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Is the Kalam Cosmological Argument a Sound Proof for God?

Kalam

NOTE: A couple weeks ago, we kicked off a new series of posts where we'll introduce one of today's most popular arguments for or against God, and then invite open-ended discussion. The goal is not to offer a thorough defense or refutation of the argument in the original post, but to unpack it together, as a community, in the comment boxes. The first argument we discussed was Alvin Plantinga's modal ontological argument for God. Today, we'll look at the kalam cosmological argument.
 


 

The kalam cosmological argument has grown in popularity today, mostly through the work of Dr. William Lane Craig, an Evangelical Protestant philosopher who dedicated his doctoral work to the argument in 1979. It features heavily in many of Craig's debates, books, and articles.

However, the argument stems back at least to Al-Ghazali, an 11th-century Islamic philosopher, and, in part, to Aristotle.
 

 
The video presents the argument like this:

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The argument appears deceptively simple. But as scholars have debated its terms and premises over the years, they've quickly given rise to much larger questions about cosmology, physics, mathematics, and the philosophy of time.

Many critics dismiss the kalam argument for failing to do what it never attempts: conclusively prove the existence of the God of Christianity. In fact, the conclusion simply ends with "a cause," whatever that is. However, once the conclusion is accepted, you can begin deducing certain qualities about the cause of the universe. For example, since the universe contains all matter and time, the cause of the universe—which must transcend the universe since nothing can cause itself—must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. This of course doesn't fully describe the God of Christianity. However, it does describe a pretty big slice of him—a slice far too large for most atheists. (I've yet to meet an atheist who believes in a transcendent, spaceless, timeless, and immaterial cause of the universe.)

So what do you think? Is the kalam cosmological argument a sound proof for God? If not, how does it fail?

 
 
(Image credit: Reasonable Faith)

Brandon Vogt

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Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He's also the founder of StrangeNotions.com. Brandon has been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. He converted to Catholicism in 2008, and since then has released several books, including The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011), Saints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014), and RETURN (Numinous Books, 2015). He works as the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their five children in Central Florida. Follow him at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt.

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  • I do not think the argument is sound. Neither premise one or two have been established.

    There is often an equivocation with respect to the justification of "[w]hatever begins to exist has a cause". By "begins to exist", premise one means something like an entity coming into existing from a prior state of affairs in which the entity did not "exist" in ANY sense of the word. I would say we have no experience of anything coming into existence from nothing, rather we have evidence of existing matter changing some of its form.

    However, as we see from the video, the justification for this premise is "everyday experience" and "scientific evidence". I disagree that this show us that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This shows us that pre-existing material in a given arrangement likely have various causes for that arrangement.

    Premise one however, is talking about all material in material reality coming into existence from a state of non-existence. We have no science or experience of such a thing occurring, so we have no basis to conclude that premise one is true.

    There are many more responses and counter-responses to this argument which are discussed at length by the Stanford Philosophy pages, and in a more accessible format here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_mz_YebHms

    I think Counter Apologists' videos are really good on this, and Dr Craig has responded and John has a recent response back.

    • No takers?

    • Robert Macri

      I object to the claims in the video you present about "scientific definitions". The video suggests that the everyday notions of "universe", "nothing", and "cause" differ from their strict scientific sense, and thus are misleading placards in kalam-type arguments. But the so-called scientific definitions presented in the video are simply false.

      (1) Definition of "universe":
      The video incorrectly tries to divorce the definition of universe as "all of physical reality" (including matter) from some supposed scientific definition of the universe as merely a stage upon which matter acts: that is, "the four-dimensional space time manifold that we inhabit". However, physicists in no way make such a distinction. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Ever since Einstein, we understand space-time as something inextricably bound up with matter/energy (which are, of course, equivalent in the sense of Einstein's famous equation E=mc^2). That is, space bends, expands, or contracts, and has a particular shape precisely because of the matter/energy content, and, more to the point, without matter/energy, there could be no space-time manifold. That is, it is not something with independent existence. Thus, modern scientists never speak of the universe as an empty stage (or as mere dimensions of measurement). Now, classical, Newtonian physics described space, time, and matter as separate things, but even then the "universe" was seen as the sum of these things, not merely space itself). The claim of the video here is simply false.

      As an aside, while it is true that some people, even scientists, may make a distinction between universe (with a small "u") and something larger (say, a multiverse), that is only because we don't presently have suitable standard terms to distinguish "the observable universe" from something larger which might have spawned it. Thus, in certain contexts one might use the term universe to mean only the former, but in no case is the term used to indicate spacial-temporal dimensions only (without energy or matter).

      (2) Definition of "nothing":
      Scientists do not define "nothing" as "empty space or the quantum vacuum". We understand the philosophical concept of nothing at least as well as the average person, and indeed I have never heard any colleague refer to the vacuum as "nothing".

      Indeed, your video basically acknowledges this. By suggesting that there is no such thing as a "nothing" which we can point to in the universe, (besides being an obvious and unhelpful observation) the video unwittingly defends precisely what kalam-style arguments suggests: that never do we see in nature anything coming into existence that was not caused by something already in existence (that is, not by nothing).

      That is, everything that science deals with belongs to the class of caused things. Because we do not have evidence of any un-caused natural thing, we must suppose that natural mechanisms alone are incapable of creatio ex nihilo. Kalam-style arguments then take this a step farther to suggest that unless the universe is eternal, it cannot have caused itself.

      (And, of course, entropy deals a death blow to an eternal universe without some support outside of itself.)

      (3) Definition of "cause":

      The video distinguished between efficient and material cause. OK, so what? That is just to point out that the "material" of the universe, if it had a beginning in time, had no "material" cause. No one suggests that it had no cause at all. To suggest that would be to deny even the un-caused cause.

      I do not see how such distinctions undermine the argument in any way.

      • You realize that this is not my video. Also that this is an introduction to the criticism of the argument. All he is doing in the first one is clarifying terms and pointing out how Craig is using them.

        • Robert Macri

          Yes, I am aware. Sorry if my language was unclear.

          I don't presume to know how Craig is using those terms... I only object to the clarifications the Counter Apologist video presents and tries to pass off under the authority of science.

    • Robert Macri

      Premise one however, is talking about all material in material reality
      coming into existence from a state of non-existence. We have no science
      or experience of such a thing occurring, so we have no basis to conclude
      that premise one is true.

      That is not at all what premise one states. You are confusing the conclusion of the argument with the first premise here. The first premise is precisely what you state in your refutation: "We have no science
      or experience" to suggest that anything begins to exist without a cause.

    • Robert Macri

      I would say we have no experience of anything coming into existence
      from nothing, rather we have evidence of existing matter changing some
      of its form.

      Exactly. And from that evidence we must conclude either that the universe is eternal, or that it was created by something outside of itself which does not have the observed properties of the universe (that is, matter/energy change form but there is no creatio ex nihilo). But we cannot conclude that the material universe can be its own cause (unless, as I have said, it is eternal, which is impossible given current understanding of physics).

      • "And from that evidence we must conclude either that the universe is
        eternal, or that it was created by something outside of itself which
        does not have the observed properties of the universe (that is,
        matter/energy change form but there is no creatio ex nihilo)"

        Firstly I think you are making an inference from ignorance, I do not think our lack of evidence of anything coming into existence from nothing implies anything in this case.

        Nevertheless, we can guess at some of the possibilites for ultimate origins of all matter/energy. Either it was caused into existence in some way from a prior state in which no matter/energy existed, or that it was not caused to exist in any sense.

        The video Brandon posted relies on "science and common experience" and says this implies it was caused. But I do not see how this can be, we have no experience or observation of anything suggesting this. I think we are still in a position of ignorance on whether all matter/energy is caused.

        Nowhere do I say all matter/energy is its own cause for existence. Something being its own cause for existence, is contradictory.

        But no matter what, some "thing" is uncaused. Whether it is all matter/energy or some "thing" that cauase all matter/energy to exist.

        What the Kalaam and its following arguments seem to do is fallaciously rule out an uncaused matter/energy and go on to fallaciously conclude some attributes of a cause.

        • Robert Macri

          I do not think our lack of evidence of anything coming into existence from nothing implies anything in this case.

          Certainly it does! Science is empirical. Empirical evidence supports the conclusion that nothing comes from nothing without external causation. (Never mind that logic alone is sufficient to reach this conclusion.) And besides being consistent with observation, such a conclusion is fundamental to science. It is basically a conservation law (conservation of energy, etc), and without conservation laws we would have no physics at all. Predictive science would be impossible.

          Furthermore, even if we take that conclusion (that nothing comes from nothing in the closed system of nature alone) to be tentative (because we simply haven't been fortunate enough to observe otherwise yet), it is still the best conclusion available. We cannot throw it out without abandoning science altogether (or taking a hypocritical position of accepting only that scientific evidence which supports our own favorite theories).

          Even if I were not convinced that science would not exist without conservation laws of this type, I would still say that we cannot conclude propositions not in evidence, such as a purely natural mechanism for creatio ex nihilo.

          To be clear, we should look at scientific understanding as evidence, not as a source of propositions that no skeptic, however determined, can withstand. As such, it is perfectly reasonable to use in support of cosmological arguments.

          Remember, time itself is one of the things requiring explanation. Thus, to suppose that nature simply is, without any cause external to itself, is either to assume that it always was (it's eternal), or that it accomplished the l

          EDIT: I removed the last part because it repeats another post.

          • You say "empirical evidence supports the conclusion that nothing comes from nothing without causation"-this sentence does not make sense. If something comes from an external cause, it does not come from nothing. In any event, such conclusions are philosophical, not scientific or empirical. Moreover, there is no empirical evidence of anything coming into existence as the terms are used in the Kalaam to justifiy beliefs on whether material reality is caused or uncaused. We have no evidence one way or another.

            All of our empirical observation are of change. We never see anything come into existence. We only observe a rearrangement of matter and energy. We cannot reach any conclusions about the ultimate origins. Either this material reality is uncaused, or it is caused by something uncaused, or there are a series of causes terminating in something uncaused.

            I see no way of distinguishing these options in any way. We do not have an explanation and I do not see why we need to conclude one way or the other until we have a basis for doing so.

        • Robert Macri

          You say:

          I think we are still in a position of ignorance on whether all matter/energy is caused.

          And then you say:

          Nowhere do I say all matter/energy is its own cause for existence. Something being its own cause for existence, is contradictory.

          But are those two statements not self contradictory? In the first statement you imply that at least some matter/energy could be uncaused (or at least that we cannot rule it out). In the second you say that nothing can cause itself.

          Please explain to me the difference between a thing being uncaused and causing itself...?

          And if the explanation is that some material thing "always was" (is eternal) then we are at odds with current science.

          Now, as a Catholic I do of course believe that something can be the necessary grounds for its own existence (God as ipsum esse subsistens). As a physicist I rule out nature as being anything remotely capable of such an act.

          Whatever the necessary and sufficient cause is, it is something entirely other than all the material causes of nature.

          • "Uncaused" is not the same as "caused itself to exist". The latter incorporates a contradiction. A thing needs to exist to be a cause, therefore a thing cannot cause its own existence.

            Being uncaused would mean just existing absent any other element bringing it into existence.

            It may be that being uncaused means there is no time at which the thing did not exist, which I understand is a conclusion about material reality from physics. I would expand this to "not state of affairs, temporal or otherwise, in which the thing did not exist".

        • Robert Macri

          But no matter what, some "thing" is uncaused. Whether it is all matter/energy or some "thing" that cauase all matter/energy to exist.

          Yes, I agree that some uncaused cause exists. But science and logic argue powerfully against nature itself (or some "seed of nature") as being that uncaused cause. It just doesn't fit the bill. If we think otherwise, we are basing our opinion on a kind of naturalistic faith, not on science, which is built upon dependent chains of cause and effect.

        • Robert Macri

          The video Brandon posted relies on "science and common experience" and says this implies it was caused. But I do not see how this can be, we have no experience or observation of anything suggesting this.

          What do you mean "we have no experience or observation of anything suggesting this"? Do you have experience or evidence to the contrary, that some natural thing exists which was not caused?

    • Paul F

      The kalam relies on the a priori premise: Infinite time cannot exist in the universe. The physical evidence given in the video does not address this premise. In fact, physics does not address a priori. Physics takes certain a priori for granted, such as: every effect has a cause. But it does not address infinite time. Therefore this is one a priori that physical evidence cannot be given for. Of course, lack of evidence does not make it untrue.

  • Doug Shaver

    I think both premises presuppose knowledge that we don't actually have. I therefore don't feel compelled to accept the conclusion.

    • Rob Abney

      What is the presupposed knowledge for premise 1 Doug?

      • Doug Shaver

        It seems to presuppose the principle of sufficient reason.

    • Mike

      maybe we're stuck on some wheel of samsara?

      • Bob Bolondz

        Feels more like a hamster wheel.

        • Mike

          that gave me a chuckle.

  • David Nickol

    Jim Baggott is one of my favorite science writers, and his latest book, Origins: The Scientific Story of Creation, was published just last month. Here is the first paragraph of Chapter 1 (In the 'Beginning': The Origin of Space, Time, and Energy):

    Don't be fooled. No matter what you might have read in some recent popular science books, magazine articles, or news features, and no matter how convincing this might have seemed at the time, be reassured that nobody can tell you how the universe began. Or even if 'began' is a word that's remotely appropriate in this context.

    EDIT: Baggot corrected to Baggott.

    • Thanks, David. This isn't so much a counter-argument as an assertion. That said, my reply to Brian applies here, too:

      Just because we don't know how the cause of the universe brought the universe into being--as Baggot rightly asserts--that doesn't mean we can't know anything about that cause, such as the properties deduced from the kalam argument. The properties logically and necessarily follow from the argument.

      • David Nickol

        But read the last sentence of the paragraph I quoted. Nobody can tell us how the universe began, "[o]r even if 'began' is a word that's remotely appropriate in this context." If Baggott only said that nobody can tell us how the universe began, that would be one thing. Baggot clearly raises doubts that we can accept Premise 2: The universe began to exist. Of course, his statement is pertinent only insofar as it correctly sums up the current state of knowledge about the existence of the universe, but I think it does.

        I had not started reading the book yet, but when I saw the OP, I thought to myself it would be interesting to see what Jim Baggott said, and I found and quoted the above passage.

        • Michael Murray

          Baggott added to my Kindle after Inwagen. I blame you for my lengthening list of things to read ! :-)

    • Are you conflating perfect knowledge with probabilistic guesses which can be reasoned from and built on? We make decisions all the time based on theories and evidence which could plausibly be interpreted another way. What we do, when we cannot avoid making a choice (sometimes not making a choice is a choice), is pick the most probable option, even if all options are less than 25% probable (one can add in a variance or make it a full probability distribution if one likes).

      • David Nickol

        Are you conflating perfect knowledge with probabilistic guesses which can be reasoned from and built on?

        No.

        The OP presents an argument with the premise "The universe began to exist." It is a perfectly legitimate question to ask, "Is that true?" The usual tack taken here by those who find the Kalam cosmological argument compelling is to claim that the big bang was the beginning of the universe. Not being a cosmologist myself, I am merely quoting a science writer whom I trust to give me an accurate picture of the state of modern cosmology on whether or not the universe began to exist. He says, "[B]e reassured that nobody can tell you how the universe began. Or even if 'began' is a word that's remotely appropriate in this context." I take that (along with a great many other things I have read) to indicate that "The universe began to exist" need not be accepted as necessarily true, and therefore the argument is not compelling.

        We make decisions all the time based on theories and evidence which could plausibly be interpreted another way.

        Certainly this is true, but I do not feel compelled to make a study of cosmology and decide for myself whether it is true that the universe began to exist. Whether or not God exists is indeed an important question, but that does not mean the Kalam cosmological argument is an important argument. Were I to devote all my available time from now to the rest of my life to the question of the existence of God, I certainly wouldn't spend it studying cosmology so I could come to my own conclusion about the Kalam cosmological argument. This does not mean I require "perfect knowledge" before making the vast majority of decisions for the rest of my life. It means I suspend judgment on the Kalam cosmological argument until there is something like a consensus among cosmologists about the beginning of the universe.

        • He says, "[B]e reassured that nobody can tell you how the universe began. Or even if 'began' is a word that's remotely appropriate in this context."

          But this can be interpreted two ways: (i) nobody can tell you with certainty; (ii) nobody can even give a good guess.

          I take that (along with a great many other things I have read) to indicate that "The universe began to exist" need not be accepted as necessarily true, and therefore the argument is not compelling.

          So the only arguments you find compelling are those which are necessarily true? You write as if that's the case, but this seems like a ridiculously high standard. Indeed, I find that atheists tend to criticize if not mock SN articles where certainty (contrast with "necessarily true") is the standard.

          It means I suspend judgment on the Kalam cosmological argument until there is something like a consensus among cosmologists about the beginning of the universe.

          Ok, but this becomes a preference of yours: given that much in life is uncertain, you personally choose to spend your time investigating in other areas. This seems very different from the message communicated by your original comment. The question here is how much of our knowledge truly is precarious. If pretty much all of it is (that isn't mathematics), then the fact that cosmology is precarious becomes boring, in a way.

          • David Nickol

            But this can be interpreted two ways: (i) nobody can tell you with certainty; (ii) nobody can even give a good guess.

            I take the statement to be somewhere in between (i) and (ii), but very much closer to (ii) than to (i). I quoted only the first paragraph of Chapter 1, but I read the whole chapter.

            So the only arguments you find compelling are those which are necessarily true? You write as if that's the case, but this seems like a ridiculously high standard.

            I think you are giving a somewhat technical meaning to an informal statement. When I say the premise "The universe began to exist" is not necessarily true, I mean simply that it may or may not be true. I am not appealing to some category of "necessary truths." In fact, when I originally wrote the sentence, it read simply, "'The universe began to exist' need not be accepted as true, and therefore the argument is not compelling." After I posted the message, I edited it to add necessarily to convey the meaning that I didn't know the premise to be false, but I didn't know it to be true, either.

            But certainly you don't mean to imply that the same standard must be applied to every argument, do you? It's not even required in court. In a civil trial, the standard is "the preponderance of evidence." In a criminal trial it's "beyond a reasonable doubt." Do you think I should apply the same standards to whether or not to take vitamin supplements as whether or not to undergo radiation treatment and/or chemotherapy should I be diagnosed with cancer?

            Indeed, I find that atheists tend to criticize if not mock SN articles where certainty (contrast with "necessarily true") is the standard.

            I am not an atheist, although I note that you did not say I was.

            The question here is how much of our knowledge truly is precarious. If pretty much all of it is (that isn't mathematics), then the fact that cosmology is precarious becomes boring, in a way.

            It seems to me that much of what we think we know of cosmology is on a very solid basis. That there was something like the big bang, for example, seems to me a fact. Some of cosmology, however, is only speculation. How the universe began, if indeed "began" is applicable, is at present a matter of speculation.

          • DN: He says, "[B]e reassured that nobody can tell you how the universe began. Or even if 'began' is a word that's remotely appropriate in this context."

            LB: But this can be interpreted two ways: (i) nobody can tell you with certainty; (ii) nobody can even give a good guess.

            DH: I take the statement to be somewhere in between (i) and (ii), but very much closer to (ii) than to (i). I quoted only the first paragraph of Chapter 1, but I read the whole chapter.

            What I wonder is what happens when pushing toward (ii) is applied to all stated "claims of science". Take, for example the predicted heat death of the universe. Is that closer to (i) or (ii)? In Metaphysical Beliefs: Three Essays, Stephen Toulmin argues that our extrapolations to a heat death ending are wild speculations, which matches up with your (ii). But what happens to "the claims of science" when (ii) is rigorously applied? I wonder if the assertions made would be vastly dialed back, and the very support for naturalism and atheism vastly curtailed. In some sense this seems to be the postmodernist project, but I'm still pretty new to it. So often, naturalists and atheists speak with such confidence; I have yet to be able to thoroughly, properly correct that confidence.

            When I say the premise "The universe began to exist" is not necessarily true, I mean simply that it may or may not be true.

            That's fine, but if there is a significant chance that "The universe began to exist", wouldn't it be a good idea to pay significant attention to what that claim may entail? It seems that the best way to say what you seem to have intended would be this:

            DN: I take that (along with a great many other things I have read) to indicate that "The universe began to exist" need not be accepted as necessarily true, and therefore the argument is not necessarily compelling.

            However, this seems to weaken the force of the statement. We know very few things with absolute certainty, and yet we find a great number of things compelling. And so, 'compelling' does not seem to depend on "necessarily true".

            But certainly you don't mean to imply that the same standard must be applied to every argument, do you?

            I absolutely agree, when I switch from "necessarily compelling" → "compelling [simpliciter]".

            It seems to me that much of what we think we know of cosmology is on a very solid basis. That there was something like the big bang, for example, seems to me a fact. Some of cosmology, however, is only speculation. How the universe began, if indeed "began" is applicable, is at present a matter of speculation.

            You know, you're making me want to switch from talk of time ("began to exist") to causation ("was caused to exist"). The more I investigate this stuff, the more it seems that causation is more fundamental than time. This also matches well with Aquinas' focus not on the beginning of time or on accidental ordering of series, but essential ordering of series (see Caleb Cohoe's There Must Be A First: Why Thomas Aquinas Rejects Infinite, Essentially Ordered, Causal Series). There is no such [ontological] thing as 'intelligence', without essential ordering of series. A scientist's choice to perform experiment E for reason R must be essential or necessitarian, not accidental or merely regular.

            The key here is to distinguish between the appearance of a thing (e.g. teleonomy, B-theory of time) and the actuality of a thing (e.g. teleology, ¬B-theory).

          • Michael Murray

            But this can be interpreted two ways: (i) nobody can tell you with certainty; (ii) nobody can even give a good guess.

            There is at least one other options. Read what he says here

            Or even if 'began' is a word that's remotely appropriate in this context."

            There is the possibility that the question makes no sense.

            It is like saying "either (i) the electron goes through the left slit or (ii) the electron goes through the right slit" when discussing the double slit experiment.

          • There is the possibility that the question makes no sense.

            True, but in this case David himself said "I take the statement to be somewhere in between (i) and (ii), but very much closer to (ii) than to (i)."

            It is like saying "either (i) the electron goes through the left slit or (ii) the electron goes through the right slit" when discussing the double slit experiment.

            The de Broglie–Bohm theory lets you talk about "which slit" at an ontological level, even if it's inaccessible on an epistemological level. :-p

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Premise 1 seems problematic. One problem for Premise 1 comes from the meaning of the word "cause", and how that term is supposed to be understood within a regime where the concept of time breaks down. The other problem is with the phrase "begins to exist". What does this mean within a regime where the concept of time breaks down?

    Premise 2 seems reasonable. In the words of the sadly not immortal Terry Pratchett, "Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree." I think it's a good way to interpret one of the implications of the big bang theory. There's also an issue of interest to the Thomist, about whether the universe can be understood of as a single thing that has a beginning.

    • If a multiverse spawns a universe, isn't that sufficient to be described as 'causation'? I think you may be hanging too much on 'time' being the ontological thing. Perhaps 'time' is simply how we compare some causal processes to other causal processes. Perhaps the most basic thing is causation, not time.

  • (This comment is getting a bit better after another rewrite..Perhaps I can leave it alone, abandon it. After all, I have to attempt to get through your arguments again with hopefully a better understanding.) If the 'immaterial' is in any way analogous to the thesis of a 'human'/God consciousness this argument 'implies', within my faulty logic, the immaterial both transcends and is immanent within the materiality of a cosmological material uni-(multi?God)-verse, either as time or the 'eternal', how would this relate to the 'necessity' of it's being? What would be the similarities and differences with respect to God consciousness vs. human consciousness? Is a 'necessary being' logically related, within these alternative references, either to or both/and the transcendence or immanence associated with the Being of God, or the ability to think that certain existing logical relations are necessary, or that within Spinoza's philosophy, a decision can be made to regard the universe as having either a necessary or a contingent being. Indeed, if human consciousness is immaterial or transcendent, is it also a 'necessary' Being, and would this imply that it also must have some kind of 'Self-Cause'? Crazy 'reflections' undoubtedly, but it has to be admitted that they at least exist.

    But this same argument would not seem to apply to an the idea of an extension of the material universe beyond our 'intuition' of space and time, (whether that concept is accepted or not by the physicists on line) but rather that, even within what could be the possibilities that are associated the idea of absolute time and space, the 'concept' of space has never, within my understanding, been put forth as something that could in an analogous manner, 'extend' as does time, as a different 'entity' "beyond" itself....????as I am suggesting could be the case with how the concept of time can be understood; that there is an essential difference in the meanings of infinity and the 'eternal'. . Indeed, is it not the case that we only assume as a logical fallacy, an 'infinite' rather than an 'eternal' regress?. Would it be possible to at least consider whether there is a possible correlation between space and materiality, and time and consciousness, or immateriality, (Such is at least evident to me, within a comparison of my perception of the material universe in contrast with what often even as a problematic can be understood to correspond with Kant's term of 'apperception' as a reflective consciousness, for there are so many possibilities with respect to time, available within the imaginative consciousness. Indeed is not 'time; that is assumed even within this word context to be a priori to the 'experience' of any kind of sensation or perception. Is this possibly a basis for a relation of the thought of time to God, or the eternal; in contrast with a the relation of the concept of space to perhaps a Buddhist infinity of 'an emptiness', a the thought of a reality of bliss as a description of mind as 'real' nothingness'. There. Perhaps this is the alternative to the impossibility of a infinite regress of materiality.

    The mind within materiality can possibly be transformed into a 'nothingness'. Something possibly can come from the 'nothingness' of mind, conceived as a prototype of a necessary law and order, an order which, within an awareness or identity with a Buddhist mind, supports the Hegelian idea that freedom is indeed the recognition of necessity. However, for me, unfortunately, my mind could be considered to be 'spaced out', and thus an example of thought that is obviously not so aware or enlightened, as that of the Buddha. But at least, I now have an 'image' of a true 'nothingness' within my mind, thought of as an abstract ideal, or a reality. In one example perhaps the mind as intellect meets with a non-existence or abstraction from the real reality of the world, as a Creative Will, an agency of law and the existence of the real physical world.. In the latter case, the awareness of the world, without the thought implicit within language, is abstracted from space, within a nothingness, or rather emptiness which finds a freedom of necessity through the negation of a physical manifold. In both cases, it is believed that mind, within some sort of transcendence or negation of either space or time, is somehow equated with 'Necessary Being'. . .

    We now have possibly 'two dualities': a duality of space/time, perception/apperception, as well as the expression of a possible duality of or within consciousness, which could or could not be an aspect of either time or space, within it's consideration as an intuition, rather than any given kind of 'absolute' or 'real relativity'???? ( I do get confused!!!) at least with respect to how time and space are variously conceptualized 'perceived/apperceived' and thus described within the human context. Within an analogy with the 'divine, would this description be considered too difficult or dangerous a thesis, as it would possibly challenge, or even limit the meaning of the immateriality which may however, be assigned 'only' to the will and intellect within this paradigm of consciousness within the human sphere of consciousness. However, this duality perhaps could also be structurally related to the One and the Logos/Nous within Neo-Platonism, perhaps suggesting that such concepts as the Holy Ghost in such a way to be equivalent with 'Soul' which within that philosophy, emphasizes perhaps a more mundane conception of the sphere of reality associated with more with the sphere of a physical world, than the intelligence and will associated with 'mind'...

    How can I conclude in one instance that /space materiality would not be 'eternal' in the sense of allowing infinite regress, yet time consciousness could be, suggesting perhaps again a priority of the possible time/consciousness in the relation. Perhaps this is why the word 'infinite' is considered more appropriate to space (in any sense of that word) and yet time and consciousness would seem to diverge, as being two distinct kinds or entities, but only if consciousness is identified in some way with time but not with space, which perhaps is a paradox within the conception of God. There is also the assumption of reference to consciousness that differs with respect to possible considerations of space within the framework of the hypothetical- or accorded to the logic of non-contradiction?as is the case in the assumptions underlying science.

    What of the first distinction within Kant's third category- the categorical or the recognition of an identity, or the assertoric? Alternatively there is, within Kant's third category in which these principles of Aristotle are adapted to a temporal usage, the either-or -both/and/and reciprocity thesis -or law of excluded middle, which suggested to Hegel the distinction between the perhaps unlimited possibility of innumerable forms of limitation within the immanence of consciousness within the temporal, in contrast with an eternal suggested by an extension of 'both' to include an infinity of 'and's' . . If this is true, how could this be? .A predecessor perhaps of Spinoza's pantheism, but merely through suggestion or consequence? There is some clarity to be found in the fact that there are alternative variations on the word 'eternal' some of which include reference to the temporal as does the term preternatural.. Why is time, considered to be the more difficult concept, without objection, even to those physicists who have considered the possibility that time does not exist? Is it because, at least within their own apperceptions, they cannot avoid relating time to the unavoidable reality of their own consciousness?.
    .
    In other words, 'how', does this argument provide some insight into the various conceptions with respect to the relation of humankind and God, with respect to the relationship between 'causality' and 'necessity' as either 'being/existence' or a logical rational?

    Hope I convey what thought I am capable of sufficiently. Yet even though I cannot always follow the logic within the scientist's argument, particularly as good argument is so dependent on knowing the relevant 'facts', I still value the opportunity to attempt to work these things out, for myself. I still hold to the thesis that I am neither God nor the Buddha, for instance, a conclusion I suggest that is far from 'universal', and so this is but further evidence, that this argument for Gods 'existence' is 'necessarily' problematic, even in it's expression or formulation as an 'abstract or logical' thesis.The question is .How??? precisely does 'immateriality' correlate with 'will' and/or 'intellect', 'intelligence' or even 'consciousness'.? The five ways to my understanding cover only who, what, where, why and when. Please then correct, expand, or contradict or as I expect, ignore, this need for clarification, according to your 'better judgment!! I again, will leave the 'argument' to you, because I have at least demonstrated, if not proven, that I am not very good even in establishing my own consciousness of or 'existence' of intelligibility or intellect, when it comes to such issues, that 'define' the 'divinity'assumed within logical argument.

    Could such argument actually establish the 'immateriality' of a Trinitarian conception of God, when only the Will and the Logos are defined, at least with the human context, as 'immaterial'. Does the Logos 'produce' the Will, or does the Will produce the Logos? What is the relation between the upward and downward progression of these aspects of thought within western rationality as they relate to Christian 'tradition'?

    To what extent can the 'idea' of 'image' (of God) be extended or related to the realm of logic and mathematics, the will and the intellect, and how could such logic/intelligence be applied/credited to all humans. To what extent, or in what 'way' Is my consciousness, I ask again, within the temporal sphere, the same or different from God's. In what way could the Will be related to an immanent immateriality within the physical universe? In what way is Creation necessarily only transcendent: is this a conclusion of logic and/or a precedent of the logic/logos and even the 'word made flesh'. Another dangerous thought here, perhaps, for I dare not suggest that the 'Father of human thought, could in any way be analogous to a physical 'prior universe', to Logos, to the Word. and again, to what, within my understanding constitutes the Soul? Yet within any analogy between human consciousness and the 'divine' trinity of consciousness does not the ordering of beauty, and the the sense of transcendence encountered in the awe associated with the sublime, the power of Judgment, that which Kant at least associated with the initial 'awareness' of a Divine Power and Glory. and assigned an explicit recognition of an immateriality of being, to God, as well as the will and intellect. The initial judgment of a Kingship, found within the particular judgment was perhaps within this extension of power and glory of thought to God, as a trinity which includes all of these distinctions. This perhaps however assigned within human reasoning, only to the universal, or to the law.. In what way might I, within the sphere of mundane thought, be confused here?

    Yet, these seeming contradictions, prompt me to ask as well, for instance: In what way would my consciousness as a woman, be different from that of the consciousness of 'man'? (May the Holy Ghost be with me!!!) to the degree that a lateral thinking is more in evidence than linear thought, that particular observations are a more common than abstract universals. In what way would the 'made in God's image' apply to those who were not particularly adept with such 'logical arguments'? Does the thought of being made in God's image entail only the recognition of the universal an ordering and rule within f language?

    With respect to the possibility of necessary being within an immateriality of being granted to the intellect and will, how would this argument relate to the phrase 'image of God', for instance, when perhaps image is not of necessity related to either term as an 'immateriality'?. In what way would I be 'made in his image', whether or not the argument is true that it is the will and the intellect, only, that are 'immortal'? Could 'image' describe the ability to reason specifically about materiality, in contrast to the ability to 'abstract' from materiality, and thus produce even occasionally merely 'empty concepts', etc. which may or may not 'define' God? and indeed even ourselves as immortal or mere mortals? Would the epistemic possibility of having such an abstract thought convince me for instance of it's ontological reality, even or merely as a possibility, and/or could even the thought of such an 'experience' of immortality convince me of it's 'reality'? Does one know what one knows, on this basis alone? Is this the essential difference between Kant's Transcendental Idealism and revelation, whether that concept be related to the Divine, as Public Revelation,the bible or Private Revelation (i.e.the images within personal experience) whether or not these are translated or manifested, or incarnated, as the Word of God? or other images of divinity or transcendence. Is it the thought/mind specifically that is the fundamental transcendence to a physical reality? Would such transformation of thought and/or being within materiality, also possibly apply to the concept of immateriality? How can I 'define' my own sense, at least, of consciousness, within alternative 'visionary/imaginative' paradigms? How does one correlate the visionary with the rational?

    How does one distinguish between logical necessity and a necessary being? Let us consider the 'credibility' of the idea of whether the immateriality of the Intellect specifically, (as distinct from perhaps Will or what? the Creative aspect of 'God'??) can perhaps be made more coherent when it is considered to be but an abstraction, and when it is logical rather than merely, or solely an image. Even Einstein had to buttress his imagination with mathematics. And interestingly, the equations of mathematics are far more complex than any rational argument for God that I have encountered, and yet to what extent can mathematics be applied to the psychological, to the qualitative, to experience? Is it possible, as in the case of doubting the existence of time, or the Buddhist questioning the existence of Maja, that mathematics is a most extreme, idealistic paradigm with respect to the physical, in the way that 'religious' thought can also be considered to be an Idealism rather than a Realism?As an Idealism the Word of God could perhaps be related to such known aspects of conscious thought within language as 'empty tautologies' for example? But I correct, for should not the concept Logos, be distinguished from the implication/association of Being that is definitive of the meaning of the term 'Word of God' as a Reality? Yet how could that distinction be made coherent? Again 'How' does one distinguish between logical necessity and a necessary being? Is it assumed within argument/apologetics and yes the scientific counter/apologetics that such a transposition/translation has genuinely or validly been made?

    Perhaps even an understanding of what we 'mean' by the concept of God, let alone what is 'meant' by existence, subsistence, all the words used almost interchangeably, and without seeming coherence, would indeed require an explanation of 'How' we can understand and correctly distinguish in all cases, as well as the relation of epistemology to ontology. Is such a relation between our knowing and our being questionable perhaps, generally? For instance, Is there not a distinction between the implications of the term 'immateriality' within contrasting usage of the prefix 'a' rather than 'im' . Could we possibly assign the criteria of an inclusive idea of 'negation' as 'im' with possibly an exclusive kind of 'negative' within such terms as a-theist? Would this resolve the difficulty in understanding simply what 'you' or 'Kalem' 'mean' or even 'intend' by the use of the term - im-material? As the most 'human' interpretations define immateriality, not as the knowledge or epistemology of same but rather more directly refer to only the ontology, would this usage explain or entail the possibly relevant distinction between an amateriality (epistemological) and an immateriality. (ontological)? Could a similar distinction be made with respect to the term immortality? In what ways are the confusions between epistemology and ontology, and the inability to distinguish between them a factor in the 'conversion' of thought to being within the Kalem argument.

    More 'speculation?' What is the difference between a temporal and an 'eternal' or timeless consciousness? Is it possible as within the philosophy of Bergson that, ontologically, within our human 'sense' of time, as it is 'experienced' only as duration, that there is a duality, perhaps expressed, epistemologically? as the distinction between past and future? This of course would not express a Platonic Ideality as a Reality, not be understood as an ontology of Being Divine.. Yet, is Platonism in 'essence' itself an epistemology or an ontology? Yet this 'duality' can perhaps be compared to the duality we 'experience' within the 'reflective consciousness'? Is it possible that even in the recent emphasis on the 'now' within popular culture, that there is often confusion between what is referred to is an 'empirical' perception in contrast, perhaps,as in Buddhism, to a 'centered' conscious self-awareness, or the importance of maintaining a relationship with the image expressed mimetically as language within Christianity.. Is it even possible that such dualities within dualities 'could' represent what within a human scale we 'understand' to be a distinction between intellect and will?

    Thus the only 'true now' is perhaps something that within the temporal reality, we do not experience, because of the nature of our consciousness within the continuum of the duality experienced as a temporal 'duration'. This again raises the question for me as to whether it is possible that a true 'now' could indeed be an 'actuality' and whether such would or could constitute the distinction between human consciousness and that considered as an aspect perhaps of Buddha consciousness as well as 'God'.. It will be noted that this allows an appreciation of Thomistic or rather Aristotelean interpretation of the 'concept' 'actuality', within context, even to a possible extension of an awareness of a 'now' over a duration of time, whether this is considered within the context of 'temporality' or the 'eternal/praeternatural' or even as a consciousness of consciousness, but here again I am merely seeking explanation for a speculative thought that has long been held even within Buddhist philosophy or psychology.' where it is demarcated as an ultimate 'Truth' in contrast to 'conventional truth'..
    .
    I realize that these questions may open up that big theological issue regarding the immortality of 'only' the will and the intellect, and more specifically whether or not there has been an unacknowledged difference with respect to how these categories are 'applied' within the temporal sphere of human 'nature', (within Buddhist thought in contrast to Christian thought, to concepts of the eternal within the trinity of monotheistic scripture, to men as distinct from 'women', between the sane and insane, extended to humans as distinct from animals or may I suggest even to the fetus within a definition of what is 'human' as well as what is 'personal'. (oh there are 'countless' possible examples)of what could be considered as 'necessary, immaterial, intellectual' modes of Being, and any relation and in relation these might have within various interpretations as to whether there is in fact a Divine Existence, or God..

    With respect to the principles of rational thought, how are these arguments supportive of faith as related to revelation. How, in other words are these 'ideals' supported? not only 'within' the context of a possible immateriality of will and intellect, but with respect to an 'experience' of God. Is there being within all rational thought as well as within all the empirical and imaginative images of thought? For instance, as a woman I can't help but wonder whether or how and on what basis such 'human characteristics as being an 'image of God' are applied or recognized (as miracle perhaps or vision, or private revelation, or even science fiction: I know not) within the 'temporal sphere', or on the basis of my assumed intellect, as in the case as what could be considered 'worthy' of belief. In these cases, it seems, it is generally the case that intellect triumphs over 'image', and yet these too are considered to be 'made' in the 'image of God'. I cannot understand how 'image' is related to these aspects of infallible argument, or validity or especially to what is relevant here, 'soundness',of argument or discourse, when considered within the 'human capacity' of both (Kant's terminology) productive and reproductive imagination. .In relating the productive imagination merely to perception of the 'empirical', it is the latter term, that was related, within the 'beliefs' developed in an assessment of a personal visionary experience of my own, from which it was concluded that such were best categorized within the William James terminology, as but one possibility within 'a variety of religious or visionary experience' and interpretative hermeneutics, .one which was in particular able to be explained as a resulting synthesis, and thus a 'regulatory summation of ideas' or even as a 'revelation', of the scope of the experience which summarized and followed a reading of Kant.

    Is it this ability to 'imagine' or is it reason, even including abstract concepts, that 'represent' most fundamentally the 'image' of God? Again how can logic or abstract thought even, be related to the concept of 'image'? Is there a limited choice of words available for consideration, perhaps, in which the thought can be expressed? Indeed, is there a possibility of producing a cohesion of personal images today, or even the possibility of a collation of human experience, including the internality of thought, which would have as substantive an organization as that which is found within various 'biblical' or 'mythological' traditions. This could be considered to be a challenge!!!. And are these a product the reproductive imagination, in contrast to the 'productive' empirical observations of the senses? How could reason be related to inspiration, whether that be ascribed to the muse or the Holy Ghost? For me, there remains a discrepancy between an explanation of the 5 w's and the how, in all of these issues. I don't feel 'divine', when the characteristics assigned to the human will and intellect, are examined by a reflective consciousness in which either/or -both/and the will and the intellect, could be balanced by neither/nor, both/and,--and. at least 'logically', and when all of these within the possibilities of reflection can be assigned within a visionary/sensual order or context which often is capable of 'transforming' the understanding of the rational, either as personal insight or personal revelation.. It is also difficult when all such possible reflection can only be assigned solely within the temporal and rationally abstracted forms of consciousness, in which even the concept of 'martyrdom' can be interpreted according to differing 'contexts' and dogmas/ideologues.. I merely am attempting to retain some realism within what I consider to be a most 'irrational' placement of polarities between the various concepts, and traditions, as they exist today, all within the 'real' world in which power and possibility dominate actualities and potentialities.. .

    With respect to the initial distinction raised at the beginning of this essay, a duality of consciousness congruent in some way with the past and the future, upon further pondering, it would be perhaps more appropriate to relate beauty, the sublime, order, the ability to make particular judgments, with the Beauty of the Holy Ghost, (our muse) and perhaps this 'Cartesian homunculus' within the duality of a self-reflective consciousness could be related to the apperception, the vision, the image, which allows can prompt us towards the possibilities of a future. In contrast, and to be consistent with the idea of law, within a Kingdom of Divine Law, with Truth, perhaps the many voices we hear, both external and internally, are hopefully capable of being associated to some degree with the Word, an idea that it would be our past from which is drawn the precedents, which enable us to go forth in life and in love. Goodness, the highest of the universals within the metaphysics of Plato, could at least logical, and by elimination be associated with a present/Presence, an immediacy that it is very difficult to grasp in its full actuality.

    This has been a 'request' for explanation, only. . We live within a world which is obviously not an abstraction or a 'perfect' logical paradigm, but possibly our thoughts arise more from an 'aesthetic' as the possibility of judgment in relation primarily to the particular, to the possibility of it's universalization, as well as the aesthetic criteria of art and the auto-poises of human agency/ I merely hope this at least demonstrates that I am at least capable of continuing to 'ponder' these questions, although I do not consider as 'reasonable' a possibility of any 'virgin birth' which would necessarily, or even coincidentally involve bringing any ideas or meditations to any necessary fruitful consequence. Yet, the reverse is also true; that these 'musings' are limited to the extent that it is possible to apply the addendum of logic, as well as fact, to an intuition, My difficulties with 'proof' arise, as per Kant, from a continual need to question the possibility of a 'proof' with respect to any 'dogmatic' issue, defined as thought divorced from matter or content, as exemplified by his demonstration of contrary possibilities or contradicting proofs in this regard within his examination of the antinomies.. Thanks for letting me work these ideas out in detail, and with the necessary rewrites to do this, as well as the assistance of writing within a context that gives me access to the thought of others.

    • Thanks to Paul Rimmer I followed up on his comment and found this: http://creationwiki.org/Borde-Guth-Vilenkin_singularity_theorem I couldn't help but 'imagine' that perhaps my dual consciousness is a kind of point vector, that my attempt to speculate on a dual consciousness, did end up with a possible comparative understanding of the opposite 'projections?' of the null and zero with respect to past and future, inflation and expansion. Did I get this right, nominally, at least? You see again, I am 'picking' up only vaguely. I feel like I'm trying to read Kant for the first time. A project which was never completed, never fully 'understood', but I couldn't help comparing the speculations of cosmology/physics with those of philosophy - and even theology, which logically I suppose would be a similar embracing, yet perhaps still 'abstract' and even 'incomplete' theory which included all the 'points' which I have not got the logic or rational mind to argue about, let alone understand. What is everybody talking about?

      All of those comments on EN about causality, and categories, and the relation of the one and the many. How many different theories have I read by how many different philosophers, on first and secondary causes, etc. etc. -- Back to the OP's focus on the relation of God to existence- and a what? First cause? Perhaps it all has something to do with all of the infinite number of Buddha minds that can be an object of Eastern meditation, or perhaps the monads of Leibniz, or perhaps..... (no wonder I can't give right/correct/short/brief/witty comments, I inevitably find myself relating all of these ideas to my own personal limited experience and capacity both of intellect and will). I can be just so untheoretical-like so unscientific-like, so unBuddha-like, so unGodly!!!!!like Yet it still amazes me that my little speculations about a zero and a null within past and future projections, an attempt to 'find' the basis of the 'relations of a self-reflective, or maybe self-referential thought' ended up with a kind of 'nothingness', that both past and future remain 'a work in progress', perhaps.: Does this suggest to anyone else, that there are similarities between religion, science, as well as my limited capacity to understand.even my own 'speculations' about them?

      Perhaps even then, someone could explain 'why'? or "how' I'm feel caught within what? A Secondary rather than a First Philosophy.? Trapped in 'my own head? I just can't 'get the point'!!!! or 'how' I possibly could (at least 'learn' what, where, when, why, and whatever the other cosmological argument is based on??? Please excuse. At the moment I just can't think, and I don't want to fall into another senior moment where, loosing myself in thought, I might even begin to question my own existence....!!!! Perhaps science can save me. Perhaps science can explain 'completely', in 'totality', 'how' I 'think'? Let me think of the possible meaning of what they are saying....

      No supernatural. No super- natural. No under- standing. Whatever might be the significance of these words within a social or scientific context. Whatever these words might mean within the history, psychology, relationships to others of any specific 'individual'. Could these words be related in any possible way to such other words that would allow me to understand at last - what IS!

      No God. No Buddha Awareness No metaphysics. No Mind. No Causation. No Law No thought. No image. No concepts. No Agency. No Subjectivity. No ....me?. No. All has been, within some definition or another, possibly negated by Science. No? No.. Don't tell me. I haven't the capacity to understand you. But perhaps I do understand ---Don't' worry.. I'll go away. You're right. I 'hear' what you are 'thinking'....... I just need to 'get a LIFE'!!!! But hopefully a 'real' life WITH 'virtue'!!!!!Yes, I virtual life, and here I am on the internet???? LOL? :)

      Edit: And then comes the posting of 'Just Thomism' - many different OP's on various interpretations of what 'is'. I have chosen to post the following, but others can be accessed, incrementally?, from the options given at the end of post. Reading them also makes me feel more confident, that there is indeed quite different options for interpretation, so the idea of past and present which I have explored may or may not lead to more 'fruitful' speculation, or even greater 'coherence'???? or the possibility of eating apples (Edit - correction: should I say 'lack of incoherence, which is probably the more accurate description?. Oh! those 'negatives'!!!!) https://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/6062/.

  • Lazarus

    I think there's still some life left in this old workhorse, and that even its biggest detractor should grant that it works at least as a deductively valid modus tollendo tollens.

    • Sure its valid, that gets us nowhere unless it is sound. It's not sound.

  • Another interesting criticism is that there is nothing in the Kalam that precludes multiple causes. Premise one, really is everything that begins to exist has at least one cause for its existence.

    I also see no reason to believe the cause must be immaterial, that our universe contains all space and time, no reason to think it must be a mind.

    Basically, since we have no idea, even on theism, of how a universe or material reality is brought into existence from material nothing we have no reasonable basis to deduce or even infer what the properties of any such cause might be.

    • Lazarus

      Why do we have to know how a universe is created to be able to posit the God of Christianity? To us folk that not-knowing is part of the charm.

      • If you are saying you do not know how the universe was created, fine. But Craig concludes he does know, he knows it is immaterial, and intelligent and transcendent.

        This argument relies on the hidden premise that "the only thing that can be a cause of the universe is a mind".

        To me this entails that you know something of how the creation occurs, you at least know enough about the cause to know it could not be mindless. To say this must know something of what it takes to create material, but we don't.

    • "Another interesting criticism is that there is nothing in the Kalam that precludes multiple causes. Premise one, really is everything that begins to exist has at least one cause for its existence."

      This challenge is easily handled by Ockham’s Razor: one should not multiply causes beyond necessity. Why propose multiple causes when once cause suffices?

      This principle is presumed by scientists and philosophers all over the world. Do you deny it?

      "I also see no reason to believe the cause must be immaterial..."

      If it created all material reality, then it must, by necessity, be immaterial. This is logically straightforward.

      "[I also see no reason to believe] that our universe contains all space and time..."

      This isn't a "belief." It's the accepted scientific definition of "universe" and is thus the definition of the term "universe" in this argument. The Oxford Dictionary defines "universe" as "All existing matter and space considered as a whole."

      So if you'd like to redefine the word "universe" to include only *part* of space and time, then you haven't refuted the kalam argument...you've created a new spinoff argument with differently defined terms.

      "[I also see] no reason to think it must be a mind...."

      As William Lane Craig has often noted, there are only two possibilities for a transcendent, immaterial, eternal cause of the universe: abstract objects or disembodied minds. The problem with abstract objects is that they're causally inert--they simply don't cause things and have no agency. Thus, the cause must be some sort of bodiless mind.

      "Basically, since we have no idea, even on theism, of how a universe or material reality is brought into existence from material nothing we have no reasonable basis to deduce or even infer what the properties of any such cause might be."

      You're shifting the goalposts here, Brian. Just because we don't know how the cause of the universe brought the universe into being doesn't mean we can't know anything about that cause, such as the properties deduced from the kalam argument. The properties logically and necessarily follow from the argument.

      You've done nothing (at least in this comment) to refute the soundness of the kalam argument, or to show how the properties of the first cause fail to flow from its conclusion. And in that case, we must accept them.

      • I am not proposing multiple causes, I am saying multiple causes are not ruled out by the Kalaam, and one needs an argument to show how it could not be multiple creators or causes.

        I am not sure the principle is presumed by scientists in this context. I would agree that every effect has a cause is presumed, but this is also a tautology. But the principle here is "anything that begins to exist has a cause" I do not see that as scientific presumption at all. If anything the rule is nothing comes into or out of existence. It is impossible for matter/energy to be created or destroyed, it just changes form.

        "If it created all material reality, then it must, by necessity, be immaterial. This is logically straightforward." That is a statement, not an argument. Why must it be immaterial?

        I did not realize you were using "universe" in this way. I would have used "material reality" or "cosmos".

        "As William Lane Craig has often noted, there are only two possibilities
        for a transcendent, immaterial, eternal cause of the universe: abstract
        objects or disembodied minds."

        Why are these the only two possibilities? Why not a non-material mindless natural cause? If things exist that are non-material, we are utterly ignorant of their nature or variety or power. I think it is presumptuous to make rules about what they are, can be and are capable of.

        I do not think I am moving the goal posts. All the Kalaam tells us, if it is sound, is that there is a cause. You are relying on hidden premises here that have not been justified such as "the only cause that can bring the universe into existence is an immaterial cause" same for an intelligent cause, and so on. These premises need to justification.

        No, I refuted the soundness in my first comment, see episode one of my podcast for a more thorough discussion of premise one.

        • Paul F

          "Every effect has a cause" is an a priori, not a tautology.

          "Anything that begins to exist has a cause" is also an a priori.

          Physics does employ the former; it does not employ the latter. Physics does not address creation ex nihilo, as it only addresses the universe as Brandon defined it.

        • I am not proposing multiple causes, I am saying multiple causes are not ruled out by the Kalaam, and one needs an argument to show how it could not be multiple creators or causes.

          How is Ockham's razor not "an argument"? You could say it's a heuristic, but who cares? It tells us good ways of guessing when we don't have deductive, certain knowledge. I would need to see an argument for how it would be right to apply OR in other areas, but wrong to apply it here.

      • Quote: "[I also see] no reason to think it must be a mind...."

        This is indeed true to 'Spinoza', in which the one substance, is neither of the two of infinite attributes known to man, i.e. mind and matter.

        Quote: The problem with abstract objects is that they're causally inert--they simply don't cause things and have no agency.

        Perhaps Aristotle was more generous with respect to causality - which he attributed to a different five ways which included not the only God-like first mover, but also the 'material, efficient, formal and final' Causes. When it comes to 'agency' we are perhaps contrasting this concept to that of laws or order or something. If God is given the prime power of agency, in other words, is this the reason why both church and state have often, may I say, identified with the prime hierarchical chain of causality, as in logic, perhaps. Within the human sphere which at least now as a hierarchical system logic at least is understood to be empty if without content, it remains distinct from a secondary system of causality, within may be interpreted as a horizontal and temporal sphere, in which mankind's agency falls even within democracy, under the control of the original context of a primal or vertical hierarchy. (just wondering what might be the criteria of 'agency', both human and divine).and how 'specifically' these might indeed be related, even 'subsumed' under some system of law rather than 'agency'.

        Quote: The properties logically and necessarily follow from the argument.

        Does this mean that the agency does indeed, after all, follow from the rules of argument.

        Quote: disembodied minds.

        Yes, this certainly does give me 'the thought' or an example of what could 'actually' be referred to as the 'emptiness of the concept' without the percept, etc. (Kant) or the emptiness of logic without content, or the tautology that characterizes relations of concepts with no distinction within 'meaning' or possible interpretations. Like in Descarte's argument where at least agreement was made that he could not, through his thought, conjure being into 'existence'!!!

        End of 'argument'. Thank you.

      • TomD123

        Brandon,
        I think this is the problem with the Kalam argument, it is quite vague. Here are a few thoughts on this comment:
        (1) Ockham's Razor is not necessarily relevant here. We shouldn't multiply entities beyond necessity, but this last part is crucial, in other words, what if it is simply the case that we need more than one cause to explain the universe? Moreover, Ockham's razor is more relevant when it comes to complicating a theory by multiplying kinds of entities, not necessarily individual entities.
        (2) If we define "universe" to mean the sum of material reality, the arguments in favor of the universe having a beginning are significantly weaker. The scientific arguments are largely based off of the big bang which is compatible with this universe coming from a prior material reality. Even other scientific arguments don't show that anything physical full stop had a beginning, only that certain kinds of physical universes with certain physical laws likely did. Further, the arguments against an actual infinity only give us reason to deny an infinite past time, not a timeless-physical state. In other words, I think that defining universe so broadly weakens the premise that the universe began significantly.
        (3) Merely being non-material doesn't seem sufficient to be a mind. For one, there are non-material physical things (at least, so it seems). For example, space, laws, etc. Second, what counts as "physical" is vague. So if we want to say that all non-physical things are minds, we have to define physical in a non-arbitrary way, and that may prove difficult. Even if however we determined that the cause of the universe was non-material, non-physical, etc. simply asserting that it must be a mind or an abstract object isn't enough, it seems more of an argument is necessary.

    • Paul F

      You are basically saying "we can not make any a priori claims about anything." This is an a priori claim.

      Everyone has to choose the a priori about the universe on which to build their rationale. The test for a priori is whether or not they render the universe unintelligible. What is very interesting to me is that intelligible for one person is unintelligible for another. I often wonder if mass schizophrenia is occurring in the world.

    • Another interesting criticism is that there is nothing in the Kalam that precludes multiple causes.

      Well, there is the Trinitarian conception of reality coming into existence through cooperation amongst all three hypostases. :-p

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    The video talks about the BGV theorem. The original paper can be found here. A word of advice to apologists talking to scientists about God:

    1. Don't use the Kalam argument.
    2. If you are going to ignore (1) and use the Kalam argument, for the love of the God you are trying to prove, don't invoke the BGV theorem!

    The BGV theorem does not establish anything helpful for the Kalam argument. What it does establish is that the universe as described by general relativity has a beginning if the universe as described by general relativity has on average been expanding.

    In other words, it shows that eventually, at some point in the past, general relativity breaks down.

    That's it. It doesn't establish that all space, time, matter and energy had a beginning. In effect, it just establishes that general relativity breaks down at some early time. We already know that general relativity breaks down for very small and very massive objects, but that fact doesn't help the Kalam argument either.

    The Kalam argument is that everything that has a beginning has a cause, not that everything that general relativity doesn't explain has a cause. BGV is a theorem that shows that at some early time general relativity breaks down as an explanation for the universe, not that the universe has a beginning.

    If you want to talk with scientists about Jesus, don't mention the BGV theorem. Just don't. Better not to talk about the Kalam argument altogether. Stick to Leibniz's cosmological argument, or one of Aquinas's five ways, or even Plantinga's ontological argument. These may have their own philosophical problems, but at least they don't get science wrong.

    • Michael Murray

      Thanks for that. There is an interesting related quote from Vilenkin on Craig's own site:

      Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.
      Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/honesty-transparency-full-disclosure-and-bgv-theorem#ixzz3rsjYY23S

      • Robert Macri

        Imagine two projectiles fired at one another. Classical physics does a remarkable job of telling us when and where the two objects will meet and many precise details of the resulting interaction. The fact that quantum mechanics is required to understand the precise details of the interactions of the constituent particles does not invalidate the global classical conclusions in any way.

        Yes, BGV uses a classical theory, but a darn good one. It's conclusions are not in any way invalidated by the fact that general relativity is not a quantized theory.

        Suppose you plan a road trip. Do you need to know how the fuel injector of your car works to estimate the time it will take to get to your destination if you travel at a particular speed? No. Likewise, the conclusions of BGV do not need to describe to quantum phenomena to make general valid claims about the universe.

        • Michael Murray

          So you disagree with Vilenkin when he says

          Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.

          but you want to use his theorem ?

          • Robert Macri

            No, I do not disagree with that statement. Naturally, when we reach the descriptive and predictive limits of a model there is always the possibility that we are "asking the wrong questions", but that does not mean that there are no questions which can be adequately addressed by the model. We can most certainly scope out the boundary of the model. (Think of a map with an uncharted space in the middle... no one would say that the map is useless just because we don't know the number of mountains of valleys in the middle. The map is perfectly sufficient to tell us all about the perimeter and cross-sectional area of the unexplored space, the number of streams entering or exiting, etc. Thus, not all questions are misplaced or unanswerable.)

            Think also of a detective who rules out a number of suspects in a complicated homicide investigation. His investigations might not yet be guided by the proper theory of who might have committed the crime and why (that is, he's "asking the wrong questions" to a certain extent) but his standard procedure is nevertheless capable of discovering who could not be guilty because of good alibi, etc.

            So I object only to the notion that a "break down" of current physics in a certain regime means that we can form no firm conclusions at all about said regime. That is, just because modern physics has trouble with time scales smaller than the Planck time, we should not throw up our hands and suppose that there is no temporal boundary to the universe. Indeed, the BGV paper argues quite satisfactorily that there is.

          • You might also want to get in on this:

            LB: Can we set some ground rules for when "appeal to mystery" is allowed, and when it is not?

            What's basically being argued by atheists in this thread is that we're extrapolating too far from what is known. I might be down with that; I am told that philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright argues something similar. But I want to see where this "restriction of extrapolation" also applies: for example, does it undermine naturalism itself? When we hear statements such as "Science tells us ____.", do those statements also have to be properly relativized? How about statements such as Sean Carroll's Seriously, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Really Are Completely Understood? Nancy Cartwright herself almost certainly disagrees with that, per her How the Laws of Physics Lie; one can also consult the work of two Nobel laureates: Ilya Prigogine's The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature + Robert B. Laughlin's A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down.

            The result of this process could be a humbling of the kinds of claims made, both by theists and atheists. We could actually switch from mouthing off about things we don't understand and have utterly insufficient warrant to say, to talking about things via properly supported arguments, sans emotional manipulation. I have a dream!

          • Robert Macri

            Luke, thanks for the invite (and by the way, I've been meaning to reply to another post of yours from a long while back, but have been bogged down. Forgive me! I still intend to get to it.)

            I would say that science is a tool, and far too few people (even good scientists) are clear about the limitations of that tool. I do think that if we are careful we can make reasonable extrapolations here and there, but not always. And science is always provisional.

            Because of the success of science, one might develop a kind of faith that science can answer all questions, but such a position is exactly that: faith, and not a conclusion of science itself. And such a confidence can blind one to the distinction between what one can demonstrate empirically and one's own favorite but unjustified assumptions.

            The fact is, we just don't know what we don't know. As Richard Feynman used to wonder, is it possible to know everything about the world, or is reality like an infinite onion, leaving us to peel back layer after layer but never knowing it all? There is no scientific reason to explain why anything is knowable at all.

            One problem is that physicists are seekers of beauty, of elegance. So we tend to get caught up in the aesthetics of a theory. That's the take I get from the Sean Carroll blog you linked. But I think Carroll would do well to remember the history of science. Again and again theories are superseded, as when the beautiful symmetries of the periodic table of the elements were thought to confirm our near-complete understanding of the most basic constituents of matter in the mid 19th century, only to be shown later to arise from something entirely deeper: quantum mechanics and nuclear physics.

            We have no way of knowing how many more revolutionary theories will wash away older ones (will it be like Feynman's onion?), so I would never suggest that physics is complete, and I find the assertions such as "the laws of physics are completely understood" to be absurd.

            But at the same time, chemistry is still chemistry, and most of it works just fine without delving into quantum mechanics. Understanding the limitations of a tool we can use it to do wonderful things.

            So I agree with your sentiment. It is very difficult even for scientists to remain vigilant in the face of their unproven assumptions (and there are many, even in science), but we must try.

            On the whole I would say that confidence in the ability of science to discover all things is misplaced. Why should it? Science certainly cannot prove that no mysteries lie beyond it.

            And yet, the same God who made the soul made the universe as well. The author of life is the author of science, even that yet undiscovered, and in the end we will see the order of it all, how everything fits precisely in his plan, and how science was one of his gifts to us.

          • No worries on taking a while; I'm in these conversations for the long-term. I'm trying to break the cycle of rehashing the same things over and over and over, a la Poincaré recurrence.

            And science is always provisional.

            I hear this all the time. But is it true? It seems to conflict with the idea that we know more today than we knew yesterday. The claim that our knowledge is growing seems somehow at odd with the claim that our knowledge is provisional. One way to tease this out is to say that the term 'provisional' is like a Taylor series approximation: one can increasingly well-approximate certain non-polynomial functions, but never fully capture them. In one sense the total error is always infinite (just integrate out to ∞), but in another sense one is really matching the function better and better.

            In this sense, theology can also be said to be 'provisional'; see what Orthodox Church bishop Kallistos Ware said (under the name 'Timothy Ware'):

                The life of the Church in the earlier Byzantine period is dominated by the seven general councils. These councils fulfilled a double task. First, they clarified and articulated the visible organization of the Church, crystallizing the position of the five great sees or Patriarchates, as they came to be known. Secondly, and most important, the councils defined once and for all the Church's teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as 'mysteries' which lie beyond human understanding and language. The bishops, when they drew up definitions at the councils, did not imagine that they had explained the mystery; they merely sought to exclude certain false ways of speaking and thinking about it. To prevent people from deviating into error and heresy, they drew a fence around the mystery; that was all. (The Orthodox Church, 10)

            This involves a process of figuring some things out, but leaving plenty to be figured out in the future. This allows for true accrual of knowledge on the one hand, with a provisional status being assigned on the other. A recent statement from theologian Roger Olson:

            RO: All I can say, and I admit this is speculative (!), is that I hope to enroll in Theology 101 in heaven and I hope the teacher is the Holy Spirit. I fully expect to hear some shocking things. Here, all theology is to some extent "guesswork" (Pannenberg)--except when we just quote the Bible. Even then, we are often guilty of selective reading and quoting to serve our own vested interests. Here, below, before, we do our best. There are some theories (others might call them doctrines) I consider quite obviously wrong. Many I consider speculative. There's probably a degree of speculation in all of them.

          • Robert Macri

            And science is always provisional.

            I hear this all the time. But is it true? It seems to conflict with the idea that we know more today than we knew yesterday.

            The sum of scientific knowledge is growing, yes, but the models we use to explain and predict the workings of nature are ever changing, and sometimes very dramatically. So I think we have to distinguish between the increasing technological mastery over nature that science gives us and the various theoretical models of science which gives us that mastery.

            There seems to be a meme out there that science just grows, evolving steadily from first principles. That's true of mathematics, which can begin with a certain
            set of axioms and build great constructs of logic from them. But in physics we are constantly refining the very "axioms" as we observe new things and infer from them new principles.

            Perhaps the clearest way I know to illustrate this comes from Richard Feynman. He pointed out that science was simply the effort to discover what nature does, what the rules are.

            Imagine, he mused, that you were a clever insect on a chessboard trying to figure out the rules of the game. Over very long periods of observation (moving about the board seeing little bits at a time) you might discover certain "laws", such as "A bishop always stays on squares of the same color". Eventually, however, you might observe that a bishop has disappeared, only to later reappear on a square of a different color. (What has happened? A bishop has been taken, then a pawn has traveled the length of the board and been exchanged for a bishop, but it now happens to be on a different color square.) So then you have to revise your previous "laws".

            It is in that sense that I say that science is provisional.

            An example from the real history of science is the motion of the stars. As you know, the ancients imagined a model with the sun, planets, and fixed stars suspended on invisible spheres moving around the earth. Those spheres moved at slightly different speeds to account for the different starscapes in different seasons. It was a reasonably good model, able to predict where the sun or stars would be at arbitrary times in the future.

            But the planets were a bit of a problem for the model. So the model was revised to include epicycles: The planets moved in small circles, the center of which moved in a larger circle about the earth. Adjust the speeds of the two rotations, and viola, elliptical motion! So the old model gave birth to the new, with greater predictive power. And of course, those geocentric models all eventually gave way to heliocentric models, which took a great leap forward in knowledge and predictive power by Newton's work. Then along came Einstein and the model took another great leap. And these models are quite fundamentally different from one another.

            Now, the models describing the motion of celestial bodies didn't just add onto itself, growing like a building undergoing a series of renovations, adding a room here, a level there, but always maintaining some central core. Rather, they changed quite dramatically, all the way from geocentric circles to warped space-time.

            So I would agree with you that our predictive power has increased steadily, but the scientific models (and the so-called "laws" inherent in those models) have changed radically.

            And I think this is a very important distinction.

            Why? For one thing, any model could be "fixed" to increase its predictive power with the addition of enough ad hoc alterations, the way that the simple geocentric model of the ancients was improved with epicycles. And it didn't have to stop there. That epicycle model could have been revamped through a further series of suitable fixes and patches, enough in principle that it could have ended up with exactly the same predictive power of Einstein's model (but of course, this ad hoc model would necessarily be quite clunky and cumbersome to use).

            For another thing, predictive power is not the only important aspect of science. Certainly the inherent understanding of the way nature is is very different in some revamped epicycle model than it is in Eintein's general relativity. So even if the two models could in principle have exactly the same predictive power, general relativity is far superior, because it leads us to think about the universe in a new way, a way that gives birth to a thousand new "what if" questions that would never otherwise occur to us, leading our exploration in new directions, speeding us along to new discoveries that might otherwise have remained hidden.

            So yes, our ability to predict and master natural phenomena does seem to always increase in science, but the predictive models themselves can be almost indistinguishable from one another, and some models are better than others at leading us down profitable avenues of inquiry.

            Besides, I think there is a tendency for models to influence our philosophy. A person who is convinced that we inhabit one of an infinity of universes all with random physical law might be more likely to take a naturalistic position, while a person who does not subscribe to such a model might be more likely to look upon the astonishing fine tuning of physical laws as indirect evidence of God. (There is, by the way, no empirical evidence for a multiverse.) So the nature of a scientific model can greatly affect the character of our "search for truth".

          • Robert Macri

            I don't think that theology could be said to be "provisional" in quite the same sense that science is. Certainly our understanding grows, just as Christians today have a much better lens to understand, for instance, Passover (in light of Christ's passion) and the flood of Noah (in light of baptism)... That is why Augustine (I believe) said that the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New. But I do not believe that we can say that there were in any sense provisional truths which were later supplanted (as in the case with shifting scientific models that change radically); rather, I think that we instead see a larger picture without in any way erasing the smaller part that we had seen before.

            I expect that in heaven we will embark upon a thrilling ride of discovery that will take forever, never ending, but at every moment we will see how the former truths of revelation have not been in any way undone.

            "Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
            not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." (Mt 5:18)

          • I don't think that theology could be said to be "provisional" in quite the same sense that science is.

            Of course not; they're very different endeavors. Science is primarily focused on material and efficient causation, while theology is primarily focused on formal and final causation. (To see all four types of causation discussed mathematically, see Robert Rosen's Life Itself.) Nevertheless, both have a tentative aspect which is frequently denied of theology, despite the evidence and claims to the contrary.

            But I do not believe that we can say that there were in any sense provisional truths which were later supplanted (as in the case with shifting scientific models that change radically); rather, I think that we instead see a larger picture without in any way erasing the smaller part that we had seen before.

            The idea that Adam and Eve were created ex nihilo seems to be a 'provisional truth' which has been abandoned by many Christians. Now, one could question when the rejected 'literal' sense actually began; works like John H. Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One question whether folks in the Babylonian captivity or even Jesus' time thought in anything approximating 'literal' categories. And even if in some sense they saw Adam and Eve as truly existing, perhaps they wouldn't have cared if one presented them with evolution; perhaps the more important aspect would be the fact of solidarity in sin—regardless of being Jew or Gentile.

            It's also not clear that F = ma has been fully supplanted. It seems to me that when I strike a cue ball and it plows into another billiard ball, it really does cause that other ball to move, with no theoretically measurable error when modeled with F = ma. Instead of being supplanted, it simply is the case that F = ma is not good enough for e.g. calculating Mercury's orbit around the Sun.

            I expect that in heaven we will embark upon a thrilling ride of discovery that will take forever, never ending, but at every moment we will see how the former truths of revelation have not been in any way undone.

            There's a difference between truths of revelation being undone, and our learning how we have misunderstood revelation. The same would go for understanding empirical phenomena. The person who says that F = ma applies everywhere and is the final version is in error. Likewise, the person who comes up with a formal, finite system for understanding God and claims it is 'complete' is in error.

          • I've asked for your help with respect to today's OP on 'evil' and 'Law'!! (I'm perhaps sinful in posting when I said I wouldn't but, I also found a possible relation of 'super-stition' i.e. in some way what might be 'excessively' beyond our 'understanding' (long articles to read) and the (forget the adjective - some kind of wrong 'knowledge'. I'm glad you intend never to 'give up'. Especially as you 'understand' both the Natural and the Religious! certainly better than I do....All the best, Luke.

      • That quote is basically an appeal to mystery. Can we set some ground rules for when "appeal to mystery" is allowed, and when it is not? Generally, I find that it is absolutely unacceptable for theists to ever appeal to mystery. That seems to be the general ethos of atheists who argue on the internet in places where I frequent. I'd love to develop a good argument against that ethos, with an atheist, so that it has a hope in hell of being solid and reasonable and intelligible to the theist and atheist, alike.

        • Michael Murray

          So nobody is ever allowed to say "we don't know". That is going to make discussing science awkward.

          • I don't see how what I said entails what you inferred.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't see how it doesn't.

          • LB: Can we set some ground rules for when "appeal to mystery" is allowed, and when it is not?

            MM: So nobody is ever allowed to say "we don't know".

            Can you show me how you got what you said, from what I said? First, I don't know how "appeal to mystery" maps to "we don't know"; the two are not identical in my head. Second, I don't see how my request for ground rules implies "[not] ever".

          • Michael Murray

            Can you show me how you got what you said, from what I said?

            (1) I gave a quote which basically said "we don't know" and you said "that quote is an appeal mystery". Notice I am not suggesting that they are identical. You did that in your reply.

            (2) You say "Generally, I find that it is absolutely unacceptable for theists to ever appeal to mystery." So I take the implication that you think that it is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to ever appeal to mystery".

            Put these together:

            we don't know is an appeal to mystery

            an appeal to mystery is never acceptable

            and you get

            "So nobody is ever allowed to say "we don't know"."

            By the way that's me done on this one.

          • Thanks; I can see where things went wrong.

            (1) I gave a quote which basically said "we don't know" and you said "that quote is an appeal mystery". Notice I am not suggesting that they are identical. You did that in your reply.

            Well, the difference between "we don't know" and "appeal to mystery" is that in the former, nothing is predicated upon the lack of knowledge, or anything which entails that knowledge should be accessible, there. In the latter, there's supposed to be something in the realm of mystery which is a sort of lacuna in the system of thought. The idea of an "appeal to mystery" is that this lacuna is supposed to be accepted, at least for the time being.

            What irks me is something I thought was implied: that we can say God is not necessary for things to be as they are, while there is a huge "I don't know". It seems to me that if we really don't know, then atheists should actually be much more cautious about arguments either way, with respect to God. They should be more agnostic. So it seems to me that there is a definite asymmetry going on, here.

            (2) You say "Generally, I find that it is absolutely unacceptable for theists to ever appeal to mystery." So I take the implication that you think that it is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to ever appeal to mystery".

            No, I made no such implication. I have become acclimated to double standards applying to me in such realms. I don't ever recall seeing an atheist explicitly allowing any sort of "appeal to mystery" by a theist. It always seems to be mockery and condemnation for "appeal to mystery".

    • Robert Macri

      In other words, it shows that eventually, at some point in the past, general relativity breaks down.

      Well, not really. General Relativity (GR) has limitations, yes, but that is not the point of the paper you reference. Rather, it shows that many standard inflation models violate a key conservation law of physics (the "weak energy condition") and are therefore non-physical. The paper then shows that all such models (regardless of whether or not they violate the weak energy condition) must point to a beginning of time in the universe provided those models also assume positive expansion on average.

      This in no way implies a break-down of GR. Rather, it speaks of details of inflation, but inflation is not required by GR itself; it was added on to explain details of what we observe (mostly regarding the cosmic microwave background radiation).

      In any case, specific inflationary models aside, the universe has observably been expanding on average.

      We already know that general relativity breaks down for very small and very massive objects

      I don't know what you mean by suggesting that GR breaks down for "very massive objects" (do you mean hypothetical infinitely dense objects? Singularities?), but as I'm sure you know the breakdown at very small scales is because GR is a classical theory, and attempts at quantization have thus far failed. It does not mean that the conclusions of GR regarding the history of the universe are in dispute in the region of applicability of the theory. We know that the universe expanded from a highly dense, compact state. That we do not yet have a quantum GR theory yet does not affect that conclusion.

      Now, the fact that science cannot take us all the way back past the Planck scale to the moment of creation in no way forces us to abandon the idea that there was such a moment (a beginning). In fact, that remains the strongest conclusion based on the available evidence.

      Let's say my DVR malfunctioned and only recorded the last moment of a basketball game. I press play to see a ball sailing through the air and through the hoop to score the winning points. From the trajectory of the ball and the positions of the players I can conclude who made the shot even if I cannot directly observe the moment the ball left the player's hands. Would any reasonable person argue against my conclusion simply because I cannot observe it directly? Indeed, by some bizarre series of events my conclusion might be incorrect, but it nevertheless remains the best conclusion available. And if we are not allowed to use our best conclusions to support our philosophy then we are seriously and unnecessarily hamstrung!

      Quantum mechanics prevents us from seeing all the way back to the origins of the universe, yes, but we can still reasonably conclude from the evidence that there was such an origin. Any competing theory (rebounding universes, etc) would either lead us back to a new origin of time (but an origin nonetheless) or else propose an eternal universe, which is impossible given our current understanding of physics. (For one thing, as the paper you reference demonstrates, any eternal model would have to describe, on average, a contracting universe... that is, one of infinite extent in time AND space, which is impossible from other considerations.) Thus, I don't think that the limitations of GR (or science as a whole) prevent us from presenting our best conclusions for consideration in philosophical arguments.

      Science changes, yes, and has its limits, but we can rightly (and carefully) apply its best conclusions to our philosophy.

      • Michael Murray

        Quantum mechanics prevents us from seeing all the way back to the origins of the universe, yes, but we can still reasonably conclude from the evidence that there was such an origin.

        How can you even conclude that "origin" or "all the way back" are concepts that makes sense when the concept "time" has stopped being applicable to reality. Like Vilenkin says

        In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.

        or as the quote David Nickol gives puts it

        no matter how convincing this might have seemed at the time, be reassured that nobody can tell you how the universe began. Or even if 'began' is a word that's remotely appropriate in this context.

        • Robert Macri

          Let me reply by way of analogy. Suppose a bunch of people at different parts of the world all travel north, each following a compass. Once they approach the magnetic north pole their compasses will all begin to go haywire, and someone might observe that "at this position, any talk about magnetic north or south is meaningless, and measurement itself is impossible", but no one would suggest that there is no north pole. Indeed, that's where all our hypothetical people from different parts of the world converged! (For the sake of simplicity and to avoid persnickety "gotchas" let's just assume that magnetic and physical north coincide.)

          Similarly, when physicists speak of models breaking down, that just means that there is a region that the models fail to precisely describe, not that no such region exists, or that we can say nothing about it at all. (Just as we know that the north pole exists even if we can't pin it down with a compass.)

          When it comes to space-time, we can be particularly flummoxed. For instance (hypothetically), close to a singularity space-time can be so warped that what was once considered time gets "rotated" into what is now considered space, leading an old professor of mine to quip that we could "measure time with rulers and distance with clocks". Now, this is all just a funny way of saying that it's difficult for language to describe a singularity from outside the event horizon... but it does not in any way mean that a singularity does not exist.

          Also, a person who drifted past the event horizon of a singularity would find that locally things appear normal: his wristwatch ticks away just as if nothing has happened (unless tidal forces rip him and it apart, of course). It's just that those of us outside the singularity have no way of describing what's going on inside. Nevertheless, physics can take us right to the edge, where we can point and say "something's there". And we can say lots of other things about it as well (it's this big, it's spinning, etc). That is, we can place limits on the thing.

          In the same way, we can place limits even on a fuzzy notion of origin. That's what the BGV theorem does. It does not say that any model can describe what happens at an infinitesimal scale of time or space, but that the universe cannot extend indefinitely into the past (given certain sensible assumptions). In other words, I can't say how far warped time is "spread out" and twisted at such an "origin", but I could say that it cannot exceed roughly 10^-33 seconds (that is, nothing existed before then.)

          How can you even conclude that "origin" is a concept that makes sense when you time has stopped making sense.

          As I said above, you can place bounds on it, just as our hypothetical travelers can say that magnetic north is somewhere within the circle whose perimeter is marked by the position at which their compasses started going nuts. They don't simply say, "there's no such place" and go home.

          Also, in general relativity the concept "origin" always makes sense locally. Globally we have problems (where there are singularities, etc). That's why in GR we talk of "geodesics" and "proper time". There are limitations in our description from afar, but we can get right up to the edge and know that the place exists.

          • Michael Murray

            As I said in my other reply you seem to be disagreeing with Vilenkin

            Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.

          • Robert Macri

            See my reply to your other reply. ;)

            No, I don't disagree with that statement... I disagree with certain sweeping interpretations of such a statement: that is, that there are no questions that can be asked or conclusions made. The fact that we are puzzled about something does not mean that we know nothing about the thing at all. You can examine a wrapped birthday present and rule out lots of options based on weight, shifting mass, etc. So it is with theoretical physics also.

          • "The fact that we are puzzled about something does not mean that we know nothing about the thing at all."

            Over the years at Strange Notions, I've been somewhat baffled at this confusion. I've seen it over and over, in many contexts.

            For example, the fact that we can't fully comprehend God doesn't mean we can't know anything about his attributes.

            Or just because we're puzzled about why God permits certain evils doesn't mean we know nothing about the purpose of permitting evil.

            Or, as you note, just because we don't know exactly how the universe came into being doesn't mean we can't know something about its origin.

            Someone needs to formally identify this as the "all or nothing" fallacy....

          • I would love to see a blog post on this. I've especially noted the skeptical theism thing you mention—black and white thinking indeed! Folks need to graduate from Aristotelian, classical logic, where the following is the case:

            If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:8–13)

            Reality is messier than that; there are apparent contradictions all over. (Emerson: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.") In talking to David Politzer the Spring before he got the Nobel Prize for asymptotic freedom, the conversation turned to what is required for intellectual maturity. He said that being able to hold contradictory things in one's mind without immediately expelling one of the things is crucial. After all, what appears contradictory isn't always. His own Nobel Prize makes this clear: the idea that the force between two particles might grow as they move further apart is opposed to all previous science. This isn't a strict contradiction, but it violated intuition all over the place. Lest anyone downplay this weakening, I will note that before Plantinga completed his Free Will Defense, he pointed out in The Nature of Necessity that the logical problem of evil argument only obtained when intuition was intermixed with the premises.

            We could also make use of Timothy Ware's description of how the Church operated [at least:] prior to the East–West Schism:

                The life of the Church in the earlier Byzantine period is dominated by the seven general councils. These councils fulfilled a double task. First, they clarified and articulated the visible organization of the Church, crystallizing the position of the five great sees or Patriarchates, as they came to be known. Secondly, and most important, the councils defined once and for all the Church's teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as 'mysteries' which lie beyond human understanding and language. The bishops, when they drew up definitions at the councils, did not imagine that they had explained the mystery; they merely sought to exclude certain false ways of speaking and thinking about it. To prevent people from deviating into error and heresy, they drew a fence around the mystery; that was all. (The Orthodox Church, 10)

          • Robert Macri

            Well and succinctly stated.

            I submit that it goes hand-in-hand with something one could call the "cherry picking fallacy". This observation or conclusion strengthens my position (e.g. the explanatory power of science a la god-of-the-gaps), but that one undermines it (e.g. evidence of the same science that supports some kind of creation event). I'll reject the second on the grounds of inherent limitations while embracing the first.

            It seems to me that sometimes people turn their sword upon their own shield. (Myself included. Dear Lord, give me the wisdom and humility not to fall victim to myself.)

          • Paul F

            This has been identified by psychologists as one of the cognitive distortions. This way of thinking is becoming so common place that I suspect it is being taught in our schools.

          • Lazarus

            You could very well be right, but I also suspect (a) lazy, fuzzy thinking and / or (b) it being a result of our instant gratification, Wikipedia society. I want to have a quick, easy, complete answer, right now, and if I can't then it's all to be dismissed.

            And the "all or nothing" fallacy it is, first used right here ;)

          • Michael Murray

            That's why in GR we talk of "geodesics" and "proper time". There are limitations in our description from afar, but we can get right up to the edge and know that the place exists.

            Sure space-time is a manifold so locally looks like it is an open set in a four-dimensional Euclidean space. But some sort of quantum theory of gravity is likely to only correspond to space-time in particular physical regimes. So there won't be points, time, geodesics, metrics etc except as approximations because there won't be a manifold except as an approximation. Approximations that will be unlikely to be valid in the region where you want your creation to occur. It's not like the north pole as we know there is a north pole and we know that the world near the north pole looks like the world near everywhere else. That is not the case in this situation.

          • Robert Macri

            I agree with you there. I do not suggest that we know what physics is like near the BGV boundary... I only maintain that we have sufficient science to know that there IS a boundary--a temporal boundary--and if a boundary then necessarily a beginning (otherwise we are not speaking of a boundary at all).

          • Michael Murray

            Why a boundary ? You don't see a boundary between general relativity and Newtonian gravity. You see, as velocities increase a gradual decrease in accuracy of the predictions made by Newtonian gravity. I would expect likewise to see space-time become less and less useful as a model as you go "backwards" in time.

            I'm not going to reply to all your other replies as I think I will just keep saying the same thing over and over. Thanks for them though.

          • Robert Macri

            The boundary I was referring to in this case was not a boundary between models (I agree with what you say about that) but a space-time boundary of the universe. If the BGV assumptions are correct (that weak energy conservation should not be violated) then the universe cannot be extend infinitely into the past, thus implying a temporal boundary condition. Even though we cannot use classical GR to describe physics at times very close to that boundary, we can use it to know the existence of the boundary (given the validity of the assumptions, of course).

            I'm not going to reply to all your other replies as I think I will just keep saying the same thing over and over. Thanks for them though.

            Fair enough, and thanks for your thoughts as well!

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        I read through what you wrote, and I'm not sure we actually disagree on substance, just a bit on language. The paper actually says "we have shown under reasonable assumptions that almost all causal geodesics, when extended to the past of an arbitrary point, reach the boundary of the inflating region of spacetime in a finite proper time (finite affine length, in the null case)..." under the assumption that Hav > 0. They then ask what lies beyond the boundary, "Whatever the possibilities for the boundary, it is clear that unless the averaged expansion condition can somehow be avoided for all past-directed geodesics, inflation alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order to determine the correct conditions at the boundary." As I read it, 'new physics' means that here GR breaks down. They didn't introduce much beyond GR. They call this "the chief result of our paper."

        I think that our universe probably had a beginning at some finite time ago (as I said in my other comment). When I think about the beginning of the universe, the BGV theorem doesn't enter into the equation.

        So I don't think we disagree much.

        We already know that general relativity breaks down for very small and very massive objects

        I don't know what you mean by suggesting that GR breaks down for "very massive objects"

        Both small and massive objects. Or, in other words, it's hard to put quantum field theory and general relativity together. The gravitational field is not renormalizable, for one thing.

        • Robert Macri

          OK, I agree that we agree, to first order at least. :)

          My main point is that BGV can show that a boundary exists without supplying all the physics to describe that boundary, and the existence of a temporal boundary is sufficient for cosmological arguments.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Why would a boundary beyond which our current physics doesn't work show that there's a beginning sufficient for the Kalam argument?

            It would seem to go for an argument like this:

            1. Everything that at a certain time in the past can't be explained using current physics requires an external cause.
            2. At a particular time in the past, the universe can no longer be explained using current physics.
            3. The universe requires an external cause.

            This seems awfully similar to God of the gaps to me.

            I think boundaries like this are sufficient for Leibniz's argument. Boundaries require an explanation.

    • Peter

      "It (BVG) doesn't establish that all space, time, matter and energy had a beginning. In effect, it just establishes that general relativity breaks down at some early time"
      and
      "BGV is a theorem that shows that at some early time general relativity breaks down as an explanation for the universe, not that the universe has a beginning"

      General relativity breaks down not at some early time but at a singularity where time is zero. General relativity breaks down at time zero. If it were not time zero, if it were not a singularity, general relativity would not break down.

      BVG shows that general relativity breaks down where time begins. If time begins, then, according to Kalam, it must have a cause.

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        General relativity breaks down not at some early time but at a singularity where time is zero.

        Even in the picture where there is a t = 0 (some sort of pre-inflation state), then inflation, then expansion, GR breaks down a bit after t = 0. It will have trouble whenever the resolution length is on the order of the Planck length. It may have trouble for larger scales at such high densities, for all I know.

        There were some inflation models, like eternal inflation that, if I understand them correctly, have no starting point for inflation, no point at which the description breaks down, and so no need for new physics in order to describe this stage of the universe. BGV shows that at some point, new physics needs to be introduced. If the universe is expanding on average, you can't get out of a boundary for GR.

        What is this new physics? Is there such a thing as time within the regime of the new physics? Who knows?

        To say God is necessary before some time because of BGV is the same as to say God is necessary below some size because of renormalization. It's just God of the gaps.

        • Peter

          General relativity goes as far back as a singularity of infinite density, where the curvature of spacetime is infinite and where time is zero because of that infinite curvature.
          Any notion of time being nonzero because of planck time is not general relativity.

          I did not say that God is the cause of the beginning of time. I said that, according to Kalam, the beginning of time must have a cause. It's a gap in our knowledge, but God doesn't need to fill it yet.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I would be very interested to see how general relativity (and whatever quantum field theory you are using) accurately describes the universe between t = 0 and the Planck time. I don't think I'd be the only one. ;)

          • Peter

            It can't and that's why it breaks down. General relativity is meaningless at scales below the planck scale. But even if its time zero equates to going back to only 10>-43 seconds, it still marks the beginning of quantised time, just like laying the first brick is the beginning of a house.

            And so, insofar as time is quantised, we can claim that the point where general relativity breaks down is still the beginning of time, and that the BVG therefore takes us back to the beginning of time.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            It can't and that's why it breaks down. General relativity is meaningless at scales below the planck scale

            And BGV assumes that General Relativity holds true. So BGV doesn't apply before the Planck time. That means there could be a t = 0, t = -1, etc., going before the planck time, all the way to infinity, and BGV doesn't apply. It's just that to understand this boundary at least requires some new physics. This new physics may have a different conception of time, or maybe no time at all. All bets are off.

          • Peter

            Anything between t=0 and t=10>-43 seconds would not be classed as time at all. Within this planck epoch time is meaningless. Time would only have meaning after t=10>-43 seconds which would mark its true beginning.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Time can also go arbitrarily before this planck time, once GR breaks down, since BGV has to assume GR.

            If you want to persist in being wrong, William Lane Craig isn't the worst company you can have. But please, keep your bad science to yourselves. Don't bring this up with the scientists. Most of us won't take this sort of thing seriously.

          • Peter

            If you are referring to T-symmetry where, from within the planck time, time goes into reverse from T=0 to T=-1 and so on to infinity, this has not been proved experimentally. It's just theoretical speculation.

            Sean Carroll based his time reversal model on this to argue for a past eternal universe, but I haven't seen him pushing that model recently.

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        EDIT: Commented in the wrong place :)

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Brian Adams: I also see no reason to believe the ... universe contains all space and time

    It's definitional. The universe just is the collection of all things that exist. Space and time exist.* Therefore, they are part of the universe.

    (*) Einstein said that space and time were contingent on the existence of matter. No matter... no space or time. This makes the existence of Stuff ontologically prior to the existence of (in particular) time. That's why it doesn't matter to causation if there is a "regime" wherein (as Paul Rimmer contends) the "concept of time breaks down."

    Word inflation sets in. The Anglo-Saxon "world" once meant the whole ball of wax: earth, air, fire, sun, planets, stars, etc. (Just as the Greek kosmos meant an "arrangement", which we still retain in the related work cosmetic.) As late as Laplace, scientists could still write about "the system of the world." Over time, the term was restricted to planets-only,** and other descriptors emerged to play the role: solar system, then galaxy. As late as Einstein, galaxy was still singular and was thought to comprise the universe. (We could see other galaxies that that point, but they were
    called "extra-galactic nebulae" and were believed to be small star clusters that were satellites to the Milky Way.

    (**) That why arguments up through the early modern period about "other worlds" should be understood as arguments about other "universes," not just other planets.

    Then these "nebulae" were discovered to be galaxies in their own right and the term
    "galaxy contracted to mean only a single star-system and universe became the term for "the whole thing."

    Now there is a tendency to equate "universe" with a single space-time manifold, despite the plain meaning of the term. And that is why some people question whether the universe contains all of space and time. The Big Bang Theory pertains only to the beginning of a space-time manifold, not the universe, as Fr. Lemaitre himself pointed out. As far as anyone knows (or possibly can know) there is nothing outside the
    space-time manifold, but that hasn't stopped scientists spooked by the possibility of Step 2 in the OP, from hypothesizing invisible sky manifolds and doing violence to the English language by coining "multiverse" and other such neologisms.
    +++++

    The medievals put a great deal of thought into the problem of "beginning to..." in what they called the doctrine of first and last moments. They invented what we would call "open sets" or "half-open sets," and applied to the beginning of the universe would have concluded that there was no first moment at which the universe existed any more than there is a first number in the interval (0,1] The interval has a beginning, but no first member.
    +++++

    Aquinas rejected the kalam argument because he did not think the eternity of the world could be disproved philosophically. That is, he assumed in all his proofs that the universe did not "begin to be."
    +++++

    And as Paul has already pointed out, the universe is not a thing, but a collection of things. Consider the collection U={Brian Adams, my tea cup}. While both elements in the set may have causes, we would not expect U to have a cause. The same holds for U={everything}. The universe comes to be iff any one thing in the universe comes to be; but the cause is the cause of the thing, not the set.
    ++++++

    • Again, that is one way of using the word. We now have many scientists speaking of multiple universes. So when they use the term that way, clearly, they don't mean all matter and energy in existence. With that definition sure, that which is all space time and energy is all space time and energy.

  • Mike

    maybe a more interesting question is where did the atoms that we know of get their potential to form brains, trees, cells etc.

    how did humble old carbon get the ability to 'become' my brain my eyes etc? what gave it these properties?

    • David Nickol

      how did humble old carbon get the ability to 'become' my brain my eyes etc? what gave it these properties?

      This seems to imply that there was a "humble old carbon" that existed without its current properties, and somehow it was given these properties. But I think it is safe to say that carbon always had the properties of carbon. Whatever does not have the properties of carbon is not carbon.

      Having said that, I agree that appropriately reworded, your question is more interesting. However, it is not the Brandon's topic in the OP.

      • Mike

        yes i said old and humble for effect but you're right it always had that potential...even when there were no brains not even basic life to speak of, no water or anything actually except inanimate matter flying across vast empty stretches of space....amazing stuff!

    • Doug Shaver

      maybe a more interesting question is where did the atoms that we know of get their potential to form brains, trees, cells etc.

      That could be an interesting question for Aristotelians. For the rest of us, talk of potentials in that sense is vacuous.

      • Mike

        that's logically impossible imho. again your position seems to amount to a belief in magic.

        • Doug Shaver

          that's logically impossible imho

          Your humble opinion is irrelevant. Let's see a proof of the impossibility.

          • Mike

            ok so how do you get new emergent properties from pre existing substances that didn't have them? where is that information stored? in the structure somewhere? and if so how does it know that in this structure this must happen.

            for ex. how does hyrdogen 'know' that if there's 2 of it and 1 oxygen that it forms this new thing water? where is the vlook up table (excel ref.) that tells it what to do?

            and if there is no vlookup table then where is this info stored? if we took a powerful microscope and looked deep into hydrogen would we find something that tells it "in this case you shall do this and in other cases that"?

            if we wouldn't find that then it must mean that the potential is just in the thing itself irreducibly which in turn must mean that it was somehow created that way.

            potential is just what happens when things literally do change when the 2 things like Sodium and chlorine combine to make salt. sodium just has one of these potentials.

            modern science is in the business of searching out and defining these potentials and nothing more.

          • Doug Shaver

            ok so how do you get new emergent properties from pre existing substances that didn't have them?

            I asked you to prove impossibility. My failure to prove possibility won't do that.

          • Mike

            that's why i say you folks believe in magic bc you'd rather believe in magical properties than in an ordered creation.

          • Doug Shaver

            Whatever. Nothing is impossible just because you say it is.

          • Mike

            physics/chemistry of the gaps is NOT an argument.

            you can't say fully examine an electron describe it exhaustively and then wave your hand and say poof when as part of some new forms it takes on completely new properties. that demands an explanation that can't be just based on the physics of it or chem of it. the CHANGE requires an explanation and that is that things are in potency to another state. but not bc there is necessarily something about their structure whether physical or chem that makes that so but bc there is something about their Form that makes that so. Electrons just have these potencies and they are real otherwise there is no change at all.

          • Doug Shaver

            physics/chemistry of the gaps is NOT an argument.

            I'm not offering an argument. I'm asking you for one.

          • Mike

            i keeping making them but you keep waving your hands saying nope nothing to see here, just wait physics will figure it out.

          • Doug Shaver

            i keeping making them

            I asked for one in particular. You haven't made that one yet.

            And in case you didn't know, a question is not an argument.

          • Mike

            ok well if what you're looking for are formal premise 1 type arguments then i suggest feser or someone like that.

          • Doug Shaver

            Suit yourself, but whatever you can assert without argument, I can deny without argument.

          • Mike

            well ok but my position has imho all the facts on its side ;).

          • Doug Shaver

            my position has imho all the facts on its side

            That's kinda sorta like an argument. Usually, people who are serious about defending their assertions are a little more specific about which facts they're thinking about.

          • Lazarus

            So you want Mike, or science then, to prove (your word) an impossibility.
            How convenient.

          • Doug Shaver

            How convenient.

            What looks really convenient to me is when someone can say "That's impossible" and not have to prove it.

            And I'm not talking about the kind of rigorous proof that mathematicians use. I'll settle for an inductive argument.

          • Lazarus

            And so goes another game of Theopoly, with assertions, onus casting, insistence on "proof" and further polarization of positions. It's all quite pointless, isn't it?

          • Doug Shaver

            It's all quite pointless, isn't it?

            Not in my judgment.

          • David Nickol

            To put things in perspective, it is Mike's frequently stated position that there are really no atheists. According to him, everyone knows God exists. (Also, everyone knows abortion is murder.) They just deny it for some self-serving reason, consciously or unconsciously, such as they want to behave badly and therefore can't allow themselves to admit God's authority.

            I am not aware of any atheist on SN who takes the equivalent position, which I think would be that nobody really believes in God, that theists are at minimum fooling themselves because they are too afraid to live without the fantasy of a "Heavenly Father" constantly watching over them and giving them purpose. I think any atheist who consistently expressed such a view here—"You theists are wrong, and you know you're wrong!"—would probably eventually get banned.

          • Lazarus

            Thanks David, that does add some perspective I was not aware of.
            I suppose also my remark about it being rather pointless more reflects my own current assessment of my own participation in these discussions.

          • Michael Murray

            Unless like me you are holding a

            Go to Hell – Go directly to Hell – Do not pass Go – Do not collect $200

            card.

          • Rob Abney

            You need
            Reconciliation card, otherwise known as
            Get out of hell card!

          • Michael Murray

            Or I can roll the dice and try to get a double. That must be a new version of Pascal's wager.

          • Lazarus

            Not in any game that I will play with you.

          • Michael Murray

            Understood !

          • Mike
          • Doug Shaver

            this explains things better than i can:

            In that essay, Feser alleges a lot of things to be facts that I don't agree are facts.

          • Mike

            ok, well we obv disagree. anyway take care.

          • David Nickol

            the CHANGE requires an explanation and that is that things are in potency to another state. but not bc there is necessarily something about their structure whether physical or chem that makes that so but bc there is something about their Form that makes that so.

            I think I know what you are trying to get at, but I don't think you are succeeding. I think chemistry is reasonably well understood, and I don't think one has to resort saying "it's magic!" to explain why hydrogen and oxygen form to combine something with the properties of water, or why sodium and chlorine combine to form something with the properties of salt (sodium chloride). The first step is the periodic table. Magic has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is not magic that sodium and chlorine combine to form salt. It is part of the lawfulness of nature that they do.

            You can ask all kinds of questions about why quarks, or neutrinos, or electrons behave the way they do, and many of those questions can be answered, too. But I think what baffles atheists is that theists seem to accept with no difficulty that an omnipotent, omniscient being "just is." Such a being, whether or not he exists, is perfectly inexplicable. Why he exists is perfectly inexplicable. How a being could exist outside of time is perfectly inexplicable. Theists who find evolution and the rise of consciousness impossible to believe nevertheless accept without question that an omniscient person "just is." He's a spirit, but what is that? How do spirits know or create?

            I think all of us have moments when we look at the vastness of the universe or the complexity of the human brain and think, "How could all of this have come to be without a Creator?" But then the question becomes, "How is it that a Creator exists?" Is it any less fantastical than the thought that the universe "just is"? Is it really a satisfactory explanation to say that hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water "because God made it that way"?

          • Mike

            well as you know if you conceive of the creator as just another god then it doesn't make sense or it is trivial but we don't think that the creator is one among many gods but existence itself the very ground of being itself.

            we know for a fact that the universe is contingent or at least all the things in it are contingent, they could've been otherwise and yet weren't

            well i don't know if it is satisfactory but i think that only such an explanation makes sense of the phenomenon. the vlook table analogy highlights this imho as how else do these particles "know" that in this instance they should do this etc. obv they don't 'know' anything but that's only bc something someone gave them those potentials or gave them those essences/natures and not these.

            towards the very end of this lecture barr addresses this issue of universe vs. God.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwaHcSK9NGA

          • Lazarus

            Does your position not simply get us to a place of wonder and humility, where we should concede the reasonableness of both those options? The rational possibility of each? Is it not hubristic to think that, should such a Creator exist, we should know, we should demand to know, how he/she/it operates? On what scientific principle is this question taken off the table? Why are so many scientists prepared to walk into that great unknown frontier, ready to find and deal with any answer, as long as that answer is not God?

          • David Nickol

            Does your position not simply get us to a place of wonder and humility, where we should concede the reasonableness of both those options?

            I would rather say that both options are highly unreasonable, but it seems that one of them must be true. I have posted this before, but here is my favorite Pogo Cartoon.

            It is just as astonishing to believe we are alone in the universe as to believe there are other intelligent races. And it is equally astonishing to believe the universe "just is" as to believe God "just is" and created the universe. I can't think of very many cases in which it appears that either of the two available options is mind boggling, but one must be true.

            Of course, I speak as someone who was indoctrinated from birth to believe in the "Catholic" God. It seems to me that indoctrination has had an extremely powerful effect on my thinking. And also, although Christians like to imagine they are a persecuted minority in the United States, we are awash in Christianity (or theism). I believe it is currently the case that there is no sitting Senator or Congressional Representative who admits to being an atheist.

            While I am a firm defender of the right (even the duty) for parents to raise their children in the religious tradition in which they (the parents) believe, I truly believe that having been raised a Catholic and having gone to Catholic school seriously hinders my ability to evaluate religious truth—if there is any! As Lenin said, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted."

          • David Nickol

            I would rather say that both options are highly unreasonable, but it seems that one of them must be true.

            Upon a few minutes' further reflection, I think the second half of the statement is too strong. Atheism may be right, or it may be wrong without the Judeo-Christian God, or the God of any known human religion, being at all identified or comprehended.

          • Lazarus

            If I was an atheist that would be my stance.

          • Lazarus

            I fully agree with our filters making it difficult to necessarily see the full picture. Whether that is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen ;)

    • Peter

      Carbon is a very special element for two reasons:

      Its synthesis from helium requires such a unique set of resonances that Fred Hoyle, the discoverer of carbon resonance, was forced to admit that "a super intelligence had monkeyed with the physics".

      Second, carbon has the special ability to form long chains of bonds necessary for the creation of life. Carbon is present in more compounds than all the other elements put together, except for hydrogen which cannot form long chains but is also present in those compounds.

      Carbon is a unique element which strongly supports the notion that the universe is designed.

      • Mike

        i hear you but i don't think that alone it means that, but it definitely points in that direction.

        the very fact that this element can do so much and 'gives rise' to such wonderful order and structure means that it has that potential which is amazing.

      • You don't understand; all the atheist has to do is invent a "generating mechanism" which screws up the vast majority of the time, but once in a while hits the jackpot. We are the jackpot. Once you let this kind of reasoning in the door, what can it not 'explain'? Need a fine-tuned universe? Claim that there are innumerably many universes generated by a metaverse/​multiverse/​magicverse! Turtles all the way down.

        • George

          Do you reflect and ask yourself what the God proposal could not explain?

          • Sure; an example would be gratuitous evil. If an explanation does not rule out any states of affairs, or at least render some possibilities less likely than others, it is not an explanation. For more, see Gregory W. Dawes' Theism and Explanation.

  • TomD123

    It would be interesting to talk about the Kalam in relation to the eternalist theory of time. Craig seems to think that this theory of time undermines his argument. The theory of time however is scientifically more well-founded than Craig's own understanding of time. This seems problematic.

  • Like other commenters here, I don't see good reasons to accept either premise.

    We know that virtual particles, by all appearances, begin to exist without any identifiable cause. We know that large scale objects "begin to exist" only in the arbitrary sense that we rename a collection of particles when they shift from an arrangement we categorize one way to an arrangement we categorize a different way. The universe seems to me more plausibly like the situation with fundamental particles than the situation with socially constructed categories. So the first premise seems implausible at best.

    As for the universe beginning to exist, it's not even clear that the concept makes any sense. Time is one of the dimensions of the universe - *all* of it is *inside* the universe. Our models do suggest that the universe has a boundary to its past history (Some of the models put that moment infinitely far in the past, but the mainstream models have finite past time.) But that past boundary of the universe does not involve a change from a prior situation. There was no prior situation. So it's at best only a very peculiar sense in which the universe might have begun to exist.

    It would be fair to try to repair the deeply flawed premises. For the second premise, we could reasonably say of the universe that it probably has a past time boundary. Then the first premise (because let's be honest - these arguments for a god are always predetermined conclusions in search of rationalizations) could be recast as "For any state of affairs with a past time boundary, there is a factor outside its boundaries without which we would expect a different state of affairs to have obtained (i.e. it has a cause, in the most general sense)." To those new premises, I can only say they are not demonstrated in any way worthy of skeptical approval; but they do feel rather plausible to me.

    • Hey, Ryan! Thanks for your comment. A few things in reply:

      "We know that virtual particles, by all appearances, begin to exist without any identifiable cause."

      This is a common misunderstanding. Trent Horn shows why it's not true in this article: Does Quantum Physics Refute the Kalam Argument for God?. The relevant section is here:

      "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."

      "We know that large scale objects "begin to exist" only in the arbitrary sense that we rename a collection of particles when they shift from an arrangement we categorize one way to an arrangement we categorize a different way."

      It seems that you're suggesting the universe came into being through the shuffling of preexistent materials. But this is impossible. No material, matter, or energy could preexist the universe since, by definition, the universe includes all matter and energy. There was simply nothing to shuffle!

      "The universe seems to me more plausibly like the situation with fundamental particles than the situation with socially constructed categories. So the first premise seems implausible at best."

      I've shown how both of your objections to the first premise fail. Combined with the fact that our common experience universally affirms the first premise, it certainly seems more plausible than not.

      "For the second premise, we could reasonably say of the universe that it probably has a past time boundary."

      If you're willing to concede this fact--a fact with which almost all mainstream cosmologists agree--then you'd have strong reason to affirm premise 2, since by your own admission, it would be more likely than its negation.

      Seeing how you offered no serious reason to doubt premise 1, the conclusion logically follows, along with its deductions about the First Cause.

      • Is there a consensus among cosmologists that the "philosophers nothing" was ever the actual state of the universe? I've never seem such a claim, and it seems to be beyond our epistemic horizon.

        I'm interested in how the Kalam stacks up against other models of the origin of the universe, like the simulation hypothesis. If that hypothesis is true, then clearly the Kalam is reaching the wrong conclusion. And since I see no reason to rule out simulation a-priori, that is just one line of reasoning that leads me to question the Kalam.

        EDIT- By conclusion , I mean the "spaceless, timeless, and immaterial." part, clearly it is correct about there being a "cause" of the universe in this scenario

      • I don't agree that the quantum field is an identifiable cause of virtual particles. AFAIK, it's just a name for the statistical regularities we observe. It's very odd to say that the regularities of how virtual particles pop into existence cause them to pop into existence. Granted, one can choose to adopt a philosophical realist position regarding the field, but that position has in no way been demonstrated.*

        As for your response regarding large-scale causation, it's irrelevant since you misread the meaning. I was analyzing the common sort of beginnings that we observe in daily life (i.e. rearrangement of parts), and my conclusion - which you agreed with - was that that kind of beginning probably isn't applicable to the universe.

        I don't concede a "fact" about a possible past time boundary: we aren't in possession of such facts, to my knowledge. What we have are models based on our observations, some of which, if they are correct, would imply a past time boundary and some of which would not.

        In any case, as I was explicit about, a past time boundary is not the same as the deeply flawed premise 2.

        (* I don't know if you view the discussion at OTS, but Geena Safire wrote some interesting insights about this thread on the content versus the contexts for causes.)

    • Michael Murray

      Our models do suggest that the universe has a boundary to its past history (Some of the models put that moment infinitely far in the past, but the mainstream models have finite past time.)

      So in models of the universe that ignore quantum effects there is a past time boundary. But we know the real universe has quantum effects that will dominate once you get back to the Planck Epoch. So I guess God exists in some imaginary universe in which there are no quantum effects. That's fine by me :-)

      • Oh, thanks for the correction. I'll have to look into that.

    • Robert Macri

      We know that virtual particles, by all appearances, begin to exist without any identifiable cause.

      Actually, no. In physics nothing begins to exist without cause. Quantum mechanics does not always permit us to uniquely identify what that cause was, but our ignorance of specifics does not mean that there was no cause.

      Also, virtual particles do not exist physically at all, but are a kind of quantum bookkeeping. (That's why we call them virtual.) In classical physics we are accustomed to sensible chains of cause and effect (this billiard ball hits that one, etc), but in quantum mechanics odd things happen that cannot be so easily described (suppose the billiard balls on the table sometimes jump around without anything visibly touching them). In order to create a coherent, predictive picture, physicists often speak of "virtual particles" as a way to keep things straight, to know what is possible, but we don't actually think that virtual particles are moving around "invisibly" (that is, not interacting with anything) just waiting to be born, or that they pop into existence when needed.

      Sometimes we use language such as "these virtual particles borrowed energy from the vacuum and became real for a short time", but that is really just a convoluted way of saying that something which already existed (the energy of the vacuum) momentarily changed form as is allowable by quantum mechanics. In physics there was never a "nothing" from which something came. It is true that sometimes (real) particles appear where they did not exist before, but there was always something there without which the particles would not be formed: the necessary vacuum energy and some other real object (say, an atom) to recoil such that the total energy balance of the system is correct.

      Think of it this way. I could say that my back yard is full of "virtual holes". Not one of them exists as a real hole right now, but if I go out back with a shovel I can make a mound of dirt next to a hole and say "the virtual hole has become a real hole through interaction with my shovel." Talk of a "virtual hole" at a particular location was just a way of saying "a hole could be made to exist there under the right conditions."

      Perhaps a better analogy is your credit card. If you have $100 but owe your credit card company $150, we could say that your net wealth is -$50. We could then go on to say that you have 50 virtual dollars (they're in your pocket, you could even spend them, but they're not, strictly speaking, yours) or that the credit card company has 50 virtual anti-dollars just waiting to annihilate the 50 virtual dollars in your pocket, but we would certainly not say that anywhere a real negative-one-dollar bill exists, and that somebody has somehow collected 50 of them. We can speak of "virtual dollars and virtual anti-dollars" in our bookkeeping, but we do not propose that they are real. It is the same with virtual particles in quantum physics.

      • I'll grant you that virtual particles may not exist in the same sense as regular particles; the Casimir effect is the standard example of how they have clear large scale effects, but googling around I see there are alternative explanations available. The analogies you gave are really broken, FWIW. There's really nothing that can give a person good intuitions about quantum behaviors except familiarity with quantum behaviors. :-

        If we reject virtual particles as unreal, then they never begin to really exist. And that makes the problem for premise 1 much worse, as there would no longer be a known kind of beginning-to-exist that could plausibly apply to the universe. To be maximally charitable to the Kalaam argument, I think we need to keep the virtual-particle type of beginning-to-exist on the table as an option.

        • Robert Macri

          I feel like I may be beating a dead horse here, but it seems to me that there's a lot of confusion about virtual particles, and because a lot of people use that confusion to bolster their philosophy I think clarification is in order.

          The Casimir effect, like any quantum effect, relies on the wavelike nature of quantum probability functions. We do not, and indeed cannot, assume any "real" physical existence of virtual particles. To do so would essentially be to ascribe to a hidden variable theory of quantum mechanics, which is ruled out by Bell's theorem.

          Instead, virtual particles are better thought of as potentialities in the superimposed eigenstates of the wave function (that is, a very real particle could appear here from the available energy... we do not mean that there is a "thing" here, a virtual particle, just waiting for the chance to become real). So we have to be careful with language such as "they have clear large scale effects", which seems to imply that "they" are little things that enjoy real physical existence. "They" don't. If they did, they would be measurable, and if measurable they would not be "virtual".

          As for the alternative explanations you googled: I adhere to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, which is the standard position of current physics. There is no end to alternative explanations, but none of them have empirical backing. If they did, they would no longer be considered "alternative".

          The analogies you gave are really broken, FWIW. There's really nothing that can give a person good intuitions about quantum behaviors except familiarity with quantum behaviors

          My analogies were not intended to teach anyone about quantum behavior; they were intended to explain the way that physicists use certain theoretical tools (e.g. virtual particles) without subscribing to their real physical existence. (Quantum mechanics also uses imaginary numbers, by the way, but I don't hear anyone arguing that the square root of -1 actually has any physical sort of "existence".) As such, I stand by my analogies.

          • David Nickol

            So we have to be careful with language such as "they have clear large scale effects", which seems to imply that "they" are little things that enjoy real physical existence. "They" don't.

            All this is way above my head, but I do not see how to reconcile what you say with the answer on the Scientific American web site to these questions:

            Are virtual particles really constantly popping in and out of existence? Or are they merely a mathematical
            bookkeeping device for quantum mechanics?

            Virtual particles are indeed real particles. Quantum theory predicts that every particle spends some time as a combination of other particles in all possible ways. These predictions are very well understood and tested.

            Quantum mechanics allows, and indeed requires, temporary violations of conservation of energy, so one particle can become a pair of heavier particles (the so-called virtual particles), which quickly rejoin into the original particle as if they had never been there. If that were all that occurred we would still be confident that it was a real effect because it is an intrinsic part of quantum mechanics, which is extremely well tested, and is a complete and tightly woven theory--if any part of it were wrong the whole structure would collapse.

            But while the virtual particles are briefly part of our world they can interact with other particles, and that leads to a number of tests of the quantum-mechanical predictions about virtual particles. The first test was understood in the late 1940s. In a hydrogen atom . . . .

          • Robert Macri

            Apologies in advance for the length! This is not a subject I can treat briefly.

            The seeming discrepancy between what I've described and that of the Scientific American explanation is largely semantic, so I would not say that I take issue with their general thrust, but I heartily disagree with the wording of the leading statement "virtual particles are indeed real particles".

            It is the word "particles" that makes that statement imprecise. The problem, by the way, is not necessarily with the Sci.Am. authors, but rather with the difficulty in making quantum mechanics understandable to the general public in a concise way.

            One such problem is this: we tend to think of particles classically, like little billiard balls bounding around. But quantum mechanics is different, and such a picture is invalid. In QM we have waves interacting, and "particles" are excitations of a quantized field. Now, think about how waves interact. In a pair of noise-cancelling headphones they combine to produce something that (ideally) cannot be measured (heard). In a gusting wind over the ocean they combine to form really big waves.

            Now, let's take the noise-cancelling headphones as an analogy. Let's say that there is a background 60 Hz wave that your headset attempts to eliminate. It supplies a similar 60 Hz waveform, out of phase, adds it to the background, and the total wave vanishes. Voila. Silence.

            Now, listening to "nothing", you could say "There are two 60 Hz waves 180 degrees out of phase going into my ear." But are there really? Do the waves exist where nothing is moving? And could you not with equal confidence say that there are also two 90 Hz waves superimposed? 100 Hz?

            Because you can't measure them, you can imagine that the waveform that reaches your ear is a superposition of any arbitrary cancelling waves. But you probably wouldn't say that any of those waves are really present (except for the 60 Hz pair).

            Now, in quantum mechanics we have a similar (but at the same time very different!) situation. We can rightly say (as the Sci.Am. text does) that "Quantum theory predicts that every particle spends some time as a combination of other particles in all possible ways". However, when we say that we do not mean that every one of those particles can be measured at each instant, and therefore we cannot say that those particles have real existence as particles at every instant.

            Instead, we have a wave function which is a superposition of all possible eigenstates (or solutions of the equation), much like we could say that the "nothing" that comes out of our noise cancelling headphones is the sum of every possible combination of self-cancelling sounds. (But not exactly like that. In QM we are saying that we have a something which is composed of many other somethings, only one of which will be revealed by a measurement.)

            The difference is, in quantum mechanics, a measurement forces the wave function to collapse, to select one of its eigenstates (and that is something we cannot do with our headphones!). At that point, a particle is measured (the one corresponding to the selected eigenstate).

            Now, were all those other virtual (potential) particles really there before the measurement, or were they like the hypothetical waves in our headset?

            The best interpretation of QM is that from time to time, and for very short times indeed, one potential particle or another can pop into existence (at which point it is briefly real) and then vanish, but it is not there at all times. When it is not there, but could in principle be there, we call it virtual. In that case, we don't have a particle. We have individual wave functions, superimposed, none of which are yet selected out by a measurement (but nothing that could be rightly called a particle.)

            Now, it is not necessary that this infinity of virtual particles becomes measurably "real" to have a real influence. The very possibility that the wave function could collapse to this state or that (this particle or that) does have very real, measurable effects. (Like the effect on the behavior of a convict during a prison break, as he imagines all the places a guard could be, but in a much stranger, quantum way.)

            Now, when the Sci.Am. authors say that "while the virtual particles are briefly part of our world they can interact with other particles", they obfuscate the point that, strictly speaking, while the particles are "briefly part of our world", and are interacting, they are not virtual, they are real. Otherwise, it is more precise to say that it is the possibilities, the wave functions, which interact and produce measurable effects.

            The bizarre quantum reality is that those particles don't even have to be "briefly real" to have measurable effects. They only have to be possible.

            So by being persnickety about the language I'm just trying to eliminate the sort of confusion that leads some people to imagine that there are a bunch of ghost particles floating around interacting with matter. The real situation is rather more bizarre: there are wave functions interacting, which during a measurement result in excitations we call particles (and when that happens, those particles are real).

            So are virtual particles real?

            I would say "no" if by real you mean subsisting, measurable independent entities bouncing around by billiard balls but only sometimes measurable. (If I measure a single electron in a closed system right now, every future measurement will also yield an electron, not any other particle, unless the system is not in fact closed and there is something else to interact with... something other than the electron itself and its swarm of "virtual particle" possibilities.)

            But I would say "yes" as long as you understand that they don't exist as subsisting ghost particles bouncing around (in a closed system) with any kind of form one would assume a real particle to have. When a measurement does force them into such an existence, we no longer call them virtual. Again, it is the possibility that a certain particle could be created that affects the system, whether or not said particle is actually ever created.

            And in case anyone things I am wrong to be so persnickety, think about Schrodinger's cat. Does anyone really think it is both alive and dead at the same time? Virtual particles are something like that. The possibility of particle creation and annihilation has real effects on what we can predict and measure, but we need not assume that virtual particles have any kind of particle-like reality outside of a measurement that renders them real.

          • Robert Macri

            FYI, here are a couple of links which discuss the matter in the more nuanced way that I have attempted to expound:

            "The best way to approach this concept, I believe, is to forget you ever saw the word “particle” in the term. A virtual particle is not a particle at all."
            http://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/virtual-particles-what-are-they/

            "Virtual particles are theoretical entities; they are tentative interpretations of mathematical tools inside the theoretical apparatus with its shortcomings."
            http://www.science20.com/alpha_meme/virtual_particles_real_yet_real_ones_unreal_according_feynman-86964

            Granted, you can find many articles which vigorously state that virtual particles are "real", but I maintain that such language is imprecise, given the standard interpretation of the words "particle" and "real" (directly measurable, not just by its effects).

        • Robert Macri

          If we reject virtual particles as unreal, then they never begin to really exist.

          Um, yeah. That's right. But the real particles that pop into existence from the "virtual soup" (which just describes potential things that can happen, not a bunch of ghost particles bumping around) do begin to exist, and are caused to exist.

          Again, when we speak of virtual particles we are speaking of potentialities. Sometimes we slip into confused language, such as when we say things like "a soup of virtual particles inhabits the vacuum, popping in and out of existence", but that's just a way of describing the physical reality that energy from the vacuum can be transformed into any combination of possible real particle/anti-particle pairs that exist for a short time before annihiliting and giving their energy back to the vacuum (unless some nearby object interacts with them, "paying back" the energy to the vacuum so that the created particles can remain in existence). We do not mean that there was anything other than vacuum energy there before the real particle pair was created. When we speak of virtual particles, we are taking about the particles that might be created from the available energy.

          And that makes the problem for premise 1 much worse, as there would no longer be a known kind of beginning-to-exist that could plausibly apply to the universe.

          On the contrary, that is exactly the kind of evidence that premise 1 depends upon. Let me explain:

          A virtual particle is not a "thing". But the vaccum energy is. That energy, along with a recoil particle if the created particle is to last for any appreciable time, are the cause for, say, an electron-positron pair to suddenly pop into existence. The pair "begins to exist" (they weren't there before, sulking in some degraded virtual existence), but they are caused to exist by the vaccum energy, the recoil particle, and the character of the laws of physics.

          And that makes the problem for premise 1 much worse, as there would no longer be a known kind of beginning-to-exist that could plausibly apply to the universe.

          Uh, what? if you want to deny premise 1, you have to show me something that came into existence which was not caused by something else. How can not having something come into existence (the virtual particles) prove that something can come into existence without a cause??

          Besides, as I mentioned above, real particles pop into existence all the time, and all of them are caused.

          And even if we did not have pair creation to point to, we still have the universe itself, which, according to the best current physics, did have a beginning in time.

          To be maximally charitable to the Kalaam argument, I think we need to keep the virtual-particle type of beginning-to-exist on the table as an option.

          Fine, but please be clear that it is real particles which pop into existence (all of them caused). There is no physical reality to a virtual particle. As I have attempted to explain in my posts, a virtual particle is a theoretical abstract, and certainly NOT something that pops into existence from nothing. If it pops into existence, we don't call it "virtual".

    • Paul F

      The claim "particles begin to exist without an identifiable cause" is a physical statement about lack of evidence.

      The claim "particles begin to exist without a cause" is an a priori statement.

      To assume that the origin of the universe is like the second statement is to assume creation ex nihilo does not have a cause. This assumption has an a priori claim within it that is just as strong a claim as saying "anything that begins to exist has a cause." They are opposite claims but they both require the same a priori knowledge.

      What atheists often criticize as "accepting truth on faith" is really accepting the a priori claim that "anything that begins to exist has a cause." Their criticism is based on lack of evidence. However, a priori claims by definition do not have the kind of evidence sought in that criticism. For the same atheist to accept the a priori claim that everything sprung out of nothing is hypocritical. To rule out all a priori claims by making an a priori claim is to hold two contrary positions simultaneously.

      • Yes indeed, you noticed that I, like most atheists, prefer the skeptical stance to the dogmatic stance. We know that "by all appearances, virtual particles begin to exist without any identifiable cause." That's a proper skeptical statement, well justified by the actual evidence and not going further. The assumption of the theists here who support the Kalam argument, that these particles must have causes that we simply haven't yet identified, goes beyond the evidence as a post-hoc rationalization in service to their dogma. If there are any atheists who similarly assume the opposite, as you suggested, I agree that would be equally unjustified.

        • Paul F

          I do not mean to disparage all a priori claims. I think knowledge is only possible when certain a priori are taken for granted. The claim that all effects have causes has been taken for granted in all scientific investigations. That doesn't mean it has to be true, but it gives us a reason to look for causes. It doesn't have to be a post hoc rationale; it could be a motivating rationale. If science is disabused of the principle of cause and effect, science ceases to explain anything.

          What I'm trying to say is that the skeptical claim of "I don't know if all effects have causes" is a de facto claim against the principle of cause and effect. The principle will lack it's motivating efficacy if it is not believed. The universe would be rendered unintelligible to adherents.

          • What I'm trying to say is that the skeptical claim of "I don't know if all effects have causes" is a de facto claim against the principle of cause and effect.

            I'll grant that the assumption and skepticism about it can be recast as similarly formed claims:

            (T): I am 100% confident of principle XYZ.
            (A): I am 20% confident of principle XYZ.

            Regardless of what XYZ is, the first claim is the stronger one.

            But more fundamentally, I don't agree that scientific theories or scientific practice have strict need of cause and effect. Causation in the ordinary way we think about it involves mentally contrasting a real history with counterfactual histories. (e.g. "If we had wiggled the string, the bell would have rung; so our holding the string still caused the silence.") The real world obviously doesn't contain counterfactual histories! So one could do science and simply describe the regularities of real events, entirely without positing causes or effects.

            On the other hand, I'm an engineer, and I don't see how engineering could be done except by comparing and contrasting the (counterfactual) consequences of alternative possible designs - i.e. without relying on a mental model that includes causation. When we start designing universes, then we can justifiably talk about their causes.

          • Paul F

            I would argue that describing the regularities of real events is not considered doing science. I would call this activity gathering data. This is part of science, but until you make a hypothesis and try to disprove it, you haven't done any science.

            I can't imagine a scientific hypothesis that does not employ the principle of cause and effect. Cause and effect does involve counter factual histories but there is a little more to it than that. It is not just saying that, had the previous state of matter not been as it was, the current state would not be as it is. It is saying that a specific event brought about another specific event. A hypothesis would be that every time I cause event A the result will be event B. The resulting model or theory is not possible to achieve without knowing causes and effects of the particulars.

            The statement every event has a cause applies to all events at all times. If I lack confidence in it, 20% probability, then I think it applies to some events. Some events implies not all events, so any skepticism is a negation of the principle.

    • We know that virtual particles, by all appearances, begin to exist without any identifiable cause.

      Generally, the claim of knowledge requires going beyond appearances—no? I'm also inclined to say that this is a philosophical choice, not an empirical result; from physicist David Bohm, who probably should have gotten a Nobel Prize for the Aharonov–Bohm effect:

          The assumption that any particular kind of fluctuations are arbitrary and lawless relative to all possible contexts, like the similar assumption that there exists an absolute and final determinate law, is therefore evidently not capable of being based on any experimental or theoretical developments arising out of specific scientific problems, but it is instead a purely philosophical assumption. (Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, 44)

      Christians generally chart a course between Heraclitus and Parmenides, via an ontological substance which is neither randomness or determinate law: personhood, or agency.

      As for the universe beginning to exist, it's not even clear that the concept makes any sense. Time is one of the dimensions of the universe - *all* of it is *inside* the universe.

      Focus on causation, not time. Lawrence Krauss thinks that a something may have caused the universe to exist. Time is a red herring; time is almost certainly parasitic on causation.

  • The Kalam cosmological argument fails as a proof of the existence of God or of a cause.
    (1) Only an entity can truly possess existence, come into being, or begin to exist. The universe is not itself an entity.
    (2) Conclusions regarding existence can only flow from premises based on direct human experience of existing entities. The universe, as the universe, is not within
    the scope of human experience.

  • Marcus Moody

    I think it's an effective proof for God, but it's also extremely persuasive as an argument. It's effective in that it's airtight and has true premises which lead to the truth of the conclusion. However many theological arguments have this. So what makes The Kalam so attractive?

    Versatility. The Kalam is a diverse argument which is incredibly simple to understand due to wording, but also gives a lot of different avenues of proof and evidence in the claims that it makes. This also makes it easier and simpler to refute objectors in a way that they will understand, since the simple wording of the argument leads to simple objections.

    It's because of its' simplicity that you can respond to someone at a moment's notice no matter their objection, since every commoner has the same objections if they're ignorant of the reasoning of the argument. Being able to respond in this way plows the argument past initial objections from skeptics, which will at least guarantee it to linger their minds. Or, in some cases, until they can get to YouTube. :p

    But also because of what The Kalam asserts as true, there are many more nuanced scientific and philosophical conversations that can be had on the issue, which shows that this argument isn't just an apologetic word game.

    It's for these reasons that I see The Kalam as a good argument, and they're why I often find myself using it as my go-to argument for the existence of God. So many objections, so many rebuttals, so many amazing conversations to be had...what can go wrong as long we all have an open mind? (:

  • Peter

    "I've yet to meet an atheist who believes in a transcendent, spaceless, timeless, and immaterial cause of the universe"

    If the cause of the big bang was a singularity at time zero, that singularity no longer exists because it has turned into an expanding universe. However, if the big bang is caused by quantum effects, those quantum effects continue to exist.

    Quantum effects exist within the planck epoch at the beginning of the big bang where time and space are too small to be quantised and therefore too small to have any meaning. In an epoch where time and space have no meaning, these words cannot be used to describe it, and therefore the planck epoch is considered timeless and spaceless. If timeless, it never ceases to exist and, if spaceless, it is immaterial.

    What we have, then, is an existing timeless, spaceless, immaterial realm out of which the universe emerges, as opposed to a one-off singularity which has forever disappeared. Inasmuch as this quantum realm lies beyond the reach of human experience, it can also be called transcendent. The cause of the universe is therefore transcendent, spaceless, timeless and immaterial. I imagine there are many atheists who would not disagree.

  • Lazarus

    William Lane Craig, in his 100 plus page treatment of the Kalam argument also concludes rather meekly that it is "plausible" for the Kalam to show that an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists. In conjunction with, or maybe because of such criticisms as we find on this thread I believe that all that is sought nowadays by using the argument is plausibility, some scientific credibility.

    • Marcus Moody

      Not really. Craig uses plausibility in reference to God being the cause, not that there is plausibly a cause. We can't get an omnipotent being from the argument, but we can get close.

      However, J. P. Moreland made a good comment about how the cause would exist necessarily, so maybe we could couple the ontological argument with The Kalam to make a super argument?

      • Lazarus

        No need, Craig says :

        "On the basis of the Kalam cosmological argument, it is therefore plausible that an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless,, and enormously powerful."

        Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, p196.

        According to Craig we certainly can get an omnipotent being from the argument.

        • Marcus Moody

          Well first He said enormously powerful, not omnipotent. Second, Craig isn't an unquestionable authority on the argument.

          • Lazarus

            Care to name any "unquestionable authorities " on the subject then?

          • Marcus Moody

            There aren't any. I was just saying that we can't satisfy the issue simply on Craig's view.

    • Michael Murray

      Whatever it might be good for scientific credibility is definitely not on the list

      https://strangenotions.com/is-the-kalam-cosmological-argument-a-sound-proof-for-god/#comment-2366994516

  • VicqRuiz

    I've yet to meet an atheist who believes in a transcendent, spaceless, timeless, and immaterial cause of the universe.

    Given our current state of knowledge about the universe's first moments, a universe which was brought into being by a "cause" which had those four properties - and no others - would be, I think, indistinguishable from a universe which simply popped into existence.

    Therefore, although I don't necessarily believe in such a cause, I find no grounds on which to object to such a belief.

  • J. L. Stevens

    I am a theoretical physicist and I have pondered this issue, the
    beginnings of "our" universe, for years, and have never found it
    necessary to posit the need for a "God" to start it all. For what's its
    worth, here are my musings on the subject:

    1) We are now pretty
    sure that "our" universe had a beginning about 13.7 billion years ago in
    an event we call the "Big Bang". That a large scale "expansion event"
    happened is pretty solid and based on numerous observations. I think
    most Catholics would agree with the Big Bang theory but they ask,
    rightly, "why"?

    2) You will have noted that I prefaced the term
    universe with "our", and that is because some scientists now believe
    that "our" universe, what we can see and measure, is but one of an
    innumerable number of universes, spread out in a huge, probably
    infinite, super universe we call the "Multiverse". Thus I use "our" to
    refer to this particular universe in the Multiverse.

    3) Where did the Big Bang come from, what caused it? There are 2 very good theories that explain this event:

    (a)
    Reality exists within a "fabric" of space-time that is "bubbling" with
    energy (just like a fish lives inside a "fabric of water" that is
    bubbling with activity like waves and currents). We call this energy the
    "vacuum energy" and we can actually measure it, so we know it exists.
    Think of this energy just like waves on the ocean surface, randomly
    forming and peaking, then being absorbed back into the ocean. Most of
    these waves are small and frequent, but sometimes, very rarely, you get a
    monster wave (which actually happen rarely on the ocean), a monster
    eruption of energy from space-time. And 13.7 billion years ago, a truly
    monster eruption of energy expanded into our universe;

    (b) A
    somewhat similar theory is that reality exists on huge "membranes"
    called "Branes" and sometimes 2 Brains collide, a hugely energetic event
    (like 2 cars crashing head on) that injects energy into the collision
    spots on the Brains. Each collision point then expands into a universe.
    We are one of those universes.

    4) Regarding the Multiverse, we
    are just now discovering evidence for the existence of these other
    universes. We are mapping the actual explosive flash from the Big Band,
    called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMG) and are seeing "bruises"
    where the gravity of another huge "object" (another universe) affected
    the flash.

    5) Of course, you will say that the Multiverse just
    moves the question from who or what created the universe to who or what
    created the Multiverse. But that question assumes that there was a
    creation event, that the Multiverse has not simply existed forever. Our
    common sense idea of needing creation for things to exist is based on
    our experience on Earth but does not necessarily make sense in the big
    picture.

    Its like asking when 1 + 1 = 2 was created. There was
    never a time when that was not true. It is self-evident, true by its
    very nature. Mathematics is just like that.

    6) Some of you will
    be uncomfortable with the idea that the Multiverse has always existed,
    that it is infinitely old and has no creator. I agree it is a very hard
    concept to imagine and even we physicists sometimes get headaches trying
    to imagine it. But that does not make it untrue.

    7) But the
    Deists have a similar problem, ascribing the creation of the universe
    (or Multiverse) to an infinite God. Who created the creator? "He always
    existed" is not an answer, anymore than the infinite Multiverse is.

    8)
    And, even if there is an infinite creator who started the universe off,
    that does not necessary lead to a conscious entity or even a God who
    meddles in human affairs. If you are the entity that created this huge
    universe, it sound unlikely that you will really care if I go to Mass on
    Sunday!

    And that, my friends, is my personal perspective on the
    Cosmological Argument as a proof for God. Am I right? Maybe so, maybe
    not. Although I will grant that there is an absolute "Truth" out there, I
    doubt any of us are privy to it.

    Respectfully,

    your local inquisitive physicist

    • Michael Murray

      Thanks. Just to avoid confusion two of your Branes have been spelt Brains and one Bang has become a Band :-)

    • Rob Abney

      Thanks for setting us straight, I was about to go to mass and worship the creator as the incarnate Son of God commanded, if he doesn't care I'll just sleep in!

      • Michael Murray

        Surely you can sleep in any Sunday morning by going to Mass on Saturday night? The Catholic Church long ago (i.e. when I was attending as a kid) decided that God thinks that Saturday evening is also Sunday.

        • Rob Abney

          Good point. But I was just making a snarky comment, I can easily sleep in since I go to 11am Mass.
          Was Saturday vigil started after Vatican II?

          • Michael Murray

            Snarky comments are not allowed on this site ! But at least you have confessed.

            In Australia it was around about 1973 or a little bit later I think.

          • Rob Abney

            In hindsight it seems like Vatican II caused a lot of confusion until just recently.

            Can you further explain JL Stevens point about two membranes colliding?

          • Michael Murray

            Can you further explain JL Stevens point about two membranes colliding?

            Unfortunately not. I'm more of a mathematician than a physicist. Certainly not a cosmologist.

          • OldSearcher

            I have found this article about branes collision. It seems interesting.
            A Brief Introduction to the Ekpyrotic Universe

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. That was interesting. Some other things from the same guy on his homepage

            http://wwwphy.princeton.edu/~steinh/

    • Lazarus

      Thank you, Mr. (?) Stevens, that is a very helpful exposition.

      You must forgive me, but I harp on this a bit. I would say that there are good reasons for that. My problem with your list of possible Big Answers is not that I have any significant objections to any of those possibilities (I don't), it however bothers me no end to again see that you, and other scientists, continue to flatly deny the possibility that theism (of whatever flavor) also belongs on that list as a serious contender.

      Surely a proper and comprehensive study of theism, say as it is expounded in the Catholic tradition, must allow that theism be on that list of yours? Surely a truly objective scientist would be comfortable with that option, as an option. On what possible scientific principle is theism excluded a priori from that list? Is this science at work, or something else?

      Thank you for your participation here. Some of us amateurs tend to get in way over our heads with this.

      • Rob Abney

        "I have no need for that hypothesis" -Pierre-Simon Laplace

        • Lazarus

          Funny how Laplace never really explained that all too well.

    • Peter

      There is an absolute Truth out there but science alone will not reveal it. Science just peels away at onion layers. As conscious beings we not only have science but imagination. It is as much a real product of our consciousness as is the ability to do science. What does our imagination tell us? It tells us there is a Creator in one form or another, as is borne out by thousands of years of human history.

      Those who rely on science alone to seek the truth have wilfully closed down their imagination, so it is not surprising that they deny a Creator. By discounting their imagination, they have curtailed their humanity. They have imposed a limitation on the natural abilities of their consciousness.

      This is unfortunate because humans are gifted with the ability to see the truth. We are gifted with science and imagination and can see the truth by using both these gifts together. A broader way of describing science and imagination is reason and faith. Faith and reason are the two wings on which human beings can fly towards the Truth. With just one wing we can't fly at all and fall prey to the errors of scientism or fideism.

    • Rob Abney

      "Deists have a similar problem, ascribing the creation of the universe
      (or Multiverse) to an infinite God. Who created the creator? "He always
      existed" is not an answer, anymore than the infinite Multiverse is."

      According to Brad Gregory in The Unintended Reformation, the most prevalent obstacle to scientists understanding God is that they use univocal metaphysics to try to fit God into their understanding.
      A sacramental worldview requires us to accept that somethings will always be a mystery to our natural knowledge. Not unlike the hidden extra dimension in the colliding membrane theory.

    • Paul F

      Even oceans, as big as they are, are contained within the shores of the continents and the basins in which they sit. We theorize that our own universe will one day dissipate into photons and cease to exist because it is not contained in anything like the oceans. Won't the multiverse have the same problem? And if so, would it not be impossible for us to see the multiverse as it is now because it has already had an infinite amount of time to dissipate? St. Thomas stated flatly that it is impossible to pass through an infinity to arrive at any point, and I thought at the time he was confusing space and time. I now think that the transient nature of the universe (or the multiverse) really does make it impossible for infinity to exist inside of the physical world. It is this fact that I believe necessitates a non-physical creator of all that is physical.

  • Is the Kalam Cosmological Argument a Sound Proof for God?

    Definitely not. For one thing it is refuted by the B-theory of time. As long as that's a possibility, the Kalam can't be a sound argument because its conclusion could be false. Another potential problem is that its first premise (Everything that begins to exist has a cause) logically entails determinism. If our thoughts begin to exist, they have a cause, and what ever caused that has a cause since it began to exist, and what ever caused that has a cause for the same reason, and you'll end up eventually with a chain of causes that goes back to the big bang at least. Once you got that, you've basically got determinism, and free will goes out the window. If free will goes out the window, the free will defense to the problem of evil goes out the window, and also the question of whether god (or Jesus if you're a Christian) had free will, and if they don't their concepts may not even make sense. So the Kalam introduces many problems and solves none.

  • Гусейн Гурбанов Азербайджан

    Logically complete cosmological concept. /due to lack of knowledge of the English language was not able to correct the translation Implemented by Google/

    In order to present the unlimited space originally Elementary:

    1. variety (homogeneous) сompleted - enough to postulate the presence in it of two elements with SIMPLE and COMPLEX /closed systematically manifested the essence/

    2. heterogeneous completed - enough to postulate the presence in it of one more element - the Most High and Almighty God - with open exhibited systemic nature.

    Not hard to imagine that even at the lowest possible deployment intangible components the nature of God - the Spirit of God - for the level of the original downwardly directed continuous deployment the material component of the essence of God, there is a curtailment of SIMPLE and COMPLEX /i.e.. their decay occurs due to blocking of origin upwardly directed constantly deploy components of their intangible essences/, as the maximum possible heterogeneous nature of God to the minimum possible number of cell uniformity (№1h) and God on the basis of the material components of the minimum possible №1 deploys heterogeneous to its essence as possible numerical element uniformity (№2H). The process of clotting №2H begins at a certain point in time God begins at the end of its deployment. Curtailment of the Spirit of God to the level of initial deployment again unfolds №1H - God's potential for transformation into a №1H in №2H and №1H in №2H limitless!

  • David Hennessey

    So, haven't you heard, time doesn't exist alone, it's a component of space and matter, a measurement of change, perhaps, but not an independent entity. Time doesn't go forward or backward, it's just there measuring changes in space as objects move and people live and die.

    So, if you count backward, each day that exists has a day before that and you may speculate that such a regression can't go on forever, there must have been a day before which there was no yesterday.What stops that progression? You are not looking for a First Cause but something that would stop the measurement of changes you can observe in retrospect, the days gone by.

    What does a day without yesterday look like, what does it even mean?

    Again, tomorrow is another day, it seems that another must follow that and even if the sun explodes we can measure a day on another world and the days go on until the end. What forces an end to time?

    For most of us, there is no reason that another day will not come in the future forever, in fact, Christian theology expresses the belief that existence is eternal, God will never die, we will have everlasting life.

    The beginning and the end are not separable, if time goes forward without end, it also goes backward without end. The world can end, this universe can end but as long as anything exists, time will exist and if God existed forever in the past, so did time. If God moved, time measured Him.

    So, you speculate a place outside of time and space, that's heaven, but it's not a concept you can examine closely. Things happen in heaven, people are there and where there is anything, there is time and space or else heaven is being nowhere, doing nothing.

    It is very difficult discussing whether existence has a beginning when your theology states that there was something before the beginning and will be something after the end. Then when you're thoroughly confused, your scriptures come up with this gem.

    "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

    To the specifics:

    Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    No, matter is neither created nor destroyed, nothing begins to exist.
    Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
    Again, no reason to think so but even if it did, this universe may be one of millions, ours may have formed out of the remains of another as conservation of matter would suggest.
    Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    This universe may not be all that exists, even if we accepted that this universe began at some time, it only applies to this one, the First Cause for this universe could be another and if you identify the First Cause, it must have a Cause, calling it First doesn't give it immunity.

    This argument has been disproven so many times in so many ways that it really should be dropped, it's a kindergarten question from a simpler past.