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Posted by on Sep 10, 2012 in Philosophy of Religion | 51 comments

The Kalam Cosmological Argument and William Lane Craig #1

I have, over the years, been a keen objector to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, an argument that apologists like William Lane Craig use to posit the existence of a creator god for the universe. It is a simple logical syllogism. I am at present writing a paper which states a series of objections to the argument which will be turned into a book after its completion. I will share with you parts of the paper for debate and critique. I start this post a little further down this critique after having already analysed its form. I will be running a series of posts looking at a variety of issues.

I will formulate the argument as found in William Lane Craig’s A Reasonable Faith so as not to create a straw man when dealing with Craig’s arguments later in this series. As Craig declares:

The kal?m cosmological argument may be formulated as follows:

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2) The universe began to exist.

3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe then aims to establish some of the theologically significant properties of this being. (Craig 2008: 111)

The further inference as to the properties of the initial cause (God) forms an extension to the argument, which Craig elucidates further. For the intents and purposes of these posts, this is of no concern here. I will be dealing exclusively with the two premises and the conclusion to this deductive argument. Thus, what is important is the concise version of the argument as listed above. Three simple steps leading to a First Mover as being responsible for the original causality of the universe.

3.1 Causality making it a circular argument

What we need to think about first here is causality. Indeed, this whole argument is one over causality: cause and effect. Whilst cause and effect might be at face value a very simple thing, just the term “cause” can be tricky. When Craig talks about cause, he terms a cause as an efficient cause (Craig 1979) which is often defined as follows:

We can get some clarity on the question by recalling Aristotle’s distinction between an efficient cause and a material cause.  An efficient cause is something that produces its effect in being; a material cause is the stuff out of which something is made.  Michelangelo is the efficient cause [of] the statue David, while the chunk of marble is its material cause.

If something popped into being out of nothing, it would lack any causal conditions whatsoever, efficient or material.  If God creates something ex nihilo, then it lacks only a material cause.   This is, admittedly, hard to conceive, but  if coming into being without a material cause is absurd, then coming into being with neither a material cause nor an efficient cause is, as I say, doubly absurd, that is, twice as hard to conceive.  So it’s not open to the non-theist confronted with the beginning of the universe to say that while creatio ex nihilo is impossible a spontaneous origin ex nihilo is. (Craig 2007)

With this in mind, let us look at causality and the problems with it. Let me analogise to make the point as clear as possible:

Smith is driving along the road over the speed limit. He is tired due to a heavy work schedule and a deadline which meant a lack of sleep the night before and is late for a meeting. One of his favourite songs comes on the radio and he starts singing along to it. On the pavement (sidewalk) a drunk man falls over into a bin which the Council had just put in place to improve the cleanliness of the town. The bin is knocked off its stand and rolls into the road. Smith sees the bin late as his attention is distracted. He swerves, to avoid it. At the same time, a boy is trying to cross the road without looking. Smith is swerving into him and has to reverse his swerve significantly the other way, hitting a pothole in the poorly maintained road. This sends the car out of his control and onto the pavement. Jones, who had been walking by, slips on some soapy water draining from the carwash he is walking past. Whilst picking himself up, Smith’s car mounts the pavement, hits Jones and kills him instantly. What is the cause of Jones’ death?

This is a very difficult, but standard causal question. The universe is not an isolation of one cause and one effect. It is a matrix of cause and effect with each effect being causal further in the continuum. One could say that the impact of the car on Jones’ head kills him. But even then, at what nanosecond of impact, what degree of the force killed him? This is arbitrarily cutting off the causal continuum at 1, half or quarter of a second before the effect (Jones’ death). Having said that, the cause could be said to be the lack of oxygen to the brain, or the destruction of his vital organs. We could also accuse the bin, the drunk or anything else as being a cause.

As a result, I would posit that the cause of Jones’ death is one long continuum which cannot be arbitrarily sliced up temporally. As such, it stretches back to, say, the Big Bang – the start of the causal chain. In terms of free will, we call this the causal circumstance. Because the universe is one big causal soup, I would claim that any effect would be the makeup of the universe at any one point, like a snapshot. This makeup cannot be sliced up arbitrarily, but is the entire connected matrix of ‘causes and effect’ (for want of a better term) since the Big Bang.

In other words, there is only one cause. The universe at the Big Bang (or similar).

Philosopher Daniel Dennett uses another example about the French Foreign Legion that he himself adapted:

Not that deadlocks must always be breakable. We ought to look with equanimity on the prospect that sometimes circumstances will fail to pinpoint a single “real cause” of an event, no matter how hard we seek. A case in point is the classic law school riddle:

Everybody in the French Foreign Legion outpost hates Fred, and wants him dead. During the night before Fred’s trek across the desert, Tom poisons the water in his canteen. Then, Dick, not knowing of Tom’s intervention, pours out the (poisoned) water and replaces it with sand. Finally, Harry comes along and pokes holes in the canteen, so that the “water” will slowly run out. Later, Fred awakens and sets out on his trek, provisioned with his canteen. Too late he finds his canteen is nearly empty, but besides, what remains is sand, not water, not even poisoned water. Fred dies of thirst. Who caused his death?

This thought experiment defends the thesis that causality is, at times, impossible to untangle or define. I would take this one very large step further in saying that the causality of such an effect, of any effect, is traceable back to the first cause itself: the Big Bang or whatever creation event you ascribe to.

So the causality of things happening now is that initial singularity or creation event. As I will show later, nothing has begun to exist, and no cause has begun to exist, other than that first cause – the Big Bang singularity.

Let me show this as follows with another example of such causality. In this example, the term causal circumstance is the causal situation that has causal effect on the object – from every air molecule to force:

Imagine there are 5 billiard balls A-E and nothing else. These came to exist at point t0 with an ‘introductory force’. At each point t1, t2 etc, every ball hits another ball. At point t5, B hits E at 35 degrees sending it towards C. Craig’s own point about causality seems to be this: the cause for B hitting E at 35 degrees is the momentum and energy generated in B as it hits E. That is his ‘efficient cause’. My point is this: the cause of B hitting E is at t0. No cause has begun to exist or has been created out of nothing. The causes transform – what is called transformative creation. So the cause of B hitting E is:

B firing off at t0 and hitting A at t1, the causal circumstance meaning it rebounds off A to hit D at t2, meaning the causal circumstance rendering it inevitable that it hits A again at t3…. And then it hits E at t5 at 35 degrees.

The cause is the casual circumstance at t5. This is identical to the causal circumstance in free will discussions – that determinism entails the cause of an action to the first cause of the Big Bang. The causal circumstance is everything up until the moment t5 as well as all the factors at the moment just prior to t5 (at t4). Craig is incorrect, in my opinion, in saying that the cause of is the immediate isolated efficient cause just before t5 (t4).

Now, in this example, the term transformative creation pops up. This is something which will be examined in the next objection. In sum, this example shows that one cannot arbitrarily quantise causality; one cannot cut it up into discrete chunks since it is, in reality, one long, continual causal chain, unbroken.

What this amounts to is the notion that there is only one cause, and even this is open for debate. The creation event sets in motion one long, interconnected continuum of causality. What I am implying here, then, is that there is only one effect. This means that the idea that ‘everything’ or ‘every effect’ as it can be synonymously denoted is incoherent since there is only one effect. Let us see how this changes the syllogism:

1) Everything which begins to exist has the universe as the causal condition for its existence.

2) The universe began to exist.

3) Therefore, the universe had the universe as a causal condition for its existence.

As you can easily see, the conclusion is highly problematic. It is nonsensical and seems to insinuate that the universe is self-caused. There is only one cause and this is the universe and can hardly be applied to itself. One cannot make a generalised rule, which is what the inductively asserted first premise is as we have discussed, from a singular event / object and then apply that rule to that very event / object. This is entirely circular and even incoherent. Causality makes no sense of the KCA.

In exactly the same way that we cannot untangle or slice up causality into discrete parts, we cannot also delineate objects, and this leads me on to the second objection which closely matches the one just elucidated.

References

Craig, William Lane(1979), The Kalam Cosmological Argument,London: McMillan Press

Craig, William Lane(2007), “Causal Premiss of the Kalam Argument”, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/causal-premiss-of-the-kalam-argument

Craig, William Lane(3rd ed. 2008), A Reasonable Faith,Wheaton,Illinois: Crossway Books

 

Addendum:

Post 2 can now be found here.

  • L.Long

    The thing about causes and effects is who says that effects have causes in ALL conditions?? Since we know nothing of the time/space before this time/space who can say what is there….giving us AGAIN the god of the gaps.
    And of coarse Craig is what ??Xtian??? if so he still does not win as if there is a gawd beyond here, it does not follow that his myth is true.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Causality outside of spacetime is hugely problematic and something I go into further detail later in my objections. Keep your eyes peeled for the post that deals with that!

  • pboyfloyd

    Very nice! Of course there is a continuous causal chain, of course there is.

    I was just noticing how the scholistic philosophers focus narrowly or defocus, widen the view to encompass a focal point they wish to obliterate, to suit themselves. Philosophy of Religion is all down to debating skill, I guess.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    “This is something which will be examined in the next objection. In sum, this example shows that one cannot arbitrarily quantise causality; one cannot cut it up into discrete chunks since it is, in reality, one long, continual causal chain, unbroken.”

    It is my understanding that on standard Big Bang cosmology there are 10^120 total possibilities for interaction of mass energy expressed in minimum units of mass and time. In other words there are “discrete chunks” of causality. Any thoughts on this?

    “What this amounts to is the notion that there is only one cause”

    Even ignoring the above point, I don’t think you have established this. You still speak of a causal chain and each part of that chain (even if it is continuous) is needed for the effect to occur. Would it not be more accurate to say that the “creation event” is the first cause in an essentially ordered causal series?

    “there is only one effect”

    This seems even more strange. It might make sense if the universe did not undergo change but the universe does undergo change. We may ask if this one effect is the universe at t=1, t=2, etc. And if time is continuous would it not be more accurate perhaps to speak of an infinite number of effects?

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      The way I understand it, is that time is not generally understood to be quantizable, certainly under General Relativity:

      William G. Unruh is a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia. He offers this reply:

      “There is certainly no experimental evidence that time–or space for that matter–is quantized, so the question becomes one of whether there exists a theory in which time is quantized. Although researchers have considered some theories in which there is a strict quantization of time (meaning that all times are an integer multiple of some smallest unit), none that I know of has ever been seriously regarded as a viable theory of reality–at least, not by more people that the original proponent of the theory.

      “One could, however, ask the question in a slightly different way. By putting together G (Newton’s constant of gravity), h (Planck’s constant) and c (the velocity of light), one can derive a minimum meaningful amount of time, about 10-44 second. At this temporal scale, one would expect quantum effects to dominate gravity and hence, because Einstein’s theory links gravity and time, to dominate the ordinary notion of time. In other words, for time intervals smaller than this one, the whole notion of ‘time’ would be expected to lose its meaning.

      “The biggest obstacle to answering the question definitively is that there exists no really believable theory to describe this regime where quantum mechanics and gravity come together. Over the past 10 years, a branch of theoretical physics called string theory has held forth the greatest hope, but it is as yet far from a state where one could use it to describe the nature of time in such a brief interval.”

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      “Even ignoring the above point, I don’t think you have established this. You still speak of a causal chain and each part of that chain (even if it is continuous) is needed for the effect to occur. Would it not be more accurate to say that the “creation event” is the first cause in an essentially ordered causal series?”

      Sure; that IS my point. There is only one cause, arguably. Therefore, you cannot use an argument about the cause of the universe based on the singular past uniformity which is the presupposition that that universe had a cause.

      The KCA tries to say this:

      Look, all 5,000 effects (everything) had 5,000 causes. Therefore, the universe, as an effect, had a cause.

      However, I look to show this:

      The universe (1 effect) had a cause. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

      You can’t use a rule of one to conclude that rule of one!

      I hope that makes more sense!

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      “This seems even more strange. It might make sense if the universe did not undergo change but the universe does undergo change. We may ask if this one effect is the universe at t=1, t=2, etc. And if time is continuous would it not be more accurate perhaps to speak of an infinite number of effects?”

      So that change is continuous, and some might say you cannot quantize it, so thus all attempts to slice it up are arbitrary. The cause of that change was what was in place at t=0. Not at t=5 or t=17 since these were contingent upon that one cause – part of that cause, if you will.

      Having infinite effects is possibly incoherent because that would require an actual infinite (set).

      As I set out elsewhere (remember, this is a truncated excerpt), this is transformative creation. We are not seeing effects coming into existence ex nihilo from causes. We have never witnessed this and don’t know if it can or cannot happen. Therefore, we cannot use that as a conclusion from a set of transformative creations. Apples and oranges.

      Cheers for the feedback, and let me know if this has traction with you.

  • Russ

    I would also want to put some thought toward what “begins to exist” means.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    Mr. Pearce:

    I’m not an expert on cosmology so maybe I’ll get back to that point in a future comment after looking into things further. I suspect it ties in with Professor Unruh’s statement that “for time intervals smaller than this one [Planck time], the whole notion of ‘time’ would be expected to lose its meaning.” If at most one mass-energy interaction could occur within a Planck time interval then there would be a way to slice up at least some causes and effects in a non-arbitrary manner.

    “Sure; that IS my point [the ‘creation event’ is the first cause in an essentially ordered causal series]. There is only one cause, arguably.”

    The existence of an essentially ordered causal series is not the same thing as the existence of only one cause. If we conceive of a train moving down the tracks as an essentially ordered causal series we can say that the engine is the first cause of the caboose moving, but it would be inaccurate to say it is the only cause. All of the cars between the engine and the caboose are also causes of the caboose moving.

    “As I set out elsewhere (remember, this is a truncated excerpt), this is transformative creation.”

    I think I understand what you mean by “transformative creation.” I’m not convinced that there is only one cause and one effect.

    “We are not seeing effects coming into existence ex nihilo from causes.”

    I’m guessing this ties in to your statement that we cannot delineate objects in a non-arbitrary manner. For now I will merely say I am unconvinced on that front as well.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      I will reply at length tomorrow. For the time being, to elucidate “transformative creation”:

      this is where something is created out of already existing matter, as opposed to say the universe ex nihilo. Such that the creation of a chair is transforming matter and energy that already exists. Thus the object does not begin to exist – its constituent parts already exist. The only thing that begins to exist is the abstract label which is causally inert. I’ll save this idea for a later post, but thought it would be useful to clarify.

      “The existence of an essentially ordered causal series is not the same thing as the existence of only one cause. ”

      Aha, this is my point. You CANNOT separate out causal aspects of a causal circumstance (as per the examples). This is incoherent. Causality like that only exists in a thought experiment. In reality, it is a web which is entirely dependent on the first cause, and thus cannot be inductive evidence for the first cause itself. For your case to exist would require origination of causal chains and this falls into EXACTLY the same issue as trying to argue free will, and is why free will is philosophically untenable (IMHO). More tomorrow.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

        Perhaps answering the following question will further clarify your views. If you believed a chair can begin to exist how would that effect your views? Would it then be correct to say that the chair was a cause (not necessarily the only cause) of some effect(s)?

        • Jonathan MS Pearce

          Hi there

          That’ll be answered in my next post as that is a whole other, though intrinsically connected point!

  • http://ogremk5.wordpress.com OgreMkV

    I can see at least two major problems with the premises, just from a purely scientific standpoint. you sort of addressed the first, which is ‘can you have time based causal relationships before time exists?’

    The second is, “why does something that is zero have to have a cause at all?” My understanding is that the sum of all the energy and matter in the universe is zero. Since the universe is effectively nothing, why does nothing need a cause. Supposedly, everything in our universe is just fluctuations in the average energy of zero. Kind of like sea level is the average zero of the ocean, but at any one time, the actual sea level may be higher or lower than sea level.

    Anyway, I look forward to seeing more.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Hey Ogre, thanks for the feedback. Causality before time is something I will look into in a further post. Here, though connected, it is more that the idea of causality makes the syllogism circular.

      The zero sum energy argument, however, is not something that I look into. I need to think some more over whether that approach has traction (with me, at any rate!). I believe Victor Stenger adheres to this from a physical point of view.

  • GearHedEd

    The only thing that can be said with authority to have “begun to exist” is our observed local spacetime. No one yet has peered behind the Planck Epoch to see what is ‘back there’, and therefore to say even that “the universe ‘began to exist'” is a statement without support.

    This, coupled with the intriguing implication quoted from William G. Unruh:

    “One could, however, ask the question in a slightly different way. By putting together G (Newton’s constant of gravity), h (Planck’s constant) and c (the velocity of light), one can derive a minimum meaningful amount of time, about 10-44 second. At this temporal scale, one would expect quantum effects to dominate gravity and hence, because Einstein’s theory links gravity and time, to dominate the ordinary notion of time. In other words, for time intervals smaller than this one, the whole notion of ‘time’ would be expected to lose its meaning.”

    suggests that prior to the Planck Epoch, no time = all time (an eternity). The Big Bang might be nothing more than a statistical bump that pushed the radius of the ‘cosmic egg’ outside the Planck radius, allowing inflation to begin.

  • http://logical-theism.blogspot.com Tyler V

    This is Tyler from the Freed Thinker Podcast. I got your comment and tried responding there but Podbean was being glitchy. I will respond in full at a later date (since I am about to go on vacation for 10 days) but I just wanted to ask if you think that this post was a challenge to the validity of the something like the PSR.

    The reason I ask is that it seems to me to be nothing more than a statement that we may now KNOW what a cause is due to the complex nature of causal factors and conditions. So if we think about your example of the death of Jones it would not be correct to say that Jones’ death was uncaused even if we may not be able to determine a singular cause, even though I think what we are looking at is a singular cause – whatever bodily malfunction actually caused him to die – that was the final link in a series of causal links. So this was not a web of causes in which we cannot say which actually caused (in the technical sense) the death of Jones even if a fuller causal explanation could be given with reference to the “whole picture” so to speak.

    However I suspect that nothing of what you said regarding causality here would pose any threat to the PSR which is the basis of the Kalam. Now I’m actually going to argue that the Kalam is not inherently a theistic argument but just leads to the conclusion that there is a cause, supernatural or otherwise, of the universe. We only possibly get to supernatural causes and finally to God when we reflect on what kind of cause could lead to the effect of the universe. But that will be over the next two episodes.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Hey Tyler, thanks for responding.

      “So if we think about your example of the death of Jones it would not be correct to say that Jones’ death was uncaused even if we may not be able to determine a singular cause, even though I think what we are looking at is a singular cause”

      My point is that IF we concede a singularity which requires a beginning, then the universe is one cause/effect continuum. As such, one cannot make a rule based on inductive observation (misconceived as it is) and apply that to the very thing that one has derived the observation from.

      At the end of the day, despite what people think, the argument really is inductive, too. P1 and P2 (and I set this out in an earlier objection in the paper) are conclusions from an inductive argument, such that:

      All things observed have had a cause for their existence
      Therefore, everything has a cause for its existence
      The universe began to exist
      Therefore the universe had a cause for its existence

      Even the idea that the universe began to exist is inductively derived.

      As such, thought the form in its truncated version is deductive, it is inductively derived. Simply asserting ex nihilo nihilo fit as a metaphysical law is nonsense insofar as being a bare assertion and nothing else.

      Now as far as I am concerned, the universe could have had a cause. My point is that the KCA CANNOT prove this; at least not in that form.

      Given that cosmology is in its nascence, to conclude that the standard big bang model with BGV leads to a definite beginning is somewhat hopeful, given alternatives and the idea that known physics breaks down. I would think it wholly more plausible that some kind of cyclical universe exists as a brute fact since this is defended by ockham’s razor. It is certainly more plausible than positing god as an external cause and brute fact which itself is an unnecessary entity.

      But back to causality, we know of one causal continuum. A set of one. We cannot derive a rule about a set of one from that one itself.

      Bu that is just one of the many objections I have!

      How would you get around this objection? Appealing to the Principle of Sufficient Reason doesn’t seem to work, I don’t think, unless you care to expand on that?

      Have a good holiday!

      • Tyler V

        Anytime. Well… anytime except for the 10 days following today where I will be on vacation in Mexico. ha

        “My point is that IF we concede a singularity which requires a beginning, then the universe is one cause/effect continuum.”

        I am not sure I think that is the case. It is possibly the case IF you mean by “the singularity” that instant where time, space, and energy burst into existence but was now PRIOR to the expansion which we now call the universe then yes that is the case.

        However, I think the point of the Kalam is not to show that the universe is caused and that cause is, precisely, the singularity (“the big bang”). They question it addresses IS the big bang. (Hence the common cliché “the big bang needs a big banger” – a cliché I’m not really a fan of but it does the job.) So if we are talking about the cause of the singularity then I don’t think we have any known causally prior entities to point to. (Though, like I said earlier, I don’t think the kalam is necessarily theistic since the move to God is made upon reflection about the possible candidates for that cause.)

        Secondly, is the argument inductive? I don’t think so. I think it is deductive. While I understand the assumptive nature of P1 I think it is a necessary assumption that we must have to do logic, science, math, etc. Without the PSR (which I don’t think is misconceived in the slightest) we could not really understand most of what we do. I have noticed that the ONLY time someone wants to deny P1 is in the context of the Kalam (or someother first mover argument). It is only when “God” is lurking in the shadows that one feels compelled to go ripping out basic and fundamental aspects of our cognitive frameworks. I mean what would you do if I said evolution wasn’t true BECAUSE creatures at the Cambrian explosion just popped into being out of nothing with no prior cause? You might even point to “evidence” but what would that show? It wouldn’t even show causation. It would only show something that LOOKS like causation but would not prove any causal connection whatsoever because it would not be operating under a universal principle of causation. In fact I don’t even see how you could have justification for even LOOKING for causes if there is no PSR. Imagine that a purple rabbit just appeared on your desk out of nowhere. You would first look for natural causal explanations like that someone placed it there faster than you could see or that there was some mechanism hidden used to trick you into thinking it happened instantaneously. Then you might look at psychological reasons – are you mentally ill and see things that aren’t there. Then you possibly might even accept supernatural explanations – maybe this is a miracle. But I don’t think you would ever get to the point where you would say “well purple rabbits just happen.”

        Thirdly, let us imagine that I were to agree with you and say that P1 is only possibly true and that the Kalam should be phrased inductively rather than deductively. I think what you have done is achieved to logically untenable positions.

        The first is that you seem to have undermined the sensibility of inductive reasoning at all. If you think that the inductive version is wrong because it cannot “PROVE” (which is really only possible in deduction) the conclusion but only show what is likely then what is the point of any inductive argument? I could make this argument:

        All species that we observe appear to be evolved.
        Therefore all species are evolved.
        X is a species.
        Therefore X evolved.

        I highly doubt that you would accept any theist wanting to deny evolution by saying that just because we have only seen evolved species doesn’t mean that scientists can say that evolution is true or universally true or true of any specific species or true of any yet to be discovered species (Sorry Dawkins, no more assuming that the aliens who caused panspermia would have to be evolved even if they seeded our planet).

        The second problem, and it derives from the first, is that you would not be able to use the fruits of the PSR in ANY other argument or conclusion that you would want to make. Bye bye science, bye bye math, bye bye history, bye bye epistemology, etc. I don’t see how you could make almost ANY “true” statements about anything in the universe if that were the case. In fact I don’t even see if you could make your statement that “Simply asserting ex nihilo nihilo fit as a metaphysical law is nonsense insofar as being a bare assertion and nothing else.” After a little reflection you should see how inductively derived even THAT statement would be (if it were true, which I don’t think it is.)

        Fourth, I think that the evidence for the PSR is universal whereas we have absolutely no good reason (and not a single counter example) to accept its negation. So even IF P1 is just an assumption, it is FAR from an “nonsense” assumption. IF it is an assumption, it seems to be a necessary presupposition of any and all reasonable thought. I highly doubt that you would accept the conclusion of ANY argument that implicitly implied ~PSR. So even if the KCA assumes the PSR, I don’t think maintaining a kind of hyper-Cartesian skepticism does anything in the way of invalidating it. So P1 seems radically more plausible than its negation and without any good reason to reject it, I don’t see why we would.

        Fifth, pointing to OTHER cosmological concepts as possible explanations reveals that even you are not actually comfortable with ~PSR. Why? Because if you were comfortable with ~PSR then why in the world would you look for obviously metaphysical explanations – which let us be honest, every single rival theory is. Or do think that there is or ever good be evidence for the multiverse or M-theory or you horse in the race, “the cyclical” universe (which you do know almost all cosmologists have abandoned right)? What I find so strange in these discussions (which you haven’t expressly done yet but I see coming down the pike) is that many naturalists who say that they cannot accept God because there is no “evidence” for him (meaning empirical, measurable, observable, quantifiable evidence) run headlong into defending pure metaphysics which we have no “evidence” for – such as the multiverse or M-theory. They are entirely ad hoc.

        Sixth, you reveal more of your real reason for objecting to the Kalam when you say that “. It is certainly more plausible than positing god as an external cause and brute fact which itself is an unnecessary entity.” Well for someone who demands that P1 be rejected because it cannot be PROVEN I don’t see how you could ever get away with THAT statement. How would you even calculate the plausibility of God? It is only based on the presuppositions of your worldview that you think it is more plausible than the existence of God. But you give no argument or evidence for that and not to mention, you have now shown exactly my point early – that the only time people reject the PSR is because they fear the being waiting in the wings. You have CEASED talking about the KCA and moved into the conversation of WHAT the cause of the universe could be. To you there is a more plausible naturalistic cause – the expansion and collapsing and expanding and collapsing of an accordion universe (based on a very strange use of Occam’s razor – I don’t see how a nearly infinite set of events is LESS complex than a singular one… maybe my math is wrong but nearly infinity is much more complex than the number 1…)

        Finally you make the frankly bizarre statement that “we know of one causal continuum. A set of one. We cannot derive a rule about a set of one from that one itself.” I am not sure how the Kalam would be asking us to even talk about a different set but rather is talking about how THAT set got started. Again, your appeals to OTHER entities that could stand in as the cause of the singularity could be accused of exactly the same thing if you are right. Plus I’m not sure that you would buy that line of reasoning in any other argument. We only have one set of observations about evolution (namely on earth) and so you cannot derive a rule out of that one set. Or we only have one set of observations about how natural laws operate (namely here on earth) do you ASSUME that they operate the same beyond earth/moon and we do not just see them filtered through our place in the universe? Our studies of the universe ASSUME that the laws of nature operate everywhere like they do here. But we only have ONE set. And on and on and on.

        Again, until I see a good reason to reject the PSR, I just don’t think that the objections against it are reasonably held and the only time people do is when they want to justify their rejection of God.

        • Jonathan MS Pearce

          However, I think the point of the Kalam is not to show that the universe is caused and that cause is, precisely, the singularity (“the big bang”). They question it addresses IS the big bang. (Hence the common cliché “the big bang needs a big banger” – a cliché I’m not really a fan of but it does the job.)

          No, but premise 2, as according to WLC, is entirely contingent upon that theory.

          So if we are talking about the cause of the singularity then I don’t think we have any known causally prior entities to point to. (Though, like I said earlier, I don’t think the kalam is necessarily theistic since the move to God is made upon reflection about the possible candidates for that cause.)

          Well, it assumes that time is not started again in some kind of cyclical manner, such as LQG cosmological ideas or other models (Baum-Frampton etc). So the causal entity could be the universe itself, thus implying the universe as a brute cyclical fact.

          Secondly, is the argument inductive? I don’t think so. I think it is deductive. While I understand the assumptive nature of P1 I think it is a necessary assumption that we must have to do logic, science, math, etc.

          Whoah, we have to disagree here. There is no necessity here, logical or otherwise. This is the fundamental issue that I am trying to illustrate here. Ex nihilo nihilo fit is something that theists assume by looking at causality of the universe. But they fundamentally misunderstand causality, mistakenly and abstractly carving up discrete units of causality within the universe. They then apply this inductively deduced law and apply it to the universe in a lawlike manner. As I keep saying, to apply a law derived from a single entity to that entity itself is circular. The universe may be cause, and causality may be necessary like you say, you just CANNOT arrive at that conclusion from the KCA.

          Without the PSR (which I don’t think is misconceived in the slightest) we could not really understand most of what we do. I have noticed that the ONLY time someone wants to deny P1 is in the context of the Kalam (or someother first mover argument). It is only when “God” is lurking in the shadows that one feels compelled to go ripping out basic and fundamental aspects of our cognitive frameworks.

          I have to fundamentally disagree with you again here. I arrive at these objections from a logical consequence of other philosophy. Existence properties and the rejection of (Platonic) realism lead to this. I don’t buy that this comes from necessity from wanting to reject God. In fact, I would definitely turn the tables. William Lane Craig is a CLASSIC example of doing this. He has a presupposition of God, and formulates theories which are allowed by this, as opposed to ones which truly investigate the evidence etc. Look at his work on time. He defies what most physicists decree and rejects B Theory time in favour of A theory because of where it gets him (see his closertotruth videos for his remarks regarding this). He is also putting ALL of his eggs in one basket – a risky job. He espouses one version of cosmology (that, interestingly, cutting edge cosmologists do not) because he NEEDS that singularity and that standard model of the BB to be true.

          I mean what would you do if I said evolution wasn’t true BECAUSE creatures at the Cambrian explosion just popped into being out of nothing with no prior cause?

          Interesting. How about this for your use of logic. Now detach this from causality per se, just see this as analogous logic.
          1) All animals that begin to exist are a result of asexual or sexual reproduction.
          2) The first animal began to exist.
          3) Therefore, the first animal was a result of sexual or asexual reproduction.
          In fact, this is a brilliant analogy, because whether you believe in abiogenesis or God whacking the first animal down on earth, neither option would be aligned with that conclusion.
          And yet that conclusion is using exactly the same logic as the KCA uses.

          You might even point to “evidence” but what would that show? It wouldn’t even show causation. It would only show something that LOOKS like causation but would not prove any causal connection whatsoever because it would not be operating under a universal principle of causation. In fact I don’t even see how you could have justification for even LOOKING for causes if there is no PSR.

          The PSR is exactly what I believe in within the confines of the universe (I am a determinist); and that causal factor is not what you think it is (the discrete causal slice arbitrarily singled out before the effect) since it is the universe itself either at inception or within some kind of loop. At the end of the day, the PSR (which is effectively premise 1 as you rightly highlight) is merely an observational law applied by looking at the workings of the universe, misappropriated as mentioned before.

          Imagine that a purple rabbit just appeared on your desk out of nowhere. You would first look for natural causal explanations like that someone placed it there faster than you could see or that there was some mechanism hidden used to trick you into thinking it happened instantaneously.

          Within a closed system I would indeed look for reasons. But if you are talking about the system itself, I cannot adequately infer causality in the same way.

          Thirdly, let us imagine that I were to agree with you and say that P1 is only possibly true and that the Kalam should be phrased inductively rather than deductively. I think what you have done is achieved to logically untenable positions.
          The first is that you seem to have undermined the sensibility of inductive reasoning at all. If you think that the inductive version is wrong because it cannot “PROVE” (which is really only possible in deduction) the conclusion but only show what is likely then what is the point of any inductive argument?

          I have no problem with inductive arguments at all – they are highly reliable (see my Problem of Induction essay linked in the essay section at the side of the page). It is that this inductive argument uses a rule of one and applies it to itself – it is circular.

          The second problem, and it derives from the first, is that you would not be able to use the fruits of the PSR in ANY other argument or conclusion that you would want to make.
          As mentioned above, I am not denying PSR within this system at all – I herald it and much of my philosophy is contingent upon it being true.
          In fact I don’t even see if you could make your statement that “Simply asserting ex nihilo nihilo fit as a metaphysical law is nonsense insofar as being a bare assertion and nothing else.” After a little reflection you should see how inductively derived even THAT statement would be (if it were true, which I don’t think it is.)

          I have covered this. Suffice to say that it is about a misinterpretation of causality and a rule of one and I think you are bypassing this issue by keeping on referring to the PSR in this way.

          Or do think that there is or ever good be evidence for the multiverse or M-theory or you horse in the race, “the cyclical” universe (which you do know almost all cosmologists have abandoned right)? What I find so strange in these discussions (which you haven’t expressly done yet but I see coming down the pike) is that many naturalists who say that they cannot accept God because there is no “evidence” for him (meaning empirical, measurable, observable, quantifiable evidence) run headlong into defending pure metaphysics which we have no “evidence” for – such as the multiverse or M-theory. They are entirely ad hoc.

          OK, don’t really want to get into P2 yet. I think all of the theories you mention have a lot going for them. I only mention LQC because it is current and offers a different cyclical model than what you and Craig claim is incoherent. The Perimeter Institute and the Max Planck Institute are doing some pretty radical stuff. Also, see Ma Yongge (http://journalofcosmology.com/MacyclicUniverse4.pdf) or the work of Parampreet Singh which shows that LQG can drive a cyclical universe. Multiverse theory, according to an article from the New Scientists recently, is now accepted scientific orthodoxy. The fact is, we didn’t even realise what comprised 75% of the known universe until 15 years ago, so concluding like theists do about the cosmology of this here universe is incredibly premature.

          Sixth, you reveal more of your real reason for objecting to the Kalam when you say that “. It is certainly more plausible than positing god as an external cause and brute fact which itself is an unnecessary entity.” Well for someone who demands that P1 be rejected because it cannot be PROVEN I don’t see how you could ever get away with THAT statement.

          That statement is adhering to the principle of Ockham’s Razor. See here http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/2012/08/26/ockhams-razor-and-christianity/

          How would you even calculate the plausibility of God? It is only based on the presuppositions of your worldview that you think it is more plausible than the existence of God. But you give no argument or evidence for that and not to mention, you have now shown exactly my point early – that the only time people reject the PSR is because they fear the being waiting in the wings. You have CEASED talking about the KCA and moved into the conversation of WHAT the cause of the universe could be.

          See above. You must calculate the plausibility of God all of the time in order to conclude that God probably exists, no? Also, as mentioned, God could have caused the universe. It is only that one can’t prove this using the KCA. There is so much hidden philosophy assumed in those short premises that it beggars belief. And we have only touched here on 1 objection out of a dozen.

          To you there is a more plausible naturalistic cause – the expansion and collapsing and expanding and collapsing of an accordion universe (based on a very strange use of Occam’s razor – I don’t see how a nearly infinite set of events is LESS complex than a singular one… maybe my math is wrong but nearly infinity is much more complex than the number 1…)

          1 brute fact is simpler than 1 brute fact + another entity. Also, God is infinite, no? And he actually exists?

          Finally you make the frankly bizarre statement that “we know of one causal continuum. A set of one. We cannot derive a rule about a set of one from that one itself.” I am not sure how the Kalam would be asking us to even talk about a different set but rather is talking about how THAT set got started.

          And finally we start talking about one of the main points.

          Again, your appeals to OTHER entities that could stand in as the cause of the singularity could be accused of exactly the same thing if you are right. Plus I’m not sure that you would buy that line of reasoning in any other argument. We only have one set of observations about evolution (namely on earth) and so you cannot derive a rule out of that one set.

          You are conflating observations about a set (ie observations about multiple objects) of multiple objects with observations about a set of one.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

            @Jonathan MS Pearce:

            No, but premise 2, as according to WLC, is entirely contingent upon that theory.

            P2 is also supported by philosophical arguments showing it is problematic to speak of there being an infinite past. The causal entity of the universe would have to be timeless. The KCA existed before Big Bang cosmology.

            Ex nihilo nihilo fit is something that theists assume by looking at causality of the universe.

            Perhaps Tyler’s point is that P1 is a foundational belief and that our observations of the universe provide no defeaters to it.

            But they fundamentally misunderstand causality, mistakenly and abstractly carving up discrete units of causality within the universe.

            But it’s not just theists who do this. Nearly everybody does this. A reason your response is interesting is because it’s new (at least to me). Not even other atheists are routinely using this response.

          • Jonathan MS Pearce

            “P2 is also supported by philosophical arguments showing it is problematic to speak of there being an infinite past. The causal entity of the universe would have to be timeless. The KCA existed before Big Bang cosmology.”

            Sure. I take no issue with the notion that infinite sets can’t exist.

            “But it’s not just theists who do this. Nearly everybody does this. A reason your response is interesting is because it’s new (at least to me). Not even other atheists are routinely using this response.”

            Thanks (I think!). I agree – people of all worldviews understand causality like this. I think this intuitive understanding of it is entirely analogous and connected even to misunderstandings of free will.

  • notung

    A very good post, and an objection I haven’t seen before.

    I suppose Craig might respond that intuitively we can meaningfully talk about the efficient cause of X without that cause being the universe.

    However that’s all very well in a manner of speaking (essentially a shorthand ignoring the whole chain of events), but we’re talking about the fact of the matter, and the fact of the matter is that everything that begins to exist has the universe as the ultimate cause of its existence, which leads to problems for his KCA.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      “I suppose Craig might respond that intuitively we can meaningfully talk about the efficient cause of X without that cause being the universe.”

      Sure he can. But he’d be wrong.;)

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      My part 2 will be posted this weekend, fyi

  • Reasonably Faithless

    Hi JP. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to reading this – I’ve hardly had time to write anything myself, let alone read all the SB posts I want to…..

    It’s a very interesting idea, to trace back causality to the first moment of the universe (if there was one). I’ve seen a couple of objections that boil down to saying that Premise 1 is overgeneralising our observations. People usually mean that for everything in the universe we have observed to begin to exist, we have also observed a cause for that thing, the cause also being a thing in the universe. The only plausible inductive conclusion from this appears to be “every thing in the universe that began to exist had a cause that is also in the universe”. And then Premise 2 is completely unrelated to this. It would be a category error to try and put the two together to deduce that the universe had a cause (as the universe is not *in* the universe).

    But to look for an *ultimate* cause as you have done is an interesting direction. And yes, even if I chose to have a second drink, I did that because I was thirsty (or not drunk enough), and what caused that? It all essentially traces back to the initial conditions of the universe. It’s then an entirely separate question to determine whether something caused the initial state of the universe. Maybe there was a cause, or maybe not (either option is amazing). But we cannot deduce that there was (or wasn’t) simply because of our intuitions about cause and effect in situations we obeserve ourselves – because we observe events *within the universe*, and because their ultimate cause goes back to the begining of the universe itself.

    When theists assert Premise 1, I often ask them if the elementary particles making up their body began to exist. Of course, they say. But when I ask them how they know the existence of these particals had a cause, they can only say that God caused them to exist. But they are trying to prove that God exists, so how can they already be confident that Premise 1 holds if they can’t explain *all the freakin matter in the universe* without already assuming the conclusion??

    The only other thing I’d say is that, since it doesn’t seem clear that time is not a continuum (equinumerous with the real numbers), there really isn’t a “previous moment” that could cause the “next moment”. This lends more support to your idea that the “cause” of some state of the universe is really *all prior states together*. And if we interpret “universe” to mean “our universe and whatever (if anything) was before it”, then it is quite conceivable that the universe could be eternal in the past, so that every state was cause by the contiunuum of previous states, and for their to have never been a first state. Quentin Smith has some interesting thoughts along these lines.

    Cheers,
    RF.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Hey RF, good of you to pop by. I had your Craig Bayes’s Theorem video open for a week, lietening bit by bit, getting interrupted and then starting again. Good stuff it was too.

      “And then Premise 2 is completely unrelated to this. It would be a category error to try and put the two together to deduce that the universe had a cause (as the universe is not *in* the universe).”

      This would be the fallacy of composition which I am not inclined to buy in this instance because there is no difference between IN the universe and THE universe. In other words everything IN the universe is synonymous WITH the universe. If I said that a stick is made entirely of wood; therefore a pile of sticks is made entirely of wood, that would be valid. If I said a human cell is invisible to the eye; therefore the human body is invisible to the eye, then that is fallacious. The universe is no different to everything. It is merely a collection of everything – it IS everything, so therefore the fallacy of composition cannot be applied to it as many objectors try.

      My attempt is to show it as a rule of one – you cannot inductively assume the behaviour of one causal continuum must have a behaviour which applies to itself. It all becomes circular. To argue this, one would certainly have to rephrase the KCA differently.

      I am not a fan of traditional eternal past ideas, though I have not read Smith. It seems more plausible that one might have continual restarting of spacetime in Big Bounce style universes as posited by Loop Quantum Cosmology, for example.

      Check out my Kalam 2 post if you have time!
      http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/2012/09/14/the-kalam-cosmological-argument-and-william-lane-craig-2/

  • pboyfloyd

    “All that’s required for X being said to have begun to exist is that X exist at T, and that there be no time prior to T at which X — not X’s parts, but X — existed. In this sense, yes, both the universe and you begin to exist in the same sense. Now sure, you have a material cause while the universe does not, but that’s not at all relevant *here*.” – Eric

    Also, “… everyone who defends the argument carefully distinguishes material and efficient causes, clearly enunciates complex mereological issues, etc.”

    My response is that, while there may be a process involved which we could describe as an immaterial cause, that process itself can be broken down into material causes.

    This leaves only the ‘intent’ or ‘design’.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      “All that’s required for X being said to have begun to exist is that X exist at T, and that there be no time prior to T at which X — not X’s parts, but X — existed. I”

      the point here, which I raise in my second post,is that X is merely an abstract label since that is all that has begun to exist. This is a conceptual thing..

      “My response is that, while there may be a process involved which we could describe as an immaterial cause, that process itself can be broken down into material causes.

      This leaves only the ‘intent’ or ‘design’.”

      can you explain that? I might not be getting you there…

      • pboyfloyd

        Yea sure. The chair is said to be the material cause, the furniture maker, the efficient cause.

        But the furniture maker is a material being, his effort is physical, his tools, all material, which leaves us only with the furniture maker’s intent or design.

        • Jonathan MS Pearce

          An abstract idea causing an abstract label.

  • GearHedEd

    Tyler said,

    many naturalists who say that they cannot accept God because there is no “evidence” for him (meaning empirical, measurable, observable, quantifiable evidence) run headlong into defending pure metaphysics which we have no “evidence” for – such as the multiverse or M-theory. They are entirely ad hoc.

    Just a quick point: hypotheses of “multiverses” and “M-Theory” arise from mathematical models that attempt to encompass all different observational phenomena, and as such are NOT ad hoc. Whether any are true (or alternately, if any have been abandoned) is a question that awaits experimental verification. The Multiverse hypothesis or M-Theory, if confirmed would become PHYSICS, not metaphysics, and thus cannot be considered metaphysics NOW.

  • Eric

    Let’s suppose that your critique of the causal principle Craig relies upon goes through. I don’t think that it does, but that’s not the issue I’m interested in right now, so let’s suppose that it does. Here’s my question:

    What are the implications for modern science?

    In medicine, we’re just fooling ourselves when we think that we’ve discovered that X causes some disease or some illness.

    In astronomy, we’re fooling ourselves when we think that we know that stars are fueled by the fusion of hydrogen atoms, then helium atoms, etc.

    In physics, we’re fooling ourselves when we think that beyond some force F, such and such a material with fracture.

    In geology, we’re fooling ourselves when we think that we can explain the movement of the tectonic plates in terms of the rotation of the earth, mantle dynamics, etc.

    And so on.

    In short, before I get to any criticism of your take on causation, I want to know how you can establish a critique of causality that’s capable of refuting the causal principle of the KCA without decapitating modern science?

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Hi there Eric, thanks for the comment.

      I was talking about this only yesterday with my PhD statistician / social scientist friend who made the same point in looking for reasons in social science research. It comes down to arbitrarily cutting off discrete chunks of causality for pragmatic and human purposes. In other words, in the same way that we allow there to be a cut off from child to adult at 18 that gives the human a right to vote and adult capabilities, but which is merely arbitrary since the human is no different 17 yrs 364 days 13 hrs 59 mins 59 secs to that same person 1 second later, we also need to categorise causality to make it workable for us humans.

      Therefore, when we talk about causality of, say, the wind blowing my parasol down, I buy a stand to stop that. I think “the wind is doing that”, and I don’t start working that causality back to weather systems, planetary construction and the Big Bang, though that is, in reality, what is happening. Those events were necessary for those winds to take place. However, they are not necessary for my brain to calculate what I need to do to work out what is ‘causing’ my parasol to fall over and to do something about it. Pragmatic approaches to causality are exactly synonymous to pragmatic approaches to free will and the illusion that it exists. This is the same causal argument. I assign free will to an agent, illusorily, because that is how I am used to working, and that is how society works, even though free will does not exist.

      We can spotlight areas of proximal causality for the sake of usefulness.

  • Eric

    “It comes down to arbitrarily cutting off discrete chunks of causality for pragmatic and human purposes.”

    So would you say that a scientific account of some natural phenomeonon that’s premised on a specific causal claim is *true*, and if it is, in what sense is it true? If it’s not true, then what are the implications for our conception of modern science?

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      No. It’s not that science isn’t true. These things are part of the causal continuum. We ascribe some aspects ideas of greater causality that, out of reality, would make sense. If ball A hit Ball B at so and so angle then Ball B would do X. However, the universe is not like that. There are billions of variables which are all acting, and Ball A is part of that causal continuum which we would map back to the BB.

      In reality, there is no difference between an old adolescent and a young adult and yet we ascribe legla differences which can mean the difference between voting and not, life in prison and not. These are pragmatic lines in the sand which help us make sense of the world.

  • Jonathan MS Pearce

    This should explain it, Eric:

    Imagine the universe started with the Big Bang. Imagine there has been a line of 100 events.

    Could E100 have happened without the BB? No.
    Without E99? No
    E98? No.

    And so on. You can posit that An alternative to E 57 could have caused E58, but then the same issue exists – E57 or equivalent.

    So all events are caused by events in the previous causal continuum. Causality cannot be discretely cut up.

    events themselves are difficult to delineate too.

    On you theory, you need to be able to show that E100 can happen without the causality of all preceding causal events.

  • Eric

    “In reality, there is no difference between an old adolescent and a young adult and yet we ascribe legla differences which can mean the difference between voting and not, life in prison and not. These are pragmatic lines in the sand which help us make sense of the world. ”

    Hi Jonathan

    I’m still not sure I understand you, so let me get a bit more specific:

    Would you say that the claim “plasmodium falciparum causes malaria in human beings” is “arbitrary” (your claim vis-a-vis the quote above, which the following quote of yours from a previous post in the thread clarifies: “in the same way that we allow there to be a cut off from child to adult at 18 that gives the human a right to vote and adult capabilities, but which is merely arbitrary since the human is no different 17 yrs 364 days 13 hrs 59 mins 59 secs to that same person 1 second later, we also need to categorise causality to make it workable for us humans”) in the same way (and for the same reasons!) that designating an eighteen year old as an adult but not a seventeen year old is? I find this claim to be bizarre, yet that’s what you seem to be saying.

    And here’s my second question: Would you say that the claims concerning the causal preconditions of human life (e.g. the rise of the mammals, the chemical composition of the early earth, etc.) can be ascribed causal significance in a specific case, and that, as my first question considers, the cut off points are merely arbitrary? That is, is the claim “the protist plasmodium falciparum caused Smith to get malaria” really just as arbitrary a claim as “the rise of the early mammals caused Smith to get malaria?” This is, after all, not merely a consequence of your position — it seems to me, if I understand you correctly, that this *is* your position. But again, this strikes me as bizarre, hence my request for clarification.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Ok, bit by bit. The Appeal to the Sorites Paradox shows that we appeal to arbitrarily cutting up sequences of time / causality because it is useful. We slice these things up and call them things which don’t objectively or materially exist. Ad adult is a nebulous term that people find it difficult to define and agree on, not only where it is delineated. The cause for Smith catching malaria is indeed all the things which precede it. If he hadn’t have gone on holiday, if Malaria had not evolved, if his parents had not met, if humans hadn’t have evolved, if that mosquito hadn’t have hung around that stagnant pool etc etc.

      For ease of understanding, we simply say “a mosquito bit Smith and caused his malaria”. This simplification is useful (for combatting malara etc etc) but it is not strictly true.

      • Jonathan MS Pearce

        Remember, all you need to do is start asking these questions:
        1) If Smith hadn’t have gone to that resort, would he have caught malaria?
        2) If Smith had chosen to go on holiday two weeks earlier would he have caught it?
        3) If his boss hadn’t asked him to finish his project and take a later holiday?
        4) If he had earlier experiences which put him off holidaying in his home country?
        5) If mosquitoes / humans / malaria etc hadn’t evolved?

        So on ad infinitum.

        The point being that all of this things contributed causally to his catching malaria and to arbitrarily isolate one of them is misleading.

  • Eric

    Let me clarify my previous posts by saying that I do understand the basic point you’re making, viz. a causal precondition of a proximate cause of some specific event E is indeed a link in the larger causal chain. But it doesn’t seem to me that the two implications you’re drawing from this fact follow, namely (1) that therefore all causal claims are arbitrary and pragmatic (surely the causal claim about malaria and plasmodium falciparum is not at all arbitrary in the same sense that the determination of voting ages are), and (2) that therefore the causal chain itself can only legitimately be considered to be he cause of the event (this not only doesn’t at all jibe with either ordinary language or with the languages of the specific sciences, it also doesn’t seem to follow as a matter of logic since we can distinguish the causal chain itself from its specific ‘links,’ as the malaria example makes abundantly clear, in my judgment).

    There are further problems with your analysis (I think that even if we grant your claims, the KCA emerges unscathed), but it’s easy to get lost in these online discussions, so I’ll focus on the issues we’ve been discussing before moving on.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      It comes down to what is understood by free will philosophers: that an event is caused by its causal circumstance, not the preceding chunk of causality.

      Our understanding of everyday language is not so important. We use free will language all of the time, but now (for pretty much the same reason!) we are changing and adapting to better understanding of science and philosophy.

  • Eric

    OK, so you are saying what I thought you were saying.

    Now it seems to me that you cannot deny that you’re taking an anti-realist position here vis-a-vis specific causal claims, since your position is essentially a pragmatist one, and the pragmatist is an anti-realist vis-a-vis truth claims. This is why I asked you above in what *sense* specific causal claims in science could be said to be true.

    So would you agree that your position, at least as you’ve elucidated it here, strongly implies a pragmatist, and hence an anti-realist conception of the truth of causal claims in science? And doesn’t this mean what when you say that “it’s not that science isn’t true” you must have this particular conception of truth in mind on pain of contradiction?

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      It is not anti-realist. It is not that E45 didn’t cause E100.It is partially causal in that the whole universe at T45 was the cause for the universe later at T100.

  • Eric

    “It is not anti-realist.”

    But then there is no issue here, for Craig’s causal premise is perfectly consistent with a realist conception of your take on causation. If the causal chain really is a causal chain, then yes, it’s true that everything that begins to exist has a cause, especially if, as you claim, the causal antecedents of some specific cause X are as responsible for X’s effect as X is. For you’re then merely making an epistemic claim about causation, not a metaphysical one. Here’s how to think about it: If it’s true that some causal chain C is ultimately responsible for some effect E, then the claim that some proximate cause P of E on C is true is logically entailed. In short, since your position is logically entailed by Craig’s causal principle, it’s necessarily perfectly consistent with Craig’s causal principle.

    Here’s a second (though related) issue: there’s no inconsistency involved in making both the metaphysical claim that (1) everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the epistemic claim that (2) we cannot determine with certainty what the proximate cause of any specific event is. So, yet again, this raises no issue for the KCA.

    And here’s a third problem: Craig makes it clear that his causal principle is a metaphysical principle, and his primary defense of it is on metaphysical grounds (viz. nothingness has no properties), yet you want to reduce it to a physical principle. Further, even in his defense of the causal principle, Craig refers to our experience of causation as confirming the principle, not as establishing it (his metaphysical arguments are meant to do the justificatory work), so you cannot appeal to his defense on physical grounds to defend your take on his conception of causation.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      It depends what you are being realist about. If it is about abstracts, then I am not a realist, but that did not seem to be what you were on about.

      Look, it comes down to this: Craig is cutting up causality. I say you cannot do this because these chunks do not exist in any objective ontology – it is a subjective conceptual process. Thus Craig’s argument becomes:

      1) Causality began to exist and has a cause for its existence
      2) Causality began
      3) Therefore, causality had a cause for its existence.

      Bad. Craig is applying a rule to causality which is taken from nothing more than an assertion based on a rule derived from another misrepresentation.

      Causality MAY have had a cause for its existence, I am not denying that. BUT Craig cannot deduce so from the KCA – it is unsound.

      “If the causal chain really is a causal chain, then yes, it’s true that everything that begins to exist has a cause, especially if, as you claim, the causal antecedents of some specific cause X are as responsible for X’s effect as X is. ”

      You are still not getting it. Not only is the cause the universe itself (Craig differentiates the universe from everything, but the universe IS everything!), but every THING only exists abstractly (see post 2), since the matter and energy did not begin at this arbitrarily claimed time (which is relative anyway). There are just problems all over the shop.

      “If it’s true that some causal chain C is ultimately responsible for some effect E, then the claim that some proximate cause P of E on C is true is logically entailed.”

      NNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      You still don’t get it. The chain IS NOT a distinct number of discrete entities – it is one continuum. This is fundamental. There is no such thing as a proximal cause – THIS is the misunderstanding I have been trying to establish here. You cannot invent a proximal cause – the proximal cause, if you will, is part of the whole causal circumstance and cannot arbitrarily be isolated.

      “Craig makes it clear that his causal principle is a metaphysical principle”

      And what is this principle based on? Hint, you cannot invoke ANYTHING physical to defend the assertion that ex nihilo, nihilo fit.

      Eric, I appreciate these posts very much, but this last one shows that you have missed the mark, mate!

  • Eric

    “Eric, I appreciate these posts very much, but this last one shows that you have missed the mark, mate!”

    And I appreciate your responses, Jonathan, though I suspect we disagree about precisely what the mark is, and thus necessarily about who is or isn’t hitting it! ;)

    “Look, it comes down to this: Craig is cutting up causality. I say you cannot do this because these chunks do not exist in any objective ontology – it is a subjective conceptual process. ”

    Right, but then this brings us back to my previous point — you *ARE* an anti-realist about scientific claims about causality, e.g. such as the one regarding the causal relation that scientists claim obtains between plasmodium falciparum and malaria in human beings. Yet when I asked you about this, you claimed to be a realist. If I’ve missed the mark, it’s because the target keeps moving!

    Let me clarify: if you’re claiming that the proposition ““plasmodium falciparum causes malaria in human beings” (and sundry scientific propositions like it) is not *objectively* true because it posits a discrete proximate cause that “[cuts] up causality” into ‘chunks,’ and that “these chunks do not exist in any objective ontology” because “the chain IS NOT a distinct number of discrete entities – it is one continuum” and “there is no such thing as a proximal cause,” and that we only subjectively assign proximate causes on pragmatic grounds, then you incontrovertibly *ARE* an anti-realist about scientific claims about causality, which makes you in essence an anti-realist about science simpliciter. Now it makes no difference if you’re a realist about the causal chain as such, for no scientific discipline treats causation in this way in any particular case. Indeed, the very purpose of scientific experimentation is to *isolate* causal variables!

    So, would you now agree that you’re an anti-realist minimally about scientific causation? I assure you, this is *entailed* by your position, at least as you’ve presented it here!

    “Craig differentiates the universe from everything, but the universe IS everything!)”

    I don’t think that this is quite right: you’ve confused the work the quantifier does here, for there’s a difference between ‘every thing’ and ‘everything.’ “Whatever” is best understood as ‘every thing,’ not as ‘everything.’ But that of course brings us to:

    “but every THING only exists abstractly ”

    Again, this makes you a very strong anti-realist, not merely about causation, but about science itself! Realism and anti-realism aren’t merely terms that apply to questions about universals and abstract objects — one can be a realist or an anti-realist about anything (consciousness, morality, ahem, science, etc.).

    “And what is this principle based on? Hint, you cannot invoke ANYTHING physical to defend the assertion that ex nihilo, nihilo fit.”

    I’m not even going to address this one now — we have too much on the table as it is!

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Eric, in checking over this post for another reason, i have just found that you have posted this without me replying. i will look it over and reply ASAP. sorry, i missed this one!

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      This is the way I see it, and I don’t want to get into talk of scientific anti-realism , instrumentalism, empiricism and so on.

      Let us just look at causality again.

      A to B to C to D to E

      This is obviously a simplified version of causality because it is not a single linear continuum but a matrix of causes and feedback loops etc. But to simplify, the argument goes like this:

      E) You say D causes E.

      JP) I say A to D causes E.

      You say, but that is anti-realist because science accepts D causes E and you believe in science. am I right so far?

      Causality, for me, if one is being perfectly accurate, is JP. However, you can get away with simplifying for pragmatic reasons E. This is because, in a ‘vacuum’ alternate reality and you just had D it would cause E. However, that is no tthe world we live in. So we can say “plasmodium falciparum causes malaria in human beings” and this would be ‘sort of right’, but not truly accurate.

      If we wanted philosophical accuracy, we would have to say “causal circumstance C caused malaria in human X” and so on.

      As the SEP states:

      “It is not uncommon to hear philosophers remark that the dialogue between the various forms of realism and antirealism surveyed in this article shows every symptom of a perennial philosophical dispute. The issues contested range so broadly and elicit so many competing intuitions (about which, arguably, reasonable people may disagree), that some question whether a resolution is even possible. This prognosis of potentially irresolvable dialectical complexity is relevant to a number of further views in the philosophy of science, some of which arise as direct responses to it. For example, Fine (1996/1986, chs. 7–8) argues that ultimately, neither realism nor antirealism is tenable, and recommends what he calls the “natural ontological attitude” (NOA) instead (see Rouse 1988 and 1991 for a detailed exploration of the view). NOA is intended to comprise a neutral, common core of realist and antirealist attitudes of acceptance of our best theories. The mistake that both parties make, Fine suggests, is to add further epistemological and metaphysical diagnoses to this shared position, such as pronouncements about which aspects of scientific ontology should be viewed as real, which are proper subjects of belief, and so on. Others contend that this sort of approach to scientific knowledge is non- or anti-philosophical, and defend philosophical engagement in debates about realism (Crasnow 2000, Mcarthur 2006). Musgrave (1989) argues that the view is either empty or collapses into realism.

      The idea of putting the conflict between realist and antirealist approaches to science aside is also a recurring theme in traditional accounts of pragmatism, and quietism. Regarding the first, Peirce (1998/1992, in ‘How to Make Our Ideas Clear’, for instance, originally published in 1878) holds that the meaning of a proposition is given by its ‘practical consequences’ for human experience, such as implications for observation or problem-solving. For James (1979/1907), positive utility measured in these terms is the very marker of truth (where truth is whatever will be agreed in the ideal limit of scientific inquiry). Many of the points disputed by realists and antirealists—differences in epistemic commitment to scientific entities, properties, and relations based on observability, for example—are effectively non-issues on this view. It is nevertheless a form of antirealism on traditional readings of Peirce and James, since both suggest that truth in the pragmatist sense exhausts our conception of reality, thus running foul of the metaphysical dimension of realism. The notion of quietism is often associated with Wittgenstein’s response to philosophical problems about which, he maintained, nothing sensible can be said. This is not to say that engaging with such a problem is not to one’s taste, but rather that quite independently of one’s interest or lack thereof, the dispute itself concerns a pseudo-problem. Blackburn (2002) suggests that disputes about realism may have this character.

      One last take on the putative irresolvability of debates concerning realism focuses on certain meta-philosophical commitments adopted by the relevant interlocutors. Wylie (1986, p. 287), for instance, claims that ‘the most sophisticated positions on either side now incorporate self-justifying conceptions of the aim of philosophy and of the standards of adequacy appropriate for judging philosophical theories of science’. That is, different assumptions ab initio regarding what sorts of inferences are legitimate, what sorts of evidence reasonably support belief, whether there is a genuine demand for the explanation of observable phenomena in terms of underlying realities, and so on, may render some arguments between realists and antirealists question-begging. This diagnosis is arguably facilitated by van Fraassen’s (1989, pp. 170–176, 1994, p. 182) intimation that neither realism nor antirealism (in his case, empiricism) is ruled out by plausible canons of rationality; each is sustained by a different conception of how much epistemic risk one should take in forming beliefs on the basis of one’s evidence. An intriguing question then emerges as to whether disputes surrounding realism and antirealism are resolvable in principle, or whether, ultimately, internally consistent and coherent formulations of these positions should be regarded as irreconcilable but nonetheless permissible interpretations of scientific knowledge (Chakravartty 2007a, pp. 16–26).”

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

     I was just briefly debating a YouTube guy ( Mentat1231 ) and I didn’t have time to debate him on YouTube, but this was his argument. If he visits, this is what he wants to debate. He presented this as a “good” argument:

    Def. “Universe” means “all of physical reality, including space and time”.

    P1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    P2. The Universe is a thing that began to exist.
    C1. Therefore the Universe has a cause.

    P3. ~?(x) (x creates itself)
    C2 The cause of the Universe is non-spatiotemporal and non-material (Def, C1, P3).
    P4 The only way to have a timeless cause with a finite effect is if free will is involved.
    C3 The cause is a person (C2, P4)

    And he said this in response to Johnny’s Blog:

    “By the way, I did Google what you asked me to, and found a blog entry
    which was absolutely worthless. It just gives a bunch of analogies to
    show that causation is a complicated thing, and then tries to insert an
    arbitrary circle into the formulation of the Kalam. Sloppy work.
    Causation still exists, and in every case it was very clear what caused
    the effects in question.”

    So if he comes here, we can take it from there. I invited him.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Cheers John

      I look forward to it! I would love to see how it is sloppy work having just finished a 20,000 word paper on the subject!

      Get him to come here! He might have gone to my old site where the piece isn’t as refined as these. And this is only the tip of the iceberg!

      Try and get him to come here. Nothing like a good debate. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

    Do you have a book on the KCA? I would love to bet that.

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