A Map of Craig & Sinclair’s 2009 Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 23, 2010 in Kalam Argument,William Lane Craig

Part 13 of my Mapping the Kalam series.

I’m blogging my way through the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) for God’s existence, as presented by Craig & Sinclair:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
  4. If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.
  5. Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.

And that, as Aquinas said, is what everybody means by “God.”

Last time, I finished blogging my way through the latest presentation of the argument by its greatest defender, William Lane Craig. Soon we will consider the attacks and defenses to be found in other articles, but for the moment let us pause and consider how the argument looks so far.

For lack of time, I will not be mapping the argument visually just yet. But I have created a text-mapping of the arguments and counter-arguments we have surveyed so far. So, enjoy: download the map so far.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

poban November 23, 2010 at 6:31 am

I find it very much appreciable for a non believer to map and present the argument in a non biased way. It looks like that Craig and Sinclair are ones having the last laugh over Sinnot, Graunbaun, Morriston et al. Looks like any of the objections that atheists and agnostics will provide, theist will always have an answer and atheist will again have objections and so on. The whole debate could be extended into a large book.

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Kyle November 23, 2010 at 6:44 am

Hey, did you see that William Lane Craig debated Dawkins and Shermer? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6tIee8FwX8

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Luke Muehlhauser November 23, 2010 at 8:12 am

poban,

Well, remember the only thing I’ve put in the map so far is Craig & Sinclair’s article. :)

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Adito November 23, 2010 at 8:48 am

Nicely done. I really need to start doing something like this for the arguments I’m looking into.

I think the best way to attack this one is with the B theory of time. Not that the rest of the argument is without difficulties but the B theory of time is very well supported by the people who know what they’re talking about. Have you read Craigs book length defense of the A theory?

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woodchuck64 November 23, 2010 at 9:16 am

poban,

Looks like any of the objections that atheists and agnostics will provide, theist will always have an answer and atheist will again have objections and so on.

There are objections and then there are objections. Evidence for a B-theory of time forces Craig to pit his own authority against that of professional physicists, and that’s a battle he can’t possibly win.

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bossmanham November 23, 2010 at 9:33 am

Poban,

You’re probably correct. Articles have been written that pick at one point here and one point there in Craig’s argument, and he always releases a response shortly thereafter. He’s got 5 books out that analyze time to respond to ignorant statements that relativity theory proves a tenseless universe.

Here’s the thing; even though there could be an innumerable amount of critiques that could be brought up of any argument, the issue comes down to plausibility. If a critique or argument isn’t plausible, then it isn’t going to defeat the argument. Consider the people who try to argue against premise one. That line, that things actually can come into existence with no cause and for no reason, is extremely implausible and we have no reason to think that could ever be the case.

Anyway, I think it comes down to plausibility, and I’ve seen no atheist responses to the argument that defeat its impressive plausibility.

I’ll say it once more: PLAUSIBILITY! ;-)

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Martin November 23, 2010 at 9:56 am

Bossmanham,

I’ll say it once more: PLAUSIBILITY! ;-)

I would have to agree, to an extent. There is even an atheist philosopher who defends the PLAUSABILITY of the cosmo arguments: http://www.amazon.com/Seeking-God-Science-Atheist-Intelligent/dp/1551118637/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290534795&sr=8-1

I haven’t read it, but from what I understand the title is somewhat hyperbole. I think he eviscerates the ID arguments, but shows how cosmo arguments actually have a bit more weight to them.

Who knows?

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woodchuck64 November 23, 2010 at 10:15 am

Bossmanham,

That line, that things actually can come into existence with no cause and for no reason, is extremely implausible and we have no reason to think that could ever be the case.

Do you mean that a B-Theory of time is extremely implausible or that a B-Theory of time does not mean a tenseless universe?

Quoting Craig from http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11530:

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

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Michael November 23, 2010 at 10:19 am

I don’t claim to know what I’m talking about, but I find it difficult to see why this argument is plausible.

I’m lost starting at point one. In physical terms, how do we know anything ever begins to exist? Matter and energy cannot be created, but only manipulated and converted into different forms, right? And isn’t point two a misrepresentation of the big bang? I could be totally wrong here, but I thought it referred to the expansion of our universe, or the perhaps the beginning of the universe in its current form. That’s not to say the universe, and all the matter in it, hasn’t always existed in one form or another, which would be a much simpler explanation that doesn’t just lead to more mysteries.

Obviously, the following points are a huge leap of logic, to me at least. I’ve just never understood the validity of this argument. Perhaps I have my facts and interpretations wrong and I’m showing a great deal of ignorance right now.

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Patrick November 23, 2010 at 10:43 am

Michael- You’re basically right about things. Kalam isn’t always presented with clarity as to what is meant by “the universe.” Usually its just stated that the universe had a beginning, and that’s that.

I still haven’t quite worked out how Kalam is supposed to operate. If “universe” means “all stuff that exists,” then Kalam can be circular because if God exists, God would be within the scope of things that Kalam is supposed to explain.

If “universe” means “the current universe as we know it, specifically, physical reality,” then Stenger’s response is entirely adequate: the universe seems to be exactly what we’d expect if it formed from the basic rules of quantum mechanics, so that’s that, no God need be involved. Most people figure that response misunderstands Kalam, because the rules of quantum mechanics are within the scope of things that Kalam is supposed to explain. But that’s really just adopting the first definition, which puts God back in the hot seat as an entity that needs a creator.

Supposedly this is fixed by using an atypical definition of “cause.” Craig defines “cause” as something like, “exists at time T and at no time before T,” but I’m pretty sure that just means that God begins to exist in exactly the same sense that the universe does, and therefore requires a cause. Which could probably be answered by referencing an entirely different sense of the word “cause,” ie, the “grounded in” or “A is caused by B if A relies upon B for its existence” sense, coupled with an assertion that God relies upon God for God’s existence, but I’m not sure how that helps things. Usually I feel like I’m being fed entirely new, somewhat shaky definitions that weren’t in use when the argument was initially presented, and in any case, I’m not sure how boldly asserting that God relies upon God for God’s existence is actually useful to anyone who doesn’t already believe in God. And I think ontological arguments are a sign of an infirm mind, so if the conversation veers in that direction I usually run.

So… yeah. I used to think I understood Kalam, but I think I only understood public Kalam, the version used for audiences and lay people, where its basically just a first cause argument with a slightly different phrasing. I don’t think I understand secret Kalam with its weird definitions and twists. I don’t think I understand it at all.

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Kyle Key November 23, 2010 at 11:50 am

@bossmanham:
Craig’s up to 5 books, now? Wow. How many does Deepak Chopra have? Point being, you fully realize that’s an appeal to authority and it doesn’t matter in the slightest how many books someone’s written.

I was quite interested in reading your response to chroma’s post regarding your comments on the B-theory of time back in “Time and the Light Box,” but you never gave one, so perhaps you will be willing to here:

“For an example of your naivete and bias exhibited here, you say that special relativity cannot explain length contraction or time dilation. What have you been smoking? There’s a geometric explanation with the aid of pictures on so niche and inaccessible a place as *Wikipedia*, after all! Plus, you said that special relativity simply ‘assumes’ that time and space intervals are relative to reference frame – epistemic libel born from ignorance. Moreover, you think that a preferred frame – whatever that is – would make simultaneity absolute, but fail to recall that absolute is short for not [variant] on frame of reference, and thus are oblivious to simple fact that the question of good-looking frames is moot for the relativity or absoluteness of simultaneity. On top of this, you ask where the ‘proof’ is of the idea the universe is a spacetime block, while failing to recognize the fundamental purpose of the entire idea is its immense explanatory power. How does this neo-Lorentzian ‘interpretation’ explain all the things (basically everything to do the Lorentz factor) which special relativity does with with ease? Where is the proof or evidence of an (a)ether? Given this level of misconception coupled with your level of (still apparently tentative) confidence, I suspect you might be operating or partially operating on an agenda with regards to this issue.”

I’ll leave my main responses (if needed) for the next post(s) when Luke incorporates articles with responses not just from Craig and Sinclair, but I’ll throw in a few brief bits regarding the “plausibility” of the argument here:

(1) As part of the defense of premise 4, we have “…the only things that might be immaterial, timeless, and spaceless are abstract objects or disembodied minds, but abstract objects cannot cause things, so it must be a disembodied mind.” (I fully realize these are paraphrases and not direct quotes.) This only even gets off the ground if you accept that “disembodied mind” (i.e. immaterial mind) is coherent and then further simply define it as something that can cause other things. As such, it’s not remotely convincing.

(2) “…only personal agency can explain how a temporal effect could come from a changeless cause.” ‘Personal agency’ cannot explain anything, especially a ‘changeless cause’; I have no reason to believe it’s coherent, much less that it exists. Placing a major component of the argument for God on such a shaky and controversial foundation as contra-causal free will is a terrible move if your goal is convincing non-theists.

(3) “Timelessness may be mysterious, but it is not incoherent.” Accepting the third fork of Mackie’s trilemma is, once again, a terrible way to convince skeptics. Has saying “Well, sure, we have absolutely no way of meaningfully speaking about the subject, but at least it’s not on the level of a square-circle!” ever convinced a single person?

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Rashbam November 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm

As a physicist, I find these arguments neither here nor there. I view causation within the framework of relativity. An event A is causally linked to a future event B if B lies within the future light cone of A. Conversely, B may be influenced by any event A within its past light cone. Within the framework of classical Big Bang cosmology, the past light cone of the initial singularity is the empty set, so we cannot identify anything which caused it. This may be metaphysically troubling, but so what? Our human intuition may have no purchase when it comes to the very early Universe.

Furthermore, why can’t certain events, such as the beginning of time, be metaphysically exceptional? To choose a familiar example, it might well be our intuition that from every location on the earth, there is a well-defined South. Indeed this is true “almost everywhere”, i.e. everywhere excepting a set of measure zero, that set being the North Pole, where every direction is South, and the South Pole, where there is no South at all. Metaphysically, we think that every event has a “cause” — although identifying what causation is beyond the cut-and-dried relativistic definition might be problematic. At any rate, our thinking – our intuition – is valid locally but perhaps not globally. The beginning of time is like a metaphysical South Pole.

(For the mathematically inclined: the previous example is not optimal because it describes a coordinate singularity, whereas there is no geometric singularity at either pole. I chose the example because it is familiar, but I could also have chosen the unit interval [0,1] where almost everywhere there is a well-defined left and right, except for the endpoints, which really are singular.)

I find appeals to Hilbert’s hotel to be utterly noncompelling. They are simply tendentious attempts to force the issue. Within the scenario of eternal chaotic inflation in fact there was not one beginning to the Universe but many causally disconnected beginnings. All our theories of the early Universe are highly speculative, and it seems to me laughably misguided to claim, as Craig does, that modern cosmology has definitively established that the Universe was past-finite. (Craig apparently misunderstands the limitations of singularity theorems such as that of Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, which are applicable only to semiclassical inflationary models. There is no fully quantum theory of the early Universe as of now.) It may be that the Universe is cyclic, as some have suggested. Metaphysically, that strikes me as much more satisfying given that eventually everything will expand into rarefied nothingness. But again, metaphysical considerations might be completely misleading here.

Another bizarre aspect to Craig’s argumentation is his claim that the Universe must have been created by a spaceless, timeless, but *personal* God. Whoa horsey! A spaceless, timeless being which has desires? Perhaps there were seven such spaceless timeless entities which fought an epic spaceless timeless battle that took place ontologically prior to the creation of our Universe. The best reply to this line of argumentation is Pauli’s: “it is not even wrong.”

Finally, Luke you take Dawkins and the New Atheists to task for their simplistic philosophy. In particular you fault Dawkins for asking the question, “who designed the designer?” I agree with you that one might obviate this question by positing that God is noncontingent. But this God that the theists generally talk about has specific desires. What is the cause of those desires? Why should God have rested on the seventh day and declared it holy and not the eighth or the fifth? It seems to me that the best the theist can do is to say that these thing are simply brute facts. But that doesn’t have any more explanatory power than claiming that the Universe (if past-finite) was causeless. Indeed it seems to be infinitely worse.

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Luke Muehlhauser November 23, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Adito,

Not yet but I’m writing a series on that right now.

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Kabas November 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm

What do you guys think of this ‘Composition Fallacy’ objection to premise 1:

Premise 1 is supported by a compositional fallacy, because the set of items {everything that begins to exist} can be split in to two sets: {the universe} and {everything within the universe}.

“Everything within the universe that begins to exist has a cause” is supported by observation, evidence, etc. “The universe that begins to exist has a cause” is supported not by evidence and observation, but by generalising from all of the parts to the whole.

I make this claim because Craig/Sinclair said: “Nothing we know of can come into existence from nothing”, which means: “everything we know of cannot come into existence from nothing”, which means: “everything we know of is caused”.

So, Craig/Sinclair are extrapolating from “everything we know”, to “everything in the universe”, to “everything in the universe + the universe”, which is the composition fallacy.

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Andrew @EC November 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

On point 1: isn’t radioactivity itself a much easier counterexample? Nothing “causes” atom A in a chunk of plutonium to decay, and in fact, we cannot predict when a particular plutonium atom itself will decay. It is “uncaused” as the theists define that term.

In general, I think the effort to apply our intuitions to quantum mechanics is nonsensical; “everybody knows” that you can’t be in two places at once, either….

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JWahler November 23, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Luke,

Do you think it might be helpful if you started putting some type of numbering or lettering system in front of the exchanges that follow each premise number? It might be nice to say…’hey look at 2.1-12 or what do you think about 3.6_32′…etc. Something that might expedite the discussion as this thing grows? Just a thought.

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Mike Gage November 23, 2010 at 7:15 pm

WLC always seems to bamboozle his opponents with complex nonsense, but I thought Victor Stenger, who is not a philosopher, really did a good job in their debate (address below). Among other things, he brought up entities in particle physics that exist with no apparent or intelligible cause.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZawiNa8KgA

On a side note, I always enjoyed Craig’s arguments about actual and possible infinites more than this regurgitated Aquinas.

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Chris November 23, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Go Rashbam!

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Charles November 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm

virtual particles pop into existence ‘uncaused’ only given indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics like the Copenhagen interpretation, but that may be the wrong interpretation, and most interpretations of quantum mechanics are deterministic, and would not suppose that virtual particles come into existence uncaused [Craig & Sinclair, 2009]

I would very much like to know just which interpretation he does endorse. After Copenhagen, the most widely held view is Many-worlds. But surely, he doesn’t mean that one!

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Paul King November 23, 2010 at 11:28 pm

So far the argument looks dodgy. I would make two main points.

Firstly it is inconsistent on the use of intuition. Continuous space and time are intuitive ideas, but they are rejected on the basis that infinity is counter-intuitive. Worse, we are asked to accept the profoundly counter-intuitive idea of timeless causation and timeless persons.

Secondly there is a significant problem with the second premise. The argument assumes that there is no point in time prior to the existence of the universe. If this is true then the universe has always existed – there is no time when it did not exist. This is contrary to our usual experience of beginning where there is always a time prior to the existence of the entity in question. Why would something that has always existed require a cause ? Saying that it does so because it “has a beginning” – relying on an idiosyncratic definition of beginning – seems to be equivocal. This point needs to be specifically dealt with, not brushed under the carpet by (re)defining “beginning” to suit the argument.

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Eric November 24, 2010 at 2:38 am

I have a bit of confusion when it comes to the Kalam:
Is Craig Espousing the concept of creatio ex nihilo in the Kalam? He seems to do here
However, when criticized with the problems of speculating about something being created from nothing, “specifically that we have no reason to believe anything “began to exist,” he responds here:
“Because the atoms currently composing my body have always existed, have I always existed? Did I exist during the Jurassic Age and the era of galaxy formation?”

I am confused… His defense only makes sense as an analogy if there is a pre-existing material cause of the “thing” that began to exist. So it sounds like, for this analogy to work, the universe must have begun to exist from a “previously existing” material cause. However, in the first article, Craig says:
“If God creates something ex nihilo, then it lacks only a material cause… The whole of material reality cannot have a prior material cause because if it did, then it did not really begin to exist! ”
If Craig wants his analogy to be useful, then his criticism of the physicists’ use of the word “nothing” cannot be used as a defense of the Kalam against the phenomenon of Virtual Particles or the Universe spontaneously beginning to exist from a vacuum.

Also:
It sounds as if Craig’s definition of “cause” includes any efficient cause. In fact, in his first article, he seems to think of creatio ex nihilo as creation with an efficient, yet no material cause. However an efficient cause must not be confused with a sufficient cause: “An efficient cause of x can be present even if x is never actually produced…” So, in this case, a natural law (from a metaphysical standpoint) would suffice as an efficient cause. However, then his criticism of virtual particles not obeying causality would not make sense since, even in the Copenhagen interpretation, these particles still come into existence via an efficient cause; natural law. It is also interesting to note that the only successful defense of simultaneous cause-effect that has turned out to not just be word games has been when the cause is efficient but not sufficient.

@Rashbam
Its so refreshing to hear from physicists on this site. Anyway:
In particular you fault Dawkins for asking the question, “who designed the designer?”
Interestingly I have criticized him for the same thing until a buddy of mine showed me his “intro to philosophy” textbook where they quoted Dawkins’ (don’t have it in front of me) questioning how people can believe something as complex as God is necessary (a brute fact) while also thinking nothing within the universe (being much simpler) could be necessary (brute facts). This seems to have everything to do with what I suspect was a big point in the argument. However, I have read many critiques of Dawkins’ argument by Theists and Atheists alike and nobody brings this up…

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Thales Naturalis tGriggsy November 24, 2010 at 3:34 am

William Sahakian alleges that to ask what made God is to use the fallacy of multiple questions, but ti’s the supernaturalists who beg the question and special plead,Luke, that He is different from other beings on the basis of another fallacy, that of mere definition, which cannot instantiate anything whatsoever!
Therefore, to ask what made or what designed Him is quite in order!
And contrary to cartesian not only do natural causes eviscerate supernatural ones, the latter cannot exist whatsoever as Lamberth’s atelic or teleonomic argument notes that scientists find no telos – intent, agency- planned outcomes- thus atelic bur rather teleonomy- no planned outcomes-thus teleonomic, which means that to postulate Him, not only violates the Ockham, but also would be to contradict science rather than to complement it so that directed-evolution is a non-starter, and therefore, creationist evolution -Behe- and evolutionary creationism [ Miller,Ayala] is such an oxymoron!
Nor only does this argument refute all teleological ones, but eviscerates all with intent such that none for the Big Bang – no Primary Cause, none for miracles, no influence on history [ the expansion of Christinasanity; the saving of Jewry [ ah, that Shoah!] and so forth such that He has no referents such that He cannot exist, affirming ignosticism, and since He has incoherent, contradictory attributes, again, He cannot exist!
Luke, that’s a triple whammy!
Oh, all teleological arguments- probability, fine-tunning, from reason- the self-refutation of naturalism and to design- beg the question of planned outcomes, intent, agency, by positing divine agency!!
And the supernaturalists just cannot eviscerate the presumption of naturlism!
” Logic is the bane of theists.” Fr. Griggs

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Mike November 24, 2010 at 3:48 am

I don’t see a problem with asking who caused God. As many here have already pointed out, it’s questionable whether the earlier premises even justify the fourth through deductive reasoning alone. Even if they did we can easily attack the earlier premises themselves. So why would we ever allow as an acceptable premise that God is necessarily uncaused?

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Thales Naturalist Griggsy November 24, 2010 at 3:51 am

directed evolution [Behe] naturalism divine agency!
Sorry for the typos.
Supernaturalists cannot define , postulate or use faith to instantiate Him.
The ateleic is that the weight of evidence finds no intent- therefore, no divine intent behind natural causes.
To argue that He is the Primary Cause and natural ones the secondary is no more than the Occasionalist one, that of Nicholas Malebranche, and not to make a straw man but rather a reductio ad absurdum, that when we strike the eight ball, He does the actual striking!
No reason exists for Him as Primary Cause as the atelic notes and the presumption of naturalism that not only are natural causes, efficient and necessary but also primary and sufficient; they themselves are the primary cause and sufficient reason, Aquinas and Leibniz respectively notwithstanding!
Therefore, cartesian is as wrong as Descartes with his silly ontological one!

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Luke Muehlhauser November 24, 2010 at 6:20 am

JWahler,

Hmmm… I’ll have to think about that. Thanks.

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Hermes November 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Actual infinities aren’t necessarily presumed IRT the universe existing. Example: Hawking’s comments on a timeless 4-dimensional space that the universe goes back to.

As such, actual infinities aren’t required to deal with the KCA.

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Hermes November 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Kyle Key: Craig’s up to 5 books, now? Wow. How many does Deepak Chopra have?

Classic.

I was quite interested in reading your response to chroma’s post regarding your comments on the B-theory of time back in “Time and the Light Box,” but you never gave one, so perhaps you will be willing to here:

Seconded.

Bossmanham, I get the impression that you are only re-stating the comments of Craig and other apologists. Well, we have their comments and consult them. What is your take on things? Do you only follow? By all means, don’t make things up, yet where’s the value-added?

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Michael November 25, 2010 at 6:57 am

Enjoying reading the objections. I have been playing with the following, simple objection to the KCA.

The concept of “cause” is exceptionally confused and basing the existence of God on that idea is misguided. Absent a clear definition of “cause” the KCA is silly.

For example, an important set of “causes” aren’t “actual”: an event, situation, or entity can be part of the “causal” explanation of another event, situation, or entity and not be “actual”. Members of the open-ended set of “causes” for why I am typing this into my keyboard right now is that Sol did not explode 11 minutes ago. Others include that a different sperm didn’t dump its DNA into the egg that magical moment many years ago, I didn’t decide to go to Real Clear Politics instead, and the blue gremlin armada which murders those who type “blue gremlin armada” hasn’t gotten here yet.

This observation gets to #4 in Luke’s mapping of the KCA… even if God “caused” the universe to begin, that doesn’t mean God existed.

Look, absent a clear understanding of what “cause” is, the KCA just trades on confusion.

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Rob November 25, 2010 at 7:09 am

The universe did not begin to exist, if by universe we mean all of physical reality. Time did not begin with the Big Bang. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is unsound.
http://www.physorg.com/print209708826.html

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Hermes November 25, 2010 at 8:33 am

[reads Rob's link]

Rob, that’s very interesting.

If that evidence supports either the hypothesis of something like a multiverse or a cyclic universe the Abrahamic monotheist creation story will be completely out of the picture. The Hindus and some other smaller religions, though, would strut quite loudly if it turns out to be cyclic. A multiverse would knock out every primitive creation story I’m aware of, though.

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Saleh November 26, 2010 at 4:30 am

Thanks for the map. i read it but didn’t get anything.
Of course, i’ll need to educate myself but
do you have any advice on how i should do that?
i mean do i have to be a philosopher, or just have the knowledge in physics or whatever?

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Luke Muehlhauser November 26, 2010 at 8:09 am

Saleh,

The best way is to read my series of blog posts on the subject.

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bossmanham December 1, 2010 at 1:52 am

Kyle,

I lose track of where I’ve posted here sometimes, so I hope you see this answer.

Chroma asked me : you say that special relativity cannot explain length contraction or time dilation. What have you been smoking?

Einstein’s SR does not posit the physical reasons for length contraction and clock retardation. Rather they are almost just brute facts derived from the equations. Lorentz’s does and I referred everyone to a physicist’s paper which explains it. I really don’t understand it yet.

Plus, you said that special relativity simply ‘assumes’ that time and space intervals are relative to reference frame – epistemic libel born from ignorance.

Not sure what he’s trying to say here, but Einstein is very straightforward about this.

Moreover, you think that a preferred frame – whatever that is – would make simultaneity absolute, but fail to recall that absolute is short for not [variant] on frame of reference, and thus are oblivious to simple fact that the question of good-looking frames is moot for the relativity or absoluteness of simultaneity

Again, not completely clear on what he’s trying to say here, but when I use the term absolute, I am using it in the cosmic sense. On a cosmic level, the level God would view, there would be events that happen at exactly the same instant. This would be measured against this absolute frame. Of course you could still have arbitrarily set frames that you could still measure other frames against within the larger frame, but the existence of this privileged frame would do away with the confusion that Einsteinian and especially Minkowskian models introduce as it relates to the intuitive concept of time.

On top of this, you ask where the ‘proof’ is of the idea the universe is a spacetime block, while failing to recognize the fundamental purpose of the entire idea is its immense explanatory power.

Explanatory power alone isn’t enough to verify a theory’s truth. Solipsim would have immense explanatory power about the existence of the world (all in your mind), but is almost certainly not true.

Where is the proof or evidence of an (a)ether?

I’ve given this in previous posts Luke has done, and on my own blog. A couple would be the microwave background radiation, the hypersurface of simultaneity that general relativity posits, which introduces a cosmic time (and btw, this argument about SR is really just academic, because GR overtakes SR).

Given this level of misconception coupled with your level of (still apparently tentative) confidence, I suspect you might be operating or partially operating on an agenda with regards to this issue.

I am pretty new to the whole deal, I’ll admit. But I find the arguments of the neo-Lorentzian physicists very persuasive, especially since Einstein’s interpretation was borne out of logical positivism. There’s no reason to just eliminate the aether, especially when doing so is so problematic on a metaphysical level.

This debate isn’t about the empirical data. The data is compatible with either interpretation (except for the proposed special reference frames). It’s a philosophical debate about what is an appropriate interpretation of the data.

Hermes,

I get the impression that you are only re-stating the comments of Craig and other apologists

So? In this field where I have no more experience than a beginning physics course in college, I’m going to rely on the work of those who have studied it. That’s what most people do when arguing for a position. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here.

That said, it doesn’t mean I haven’t thoughtfully considered the arguments and reflected on their cogency. And my only agenda here is to get at truth, and the truth is that the theory of relativity doesn’t force us into a B-theory of time.

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Hermes December 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Bossmanham: “I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here.”

Well, that tendency causes two types of problems that I’ve observed in conversations I’ve had with other people;

1. If they do not understand the sources they draw from enough to make them their own — to add their own insights or comments — when someone asks a more detailed question the response reflects a limited understanding of the issues. This leads to confusion or a conversation that just stops cold while the original limited understanding is just repeated mechanically.

How to fix this: One way to make an idea your own is to give an example or analogy that the original source did not give but that still illustrates the ideas found in the original source. This will help redirect those wheels you don’t want to reinvent towards what makes your input valuable. After some practice, you might even venture out a bit more on those wheels and transport your readers to places they haven’t been before.

2. If they focus only on the arguments of other people for a position they prefer, they may be unaware of how to actually address the contrary arguments or they may only be able to address specific contrary arguments and not variations on them.

How to fix this: If you set the two arguments side by side, you can then attempt to fill in the gaps between the two arguments. For example, chances are good that one issue raised by the first author is not satisfactorily addressed by the second author and the first author does not point that out later. This gives you a chance to consider how the first author might have replied. It is important to note that often your guess on how the first author might have replied is unique to you and does not reflect what the first author would have said. This is an indicator that you understand both arguments well enough to add your own insights.

Without fixing this tendency you make it less likely that you will be a positive advocate for the positions you prefer and instead will just frustrate other people when needless disconnects appear in a conversation. Nobody needs to hear someone else’s argument from you, and you should apply yourself to the more difficult task of expressing yourself using your own ideas more than you have so far. This is one of the reasons why I generally ignore your posts as I get nothing new from them.

Now, I’m not saying you are plagiarizing anyone, though the problems with discussing complex issues with a plagiarizer are similar to the ones that appear when you restate what others have said. For me, there is little added value between someone pasting in another persons words and someone who is able to rephrase the ideas without adding to them.

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bossmanham December 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Hermes,

Who said I didn’t understand the source? Just because I didn’t completely develop the argument doesn’t mean I don’t understand it. I have to have some grasp of it to formulate it for the context of this discussion. I don’t know all of the mathematical equations, but you don’t have to to understand the differing physical interpretations.

Furthermore, if we’re demanding original content now as a standard of reliability or whatever, then about 99.9999% of everything written today needs to be scrapped. We build off of people’s work most of the time.

How to fix this: One way to make an idea your own is to give an example or analogy that the original source did not give but that still illustrates the ideas found in the original source

I have done this. I have restated the arguments in my own words as I understand them with it in mind to make it understandable to an audience that may not be completely familiar with it.

Now, if you’re done patronizing me and critiquing the way I present arguments, maybe I can see you actually interact with them?

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Hermes December 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Bossmanham, I gave you honest advice based on reading many of your posts. What you do with it — if anything — is fine with me. I do appreciate that one of your posts (at a minimum) since the first of the month seemed to show some initiative.

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keddaw January 14, 2011 at 9:34 am

Kalam is reverse engineered.

It is, at best, debatable evidence for some form of deism. But it is always promoted by people trying to make their ridiculous brand of theism seem somehow rational and respectful.

There is always a theistic starting point behind this deistic argument.

Even if a god did create this universe with a purpose it is incredible hubris to imagine that we are the purpose. Maybe god likes bangs and so he created a fine tuned universe to generate supernovae – the same constants that make life possible appear to be pretty similar to maximising the number of supernovae. The same goes for black holes, maybe god is conducting experiments on black hole physics and we’re an incidental by product, like bacteria on the walls of the Large Hadron Super Collider. Alas these points are ignored by the “it’s all about me” crowd.

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Mike Young January 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm

For the sake of clairty you ought to mention that th everything in “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is the everything of universal quantification.

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A.J August 25, 2011 at 1:18 am

So, luke, you said you would go on to critiquing the kalam argument after the series of mapping the argument. Where is it?

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Luke Muehlhauser August 25, 2011 at 1:58 am

Eh… not sure if that series will be continued. But I’d say it still has a greater than 30% chance of being continued at some point.

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Eric August 25, 2011 at 10:02 am

Luke, I guess you like to tell jokes and stop right before the punchline ;)

Have any useful likes for us in meantime

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breadfan August 26, 2011 at 7:32 am

Eh… not sure if that series will be continued. But I’d say it still has a greater than 30% chance of being continued at some point.

Man, I hate these odds.
If you had said that it’s a one in a million chance, I’d be much happier.
To quote Terry Pratchett, “a million-to-one chance succeeds nine times out of ten.”

Ah, now I’m sad.

Seriously, though, I think many of us would love to see this completed.
(Do it! Do it! Do it!)

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NathanielFisher October 10, 2011 at 8:41 am

What about Victor J Stenger’s objections to the Kalam?

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