This week at ER: Back to Square One


Over at the Evangelical Realism blog, we’re taking an in-depth look at premise 1 of Dr. William Lane Craig’s famous Kalam Cosmological argument, in the first of a series of posts on Chapter four of his book On Guard. The gist of it is that Dr. Craig is playing a bit of a word game: when we say that nothing created the universe, we’re not saying that “nothing” is a “something” that exists in a cause-and-effect relationship with the cosmos. We’re just saying the universe is uncaused, just like Christians are doing when they say “nothing created God.”

Click the link for the full post.

 

Comments

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Fixed, thanks. (Might be time for me to invest in a new keyboard, I’m getting a bunch of skipped keys these days.)

      • F says

        Or clean it. Cleaning can do wonders. If just blowing out the keys doesn’t help, and you are disinclined to take it apart, you can actually run a keyboard through a dishwasher. Just make sure it is entirely dry before plugging it in.

  1. says

    The naïve response to this poor argument would be, “The very first thing that happened could not by definition have had a cause, otherwise it would not be the first. However, there is no reason to suppose this first, causeless event had anything to do with any of the five-figure number of Gods in whom humans have ever believed, let alone your specific one.”

  2. Sqrat says

    Word games can affect the way we think as well as the way we argue, because we don’t always realize it when we are playing word games inside our own heads. Sometimes, for example, I wonder whether the tendency to believe in life after death might owe a lot to the fact that our language suggests to us that “being dead” must be a form of being and not what it actually is, a form of non-being.

    That having been said, I have strong reservations about the proposition that “nothing caused the universe.” The little I know about cutting-edge cosmology tells me that there is in fact a lot of work going on to identify the cause of the universe.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      And those reservations might turn out to be justified, but if they are, it will just mean that there’s a larger material context for this universe, and we can simply substitute the larger material context in place of the universe. The argument will remain largely the same.

      • Sqrat says

        The argument will remain largely the same.

        Whose argument will remain the same? Craig will undoubtedly stick to the same argument, but my argument will be a bit different.

        If we are talking about our universe, I will agree with Craig that it began with the Big Bang, and the Big Bang likely had a cause. I will disagree with him that the cause was God for two reasons. First, God, in his argument, is not a cause, but an agent. In order for Craig’s argument to work, he has to state what the agent did in order to lead the result (the Big Bang). In other words, he has to explain how God caused the Big Bang. That he is unable to do. All he can do is to invoke God’s magical “Big-Bang causing power,” which is hardly an explanation for the cause of the Big Bang.

        If we are talking about the metaverse instead of about the universe, then Craig’s going to argue that it began to exist, and I’m going to argue that we know so little about the metaverse that it’s rather premature to claim that it began to exist. And then I’m going to ask him, if he still claims that the metaverse began to exist, claims it for no better reason that it must have begun to exist or the Kalam Cosmological Argument fails, to elucidate the nature of God’s magical “metaverse causing power” that caused it to begin to exist.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        @sqrat:

        Whose argument will remain the same?

        Mine will. The point of the Kalam argument is that if we go back to “the beginning,” then we must (allegedly) invoke supernatural causes because natural causes cannot explain themselves. In the event that we find a material cause for the Big Bang, all we’ve really done is to establish that the Big Bang is not the real beginning. Some kind of “metaverse” must be the context in which the Big Bang took place.

        Your point is quite valid: we can’t really make any assumptions about what lies entirely outside of our experience and observation. The law of cause and effect that we’re familiar with might extend back beyond the Big Bang, or it might not.

        If it doesn’t, then Craig’s first premise is wrong, and there is no cause for “the Beginning.” But even if it does, based on what we can observe about cause and effect, we can safely say that causes require the pre-existence of spacetime in order that they can chronologically precede their effects. This precludes any kind of Creator, natural or supernatural, from causing the beginning of the material universe/metaverse/whatever, since there is literally no time during which He/She/It/They could have done so. By the time time exists, the Beginning has already happened, and it’s too late for creation.

        That’s the same argument whether “the Beginning” is the Big Bang or the origin of some earlier and more “meta” material context.

  3. Brian63 says

    The other site somewhat alludes to this as well, but for those of us who are not inclined on heavy physics and who do not have a good understanding of what quantum fluctuations are and how to explain them, I think there is an even simpler rebuttal to the 1st premise that works.

    “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.”

    There is an important qualifier left off the beginning of that premise that needs to be added, so that it reads:

    Within our universe, whatever begins to exist has a cause.

    Leaving off that qualification makes the argument otherwise question-begging, as it would implicitly assume that the universe itself has a cause for its existence. Our experience and ability to justify a premise like that relies on our observations within this universe though, not outside of it. So that restriction of the premise needs to be explicitly mentioned, to avoid committing the composition fallacy. It greatly weakens (and invalidates) the argument on the whole though, even aside from any issues with the 2nd premise.

    Brian

  4. RabidDog says

    The slippery slope of the careless use of “nothing” is well illustrated by the old joke proof that a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness:
    (1) Nothing is better than eternal happiness.
    (2) A ham sandwich is better than nothing.
    QED.
    The trick is that one nothing refers to a zero quantity of something that actually exists; the other nothing is an existential quantifier denying the existence of some category of thing.

  5. Hazuki says

    Is it just me or has apologetics basically been rehashing the same shit since Aquinas if not before and merely been dressing them up in formal logical terms? And why does Craig continue to push failed arguments? Isn’t lying a sin?

    • John Morales says

      I’m pretty sure wilful obtuseness (a form of intellectual dishonesty) not only ain’t a sin, but a virtue in the religious mindset — after all, it’s a form of resisting temptation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>