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Does Quantum Physics Refute the Kalam Argument for God?

Quantum

In a previous post I argued that a common atheist intuition about what would count as proof for the existence of God also provides a foundation for the intuition that something cannot come into existence from nothing without a natural cause. If this intuition is true, then it would provide much more support for the first premise of the Kalām Cosmological argument (KCA). For those who are unfamiliar with this argument for the existence of God, it goes like this:

  • P1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  • P2. The universe began to exist
  • C. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

I alluded in my previous article to observations in quantum physics that critics claim are direct counter examples to the premise, “whatever begins to exist has a cause.” These observations have also surfaced several times in the comment boxes here at Strange Notions. I’ll call them, collectively, the quantum physics objection. So what exactly is this objection?

Physics describes how objects move and behave in the world, but traditional physics has a limit when it comes to describing really small objects, such as electrons or quarks. For that we need quantum physics (also called quantum mechanics), which explains the nature and motion of atoms as well as the particles that make up atoms. Because these particles are so small, they can act in very strange ways. For example, scientists have observed so-called “virtual particles” emerging, apparently without a cause, from an empty vacuum. They have also observed atomic nuclei decay and emit alpha, beta, or gamma particles in an unpredictable way that appears to not have any cause.

If these things can occur without a cause in the quantum realm, then it seems that P1 is not true and the Kalām Cosmological argument is undermined or refuted. How could a defender of this argument respond to this objection?

Not Something from Nothing

 
The major intuitive support behind P1 is that something can’t come from nothing without a supernatural cause. The case of virtual particles “popping into existence” does not overturn this intuition because these entities do not emerge from “nothing.” They instead emerge from the quantum vacuum, or a field with a very low energy level. Columbia University Philosopher and theoretical physicist David Albert writes:
 

“[V]acuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems—are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff...the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those [quantum] fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings—if you look at them aright—amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing."

 
Albert’s reasoning also applies to alpha or beta particles that emerge from a decaying atomic nucleus, an event that is also not a case of “something coming from nothing.” Since the quantum physics objection does not invalidate the broader intuition “something can’t come from nothing” that undergirds P1 (i.e., “whatever begins to exist has a cause”), then we could reformulate the KCA and just rely on this uncontested foundational intuition:

  1. If the universe began to exist from nothing, then the universe has a transcendent cause
  2. The universe began to exist from nothing.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.1

Some people object to this reformulation because, in the words of atheist Aron Zavaro, “[M]odern physics has seriously challenged the common-sense intuitions which have given rise to belief in P1,” such as the intuition that something cannot come into existence from nothing without a supernatural cause. Zavaro goes on to claim that, “[T]he everyday man on the street would surely tell you that empty space stays empty! The man on the street would also surely tell you that a spaceless-timeless state could never produce anything without God's help...such commonsense intuitions are false.”

However, I disagree with this critic’s assessment. First, people may not properly think through a hypothetical situation involving the word “empty.” If you ask most people what it would be like to spend 24 hours in an “empty room” they’ll usually say it would be “boring,” as opposed to being “fatal” which is the correct answer because you would suffocate after spending a few minutes in a vacuum without oxygen or even air pressure.

The normal man has a correct intuition that “empty” space cannot produce anything; he is just mistaken about a factual claim related to what he perceives to be empty space. The space he thinks is empty isn’t truly empty; it contains an invisible, low-level quantum energy field. Armed with that knowledge, the average man may indeed agree that small particles could come into existence from that energy field, but he would rightly judge that these particles have some kind of cause or origin for their existence. On the other hand, there is no further analysis that will demonstrate that a true state of “nothing” (or a total lack of being) can have a hidden property which allows things to come into existence through it.

Still Causes at Work

 
It’s also debatable whether virtual particles and atomic decay are examples of “uncaused events.” Some interpretations of quantum physics describe events without causes, but others, such as the interpretation offered by the late David Bohm, include no uncaused events. Under Bohm’s view, (or the de Broglie-Bohm interpretation) the way particles behave or act is completely determined by the physical events that happened earlier in time. The eminent quantum physicist John Bell has praised this interpretation and laments the difficulty quantum researchers have in developing models that include truly free or random observers. He writes, “It is a merit of the de Broglie–Bohm version to bring this [non-locality] out so explicitly that it cannot be ignored.”2

The fact of the matter is that there is no consensus on which physical interpretation of the equations in quantum physics is correct and, more importantly, our inability to find a cause for quantum events no more justifies the conclusion that there are no causes any more than our inability to detect alien life justifies the conclusion there is no alien life in the universe.

Even if we suppose that a suitable interpretation of quantum mechanics is found that proves there are events which are uncaused, would that refute the KCA? I don’t think so because while it’s possible for events to not have causes (such as a ball to rolling to the right instead of to the left when set on a perfectly sharp cone) it doesn’t seem possible for things to not have causes (the ball just appearing for no reason at all).

Even if the event of a virtual particle coming into existence or the event of an atom decaying are causeless, it doesn’t follow that the virtual particle or the alpha particle themselves are without a cause for their existence. Their causes are the quantum vacuum and the decaying nucleus respectively. The events associated with the coming into existence of quantum particles simply have a probabilistic cause (as opposed to a predictable physical cause) which regulates their occurrence under given conditions. If this were not the case and these particles were truly mysterious, uncaused entities, then scientists would be unable to replicate in the laboratory the circumstances where these particles come into existence. John Jefferson Davis writes that:
 

“Quantum-mechanical events may not have classically deterministic causes, but they are not thereby uncaused or a causal. The decay of a nucleus takes place in view of physical actualities and potentialities internal to itself, in relation to a spatiotemporal nexus governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. The fact that uranium atoms consistently decay into atoms of lead and other elements--and not into rabbits or frogs--shows that such events are not causal but take place within a causal nexus and lawlike structures."3

 
Similarly, the actions of creatures with libertarian free-will may not have an antecedent physical cause, but that does not mean that those actions occur “without” a cause. Just because I cannot predict exactly when a person will choose to speak, this does not entail that the words which emerge from her mouth are some kind of weird “uncaused” event. The words she speaks have a real though indeterminate cause.

A critic may try to use this line of argument and say that the universe may simply be an event that occurs under probabilistic causation and came into existence without God’s creative act. I don’t think this is a successful reply because events presuppose the existence of objects, space, and time in order for the event to occur. Probabilistic causation in the absence of anything cannot produce a universe any more than a burnt down casino containing the ashes of roulette wheels could, via probabilistic causation, produce a winner of a game of roulette. However, God’s ability to create ex-nihilo could allow for the simultaneous emergence of both the occurrence of the first event (the universe coming into existence) and the existence of the first thing (the universe itself).

Conclusion

 
Uncaused events in quantum mechanics do not refute the principle that something cannot come from nothing. Furthermore, the reduction of causation in quantum events to unpredictable probabilities does not refute our normal experience that objects simply do not appear without a cause. This leaves us with sufficient evidence to believe that “whatever begins to exist must have a cause for its existence.”
 
 
(Imaged credit: Gizmag)

Notes:

  1. William Lane Craig used this formulation of the Kalām Cosmological argument to great effect in his debate with Alex Rosenberg.
  2. John Bell, Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics: Collected Papers on Quantum Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1987) 115.
  3. See John Jefferson Davis, The Frontiers of Science and Faith: Examining Questions from the Big Bang to the End of the Universe (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 2002), pp. 55-56.
Trent Horn

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Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • Hello Trent,

    Thanks for this post. I would add that the principle of causality is not the result of an inductive inference (or any inference, for that matter), but a first principle perceived by the intellect on the basis of the nature of being itself. Nothing can give what it does not have. From no being, being cannot come; from nothing nothing comes. Because this truth is based on the nature of being itself, it is not open to refutation by encountering effects whose cause is undetectable to us. In other words, even if we could construct an empty room containing no "elementary physical stuff" at all, and particles then appeared within the room, having no detectable cause, we would *still* know that these particles had a cause, even if we could not detect the cause. The principle of causality is not contingent upon whether or not we can first clear the room of the "elementary physical stuff" before particles show up having no detectable cause. That's why I recommend not stopping with (or resting entirely upon) the 'you-can't-start-with-an-empty-room' defense, because the principle of causality is a *first* principle, not the productive of an inductive inference.

    - Bryan

    • josh

      Statements not in evidence.

      • Randy Gritter

        In other words you won't believe the principle of causality because you have not been provided with sufficient cause to believe it?

        • josh

          In other words, inductive inference teaches us that people who 'perceive by the intellect' absolute statements based on 'the nature of being itself' are not to be relied upon. I think you are trying to be ironic, which is fine if it's just wordplay, but I hope you don't think you are raising a serious objection.

          • Josh,

            "people who 'perceive by the intellect' absolute statements based on 'the nature of being itself' are not to be relied upon."

            How do *you* perceive first principles (e.g. the law of non-contradiction)?

            - Bryan

          • josh

            Bryan-

            I perceive that the law of non-contradiction is a principle of human reasoning, it is definitive of what we call consistency. Whether or not this is sufficient for the universe is unknown, it certainly causes problems when you run into paradoxes. But I'll allow that those might be superficial because my mind keeps trying to put things into a consistent framework.

            However, 'from nothing, nothing comes' and 'nothing can give what it does not have' and the unspecified 'principle of causality' (three separate ideas just there) are far more ambiguous. Possibly you can define them in some consistent way, but whether that way matches up with reality is in doubt. At the moment they aren't well defined, so I'm not going to defer to your perception.

          • Josh,

            What do you mean by "principle of human reasoning"? -- just a principle we happen to presuppose quite often, with no basis in reality? Here's the dilemma. If it has no basis in reality, then why is it normative in reasoning? But if it has a basis in reality, then how do you perceive it, except by your intellect? And if you perceive it by your intellect based on 'the nature of being itself,' then how are *you* to be relied upon, given your earlier statement above?

            - Bryan

          • St. Thomas Aquinas is very proud of you?
            Maybe he does :D

          • josh

            'Principle of human reasoning' as in a way that you and I strive to organize our thoughts. I don't know any other way to do what we call reasoning (although Buddhists for example might claim otherwise in some sense). Like I said, it's how I perceive reality, but I'm cautious about making absolute statements about how reality must be in itself. We don't perceive 'being itself', we perceive things that appear to be. But you don't have to rely on me, I'm just asking you to consider the issue for yourself.

            I'll reiterate though, that I'm happy to go along with non-contradiction as a requirement for understanding. (Without making the assumption that we necessarily can understand the universe in totality.) This is a digression. The issue at had are statements about 'nothing', 'something', 'comes from', 'gives', 'have', and 'causality'. I think if anything is a principle of reasoning, it is that we should minimize our 'first principles' and assumptions and subject them to revision and testing whenever possible.

          • Josh,

            I don't see anything in your reply that *grounds* the normativity of the law of non-contradiction. It appears that you take its normativity on faith, or a blind leap that doesn't involve your intellect understanding the nature of reality as the basis for the normativity of the law of non-contradiction. In that case, your reasoning above (which makes use of the law of non-contradiction) is built on a blind, non-rational leap of faith. And that raises the question whether people who build their systems of thought on blind leaps of faith "are not to be relied upon."

            - Bryan

          • josh

            You are asking me to justify or 'ground' the law of non-contradiction? But that is only required if one assumes the law of non-contradiction. It is circular. The 'normativity' comes from the apparent fact that we don't know any other way to think. There is no leap of faith, it is the starting point. It is non-rational in the sense that it makes no sense to try and rationally justify it. If you can think formally in non-rational ways then obviously I can't compel you to do otherwise with a rational argument. But if we both agree that we will start off aiming at non-contradiction then there is no debate about 'grounding' it. On the other hand, I can think in different ways about statements like 'something from nothing', so it's not normative in any rationally compelling way to me, at least as you have put things so far.

          • Josh,

            "You are asking me to justify or 'ground' the law of non-contradiction?"

            Yes.

            "But that is only required if one assumes the law of non-contradiction."

            No, that conclusion does not follow. One could *know* the law of non-contradiction to be true, and also inquiry concerning what makes it to be true.

            "The 'normativity' comes from the apparent fact that we don't know any other way to think."

            That doesn't make it normative; it only makes it common.

            "There is no leap of faith, it is the starting point."

            If you leap blindly to that starting point, then it is still a blind leap, even if a blind leap is the first move you make.

            "But if we both agree that we will start off aiming at non-contradiction then there is no debate about 'grounding' it."

            Again, that conclusion does not follow, for the reasons I explained just above. There can be debate about grounding it if one person holds it as a blind leap of faith, and the other sees it as grounded in the nature of reality.

            My fundamental point is that you want to dismiss as lacking in credibility persons who perceive first principles grounded in being, but want to treat as credible persons (like yourself) who hold first principles by a blind leap of faith. And that is special pleading. There's no reason to believe that persons of the former sort, as such, are less credible than are persons of the latter sort. Rather, the credibility of persons of either sort must be determined on a case by case basis.

            - Bryan

          • josh

            Bryan, I'm afraid you are very confused. If I don't assume the law of non-contradiction then I don't need to know how it is grounded in order to know how it is grounded. In fact I could 'disprove' the law of non-contradiction and therefore conclude it was true. You really can't escape this, nothing can 'make' the law true because any proof that something would make it true relies circularly on non-contradiction. (Otherwise, that which makes it true would also make it false.) It is part of the definition of true and false.

            It's an 'assumption' we don't have any way to avoid. If you don't want to call this normative, that's your business, but you don't have anything that can then make it normative. Nonetheless, if we agree to use it we can proceed.

            Let's not get too bogged down in metaphorical language, but I am not making any leap, there is nowhere to leap to, there is no move, it is where you and I start. It is a leap to say that it is 'grounded in the nature of reality' which you directly perceive somehow. You can't argue for that position except to repeat yourself so there is no debate to be had.

            You seem to think that I am trying to decide 'credible persons' as though I am to be trusted and you are not. This is not the case. It is about what we do and don't allow as assertions of 'first principles'. It is the assertions that we determine case by case, not persons. If we agree to non-contradiction (and even if we don't, think about it :) ) we can move on, even if we disagree about 'grounding' it.

          • Josh,

            "You seem to think that I am trying to decide 'credible persons' as though I am to be trusted and you are not."

            I don't know whether you are trying to decide it. But you did assert it, at the beginning of the thread, when you wrote, "people who 'perceive by the intellect' absolute statements based on 'the nature of being itself' are not to be relied upon."

            - Bryan

          • josh

            So now that I've clarified things for you, you understand presumably that what I wrote was a way of saying that alleged

            perceptions of the absolute nature of being itself don't have a good track record. I didn't say anything about trusting me over you, I didn't claim to be perceiving 'the nature of being itself'. I'm trying to get you to understand the way I think, and to recognize potential problems in the way you apparently think. Not relying on your intuitions isn't to be read as some sort of personal attack on your 'credibility'.

          • Josh,

            "what I wrote was a way of saying that alleged perceptions of the absolute nature of being itself don't have a good track record"

            Ok, except that's not what you actually wrote. What you actually wrote was that *people* who make claims based on the nature of being are not to be relied upon.

            And if merely "don't have a good track record" is what you meant to say, then I am content to point out that the truth of what I wrote to Trent does not depend on alleged perceptions of the nature of being having a good track record.

            - Bryan

          • josh

            If you want to quibble about what I wrote, please quote me:

            "inductive inference teaches us that people who 'perceive by the intellect' absolute statements based on 'the nature of being itself' are not to be relied upon. " [when making such claims] Is that clearer?

            And based on that, we have no good reason to think that what you wrote is true.

            Have a contented night.

    • Bruno Coutinho

      "n other words, even if we could construct an empty room containing no "elementary physical stuff" at all, and particles then appeared within the room, having no detectable cause, we would *still* know that these particles had a cause, even if we could not detect the cause. " - actually this is wrong, and there is an experiment that proves it called bell inequality.

      "causality is a *first* principle,"- First the scientific definition of causality is not that one that you are using. Second what you called causality is just not true, therefore it is not and cannot be a *first* principle,

      Ps:Your use of the term *first* principle is also wrong but the way, I think you mean axioma. If I'm miss interpreting you, sorry.

  • Trent,

    You wrote, "Even if we suppose that a suitable interpretation of quantum
    mechanics is found that proves there are events which are uncaused,
    would that refute the KCA? I don’t think so because while it’s possible for events
    to not have causes (such as a ball to rolling to the right instead of
    to the left when set on a perfectly sharp cone) it doesn’t seem possible
    for things to not have causes (the ball just appearing for no reason at all)."

    Here I beg to differ. Your claim seems to presuppose that events have no being. If events have being, then (according to what you say) the being they have is uncaused, and comes from nothing. But if being can come from nothing in the case of events, then it would be arbitrary and ad hoc to claim that being cannot come from nothing in the case of "things." On the other hand, if you think events have no being, then this seems to imply that all events are not real, and are thus illusions, or products of the mind. In that case you end up with a Parmenidean-type philosophy, in which change is an illusion.

    The solution is to recognize that events have causes, on the basis of the principle of causality, and that the non-detectability of a cause is not the same as having no cause. In other words, don't concede to scientism that if *we* (by our technology or powers of observation) cannot detect a cause of an event, then that event has no cause.

    - Bryan

  • Bryan Cross already gave a much more eloquent version of my criticism, but mine's more physicsy, and it's already written, so here goes:

    One way to think about quantum mechanics is little things interacting with big things. We can know about big things interacting with big things. That's classical mechanics. We can never really know about little things interacting with little things because we aren't little. We can only tell what happens once little things interact with big things. These sorts of interactions can be described in terms of observables: position, momentum, angular momentum, energy, etc.

    If causality is something quantum mechanics can decide, which of the observables corresponds to causality? To me, it looks like none of them do the job very well.

    The most interesting thing physics says about efficient causality involves what physics says about time. Restricting ourselves to efficient causality: it seems as though either cause and effect happens at the same time, or at least that cause comes a bit before effect. Relativity and quantum statistical mechanics both have things to say about "before" and "after".

    Present understanding is that "before" and "after" are determined by the relative velocity between the observer and the system, and that the direction from before to after may be provided by the direction entropy changes. So if "before" and "after", or "same time" are essential for the cause-effect relationship, then relativity and quantum mechanics both suggest that events can occur uncaused, and even that things can come into existence uncaused.

    The real problem:
    "But ... no common agreement exists among philosophers and physicists about what in the physical description of the world corresponds to our everyday notion of causation ..." ( http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-backwards/ )

    • MattyTheD

      Interesting, Paul. Just to make sure I understand. I'll trust you that "the direction from before to after may be provided by the direction entropy changes." But, even if that's true, are you suggesting that entropy is known to sometimes change from *after* to *before*? Because you seem to have implied that, or just skipped over that as an assumption. Or are you merely suggesting that it's *conceivable* that entropy can change from after to before? Because, to me, it seems that your argument is like this: "a phenomenon that we've never seen happen from material causes -- ie something coming from nothing -- is possible because of another phenomenon that we've never seen happen -- ie the direction of entropy changing from after to before." But I may have misunderstood you.

      • Oh, I'm talking about this sort of idea: we live in slices of a 4-dimensional space. The direction we move through that space would be determined by which direction in this 4-dimensional space entropy increases. It's one of the emergent theories of time, where time isn't a fundamental part of nature, but emerges from space and entropy.

        I hope that helps!

  • We need to keep in mind here that this is a deductive argument. If we can establish one instance in which something begins to exist without a cause, the argument fails and must be rephrased as an inductive argument.

    Mr Horn says "[e]ven if we suppose that a suitable interpretation of quantum
    mechanics is found that proves there are events which are uncaused,
    would that refute the KCA? I don’t think so..." He needs to clarify if he is dropping this as a deductive argument.

    If he is, then we have a problem. Induction requires evidence of past events acting more or less consistently for us to develop an understanding of their probability. We have enormous evidence of efficient causes acting on material to bring new arrangements of matter into "existence" e.g. bringing a person table into existence from a tree. We have no evidence of an efficient cause bringing material into existence materially from his proposed metaphysical "nothing". To the contrary, the only observation we have is things like virtual particles popping into existence from a physical "nothing" with no indication of an efficient cause.

  • David Nickol

    This is all very deep, but it seems to me that "something cannot come from nothing" and "whatever begins to exist has a cause" are not precisely the same assertions. They seem in the OP to be taken to be identical, or at least two sides of the same coin. A virtual particle that pops in an out of existence may not be something coming from nothing, if the quantum vacuum is considered to be something (or not nothing), but that does not mean it has a cause.

    Essential to our notion of causality is time, and it seems to be assumed that if the only thing that existed were the quantum vacuum, time would exist. I am not at all sure that is true. It is not at all clear that time exists at the most fundamentals of reality, and it may be something like an emergent property.

    • If time is essential to causality, then I think the whole enterprise is in serious trouble, because special and general relativity, as commonly interpreted, make issues of simultaneity and relations in time relative to the observer, and for a strong enough gravitational field, it's not certain whether time can even be separated from space. Time might act in that sense exactly like a fourth spatial dimension, and then causality would be impossible.

      • "Essential to our notion of causality is time"

        "If time is essential to causality, then I think the whole enterprise is in serious trouble"

        The problem is that time is not essential to causality. We must distinguish between different sorts of causes. Some are independent of time.

        William Lane Craig handles the relationship between space-time and causality here:

        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/causation-and-spacetime

        • I don't know if time is essential to causality or to the Kalam argument. My attitude toward Kalam is to accept that the argument works, that the universe probably had a cause, and that the cause of the universe is currently unknown.

          It may be that time messes up the first premise of the Kalam argument. But that's for philosophers to argue over. The argument is strong enough to suggest to me that the universe we observe had some sort of cause.

          Maybe the cause is another universe. Maybe it's the universe itself. Maybe it's God. Maybe it's transdimensional aliens. Or maybe some sort of Platonic Law of Universe-Starting. Who knows? Whatever it is, I hope we can find good scientific evidence for it, and start to explore what, if anything, caused the causer.

          • "The argument is strong enough to suggest to me that the universe we observe had some sort of cause."

            Interesting. Do you accept the logical deductions we can make about what this cause must be like, then? For example, the cause must be timeless and changeless (since it caused time), immaterial (since it caused all matter), supremely powerful (since it caused the entire cosmos to come into being), and personal (since only personal, free agency can account for the origin of a first temporal effect from a changeless cause).

            What do you think?

          • I don't accept that those are logical deductions from the Kalam argument. I don't see how they could be concluded from the Kalam argument by itself.

            After all, using the Kalam argument, I can take the argument this way, by introducing two more premises (2 and 4):

            1. Everything that begins has a cause.
            2. Everything that's caused either caused itself or was caused by something else.
            3. The universe began.
            4. Nothing's external to the universe.
            5. The universe has a cause (1, 3)
            6. The cause of the universe cannot have been external (4)
            7. So the universe must have been self-caused. (2,6)

            That's totally consistent with Kalam.

            My point with this exercise is that Kalam is not enough to get personal, external, immaterial, etc. You need more premises to get there. So what are they?

          • "After all, using the Kalam argument, I can take the argument this way, by introducing two more premises (2 and 4)"

            The problem is that *both* premises are flawed, and thus your conclusion fails.

            Regarding P2, it's not possible for something to cause its own existence. To cause something requires the causer to already have existence. If the cause does not already exist, it cannot act. Therefore the only possible causers are those which already exist.

            The universe cannot have caused its own existence, because that would mean it existed *before* it caused its own existence--it's a self-contradiction.

            I would also disagree with P4. If by "nothing" you mean "no material things" then I would of course agree. But you seem to mean that no transcendent realities exist outside of the universe, a claim I'd disagree with and challenge you to back up with good reasons or evidence.

            Finally, you seem to disagree with the logical deductions I made above regarding the attributes of the First Cause, yet you give no reason why. Can you please show where the deductions err?

          • robtish

            But you just sent us to a page by William Lane Craig to read that a cause does not have to precede the effect.

          • "But you just sent us to a page by William Lane Craig to read that a cause does not have to precede the effect."

            That is true. And your point?

          • robtish

            My point is that sometimes you seem to be answering objections by pointing to an article saying that cause does not have to precede effect, and yet here you are arguing that cause must precede effect. In other words, you're trying to have it both ways.

          • "My point is that sometimes you seem to be answering objections by pointing to an article saying that cause does not have to precede effect, and yet here you are arguing that cause must precede effect. In other words, you're trying to have it both ways."

            robtish, please don't represent my views. Never have I claimed "cause must precede effect." Instead of caricaturing my comments I suggest quoting them verbatim, as I have done for you.

            Your comment makes it clear you didn't read the article I shared (yet still felt compelled to critique it). In the article, Craig outlines the important distinction between "temporally prior" and "causally prior".

            Causes are *always* causally prior to their effects, but they need not be temporally prior--causes can be simultaneous with their effect.

          • robtish

            "Your comment makes it clear you didn't read the article I shared (yet still felt compelled to critique it)."

            That is snarky ad hominem. And false.

            You wrote: "The universe cannot have caused its own existence because that would mean it existed *before* it caused its own existence--it's a self-contradiction."

            It's pretty clear you're saying that a cause must be temporally prior to its effect: otherwise you would have no reason to write, "because that would mean it existed *before* it caused its own existence."

          • robtish

            "the cause must be timeless and changeless (since it caused time)"

            Could it not begin to exist in time and to change when it created time?
            Alternatively, could it be the the timeless cause transformed itself in to the time-based universe, and so ceased to exist in its prior form?

            "immaterial (since it caused all matter)"
            I'll grant you that one.

            "supremely powerful (since it caused the entire cosmos to come into being)"
            What if there were another, competing supernatural being? Could there be another even more powerful beings out there?
            Alternatively, doesn't your reasoning assume the creation cannot surpass the creator in power? Certainly we do see that assumption contradicted by the world around us. Do you have support for this assumption

            "and personal (since only personal, free agency can account for the origin of a first temporal effect from a changeless cause)"

            I don't understand what you're saying. I'd LOVE to see a full column on that.

          • robtish, thanks for the reply. I don't have time to answer each of your questions in depth right now, but regarding the last one I'd recommend this article by William Lane Craig: Must the Universe Have a Personal Cause?

          • bbrown

            You said....."Alternatively, doesn't your reasoning assume the creation cannot surpass
            the creator in power? Certainly we do see that assumption contradicted
            by the world around us"

            Where do you see this?

          • robtish

            A child can grow up to be more powerful than the parent.

          • bbrown

            The parent is not the creator of the child.

          • robtish

            "The parent is not the creator of the child." I need you to clarify/expand on that comment before I'll be able to respond.

            Another example: The Shakespearean canon can be considered more powerful today than the man Shakespeare ever was when he was alive.

          • bbrown

            Rob,

            Whilst the parents do their part, I think we can all agree that the parents in no way create their child. It seems pretty obvious that the act of creation is something else entirely.

            The second example is a bit unclear. I suppose in certain ways or in a certain sense Shakespeare's plays and Sonnets are greater than the man (ie: more people know of them now than in his day, etc.), but this seems rather far afield and not relevant to this discussion.
            It required a creator to come with these works, and therefore, in my mind, Shakespeare himself had to be greater in the most pertinent sense (to what we are discussing).

            This might be getting fairly tangential to the topic of physics and the KC Argument (maybe not), but is certainly an interesting topic.

          • robtish

            Take that up with Brandon, then. :) He's the one who moved from the Kalam topic to the topic of God's attributes.

            I agree it's fascinating. I'd love to see a series of articles on reasoning behind the characteristics of the Christian God (as opposed to, say, Spinoza's God or simple deism).

          • robtish

            "I think we can all agree that the parents in no way create their child."

            We cannot all agree on that. I doubt even most people would agree to that.

          • josh

            An engine is more powerful than a human.

          • robtish

            I'm rethinking this one: ""immaterial (since it caused all matter)"

            Here are two objections:
            1. How do we know the "uncaused cause" caused all matter? Could it not simply be that one property of the uncaused cause is uncaused materiality?
            2. How is your reasoning different from saying the uncaused cause is "unintelligent (since it caused all intelligence)"? That's not a rhetorical question, btw. I'm interested in your response.

          • "Here are two objections:

            1. How do we know the "uncaused cause" caused all matter? Could it not simply be that one property of the uncaused cause is uncaused materiality?

            2. How is your reasoning different from saying the uncaused cause is "unintelligent (since it caused all intelligence)"? That's not a rhetorical question, btw. I'm interested in your response."

            robtish, thanks for your excellent questions! Answering each in turn:

            1. We know that the cause of the universe must be immaterial because the universe, by definition, contains all matter, energy, space, and time. If we suppose matter exists outside the universe, that only means our definition of "universe" is too narrow--it needs to be expanded.

            2. I've never considered this question, so I'll have to think it over. My first inclination is to respond that I never claimed God caused all intelligence. I don't think intelligence is a "thing" like matter or energy or space. It's an abstract ability.

            Also, I think intelligence is a fundamental attribute of God. Just as God didn't *create* goodness but *is* Goodness, the same holds for intelligence.

          • robtish

            Brandon, your response #1 seems to be an attempt to define a way out of a problem and still leaves open the question: "Could it not simply be that one property of the uncaused cause is uncaused materiality?"

          • The point isn't whether these are good premises or not (although I see no reason to think they're not so bad). The point is that they're consistent with Kalam.

            You seem to disagree with the logical deductions I made above regarding the attributes of the First Cause, yet you give no reason why. Can you please show where the deductions err?

            They're not deductions, yet. Not until you show me the formal proof. Right now, I have no objections because you haven't presented me with an argument about which to object.

            Prove that the cause must be immaterial, personal, etc., and then I can either accept the argument or reject it and tell you why.

          • Paul, I did give you arguments based on deduction, they just weren't presented in a formal way. If it helps you understand them better I'd be happy to formally compose them. Here's one:

            P1. If the kalam argument is valid, and the premises true, then the universe has a cause outside of itself.

            P2. The universe contains all matter, space, time, and energy.

            C. Therefore, the cause of the universe cannot contain matter, space, time, or energy.

            Something that does not contain matter is, by definition, immaterial.

            Something that does not contain space is, by definition, spaceless.

            Something existing outside of time is, by definition, timeless and changeless.

            Something existing outside the universe is, by definition, transcendent.

            Therefore through logical deduction, and basic definitions, we arrive at an immaterial, spaceless, timeless, changeless, transcendent cause of the universe.

            Would you agree?

          • I think that's a valid argument, although I haven't done the formalism. I'd simplify P1 to something like "The cause of things must be external to the thing being caused." or "Things cannot cause themselves." I don't think P1 needs to be contingent on the Kalam argument, and can be argued for in its own rights.

            I disagree with your Premise 1. I don't see why timeless things cannot cause themselves.

            I think your Premise 2 is reasonable given the available evidence, however I'm not aware of any good evidence yet to think there's anything (matter or otherwise) outside the universe.

          • "I disagree with your Premise 1."

            Premise one is essentially the kalam argument, which you previously seemed to accept: 'The argument is strong enough to suggest to me that the universe we observe had some sort of cause.' Are you backtracking on that?

            "I don't see why timeless things cannot cause themselves."

            Nothing can cause itself if by "cause itself" you mean bring itself into existence. As I explained above, to cause something requires the causer to already have existence. If the cause does not already exist, it cannot act. Therefore the only possible causers are those which already exist.

            The universe cannot have caused its own existence because that would mean it existed *before* it caused its own existence--it's a self-contradiction.

            "I think your Premise 2 is reasonable given the available evidence, however I'm not aware of any good evidence yet to think there's anything (matter or otherwise) outside the universe."

            Premise 2 is not a scientific hypothesis that can be strengthened or weakened, proven or disproven, it's a definition. The *definition* of the universe is that which contains all matter, space, energy, and time. It's the same definition used by scientists and throughout the kalam argument.

            By definition, there cannot be any matter outside the universe.

          • Premise one is essentially the kalam argument, which you previously seemed to accept: 'The argument is strong enough to suggest to me that the universe we observe had some sort of cause.' Are you backtracking on that?

            No. I'm objecting to your assertion (not found in the Kalam argument presented above) that something can't be the efficient cause of itself. I don't see why not. I've so far answered the reasons you've given. I don't buy them.

            Nothing can cause itself if by "cause itself" you mean bring itself into existence. As I explained above, to cause something requires the causer to already have existence.

            Which it would, if there was no time. It would cause itself to come into existence and be in existence both, because there would be no time for it to not be in existence, and then be in existence. It would always be in existence, because it would be timeless, and it could be its own cause (A is connected to B which is connected back to A).

            I even think this is possible in time, if things can move back in time. For example, maybe particle A goes and generates a particle B that moves back in time to before particle A began, and then started particle A. I find no convincing objections to this kind of closed system.

            The *definition* of the universe is that which contains all matter, space, energy, and time.

            I'd prefer a different term, then, like cosmos or multiverse (even if it is a multiverse of one). That wasn't the understanding of "universe" I was bringing to the table when I said I agreed with the Kalam argument. In any case, by that definition, I'm not as convinced about premise 2 of the cosmological argument. I think it is possible that it's universes all the way down.

            I still favor a self-caused single universe comprising the entire cosmos (all that is, was, and will be, at least physically speaking).

          • bbrown

            "I'm not aware of any good evidence yet to think there's anything (matter or otherwise) outside the universe."

            I find this assertion astounding in light of the volumes of evidence that has been described.

          • For fun, I'll also respond to your objections to my premises, because this is an idea I've been playing with, and I wonder if it will work.

            Regarding P2, it's not possible for something to cause its own existence. To cause something requires the causer to already have existence.

            If there's no time, or if something's moving backwards in time, the way I see it is: A causes B. B causes C and D, C moves backwards in time and causes A. D goes on and causes a bunch of other stuff. Why can't this work?

            The universe cannot have caused its own existence, because that would mean it existed *before* it caused its own existence--it's a self-contradiction.

            Not if there's no time, since then there would be no before.

            I can back P4 up by saying that it's a provisional premise, accepted until such time as there's good evidence for something outside the universe.

          • bbrown

            "Why can't this work?"

            Because things cannot move backward in time.

          • How do you know that things cannot move backwards in time?

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Paul Rimmer,

            On the Contrary: For, as Aquinas says, "There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. " ST QQ2 A3

            I answer that: The Kalam argument is not meant to prove, nor is indeed sufficient to give those conclusions. However, it does successfully demonstrate that there is a cause to the universe that is external to the universe. Craig, from this conclusion deduces what sort of thing the cause must be. Indeed, the cause must be a thing or being of some sort because non-being is simply no more than a different way to say nothing and from nothing, nothing comes. The arguments provided by Thomas Aquinas for the existence of God in a work like Summa Theologiae or Summa Contra Gentiles provide stronger arguments with much wider explanatory scope. From Thomas' five, you can deduce easily that God is eternal, morally perfect, all powerful, all knowing and the like. This is well demonstrated in the whole of the two works of Thomas cited above but you may want to save yourself some time. With this in mind, I recommend the book "The Last Superstition" by Edward Fesser or his book "Aquinas:A Beginner's Guide" for an excellent treatment of these Ideas.

            Reply to premise 2: As is said, in order to be an efficient cause for one's own existence, one would have to exist prior to oneself and this is absurd.

            Reply to premise 4: This is an example of circular reasoning as the conclusion is stated by the premise and is therefor faulty reasoning.

            Reply to premise 6: If the cause of the universe cannot be external to the universe then it must be internal to it. If it is internal then it must be either a part of the universe or the whole of the universe itself. If it is the former, this is a violation of sufficient reason as the less cannot produce the greater. If it is the latter then it violates the principle of causality because, as was shown, nothing can be the cause of itself.

          • Great comment, Thomas--I mean Jonathan. It's nice to see a revival of the disputatio. Don't call it a comeback!

          • I disagree with Aquinas (probably most of all with his view of time). But I don't know how much detail you'd like to go into this here. My e-mail is attached to my webpage, which you can get to from my Disqus profile. It might be better to discus this at a high level of detail there. But we can do as you like.

            As for a response to your specific points, I'll reply again.

          • Fun reply!

            Question about Obj. 2: What do you mean by "prior"?

            Rep. Obj. 4: The conclusion of the argument is not that the universe is all there is, but that the universe is the cause of itself, therefore the premise is not contained in the conclusion (P4 doesn't have the word "cause" even).

            Rep. Obj. 6: 6 is not a premise. It follows logically from 4 and non-contradiction.

            The Kalam argument is not meant to prove, nor is indeed sufficient to give those conclusions. However, it does successfully demonstrate that
            there is a cause to the universe that is external to the universe.

            I disagree. I think it successfully demonstrates that there's a cause to the universe. Maybe the universe is self-caused.

          • "Maybe the universe is self-caused."

            Paul, again, *nothing* can cause itself to exist. This is simply a metaphysical impossibility. Jonathan and I have each carefully explained why this is true. Where have we veered?

          • I don't think our metaphysics coincides. I think that it's possible that some things would move backwards in time and even be the cause of themselves. In other words, I think it is possible for an effect to be temporally prior to itself, and so the cause of itself.

          • bbrown

            Paul, you continually use this phrase "I think". I have not seen much logic to these statements, but rather a desire to create your own reality. This may be a classic postmodern way of thinking, but it is sloppy, and lacks intellectual vigour.

          • I can only speculate about topics like the very beginning of the universe, and whether backwards causality works, or what efficient causality means when there's no time. So what I'm offering is pure speculation. I think that what Brandon, Trent, etc. offer is equally pure speculation. There's no way I know of to show who is right, me or Brandon or Trent, or you, etc. All this discussion is about what is possibly the case, and not what is actually the case.

            If you wanted to talk about what is actually the case before the big bang, then all I can say is "I don't know". I would have nothing positive to contribute to a discussion about what is actually before the big bang.

            At that point, you could say the same, "I don't know", or you can present your ideas about how things work, and we can discuss the evidence for your ideas, and how likely they are to be the case.

          • "So what I'm offering is pure speculation. I think that what Brandon, Trent, etc. offer is equally pure speculation. There's no way I know of to show who is right, me or Brandon or Trent, or you, etc. All this discussion is about what is possibly the case, and not what is actually the case."

            I disagree. I think we've successfully proved our case, in light of no substantial refutations. But even supposing there's no way to prove our case right, I've succesfully showed how your case is wrong. It's a logical, philosophical, and scientific impossibility for something to cause its own exsitence. You've offered no good reasons to think otherwise other than baseless speculation (i.e., "I think").

          • So we disagree. You have failed to convince me, and I have failed to convince you.

            I find that an acceptable conclusion to the discussion. I wouldn't know how to break the degeneracy anyway. There's no observational evidence of any entity outside the universe (yet?), and there's no observational evidence of backwards causality or Hawking-Turok instantons (yet?).
            I think I've actually offered better reasons and evidence for my position than you have for yours. But of course this is the case, since otherwise you would think as I do.

            If we want to go further in the discussion, assertions of "you've offered no good reasons" or "successfully proved our case" will not help much. We'd need to establish a common basis for determining who is right and wrong, and go from there. Until then, it's just you saying "my reasons are best" and me saying "mine are". We can let the other readers decide what they think.

          • It's not scientifically impossible for something to cause its own existence. General relativity can allow for cause to come after effect, so it's not going to make self-causing things impossible.

            And it's not logically impossible either, unless you can show how self-causality is self-contradictory.

          • "I think that it's possible that some things would move backwards in time and even be the cause of themselves."

            Besides the fact that, to my knowledge, we have *no* evidence of anything travelling backward in time, to be *able* to move backward in time, something would already have to exist. It therefore cold not travel back into time and then bring itself into existence.

            You remain locked in circular logic, and I'm genuinely baffled by it.

            "I think it is possible for an effect to be temporally prior to itself, and so be the cause of itself."

            What reasons do you have for this belief, which seems logically impossible. Do you have any evidence to support it?

          • Something would already have to exist. It therefore cold not travel back into time and then bring itself into existence.

            Sure it could. It would exist before it started to exist because it would have travelled back in time in order to do so.

            we have *no* evidence of anything travelling backward in time

            We have no evidence for what started the Big Bang. We just know something started it. Something outside the universe has just as much evidence going for it as the universe having caused itself. Namely, none that I know of.

            Do you have any evidence to support it?

            The same amount of evidence that you have for your first cause. We both argue from pure speculation, as far as I can tell.

            I don't think it seems logically impossible at all. If it is logically impossible, where is the logical contradiction?

          • "It would exist before it started to exist because it would have travelled back in time in order to do so."

            This violates one of the most basic principles of logic, the law of non-contradiction. I'm still baffled that you're defending this.

            If what you say is true, then it would be just as reasonable to posit that God simultaneously *doesn't* exist, and that he *does* exist. Therefore an atheist would have no good reason to disbelieve in God *and* believe in him.

            Also, I'm glad we agree that you have absolutely no evidence to support your claim. It's pure speculation--and illogical at that.

            "Something outside the universe has just as much evidence going for it as the universe having caused itself. Namely, none that I know of."

            This is not true, and I've shown why muliple times in this thread alone. The universe cannot cause itslef because *nothing* can bring about its own existence. To do so it must first exist. Therefore if we agree 1) the universe exists and 2) it did not cause itself, then 3) the universe must have a cause beyond itself. This is strong, airtight, philosophical evidence.

            "We both argue from pure speculation, as far as I can tell."

            You are wrong. See above.

            "I don't think it seems logically impossible at all. If it is logically impossible, where is the logical contradiction?"

            See above. What you're proposing violates the law of non-contradiction. Something that already exists cannot cause itself to exist.

            Paul, if I may be frank, you're fighting a losing a battle here. Your arguments is based on pure, unevidenced speculation and self-contradictory claims about causation. It seems clear, at least to me, that you want to avoid the natural conclusions of Trent's argument at all costs and so you're holding on to these positions, even when showed to be completely illogical.

          • This violates one of the most basic principles of logic, the law of non-contradiction. I'm still baffled that you're defending this.

            No, it doesn't simultaneously exist and not exist. Let's look at the particle A and B example.

            Particle A causes particle B. Particle B is moving backwards in time to when it's before Particle A, and then starts particle A.

            Or, with the Time Traveller. Time Traveller goes back in time and builds himself, and lives on. He's in two places at the same time (maybe some saints have accomplished this trick as well?). But there's no time where he both exists and doesn't.

            So far you have failed to show that self-causality involves self-contradiction.

            Also, I'm glad we agree that you have absolutely no evidence to support your claim. It's pure speculation...

            As I believe your hypothetical being outside the universe to be. Pure speculation.

          • MattyTheD

            Brandon, I'm intrigued, but confused, by that last point: that the the cause of the universe must be, "personal (since only personal, free agency can account for the origin of a first temporal effect from a changeless cause)." Can you elaborate, or point me to some link with an elaboration?

          • Matty, sure! Thanks for asking. I'd recommend this article by William Lane Craig: Must the Universe Have a Personal Cause?

  • One of Fr. Stanley Jaki’s greatest teachings was the application of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem as a “cudgel against those scientists who try to shore up their materialism with their ‘final’ cosmologies.” (Science and Religion: A Primer, p. 12) Such theories cannot have their proof of consistency within themselves since they cannot go outside the cosmos to show they are by necessity true.

    The significance of this is that it is impossible for any quantum theory or any other physical theory to disprove the cosmological argument. Physics must be about physical objects, and therefore can only comment on quantities and measurements of material objects. A first cause of creation cannot be measured or quantified.

    Or as I would say it, It is akin to a child trying to prove a final theory of how his house works when he is incapable of toddling outside its doors.

    These discussions are the result of scientists grafting their non-scientific philosophies onto science. I think it's enough just to say you can't do that.

    • The most honest answer, in such moments, is to say "I don't know." I think that Hartle and Hawking's cosmology may not require God as an efficient cause, but their cosmology does not disprove God. Hawking's always very careful to point that out. His ideas cannot disprove the cosmological argument. They just show that God is not directly necessary as an efficient cause of the observable universe.

      • Hawking surrendered to Gödel’s theorem. My point is that we do know -- no physical theory can ever prove or disprove the cosmological argument. It's outside the realm of physics.

        • I think it would depend on the cosmological argument.

        • But Goedel's theorem also equally applies also to any statement in mathematics and philosophy doesn't it? Isn't that why it defeated Russell and math itself, in a manner of speaking?

          • There are complete logical systems, where the system can be spanned by a finite number of axioms.

            Mathematics cannot be spanned by a finite number of axioms. If mathematics is complete, then it is also inconsistent.

            Is there a similar proof for cosmology?

          • No, it doesn't apply to philosophy unless you are a materialist. The question at hand is whether quantum physics refutes the cosmological argument. My point is that it can't ever. Physics is limited to quantities and objects.

          • But apologists are constantly referring to physics to establish P2. Is P2 not subject to Goedel? To me all we are left with is someone saying that p1 is intuitive, since we can have no inductive evidence of things beginning to exist in the sense used by Kalamazoo (funny autocomplete, forgive me).

          • Brian, theologians should never prop up their subject matter with science. Science is limited to objects and quantities, it does not have the power to prove or disprove the supernatural.

            God can be known through reason, just as a child in his home can reason that something caused it to be there in the first place. Some people reject that reasoning, but for anyone to accept any proof, the mind has to yield to an urging to explain things. Infinite doubt will certainly protect the mind from having to do that, but it will also lead nowhere.

          • Brian, theologians should never prop up their subject matter with science. Science is limited to objects and quantities, it does not have the power to prove or disprove the supernatural.

            If I were more charismatic, I'd be dancing around singing "Amen, amen!"

          • Virtual happy dance is noted. :-)

          • David Nickol

            Brian, theologians should never prop up their subject matter with science. Science is limited to objects and quantities, it does not have the power to prove or disprove the supernatural.

            Isn't it a scientific conclusion that the universe "began to exist"? If I remember correctly, Jimmy Akin had a post cautioning theists to be careful about using the big bang theory to "prove" God's existence, since we have no reason to believe that the big bang theory (at least in it's current form) will be the reigning theory five or ten years from now.

            The fact of the matter is that according to current scientific theories, it looks very much like our universe (the local universe) began about 14.8 billion years ago, but our universe is not the same thing as what we used to think of as the universe (everything there is).

            It seems to me that the Kalam argument has a shot at being conclusive only if our universe is really the universe (everything that exists), and that the universe had a true beginning.

            I remember many years ago Isaac Asimov wrote a piece about religious people claiming that the big bang theory confirmed the creation account in Genesis. He made the point that there were only two possibilities—either the universe had a beginning, or it didn't, and so creation accounts had a 50-50 chance of getting it right. If you read Genesis carefully, however, it does not say the universe had a beginning or was created from nothing. It is at best ambiguous, leaving itself to interpretation as being amazingly scientifically correct if it turns out that the universe sprang from the quantum vacuum—a "formless void." Genesis can no doubt be interpreted to be in accord with any scientific theory of the beginning of our universe.

          • First question -- no. Science doesn't define being, it studies what already exists.

            I agree with Akin. The BB doesn't prove God's existence. Physics cannot prove the supernatural, immaterial, or metaphysical.

            Genesis is about the Creator creating everything. It's not a science text about how exactly that was done.

          • bbrown

            For good reason Aquinas said that 'Theology is the queen of the sciences'. Science can know only a very small subset of all reality. It's methods are limited to a narrow and highly particular part of the whole of reality.

          • Atheism can also be known through reason.

          • You don't believe there's a Godel's incompleteness theorem for philosophy? So you think mathematics is more extensive than philosophy?

          • Philosophy and theology are reasoned discourse (I'm following Jaki's thought here, FYI) and they involve non-numerical words. Since mathematics does not measure, it is a form of logic. Physics and astronomy are the most exact sciences since they are the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of things in motion. Measurements and quantities (the stuff of physics) cannot be applied outside physics. Reasoned discourse can ask questions and search for answers beyond the physical.

          • The way I've taken the implications for Godel's proof is not that math is limited, but that our brains are too limited for math. Math is too big for us.

            Fr. Jaki would, I imagine, be saying that there's a Godel's theorem for cosmology because cosmology is too big for us (esp. the supernatural parts, if there are any supernatural parts). By the way, did he ever formalize this Godel's argument?

            If there's not an equivalent Godel's theorem for philosophy and theology, in my mind that would mean that we are capable of plumbing the depths of philosophy and theology, and understanding everything about these disciplines. I'm missing something (either about Godel, about Jaki's argument, or both).

          • It's the difference in quantities and qualities. Quantities are exact, physics is limited to quantification and measurement, Godel's theorem applies to math and physics. Jaki did formalize it. What Jaki said was that the contingency of the universe cannot rely on physics, only philosophy or theology can provide those proofs and they are not mathematical. He did formalize it in a book God and Cosmologists in 1987, and in several essays afterwards. My favorites are "Godel's Incompleteness" in The Drama of Quantities, Science and Relgion: A Primer (20046), and A Late Awakening the first chapter (2006). He died in 2009.

          • I'd be very interested in looking over the formalism. It is hard to find these books in the UK, sadly. Thanks for the references. Fr. Jaki was a very interesting guy.

          • josh

            Stacy, physics is the study of reality. It uses measurements to judge if our picture of reality (math, logic, non-numerical words) is a viable description of reality. There is a sense in which it overlaps with philosophy broadly defined, but philosophy doesn't somehow trump math and physics. Cosmological arguments remain bad arguments and the attempt to cordon them off from criticism that derives from real science is a sign of their weakness.

          • Physics is the quantitative study of the quantitative aspects of things in motion. The overwhelming majority of propositions the human mind must address to understand reality have nothing to do with numbers.

          • josh

            Physics uses quantitative study to describe reality. So far it's been a massively successful program, but if some other mode were found to be useful we would use that too. In fact, we implicitly make a connection when we map our qualitative experience onto our quantitative formalism. But the formalism itself is of course only apparent to us through qualitative experience. Numbers are a particular type of formalism. We use the formalism in order to decide in a consistent fashion if we are right or wrong.

            I'm open to considering the notion that humans will never fully understand our world. It's already a given in practical terms. But you can't then turn around and say that you have a proof of some ultimate reality. That's a fantastic failure of logic, formal or informal.

          • Physics is the study of reality, if that's the words you want, and it uses quantitative measurement of physical objects in motion. But what you can never ever do is use physics to prove or disprove the supernatural. Can it contribute to a proof? Yes. Can it provide the proof? No. Reasoned discourse is required for that. Physics does not have that power. If you reject the reasoned discourse that is philosophy or theology, then you have to provide the reasoned discourse in refutation, not physics.

          • josh

            Physics doesn't have reasoned discourse? You are arguing yourself into nonsense statements now.

          • Green_Sapphire

            "then you have to provide the reasoned discourse in refutation, not physics."

            Science has refuted the Plato's two-sphere geocentric model, Aristotle's theory of motion (and thus Aquinas' First Mover), the ether, alchemy, astrology, psychic 'powers', the four humors, vitalism, the four classical elements and phlogiston, the impossibility of human flight, the insurvivability of high speeds, 'sin' as the cause of disease and misfortune, the homunculus theory of reproduction, the inhumanity of people of color, the intellectual inferiority of women, and spontaneous generation, inter multos alios. No reasoned discourse required.

            The domain of the supernatural, if it exists, is continually less busy in the universe of matter and fields than we used to think. The universe is much, much larger -- on the micro scale and the macro scale -- than we previously were able to reason. And a deity is much, much less necessary for many purposes.

            Further, if said deity 'sticks its hand into the material world, it will be drawn back covered in physics.' That is, its supernatural nature may not be detectable -- and a deity that does nothing here is indistinguishable from one that doesn't exist, as far as we are concerned. But if a deity has effects here, they can be measured here.

            If you want to posit a deity with reasoned discourse, defined in a way so as to be unfalsifiable, and want to believe in its existence due to scripture, tradition, ongoing revelation, reason and related emotional/psychological/neurological effects (the latter of which are becoming increasingly understood -- by science), then you are free to do so.

            But just as physics may not be able (yet) to disprove all claims regarding said deity (although many have been refuted), you can't use reasoned discourse to wish it into existence by way of seriously-flawed syllogistic premises.

            "[Physics] uses quantitative measurement of physical objects in motion"

            That's a pretty archaic definition, going back about 2500 years. A better one is "the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves." Your definition is also woefully incomplete. The study of physical objects and their motion is such a small part of the field, seventeenth century physics, covered as part of Physics 1a.

            However, putting physics aside for the moment, if you'd prefer a philosophical refutation of the KCA, try this: "A Critique of the Kalam Cosmological Argument by Wes Morriston". I can provide many others, if you are interested in more "reasoned discourse in refutation."

          • bbrown

            "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
            Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
            - Hamlet

      • Ernesto Inoa

        Paul, according to Jack Wong from University of Victoria:
        "...the problem with Hartle and Hawking's theory is that it predicted the universe is closed... the concept of a closed universe implies that the universe will one day stop expanding, and collapse under the force of its own gravity. Observations suggest that there is insufficient matter in the universe to create enough gravity to recollapse it. In fact, there is evidence predicting the universe to be expanding at a faster rate than the inflationary theory predicts. Thus, observations favor the idea of an open universe, a universe that will continue to expand."

        http://web.uvic.ca/~jtwong/Hartle-Hawking.htm

        Hence, if we leave HH cosmology out, I think that there is not theoretical basis for your hypothetical idea that something can cause itself.

        • Ernesto! It's great to see you here.

          That's a great website that you link. If you click forward two links, though, you'll find the answer to your concern about Hartle-Hawking requiring a closed universe. Hartle-Hawking does not require a closed universe, so long as you account for inflation. Hawking and Turok's instanton (one way of translating the initial Euclidean space-time to the Lorentzian space-time) predicts an open infinite universe. Or, as Hawking and Turok have it in their abstract ( http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/9802030.pdf ):

          We show that within the framework of a definite proposal for the initial conditions for the universe, the Hartle-Hawking ‘no boundary’ proposal, open inflation is generic and does not require any special properties of the inflaton potential. In the simplest inflationary models, the semiclassical approximation to the Euclidean path integral and a minimal anthropic condition lead to Ω0 ≈ 0.01. This number may be increased in models with more fields or extra dimensions.

          This model has to be very finely tuned to get anything like our universe, and it has a couple serious problems (a singularity pasted to one side of the Euclidean solution), but I think there's good reason to suspect that the initial conditions of our universe are something like this, because in many ways their solution works surprisingly well.

          • Ernesto Inoa

            But Paul, if an instanton is used in the model we get back to square one since now we have to wonder about the cause of the instanton. As Turok himself said:

            "To have our instanton, you have to have gravity, matter, space and time. Take any one ingredient away, and our instanton doesn't exist."

            I find your idea intriguing, but, wouldn't your self-caused universe violate the cosmological principle? That is, why don't we see any other self-caused entities around? It is interesting to me that Lawrence Krauss, who would definitely love this idea, prefers to champion a sort of infinitely bouncing universe. Have you pitch this idea of yours to some cosmologists?

          • Except that I don't think any of those things need an efficient cause. The instanton has no direction at all and acts exactly like the three spatial dimensions, there's no first moment in the instanton. Talking about when these all started is like talking about where the edge of the earth is. There is no preferred edge. Instead, we can say that gravity existed for all time. If gravity had an efficient cause, it may be possible that the universe, when it started itself, started gravity too.

            But we could imagine that the start of the universe has time. I wouldn't see any logical problem with the universe starting, sending a particle, along with its properties (gravity, matter, space and time) back in time, and that particle starts off the universe. I think that happily accounts for the efficient cause and satisfies the Kalam argument.

            For self-caused entities to happen, (a) cause would have to come after effect, or (b) time would have to be directionless.

            Case (a) may in fact happen all the time. Positrons, for example, may be electrons moving backwards in time, and photons may move both ways. Feynman wrote up an interpretation of electrodynamics where there is only a single electron in the universe, moving forwards and backwards in time and interacting with itself. This would be impossible to test, as far as I can tell, but it is possibly true.

            Case (b) could only happen near the actual big bang. It would be very difficult to test this experimentally. Case (b), by the way, is Hawking's idea. He does say that the universe may have caused itself to come into existence, both in popular literature (Grand Design) and, effectively, in his papers with Neil Turok and James Hartle.

            The ideas that I'm presenting aren't unknown to Krauss. These are some of the exact ideas Krauss himself presents. Not so much case (a), although Feynman was fond of it, but more case (b). It's the emergent-time universe that he talks about in his book, and that Sean Carroll summarizes nicely here: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2012/04/28/a-universe-from-nothing/

    • josh

      If it is 'first', you are quantifying it in some way. The cosmological argument isn't proven or disproven, it is unsound. These discussions seem to be the product of non-scientists trying to graft their philosophies onto reality.

      • My point is that physics can never -- ever -- refute the cosmological argument. Physics deals with the physical. The cosmological argument is about the supernatural.

        • I agree. The only qualification I'd add is that while physics alone cannot affirm or refute the *conclusion* of any cosmological argument, it can play a role in affirming or refuting its premises.

          For example, science can certainly say something about P2 of the kalam argument.

          Most cosmological arguments use physical observations (science), to make philosophical deductions (philosophy), which have theological significance (theology).

        • josh

          Nope. Physics decides what is physical. There is no necessary premise of doing physics that we make a natural/unnatural distinction. You are attempting to deduce the supernatural from the natural. But this is a dodge anyhow, whether you call the refutations physical or philosophical, it is still a bad argument.

          • "It is a bad argument" doesn't count as a refutation.

          • josh

            No, did I say it was? It's a description of the fact that it has been refuted or can be refuted. You didn't even make the argument in your original comment, it is hardly my job to point out its flaws again in every comment I make.

      • "The cosmological argument isn't proven or disproven, it is unsound."

        As far as I have seen, you have failed to defend this claim. Asserting it does not make it so.

        • josh

          I've gone over the details several times in comments, don't tell me I haven't defended it.

          • I didn't say you hadn't defended it, just that your defense failed.

          • josh

            In the sense of not having persuaded you? Neither you nor anyone else here has offered a serious rebuttal to my points. I have my suspicions as to why you keep repeating this tired argument but it isn't because you have a compelling case.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    FYI, the New Apologetics Catholic website has announced that it will soon refute the Kalam argument.

    http://newapologetics.com/

    I highly recommend the OPs they have already posted, especially "A Line in the Sand."

    • I look forward to that! There's no reason Catholics or anyone else should stick with this argument. Even if people do stick with this argument, they hopefully will avoid invoking Borde, Guth and Vilenkin or any other science in propping up Premise 2. It's a series of unfortunate errors (including, as @StacyTrasancos:disqus points out, a terrible category error).

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Catholics are not "married" to any particular argument, only to the dogma that the existence of God can be known through reason.

        • josh

          A nice summary of the irrationality of Catholicism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Once again you violate the norms of respectful dialogue, this time by Catholicism irrational.

          • Agreed. Josh, there's simply no need for those sorts of pot shots. You're better than that.

        • I'd recommend one modification to your response. Catholics should not be married to any particular argument. That would indeed be a good thing.

          Sadly, some seem to be married to the Kalam argument.

  • Fr.Sean

    Very insightful article Trent! I think the other aspect to the vacuum example is that virtual particles always react the same way. they have never created a hydrogen atom or anything of substantial. in other words, if the vacuum argument was legit it should be able to create something that could become something physical, otherwise the argument has nothing stable to stand on? Unless virtual particles can be shown to become something physical than the argument does nothing to disprove the cosmological argument.

    • Green_Sapphire

      [I]f the vacuum argument was legit it should be able to create something
      that could become something physical, otherwise the argument has nothing stable to stand on.

      The predictions of quantum mechanics have been confirmed by experiment to an extremely high degree of accuracy, to 1 part in 100 billion. Richard Feynman compared the [the precision of quantum mechanics] to predicting a distance as great as the width of North America to an accuracy of one human hair's breadth.

      These predictions include the very real though short-lived virtual particles (which are more correctly transient disruptions in fields). Just because you can't build a house out of something doesn't mean it is not real or has not been proven or is not of enormous significance.

      Virtual particles are enormously significant and verified by extensive experiments, despite their individual transitory nature. They make up 90% of the mass of protons and neutrons, essentially 90% of the mass of everything. Without them, atoms would never have formed and we would not exist to consider them. Legit enough for you?

      Further, at the subatomic level, there's really nothing physical. The particles that make up matter are just as much waves in a field as the force-carrying particles. That is, the very physicality of matter of which you seem so fond is just an emergent property, not fundamental.

       

      "[Virtual particles do] nothing to disprove the cosmological argument.

      They don't disprove it, but they sure support the case against it.

      Here's the thing with syllogisms. The premises have to be proven true first in order for the conclusion to be proven true. The KCA premises are pure conjecture and simplistic intuition.

      The time to accept a premise is after it is proven to be true or more than likely true, rather than believing unsupported premises because they lead to a conclusion one wants to be true until is is disproven.

      • Guest

        "That is, the very physicality of matter of which you seem so fond is just an emergent property, not fundamental.

        I'm not sure how this is relevant. You can always go to another level of understanding, and peel another layer of the onion back, to understand the nature of the physical world at yet deeper levels.
        We live in a universe that we can discover. There's always going to be mystery at the next unknown deeper level. In some ways we will never know but in part and great as we think our knowledge is, there is always another level yet undiscovered; but isn't that what we would expect of how an omnipotent, omniscient God as creator?

        2. "Here's the thing with syllogisms. The premises have to be proven true first in order for the conclusion to be proven true.."

        Proving a premise true is never infallibly possible. We use all our powers of reason and logic to make the premises as accurate as we can, and then derive a conclusion; some will be much more highly probable than others. Honesty and humility requires that we qualify all our premises and conclusions with some degree of uncertainty that should be included in the discussion.

        • Green_Sapphire

          Guest wrote "I'm not sure how [the fact that atoms are not fundamental in physics] is relevant."

          It's the main point of my disagreement with Fr. Sean, so it is the only thing that is relevant.

          Fr. Sean wrote, inter alia consimila, "[virtual particles] have never created a hydrogen atom or anything of substantial." He was implying that if virtual particles didn't become matter particles combined into atoms, then they are irrelevant and unimportant.

          He is completely factually scientifically wrong. Virtual particles are more significant and fundamental than matter and are essential to the formation and continued existence of matter. That seems pretty relevant to me. How do you find it not relevant?

          Guest wrote: "There's always going to be mystery at the next unknown deeper level."

          I'm assuming this is some form of saying that there are things we know and understand and things we don't know or understand.

          But physics pretty well understands all the matter and forces that are in any way relevant to our life and the universe as we know it. There's no 'deeper' level to these things. There are very likely other things to discover, other particles or forces, but they either are relevant only at a size or distance one millionth the diameter of an atom or are a hundred thousand times weaker than gravity -- which itself is very very weak, and can in no way have any effect on us. And to your "deeper level" point, these new things are more like brothers to the matter and forces we understand.

          Guest wrote: "Proving a premise true is never infallibly possible."

          Okay, technically that is correct. And we can't really be sure that there is an earth or that it orbits around a sun, but this model seems to conform closely to observation. We can't really be sure that we aren't all brains in vats or even one brain in one vat. But absent any evidence for that, we have no choice but to accept our input as 'real' and act as if it is.

          A better way to say it is that the premises must be true in order for the conclusion to be assuredly true and one should only accept the premises as true if there is sufficient evidence or support for them being true.

          The premises of the KCA are complete conjecture. Based on the body of scientific knowledge, these premises and the assumptions on which they rest either cannot be known and/or are more likely to be false than true.

      • bbrown

        1. "That is, the very physicality of matter of which you seem so fond is just an emergent property, not fundamental.

        I'm not sure how this is relevant. You can always go to another
        level of understanding, and peel another layer of the onion back, to
        understand the nature of the physical world at yet deeper levels.
        We
        live in a universe that we can discover. There's always going to be
        mystery at the next unknown deeper level. In some ways we will never
        know but in part and great as we think our knowledge is, there is always
        another level yet undiscovered; but isn't that what we would expect of
        an omnipotent, omniscient God as creator?

        2. "Here's the thing with syllogisms. The premises have to be proven
        true first in order for the conclusion to be proven true.."

        Proving a premise true is never infallibly possible. We use
        all our powers of reason and logic to make the premises as accurate as
        we can, and then derive a conclusion; some will be much more highly
        probable than others. Honesty and humility requires that we qualify all
        our premises and conclusions with some degree of uncertainty that
        should be included in the discussion.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi Green Sapphire,
        Thanks for your insightful and detailed reply. Do you know of any case study where virtual particles have remained or perhaps converted into particles. I do realize they are important but i suspect if physicists could in fact create something stable in might give more weight to the argument that physical matter does spontaneously form into matter without the assistance of an outside force, otherwise it still kind of remains in the speculation realm. Furthermore couldn't one make the case that this is still just a step in the Cosmological argument?

        • josh

          "Do you know of any case study where virtual particles have remained or perhaps converted into particles?"

          Yes, virtually all of particle physics works this way. A virtual particle is one that is not directly observed or one that is 'off-shell' (a technical term). All decay processes and interactions are mediated by or receive corrections from virtual particles. For instance, the decay of a muon into an electron and two neutrinos is due to a virtual W-boson that is never directly observed. For an example involving the vacuum, Hawking radiation, which is radiation emitted from a black hole, is often described as the creation of a virtual particle pair where one falls into the hole and the other escapes to be detected.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Josh,
            would it be possible then to measure atoms that could form in a vacuum? Could a physicists set up a vacuum such that with a long enough time and the right variables that atoms or protons, neutrons or electrons could form from a vacuum? If you know of any such examples i'd love to read about it?

          • josh

            Try searching for the Unruh Effect on wikipedia or elsewhere. The idea is that if one is accelerating/in a gravitational field then one doesn't see a vacuum, one sees particles with a characteristic temperature. But when not accelerating one sees a vacuum without particles. I think the temperature is very small however for achievable accelerations, so I'm not sure it has ever been measured in a controlled experiment.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Josh,
            I read a little about it and i think there might be a couple of physics problems with the idea that the vacuum example shows something can come from nothing.

            1.obviously and i'm sure you've heard this before, but a vacuum filled with virtual particles is not nothing it is still something.

            2. As far as i know for atoms to form you need to have stars, and obviously large stars for lager atoms. thus it kind of falls into the chicken and the egg scenario. you can't have stars without atoms and you can't have atoms without stars, unless of course something occurred with the big bang.

            3. now, if something did occur with the big bang than there would have to be a couple of events that would have to occur for atoms to form. First of all, assuming the something can come from nothing, from a vacuum or an immaterial space we would have to assume that there was nothing but dark matter that formed itself into a very dense ball of mass, or initial singularity. thus dark matter would have to make an enormous leap into what dark matter does now with physics. instead of simply creating a very tiny parcel of matter that may be an element of an atom, that dark matter would have to create an enormously dense material form. now, that would be possible if there was some kind of an event or powerful entity that could cause such an event, which again points to a "creator" if you will. even if that powerful event was not caused by a creator, or if it was not an intelligent being, just a powerful event in the universe, we've now traced back the causal sequence one more step. thus the initial mover of the big bang was moved by something else, we still moving back towards an unmoved mover.

            i know the traditional answer is to say physicists don't know everything yet but i still think it's important to ponder. if there was a creator perhaps he placed the laws of physics to cause us to ponder how things came to be so that we may come to ponder his existence and thus come to know him?

          • josh

            Hi Fr.Sean,

            Well, in these comments I was just trying to provide a little physics background, not prove broad statements about something and nothing. Basically, 'nothing' isn't well defined in these kinds of arguments. Christians usually aren't consistent here because they aver that God created something from nothing, but if God pre-existed the creation then it didn't come from nothing, unless you are willing to allow that the vacuum can also create something from nothing.

            What 1. shows is that whether or not the vacuum is filled with particles is partly a matter of perspective.

            2. Atoms can form without stars. They naturally will as the universe cools from a hot state, this is called Big Bang Nucleosynthesis. However, heavier elements are generally formed through stellar processes. So Big Bang->Light Elements->Stars -> Heavy Elements is roughly the chain.

            3. Dark matter doesn't really have a special role to play as far as we know. You can think of it as like another type of atom. Usually we think it was also produced from earlier states as the universe cooled and expanded.

            Now you are correct that so far we are just tracing things back in time to earlier states. (Whether we should say that the earlier state 'caused' the later is another question.) If we naively assume that nothing changes in our equations, which already don't explain things we know occured, then we get that everything shrinks to an arbitrarily small point in a finite amount of time from the present.

            Either a) this doesn't really happen and new physics becomes important so time evolution can be carried further backwards, i.e. no 'beginning' actually happens there, or b) some singularity really happens and there is no sense in speaking of 'before' the singularity, in which case the term 'beginning' does not indicate the existence of anything prior to the universe. We would need a very different notion of causality if we wanted to relate the time-having universe to some larger picture. In any event, a 'powerful entity' is something that happens in the universe, (and even then 'powerful' isn't a well defined term). It doesn't make any clear sense to describe something outside the universe as powerful or an entity.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Josh,
            I think perhaps we agree that it becomes evident that too much speculation of what actually happened around the big bang makes it too difficult to pin point how matter could form from "nothing" or how it could collect in such a small point. i suppose that if there is a God we may know some day?

  • Goetz Kluge

    Can anything be caused from nothing from itself? Before asking that question, we may ask ourselves whether we can be sure that there never was nothing.

    • bbrown

      This is important because the definition of "nothing" can be quite elastic, as used by folks in recent debates and in these forums. That said, I think every child knows what 'nothing' means.

      • Goetz Kluge

        Yes, children can be quite creative when coming up with elastic definitions.

        bbrown, how do *you* define "nothing" (as used in the expression "caused from nothing")?

      • Goetz Kluge

        How would a not so elastic definition of "nothing"look like?

        • bbrown

          See Duhem's post below. I was referring to a common misunderstanding of the word "nothing" that is utilised by prominent apologists for atheism,

          • Goetz Kluge

            I have to admit that I don't know too much about apologists and I do not want to think too much about any other xxxxists for any xxxxism as well. Is there any definition for "nothing" which could be used as a common term for two people who want to talk ad rem about "nothing"?

          • Goetz Kluge

            Sorry, I had to click on "see more" a few times until I found Duhem's post http://strangenotions.com/quantum-physics-kalam/#comment-1054715123

            That is a good base for defining "nothing".

  • Green_Sapphire

    "P1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause."

    I agree with Trent that this is an intuition. We can speculate about what might be true if the premise is true. But we don't know this.

    We have few examples of anything "beginning to exist." And the main example we're aware of -- virtual particles -- are, in physics terms, uncaused.

    Trent doesn't consider them uncaused -- the main thrust of his article -- since their coming into existence is probabilistic, in the context of our extant universe. I disagree. But if, for the sake of argument, we count them out, then Trent doesn't have any examples of something coming from nothing.

    He doesn't have any 'nothing' to study to see whether 'something' comes from it or not. And even if he had a 'nothing' to study for a very long period of time, and during that time, no 'something' emerged from it, he still couldn't say that 'something' couldn't emerge from it.

     

    "P2. The universe began to exist."

    This is also just an intuition. If we accept the Big Bang theory, then our universe was in a hot, dense state prior to inflation. But we don't know much about that hot, dense state, and we don't know therefore about its source/derivation/prior state, if any. That is to say, we have no justification for claiming that our universe 'began to exist.'

     

    Trent writes: "there is no further analysis that will demonstrate that a true state of
    “nothing” (or a total lack of being) can have a hidden property which
    allows things to come into existence through it."

    Lawrence Krauss talks about three kinds of nothing in his book, "A Universe from Nothing." One is 'no matter, no radiation' -- also called a quantum vacuum. One is 'no matter, no radiation, no time, no space.' One is 'no matter, no radiation, no time, no space, no laws of physics.' For each of these definitions of 'nothing', Krauss discusses possible and plausible ways for our universe to come into existence naturally.

    Some philosophers don't like these definitions of 'nothing'. What less do they want? They want a 'nothing' from which nothing can arise. Then the philosophers can say, 'From nothing, nothing comes' or alternately, in the KCA, 'Everything that begins to exist has a cause.'

    This is obviously a tautology. If you define 'nothing' as 'that from which nothing can arise', then by definition nothing can arise from it. But that philosophical 'nothing' has nothing to do with some actual 'nothing' which might have (not) existed prior to our univers.

    Since we're talking about the universe that is studied by physics, then it seems more relevant to look to physics for a proper definition of 'nothing.' Since the field of physics is the study of everything that exists, then it is also the field that can and should define, in terms of physics, what the absence of everything is.

     

    Trent writes: "Probabilistic causation in the absence of anything cannot produce a universe any more than..." (followed by a fallacious analogy of something arising from something)

    How do you know it cannot? What is your justification for claiming it cannot? This is a classic example of the Argument from Ignorance, theology style: "I cannot imagine how this could be explained, therefore God."

    Trent concludes: "This leaves us with sufficient evidence to believe..."

    I'm sorry, Trent, but you have no evidence for such a belief. You simply decided that virtual particles popping into existence doesn't meet your definition for being 'uncaused,' despite how that term is used by physicists.

    But, in any case, this leaves you with zero examples of "something coming from nothing." Zero. You only have examples of "something coming from something." This means you do not have 'sufficient evidence to believe'. What you have is (a) something that you want to believe (a supernatural creator force or being) and (b) an alternate personal definition that you prefer (for 'uncaused') and (c) no evidence either way.

    In fact, it is far more likely that the universe came into existence in much the same way that virtual particles come into existence and radioactive atoms decay -- probabilistically. Perhaps most virtual universes quickly pop back out of existence, but some rare combination of unlikely events allowed a tiny perturbation that led to the continued existence of our universe.

    Trent, you want a definition of 'nothing' that tautologically leads to your desired conclusion. You want a definition of 'cause' and 'exist' that discards any evidence that doesn't lead to your desired conclusion. You want to define a 'beginning' to the universe that leads to your desired conclusion. You want the universe to conform to your intuition and faith. You might as well just say: "P1: God is necessary. P2: God is necessary. C: Therefore God exists. QED."

    The universe is the way it is, no matter how you want it to be. Trying to find ways to redefine terms to try to fit modern scientific knowledge into thousand year old and older philosophical concepts is not a good way to learn how the universe is.

    • We have few examples of anything "beginning to exist."

      On the contrary. We have an overwhelming amount of example, including at least seven billion of the human variety.

      • Green_Sapphire

        That's known to not be something that "begins to exist." Each of them and their 100 billion or so ancestors are a continuation of the tree of life. The woman's body manufactures, from her body, by known biological processes, from materials in her body, a process very similar to the way it manufactures all her other cells, gametes that each contain unique combinations of half of her DNA. The man's body does the same.

        These gametes don't "begin to exist." They are reformulated from existing materials that were, at some point, consumed, in the same way as all the other body cells. That food didn't "begin to exist" either, although its molecules were also reconfigured and recombined.

        Plants are much more amazing than animals in that way, IMHO, because they can capture from the air and convert non-organic molecules into organic molecules and can make useful energy from light. But these molecules don't "begin to exist" either. The particles in every atom of every molecule were extant since at least the time of the Big Bang.

        There in no precise point at which the molecules in the food cease existing and then begin existing again. Food is broken down and some of its molecules are absorbed by the cells of the body in the same way food has been absorbed by bacteria for billions of years. Does a new person "begin to exist" in a new form after every meal because s/he has been transformed by the addition of new material? Or each time s/he has consumed or absorbed more than the equivalent of hir weight in food? Or after a certain percentage of the body cells are new? There is no "begin" here. There is continuous change.

        In addition, the billions of bacteria in the human digestive tract and elsewhere in the body are necessary to assist in digestion and participate in the immune system, so humans can be said to be a symbiotic animal-bacterial organism. So does a baby "begin to exist" as a new organism when it gets its gut bacteria and skin bacteria sometime after its birth?

        And the entire process involved in sexual reproduction doesn't have any "begin" either. By far the most amazing part of this process is the production of each gamete which, from six billion base pairs of DNA via by unique recombination at many places along each chromosome, results a universally unique three billion base pairs. By comparison, the simple combination of two gametes into a zygote is pedestrian.

        But more amazing still than sexual reproduction is reproduction itself, which was asexual for most of life's history, a fundamental part of life. The "life" in those gametes is an extension of the "life" of the person in which they are processed.

        That life doesn't "begin to exist." Each of her and his other 20 trillion cells are also alive, but their life doesn't "begin to exist." It continues. During some process in the distant past, some chemistry gradually 'acquired' each of the various elements that constitute what we describe as "life". And it continues.

        And the energy the cells use to power the processes of life also doesn't "begin to exist" either. Also extant since at least the Big Bang.

        But, in any case, Trent was talking of "beginning to exist" in the context of the universe, possibly from some variation of "nothing," rather than sexual reproduction in which extant materials are reconfigured to continue life which, it should be obvious, is entirely different.

    • bbrown

      "He doesn't have any 'nothing' to study to see whether 'something' comes
      from it or not. And even if he had a 'nothing' to study for a very long
      period of time, and during that time, no 'something' emerged from it, he
      still couldn't say that 'something' couldn't emerge from it.

      --"How? Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again."
      -King Lear, Act I, Scene I

    • bbrown

      "Since we're talking about the universe that is studied by physics, then
      it seems more relevant to look to physics for a proper definition of
      'nothing.' Since the field of physics is the study of everything that
      exists, then it is also the field that can and should define, in terms
      of physics, what the absence of everything is."

      But by doing so, you have effectively closed yourself off from any other reality. And that is the greater reality that so many have seen by being open to it. This is a fallacy that is built into a certain religious worldview.

      • Green_Sapphire

        Any other reality that does not interact with my reality -- such as other universes -- has no effect on me, and thus it is as if it didn't exist.

        Any other reality that does interact with this reality can be known by this interaction and thus can be detected in this reality. None has been detected by science. And I've had many brain-centered experiences including timelessness and fugue states and altered consciousness and intense beauty and deep connectedness. And these have broadened and deepened my view as has travel and learning and so forth.

        But I've seen no evidence that these experiences are actually related to anything outside of me. If I find such evidence, I'm open to considering it, but not to believing based on hope or tradition or sensation. Psychology has studied how 'being open to' things often leads to 'seeing' those things.

        We are pattern-seeking creatures and significance-seeking creatures and likely to suspect 'something' is there at any turn. These are all super survival tools that, in general, serve us well. And it gives us pleasure to use them, because that's how nature works.

        But these same drives also leave us open to seeing patterns and feeling them to be 'real' where none exist, and open to assigning significance or meaning to experiences or sensations or data that actually have none, and to reify our suspicion of a presence when there is no presence.

        And it gives us anxiety to have all these sensations when there is nothing real on which to put them, because that's also how nature works. Religion helps to give people a comprehensive but supposedly supernatural context in which to get the pleasure out of these empty sensations and reduce the anxiety about the lack of a target. But reifying something doesn't make it actually real.

        • Guest

          Well, these concepts may be all well and good, but I'm not sure of what it all means. I'm talking about good hard evidence, not pop sociology, anthropology, or psychology.

        • bbrown

          Well, these concepts may be all well and good, but I'm not sure what
          it all means.
          I'm talking about good hard evidence, not modern or pop sociology,
          anthropology, and psychology.

          • Green_Sapphire

            The above was a reply by bbrown, but he seems to have deleted it on his disqus dashboard, which actually leaves the entire post extant and changes the name to 'guest.' Plus now he can't even edit it.

            ProTip: If you want to actually delete a reply, replace it with something short, like a period. Verify by reloading the page that it was replaced. Then delete it.

          • bbrown

            Green Sapphire,

            Your point is taken. I cannot adequately argue for what I'm trying to say, in the limits of time and space here.

            --Bill

          • bbrown

            I am merely saying that there is an awful lot of good hard evidence for a greater reality than the input of our senses or "the reality with which we interact". And I further am implying that these fields that you bring into the conversation, such as social science, anthropology, and psychology, are fraught with subjectivism, and not what I would consider a firm basis to support your arguments. As a physician and research scientist I am trained to rely on logic, rationality, and the weight of evidence to support my beliefs.

          • Green_Sapphire

            "an awful lot of good hard evidence for a greater reality than the input of our senses or "the reality with which we interact"

            Please identify some of this extensive "good hard evidence" for this greater reality.

            Also, please support your contention that mainstream experimental psychology and neuroscience are 'fraught with subjectivism.'

          • bbrown

            Green Saphhire,

            I am starting to gather that you are not seeking truth. You just give me glib replies. If you were seeking answers to these big questions you would know that there are volumes and volumes written and plenty of good evidence for belief in a Creator. I could not begin to try to give even a small percentage of that here.
            Ditto re. my statements about the soft sciences.

            Please do a little research and keep an open mind.

          • Green_Sapphire

            Do my posts give you the idea that I have not done research or that I don't have an open mind? In what way? I'm not being glib; I'm being serious.

            You made a claim of "good hard evidence." I was interested in more about your claim. How am I being 'glib' for taking you at your word? Are you not serious about the claims you make?

            You asserted that the kinds of research and findings that I discussed, from mainstream experimental psychology and neuroscience (not from pop psychology), are by mere virtue of that provenance to be presumed to be "fraught with subjectivism." How am I "not seeking truth" because I take science seriously? How are you serious if you ignore these entire fields?

            I've read and studied tons on the evidence for -- and against -- the existence of deities, especially of the Judeo-Christian persuasion. Give me any apologetic argument for God's existence and I'll destroy it -- with all due respect -- plus provide a sound counter-apologetic argument against its existence.

            In any case, these arguments are not "good hard evidence." They are verbal, philosophical ideas. And they were all written in order to reach a predetermined goal -- support God's existence.

            Beyond apologetics, there is personal experience. Personal experiences that people interpret as contact with the divine show no evidence of the existence of the divine. That is, the experiences are neurologically real. But as I wrote above at some length much of what the experiencers may believe experiences point to in some "greater reality", as you wrote, has no independent, verifiable reality.

            But you write that there is "plenty of good evidence for belief in a Creator." I am completely convinced and there is lots of supporting data on the existence of "belief". Just look at all the churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. I just disagree there there is an actual "Creator" behind that "belief in a Creator."

            And if you think that sociology, anthropology and psychology are "soft sciences," then philosophy and theology are merely clouds -- ideas about ideas and beliefs about beliefs.

            (Note: I don't think philosophy are merely clouds, just as I don't think the other social sciences are just soft sciences with their findings to be best dismissed out of hand, as Bill seems to.)

          • bbrown

            "The
            above was a reply by bbrown, but he seems to have deleted it on his
            disqus dashboard, which actually leaves the entire post extant and
            changes the name to 'guest.' Plus now he can't even edit it.

            ProTip:
            If you want to actually delete a reply, replace it with something
            short, like a period. Verify by reloading the page that it was replaced.
            Then delete it."

            I just wanted to correct (one word of) the grammar, no intention to delete anything. Thanks (being honest here, not sarcastic) for the tip - I never would have figured that out.

            --BBrown

          • Green_Sapphire

            Bill, Thank you for your sincerity. I also was sincere, because I've had the same problem and someone taught me this work-around.

            Also, I just learned that when I click on a reply from My Disqus, it takes me to a version of the page (www..../#comment...) that includes only that one response to my comment (along with other unrelated comments). So I didn't even see your repeat posting until later. So from here on, I'll reload the entire page for full context before replying.

            I value our interaction, and communication is hard enough, especially virtually (and I'm not a digital native), that I try (not always succeeding) to assume the best intentions of my discussion partner.

          • bbrown

            Oh goodness, I just left a comment to you from another reply and it was sorta harsh; and now I get this kindness. Oh well, too late to take it back - I do think I'm done with this forum question. It's all been very interesting and I hope to read some more on this website, as time permits.

            Anyway, apologies for my last reply (somewhere on this thread - I have no idea where). I must work harder to be civil and always assume the best intentions, when, as you say, virtual communication is so poor a form.

          • Green_Sapphire

            It is so difficult, I agree. Linus Pauling once wrote that he 'did unto others as he wanted them to do to him' plus an extra 20 percent, to account for subjective bias. I love that idea. Sure wish I could remember it when I get frustrated. I look forward to reading your future comments.

          • bbrown

            Yes, I know that quote and it speaks to me. I've had it it taped to my desk at work. I just need to do it better.
            Just one example that we could discuss at some future time is the resurrection of Christ. I do not think any of the arguments I've heard hold too much water in refutation against what I see as pretty strong evidence. I'd call it "hard evidence".

  • robtish

    Is this a contradiction in Trent's post, or just my own misunderstanding (entirely possible!)? Trent says the quantum vacuum is not nothing -- that is, it's part of the universe. But that conflicts, then, with the notion that the universe had a beginning.

    Why? Because that beginning is generally pinpointed as the Big Bang. But quantum physics explains the Big Bang as a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum -- which Trent counts as part of the universe.

    Ergo, the universe did not begin with the Big Bang. At least not according to the reasoning Trent offers here. Which Trent's argument about the quantum vacuum knocks out premise 2: The universe began to exist. Because if it didn't begin with the Big Bang, we don't have any evidence that it "began" at all, as opposed to simply going infinitely back in time in the form of the quantum vacuum.

    • David Nickol

      Excellent points. If our universe is the result of a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum, the quantum vacuum is not the cause. If the fluctuation is uncaused, we don't have "a universe from nothing," but it seems to me we do have a universe without a cause.

      By the way, it appears the quote from John Jefferson Davis contains errors and probably should be as follows:

      Quantum-mechanical events may not have classically deterministic causes, but they are not thereby uncaused or acausal [not "a causal"]. The decay of a nucleus takes place in view of physical actualities and potentialities internal to itself, in relation to a spatiotemporal nexus governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. The fact that uranium atoms consistently decay into atoms of lead and other elements--and not into rabbits or frogs--shows that such events are not acausal [not "causal"] but take place within a causal nexus and lawlike structures.

      That's pretty heavy duty to analyze so late in the evening, but to the extent I understand it, it raises a potential question in my mind. If our everyday experience in the macro world led to the conclusion that everything that begins to exist must have a cause, and then our study of the quantum level leads to the conclusion that everything that comes into existence must take place within a causal nexus and lawlike structures, what will study of the quantum vacuum itself lead us to conclude? The first level is our world of everyday experience. The next level down is the quantum level within our universe, and the level below that is the quantum vacuum from which our universe arose from a quantum fluctuation. When we talk of the quantum vacuum, what we are really talking about is empty space. But if space and time came into existence as the result of a quantum fluctuation in the quantum vacuum, then that quantum vacuum must not have space or time or both.

      • Green_Sapphire

        John Jefferson Davis' quote is a fancy way of saying, "If we super-stretch the definition of 'cause' to include 'because of its nature', then we can say that virtual particles and radioactive decay is 'caused' so that we can still use the Kalam Cosmological Argument."

        That's like saying that the 'cause' of my eating at some specific point in time is 'being a creature that must eat to survive' rather than because of actual meanings of the word 'cause' like hunger or boredom or chocolate.

        It's a cheat, plain and simple.

  • I had a reader send me this article with a request that I put a comment in given the work I’ve done providing a counter argument to the Kalam. (http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/search/label/Countering%20the%20Kalam)

    I find that the article brings up some good points on the theistic side to address objections from quantum mechanics, but it leaves out key points that would count most strongly against the Kalam.

    First, there isn’t a direct difference laid out between efficient causation and material causation, the difference is effectively discussed, but it’s not made clear.

    What we have in quantum mechanics is what appears to be an effect without an efficient cause. One can argue that there are interpretations of QM that will provide us with efficient causes for these effects, but the standard view currently is that these effects lack an efficient cause.

    Given that the Kalam wants to argue that the universe has an efficient, but not a material cause, this is a fairly significant point that shouldn’t be understated.

    What Trent rightfully points out is that even if these QM events lack an efficient cause, it’s not “something coming from nothing”, which he calls the main intuitive support for Premise 1. What this is pointing out is that we don’t have something coming beginning to exist without a material cause.

    Combine this with the common interpretations of QM, and we find intuitive and evidential support for the idea that we can have things begin to exist with an “efficient and material cause” or “just a material cause”, but never any cases where we have just an efficient cause. This is again a very strong point against the Kalam, since it supports the idea that “something material has always existed”.

    That line of thought brings us into premise two of the Kalam, which isn’t really at issue here, so I won’t say much more than there is absolutely no evidence that all of material reality was preceded by a state of “absolute nothingness” in cosmology or philosophy. The most we could say is "we don't know what happened before the first Planck second in the Big Bang".

    But let’s get back to this issue of “something can’t come from nothing” since it’s another point where I think counts very strongly against the theist.

    The idea that “something can’t come from nothing” is typically supported by the idea that “we don’t see things just popping into existence from nothing”. The QM objection that Trent is addressing here tries to challenge this notion, which he rebuffs by pointing out that “the quantum vacuum is not nothing”.

    However in doing this, Trent undermines the only support he has for the premise that “something can’t come from nothing”. How does one know “something can’t come from nothing”? Trent cannot appeal to the common experience we have of things not just popping into existence, since he’s rightly pointed out that when we DO see things popping into existence from “seemingly nothing”, it’s not really the “nothing” he’s talking about in the context of the Kalam.

    Let’s pretend that “something could come from nothing”, this notion is no longer problematic or at odds with our common experience, because we have absolutely no experience with the kind of “nothing” in question. This all boils down to how one defines “nothing”, and the definition required by proponents of the Kalam gives us a version of “nothing” that we have absolutely no experience with that we have very good reasons for doubting that a state of this kind of “nothing” could exist in the first place (the First Law of Thermodynamics says hi).

    When it comes to cosmological arguments, atheists are generally left with the idea that “something material has always existed” or “something actually can come from nothing”. While I personally hold to the former, the apologist answer to the QM objection shows that the latter could very well be a live option simply because “something coming from nothing” doesn’t contradict any of our common experience.

  • bbrown

    This thread has got me thinking about this concept of "Nothing". Is it possible that an actual "nothing" cannot exist? Is it like the law of non-contradiction that way, a mere word that expresses an illogicality? I really don't think there is any way our mind could grasp such a reality. The more I think about what nothing would be, the more this seems to be likely. Of course, I'm a scientist by trade, not a philosopher, and have spent almost no time thinking or reading specifically about this topic.

    It just seems that the concept represents something we cannot know. That led me to wonder if what was present before the Big Bang, what some call "nothing" according to certain creation stories, might point to what lies beyond physics and beyond the human mind's ability to know or maybe even to comprehend. This seems to point to what we might call "God". I guess I'm saying that the whole scenario, including this concept of nothing, just seems to be pointing to something with characteristics and attributes that meet the definition of a Creator.
    -- Bill
    Forest, Virginia

    • Green_Sapphire

      "...might point to what lies beyond physics and beyond the human mind's
      ability to know or maybe even to comprehend. This seems to point to
      what we might call 'God' "

      "What might lie beyond physics" or "What is beyond the human mind's ability" do not equal "God."

      That is called a God of the Gaps argument, a special case of the Argument from Ignorance: "I can't understand how this could possibly be explained, therefore God exists."

      The problem for theists who use this argument is that, as science advances, their 'God' shrinks. A better response to something I don't know is "I don't know." A better response to something I think is inexplicable is "I don't think this can be explained."

      • bbrown

        "What might lie beyond physics" or "What is beyond the human mind's ability" do not equal "God."

        I think your misapplying the "God of the gaps argument". I am only giving a natural argument "from wonder" (see GK Chesterton, for example) and from logic (not from ignorance): If folks want to posit a state of "nothing", and this state is somehow necessary for their theory of creation, then my point is just that this points to something beyond what we can conceive as natural. Call it whatever you want. I use the common terminology of God, but if that s too loaded with connotation, then use another word. Further, my point was only a rather preliminary thought or speculation, not anything I've developed in anything sure and solid. I was just wondering aloud.

        As science advances, and the degrees of order, design, complexity, and mystery increase, my belief in theism grows greater.

  • ksed11

    I thought this article was interesting. I wonder if it may be of relevance to the second premise since a deterministic interpretation of QM would seem to entail causation.

    http://www.opli.net/opli_magazine/eo/2013/mit-quantum-physics-july-news.aspx

    Quote:
    "In the latest issue of the journal Physical Review E (PRE), a team of MIT researchers, in collaboration with Couder and his colleagues, report that they have produced the fluidic analogue of another classic quantum experiment, in which electrons are confined to a circular “corral” by a ring of ions. In the new experiments, bouncing drops of fluid mimicked the electrons’ statistical behavior with remarkable accuracy."......
    “If you have a system that is deterministic and is what we call in the business ‘chaotic,’ or sensitive to initial conditions, sensitive to perturbations, then it can behave probabilistically,” Milewski continues. “Experiments like this weren’t available to the giants of quantum mechanics. They also didn’t know anything about chaos. Suppose these guys — who were puzzled by why the world behaves in this strange probabilistic way — actually had access to experiments like this and had the knowledge of chaos, would they have come up with an equivalent, deterministic theory of quantum mechanics, which is not the current one? That’s what I find exciting from the quantum perspective.”

  • duhem

    There's a basic misunderstanding here about the physics of the situation (and I speak as a retired physicist, who has published and taught about quantum mechanics). The vacuum is not "nothing". It is described by a coordinate space and the particles appearing from "nothing" are there as fluctuations, created and destroyed by creation and anhilation operators. Moreover, one might question how close this quantum mechanical description is to actual reality. As Bernard d"Espagnat puts it, there is a veiled reality behind (beneath?) what quantum mechanics tells us about the world.

  • m8lsem

    No matter what explanation can be offered for the appearance of a 'thing', these explanations all have a 'from' that is another sort of thing, a force or particle or both.

    Ultimately one has to ask where does the root 'thing' come from. And the more science identifies 'things' behind some theretofore 'mystery' the more it becomes apparent somewhere, and sometime, and very first 'thing' came into being.

    For the faithful, I would offer a hypothetical: the universe is an incredibly complex structure that might be analogized to a super-supercompter with an operating system running a program called 'create operating universe.app.

    A true great genius may be thought of as capable of creating a system that generated everything which science explores. A true great genius might be capable of devising a complex particle from which everything else develops as intended at a snail's pace by human senses of time, but quite lightning fast enough for that original eternal source.

    The God that at least one very major Church construes God is not a bricklayer who must decide that your child will have brown hair and eyes, failing which the child is born bald with no eyes. Rather their God can cause all to occur from the beginning, but for having to tinker with the computer or OS to ensure man can deal with a Hitler.

  • blaze_pascal

    Very interesting. First, my credentials: I am a Christian believer and my understanding of physics reaches a popular level. Now, If I understand correctly virtual particles emerge, under certain conditions, from these quantum fields, so far so good. But what about the fields themselves? Do they have a beginning? are they contingent? Now the atheists are arming themselves, as I understand, with the argument that quantum fields have a fundamental existence in themselves. That the fields cannot not exist, they are eternal. What is the response to that? Is a good research project. I think.

  • Ron

    Trent,

    Hi, this is Aron Zavaro. Thanks for responding to my article. A few thoughts:

    1. I never said that QM proves that something can come from nothing. Instead I said it disproves "everything that begins to exist has a cause." Virtual particles obviously don't come from nothing, as you explained well. Nonetheless (assuming Bohmian interpretations are false) they begin to exist without a cause.

    Of course, you could say they did have a cause in the form of the energy of the quantum vacuum. Virtual particles still need necessary precondictions in order to spontaneously arise, or as Aristotle would say, they still need "material causes."

    So I can conceed that virtual particles begin to exist with MATERIAL causes. But this is irrelevant, because P1 of the kalam argument refers to EFFICIENT causes, not material causes. Here's William Lane Craig himself, "In formulating the kalam cosmological argument, I intend to speak of what Aristotle called efficient causes…My claim is that whatever begins to exist have an efficient cause” (Come Let Us Reason, p.57). The pre-existence of the quantum vacuum hardly amounts to an efficient cause, so the spontaneous appearance of virtual particles are indeed an exception to P1 -- something beginning to exist without an efficient cause.

    2. Appealing to the possibility of probabilistic causation destroy's Craig's argument that the cause of the universe must be personal. Craig argues that the cause must be personal like this:
    i. impersonal cause always necessitate their effects,
    ii. the cause of the universe must be eternal
    iii. an eternal impersonal cause could only produce an eternal universe.
    iv. But the universe isn't eternal
    v. Therefore the cause wasn't impersonal
    vi. Therefore it was personal
    (Reasonable Faith, p.153)

    This argument assumes the classical conception of causation in which causes necessitate their effects. This is the idea behind premise i. But if you think quantum particles have probabilistic causes, then you must reject the classical conception of causation. Thus, Craig's defense of Kalam is quite inconsistent.

  • John Murphy

    How does one establish something is "un-caused" in the face of the fact that humans, as part of "human reasoning" seem to have a habit of announcing that they "know" a cause, (e.g. Thor in the case of thunder/lightning) when in fact, all they have done is make up some plausible sounding (to them) make-believe, in an area that they are ignorant about.
    Given there is an unbounded supply of make-believe, particularly around the whole subject of gods and causes, how do we establish that any particular "cause" that we imagine, is nothing more than made-up nonsense.
    The fact that it looks like one can never point to something in science that is "uncaused" does nothing to validate the claim that any particular fantasy we make up, that is self-immunizing against falsification, about a "creator" is true.

  • John Murphy

    How does one establish something is "un-caused" in the face of the fact that humans, as part of "human reasoning" seem to have a habit of announcing that they "know" a cause, (e.g. Thor in the case of thunder/lightning) when in fact, all they have done is make up some plausible sounding (to them) make-believe, in an area that they are ignorant about.
    Given there is an unbounded supply of make-believe, particularly around the whole subject of gods and causes, how do we establish that any particular "cause" that we imagine, is nothing more than made-up nonsense.
    The fact that it looks like one can never point to something in science that is "uncaused" does nothing to validate the claim that any particular fantasy we make up, that is self-immunizing against falsification, about a "creator" is true.

  • Billy Fritz

    An interesting, and oft-overlooked part of the "reason v faith" debate, especially with creation is that reason cannot conclude that the universe began to be. This is what both St. Thomas and Aristotle comment on in the course of their works. The fact that the universe is not eternal is established only through Revelation. I.e., someone who was there had to tell us. Even when we look at the Big Bang, physicists tell us that there is a point before which we have no access to know what was going on. How could we have access to the beginning of everything? The beginning of everything was just that: the beginning of everything! With the law of conservation of matter and energy, we have the prinicple that it is actually against the laws of the universe that at one point, nothing was in existence. This is just a limitation of reason, reason as a being of this universe cannot reach to a point at which it (and the rest of the universe) did not exist. We do science by obervation and testing. We can test a vaccuum, and point to it, which hints at the fact that something is there, even if we only call it empty space. Before the universe existed...space itself didn't exist. There was nothing to point at, not even directions that you could point.

    It actually is a lot easier (but not necessarily easy) to prove God's existence if someone admits to the universe being created in time, and not being eternal.

    I was curious about Mr. Horn's statement that "it's possible for events to not have causes." If that were the case, then the ball falling to one side of the triangle would be nonsense. I am assuming an event = an interaction of different beings that have some kind of relation to each other. The rain drop falling to one side of a roof may not have a discernable cause given only the rain drop and the roof, but taking into account the wind or whether we are north or south of the equator...or any other of a million accounts will probably make sense of it. Same with quantum events. Just because we do not know a cause does not mean that it has none. Quantum physics has continued to show us that matter in the "micro"-physical world behaves much differently than matter on a "macro" level. Yet, certain principles of reason will still transfer down from the macro to the micro. For instance: I can only measure something if I can observe it. Events and things having causes fall under the same genre of principle.

    In fact, I honestly cannot discern the argument that would prove "this event has no cause" (Other than denying We would need some kind of hermeneutic or rubric to determine whether a specific event has a cause or not...and the hermaneutic "I can't find one" has only served to spur on scientific inquiry. To my knowledge there is no field in which scientists, upon hearing "sorry, there is no cause to this event," have thrown their arms up and said "Oh, well. Can't be helped." If this event had no cause...then we might just expect a urainium atom to decay into a frog and then not be surprised when it does.

    A little rambling...but there's a lot to say in just a comment!

  • Stephen Smith

    Seems a bit heavy for me. I'm but a simple man. God is for all men,you don't need to be a scholar to understand God nor the Universe, lest someone lie to you and try to control you.

  • Stephen Smith

    Sperm, intelligent life men host. If we can clone we have evolved!

  • Stephen Smith

    The yolk of a chicken. Add code and it creates skin,feather, bone, organs, beaks, combs, and puts them together to form a bird. What in the hell is that stuff?

  • Stephen Smith

    God the greatest creator of all! We are to follow and create not destroy. He did not say procreate either, find creative ways around sex.Why denial pleasure, God given.thats is what it's all about, these woman!

  • Stephen Smith

    No sin in Heaven, introduce a woman. Now who's your best friend?

  • Bruno Coutinho

    I'm a physicists and "It’s also debatable whether virtual particles and atomic decay are examples of “uncaused events.” Some interpretations of quantum physics describe events without causes, but others, such as the interpretation offered by the late David Bohm, include no uncaused events" just don't go there.

    No physicists today that I know agrees with Bohmian mechanics. I can explain why but it is kind of involved.

  • Paul E Schippnick

    All arguments of this sort presume existence. "P1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause." Now whether there is a first existence or an infinite regress of existences caused, there has to be an uncased existence. Also since nothing comes from nothing. And that since there is existence. There was never nothingness. Nor could there not been anything. So there was always an existence, as an uncaused self existence. And such a self existence needs ot cause needs no God.

    • Mark Lodwick

      You're correct in manner of speaking that there has to be an uncaused existence, if by existence you mean being. You're also correct that nothing comes from nothing but since we have something what caused the observable something and why. You cant prove the statement "there was never nothingness". The uncaused self "existence" is God who needs no cause, not the effect known as the material/physical universe and everything contained therein. Matter/effects cannot self create nor are self existent.

  • Maxx

    Maybe we are looking at it all wrong.

  • IdPnSD

    I claim that P1 is correct but P2 is wrong. Moreover QM is wrong because Uncertainty Principle (UP) is wrong. Thus P1 cannot be defended using QM. Take a look at the proof of UP in the book - “Heisenberg, W., The physical principles of the quantum theory, Translated in English, Eckart,C. & Hoyt, F.C., Dover publications, University of Chicago, (1930)” It appears that 99% of the QM people did not read the proof of UP. The proof has two fatal assumptions which are invalid for nature. Heisenberg said if UP fails then QM will fail. The above proof is exactly copied here https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/category/f-ch6-quantum-mechanics/

  • Pedro Lemos

    The Universe was created from nothing, and by The Word of God. He gave the order and all became to existence. For me, these particles that emerges from nothing, from anyplace, is just the echo of God´s word. The echo of Creation!