• Counter Apologist’s riposte to William Lane Craig on the Kalam

    Counter Apologist has produced an awesome series detailing issues with William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is a pet obsession of mine. This must have succeeded enough, since it warranted a response from Craig himself. Here is Counter’s response to Craig.

    Back in March, William Lane Craig responded to Counter Apologist’s critique of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Craig’s main contention was that the Kalam is not circular because he believes metaphysical arguments can trump what science tells us about time.

    CA has finally put out a response that shows while Craig can avoid the circular charge, he can only do so by engaging in scientific cherry picking. Effectively Craig ends up holding a double standard when it comes to alleging that “modern cosmology makes it more probable that the universe began to exist”.

    CA then goes on to show why science undermines the A-Theory of time and then how Craig’s supposedly “strong metaphysical arguments” are at best inconclusive when it comes to the nature of time. He finishes up by showing how even when embracing the A-Theory of time Craig holds another double standard when it comes what he calls “metaphysical time” vs. “physical time”.

    You can watch the video here:

     

    Or you can read the transcript here: http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/2014/09/countering-kalam-5-responding-to.html

    Here is an interview I gave to CA some time back:

     

    CA is always on the money in my books.

    Counter-Apologist-Logo

    Category: cosmologyFeaturedPhilosophyPhilosophy of ReligionSciencetime

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Void Walker

      Why does anyone even take Craig seriously? The man has proven to be dishonest, dogmatic, and far more interested in defending his egregious presuppositions than ascertaining the truth.

      That said, killer take-down by Counter Apologist.

      • I have been trying to compile a book on the Kalam as it is a pet obsession of mine, broadly fleshing out my dissertation. However, with so many other projects and other writers to consider it has taken a back seat. I asked CA today if he wants to co-author to help me compile it in a timely manner. He was going to contribute a chapter anyway. Hopefully, he will and the project will come to fruition.

        • Void Walker

          I hope that the two of you do as much. The Kalam is one of those arguments that really appeals to the uneducated masses that Craig preaches to, but upon close examination it crumbles into obscurity.

          I particularly enjoyed watching Craig flounder about during his debate with Sean Carroll. Willy simply could not keep up, and it was a clear reminder that he does not know his cosmology even half as well as he claims.

        • Void Walker

          Jonathan, this is fucking weird as hell: http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/01-back-from-the-future The implications for determinism are quite fascinating.

    • Thanks for posting this Jon!

      • Void Walker

        Well done, good sir. Few take Craig to task, but you did so admirably.

    • Jonathan,
      What objections do you feel to be the strongest that can be leveled against the argument from contingency?

      • Hi there.

        For a starter, everything that has been created must surely be necessary in its own way, since God’s desires and actions, especially in that atemporal epoch, are necessary.

        But the creation of non-God objects is, to me, a very strong argument:

        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/07/13/non-god-objects/

        AS far as the KCA is concerned, there are many arguments, several of which I set out here:

        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/10/the-kalam-cosmological-argument-and-william-lane-craig-1/

        here:

        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/14/the-kalam-cosmological-argument-and-william-lane-craig-2/

        and here:

        http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/05/23/libertarian-free-will-defeats-the-kalam-cosmological-argument/

        I think, wrt the KCA, Craig smuggles in myriad philosophical assumptions, and this is problematic. Just claiming it is deductive when, if written in its full form, is obviously inductive, is dodgy.

        • For a starter, everything that has been created must surely be necessary in its own way, since God’s desires and actions, especially in that atemporal epoch, are necessary.

          I see exactly what you’re saying here, but it depends on what we mean by necessary. A thomist would say that something is necessary if and only if its essence (what it is) is identical to its existence (that it is); and since anything that exists apart from God does not fall into this category then anything apart from God is contingent–its essence is distinct from its existence. So I don’t see how this objection can be vindicated–granted, based on what we mean by necessary.

          I haven’t heard the creation of non-God objects, so I’ll read up on it.

          • well, i’m not an essentialist anyway… but since god existing outside of time creates instantaneously based on atemporal necessary desires, I don’t think any differentiation of god and creation in terms of necessity is meaningful.

            • I don’t see how the temporal relation between God and creation has any initial relevance here; it’s a peripheral issue. My claim was that on Thomism your objection simply doesn’t work, and retreating to claims about temporality doesn’t seem to help since, no matter the temporal relations between God and creation, the essence of creation is distinct from its existence, and thus is contingent.

            • Again, I would repeat that the notion of essentialism is problematic. What IS the essence of creation?

            • I’m using creation here as synonymous with the universe. The essence of the universe is all space-time, matter, and energy.

            • The problem being that a necessary truth is often understood as being true in all possible worlds. What I am saying is that this universe IS all possible worlds as being a necessary aspect of God, and instantaneous with God.

              As laid out here:

              http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/05/13/best-possible-world-god-free-will/

              Is this the best possible world and does God have free will?

          • Creation of non-god objects is, to me, an argument which i have not seen any really good refutation of.

      • I hope Jon won’t mind my posting here too, but I think the primary response is that the naturalist has no problem sayng that the “necessary something” is material nature.

        There is some good evidence for this in philosophy and science -first is the experience that anything that exists that we know of is at lest material – and that material things only come from pre-existing material things.

        Second is the first law of thermodynamics – matter/energy can neither be created or destroyed, yet here it is. In a related vein there is the Quantum Eternity Theorem which says that the quantum wave function must either exist for eternity, or simply exists because time isn’t fundamental.

        I’m sure a theist may object and say that all things material are contingent, but there’s no way to show that. Both the theist and the atheist are going to appeal to something that is necessary + has some contingent properties.

        As for Thomists, well they can surely have their own response, but that is contingent on a Aristotelean metaphysic, which the atheist has no reason to accept.

        • Right, so if the theist can point to God being a brute fact (a term which is less controversial and philosophically loaded) then the universe or matter can be a brute fact.

          • Right, so if the theist can point to God being a brute fact (a term which is less controversial and philosophically loaded) then the universe or matter can be a brute fact.

            First, you’re saying the complete opposite of what CA is saying, and ironically you’re agreeing with him. He’s saying that the universe is necessary, while you’re saying that the universe can be a brute fact, and these are different things. Something which is necessary is not a brute fact. A brute fact is something which admits of no explanation. But, something which is necessary does have an explanation, namely itself. To reiterate, a necessary existent’s essence is identical to its existence; that is to say, it is of its very nature to exist. Now this means that if X is necessary, then the statement “X exists” is self-evident and thus self-explanatory. So, something that is necessary is not a brute fact, and as a consequence, when theists claim God is necessary they’re not claiming he is an inexplicable brute fact.

            • Well, since there is no defined concept of brute fact as being anything meaningfully different from necessary, I take them and use them as synonymous. Either God is a brute fact or the universe is.

              This is meaningless:

              “But, something which is necessary does have an explanation, namely itself.”

              In terms of the Munchausen Trilemma, Either God is an axiom, or God is circular. You seem to want him to be circular whilst admitting he is the very definition of an axiom – a self-evident truth.

              In other words, I disagree with your definitions and claims.

            • Well, since there is no defined concept of brute fact as being anything meaningfully different from necessary, I take them and use them as synonymous.

              Perhaps you should look up the definition of a brute fact. It is not synonymous with necessary, especially since I can conceive of something being a brute fact without it being necessary. Philosophers use the term brute fact to mean that which does not admit of explanation.

              Regarding your second point: I’m sorry you don’t agree, but things can indeed be self-explanatory. Take the statement “A is A”. This statement is self-evident and self-explanatory. Yet it is not a brute fact because the truth of the proposition is explained by the concepts inherent in it. To reiterate, it is self-explanatory. Now to turn to God. If God is necessary then he cannot fail to exist, and therefore it is his very nature to exist–he is pure being. So, to ask why does God exist is to ask why pure being has being, which answers itself.

            • It is usually defined as axiomatic. It is an unexplainable fact by point of fact you cannot have recourse to an antecedent reason.

              As the SEP states on its entry on the Principle of Sufficient Reason:

              “Another important problem related to the PSR is the possibility of self-explanatory facts and self-caused entities; particularly, one may wonder how these are distinguished from unexplainable, brute facts and uncaused entities. One may also wonder whether the PSR allows for primitive concepts that cannot be further explained.”

              I am one of those who wonders. There is no discernible difference between inexplicable and necessary. God as necessary is inexplicable in the same way as the universe would be (under naturalism).

              That A is A would be grounded in the axiomatic claim that the Law of Non-Contradiction obtains, or some other logic upon which the semantic claim is based.

              Again, the Munchausen Trilemma.

              “If God is necessary then he cannot fail to exist, and therefore it is his very nature to exist–he is pure being.”

              Swap God for universe.

        • Hey CA,

          I think the primary response is that the naturalist has no problem sayng that the “necessary something” is material nature.

          I don’t see how this is possible. Even if we take the modern definition of necessary–an entity that cannot fail to exist and could not be other than what it is–then I fail to see how the universe can satisfy such a definition. For the universe could very well be different, and it is surely possible that could have failed to exist.

          Now, if we take the definition of necessary that Thomism promulgates–namely, that something is necessary if its essence is identical to its existence–then the universe surely isn’t necessary, for the essence of the universe–being all space-time, matter, and energy–is not identical to its existence. That is to say, I can contemplate the essence of the universe without knowing if it exists or not.

          Thirdly, if something is necessary then the statement “X exists” would be a tautology and self-evident a priori. But saying “the universe exists” is not self-evident a priori, and thus the universe is not necessary.

          There is some good evidence for this in philosophy and science -first is the experience that anything that exists that we know of is at lest material – and that material things only come from pre-existing material things.

          I don’t see how this is good evidence. The fact that all we observe to exist is material does not at all entail that therefore material reality is necessary. This is completely fallacious. Something is necessary if it could not possibly fail to exist or could not be other than what it is, and all observation of material reality does not give us warrant for concluding that material reality satisfies this definition. In fact, our observation demonstrates the opposite since it’s quite clear that the universe could possibly have not existed, and could be other than what it is.

          I’m sure a theist may object and say that all things material are contingent, but there’s no way to show that.

          Of course there is, by demonstrating that material things satisfy the definition of contingency.

          • But this is precisely my point!

            “For the universe could very well be different, and it is surely possible that could have failed to exist.”

            No, since all suffering etc is necessary for a greater good, since God as a necessary being has necessary desires to create, he therefore creates necessarily, and creates the best most loving thing he can. We are necessary creations. We are necessary.

            If we rewound, God would have, since his desires in that timeless epoch would have been identical, no grounds for creating otherwise.

            This is the grounding issue with the dilemma of determinism seen in a different context.

          • My first reading of your comment was going to have me chastise you for missing the nuance in what I wrote. Of course then I looked at what I actually wrote and see that my wording was more than a bit sloppy!

            Please allow me to rephrase what you first quoted:

            “I think the primary response is that the naturalist has no problem saying that the “necessary something” is material in nature.

            This is admittedly a vague phrasing, because to be bluntly honest we don’t quite know exactly what the most fundamental constituent of material reality actually is, although we currently do have a tentative answer: the quantum wave function.

            Now this is quite very different from saying something like “the universe is necessary”. That’s because “universe” bundles up the whole set of contingent properties we all know and love about our world, where as “the quantum wave function” can get a bit more specific.

            The idea with identifying the wave function as specifically necessary is to point out that everything contingent we know of is made up of (or perhaps better stated “is possibly described by”) the quantum wave function.

            There’s a metric ton that we can get into here, and in terms of contingency, if one embraces the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, then there is only one quantum wave function that describes all of material reality. Within that wave function are different branches that will never again interact with the previous branching paths that it came from. This is actually what the “multiverse” is really talking about, except it’s not a hypothesis, it’s a consequence of the combination of our current-best understanding of the laws of nature.

            Now to put it mildly this is a very big if, but if the many worlds interpretation is true, then it very neatly fits into the category of what we would classically consider “necessary”.

            However we don’t need to get that extravagant – the idea that there is some base fundamental material thing we call “X” which simply exists and just re-arranges itself into various configurations, and sometimes those rearrangements entail a host of contingent possibilities, like tunnelling into a classical space-time/big bang, then I’m not seeing the difficulty for the naturalist.

            Also, you’re avoiding many of the problems for the theist – if god is “necessary” then why is he also made up of a bunch of other contingent properties? Why omnipotent? Or omniscient for that matter? It does no good to simply define god as the “greatest concievable being” since that definition just entails necessity plus a bunch of other attributes. Also if one holds to a divine command theory (and since it seems you’re a Thomist this may not apply to you!) then holding that “god’s nature” entails the good, then you get into a problem of attributes like “love, kindness, mercy, justice, etc” end up being contingently part of said nature, since we can easily imagine a nature that is “cruel, unjust, unmerciful, etc” that is also omnipotent and omniscient, or a mix of all those things into a single nature.

            Anyway, I hope this answers your question.

            • Trying to define the quantum wave function as necessary is extremely problematic. First, claiming that everything we know is made up of the QWF doesn’t therefore mean that the QWF is necessary. Just like the fact that a brick wall is made up of bricks doesn’t mean that the bricks are necessary for the wall to be a wall. The wall could just as easily be made up something else. Similarly, the fact that the universe is, at the subatomic level, made up of the QWF does not mean that things couldn’t have been different. In fact, they very well could have been different, and thus the universe and the QWF are contingent.

              Second, the QWF isn’t an existent object, and therefore it literally cannot be a necessary being. QWF is just a description of the way the world operates at the subatomic level; and a description is not an object and therefore cannot be either contingent or necessary. You’ve simply made a big category mistake here.

              Now let me deal with your objections against the concept of God. Being a Thomist I don’t–as well as the classical tradition of theism–believe God is composed of parts; that is to say, God is metaphysically simple. Thus stated, he doesn’t have attributes that can be distinguished like omnipotence, goodness, omnipresence etc. He is simply pure actuality or pure being. And pure being is, by definition, necessary. Now, scholastics believe in the analogy of being, which means that when we predicate omnipotence of God, this is the same as God being pure actuality, and even though we distinguish these concepts in our minds, there is no distinction in God himself. That is, his actuality just is his power, which just is his goodness etc.

            • I’ll try to be brief.

              I’m not saying the QWF is necessary because it’s makes up everything. What I’m saying is that what we know about the QWF is that it simply exists, it can not be created or destroyed. In either way we can think about it, it can’t have a beginning or end.

              Now unless you want to get into some kind of really weird modal realism, saying “it could be different” misses the points I was saying above, especially if we go with the many worlds interpretation. In that, the only thing that “exists” is the QWF, and we’re just parts of branches of it.

              This is similar to what you say about “existent objects”, which is I think your Thomist side showing through. The only existent object, if we want to get in terms of strict ontology, would be “the” QWF.

              There are different approaches, since the above is predicated on the Many Worlds Interpretation.

              As far as god being metaphysically simple, if you’re a Thomist and a Christian, then that’s just laughable. The “trinity” becomes all sorts of fun.

              I have very little use for a metaphysics where you define things in terms of necessary and contingent and then conveniently define things such that only your god can be the “necessary something”. At this point we’ve simply used the same words but with very different meanings. Much like Jon above, I reject your categories.

            • carmel Ka

              Hi CA,

              regarding QWF , are you aware of academia physician Ray Streater’criticism who writes:

              The idea of the wave-function of the universe is meaningless; we do not
              even know what variables it is supposed to be a function of. […] We
              find the laws of Nature by reproducible experiments. The theory needs a
              cut, between the observer and the system, and the details of the
              apparatus should not appear in the theory of the system.
              http://www.mth.kcl.ac.uk/~streater/lostcauses.html#XII

              Also , A note of caution: when you hear people (e.g. Hartle and Hawking) refer
              to “the wave function of the universe”, they’re not referring to this
              ultimate entity, but rather to a wavefunction which describes the large
              scale structure of a highly symmetric model of the universe. Their
              configuration space is minisuperspace, and their wavefunction usually refers to just the allowed values of a single parameter!

    • D Rizdek

      I had an interesting (and probably naive) question (at least I think it is interesting) and it is somewhat related to the Cosmological Argument but does the universe exist within time/space, or do time/space exist within the universe?

      I kind of feel it can’t be the former, because that would mean that time/space would be thought of as existing outside of the universe. But what are the ramification IF time/space just exist within the universe and in particular THIS manifestation of the universe (i.e. rapidly expanding with atoms, stars and planets)? I think it might mean that all that is DOES include a realm/state that exists outside of time and space. And this would seem to answer the quandary of how could a universe appear to begin to exist and expand…it was stemmed from this timeless/spaceless state. At least that admitted conjecture is as plausible (IMHO) as positing a personal god who not only manufactures universes but plans them with moral implications…then ends up with this debacle we see around us.

      • The universe IS spacetime.

      • Depends on what you mean by “time”, which is something I go into a bit.

        Jon’s got it right below, we describe our “universe” as a space-time universe. The very fabric of space-time is what is expanding, inflating like a balloon if you will.

        If what we mean by “time” is time within our space-time, then well if there is another kind of “time” outside of this, it’s not at all like the “time” we are talking about – which in terms of contemporary physics is “what clocks measure”.

        So if you’re going to start saying there’s another kind of time outside of this, then you’re going to have to define exactly what that means, for Craig, as I point out, his metric of metaphysical time is god’s thoughts, or the divine sequence of mental events.

        However, an atheist isn’t really going to go with this, and it’s a bit question begging to say that this is so. We could try to think of time in terms of a quantum realm beyond our space-time that is constantly producing different space-time universes, but that’s the kind of theory espoused by Alexander Vilenkn. That’s perfectly fine for naturalists, although defnining a “time” there gets very tricky (go read his book).

        The short of it is that thinking about the universe in the way physics describes it to us undermines the Kalam argument, you can’t use it to get to god. This doesn’t mean the way physics describes the universe is incompatible with the existence of a god, it just means you can’t use time/causality to get us there. It would also contradict Christian notions of creation ex nihilo, which I consider a side bonus to undermining the Kalam.