William Lane Craig is ubiquitous in conversations about theistic and Christian apologetics. Being the foremost modern philosopher/theologian still operating, he is often called upon or used as a source for theistic and Christian arguments, winning many debates in the process (on technique and rhetoric, in the main). I have part critiqued his Reasonable Faith book here. He does get things wrong and he is often called out on claims but does not mention such heavy criticisms in his speeches and debates. If one collected all of the criticisms of his points throughout his debating career and compiled them in one place, then one would have a pretty devastating critique. In fact, it is my contention (which I make a god deal about in may paper on the Kalam Cosmological Argument which will soon become a book) that he makes an awful lot of philosophical assumptions which he does not explain or admit to his audiences when he constructs syllogisms and logical or philosophical claims in such debates and speeches.
The case at hand in this article concerns his claims about cosmology. Craig favours cosmology which supports his case to the point that he is very often claimed as to be cherry picking his science and, in particular, his cosmology. In fact, the Counter Apologist has a really good series on him and the Kalam, but check this one out looking into Craig’s science denialism and selective use of science:
Anyway, back to the main point. So I was contacted by skydivephil, a partnership who have attracted considerable attention due to their brilliant videos which have taken William Lane Craig to task. The videos on animal suffering are superb, most notably this response to William Lane Craig when he tried to defend his claims in a podcast response to skydivephil:
I was at the original debate with Stephen Law where Craig made the claims about animal suffering discussed in this video and the original one, and was gobsmacked at Craig’s claims at the time.
Craig, for his Kalam Cosmological Argument to stand, needs this universe to have an absolute beginning since
- 1) Everything which begins to exist has a cause for its existence
- 2) The universe began to exist
- C) Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence
So Craig needs premise 2 to be correct. As a result, he does his best to laud the science/cosmology which defends premise 2, cosmology which concludes that there was an absolute beginning. He also does his level best to debunk science which concludes that the universe was past eternal or has had successive bounces, such with some scenarios of Loop Quantum Cosmology (this may include time starting again and again – I believe there are inflationary and cyclical models of LQC – as Wilson-Eqing states, “LQC naturally gives a bouncing universe: the big bang singularity is resolved.” For those particularly adept at understanding such matters, the cyclical nature of the universe driven by LQC is reviewed here by Yongge MA in the Journal of Cosmology.). For an overview on the idea of the Big Bounce in cosmology, see the wiki entry here. See also skydivephil’s own video concerning LQC.
One such cosmological model which defies premise 2 is Sir Roger Penrose’s Conformal Cyclic Cosmology or CCC. Penrose was himself one of the original purveyors of the Standard Model, with Hawking, which led to the conclusion that there was a singularity which defined an absolute beginning at the Big Bang. Here is the wiki entry on CCC:
The conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) is a cosmological model in the framework of general relativity, advanced by the theoretical physicists Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan.  In CCC, the universe iterates through infinite cycles, with the future timelike infinity of each previous iteration being identified with the Big Bang singularity of the next. Penrose popularized this theory in his 2010 book Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe.
Penrose’s basic construction is to connect a countable sequence of open FLRW spacetimes, each representing a big bang followed by an infinite future expansion. Penrose noticed that the past conformal boundary of one copy of FLRW spacetime can be “attached” to the future conformal boundary of another, after an appropriate conformal rescaling. In particular, each individual FLRW metric is multiplied by the square of a conformal factor that approaches zero at timelike infinity, effectively “squashing down” the future conformal boundary to a conformally regularhypersurface (which is spacelike if there is a positive cosmological constant, as we currently believe). The result is a new solution to Einstein’s equations, which Penrose takes to represent the entire Universe, and which is composed of a sequence of sectors that Penrose calls “aeons”.
The significant feature of this construction for particle physics is that, since bosons obey the laws of conformally invariant quantum theory, they will behave in the same way in the rescaled aeons as in the original FLRW counterparts. (Classically, this corresponds to the fact that light cone structure is preserved under conformal rescalings.) For such particles, the boundary between aeons is not a boundary at all, but just a spacelike surface that can be passed across like any other. Fermions, on the other hand, remain confined to a given aeon. This provides a convenient solution to the black hole information paradox; according to Penrose, fermions must be irreversibly converted into radiation during black hole evaporation, to preserve the smoothness of the boundary between aeons.
The curvature properties of Penrose’s cosmology are also highly desirable. First, the boundary between aeons satisfies the Weyl curvature hypothesis, thus providing a certain kind of low-entropy past as required by statistical mechanics and by observation. Second, Penrose has calculated that a certain amount of gravitational radiation should be preserved across the boundary between aeons. Penrose suggests this extra gravitational radiation may be enough to explain the observed cosmic acceleration without appeal to a dark energy matter field.
As you will see in skydivephil’s video, there does seem to be empirical evidence supporting this model. Originally, such claims were met with controversy, but more recent work by researchers such as Meisner are far more robust. This is perhaps reflected here, towards the end of skydivephil’s video; I love the final claims made at the end:
The final claim being from physicist Ted Newman who stated,
I’m not saying I have 100% belief in Roger’s CCC. I do not have 100% belief… But if I tried to take the ratio of the most likely of all the scenarios I have ever heard that are in existence now or that I have ever heard of in the past and I take the ratio of the likelihood of Roger’s CCC over any of the others, I would say that it is a number approaching infinity [to many laughs].
So this is a theory that does have prominent proponents.
Craig himself is very committed to the Penrose-Hawking Standard Model which implies an absolute beginning. But Penrose has changed his mind on this. In fact, the conference referred to in the video above had an audience full of cosmologists, none of whom adhered to the Standard Model.
What is interesting is that in response to the CCC, as laid out:
- in an EPAC conference paper
- in Penrose’s book Cycles of Time
- by Penrose on Unbelievable, the prominent Christian debate show on Premier Christian Radio, and which sponsored Craig’s last debate tour
- by Penrose in claiming there is information crossover from past aeons which are evidenced in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation
where Penrose repeatedly maintains past universes/aeons were chronologically prior, Craig has claimed that the model is not cyclical and that aeons are not chronologically prior with the model necessitating an absolute beginning.
On the “Truth, Free Will and Cosmology” episode of the Reasonable Faith podcast, Craig appears to either deliberately mislead his audience, or to be utterly wrong, in claiming:
On Penrose cosmology, wholly apart from its physical problems. Its not clear at all that these other cycles are chronologically prior to our big bang rather it seems what is described here is more like a multiverse model in which you have twin expanding universes coming out of an origin point so that you do not have one universe chronologically prior to the other rather they both share a common beginning before which there is not anything and then you have a sort of branching or multiverse structure.
Now the interesting point to make here is that skydivephil (Monica, here) asked Penrose in the video (at this point) about Craig’s above quote, asking whether it is correct. Watching Penrose’s almost-snort and his eyebrow’s raise tellingly should say it all. He then stated:
That us very inaccurate. I should say that CCC is definitely not a multiverse model in the form that people put it. They have sort of parallel universes; these are sequential. It’s completely different. Not only that, you get information from one to the next.
You can’t really get any plainer than that. Now, Sean Carroll is due to debate William Lane Craig soon, and, as a cosmologist, I hope he takes Craig to task over such claims and manoeuvres. This is a clear-cut case of Craig either lying or not knowing his cosmology. Either way, if he knows that this has been said of his claims, then it is disingenuous of him to keep repeating them.
Perhaps to give him a little slack, he might have given himself a bit more wriggle room in a further quote. In the “Lightning Strikes Again” Question of the Week on Reasonable Faith, a questioner asks directly;
Dear Dr. Craig,
I came up across a new cosmological model developed by Roger Penrose called Conformal Cyclic Cosmology where he claims that when the universe reaches its ultimate destiny of maximal entropy it somehow “loses” track of time due to the absence of matter and comes into being once again through a new Big Bang. His theory argues that there is only one universe which goes through different phases or eons as he calls them. Each eon begins with a Big Bang and ends with maximal entropy, which in turn implies that entropy goes back to zero and transforms into a new big bang and so forth. A video of one of his presentations can be found here:
I am wondering if this theory is sound. If so, how does it impact the Kalam Cosmological Argument?
Craig gives the same sort of answer, this time at least giving a little more detail:
Jim Sinclair and I are co-authoring a piece on the beginning of the universe, and Jim is interacting with Penrose’s new conformal cosmological model. Jim argues persuasively that the phases of the model are not temporally ordered as earlier and later but are instead actually two universes with a common past boundary. Penrose’s model is thus really a model of a multiverse with a beginning.
Now Craig is trying to say that he is looking to refute the model. But on what understanding could it even remotely be seen to have the properties of a multiverse, which are concurrent universes existing? Penrose is as clear as crystal in his claims of sequential universes. I don’t think this partial elaboration remotely gets him off the hook. He should certainly expand on these claims or risk merely looking ill-equipped to say what he does about the CCC.
In other words, Craig appears to be rather disingenuously misleading his audience. That, I am afraid, is not the sort of tactic one would want of your most prominent spokesperson, and it certainly does his case no favours. It doesn’t really matter whether the CCC is ultimately viable or not, and I am certainly in no position to declare such a thing, because it is the methodology of Craig that is being called into question, not the ultimate truth as to whether his case wins out. Craig is using dodgy, shoddy methodology, and he is misleading his audience so that it seems like his premises are sound and his conclusions valid and watertight.
This is clearly not the case.
Such deception, or neglect of care in his research, undermines his case because the KCA is his ubiquitous foundation in his debates. Without that second premise, his KCA is defunct.
It is defunct.