Can Something Come from Nothing?

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 30, 2010 in Kalam Argument

Part 11 of my Mapping the Kalam series.

creation ex nihilo

Last time, I finished discussing Craig & Sinclair’s defense of premise 2 of the KCA: “The universe began to exist.” Now, we turn to premise 1:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

The authors say: “We take [premise 1] to be obviously true – or at least, more plausibly true than it’s negation.” They give three defenses of (1).

Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit

Premise (1) accords with the “metaphysical intuition” that something can’t come from nothing. From nothing, nothing comes: ex nihilo nihil fit.

Virtual particles, which supposedly pop into and out of exist all the time, are often offered as a counter example. But first, there is some debate over the existence of virtual particles.

Second, virtual particles are only hypothesized to pop into existence ‘uncaused’ on indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics like the Copenhagen interpretation. But, says Craig, “most of the available interpretations of the mathematical formalisms of [quantum mechanics] are deterministic,” and would not suppose that virtual particles come into existence uncaused. (By the way, Wikipedia disagrees.)

Third, and perhaps most important:

…even on the indeterministic interpretation, particles do not come into being out of nothing. They arise as spontaneous fluctuations of the energy contained in the subatomic vacuum, which constitutes an indeterministic cause of their origination… Such models do not, therefore, involve a true origination [of virtual particles] ex nihilo.

To suggest that something could come into existence from nothing is, they suggest, “worse than magic.”

Why only universes?

The second point in support of premise (1) comes in the form of a question:

Why do bicycles and Beethoven and root beer not pop into being from nothing? Why is it only universes that can come into being from nothing?

Some have objected that while (1) is true of things in the universe, it’s not true of the universe itself. But (1) doesn’t state merely a physical law like Boyle’s law, but rather a metaphysical principle: something cannot come from nothing. Again: why should we think universes are the only exception to this apparently universal metaphysical principle?

Experience

Finally, premise (1) accords with all our experience. So, we have little reason to deny (1).

One objection raised by Wes Morriston is that some other generalizations enjoy support comparable to (1) but are incompatible with the KCA. Namely:

(i) Everything that begins to exist has a material cause.

(ii) Causes always stand in temporal relations to their effects.1

In response, Craig & Sinclair write:

The evidence for (i) is, indeed, impressive. But it is not unequivocal or universal. More importantly, (i) may be simply overridden by the arguments for the finitude of the past. For if it is impossible that there be an infinite regress of past events, it is impossible that the First Cause be a material object…

As for (ii), it appears to be merely an accidental generalization, akin to Human beings have always lived on Earth, which was true until 1968. There does not seem to be anything inherently temporal about a causal relationship.

Wes Morriston has raised nearly a dozen objections to premise (1) over the past few decades, but we will discuss them later as Craig does not respond to them here.

Mackie’s objection

Another objection was offered by J.L. Mackie. Craig asks us to accept premise (1) because it is unintuitive that something could begin to exist without a cause. But isn’t it just as unintuitive that something could pop into existence by sheer will, without any ‘material cause’ (as Aristotle would have put it)? Craig thinks that something popping into existence uncaused is “worse than magic,” but Mackie thinks that something popping into existence by the sheer will of a deity is even worse than that.

Mackie raises three problems with creation out of nothing:

(i) If God began to exist at a point in time, then this is as great a puzzle as the beginning of the universe.

(ii) If God existed for infinite time, then the same arguments would apply to his existence as would apply to the infinite duration of the universe.

(iii) If it be said that God is timeless, then this is a complete mystery.

Obviously, the defender of the KCA denies that God began to exist and that God existed for infinite time, so he need only defend the coherence of God existing timelessly.

Timelessness may indeed be mysterious, but so are many quantum phenomena. This does not prove timeless existence is incoherent. So Craig & Sinclair do not accept the force of Mackie’s objection.

A-Theory and B-Theory

A final objection may come from those who reject the A-Theory of time in favor of the B-Theory of time. Craig writes:

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 question for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived.

Because most philosophers2 familiar with the philosophy of time reject the A-Theory of time in favor of the B-Theory, it would seem this is a very pertinent objection to the KCA, indeed. But Craig does not defend the A-Theory in this article, so we will turn to that discussion later.

Next time, we will discuss Craig & Sinclair’s analysis of what a thing must be like if it is the first cause of the physical universe.

  1. Morriston, “Craig on the actual infinite“. []
  2. See here. []

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Reginald Selkirk March 30, 2010 at 6:07 am

How depressing. Get your physics from actual physicists, not from apologists.
Energy Is Not Conserved

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manicstreetpreacher March 30, 2010 at 6:14 am

Craig’s assertion that “out of nothing, nothing comes” is sheer folk wisdom. We see apparently uncaused events all the time in radioactive decay.

Firstly, Craig ought to take a look at the smoke detectors on the ceilings of his debate venues and consider when a particular Americium atom decays inside it, what causes one to decay rather than some other one. The answer is nothing that we know.

Secondly, even in a vacuum, virtual particles come into existence all the time and are measurable.

Appealing to “common sense reasoning” that is at odds with modern physics is not intellectually honest.

MSP

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Josh March 30, 2010 at 6:21 am

I have to say that on reconsidering what Craig have to say, I think that this argument holds more force for me than it did in the past. I still thing there’s a category error in asserting that the universe came from “nothing” but it’s not entirely clear to me what the answer is.

Moreover, it seems like we sometimes fall into a similar gap argument ourselves: quantum mechanics of the gap. We don’t understand x, and we don’t understand quantum mechanics, therefore x must be some aspect of quantum mechanics!

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Reginald Selkirk March 30, 2010 at 6:23 am

Moreover, it seems like we sometimes fall into a similar gap argument ourselves: quantum mechanics of the gap.

There is far more evidence fro quantum mechanics than there is for God.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 6:31 am

manicstreetpreacher,

Did you read the two paragraphs on viritual particles? Craig has a lot more to say about them in his paper, too.

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Yair March 30, 2010 at 6:44 am

I find the point of this post buffling. Are you reporting on what Craig has to say, or commenting on it? I see no real critique of the arguments; do you agree with them?

I find the entire discussion to be meaningless. Terms like “beginning to exist” or a “cause” are thrown around without clarity. If meanings are imbued from physics, then premise (1) comes up sheer ignorant nonsense, and an accidental generalization (like “humans are on Earth”) to boot. If meanings are imbued from metaphysical “intuition”, we’re back to medieval philosophy and forgot all about Kant. This is rubbish.

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manicstreetpreacher March 30, 2010 at 6:45 am

@Luke

Indeed I did. And I aware of Craig’s objections to radioactive particles coming into existence uncaused as per smoke detectors.

But these are plausible naturalistic alternatives to Craig invoking an invisible sky god (presumably, the God of Abraham as opposed to Zeus or Krisha) which ultimately explains nothing.

They also are exceptions to Craig’s simplistic arguments that he foists on scientifically ignorant audiences.

MSP

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Briang March 30, 2010 at 7:02 am

Yair,

Luke has done a whole series of posts on the KCA. He has been explaining Craig’s argument without much of his own commentary. I think his intention is to offer criticism later.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 7:29 am

Yair,

I’m just reporting on the debate so that I can build up a massive argument map of the whole debate.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 7:29 am

MSP,

Agreed.

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Briang March 30, 2010 at 7:58 am

I don’t think these quantum mechanics examples help. None are true examples of something coming from nothing, atomic decay comes from atoms, vacuum fluctuations come from a vacuum. They are indeterministic, but can be described by laws that make predictions. Now if the kalam defender asserted a stronger causal principle, these examples would be problematic. For example, if premise 1 was:

1*) Whatever begins to exist has a deterministic cause.

But the defender of the KCA, wouldn’t want to defend 1*, because 1* he would want to argue that God created the universe by His free choice. So the defender of KCA would be the first to reject 1*.

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Neil March 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

Call me retarded if you will. but I do not see how one can offer up “out of nothing, nothing comes” as a defense for “everything that begins to exist has a cause” as something that spontaneously (without cause) transforms into something different is consistent with “out of nothing, nothing comes” but not “everything that begins to exist has a cause”

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J. Quinton March 30, 2010 at 8:50 am

I think most standard models of cosmology don’t say that the universe came from nothing, but that we simply cannot “see” anything beyond 10^-43 seconds “after” the big bang. This implies that “something” or “the universe” existed “prior” to that, but we just don’t know what it was or what it looked like, since all of our physics breaks down at that point and we can’t model that state of the universe with known physics.

Basically, the universe existed before our model of time existed. I don’t think I’ve seen a version of the KCA address this.

On the flip side, has anyone heard of the so-called “Draygomb’s Paradox”? It says that if god is timeless and existed before time, then god didn’t have the time necessary to create time.

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Meatros March 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

“Finally, premise (1) accords with all our experience. So, we have little reason to deny (1).”

Actually premise 1 accords with nothing in our experience. I have not witnessed nor know of anything that has *begun* to exist with the possible exception of the universe.

Our experience tells us that energy/material changes and that this change has a cause. This is not the same thing as “(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.”

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Meatros March 30, 2010 at 9:17 am

I also wanted to add that if virtual particles did come into existence without a cause, then it seems to me that this would indicate that causeless effects are possible. It doesn’t matter that the vp do not come from ‘nothing’ (rather, they come from a vacuum). If it’s possible that something can come into existence without a cause, then the whole causality angle is suspect.

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Ari March 30, 2010 at 9:45 am

Luke, where do you get the pictures at the top of each of these posts?

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whoever March 30, 2010 at 10:49 am

While speculating upon the matter of virtual particles there is something that necessarily has to be noted:

Even in ordinary QFT, vacuum fluctuations do NOT produce virtual particles. The vacuum is an eigenstate of the operator of the number of particles, so there are no particle fluctuations in the vacuum. What fluctuates in the vacuum is the value of field. virtual particles are something different, they are artefact of a specific mathematical method of treating interactions, based on perturbation method. If you use some other method, such as numerical path integration on the lattice, then nothing analogous to virtual particles exists.

however, if craig feels like virtual particles might undermine his glorious kalam arguement too much dude might actually get into physics and come up with a complete quantum field theory of bohmian mechanics. just wait.

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Sogn March 30, 2010 at 10:50 am

I look forward to your comments on the A vs B theories of time. I’ve yet to see (or at least understand) an account of consciousness on the B theory.

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cl March 30, 2010 at 10:54 am

Even as a believer I never accepted that Craig’s argument sealed the deal.

These days I believe that Aristotle’s argument from kinesis works just fine. The phrases “something from nothing”, “begins to exist”, etc. seem to retain a certain ambiguity that just tends to confuse people. Granted, phrases like “act” and “potency” take some getting used to also, but for anyone out there really seeking to understand what Craig’s argument is ultimately getting at, I suggest Aristotle. That’s what made it ‘click’ for me, and I believe it’s by far the most powerful argument of its type, with the added bonuses that it’s original, and Aristotle was neither an apologist nor a Christian.

..(1) doesn’t state merely a physical law like Boyle’s law, but rather a metaphysical principle: something cannot come from nothing. (Luke)

Careful there; the scientific law of cause and effect – which is ultimately what these types of arguments apprehend – is the dominant principle of classical physics. When attacking the phrase “something can’t come from nothing” it can be easy to miss this fact. As such it deserves its proper respect. Recasting it as a metaphysical principle when in fact it is a rather time-tested physical law could be perceived as an attempt at mitigation.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 11:23 am

Sogn,

I don’t know how consciousness would be any more problemmatic on a B theory than an A theory. In any case, we’re only just beginning to figure out how consciousness works, anyway.

Also check my series on Gary Drescher’s ‘Good and Real’, which will cover that subject at great length.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 11:24 am

cl,

It’s not me who said (1) is not a physical law but a metaphysical principle. That’s Craig. He defends this view in more detail in the article I am summarizing.

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Jacopo March 30, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I guess any commentary of the debate would tend to look like a theistically-sided one, as there are probably more theists writing on this subject than atheists. It’s worth remembering that Craig can defend his favourite arguments pretty much full time, whereas obviously few atheists or sceptical theists can do the same.

Not that having the last word most of the time makes the theist side right, though it can powerfully create the illusion of that.

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Reginald Selkirk March 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I don’t think these quantum mechanics examples help. None are true examples of something coming from nothing…

That’s right, here in the actual universe, which exists, we have absolutely no experience whatsoever with true nothingness, ie. lack of universe. So when Craig appeals to our experience, it is a very empty appeal, is it not?

I look forward to your comments on the A vs B theories of time. I’ve yet to see (or at least understand) an account of consciousness on the B theory.

I look forward to an explanation of what any theory of time has to do with consciousness. I look forward to this explanation being reconciled with our existing knowledge of neuroscience.

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Zak March 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm

In his book, Atheism Explained, D.R. Steele makes some interesting points about this issue…

“If it’s a requirement of ‘true nothing’ that it lacks any properties and any physical laws, then true nothing must lack any law prohibiting the appearance of something. The assertion that, given true nothing, a universe could not pop into existence is therefore self-contradictory. If nothing does not permit something, such as an expanding universe, to start existing for not reason at all, then it’s a fact about this nothing that the probability of something coming into existence is zero, and such a general fact would be a law, this the nothing in question could not be true nothing.”

He then goes on to respond to Craig’s assertion that “something can’t come from nothing is a metaphysical principle.”

“A theist might respond that the inability of something to pop into existence where there was nothing is not a law of nature but a metaphysical necessity. But in the relevant sense, a law of nature is the same as a metaphysical necessity. Laws of nature are regularities prevailing in reality. Empirical science looks for laws of nature which can be tested by observation. If a law of nature can’t be tested by observation, the assertion of such a laws is metaphysical. What is metaphysics and what is empirical science is relative to the situation of the observers. No doubt we can’t test by observation the assertion that true nothing prohibits or doesn’t prohibit the coming into existence of something, but this doesn’t stop that assertion being a hypothetical law of nature” (pg 77).

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Mat March 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Is this the same question as “Can something come from something else?”

Why can we not have incompatible ontologies that have some kind of cross-over at the beginning and ends.

So that we don’t come from nothing but from something we can say nothing meaningful about.

That may be nonsense, what I just said:)

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Hermes March 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Reginald Selkirk: How depressing. Get your physics from actual physicists, not from apologists.

Exactly. The article you pointed to does a good job of explaining it to non-cosmologists and non-physicists, especially the last 5 paragraphs.

Everyone else, go read it so we can have better conversations and not drag in all the regular nonsense.

Most of the comments are excellent too. The ones that stood out for me are #3, 5, 7, 14, 19 (* plus 25, 27, 28, & 29), 23, 24, 30, 34, and 43 (* plus 44, 46, 47, 50, 52, & 53).

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cl March 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Luke,

It’s not me who said (1) is not a physical law but a metaphysical principle. That’s Craig.

Understood. Do you agree with him?

Zak,

The assertion that, given true nothing, a universe could not pop into existence is therefore self-contradictory. (D.R. Steele)

That was interesting for a minute, but it seems to me Steele’s argument overlooks the fact that ‘laws’ are just contingent human descriptions.

Lack of “a law prohibiting the appearance of something” is not necessary to “prevent the appearance of something” such that the assertion would become contradictory. All that is required to “prevent the appearance of something” is ‘true nothing.’

We don’t need a law to prevent a physical phenomenon; we need a law to help us understand why a physical phenomenon has been prevented, and given ‘true nothing’ there are no humans so no law is needed.

Mat,

So that we don’t come from nothing but from something we can say nothing meaningful about.

That may be nonsense, what I just said:)

It made perfect sense to me.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 4:20 pm

cl,

Well, I’m not the one making the argument. Sure, it’s an observed regularity of the physical universe that things which begin to existence have a cause. But this is not sufficient for Craig to make his argument. Craig’s argument requires that this also be a metaphysical principle, so that it can bear upon the origin of the physical universe itself. Craig defends this metaphysical principle at length in his paper; Morriston has lots of criticisms of the principle to which I shall later come. If (1) turns out to be a physical law but not a metaphysical principle, then Craig’s argument fails.

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ThePowerofMeow March 30, 2010 at 5:04 pm

We have never observed anything to “begin to exist”. We only see the same matter and energy gradually morph over time. Craig says a tiger couldn’t pop into being out of nothing. True. But when did the tiger begin to exist? The materials which make up the tiger existed before the tiger.

If the universe did truly being to exist, it is an occurence unlike anything else know of. We cannot make inference about it from our experience in this world.

Another version of the KCA might read

1. Anything that begins to exist is reorganized from pre-existing materials
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe was reorganized from pre-existing materials.

I think Craig’s metaphysical principle, while intuitive, comes from inference about the universe we know where “begins to exist” is synonymous with “reorganized from pre-existing materials” not with the alleged creatio ex nilo of the universe.

So it’s an equivocation.

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Hermes March 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm

ThePowerofMeow, agreed. Well said.

To take a slightly contrarian view, let’s say that in two instances everything we know about reality is invalid;

1. Going ‘back before’ Planck time (if that makes sense at all).

2. Anything ‘outside of’ this universe.

That concession still wouldn’t give a reason to decide that a deity had any hand in any of it.

The most likely situation is not a dramatic break from what we observe about reality, but that what applies ‘here’ most likely applies ‘there’. Could we discover or determine that is not the case? Certainly. Just saying that it is so is not an argument worth consideration.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 6:07 pm

ThePowerofMeow,

Craig is explicit about what he means by ‘begin to exist’ in the article, so it’s not an equivocation. But I agree that many similarly intuitive principles can be used in an argument against theism, which is one of the objections raised by Morriston that Craig only partly addresses.

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Charles March 30, 2010 at 6:18 pm

ThePowerofMeow has it right.

The sense in which we talk about everyday things “beginning to exist” is very different from the sense in which the universe presumably did. The Cosmological Argument is invalid.

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Charles March 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm

There, I said it.

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Rob March 30, 2010 at 7:16 pm

I think another problem with Craig’s KCA is he conflates Universe with what a physicist would call our observable universe. So sure, a physicist might sloppily say that the universe began to exist at the big bang, but what he means is we can only see back so far, for now. Beyond what we can see, who know?

Craig seem to think the whole of physical reality began at the big bang. But there just no reason to think that’s true.

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Briang March 30, 2010 at 7:58 pm

That’s right, here in the actual universe, which exists, we have absolutely no experience whatsoever with true nothingness, ie. lack of universe. So when Craig appeals to our experience, it is a very empty appeal, is it not?

For the right price I’ll sell you some nothing.
Seriously, while it’s true, that we haven’t preformed the experiment where we took nothing and watched nothing come out of it, we have observed that things don’t tend to pop into existence uncaused. As a matter of course, scientists assume that when something happens it has a cause. Science couldn’t operate otherwise. But science has been very successful in looking for causes. Why should that be the case if things could just pop into existence for no reason at all?

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ThePowerofMeow March 30, 2010 at 8:16 pm

I must confess to commenting from ignorance a bit. I don’t have the time to read Craig’s paper right now. I have listened to him give his arguments many times and I have read responses to his readers on his website. Yet I value this line of comments, so I will participate anyway…….;)

So is “begin to exist” a specific moment in time when an object obtains its essential properties? That seems highly problematic. Does the table become a table when its last nail is in place? Or was it a table before, but now it’s a different table? Difficult stuff.

Becoming a table is a process, not a single moment. and the table is constantly in flux.

But that point aside – what about causes? What caused the table? a hammer? a person? a nail? a tree? the tree’s parents?

How about:

1. Everything that begins to exist has many causes
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore the universe has many causes.

hmmmm

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ThePowerofMeow March 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm

If we zoom out far enough we can seen that what caused the table is …..everything!

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause which is all previous states of the universe.
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore the universe has a cause and it is all previous states of the universe.

hmmmm.

And of course, as far as we know, the universe is all there is. So “everything that begins to exist” in premise one is synonymous with “universe”.

1. The universe has a cause.
2. The universe is the universe.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause.

or you could do it this way:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. Whatever begins to exist begins to exist.
3. Therefore whatever begins to exist has a cause.

(got this one from Dan Barker’s book)

BTW, I am not an atheist. or a theist really….a Christian/Buddhist/Daoist agnostic?

Meow.

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Charles March 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm

There are even weirder scenarios. Consider a ship made of planks. Over time, various pieces wear out and are replaced. This continues until all of the wood in the ship is “new”. And yet, we wouldn’t say it is a “new ship”. Something very funny is going on.

I think the only way to solve this is to admit that the “ship” doesn’t really exist. It is just a convenient way of referring to “that glob of atoms in that shape over there”.

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Rob,

Craig argues at great length (50+ pages) that even if time extends beyond the ‘visible’ history of the universe, it must nevertheless have a beginning in the finite past. He does so on both scientific and philosophical grounds.

I’m afraid your objection, like most objections I hear to the KCA, fails to engage with how Craig actually argues.

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Newman March 31, 2010 at 1:23 am

Luke,

somewhere else you said that you don’t buy the PSR, which can overcome the trouble of this version of the CA with the A-theory of time. What is your reason for not accepting the PSR? The Van Inwagen-objection?

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Hermes March 31, 2010 at 3:23 am

So is “begin to exist” a specific moment in time when an object obtains its essential properties? That seems highly problematic. Does the table become a table when its last nail is in place? Or was it a table before, but now it’s a different table? Difficult stuff.

To expand on that and your other comments, a ‘table’ is a table by use and thus the context of that use, not an intended construction, determines if it is considered a table or not at any moment in time. A few examples;

* You are walking through the woods, and decide to sit down at an outcrop of rocks and eat. One set of rocks are lower, others are a little higher, so you ‘make’ a chair of a lower rock and a ‘table’ of one of the slightly higher ones right next to the ‘chair’. After you are ready to move on, the ‘chair’ and ‘table’ in effect vanish as quickly as they were ‘made’.

* If you are in a room and you want to put a mural on the ceiling, you might stand on a wooden ‘table’ and in that act turn it into a platform for your work on the mural. When done, the platform returns to being just a table. A similar thing could happen if — in an emergency — you had to burn the table for heat or flip it over to use as an impromptu boat. All at the same time, the table is there but … isn’t there … and is something extra … in that context.

* If a cat came up to the outcrop of rocks or the wooden table, it may decide to use each as objects to rub against, and in the case of the table it may decide that it is an ideal forest of scratching posts. In no case would the cat decide to use the table like a human would use it. A cat carpenter would not make human tables.

In each case the outcrop of rocks haven’t changed, and the wood table is still an assortment of parts sculpted to primarily be table shaped and functional as a table, but only for humans.

Related: I “Kalam” Like I See ‘Em…

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Hermes March 31, 2010 at 3:36 am

Rob,Craig argues at great length (50+ pages) that even if time extends beyond the ‘visible’ history of the universe, it must nevertheless have a beginning in the finite past. He does so on both scientific and philosophical grounds.I’m afraid your objection, like most objections I hear to the KCA, fails to engage with how Craig actually argues.  

Luke, putting the important issue of time aside for a moment, part of what Rob mentioned was the extent of the observable universe may not equal ‘everything’.

In that 50+ pages, how does Craig address ‘everything’?

* Does he consider ‘everything’ (with his preferred deity abstaining for the moment) to be only the ‘observable universe’? If not, what alternative does he offer?

* If ‘observable universe’ = ‘everything’ (not considering Yahweh), then what justification does he offer (if any) for that contention?

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Hermes March 31, 2010 at 3:40 am

[ more ]

* Does Craig even address ‘everything’ explicitly, or does he leave it to the reader to assume the scope/extent of ‘everything’?

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Silas March 31, 2010 at 4:20 am

OK, I’ll grant Craig this: The universe began to exist, because an actual infinity cannot exist. So, it must have come from nothing. If it came from something, for example quantum fields, that surely would be something. It MUST have come from nothing.

Craig’s solution? The thing that made it exist was indeed nothing, i.e. God. Well, not really nothing. It’s spiritual stuff! This spiritual stuff, which we for all practical purposes call “nothing”, made nothing come into being! Nothing made nothing come into being!

Wow! This argument blows me away!

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John D March 31, 2010 at 5:04 am

LAME and not very helpful

That poster has been doing the rounds on atheist blogs for a couple of months. Always the same links, never the same name.

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MauricXe March 31, 2010 at 6:32 am

Veritas, a youtube Christian, made a video of the Kalam argument.

You guys should check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwKAsEe7ZHU

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lukeprog March 31, 2010 at 7:12 am

Newman,

If I ever said I don’t buy the PSR, it’s not because I’m very familiar with it. Right now I’m agnostic about the strength of the contingency cosmological argument, especially since Pruss and O’Connor have offered improved versions of it in the last two decades, and I haven’t read their work.

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lukeprog March 31, 2010 at 7:13 am

Hermes,

No, Craig does not equate ‘observable’ universe with ‘everything.’ For example, his philosophical arguments against an infinite past hold no matter how many multiverses there are. And the Borde-Villenkin-Guth argument against the infinite past holds no matter how many universes there are, as long as entropy increases on average.

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lukeprog March 31, 2010 at 7:15 am

John D,

I deleted the spam-like comment to which you refer.

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ThePowerofMeow March 31, 2010 at 7:16 am

Hi Hermes,

I think those are good points, but how would that work with Craig’s tiger example? Is a tiger only a tiger when we perceive it as such? (before being mauled perhaps…..)

If this is so, then the universe, according to me, has only existed for 30 years or so. Hmmmm.

Also, many people would not consider a rock to be a table, even if it was used as such. Just like they wouldn’t consider the side of a barn a proper movie screen, even if they projected something upon it. I wouldn’t consider my boot a hammer, even if I used it to pound in a nail.

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Reginald Selkirk March 31, 2010 at 8:40 am

As a matter of course, scientists assume that when something happens it has a cause. Science couldn’t operate otherwise. But science has been very successful in looking for causes.

This “science” you talk about – I don’t think you know anything about it. The next thing I expect you to say is , “Hey, some of my best friends are scientists.”

Numerous comments in this thread have already pointed out that quantum mechanics apparently does not require causality. If you are talking about some other science, say zoology, then your point may be true but is entirely irrelevant.

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Hermes March 31, 2010 at 10:45 am

I think those are good points, but how would that work with Craig’s tiger example? Is a tiger only a tiger when we perceive it as such? (before being mauled perhaps…..)

As for Craig’s theoretical tiger *poofing* into existence, that sounds to me like a theological claim that Craig would like to distance himself from in public if not in private as well. If he wants to assert that no things can *poof* into existence yet all of existence was *poofed*, then he’s got to support that. Maybe his longer written works do offer support, but I don’t see it in his speeches or debates.

* * *

With use in mind, as you pointed out, the tiger could have it’s own use for the human observers and actors. Maybe the tiger is looking for a new table to rest it’s paws on, or merely a chew stick?

To expand on that idea, what do tool making and using animals (crows, some apes, …) call the tools they use? Does a name matter?

If this is so, then the universe, according to me, has only existed for 30 years or so. Hmmmm.

In all seriousness, the context isn’t limited to a single actor, it is the combination of everything (loosely and locally defined; not all of existence) that makes a specific context and the actors are just there as part of that local set of everything. It isn’t even limited to any actors with wills or awareness on any level at all.

For example, if the table was in a house, and a lava field flowed into the house we’d have the human perspective on the context (probably filled with fear and cussing about how important and/or expensive the house and table … were), and then the context of the lava that carbonizes plant materials as it rolls over them (grass, tree, or table). It also converts a jar of bacterial samples that one of the cussing biologists forgot to grab before the smoke coming from the quickly carbonizing palm trees in the yard scared her out of the house and on to higher ground. The bacteria individually also are part of the context and put things (living or not, aware or not) to use.

Also, many people would not consider a rock to be a table, even if it was used as such. Just like they wouldn’t consider the side of a barn a proper movie screen, even if they projected something upon it. I wouldn’t consider my boot a hammer, even if I used it to pound in a nail.

In addition to what I just wrote, let’s say the hiker is not you but a modern designer, and they decide to build a house around that outcrop. Would the rock outcrop be considered a table and chair or just a rock outcrop or both?

TheoreticalBull$hit (from the earlier YouTube link) gave a good example of this with his fist analogy; “Look, I brought a fist into existence! Now, I’ve taken a fist out of existence!” [ ~3:45-4:15] He continues with a cheerleader analogy that expands on this idea.

Making something ‘come into existence’ by use, intention, or arrangement is one way to make things. FWIW, on Craig’s claims specifically it looks like we can ignore that type of event.

Making something come from nothing is a charge leveled by apologists against the generic categories of atheists and scientists, but never aimed at a specific actual claim of an actual person.

Yet, Craig seems to make the nearly identical claim as that imaginary one that is mocked by many apologists. Only Craig uses Yahweh as the cause.

Then, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s not saying;

nothing + Yahweh ==> nothing + Yahweh + something

Craig could say that all of existence came from part of Yahweh — say his little toe or from a gallstone or from navel lint or spit — then that’s one idea that would not deserve the same criticisms as his peers. Many mythic creations are no less strange.

Craig also avoids that problem if he says that Yahweh is everything, then he’s positing an irrefutable condition like the pantheists are. The only difference being that the pantheists in general do not have a religious text with specifics that can be compared with existence as it is observed, as well as quite a few theological problems.

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ThePowerofMeow March 31, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Hermes,

good thoughts – I too was thinking of how what we call things, what purpose we assign things, etc. etc. is much different than whether the matter itself of the thing exists.

A stone is a table is a stone is a platform is a target for throwing rocks at is a sculpture (to a Daoist anyway!), etc. etc. But the same matter is still there regardless. And Bill Craig is arguing for the absolute beginning of all matter – not to mention time and space. And he is using inference about our experience with the world today to comment on this alleged, completely unique, singular event. But hey, he is super smart and I appreciate his efforts.

Has anyone else noticed that people call him “Craig” all the time? It’s because he’s one of those people with two first names. Bill Craig. No one in a debate would say “Shook says this” “Avalos says this” “Ehrman says this” with the person right next to him. Pretty funny.

I like your points about pantheists. i am sympathetic to this view, though I like the idea of panentheists – like everything is (we are) God, who has purposefully forgotten himself to experience true novelty and surprise, but there is some level of knowing stowed away somewhere which is gradually being recovered. Interesting.

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Hermes April 1, 2010 at 1:20 am

It’s a fascinating place, this planet. Makes me wonder what else we’re missing.

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Reginald Selkirk April 1, 2010 at 6:47 am

I just read an article in the March 2010 issue of Scientific American.
Evolution of Minerals by Robert M. Hazen.
The central point is that the variety of minerals around us on Earth has been shaped by the history of this planet. The elements necessary for forming minerals were created in early supernovae, the planet-forming process created new kinds of minerals, there were altered over time by the tectonic activity of our planet and by our atmosphere, and even by the development of life on this planet.

So when Craig says something about a tiger, which took billions of years to evolve, popping into existence, the scientifically literate will see the silliness in such a claim. But the same applies even to rocks, which we consider to be ordinary and ubiquitous.

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Rob April 2, 2010 at 6:13 am

Rob,Craig argues at great length (50+ pages) that even if time extends beyond the ‘visible’ history of the universe, it must nevertheless have a beginning in the finite past. He does so on both scientific and philosophical grounds.I’m afraid your objection, like most objections I hear to the KCA, fails to engage with how Craig actually argues.  

OK. I admit I have only tangled with Craig pretenders, and never actually read Craig’s fleshed out KCA. Thanks for pointing out my error.

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Michael April 2, 2010 at 9:39 am

Luke,
Time: A-theory or B-theory?

Other 542 / 931 (58.2%)
Accept or lean toward: B-theory 245 / 931 (26.3%)
Accept or lean toward: A-theory 144 / 931 (15.4%)
Here were the stats on philpapers. This is by no means a majority at all. So it seems a bit ambitious to say that most accept B-Theory. In fact, it looks as if most say other, though I’m not sure what other would consist of. Possibly an AB theory? I know some hold that the past is real but the future is not. In a recent podcast, Craig admits that many people lean toward B-theory due to physics, and the fact that most physicists accept B-Theory due to the model of special relativity that they accept, since it somehow forms 4-Dimensional spacetime. I’m not a physicist to I couldn’t tell you what significance it has, other than that he asserts that two other models accept A-theory and are still completely compatible. But he didn’t say who or how many accept either of these.

The point being that this is not a definitive reason to reject the Kalam, because 101 more people out of 931 is not a great number, and by no means a clear majority. If anything, it shows how many people that even have studied time don’t really know exactly how it works or at least aren’t extremely confident in their views of it. I know that in the 3 1/2 years I have been interested in time, I have read many sides of each argument and still can’t make a decision as they all seem convoluted and entail problems of their own that another theory answers only to move the problem area to another place that yet another theory covers, and etc.

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 10:32 am

Michael,

I did not say that most philosophers accept B-Theory. I said most philosophers familiar enough with the area accept B-Theory of time. The ‘Other’ category seems to be made of people who want to answer ‘Don’t know’, presumably because they haven’t studied the area. I think Chalmers mentioned this in his commentary on the survey. So of the philosophers who were familiar enough with the subject area to comment, we have:

245/389 B Theory: 63%
144/389 A Theory: 37%

As Craig knows, the gap is even wider among physicists.

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Michael April 2, 2010 at 11:01 am

Thank you fo the clarification.

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Robert Oerter April 2, 2010 at 11:14 am

As Craig knows, the gap is even wider among physicists.  

The Craig/Sinclair paper is very odd. They admit their argument requires an A-theory of time. And both special and general relativity are incompatible with an A-theory of time. Yet they go into great detail about various cosmological models – which they claim support the possibility of a beginning of time – even though ALL of these models are based on general relativity!

If the A-theory of time is correct, then all the cosmological models are wrong and discussing them is a waste of time. If the A-theory of time is wrong, then the rest of the paper is a waste of time.

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Thomas Reid April 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Robert Oerter: And both special and general relativity are incompatible with an A-theory of time.

Robert,
That’s a strong claim. Would you care to share an argument to that effect?

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Michael April 2, 2010 at 4:31 pm

The Craig/Sinclair paper is very odd. They admit their argument requires an A-theory of time. And both special and general relativity are incompatible with an A-theory of time. Yet they go into great detail about various cosmological models – which they claim support the possibility of a beginning of time – even though ALL of these models are based on general relativity!
If the A-theory of time is correct, then all the cosmological models are wrong and discussing them is a waste of time. If the A-theory of time is wrong, then the rest of the paper is a waste of time.  

This is entirely not true. Einstein’s original theory was based on an A theory and only came to accept a B theory a few years later when somebody else proposed it.

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Hermes April 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Robert Oerter: And both special and general relativity are incompatible with an A-theory of time.

Thomas Reid:That’s a strong claim.Would you care to share an argument to that effect?

As I understand it, though I admit I have not investigated this much yet;

1. WLC claims that ‘God (Yahweh) is timeless’.

2. A-theory is timeless, B-theory is not.

3. WLC must choose A-theory (unless he drops ‘God (Yahweh) is timeless’).

4. Relativity is not timeless, thus …

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Hermes,

No, that’s not the problem at all. Please refer to the paragraph I quoted from Craig’s paper for the explanation of why the KCA requires the A-Theory.

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Hermes April 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Thank you.

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Michael April 2, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Relativity as I know it it doesn’t say anything about time. I’ve heard it is more “fluent” on a B-theory, but is still entirely compatible with A-theory as well. As stated above, Einstein’s original theory was originally formulated based on an A-theory, until

As I understand it, though I admit I have not investigated this much yet;
1. WLC claims that ‘God (Yahweh) is timeless’.
2. A-theory is timeless, B-theory is not.
3. WLC must choose A-theory (unless he drops ‘God (Yahweh) is timeless’).
4. Relativity is not timeless, thus … 

Craig does not at all hold that God is timeless. He holds to the idea that God was timeless without creation and in time sans creation. A-theory is the theory that is time centered. B-theory says that all moments are equally real, making it so that the universe never would have actually began, since there is some point in time that it existed fully and that moment is and has always been real. On A-theory, only now is real, so there was a point in time (t) that the universe began to exist, that time, according to the theory of relativity, would be t=0. So to contrast, t=0 is just as real as t=2010(year), so since the universe is currently existing, and t=2010 is just as real at t=0 as it is now or at any other point, the universe never actually began to exist. You would then have to try to use some contingency argument rather than the Kalam.

There was Einstein’s idea(A-theory), Minkowski’s(spacetime/B-theory), and Lorentz’s(A-theory). Einstein then dropped his own and switched to Minkowski’s. This was simply the mathematical foundation of the theory, and was originally thought to be a diagram to help understand the theory, rather than a real thing. But Minkowski said it was a real thing. It was formulated simply for practical use. They are all empirically equivalent.

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Charles April 2, 2010 at 9:01 pm

The claim that relativity is incompatible with the A-theory of time is in the SEP entry on Time.

Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Although some B Theorists deny that time really passes as a result of considering McTaggart’s argument, many B Theorists have different reasons for saying that time doesn’t really pass. Two other arguments against The A Theory (besides McTaggart’s argument, that is) have been especially influential. The first of these is an argument from the special theory of relativity in physics. According to that theory (the argument goes), there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. But if there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity, then there cannot be objective facts of the form “t is present” or “t is 12 seconds past”. Thus, according to this line of argument, there cannot be objective facts about A properties, and so the passage of time cannot be an objective feature of the world.

It looks as if the A Theorist must choose between two possible responses to the argument from relativity: (1) deny the theory of relativity, or (2) deny that the theory of relativity actually entails that there can be no such thing as absolute simultaneity. Option (1) has had its proponents (including Arthur Prior), but in general has not proven to be widely popular. This may be on account of the enormous respect philosophers typically have for leading theories in the empirical sciences. Option (2) seems like a promising approach for A Theorists, but A Theorists who opt for this line are faced with the task of giving some account of just what the theory of relativity does entail with respect to absolute simultaneity. (Perhaps it can be plausibly argued that while relativity entails that it is physically impossible to observe whether two events are absolutely simultaneous, the theory nevertheless has no bearing on whether there is such a phenomenon as absolute simultaneity.)

For discussion of the argument from relativity against The A Theory: Godfrey-Smith, “Special Relativity and the Present;” Hinchliff, “The Puzzle of Change;” Markosian, “A Defense of Presentism;” Maxwell, “Are Probabilism and Special Relativity Incompatible?;” Prior, “The Notion of the Present;” Prior, “Some Free Thinking About Time;” Putnam, “Time and Physical Geometry;” Savitt, “There’s No Time Like the Present (in Minkowski Spacetime);” Sklar, Space, Time, and Spacetime; Stein, “On Einstein-Minkowski Space-Time;” Stein, “A Note on Time and Relativity Theory;” Weingard, “Relativity and the Reality of Past and Future Events.”

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Good snippet, Charles!

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Michael April 2, 2010 at 10:30 pm

That is an interesting quote. In response, relativity is not incompatible with A theory, not that B theory doesn’t fit it better. As I said, the original theory was developed with the A theory in mind, and it wasn’t until Minkowski made his proposal that the B theory became popular. I am not a physicist, so could be way off the mark here, but it seems that spacetime is more of a helpful picture of how things work, but not necessarily an actual thing, similar to the way an anti-realist may see numbers, that they are useful fictions, but not real things. Would love to hear some feedback on this.

As a note, I lean toward an AB theory, part of the other category, in that I see the future as being not real but the past at least possibly real in some sense, at least more so than the future, but maybe not as much as the present. However, I am open to anything. And as a Christian, I actually feel that B-theory may be more practical for theology, though I don’t find that a good reason to accept it. (Craig seems to put too much focus on theological objections despite philosophical evidence. I have a friend, Chad McIntosh, who wrote an article that showed how S5 Modal Logic, which is used for the ontological argument, can be used to prove the existence of numbers. Yet Craig is an anti-realist, simply on theological objections, and in this way seems to ignore consistency in the philosophical manner).

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Michael,

Can you link to that paper? I think that may just show that S5 really is suspect after all. :)

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Steve Maitzen April 3, 2010 at 5:11 am

Michael,Can you link to that paper? I think that may just show that S5 really is suspect after all.

Luke: S5 (along with the weaker systems S4 and B) have long been thought highly suspect (and rightly so, in my opinion). For a critique of S5, I recommend Hugh Chandler, “Plantinga and the Contingently Possible,” Analysis 36 (1976): 106-109; Chandler’s examples can be deployed against S4 as well. For a (much longer) critique of S5, S4, and B, I recommend Nathan Salmon, “The Logic of What Might Have Been,” Philosophical Review 98 (1989): 3-34.

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Thomas Reid April 3, 2010 at 6:06 am

Michael: I am not a physicist, so could be way off the mark here, but it seems that spacetime is more of a helpful picture of how things work, but not necessarily an actual thing, similar to the way an anti-realist may see numbers, that they are useful fictions, but not real things. Would love to hear some feedback on this.

Michael, I’m inclined to think along those lines. I think it’s helpful to think of time as a vector similar to spatial dimensions, but I don’t think that means it’s necessarily a metaphysical reality. Plus I think there are some good arguments against favoring the B-theory. For example:

1. If B-theory is true and special and general relativity are true, then time travel is possible.
2. If time travel is possible, then it is possible for you to kill your father before you were born.
3. It is not possible for you to kill your father before you were born.
4. Therefore, time travel is not possible.
5. Therefore, either B-theory is false or special and general relativity are false (or, of course, they are both false).

The B-theory is wierd.

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lukeprog April 3, 2010 at 6:21 am

Thanks, Steve Maitzen!

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Yair April 3, 2010 at 8:50 am

Any A-theory (or “open block universe” or other non-eternalism) view must, due to relativity, admit to an arbitrary preferred reference frame. For a physicist, this rules it out. Such a mental framework also ignores the paradox in the temporal “passing” of time. It is just physically implausible and philosophically impossible for time to pass.

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Michael April 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

Here’s the link. Chad is a undergrad at Calvin, but is more knowledgeable than many professors to be honest. He spoke at the EPS last month and won the student paper contest… all other students who applied were doctoral students. He is actually reading this paper at Pacific University in a week or so.

http://www.doxazotheos.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/s5-god-and-numbers.pdf

The paper doesn’t really argue for the ontological argument. It breaks it down and explains the reasoning behind it, so that he can go on to explain how the same logic can prove numbers, or abstracta. Even as a Christian, and not knowing too much formally of modal logic, I am a bit skeptical, but the more I read/learn, it appears to be a valid form of argument, but we will see.

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Michael April 3, 2010 at 9:30 am

An honest question, probably stemming from a lack of knowledge of physics(I’m a “philosopher” for heavens sake! haha). Is it possible that this idea of relativity is a perceptual thing due to the speed of light not being infinite? I remember reading something that says that time can’t actually be measured by the speed of light since the speed of light’s velocity is determined partially by time itself. So it seems like there could be an “objective” present that due to the speed of light is experienced at a different time than the actual event. The reason I say this is because even if I see a different event before/after someone else, it did not occur once for me to see it, and once for them to see it, but rather once for both of us, but our position/movement caused it to be seen at different points in time. So it seems that neither of us saw it at the moment it actually happened, but that there was still a moment that it actually happened no matter when we observe it.

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Robert Oerter April 3, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Thanks, Charles, for that quote; that says it better than I could (and shows it’s not just my own opinion).

Michael wrote:
“I am not a physicist, so could be way off the mark here, but it seems that spacetime is more of a helpful picture of how things work, but not necessarily an actual thing, similar to the way an anti-realist may see numbers, that they are useful fictions, but not real things. Would love to hear some feedback on this.”

The problem is that in SR (and GR as well) you can’t even define what “now” means, except with respect to a particular observer. If two things happen at the same time for one observer – say two bombs go off simultaneously – then, for any observer who is in motion with respect to the first observer, one bomb will go off before the other one. That is, it is an objective fact about the world that, from observer #2′s reference frame, one bomb goes off before the other one. (Note: it is NOT just that observer #2 SEES one go off first – it actually DOES go off first, after correcting for the travel time of the light from the bomb to observer #2.) It’s hard to see how this can be reconciled with and A theory.

Thomas Reid wrote:
“1. If B-theory is true and special and general relativity are true, then time travel is possible.”

I’m not sure what you mean by this. In GR, there are certain spacetimes with closed time-like curves. In such a spacetime, time travel would be possible. But we might not live in such a spacetime.

In SR, unless you do something weird to the topology, time travel is not possible.

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Thomas Reid April 3, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Robert Oerter,
You wrote:

I’m not sure what you mean by this. In GR, there are certain spacetimes with closed time-like curves. In such a spacetime, time travel would be possible. But we might not live in such a spacetime.
In SR, unless you do something weird to the topology, time travel is not possible. 

OK, but it doesn’t look like you’re objecting to my premise #1. Premise #1 states it is possible on both theories if also B-theory is true. You have affirmed that both theories permit it.

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Robert Oerter April 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Thomas: Maybe I should have objected to Premise #2. If we live in a spacetime with no closed timelike curves, then it’s not possible to kill your grandfather. Or, to put it another way, you need to change your conclusion to

5. Therefore, either B-theory is false or special and general relativity are false (or, of course, they are both false), or we don’t live in a universe with closed timelike curves.

Of course that’s really too strong. We could live in a universe with closed timelike curves, but they could be so long in the time direction that we wouldn’t live long enough to traverse them. Or they might just avoid grandfathers.

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Thomas Reid April 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Robert,
You wrote:

Maybe I should have objected to Premise #2. If we live in a spacetime with no closed timelike curves, then it’s not possible to kill your grandfather.

But if we don’t, then it is. In other words, premise #2 still holds.

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Michael April 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

The problem is that in SR (and GR as well) you can’t even define what “now” means, except with respect to a particular observer. If two things happen at the same time for one observer – say two bombs go off simultaneously – then, for any observer who is in motion with respect to the first observer, one bomb will go off before the other one. That is, it is an objective fact about the world that, from observer #2’s reference frame, one bomb goes off before the other one. (Note: it is NOT just that observer #2 SEES one go off first – it actually DOES go off first, after correcting for the travel time of the light from the bomb to observer #2.) It’s hard to see how this can be reconciled with and A theory.

I’m not sure I’m understanding. By objective, I mean independent of one’s perception. To say that I saw something at a different time than you must mean at least subjective difference, but it seems that there is a time t that event a occurred at, but that due to the speed of light not being infinite as to cause instantaneous experience, one could experience a at t=1 and somebody else at t=2 depending on the situation. But this fact does not undermine the fact that event a occurred at t=0. So is this something that relativity ignores and simply speaks of how/when each individual will see it? Because it seems that if one was given the time difference between experiences they calculate where/when the event occurred apart from the experiences.

Call me out if I’m way off here, but it seems that this may be a possible idea.

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Robert Oerter April 4, 2010 at 11:05 am

Michael: No, that’s what I was trying to emphasize in my parenthetical note. The time difference is an objective fact about the events A and B in the given reference frame. It is NOT a matter of when the events are experienced, or “seen.” To be explicit: It is an objective fact that, for anyone working in the reference frame of observer #1, bomb A and bomb B exploded at the same time. It is an objective fact that, for anyone working in the reference frame of observer #2, bomb A and bomb B exploded at different times.

“Because it seems that if one was given the time difference between experiences they calculate where/when the event occurred apart from the experiences.”

If I’m reading this right, this is exactly what we do assume in relativity. That is, the observer (either 1 or 2) takes note of when they see the bomb go off, and, using the known distance from the bomb and the known speed of light, works out precisely when it DID go off.

Equivalently, we can imagine that both observers fill the universe with clocks that are carefully synchronized to their own. (That is, when the distance to the clock and the travel time of the signal from the clock are taken into account, all the clocks agree with the observer’s.) Then, using observer 1′s set of clocks, we find that the clock located at bomb A and the one located at bomb B will record the same time of the explosion. But, using observer 2′s set of clocks, we find that the clocks at the bomb locations disagree on the time of the explosions.

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Michael April 5, 2010 at 9:42 am

I guess it is the objective part that is confusing me. What do you mean by “objective?” I took it to mean independent of experience, the actual fact of the matter. But the way you use it there would be two facts of the matter, which is what doesn’t make sense to me. Now maybe this is why the B theory is more useful than the A theory in this aspect since there can be 2 “real” times, where on A theory only one is real.

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Robert Oerter April 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Yes, I think that’s it exactly. The A theory says only one of the possible slicings of spacetime is real. But SR says all slicings are equivalent, and equally valid.

As Yair and Charles said already, it’s logically possible that only one reference frame is “real”. So SR can’t absolutely rule out an A theory. But it’s hard for a physicist to take such an idea seriously when there are no observable consequences that follow from declaring one frame “real.”

(The difficulties are even worse in GR. In SR you only need to choose a timelike direction in spacetime that you will declare to be the “true” time. But in GR, you need to do that at every point in space – and, depending on the actual shape of spacetime, it may not be possible to do this in a completely consistent way for the whole universe.)

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Kevin January 6, 2011 at 10:03 am

But most interpretations of quantum mechanics are deterministic…

Isn’t this just false, at least with respect to the 12 most viable interpretations of quantum mechanics?

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Luke Muehlhauser January 6, 2011 at 10:55 am

Kevin,

Updated. Thanks.

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Mike Taylor January 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm

The explanation is simple.
Time does not exist. Time is an illusion generated by the interaction of physical matter (physical matter being yet another effect that can’t exist without a cause). The fact that time is an illusion easily allows for the only possible explanation. Something “always” existed.
It’s a law of physics that something can’t come from nothing, whether the “physicists” understand it or not.

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