Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Refuting the Refutation: Part 3 - The Kalam Cosmological Argument

On to one of my favorite arguments in Natural Theology.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The Kalam cosmological argument is a deductive argument which has premises that are more plausible than their negations. AA begins this section by boldly asserting,
As I will prove below, his premises are not true. I also must point out how slyly he sets up the argument. After he argues for his conclusion (that the universe has a cause) he wants to convince the reader that the cause must have the attributes of his christian god. How convenient. As I'll show later, even if the universe did have a cause there are plausible naturalistic scenarios that explain how it may have happened.
 He's going to prove the KCA's premises aren't true? That's a pretty bold statement. He also calls into question reasoning to the conclusion of a Christian deity using the KCA. But, as Craig has said (quoted in Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator in this case; he's said it in multiple places), "the kalam argument can't prove everything about the Creator."1 This is why classical apologists construct a comprehensive case. The kalam argument shows the existence of a monotheistic God, which does narrow the argument down to three religions, but it does not argue completely for the Christian God, and nobody has ever claimed that it does. Finally, as it pertains to the naturalistic scenarios, we'll see that there actually aren't any plausible ones.

On Premise 1 - Everything that begins to exist has a cause

AA writes:
Craig attempts to justify his first premise:
Premise 1 seems obviously true—at the least, more so than its negation. First, it’s rooted in the necessary truth that something cannot come into being uncaused from nothing. To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic. Second, if things really could come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it’s inexplicable why just anything and everything do not come into existence uncaused from nothing. Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes.
Craig argued, "Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes."
As I noted in Craig's first argument, despite what we think happens is not always accurate. As I said, ideas must be tested, and things can seem to happen without cause.
AA ignores the first two points about premise one, and chooses to assert something about the third. But go back to the first two points. (1)Why should we ever seek to reject the notion that nothing comes from nothing? When we experience anything in our lives, we never would conclude that it popped into being uncaused out of nothing! As I said in my last post, can you imagine what that kind of thinking would do to science? (2)Also, consider the second point. If we are to reject the intuition that everything that begins to exist has a cause, then it is inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn't simply pop into existence uncaused out of nothing. Craig often uses the example of a horse suddenly appearing in one's living room and defiling the carpet. The reason we leave our houses not worrying about these kinds of things is because we know things don't pop into existence out of nothing.

Premise 2 - The Universe Began to Exist

In response to Craig's argument from the scientific evidence of the big bang, AA writes, "Again, as I've said already, just because Craig can't imagine an infinite universe doesn't mean it's impossible. Simply arguing that it's impossible without any proof is no argument." This is an example of the flippant dismissive rhetoric that AA uses. After citing a long step-by-step presentation of some of the reasoning in support of the second premise, he says that Craig is simply saying that an infinite universe is unimaginable. That is ridiculous and dishonest. Craig gives both scientific and philosophical arguments to support the second premise. The former uses the vast scientific support for the big-bang theory while refuting those who try to craft infinite universe models, and the latter uses arguments that show an infinite number of events is a logically incoherent idea (The Impossibility of an Actually Infinite Number of Things and The Impossibility of Forming an Actually Infinite Collection of Things by Successive Addition).

AA continues, "Second, Craig quotes Alexander Vilenkin from his 2006 book Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes and argues that because the universe cannot allegedly be past-eternal it implies a god, however, Vilenkin himself denies this interpretation just a few paragraphs after the statement quoted by Craig." The fact that Vilenkin doesn't agree with Craig's conclusions about the implications of his own theorem does nothing to take away from the fact that those implications exist. Vilenkin, I believe, has attempted to construct other cosmological models, the quantum fluctuation model for instance, which itself fails to refute Craig's second premise and has been shown to be an implausible model (as explained by Craig and Sinclair here).2

The Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin theorem shows that if a universe is expanding, it cannot be infinite in the past, but requires a past space time boundary. This precludes many of the models developed in the 80's to explain away the seeming singularity of the big bang model from being past infinite, including many inflationary models.3 Victor Stenger, who AA quoted in his post, presented the Hartle-Hawking model in his most recent debate with William Lane Craig a few months ago. Among other problems, Hawking admits that this model can be interpreted to have come into being out of nothing.4

AA then mentions a correspondence he had with Vilenkin, who seemed to dance around the implications of his theorem, saying,
[I]f someone asks me whether or not the theorem I proved with Borde and Guth implies that the universe had a beginning, I would say that the short answer is "yes". If you are willing to get into subtleties, then the answer is "No, but..." So, there are ways to get around having a beginning, but then you are forced to have something nearly as special as a beginning.
As ambiguous as this statement is, Vilenkin seems to be saying that there are people who are continually working on models to try to "fix" the past boundary of space time that the discovery of the expanding universe has implied. Sounds a tad like cosmology of the gaps, but I digress. The fact remains that with each new model that is offered up till now, it has failed in some respect to show an infinite past to our universe. The big bang model on the other hand has withstood the test of time and still remains the standard model used by many contemporary cosmologists.

AA then moves on to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. He starts his "rebuttal" by saying Craig ignores the first law. This is simply a red herring. Even if Craig is being inconsistent, it still doesn't follow that the second law doesn't apply. But, I think Craig could easily reconcile the first law with creation ex nihilo by pointing out that these laws apply to the physical universe once brought into being by an omnipotent Creator. AA quotes some more of his conversation with Vilenkin, where Vilenkin promotes his view of how the so called "false vacuum" could provide a way out of this. This, I think, seems to be the "baby universe" hypothesis. Craig writes about this theory,
Is there some other plausible way of holding onto the eternality of the past in the face of the universe's disequilibrium state? Speculations have been floated in eschatological discussions about our universe begetting future "baby universes." It has been conjectured that black holes may be portals of wormholes through which bubbles of false vacuum energy can tunnel to spawn new expanding baby universes. . .The conjecture would require that information locked up in a black hole could be utterly lost forever by escaping into another universe. One of the last holdouts, [Stephen] Hawking finally came to agree that quantum theory requires that information is preserved in black hole formation and evaporation. The implications? [Hawking says,] "There is no baby universe branching off, as I once thought. The information remains firmly in our universe."5
Craig also addresses Vilenkin's false vacuum theory on his website, in case what I have quoted fails to completely lay out the case.

I would encourage Dr. Vilenkin to read through Craig and Sinclair's comprehensive study of the failures of alternate cosmological models to lead to a universe that has existed for an infinite amount of time. I would think he would find little to quibble with. AA's contention that Craig is wrong because the scientist he cites disagrees with his conclusion is first of all a non-sequitur (as it could be Vilenkin simply hasn't realized the implications of his own theorem) and second of all incorrect because Craig has cited other sources that show that Vilenkin's way out is a dead end. Craig and Sinclair present a chart that summarizes the general main models and why they rule out a beginningless universe here.

All of this, however, is based off of very speculative evidences and theories that are constantly in flux. Who knows if cosmologists will ever stop formulating newer models to explain the origin of the universe? But based on the philosophical arguments against the actual existence of infinites, I don't think there will ever be a successful model that will emerge that shows the universe is infinite in the past. If there is, it should be rejected since an infinite number of past events is simply logically impossible. Until all of these considerations in this section are completely overturned, premise 2 is far more plausible than its negation.

Conclusion - The Universe has a Cause

If these two premises are true (and it seems to me, based on this research, that they are far more plausible than their negations) then it follows that the universe has a cause. The cause must itself be uncaused, since positing a cause of this cause, by Ockham's Razor, is unnecessary. Since this cause must logically precede the universe, it cannot be material, because it brought all space and time and matter into existence. It would also have to be personal, since the only immaterial thing that is able to cause something would be a mind, as abstract objects, such as numbers, are causally effete. A personal agent, however, is not causally effete, but can be causally active. This personal being must be extremely powerful, because it brings all space and time into being. It must also be changeless and timeless. But all of these properties start to sound an awful lot like the God of monotheism, which would show that atheism is false.

1 Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004) 109. emphasis his

2 William Lane Craig and JP Moreland, eds., Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology(Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2009) 183

3 Ibid. 141-142

4 Ibid. 178

5 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008) 145-146 (see the links Craig footnotes here and here)


bethyada said...

I don't see how the 1st law of thermodynamics is relevant. Energy (matter) cannot be created by the universe or by the matter within it. Fine. This has no relevance as to whether God can create energy.

By the way, have you seen this site?

Library of Historical Apologetics

bossmanham said...


It's not. It's just that AA wanted to bring up a red herring since we believe that God created the universe ex nihilo. It doesn't have any bearing on the debate, yet he included it in his blog post.

bossmanham said...

Thanks for the link. I hadn't heard of that site yet. Awesome!

The Apologetic Front said...

Because of his naturalistic presuppositions, your opponent is forced by his worldview to implement an "atheism of the gaps" argument. That is, though the current understanding of the premises/evidence is in support of the theistic position, the atheist must find a way to "fix" the evidence to support his worldview.

Arizona Atheist said...

TAF, Brennon,

I’m sorry but there is nothing to “fix”. The reason scientists are revising their theories is because the older models of the big bang were not jiving with some observations and these newer theories take these into account. I’ve responded to parts two and three at the end of original post here.

bossmanham said...

AA, yet again all you've given is another unsubstantiated claim. The fact is that the big bang model does explain all the observable phenomena quite well. The problem some cosmologists have is the absolute beginning out of nothing, which snags on a metaphysical presupposition of theirs. Question is, if it keeps sustaining itself under scrutiny, and the other models fail at showing what they are trying to show, what should we conclude? Leaving out any presupposed methodological naturalism, I know what sounds more reasonable to me.

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi Brennon,

Actually, no it's not "unsubstantiated"' I even gave a reference in my rebuttal. Besides, even with the big bang model, as I’ve shown (and Craig has failed to answer), the big bang was not “the beginning” and “something” could certainly come before as shown in the models I’ve referenced.

Arizona Atheist said...

And I figured I'd add that cosmologists do not propose this all came out of "nothing." That is a strawman by Craig (and incidentally, you). A process called quantum tunneling is one possibility for a natural origin of the universe and is consistent with what scientists know about the universe. So, it seems to me that with as many misunderstandings and errors on the part of Craig with his “scientific” arguments that the theories being proposed are possible and make a supernatural creator much less likely.

bossmanham said...

As I cite in my re-rebuttal, you are simply incorrect, and many cosmologists just state the exact opposite of what you just said.

PCW Davies comments,

"If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself."

Cosmologists J. Richard Gott, James E. Gunn, David N. Schramm, and Beatrice M. Tinsley write of the singularity, "Space and time were created in that event and so was all the matter in the universe."

John Barrow and Frank Tipler say, "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo."

Just to cite a few.

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi Brennon,

I feel we’ve reached an impasse and don’t feel continuing any discussion is worthwhile, but I felt it important to respond to this claim real quick because it is important that I note this here as well.

Those scientists' opinions are all pre-Hawking's calculations taking quantum theory into account as I’ve been telling you over and over. The quote of Davies for example was from 1978, ten years before the revelations of quantum theory that there was no singularity. The same with all of Craig's other sources I saw on page 130 of his book. All of them are before 1988, when Hawking wrote in A Brief History of Time that there was no singularity when taking quantum theory into account. Sorry, but you really should check Craig's references. And he should seriously update his.

bossmanham said...


The purpose of these posts is not to convince you. You aren't open to anything other than your own dogmatic naturalism. They are to show those who do care about truth that your assertions aren't based on logic or fact, and that your case is very weak, as shown by your lack of a reason for holding to your own view. My point is to show that your rhetorically strong assertions really aren't that strong.

On the quotes, quantum physics did exist in the 70's. Quantum physics existed in the 20's. It doesn't affect the implications of the singularity. And Barrow and Tipler's quote is later than that, and Paul Davies has an article online from 2000 that says the same thing. That interpretation hasn't changed.

Furthermore, there's still the whole impossibility of an actual infinite existing.

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi Brennon,

These individuals have not taken into account quantum mechanics in their equations and that’s the point. I didn’t say quantum mechanics wasn’t around, just that without taking all the relevant theories about the universe into account, their conclusions will be inaccurate.

And I find it difficult to see how my conclusions were “weak” since you didn’t even understand most of them, not to mention refute most of them to begin with...but to each his own.