Posts tagged ‘kalam cosmological argument’

December 10th, 2012

Q&A 1: Kalam and The Flying Spaghetti Monster

by Max Andrews

Hey Max,

I guess since I requested the Q&A section, I’ll start it off!

I recently had a conversation with an atheist in which I walked him through the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This inevitably led into a conversation about what criteria a “first cause” must meet. It was difficult for me to explain, and for him to understand how God exists as a necessary being, or out of His own nature.

The atheist resorted to a version of  ”Flying Spaghetti Monster” argumentation, in which he said, “How do we know that the first cause wasn’t a giant pink unicorn, or that two universes didn’t just mate and form ours?”. For obvious reasons, his argument is absurd. But what’s the best way to explain the concept of the first cause, and why it couldn’t be a “giant pink unicorn”?

Thanks a lot,

Richie Worrell (USA)

Richie,

I’m always amazed at some of the philosophical lunacy some atheists come up with. The mockery of using phrases like “flying spaghetti monster” or a “giant pink unicorn” weren’t originally developed in response to the kalam. They were developed in response to intelligent design suggesting the designer could be a spaghetti monster. I recall Dawkins using it several times and it has gained popularity in response to the ontological argument.

Nonetheless, let’s accept his flying pasta, pink unicorn, and sexual universes for the sake of discussion. Let’s recap the the kalam argument:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    read more »

June 18th, 2012

A Fourth Exception to the BVG Theorem

by Max Andrews

The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem states that any universe, which has, on average, a rate of expansion greater 1 that system had to have a finite beginning. This would apply in any multiverse scenario as well.  There are four exceptions to the theorem.*

Time reversal at singularity

Example: Aguirre-Gratton

(Regarding BVG): The Intuitive reason why de Sitter inflation cannot be past eternal is that in the full de Sitter space, exponential expansion is preceded by exponential contraction.  Such a contracting phase is not part of standard inflationary models, and does not appear to be consistent with the physics of inflation.  If thermalized regions were able to form all the way to past infinity in the contracting spacetime, the whole universe would have been thermalized before inflationary expansion could begin.  In our analysis we will exclude the possibility of such a contracting phase by considering spacetimes for which the past region obeys an averaged expansion condition, by which we mean that the average expansion rate in the past is greater than zero: Havg > 0. (Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin 2003, p1)

June 15th, 2012

A Third Exception to the BVG Theorem

by Max Andrews

The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem states that any universe, which has, on average, a rate of expansion greater 1 that system had to have a finite beginning. This would apply in any multiverse scenario as well.  There are four exceptions to the theorem.*

For a greater context please see the first exception to the BVG theorem, which is Initial Contraction (Havg<0).

The third exception: Infinite Cyclicity (Havg=0)

Example: Baum-Frampton “phantom bounce”

These models suggest that the universe goes through a cycle in which it grows from zero (or non-zero) size to a maximum and then contracts back to its starting condition.  The verage expansion rate would be a pure zero.

June 14th, 2012

A Second Exception to the BVG Theorem

by Max Andrews

The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem states that any universe, which has, on average, a rate of expansion greater 1 that system had to have a finite beginning. This would apply in any multiverse scenario as well.  There are four exceptions to the theorem.*

For a greater context please see the first exception to the BVG theorem, which is Initial Contraction (Havg<0).

The second exception: Asymptotically static (Havg=O)

Example: asymptotically static universe is an emergent model class.

An asymptotically static space is one in which the average expansion rate of the universe over its history is equal to zero, since the expansion rate of the universe “at” infinity is zero.  The problem is that we observe expansion today and if at any moment there is expansion then the Havg must be greater than 0.

May 3rd, 2012

A Brief Intro to the Kalam Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

The Argument

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

Note that the primary argument is philosophical and mathematical.  It’s not dependent on any particular cosmology; however, the leading model of cosmology and particle physics, the standard model (big bang), simply confirms the philosophy. The argument for premise 1 is that anything that begins to exist does so temporally, at some indexical moment of time.  Because there is a difference between moments, an earlier or later than, there must be a cause to the thing which begins to exist, which determines its temporal existence.  William Lane Craig offers two arguments for premise 2

January 17th, 2012

William Lane Craig’s “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument”–A Review

by Max Andrews

A Review of William Lane Craig’s “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (2006): 565-584.

William Lane Craig formulates retort to J. Howard Sobel’s objection to kalam as he typically formulates it.[1] Premise 1 seems obviously true—at least, more than its negation.  To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and is a premise that Sobel acknowledges to be true.  Sobel’s objection is with 2—that the universe began to exist.  This would then run into an infinite regress, which is philosophically and mathematically untenable.  Because an actually infinite number of things cannot exist, the series of past events must be finite in number and, hence, the temporal series of past, physical events is not without beginning.[2]

January 17th, 2012

Mark Nowacki’s “Assessing the Kalam Cosmological Argument”–A Review

by Max Andrews

Review of Mark Nowacki’s “Assessing the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Philosophia Christi 12 (2010):  201-212.

Mark Nowacki’s article is in response to an ongoing dialogue between himself and Arnold Guminski.  Guminski had recently written critiques of Nowacki’s version of the kalam cosmological argument and Nowacki responds by clarifying misconceptions and elaborating on key premises to the argument.  Nowacki’s argument is based on the impossibility of an actual infinite magnitude [not multitude] with respects to temporal marks.

Nowacki begins by developing an account of modality called substantial modality with respects to substances that obtain in the actual universe.  Substantial possibility is a more restricted domain than logical possibility.  Substantial possibility is the domain of possibility that tracks what is causally open to substances as a function of the particular natures that those substances possess.  Anything that is substantially possible is logically possible, but the converse does not hold:  something maybe logically possible without being substantially possible.[1]  One substantially necessary feature for any physical body is that it possesses a definite shape.

January 16th, 2012

William Lane Craig’s “Reflections on ‘Uncaused Beginnings’”–A Review

by Max Andrews

Review of William Lane Craig’s “Reflections on ‘Uncaused Beginnings,’” Faith and Philosophy 27 (2010):  72-78.

In William Lane Craig’s reflections on Graham Oppy’s recent critiques of the cosmological argument[1], particularly kalam, Craig finds his arguments to lack serious considerations of a temporal order of causation and that the metaphysical theorizing of modality and causation are ambiguous and lack rigor.  Oppy’s argument is based on what an “initial state” of the universe is and its essential properties.  His initial state is ambiguous but Craig explicates Oppy later in his critique.

June 14th, 2011

The Metaphysics of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

William Lane Craig is perhaps the most well known contemporary proponent of the kalam cosmological argument.  It was during his Ph.D. studies at the University of Birmingham in England where he revitalized this early argument originally developed by the Islamic theologian Al-Ghazali (1058-1111).  There are several cosmological arguments such as Aquinas’ hierarchical causal argument and Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason, which suggests that everything has a sufficient reason for its existence.  The kalam argument focuses on the impossibility of an infinite set of causes in a temporal manner.

A Few Preliminaries

  • A set is any collection of things or numbers that belong to a well-defined category.  In a set notation, this would be written as {2, 3, 5, 7, 11} being the first five prime numbers, which is a finite set of things.  Let’s simply signify this set as S.
  • There is a proper subset (SS) of S.  There are members in S that are not in SS, but no member of SS that is not in S.
  • The set of first three primes in a proper SS of the above S is {2, 3, 5}.
  • A dense set is a set where there is always room for one more in between another two elements.
  • Where there is an infinite set is with a set of cardinality, or natural numbers, it’s simply called a power set or an infinite set.
  • A series is an ordered set of numbers.  A finite series has a finite fixed number of terms.  An infinite series has an infinite number of terms.  A series with m terms, or the sum of the firs m terms of an infinite series, can be written as Sm or ∑a.
  • An actual infinite set is signified by the Hebrew letter aleph א.
  • potential infinite set, or series, is signified by the lemniscate ∞.

The Argument

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

The argument for premise 1 is that anything that begins to exist does so temporally, at some indexical moment of time.  Because there is a difference between moments, an earlier or later than, there must be a cause to the thing which begins to exist, which determines its temporal existence.  Craig offers two arguments for premise 2

2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite

  • 2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist
  • 2.12 An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite
  • 2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist

2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition

  • 2.21 A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite
  • 2.22 The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition
  • 2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite

Premise 3 follows necessarily if 1 and 2 are true and valid.  So, what type of cause are we looking at?  Let’s take a look at Aristotle’s causes.

Aristotle’s Four Causes

  1. Material Cause:  Out of what?  This is where the physics come in.  Hawking, for example, agrees with Craig on this, the universe had no material cause. The universe is from nothing.
  2. Efficient Cause:  Through what?  This is the type of cause kalam gets to.  This is why Craig argues that the cause must be a personal agent.  An agent is the only entity that could initiate or cease a series of cause and effect relationships.  This is known as agent causation.
  3. Formal Cause:  What form or essence?
  4. Final Cause:  For what purpose?  This is teleological argument.

Objections

Paul Draper’s “In time or In or with time

Paul Draper responds to P1.  He believes Craig seems to elide over a distinction, and a very important one right at the heart of the debate. There is a difference between:

  1. 1’ Whatever begins to exist in time has a cause of its existence; and,
  2. 1’’ Whatever beings to exist in or with time has a cause of its existence

It is 1’’ that gets back to the main issue: is the universe caused?  The issue here is that time began withthe universe.  It may be true that all things we’ve ever observed that started to exist [in time] had a cause, and eve, that they must have had one.  Still, the unknown (Humean) question is, is 1’’ true on the basis of 1’’? The truth of 1’ seems irrelevant to the inquisitive truth of re: 1’’ Craig’s possible reply? There is still the issue of creatio continuans, that is, God as a cause of contingency’s existence from moment to moment.  Reply? Yes, perhaps; but that isn’t what the kalam argument is supposed to focus on.  The focus has changed from the creation of the universe in the finite past to sustaining the universe at each moment (which is more of Thomas’ argument).  I think this may be one of the stronger objections but the objection seems to interpolate the original premise for what it was.  There’s the difference between concurrent causation in or with time and the beginning of time.

Alvin Plantinga’s division of time…

Plantinga (Warranted Christian Belief, Ch. 1) argues that Craig assumes that each moment of time is of equal duration.  If we divine up time like the following, then there are an actual infinite number of time points in any finite time segment.  Count the events going back in time… 1 second, ½ sec., ¼ sec., etc.  Craig’s reply? Time isn’t like that though, cosmological time is quantal; that is, there is an actual smallest amount of time, which is Planck time (10-43 seconds).  It is at the increment of time can any meaningful physical event take place (this point works in conjunction to Draper’s objection as well).  If we wanted to chase this rabbit trail we would have to then get in to the metaphysical aspects of time and whether or not time is one smooth flow or choppy like a film strip (and at an incredibly choppy rate of one frame per 10-43 second).  This means Plantinga’s example won’t work, and so if each event in the past is taken to be Planck time, then there cannot be an actual infinite number of past events, for reasons previously mentioned.

J. A. Cover’s appeal to omniscience…

Cover’s objection is with 2.11.  Wait a second, but what about God?  Doesn’t God know an actual infinite number of propositions?  Theologians and philosophers have always said that God is “infinite”?  Is his infinity and actual infinity or a potential infinity?  Response?  It assumes a Platonic idea of divine omniscience.  Craig has come to seem less conceptualistic, that is, that the abstract like numbers and certain ideas exist in the mind of God, and has seemed to embrace nominalism.  This nominalism would suggest that propositions do not exist.  Propositions do not exist in a form of a set or a series; rather, propositions are useful fictions.  There’s a distinction Thomas makes in omniscience, there’s a difference between an intuitive knowledge (or non-propositionally) and a discursive knowledge.  I’m not too certain how far Craig take’s any of Thomas’ material but the Thomistic idea of divine approximation may work.  With this idea, God is the ultimate archetype.  If God is simple, but the object of knowledge is not himself, is that not complexity?  So, if God knows a plant, God knows the plant by approximating it to himself (that it exists, that it lives, etc.).  I would venture to say that Craig parts in this area but kalam is still compatible with this concept of God (though Thomas himself would disagree about the nature of time).

Conclusion

The conclusion of the argument ends with a first temporal cause.  Now there are some implications that may be made.  This cause must be personal (nature of agent causation), extremely powerful (observing the effect), timeless (at least explanatorily prior to the beginning of the universe), and changeless (nature of events).  Kalam does not arrive at God, but it ends where it ends… a first temporal cause.