Against the Kalam Cosmological Argument (video)

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 29, 2011 in Kalam Argument,Video

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Samuel Etoou July 29, 2011 at 4:44 am

Hey Luke, won’t you continue your work on “Why Christianity is False”? I think I really need to read the topics you mentioned in its index, it could help me make my mind on a lot of issues. If you won’t continue it, would you please send me some links?

  (Quote)

TretiaK July 29, 2011 at 4:48 am

Indeed, I’d love to see more work done on the ‘Why Christianity is False?’, series.

  (Quote)

Leo July 29, 2011 at 6:10 am

I also ask for the continuation of “Why Christianity is False”.

  (Quote)

Taranu July 29, 2011 at 6:33 am

And so do I. I really like that series.

  (Quote)

el ninio July 29, 2011 at 6:35 am

Yeah, I like that one too. Listen to the desires of your readers Luke :)

  (Quote)

Robert July 29, 2011 at 8:24 am

+ for ‘Why Christianity is False?’ Finish that one if nothing else.

  (Quote)

Mike Gage July 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I wrote a piece on Brian Colon’s essay in the series, which Colon admitted to me was refuted. I then considered doing the rest in lieu of Luke’s retirement. But I realized I’m not that motivated. Would a group of bloggers want to team up and attack them by specialty? I bet we could post them on our own sites and also have Luke create an index here if he’s interested. Any interest?

  (Quote)

Ryan July 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Another interesting thing: Quentin Smith has argued that the Big Bang did indeed have a timeless and very simple cause… But it wasn’t God. He notes that since the singularity exists at time zero (t=0) it exists outside of time. Therefore, if someone insists that the Standard Model is correct, that everything that begins to exist has a cause, and that the universe began to exist, then this is still not an argument for God.

See Quentin Smith, “Time Began with a Timeless Point”
http://web.archive.org/web/20090510061945/http://www.qsmithwmu.com/time_began_with_a_timeless_point.htm

  (Quote)

Colin July 30, 2011 at 1:33 am

Nice cleavage. Actually, no wait… not really. But it certainly does wonders for the perception of women as intellectuals!

  (Quote)

el ninio July 30, 2011 at 1:46 am

Can someone please explain to me what is the relationship between Special Relativity and General Relativity? Does one depend on the other? And if General Relativity doesn’t hold at very small scales, does this affect in any way Special Relativity?
Thank you

  (Quote)

Nige July 30, 2011 at 3:50 am

Special Relativity applies to objects moving with constant velocity; The General Theory is ( as its title suggests ), a generalisation which applies to all objects, including those undergoing accelleration. Since the effects of gravity and accelleration are linked via the equivalence principle, The General Theory is also a theory of gravity.

In modern physics, all forces ( except gravity ) are understood in quantum mechanical terms, where energy is compartmentalised into chunks or quanta. It is expected that gravitation will prove to be quantised too, though The General Theory of Relativity is a classical theory, where the strength of gravitation varies smoothly from place to place. It is therefore expected that one day The General Theory will be replaced by a quantum theory of gravity.

It is at extremely high densities ( such as those occuring at the `big bang` and at the centres of black holes ), where the quantum nature of gravity is expected to manifest itself, and where the predictions of a `true` quantum theory of gravity would be expected to deviate from those of General Relativity. In particular, it is expected that a correct quantum theory of gravity would remove the unphysical singularity that General Relativity predicts as a `bound` for the physical universe in the direction of past time.

Finally, Special Relativity does not exhibit the problems manifested by the General Theory as it is a theory set in `flat ` spacetime, ie it does not take into account the effects of gravity and would not therefore be applied to the problematic situations which are ostensibly appropriate for The General Theory.

Hope the above helps!

  (Quote)

el ninio July 31, 2011 at 12:01 am

Nige
Thank you! It does help.

  (Quote)

joseph July 31, 2011 at 1:00 am

@Nige

I wonder if people just say “God did it” because it takes so much less time.

Could you imagine after analysing all the data from the LHC the Physicists came out and said “Actually Guys it was God after all, he wrote us an angry note in Higg’s Bosons, he said he’s been on a break for 2,000 years but could we look after things while he’s gone and don’t forget to let the cat out once in a while”.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber July 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Some thoughts from an ignorant theist:

1) Do cosmologists really hold that there actually was a singularity which was infinitely hot, infinitely pressurized, etc; or do they regard the fact that the numbers come back approaching infinity to mean that they don’t have a theory that adequately explains the singularity? If the latter, then their behavior confirms they agree with Craig that actual infinites can’t exist, since they take the appearance of infinites in the math to be evidence that they’re headed in the wrong direction.

2) I think the apologist would still have an opening to make a Aquinas’s cosmological argument even granting that there was no singularity. Much of what Guth et al were saying about inflation not being past eternal even if the universe sounded like Aquinas’s first way to me, it sounded like an apologist could stick an unmoved mover in that gap.

3) At best the young lady’s scholarly discussion of the science just made me agnostic about the second premise. But to their credit, most defenders of kalaam don’t rest their entire case on scientific arguments. Craig makes two separate arguments for the second premise – first that actually infintes can’t exist, and secondly, that even if actual infinites did exist, they cannot be traversed. I don’t think the young lady’s argument that the singularity contains actual infinites refutes the first point, and it doesn’t even address the second.

4) I also don’t think that the notion that theists think their God is infinite refutes the point. I don’t think by saying that God is infinite that they mean that there is some particulate aspect of God that God possesses an actual infinite amount of. I don’t even think the claim that God is omnipotent implies that God has infinite power. I’m not even sure the notion of infinite power is coherent. And your more sophisticated theists do not think, for example, that God is infinitely old. That is to say, that as of this moment in time, God has reached the end of a succession of days in existence that extends infinitely into the past. They rather say that God exists outside of time altogether. So, I say all this to say that the video producers may want to do a more thorough rebuttal of Craig’s philosophical arguments, since Craig could argue that a reasonable person could accept the second premise even if he decided to call the scientific situation at present a wash.

5) I think the premise “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is completely legitimate and not question begging because theists were always prepared to grant that the universe was not caused if the universe did not begin to exist. They then argue that the universe did begin to exist. Theists have always been prepared to admit things other than God that did not begin to exist and therefore do not have or need a cause – numbers, propositions, the laws of logic, etc. It’s just not true that God is the only exception.

6) My biggest pet peeve with atheist discussions of the kalaam cosmological argument is that they act as if the argument has only 3 premises. They discuss those three premises, and then they ask “well why think that cause is God?” Craig and pretty much every other major proponent of the argument give arguments for why the cause must be A) incredibly powerful B) incredibly knowledgeable C) outside of time and space and most importantly D) personal. Instead of pointing out the obvious, that the cause might not be God, atheists should look into Craig’s arguments as to why the cause is likely God and address them.

7) I tend to agree with the idea that a vacuum governed by the laws of quantum mechanics isn’t “nothing”, and doesn’t really disprove the dictum “out of nothing, nothing comes.” Nothing it seems to me would also mean no laws of quantum mechanics. Now, the young lady may be right that this means we can’t trust our instincts on the first premise, but given that something coming from *absolute nothingness* seems to be humanly inconceivable, perhaps that fact alone gives us sufficient justification for the first premise. (For the record, I find nothingness itself pretty impossible to conceive of. When I try I typically imagine blank space, but then I’m reminded that space itself is not nothingness. I cannot even imagine a state with not only no matter or energy but no height, width, depth, color, etc. Much less can I imagine something coming emerging from such a state.)

  (Quote)

Patrick who is not Patrick July 31, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Cleophus- This is Craig’s Kalam argument, and in it, God begins to exist.

Craig defines “begins to exist” in a particularly odd way in order to get around the problem of the universe not “beginning to exist” since “time” is part of the universe. He defines “begins to exist” as “exists at time T, but not at any time prior to T.” So if

1. the universe exists at time T sub zero, the first T ever, and
2. if there are no times T prior to T sub zero at all, then
3. the universe could not exist at any such times prior to T sub zero because there aren’t any, then
4. under Craig’s definition the universe begins to exist.

But according to Craig, God exists at time T sub zero. And the rest of the argument (points 2 and 3 in my informal summary) isn’t dependent on what you’re evaluating. So God “begins to exist.” So God needs a cause… or else you have to worm a different exception into the argument.

And this kind of illustrates the fundamental dishonesty of the Kalam argument. Its full of awkward definitions, misused generalizations, and wordplay. For example, in your own post you refer to numbers as “existing,” and then analogize to God… but surely numbers do not “exist” in the same sense as you think your God exists, unless you’re some kind of Platonic literalist or unless you buy into a particularly literalistic Catholic conception of essences and accidents. And if you do, you should at least recognize that the argument won’t be compelling to anyone who doesn’t believe that numbers and colors are made out of magic.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 1, 2011 at 7:00 am

Cleophus Webber: And your more sophisticated theists do not think, for example, that God is infinitely old. That is to say, that as of this moment in time, God has reached the end of a succession of days in existence that extends infinitely into the past. They rather say that God exists outside of time altogether.

What the @#$%^ does that even mean? Do the words in that last sentence convey an actual idea, or is it just a dodge to counter an argument against?

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 1, 2011 at 7:04 am

Nothing it seems to me would also mean no laws of quantum mechanics.

Do you think of quantum mechanics as having an existence separate from that of matter, or as a property of matter?

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 1, 2011 at 7:11 am

Cleophus Webber: So, I say all this to say that the video producers may want to do a more thorough rebuttal of Craig’s philosophical arguments,

My biggest pet peeve with atheist discussions of the kalaam cosmological argument is that they act as if the argument has only 3 premises.

Let’s talk about what the video did: it showed that modern physics does not necessarily support the physical arguments used in Kalam, and that the presentation of modern physics in service of Kalam by apologists is inaccurate and selective. In making that point it was massively successful. Total Pwnage. But then you turn around and say, well it didn’t do this other thing; it didn’t attack the logical arguments in Kalam.

An argument presented contains a chain of logic. How many links of that chain does one have to break before one can claim to have refuted the argument?

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 11:23 am

Patrick who is not Patrick:

I’m not sure I understand your objection. But I’ve always thought the the idea that time was created with the big bang to be somewhat question begging against the theist. Even if we grant that physical, measurable time in this universe began with the big bang, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t other temporal streams prior to the coming into existence of this temporal stream. If I understood the video correctly, inflation implies that other universes are coming into existence all the time by branching off of this universe. Now from the point of view of that created universe, there was no time prior to its creation. But there was a time prior to its creation in our universe. So, since this could apply to inflationary multiverses why couldn’t it apply to God? If omnipotence includes the ability to create a temporal stream within a universe, then God’s existence would be outside of that temporal stream, but not outside of time itself. Am I making any sense?

As to your other points, certainly, not everyone accepts the existence of numbers and propositions, (though as I understand it, that position is not that out of the ordinary within philosophical circles, even atheistic ones.) Suffice it to say, though, that the theist was always prepared to grant that the universe might be one of the things that did not begin to exist, which is why the kalaam argument tries to give arguments against that possibility. It does not simply assume that God is the only thing that never began to exist, so I don’t see the first premise as being illegitimate.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

Cleophus Webber: And your more sophisticated theists do not think, for example, that God is infinitely old. That is to say, that as of this moment in time, God has reached the end of a succession of days in existence that extends infinitely into the past. They rather say that God exists outside of time altogether.

What the @#$%^ does that even mean? Do the words in that last sentence convey an actual idea, or is it just a dodge to counter an argument against?

Well, yes, I think the idea it means to convey is that God is atemporal. I think that’s pretty easy to explicate from a dynamic-relativistic notion of time. The dynamic view holds that time “flows”, and the relativistic view holds that this “flow” can be established by any movement or change. Thus if God is a being in whom there is no movement or change, then assuming nothing else but God exists, then God is atemporal, or timeless. Craig wrote a whole book explaining this view called Time and Eternity. There Craig espouses the somewhat controversial view that on a dynamic-relativistic notion of time, that God must have become temporal simultaneous with the creation of the universe, since that event created something with which God can be temporally compared. I’m not sure I agree with all that but it’s an interesting read, and might answer more of your questions along these lines.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

Nothing it seems to me would also mean no laws of quantum mechanics.

Do you think of quantum mechanics as having an existence separate from that of matter, or as a property of matter?

Good question. I would probably say it exists as a property of matter, or a property of whatever entity it is that you’re observing. For example, if loop quantum gravity is correct and space is “particulate”, then quantum mechanics might be a property of space. But since nothingness would mean no space or matter, that would mean no quantum mechanics.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 11:37 am

Cleophus Webber: So, I say all this to say that the video producers may want to do a more thorough rebuttal of Craig’s philosophical arguments,

My biggest pet peeve with atheist discussions of the kalaam cosmological argument is that they act as if the argument has only 3 premises.

Let’s talk about what the video did: it showed that modern physics does not necessarily support the physical arguments used in Kalam, and that the presentation of modern physics in service of Kalam by apologists is inaccurate and selective. In making that point it was massively successful. Total Pwnage.But then you turn around and say, well it didn’t do this other thing; it didn’t attack the logical arguments in Kalam.

An argument presented contains a chain of logic. How many links of that chain does one have to break before one can claim to have refuted the argument?

Well, I would say you have to break enough chains, and I don’t think the video did that.

Let’s remember that the big bang is not a premise in the argument, the big bang is offered as one of at least three distinct, independent arguments for accepting the second premise, “The universe began to exist.” The other two arguments, that of the impossibility of actual infinites and the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite, might still seem to be a compelling reason for someone to accept the second premise. Indeed, I personally find them compelling.

Recall that the kalaam argument was advanced about a thousand years before the Big Bang was ever conceived of, so it would be odd if simply eliminating the big bang as support for the second premise was enough to refute it.

I think if someone believes (as I do) that it’s reasonable to accept the first premise, and it’s reasonable to accept the second even if it’s not supported by the big bang, then the argument’s conclusion is still reasonable to accept.

  (Quote)

Mike Gage August 1, 2011 at 11:45 am

Cleophus,

Can you please explain clearly why you think:

a) actual infinites are impossible
b) you cannot traverse an actual infinite

I’ll reply when I understand your specific argument. Thanks.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

Well, yes, I think the idea it means to convey is that God is atemporal… Thus if God is a being in whom there is no movement or change

That’s the sort of concession which would kill a great many other ideas about the nature of God. No movement and no change means no action, and probably no thought. If you want to go there in order to circumvent this one criticism, we will hold you to it in all other discussions on the nature of God. Not to mention, a timeless thing is not something for which you can provide actual examples.

Craig wrote a whole book explaining this view called Time and Eternity.

Craig is just as wrong and just as selective in his treatment of infinity as he is in his treatment of cosmology. This has come up in may threads on this blog, and elsewhere.

===

For your consideration:
Jeffrey Shallit

Consider this: why do many physicists believe that “what came before the Big Bang” is a meaningless question?

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Cleophus Webber: The other two arguments, that of the impossibility of actual infinites and the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite, might still seem to be a compelling reason for someone to accept the second premise. Indeed, I personally find them compelling.

I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you have reason for this compulsion beyond Craig’s arguments, which are bad.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Cleophus,

Can you please explain clearly why you think:

a) actual infinites are impossible
b) you cannot traverse an actual infinite

I’ll reply when I understand your specific argument. Thanks.

Well, I tend to find Craig’s arguments persuasive, that though it is possible to construct an internally consistent transfinite system of mathematics, such a project couldn’t be applied to an actual infinite collection. So, for example, it makes perfect sense in constructing a transfinite system of mathematics to forbid the operations of subtraction and division, but how could one forbid such actual operations in real life. If one had an infinite collection of apples, say, and you removed one apple from that collection, how many would you have left? Either you have infinity minus one, which seems absurd, or you still have infinity, which also seems absurd.

As to the second point, I don’t believe an infinite collection could be reached by successive addition, which is what is being claimed for a universe with infinite causal regression. it is being claimed that the universe is at the end of an infinite series that was created by adding one causal event to another, and that point eventually reached infinity. I just don’t see how that’s possible. I am willing to be corrected, however.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Well, yes, I think the idea it means to convey is that God is atemporal… Thus if God is a being in whom there is no movement or change

That’s the sort of concession which would kill a great many other ideas about the nature of God. No movement and no change means no action, and probably no thought. If you want to go there in order to circumvent this one criticism, we will hold you to it in all other discussions on the nature of God. Not to mention, a timeless thing is not something for which you can provide actual examples.

Craig wrote a whole book explaining this view called Time and Eternity.

Craig is just as wrong and just as selective in his treatment of infinity as he is in his treatment of cosmology. This hascome up in may threads on this blog, and elsewhere.

===

For your consideration:
Jeffrey Shallit

Well, that’s what makes Craig’s move here potentially ingenious, in that he grants full temporality to God after the creation event. On Craig’s view, God is not *necessarily* timeless, he is merely *accidentally* timeless in the event that He does not create anything to which he can be temporally compared. So it was never the case that God *could not* act, it was just that prior to the creation of the universe, He had not yet acted, so no time flow was established. So, Craig’s dynamic-relativist or relationalist view of time wouldn’t at all force the concessions you list. Now, again, I’m not sure I agree with him, and I’m not sure that’s what every Christian means when they say that God is eternal, but Craig’s take on it avoids the problems you list.

As to your final point, well what about my inflationary example above? Would you agree that in a universe branching off from ours, time *within that universe* began with the creation of that universe, but *time itself* was not created with the creation of that universe? The view that *time itself* was created with the Big Bang seems to presuppose that ours was the first universe *of any kind* to exist, and that is exactly the question at issue, no?

  (Quote)

Mike Gage August 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Cleophus,

Thanks, I figured that’s about where we stood.

Ok, so to the first point, I’ll simply provide a link: https://webspace.utexas.edu/deverj/personal/papers/worlds.pdf

I think that does a good job of covering these so-called absurdities. Hilbert-esque infinity problems are largely considered to be acceptable conclusions. Just because a result about something like infinity seems counterintuitive, does not make it so. I always like to point to The Paradox of the Ravens as an example of a counterintutive conclusion that is nonetheless correct.

To your second point, where do you start counting? Is it 1, 2, 3, 4, … infinity? That’s the way the case is generally presented. But of course this misses the point. This is an argument that a potential infinite cannot become an actual infinite. This argument relies on beginning, but a beginning is precisely what the proponents of an infinite past don’t suggest. The thrust of the argument completely misses its target.

It is not at all clear that actual infinites are impossible, which means trouble for the original deductive argument.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Cleophus,

Thanks, I figured that’s about where we stood.

Ok, so to the first point, I’ll simply provide a link: https://webspace.utexas.edu/deverj/personal/papers/worlds.pdf

I think that does a good job of covering these so-called absurdities. Hilbert-esque infinity problems are largely considered to be acceptable conclusions. Just because a result about something like infinity seems counterintuitive, does not make it so. I always like to point to The Paradox of the Ravens as an example of a counterintutive conclusion that is nonetheless correct.

To your second point, where do you start counting? Is it 1, 2, 3, 4, … infinity? That’s the way the case is generally presented. But of course this misses the point. This is an argument that a potential infinite cannot become an actual infinite. This argument relies on beginning, but a beginning is precisely what the proponents of an infinite past don’t suggest. The thrust of the argument completely misses its target.

It is not at all clear that actual infinites are impossible, which means trouble for the original deductive argument.

Thanks for the link, Mike. I’ll have a look at it.

As to your second point, my difficulty is that as of this moment, we have reached an end to the infinte causal regress. So if the regress is infinite, that means we have traversed it, and come to its end. But how could there *be* an end to an infinite series of events? Sure, we are tracking the regress backwards, but that’s not the actual causal order of the events within the regress. I agree that there’s nowhere to start counting forwards that wouldn’t be arbitrary, but my problem is with the idea that we could reach the end of an infinite series. I thought the point of infinities was that they had no end?

  (Quote)

Mike Gage August 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Cleophus,

I understand; I really do. There was a time when I found Craig’s point about actual infinites devastating. I could not imagine how we could ever reach here. But I eventually had a rare moment of brilliant insight when I realized that the intuitive force of the argument was only due to its incorrect framing of the problem. I’m basically going to repeat what I said above, but let me try to phrase it differently.

So, you want to know how we reach the end, or moment P for “present.” Pick out any moment in the past and you will be able to reach P in some number of countable moments. The idea that we can’t get here relies on a beginning. You have to start counting from somewhere any way you phrase your analogy to make it work. And that is also precisely why it does not work. You are comparing apples and oranges. I don’t even know that we’re capable of formulating a good example beyond mathematics to demonstrate what an actually infinite set would be like. I don’t claim to know whether the past is actually infinite. But I do know that these analogies are not criticizing the actual argument.

It’s kind of like how we can’t make an actual map of the world in 2D – it’s not really an accurate representation. So, when a mathemetician talks about actual infinites as a completed infinite set, that’s really just an approximation. There isn’t really a boundary from which to start.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Mike,

I suspect that this might be an arena where a strict demonstration that the other side is wrong is just impossible. My idea of infinity is that infinite collections don’t HAVE “ends.” In either direction. I consider the directionality question to be a red herring. If you consider the set of all numbers between the numbers one and two, (in other words, not including one or two, just the set of all numbers between them) is there a first OR last number in that series? I’d say no. If there was EITHER a first or last number in that series than that set wouldn’t be infinite.

But if the set of all moments in the history of the universe was infinite, then this present moment would be the last moment in that infinite set, which strikes me as a deal-breaker.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm

*then*

  (Quote)

Patrick who is not Patrick August 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Cleophus- I’ll probably leave it, because I’m not that interested in piling on.

Suffice to say, the following words are being used very oddly.

1. “Exist.” Surely the way that concepts “exist” is not the same way that a table “exists.” Does the concept “checkerboard pattern” exist? If so, it seems like it should exist in the same way that the number 3 exists… but not in the same way that a particular rock exists. So unless you believe that these things actually exist in the same way (which WOULD be a controversial statement in philosophical circles), you need to be careful about drawing inferences from one type of “exist” to another. After all, even an atheist believes that God “exists” in the same way that Mickey Mouse “exists.” To group these things together is to try to score points with wordplay. Its clever, but not useful.

2. “Begins to exist.” Craig gives a very specific definition. If a thing exists at time T, but there is no time X, prior to T, at which the thing exists, then the thing “began to exist.” But notice the trick. If we use this on a table, we might say that at 3:30 there was a table, but at 2:30 there wasn’t, so in the interim the table “began to exist.” But with regard to the universe, since time is part of the universe, we have a problem. We might say that at time T the universe existed, but we can’t say that the universe didn’t exist at some time prior to that. And here’s where Craig’s chicanery comes in. His definition has a super secret second usage that (he thinks) only works for the universe. Since there were literally no times at all before time T, then technically his definition is satisfied. And yet its satisfied in a categorically different way from all other examples (he thinks). Except first of all, this is wordplay again. He wants to use intuitions about one type of “beginning to exist” and apply them to this new, different, unique type. But he can’t just come out and admit that because it would weaken his argument to admit that there are categorical differences in these two situations, so he buries it under verbiage. And what’s worse is that under his definition of “begins to exist,” God existed at the same time the universe did, and for the same reasons as the universe, God “began to exist.” Which means that if the Kalam argument holds, God needs a cause. So special pleading upon special pleading is layered onto the argument.

Craig’s argumentation always follows this pattern. Two things which are not similar are equated using a tenuous definition carefully crafted for the specific reason of supporting a predetermined result, and information about the first thing are used to derive conclusions about the second.

  (Quote)

Patrick who is not Patrick August 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm

But if the set of all moments in the history of the universe was infinite, then this present moment would be the last moment in that infinite set, which strikes me as a deal-breaker.

This is actually mathematically wrong. I don’t know why it is that its considered gauche to point this out, but time is not a step function, or at least we have no reason to think that it is. The universe does not seem to run on frame by frame animation.

Craig’s argument that the universe not having a beginning would mean that it would need to have existed infinitely far into the past is just plain false.

X>1

The set X described by that equation has no beginning. For every point in that set, you can find an infinite number of points before it. The set has no first point, and it does not go infinitely into the past.

This is why I have little respect for efforts to turn simple insights into logically rigorous arguments. The fundamental claim of the Kalam argument is that the universe had to come from somewhere. But that’s not a very good argument, so people have tried to repair it by making it more rigorous. In the process, they’ve just made it worse. Problems haven’t been solved by the addition of rigor, they’ve been obscured.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Mike,

As I wrote that I realized my mistake. So, yeah, I guess there could be an infinite series with a beginning and an end.

  (Quote)

Mike Gage August 1, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Cleophus,

It is generally agreed upon in philosophy that impossibility claims bear the burden of proof. You may have noticed that I’ve said nothing in favor of a beginningless past. I don’t know that I particularly care whether it’s true. What I have focused on is that the impossibility claims miss the mark. I think that has been adequately demonstrated. The supposed critiques of actual infinties are really just preying upon features of potential infinites, as you did with your 1 – 2 example. I have never seen one that does not suffer from this fatal error. I think what I’ve said thus far stands and this is simply an issue of framing. You say that this representing an end is a problem. Not really. All the proponent is really suggesting is that if you consider it a start instead and go backward you will never reach a moment without a previous moment. Calling it an end and these other examples is really just a problem of perspective, like I’ve said. There is no reaosn to grant your impossibility claim. Impossibility is a very bold claim and we’ll need something much more substantial to allow it.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Patrick not Patrick, yeah, I get what you’re saying. Point taken.

  (Quote)

Cleophus Webber August 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Patrick who is not Patrick,

That point taken was in reference to your x>1 comment.

I’m willing to just drop your “exist” comments. The only point I was trying to make is that proponents of the argument have always granted that there are or might be things other than God that did not begin to exist, and among those things might be the universe.

Your “begins to exist” comments I’m not quite sure I understand yet.

  (Quote)

joseph August 2, 2011 at 2:58 am

@Cleophus Webber

For the love of all that is Holy!

If you can explain how a thought can be entirely unrelated to any physical system, and occur out of space-time, you sir/madam, will be my hero

  (Quote)

joseph August 2, 2011 at 3:02 am

@patrick who isn’t patrick

“The universe does not seem to run on frame by frame animation.”

Can you point me towards something on this subject, that i might understand?

I thought one of the implications of quantum theory was planck space and time?

  (Quote)

Patrick who is not Patrick August 2, 2011 at 6:09 am

joseph- Planck time is the length of time it takes for a photon to travel one planck length in a vacuum. That makes it the smallest theoretically detectable unit of time. Whether it is the smallest unit of time in general is a separate question.

http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/P/Planck+Time

  (Quote)

joseph August 2, 2011 at 7:27 am

@Patrick who is not Patrick
May Atheismo Bless You

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 2, 2011 at 7:42 am

Well, that’s what makes Craig’s move here potentially ingenious…

That looks like a whole mess of special pleading.

  (Quote)

Andrew EC August 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

Cleophus,

Serious question: how is Hilbert’s Hotel any different than the “Achilles and the tortoise” formulation of Zeno’s paradox?

You know the one: a tortoise is given a small head start on Achilles, who’s obviously much faster. But in order to catch up, Achilles must first run to the tortoise’s starting point, by which time the tortoise has moved a (small) distance forward. Achilles can, of course, run to *that* point — at which point the tortoise is yet another small distance ahead of that, ad infinitum. Since there are an infinite number of points where the tortoise has been, Achilles can never catch it.

  (Quote)

Larkus August 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm

@PatrickwhoisnotPatrick

Here is WLC’s explanation of “beginning to exist” http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8243 :

The kalam cosmological argument uses the phrase “begins to exist.” For those who wonder what that means I sometimes use the expression “comes into being” as a synonym. We can explicate this last notion as follows: for any entity e and time t,

e comes into being at t if and only if (i) e exists at t, (ii) t is the first time at which e exists, (iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly, and (iv) e’s existing at t is a tensed fact.

WLC’s reason, why God did not begin to exist:

[...] clause (iii) precludes God’s beginning to exist if He enters time at the moment of creation from a state of timelessness sans creation. This result is intuitive because God, if He exists timelessly sans creation, doesn’t begin to exist or come into being at the moment of creation!

I wonder whether there is a state of affairs in the actual world in which the universe exists timelessly.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm

(iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly

Huh? What does “exists timelessly” have to do with the actual world?

So even though a timeless being has never been witnesses, and its possibly is even in question; Craig proposes a being is timeless “before” time begins, and then somehow enters time.

Is there any evidence for such a state of affairs being true, or is that just the twisted logic one must use in order not to give up on one’s invisible friend?

  (Quote)

MarkD August 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm

There does tend to be an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin Scholasticism about some of this. It does seem consistent with (iii), per Larkus, that the universe might exist timelessly as easily as God and just come into timefulness (if I may; eschewing timeliness, which is already taken) at the singularity or whatnot, which is one of the ways of interpreting recent results, and that has the continued benefit of not needlessly multiplying entities.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 3, 2011 at 6:15 am

Matt McCormick: Defense Lawyers for Jesus

There is a mode of reasoning about Jesus and other religious matters that is a seductive mistake. Our inquiries into some matter can be oriented towards defending a belief, or they can be evidence driven by and receptive to whatever conclusion is best justified. The difference is that we often approach the world with pre-formed conclusion or preference already in mind and that guides our investigation. Then as we consider new information that is relevant to that cherished doctrine, we are receptive to the arguments, evidence, and reasoning that corroborate it and we are hostile to arguments that run counter to it. The exercise of our reason is separated from truth as the goal, and it is co-opted in the service of some particular belief that might be deeply mistaken.

Craig’s and Wolterstorff’s revelations here put their arguments for God in a new light. When Craig presses the Kalam argument, or any other argument for a religious conclusion, what we see now is that he doesn’t really mean it. He has openly resolved to reject any other argument no matter what its merits if it doesn’t have the right conclusion. The acceptability of any argument is determined solely by whether it gives him the conclusion he already favors. Trying to argue him out of that conclusion is doomed to fail because the only legitimate function that reasoning can be put to, as he sees it, is in support of Jesus. There are no considerations, reasons, pieces of evidence, or arguments, even in principle that could possibly dissuade him. That would presume that his conclusions about Jesus were arrived at on the basis of reasoning, and not the other way around.
That means that we must attach an asterisk is any pseudo-reasoning or faux-arguments that they present for their conclusions. Without knowing how Craig’s meta-rational convictions actually undermine any rational discourse, you might be fooled into thinking he’s engaged in authentic reasoning and evidence analysis. We should be careful to not confuse a sophisticated rhetoric in the service of a predetermined conclusion for real critical analysis or a genuine appeal to reason to justify a claim. ..

  (Quote)

cl August 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm

You know, I really hate that Craig’s Kalam gets so much coverage. In my opinion, it’s actually quite inferior to Aristotle’s argument from kinesis, or even Aquinas’ formulation. By focusing narrowly on Craig, people forget that there are so-called “first cause” arguments which work even given an eternal universe. I’ve never seen a solid refutation of Aristotle’s formulation.

But, hey… dead horse.

  (Quote)

cl August 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm

“Let’s say everything in the universe needs a cause, but not the universe itself.”

LOL! And she’s so cocksure! But there’s one thing she’s right about, and that’s that one can generally find any conclusion they’re looking for.

*Before anyone wastes their time, yes, I understand that she thought she was accurately mimicking this so-called theist wordplay.

  (Quote)

cl August 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Hey Luke, won’t you continue your work on “Why Christianity is False”?

Indeed, I’d love to see more work done on the ‘Why Christianity is False?’, series.

I also ask for the continuation of “Why Christianity is False”.

And so do I. I really like that series.

Yeah, I like that one too. Listen to the desires of your readers Luke :)

Didn’t you guys get the memo? Luke declared the existence of God a “settled issue,” along with philosophy of mind.

  (Quote)

noen August 8, 2011 at 6:57 am

“Luke declared the existence of God a “settled issue,” along with philosophy of mind.”

Ah… didn’t know that. He’s a fool AND a sexist pig. Got it.

  (Quote)

ernest sera August 9, 2011 at 4:20 am

@cl

settled perhaps in the sense that it is pointless altogether. Go ahead and spend your life wandering that sea. Others have their lives and heads pointed toward different vistas.

  (Quote)

joseph August 9, 2011 at 7:06 am

@cl

“Let’s say everything in the universe needs a cause, but not the universe itself.

LOL! And she’s so cocksure!”

Isn’t it the same cocksured-ness that lets people arbitarily say:

” The only uncaused thing is a conscious being in it’s own right, and it created all this for us.”

And some even more confidently add:

“It’s timeless, spaceless, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient also, so there.”

The two viewpoints have no real advantage over each other, not in terms of cocksuredness, at least.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Ah… didn’t know that. He’s a fool AND a sexist pig. Got it.

Matt 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

See you in Hell, I’ll save a seat fro you.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Atheists decline Oxford debate on God

Polly Toynbee, the Guardian columnist and president of the British Humanist Association, had agreed to debate the existence of God with the Research Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology, California, Dr William Lane Craig, at Westminster Central Hall in October, during Professor Craig’s “Reasonable Faith” tour.
Earlier this month, however, Ms Toynbee said that she would not be taking part in the event. “I hadn’t realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig’s debating style, and, having now looked at his previous per­formances, this is not my kind of forum.”

The director of Professor Craig’s tour, Peter May, said: “If Craig is ‘wrong about everything else in the universe’ and his arguments for the existence of God are so easy to refute, it is hard to see why the leading atheist voices in the country are running shy of having a debate with him.

It’s pretty simple, as Luke has learned by now: being wrong and being easy to refute are two different things. Craig’s arguments on cosmology are distorted and often just plain wrong. So are his arguments involving mathematics. But it takes time to refute them, and that does not work well in the debate format.

  (Quote)

PDH August 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Additionally, Toynbee is a liberal talking head, she is not a philosopher. The real question is why anyone ever thought such a debate would be worth having. Perhaps if the topic had been about the role of religion in society or something like that, it would have made more sense. Or better yet she could debate Tony Blair like Hitchens did. That would be a much more appropriate match.

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment