009 at 6:50 am

Jeff, you write,

I don’t think that premise 1 necessarily presupposes naturalism. All it is saying is that there is no evidence of anything outside time.

I think Craig would reply that only if you have naturalistic standards of evidence could you be warranted in asserting that there is no evidence for anything outside time.  But if you are open to the possibility that there are knowable entities which you cannot know with your five senses, then the fact that we have never observed anything outside time is insufficient to ground your first premise.  If, instead, you are willing to admit evidence ruled out by a naturalistic worldview, then the fact that there is more evidence for God than there is for other putatively atemporal beings is also insufficient, since this is compatible with there being strong (but not maximal) evidence for such beings, and hence enough evidence against your first premise.  More generally, it is not clear to me why Craig wouldn’t be entitled to invoke the specific evidence for God’s existing outside time.  The fact that God is the subject of the debate only means you cannot presuppose that he either exists or fails to exist; it doesn’t mean you cannot use arguments for or against his existence which employ premises which are, in themselves, neutral with respect to God’s existence.

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Pablo Stafforini April 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

I forgot to add that I agree on your other point: the second objection, concerning the possibility that God is both inside and outside time, is parasitic on the first one, so it provides no additional reasons to reject your argument.

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Jeff H April 24, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I hate to ruin the fact that there are 42 comments on a post roughly about the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but here we go…

Pablo Stafforini: I think Craig would reply that only if you have naturalistic standards of evidence could you be warranted in asserting that there is no evidence for anything outside time.  But if you are open to the possibility that there are knowable entities which you cannot know with your five senses, then the fact that we have never observed anything outside time is insufficient to ground your first premise.

I think that’s a legitimate objection to the argument, but I think it’s essentially a separate debate about what one would consider “evidence.” I tend to (at least) give priority to evidence coming from the five senses, but even if I were to allow evidence coming from some sort of “intuition” or “feeling,” how would one go about determining whether this experience came from an entity inside or outside of time? It seems that the only answer to that question would be “because he/she/it told me so.” Personally, I don’t tend to find that reasoning convincing, but others may have a different standard for evidence.

If, instead, you are willing to admit evidence ruled out by a naturalistic worldview, then the fact that there is more evidence for God than there is for other putatively atemporal beings is also insufficient, since this is compatible with there being strong (but not maximal) evidence for such beings, and hence enough evidence against your first premise.

I’ll confess I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this. Perhaps I’ve answered this with what I wrote above, but if not, could you rephrase it?

More generally, it is not clear to me why Craig wouldn’t be entitled to invoke the specific evidence for God’s existing outside time.  The fact that God is the subject of the debate only means you cannot presuppose that he either exists or fails to exist; it doesn’t mean you cannot use arguments for or against his existence which employ premises which are, in themselves, neutral with respect to God’s existence.

Well, in regards to the first premise specifically, one can’t use the example of God for the same reason that one can’t use the universe as an example of something that exists without a cause to defeat the Kalam cosmological argument. That’s what is at question – does the universe have a cause? Does God exist outside of time? However, as for using evidence that God exists outside of time, that’s something I hadn’t thought about. My argument is saying that because everything else exists inside time, if God exists he does too. Saying that God is more likely to exist outside of time would change the strength of the argument as a whole, but would not change the strength of the inductive argument underlying P1. Instead, one would have to make the case that God is the exception to the rule.

To bring things back to the cosmological argument, this would be equivalent to providing the evidence that the universe could exist without a cause. If this could be done, it would lend weight to the idea that the universe is the exception to the rule stated in P1. The arguments, I think, rise and fall on the same key areas. That just gave me an interesting thought: If I were to assert that I had intuitive evidence (not using my five senses) of an object that began to exist without a cause, would Craig have to accept that evidence as counting against the KCA? I think it would only be fair if I were forced to accept intuitive evidence of Craig’s God to count against my argument. Heh.

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toweltowel April 25, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Jeff H,

I think the following might be another way of putting your point. Craig stakes the success of his argument on the intuitive plausibility of this principle:

* Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

But there are other principles which point in the opposite direction and which are equally intuitively plausible:

* Everything that exists exists in time.
* A cause must come before its effect in time.
* Creation ex nihilo is impossible.
* Given the cause, it is impossible for the effect not to follow.

Since we have no more reason to accept Craig’s principle than any of these other principles, we have no reason to go along with his argument and accept its conclusion.

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lukeprog April 25, 2009 at 6:13 pm

toweltowel, that’s a great way of putting it!

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unkleE April 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm

lukeprog: That’s just the thing; I don’t think that apparent design or cosmogony or any of those things make the existence of God any more probable…

Fair enough (though I can’t understand why), but I do (even if I didn’t believe in God I would still regard fine-tuning as an amazing outcome without God but more likely with God).

So on the philosophical definition of evidence, it is definitely evidence for me, but not for you. And on the more everyday definition (Evidence: A thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment; something indicative; an outward sign), it perhaps constitues evidence even for you, though obviously not compelling evidence.

I guess there’s not much more to say, is there?

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lukeprog April 25, 2009 at 9:59 pm

unkleE: I guess there’s not much more to say, is there?

No, there are oceans of pixels to be spilled on this subject. For example, we could talk about why you think fine-tuning is an amazing outcome without God, and more explicable given theism, and I could talk about why I do not think fine-tuning is amazing without God.

I will certainly write posts about design arguments in general and the fine-tuning argument in particular at a later time.

For now, I wonder: which books, do you think, present the most rationally compelling case for Christian theism?

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unkleE April 25, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Lorkas: If so, then the Cosmological Argument commits the same error. It assumes that everything that begins to exist has a cause. We do not know that this is true any more than we know it is true that all things that exist exist inside time.

G’day Lorkas. I did not actually defend the Cosmological argument and I didn’t actually say “everything that begins to exist has a cause”. But if I wanted to defend this statement, I would do it this way:

1. Dictionary definition – thing: an entity existing in space and time. (That’s not the only definition, but it’s possibly the most obvious one.)

2. I don’t know of any things (entities existing in space and time) which do not have a cause, nor any things that have not begun to exist. (Can you suggest any?)

3. The universe, scientists believe, began to exist about 14m years ago.

4. Therefore it’s reasonably likely that the universe, which is an entity existing in space and time, had a cause.

Yes, it is possible to find philosophical objections to that, yet (1) most people would think it a reasonable line of argument, and (2) I doubt anyone would cavil if it wasn’t part of an argument for God.

You may recall I said in my first post “Even if God does exist, I can’t see how any armchair argument would be able to prove that. It will always, I believe, remain a matter of judgment, and judgment is always partially subjective.” So my point was simply to show how the argument worked, not to prove it beyond doubt, which I believe cannot be done, just as it cannot be refuted without doubt. 

My judgment remains that it is more reasonable to believe that something caused the universe than that either (1) it had no cause, or (2) it has existed forever.

Can we agree that we each make a different judgment over  a matter which cannot be established one way or the other with certainty?

Lorkas: Also, simply stating that:

 unkleE: What scientists have learnt about the universe and its structure, our common human experience and what historians have concluded about history are all facts which imply that the existence of God is more probable.

does not make it so.

Yes, I agree. As above, I didn’t suggest anything was “made so”, simply that it was a reasonable and defensible view that it was so, and accordingly it is my judgment that it is so.

Lorkas: You don’t have any evidence that God exists that could not also imply that Mrignoc, Allah, or Invisible Pink Unicorns exist. Watch:

What scientists have learned about the universe and its structure, our common human experience and what historians have concluded about history are all facts which imply that the existence of Allah is more probable.

You can even substitute “fairies,” “dragons,” or “ghosts” in the place of Allah, and the assertion is just as (read: not at all) valid.

  I’m sorry, but I can’t think you really believe this. Let’s take one example, the cosmological argument which we are discussing. It is a plausible suggestion that God is one option to explain the existence of the universe – if it wasn’t plausible, no-one of respectable intellect would believe it and we wouldn’t be discussing it. But for the argument to be worth arguing about, God has to be an entity capable of doing the deed – and an omni-this and omni-that God, if he existed, would be capable.

Now, are you seriously suggesting that fairies or dragons or ghosts, if they existed, could do the creation? But if they couldn’t, then they could never satisfy the cosmological argument. Which is why no-one ever seriously suggests the argument be used about them. Which means your statement is quite erroneous.

Allah is a very different matter. Yes Allah, if he exists, would be capable of creating the universe, and in fact the Kalam argument was (I understand) first developed by a Muslim. This is not surprising, because the Gods of the various major monotheistic religions are somewhat similar in basic definition, and it is only when we get to a greater level of detail that we can differentiate them. And that requires an understanding of the beliefs of each religion. Which is why I mentioned “historical”, because I believe Jesus provides evidence for the christian God as against Allah. But let’s not debate that here and go off topic.

I hope then that you and I can agree that only a select few alleged beings could satisfy the cosmological argument; Allah is one, but the other entities you mentioned are not.

Best wishes.

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toweltowel April 26, 2009 at 5:56 am

unkleE,

I’d hesitate to call the universe which began with the Big Bang an “entity existing in space and time”, because I’m not sure whether there’s any stage of time prior to it. And indeed, that’s exactly why I’m not tempted to claim that the universe has a cause (regardless of whether I’ll end up with the conclusion that God exists); well, that and what they tell me about quantum mechanics. So I end up saying I have absolutely no idea whether the universe has a cause, a stance which looks utterly reasonable from my (biased!) perspective.

Also I don’t think the fact that we’re all willing to discuss theism shows that it’s any more plausible than fairies, etc. Instead, I think it reflects the fact that very intellectually sophisticated people claim to believe in theism and to think it can be supported with strong arguments. But I think this fact can be given a purely cultural explanation which makes no reference to the superior plausibility of theism.

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Lorkas April 26, 2009 at 8:15 am

unkleE: But if I wanted to defend this statement, I would do it this way: 1. Dictionary definition – thing: an entity existing in space and time. (That’s not the only definition, but it’s possibly the most obvious one.) 2. I don’t know of any things (entities existing in space and time) which do not have a cause, nor any things that have not begun to exist. (Can you suggest any?) 3. The universe, scientists believe, began to exist about 14m years ago. 4. Therefore it’s reasonably likely that the universe, which is an entity existing in space and time, had a cause.

I’m going to refer you to a something Jeff H said earlier in this thread, which explains why the objection you make to his argument can be made equally well to the KCA (ironically, you use the same reasoning above that Jeff H uses for his–this means that you have a double standard if you accept your own argument and reject his):

Jeff H: The secret to the original one is that the first premise is actually based upon an inductive argument – “Everything [that we know of] that begins to exist has a cause.” Therefore, my reverse cosmological argument does the same – “Everything [that we know of] that exists, exists inside time.”

In other words, everything we have ever observed exists inside time. He went on to conclude that, if God exists, he must exist inside time. If you say, as you did earlier

Only one problem. We know of at least on “thing” that exists outside of time – God. At least, about 80% of people do.
Of course I jest. But it illustrates that your “argument” commits the fallacy of assuming its conclusions in its premises.

then you must realize that your defense of the Cosmological Argument uses exactly the same reasoning. If you decry Jeff H’s reverse CA for the reasons you give, then you ought to reject the KCA for the same reasons, if you are applying a consistent standard to arguments, whether they argue for your position against it.

After all, following the same logic you use to reject the reverse CA, the atheist just as well say, “We know of one thing that exists without a cause–the universe” to object to the KCA. You are applying inconsistent reasoning to the two cases, and that’s the point that I (and Jeff H, unless I misread him) was making originally.

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unkleE April 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm

toweltowel: And indeed, that’s exactly why I’m not tempted to claim that the universe has a cause (regardless of whether I’ll end up with the conclusion that God exists);

Fair enough. I was never suggesting what anyone else should do, simply indicating where and why I had a different view to some being expressed. For me, it’s not a matter of “claiming” anything – rather of considering what seem to be the small number of alternative explanations and selecting the most reasonable one. And although we can find all sorts of philosophical objections to all options, it still seems to me that thinking that the universe had a cause is more reasonable than thinking that it did not, or that it has always existed. People have shown me reasons why each option is implausible, but in the end I’d rather select one than make no choice. If it was just a matter of abstract truth, I would remain agnostic. but since it’s a matter of great importance, I don’t want to die wondering (as the saying goes).

But I don’t think I have any other comment on what you have said. Thanks.

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unkleE April 26, 2009 at 3:44 pm

unkleE: e objection you make to his argument can be made equally well to the KCA (ironically, you use the same reasoning above that Jeff H uses for his–this means that you have a double standard if you accept your own argument and reject his)

Thanks for your comment, but I think you missed one point. I defined “thing” as an entity existing in time and space, and when I called God a “thing” I put it in inverted commas because I don’t think God is actually a thing (he doesn’t exist in time and space).

Therefore the “reverse CA” – ““Everything [that we know of] that exists, exists inside time.”” – is simply a tautology, a repeat of the the definition of a thing. But it does not apply to God because God is postulated to not be a thing. But the real CA still applies because the universe is a thing. (I note toweltowel’s objection to that view, but tighter definition could easily resolve that, IMO.)

So I remain of the same view I expressed before and I don’t see  inconsistent reasoning.

But let me repeat, I don’t see these matters as ones that can be resolved by argument, although they can be clarified by argument. I simply wanted to show that alternative views to those being expressed were reasonable. But I accept that your views can be justified, although I don’t find their justification any more reasonable than you find mine. Thanks for your comments.

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Lorkas April 26, 2009 at 5:40 pm

You continue to miss the point, unkleE–you and I agree that the premise of Jeff H’s argument is invalid.

What you have so far failed to acknowledge is that the premise of the KCA is also invalid, for the same reason. It states that “Everything that begins has a cause,” but what it really means is “Everything that we know of that has begun to exist has had a cause.” In other words, the universe might not have had a cause.

We’ve never seen God, so we can’t say whether he exists outside of time or not. We’ve never seen a universe begin, so we don’t know if it has to have a cause or not (and even if it does, it might not be a god).

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist, it just means that this argument for God’s existence doesn’t work.

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Lorkas April 26, 2009 at 5:43 pm

I doubt very much, unkleE, that you believe in God because of the KCA, any more than I am an atheist because of the reverse CA. We’re not really arguing over whether or not God exists–we are only arguing over whether or not the KCA is a good reason to believe in God.

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unkleE April 27, 2009 at 12:30 am

Lorkas: What you have so far failed to acknowledge is that the premise of the KCA is also invalid, for the same reason. It states that “Everything that begins has a cause,” but what it really means is “Everything that we know of that has begun to exist has had a cause.” In other words, the universe might not have had a cause.

I don’t think it is invalid or valid, but I’ll repeat, I have not actually argued for the KCA, simply suggested how it can make sense. I think we all know that the universe is closer to our experience of things than is any God – the universe is a space-time thing, of which all other things we know of are a part. God is not and is very different.

So we can argue by degree, or by similarity, that it is more reasonable to expect the space-time universe to be like its space-time components than to expect a non space-time God to be like the space-time components we know. I can hardly see how that statement can be denied.

So yes, God may have had a cause or the universe may have not. But it is more reasonable to believe the universe had a cause than to believe that God did (because the analogy from things to God is weaker than from things to universe), and it is more reasonable to believe God didn’t have a cause than to believe the universe didn’t (same reasoning about analogy). So nothing’s black and white, and I have continually said this, but there are shades of grey, that make the KCA “work” in that grey sense.

Do you really disagree with that?

Lorkas: I doubt very much, unkleE, that you believe in God because of the KCA, any more than I am an atheist because of the reverse CA.

Well, yes and no. I am a believer because of a number of reasons, of which the CA (not necessarily or only the KCA) is one, but an important one.

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Lorkas April 27, 2009 at 5:03 am

Reginald Selkirk: Which part of “I get to cheat, and you don’t” didn’t you understand?

I finally understand this, Reginald.

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Jeff H April 27, 2009 at 5:39 am

unkleE,

I think I am going to arbitrarily redefine “universe” as not a “thing” either, then. Therefore the KCA fails. QED.

Simply redefining a word does not invalidate an argument. I could redefine “God” as the piece of pie that I ate yesterday, but does that mean that you have to take me seriously when I then try to argue that God did exist before I ate him? Of course not. Certainly we need to be sure to define our terms, but it needs to be done in a way that both sides agree – or else the definition becomes another premise that can be attacked.

Now, as far as the universe being a “thing”, I would actually tend to argue that it is not. The universe is simply the sum total of all the matter and energy that exists. It’s more of a container than anything else, but considering that there is nothing outside of it, it doesn’t really “contain” anything. As such, the universe is more of a concept than anything else. And no, it is not an object in space-time – it is space-time. Big difference.

But at any rate…if you want to argue that God is not a thing, I’ll just change my first premise to say “Every entity [that we know of] that exists, exists in time.” Would you agree that God is an entity? Because you need some sort of way to define him, or else he becomes undefinable and therefore useless. You can’t debate something that is undefinable.

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lukeprog April 27, 2009 at 6:44 am

Guys, what is Q.E.D.? All I know is Quantum Electro-Dynamics.

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toweltowel April 27, 2009 at 9:12 am

Q.E.D. = quod erat demonstrandum (which was to be demonstrated)

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lukeprog April 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

Ah, thanks.

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unkleE April 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Reginald Selkirk: Which part of “I get to cheat, and you don’t” didn’t you understand? I finally understand this, Reginald.

Lorkas: I finally understand this, Reginald.

If I said that my translation of your answer was : “I don’t have a logical answer so I’ll use ridicule”, would you be offended and think I was not further worth discussing with?

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unkleE April 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Jeff H:

I don’t really see the point in an interminable argument, so I will have one more attempt to present the argument, and ask you to comment exactly where you disagree.

I take it that we are not here discussing the full KCA, but the questions of whether either God or the universe (1) had a cause (which relates to the KCA) and (2) whether they both exist in time (the counter KCA). That was the topic I was addressing – do you agree?

Further, I am defining God generally in the classic monotheistic sense – you can find definitions in Wikipedia and elsewhere. If you are talking of a different sort of God, then I will happily agree that such a God does not exist.

I would approach these questions this way.

1. I have previously shown a dictionary definition of a “thing” as an object in space and time. Let us flesh that definition out a little. (If you like, we could call it “xyz”, but I will stick to “thing”.) We can list a number of characteristics of things – for example they have mass, volume and temperature, they are made of atoms, they often have shape and colour, and we can generally observe them in some way. Crucially for this discussion, they exist in time (they have a future and a past) and they have a cause (the apple was caused by the tree plus water, soil and climate, etc).

2. Most objects are “things” – apples, grains of sand, dogs and chairs – but there are some aspects of the universe that are less easy to categorise – the force of gravity, human consciousness, love, music, etc. When an astronomer observes something new in space (say a black hole ), they generally assume it is a thing, that it has mass and volume and it can be measured, even if they cannot verify all these characteristics straight away.

3. We also note that a collection of things can also be a thing. A house is a thing, but it is composed of other smaller things – walls, paint, chairs, electrical wiring, etc.

4. When we consider the universe, we find that it has many of the characteristics of things – it has mass, volume, temperature, it is composed of atoms. It is a collection of things. And it has a past and future, it is affected by time. We can tick almost all the “thing” boxes and there are very few that we may not be able to tick – e.g. it may be infinite in volume. So it is very thing-like. Therefore, like the astronomer observing a new object in space, it is not much of a stretch to decide it is a thing, and like other things, it had a cause. It may not be true, but it looks quite possible, because it is very “thing-like”.

5. But when we come to God, the situation is different. God, if he exists, does NOT have mass, volume and temperature, he is not made of atoms, etc. He is NOT very thing-like. So it is hard to postulate other characteristics of God by analogy from things. It is less likely that he exists in time, because he is not very thing-like (and most definitions of God say that he is not temporal). And we are less able to say by analogy to things that he has a cause.

6. Therefore we can say that any analogy with things looks more plausible about the universe than it does about God. We could argue about how greatly different the probabilities might be, but it seems certain that it is more probable that the universe has thing-like properties than God does.

7. And that is all I wish to show. That it is more likely that the universe has the thing-like properties of being temporal and having a cause, than that God does.

So my question to you is this – which step of this argument do you disagree with, and why?

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Lorkas April 27, 2009 at 3:16 pm

unkleE: If I said that my translation of your answer was : “I don’t have a logical answer so I’ll use ridicule”, would you be offended and think I was not further worth discussing with?

No, I am not offended, but I already thought that you’re not worth discussing with when I made that comment (and, of course, I think that you’re wrong, but that’s not something worth being offended about). I’ve given my logical answer, and you repeated the same objections (3 times!) that both Jeff H and I have already dealt with, and you haven’t addressed the problems that we raised.

Clearly you disagree, but it’s clear that we won’t make any headway on this, since we aren’t using the same rules for how consistent logic works.

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unkleE April 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Lorkas: Clearly you disagree, but it’s clear that we won’t make any headway on this, since we aren’t using the same rules for how consistent logic works.

I don’t see anywhere where we disagree about consistent logic. I have provided an answer to what you guys have said and I don’t see you have addressed it, but you think you addressed it earlier, before I said it. So that is where we disagree. But I agree that it’s not worth discussing further. Best wishes.

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Lorkas April 27, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Likewise.

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Justin May 1, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Hey luke,

Dunno if you get updates on these posts…

Dan Barker has a couple excellent rebuttals to this argument.
One says the first premise begs the question. When he proposes things that have no cause it’s a set of items which only contains god. So the first premise could be written: Everything that is not god has a cause.

The other says that if god is a personal agent, his coming to a decision requires an infinite regress of causes.
Cosmological Kalamity

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lukeprog May 1, 2009 at 8:46 pm

I read every comment that is posted on this blog, Justin. Thanks for your contribution.

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Justin May 1, 2009 at 9:10 pm

lukeprog: I read every comment that is posted on this blog, Justin. Thanks for your contribution.

Thanks for the blog it’s an awesome contribution to, er.. the internet??

Seriously, I enjoy it.

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ChristianJR4 May 7, 2009 at 7:48 am

Interesting! I can’t wait for the series. I happen to be working on a series of videos on the Kalam Cosmological Argument which will eventually be put up on my YouTube channel (click on my name).  All of the videos feature William Lane Craig. If you want, your welcome to use those on your own series. One of my first videos is “  History of the Kalam Cosmological Argument” by WLC.  At the end of the series, I hope to upload Craig’s debate with Wes Morriston for the conclusion.

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lukeprog May 7, 2009 at 8:23 pm

ChristianJR4,

That is excellent to hear. I look forward to it – and I hope you upload the Wes Morriston video soon. How did you get a copy?

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Reginald Selkirk May 14, 2009 at 6:27 am

lukeprog: For something to cause spacetime, it must be spaceless and timeless, unlike the universe, since the beginning of the universe marks the beginning of spacetime.

I see a weakness there. The universe, as we know it, with the space and time* with which we are familiar, apparently began with the Big Bang. This does not in any way establish that it was not caused by something which existed prior, with its own version of space and time.  That would be like saying that life begins at birth, so that before lifeform A was born, nothing else could have been alive.

* time is actually very poorly understood by physicists.

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NathanielFisher May 26, 2009 at 10:54 am


Here are some links:
 
http://www.jcnot4me.com/Items/contra_craig/contra_craig.htm << Go to: “Comments on Craig’s Book: Reasonable Faith”
 
http://www.strongatheism.net/library/counter_apologetics/craigs_unsupported_premise/
http://recursed.blogspot.com/2008/05/reply-to-william-lane-craig.html
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/04/kalam-argument.html
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?cat=28
http://www.graveyardofthegods.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=9059
http://www.graveyardofthegods.com/forum
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/christianity/craig.html
(08 May 2009) Also, look at this site I was on almost a year ago, there has STILL not been any responses to the agnostic-atheist arguments I used:
 
http://rfforum.websitetoolbox.com/post?id=2458556&pid=33486796#post33486796
From the book “God: The Failed hypothesis:”
 
[b][u]Craig:[/u][/b]
 
“1.Whatever begins to exist has a cause
 
2. The universe began to exist
 
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.”
 
 
 
[b][u]Stenger:[/u][/b]
 
“Craig takes the first premise to be self evident with no justification other than common, everyday experience…In fact, physical events at the atomic and subatomic level are observed to have no evident cause… Craig has retorted that quantum events are still “caused”, just caused in a nonpredetermined manner… In effect Craig is thereby admitting that the cause in his first premise could be an accidental one… by allowing probabilistic cause he destroys his own case for a predetermined creation.” ”

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Steven Carr June 8, 2009 at 3:54 am

‘Everything that begins to exist has a cause.’
 
What causes  libertarian free will decisions to begin to exist?

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Silver Bullet June 11, 2009 at 10:40 am

I am just getting into logic. I think this is a great website. In particular, I am impressed with the comments above: they are thoughtful, novel, articulate and, most surprisingly, so charitable in style. I hope I will one day be able to contribute.

Please keep it up!

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Timo August 1, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Interesting discussion, so far.
For me, the biggest problem with the Kalam argument isn’t so much the first stage where Craig attempts to prove that the universe had a beginning, and that this beginning necessitates a cause.  My biggest problem has always been the second phase, where Craig tries to look for what sort of cause would be the most plausible explanation for the origin of the universe.  It’s just always kind of irked me when he claims that the cause must be spaceless, timeless and then somehow personal at the same time.
I think that this is the biggest and most obvious flaw in the argument–the hidden assumption that there can be such a thing as a disembodied intelligent mind that exists outside of space and time (which is begging the damn question).  The only intelligent minds that we have any sort of experience with are our own.  But we exist in time and our capacity for thought and language and what have you is tied directly to our physical brains.  Furthermore, intelligence, at least as we know it, came into being from a slow bottom up process of evolution.  There’s just no reason to think that an intelligent mind can exist outside of space and time.
None of this is to say that a disembodied, timeless, and immaterial mind is impossible.  But I just don’t see how anyone could argue that such a being is plausible, let alone the plausible answer to a grand cosmological puzzle–let alone a puzzle that’s missing the most important pieces due to our inability to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity and thus have any shot at knowing what happened in the earliest moment of our universe.
But I digress…
Peace

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lukeprog August 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Timo,

Your position is the closest I’ve seen to my own on the Kalam. But I kind of expect my opinion of the Kalam will change a great deal as I work through it with more rigor than I have in the past.

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Derek Dadey August 12, 2009 at 5:30 am

As for the premise”everything that begins to exist needs a cause”.What about the constant, random creation/destruction of particle anti-particle pairs.There is no”cause” they just randomly pop into and out of existence.

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lukeprog August 12, 2009 at 5:42 am

Derek Dadey,

Yup, this has been much discussed. We’ll get to that eventually, in this series.

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Freethinker October 4, 2009 at 7:34 am

I haven’t read all of the comments, so I may be repeating some of what already has been said.

When we talk about things having a beginning, what do we really mean? What we really mean is the re-arranging or combining of pre-existing materials. When we talk about the universe being created, the implication is that there were no pre-existing materials. Furthermore, we have no experience of observing the creation of universes. So, the analogy of saying that how the universe formed is like how a watch or a statue is formed is a fallacy of equivocation.

Secondly, when we talk about the Big Bang being the start of space-time, Craig is presupposing that there was nothing prior to that. However, you have other possible alternatives. Maybe there are multiverses and a large black hole in another universe caused the formation of our universe.

Another option to consider: The first law of thermodynamics says that matter and energy cannot be created or destroy, but can be transformed from one to the other. It has been suggested by some that the net amount of matter and energy in the universe is zero (that there is dark matter and dark energy that balance out matter and energy). Let’s say that prior to the Big Bang, there was no matter, only energy. Matter requires space and time, but I’m not sure that energy does. I’ll leave that open for discussion. Perhaps, a cloud (for the lack of a better term) of energy collected, which transformed into matter in the form of the singularity. The singularity expanded immediately, at the moment of the transformation of energy into matter. Matter may have had a beginning, but that doesn’t mean energy did.

Another topic I want to discuss is what Christians mean by “God”. What IS God? Craig gives God the attributes of being beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent. What does that leave God to actually be comprised of? If God is changeless and immaterial, how could he possibly have manifested Himself in material form (Jesus)? Furthermore, how could a changeless and immaterial God possibly intervene in a material universe? As Daniel Dennett said, a changeless, immaterial god is a deist god at best.

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Freethinker October 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm

While not necessarily a part of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, Craig often asks, as a precursor, why something should exist rather than nothing. This begs the question of why God should exist, rather than nothing.

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Kornhusk December 9, 2009 at 10:18 am

THe Kalam argument is self-defeating. The claim is that an actual infinity is impossible since there is always an infinity to traverse before the present time, therefore the present cannot exist. But neither can anything in the past. Any past event ALSO has to be preceded by an infinity of events which can never get to that past event. Therefore no past events can ever exist. Therefore no events at all could ever have happened, and nothing exists. If nothing exists, the Kalam argument doesn’t exist and is neither valid nor invalid. It is nonsense; incoherent.

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Robert Oerter January 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Hey, Luke, your index only goes up to Part 7, but there are clearly more posts (I have stumbled across 8 and 9). Can you update the index page here so we can find the rest?

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lukeprog January 25, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Robert,

Done.

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Gabriel February 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Luke, from what I’ve seen with this project you would like others to contribute. I think the best way to do this would be to set up a wiki, where everyone can edit arguments and counter-arguments. That would be crowd sourcing at its finest.

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lukeprog February 10, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Gabriel,

I thought of this, but there is a very particular way I want to develop this series which requires that I keep tight control.

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Will May 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm

As a physicist, before getting caught up in discussing premise two of the argument, I conceded that the physical evidence does point to the universe having a beginning.

I would look to attack the idea that everything with a beginning is caused.

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lukeprog May 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Will,

Do you think there are good counter-examples in physics?

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Dave February 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Luke,

A fundamental problem with the Kalam argument stems from two points. The notion of what ‘time’ is, and what this would mean for a god, and what uncaused means.

To start with time:
Craig makes the claim that actual infinities do not exist, and so the universe must have had a beginning, and that that beginning is God. This surely only raises the question, “Is God infinite?”. He has just claimed that if the universe had always existed we would never have gotten to this current time, because there is an infinity of moments before this one.

However, he then fails to make this exact argument against God. God is somehow exempt from this critique. My guess is that he would claim, “God is outside of time” which I find absurd. What is time? Time is simply a measurement between two events. Our very definition of time is change. So if God never changed, then he is “outside of time”, but if he never changed, he would never create the universe.
Similarly, if God has ‘thoughts’ then we could simply define a unit of time as the time between thoughts.

Craig admits as much himself when he says in his response to Grünbaum:
“Very well; suppose that God led up to creation by counting, “1, 2, 3, . . ., fiat lux!” In that case the series of mental events alone is sufficient to establish a temporal succession prior to the commencement of physical time at t = 0.”

He has just refuted his own claim that “An infinite temporal regress of changes cannot exist.” There *must* have been an infinite temporal regress of God’s lead up to creation.

On everything beginning to exist needing a cause:
I think pair production is enough to discount this. It might be claimed that it’s coming from the vacuum which has a ‘rich structure’ (I recall vaguely this argument), but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s uncaused. I would then claim that the ‘rich structure’ (whatever that means to them, but I don’t think it has a basis in physics) has always existed and just ‘is’. To claim the first point because of intuition to me seems ridiculous. There are many things in physics that go against intuition (e.g. quantum mechanics with it’s ‘spooky action at a distance’). We have been shown that intuition is not useful in these cases, so why would we accept intuition as a proof that everything that begins to exist has a cause?

I don’t really know why he has not been taken to task on these two points by academic physicists.

Regards,
Dave

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Paxalot October 30, 2011 at 8:50 am

God, an agent, must have had a reason to create the Universe.
That reason would have an infinite regress of causes.
If God’s reason had no cause then it was a random act.
A mindless God (one with no reasons to act) acting randomly is no different than naturalism.

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Zeb October 31, 2011 at 11:32 am

A mindless God (one with no reasons to act) acting randomly is no different than naturalism.

I don’t see how that is so. I have long thought that God should be “mindless” in the Zen sense. God is an immaterial person with consciousness and free will that are not reducible to non-conscious and non-willful parts. That is not compatible with naturalism. Whether God’s acts have reasons, or whether those reasons have reasons seems irrelevant to me.

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