Part 11 of my Mapping the Kalam series.
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?
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.
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.