William Lane Craig Does Nifty Work

  • Dsarker

    Eh, I think he weakens his argument by requiring the universe to have a beginning to have a cause – Aquinas’ version doesn’t require that.

    • TheRealAaron

      I think Craig’s point in the video is to explain what the Kalam argument is, not necessarily to put forward the strongest possible argument for God’s existence.

    • JJG

      No, Dsarker, you’ve got the implication backwards. The argument is that whatever has a beginning (B) has a cause (C), i.e., B => C. (Read “implies” for “=>”.) Or, one might say, “B is a _sufficient_ condition for C”. You’re suggesting, OTOH, that they’re saying “B is a _necessary_ condition for C”, i.e., C => B. They’re not. And C => B does not follow from B => C, so the two statements are not equivalent.

      • Dsarker

        It would have been better if he said ‘whatever changes has a cause’. It has a stronger coverage of the message, and a stronger message itself.

  • JJG

    I don’t think it invalidates the argument, but there is a sense in which “things” are believed to “pop into existence” “without a cause” in quantum mechanics.
    It turns out that if you calculate the energy of the vacuum state of the electromagnetic field, you get infinity, rather than zero, as you might intuitively expect. This is interpreted as the vacuum (i.e., nothingness) giving rise to as many virtual particle-antiparticle (I.e., matter and antimatter) pairs as you like; there’s an infinite well of them. And that leads to renormalization theory, which has certain technical problems, notions of quantum entanglement (at a distance!), and the mystery of why our universe seems to be “prejudiced” in favor of matter over antimatter, as there seems to be a lot more of the former than the latter.

    Anyway, thinking along these lines is very useful because the boundary between physics and theology occurs in the study of cosmology, and one should expect a continuity condition to obtain across that boundary. Cosmology won’t get you to a Christian understanding of God, as that requires faith in revelation, but I think it _does_ get you to at least a quasi-Spinozan concept of the Uncaused Cause, the Unmoved Mover, the Great Physicist. In fact, when you take physical questions far enough, you end up asking metaphysical questions, and those can be approached from each side of the boundary.
    When I gave a talk on this sort of thing a few years ago, one of the audience members made an observation that had escaped my notice. He said that he knew quite a few physicists who were theists of some sort, but the majority of atheistic scientists he knew were biologists. And, in fact, the most strident voices of the “New Atheism”, which is really no different from the old atheism, are biologists like Dawkins, Myers, etc. I’ll refrain from speculating as to why that might be the case, though I have my suspicions. But the fact that they’ve resorted to incivility, mockery, ridicule, and provocation suggests to me that their arguments are too weak to stand up to dispassionate analysis, and that deep-down they know that.

    • Alma Peregrina

      As to the objection of the quantum creation ex nihilo… William Lane Craig has already addressed it:

      Here is the vídeo
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6kMWSo-Jz0

      • keddaw

        Most of that is simply changing the argument – initially it says nothing begins to exist without a cause, but here he’s saying nothing can come into existence from nothing. A difference he subtly admits by later going for the rather abstruse Bohm interpretation of QM rather than the more popular Copenhagen interpretation. (Not that popularity makes one more likely to be correct than the other, but the Bohm interpretation does have some issues, like being a many worlds interpretation).

        None of which changes the fact it’s a dumb argument that does nothing more than say there must be a cause of the universe that is not located within the universe and our concept of space-time.

        • Alma Peregrina

          In his book “Reasonable Faith”, WLC explicitly says that the Kaläm only proves an imaterial and intemporal cause, not the judeo-christian God. But if you know any imaterial and intemporal causes, outside the universe, besides God, then pray tell us.

          And WLC does not change the argument. The Kaläm argument says that everything that begins to exist has a cause… which MEANS that nothing can’t come into existence out of nothing. If nothing can’t come into existence out of nothing, then everything that begins to exist must have a cause.

          In his books and internet posts, WLC explains his premise at a greater length, and allways from the impossibility of creatio ex nihilo. Even the video Mark posted does acknowledge this, so it it hardly a change of argument.

          Quantum particles do not come into existence out of nothing. They come into existence from the quantum vacuum, which is not the same as “nothing”. Therefore, quantum particles do have a cause, which is simply the quantum vacuum’s existence. If the quantum vacuum was not there, there would not be quantum particles.

          • keddaw

            Kalam states that everything that begins to exist has a cause, it says nothing about coming into existence out of nothing. The point being everything we see around us is as it is because of a causal chain of events stretching back to the start of the universe (according to Kalam).

            WLC recognises the potential problems of this argument caused by virtual particles, radioactivity, and various other states of matter that were far outside the awareness of the original formulator(s) of the argument and so tries to change it to ex nihilo, while also mentioning a rather obscure QM interpretation which allows for the original formulation to potentially hold.

            The more common Copenhagen interpretation of QM does not have something coming out of nothing, but does have things happening without a cause, e.g. when an atom decays there is no cause (instability is a statistical observation, not a cause). This would defeat the original Kalam argument.

            Not that any of that matters terribly much, the argument still does not suggest anything other than there is a cause behind the creation of this universe. Unfortunately people often take cause and anthropomorphise it rather than take it to simply mean explanation. WLC then goes somewhat overboard by suggesting that whatever that cause is must be outside of time (well, yes, time as we know it was created when the universe started) and outside of space (ditto) so somehow the only thing that can exist outside our four dimensions is a mind (which is completely bonkers) and that it must be extremely powerful (which is not necessarily true).

            “But if you know any imaterial and intemporal causes, outside the universe, besides God, then pray tell us.”

            This presumes the Kalam argument holds, and it doesn’t, but let’s play along…

            You want a(n infinite) list of possible deities that meet this criteria, like the one Jefferson believed in? Or one of the other creation myths out there, like Nippur or Amun or Kabezya-Mpungu?

            Or the thousands of ways that a universe could come into existence from outside its own time and space – like a computer simulation, a many worlds theory, eternal inflation (bubble universes), the universe as a quantum wavefront, m-brane theory etc?

            • Alma Peregrina

              “Kalam states that everything that begins to exist has a cause, it says nothing about coming into existence out of nothing. The point being everything we see around us is as it is because of a causal chain of events stretching back to the start of the universe (according to Kalam).

              WLC recognises the potential problems of this argument caused by virtual particles, radioactivity, and various other states of matter that were far outside the awareness of the original formulator(s) of the argument and so tries to change it to ex nihilo, while also mentioning a rather obscure QM interpretation which allows for the original formulation to potentially hold.”

              This is just argumentum ad nauseam fallacy.

              Your reply has been addressed in my former comment, so if you keep ignoring what I said, I’ll leave it at that.
              ————————————————————-
              “The more common Copenhagen interpretation of QM does not have something coming out of nothing, but does have things happening without a cause, e.g. when an atom decays there is no cause (instability is a statistical observation, not a cause). This would defeat the original Kalam argument.”

              Now you are the one that is changing the argument.

              The WLC’s version of the Kaläm argument says “Everything that BEGINS to exist has a cause”…
              … NOT that “Everything has a cause”.

              That strawman premise would be self-defeating, since it pretends to demonstrate God, which is uncaused.
              ———————————————————
              “You want a(n infinite) list of possible deities that meet this criteria, like the one Jefferson believed in? Or one of the other creation myths out there, like Nippur or Amun or Kabezya-Mpungu?

              Or the thousands of ways that a universe could come into existence from outside its own time and space – like a computer simulation, a many worlds theory, eternal inflation (bubble universes), the universe as a quantum wavefront, m-brane theory etc?”

              As for the other deities possibility, they demand a theological debate. I’ve got theological reasons to believe in the judeo-christian God, rather than the other deities. If you want to know them, just read “Reasonable Faith” from WLC or any of the teachings of the Church Fathers.

              As for the other theories you exposed, they all have been dealt with in this book:

              http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Physics-Ancient-Faith-Stephen/dp/0268021988

              • Alma Peregrina

                But I do concede my error in bringing about the “if you know any imaterial and intemporal causes, outside the universe, besides God, then pray tell us” in the present discussion.

                The Kaläm argument just proves an imaterial, intemporal cause for the universe. Any other properties to this cause (like being the judeo-christian God) go beyond this argument.

                Not that I don’t have arguments to support a judeo-christian God, I just think that that involves another debate, with its own arguments. I don’t want to derail the thread, which is specifically about the Kaläm.

              • keddaw

                Alma, here are some of the unspoken assumptions made by WLC’s interpretation of Kalam:

                Local observations of our universe apply throughout space in the universe;
                Local observations of our universe apply throughout time in the universe;
                Local observations at human observable energies and scales apply at all energies and scales;
                Time, in our own universe, has any meaning outside the space-time of our universe (this one being categorically false);
                Local observations of causality, physics, entropy etc. apply external to our universe;
                Time is uni-directional;

                and those are just off the top of my head.

                Given that these unspoken assumptions are dubious, is there really any value in Kalam? Or perhaps you have answers to these, but I certainly haven’t heard WLC answer them.

                • Alma Peregrina

                  “Given that these unspoken assumptions are dubious, is there really any value in Kalam?”

                  Of course there is “any” value in Kaläm. Maybe there is not “absolute” value, but certainly there is “any” value. These assumptions, as you said, are dubious… not false.

                  Also, the opposite interpretation of these assumptions is also dubious.
                  So, by your take, I should wager that you think that there isn’t “any” value to your refutation of Kaläm.

                  Now, I want to tell you 2 things:

                  1 – WLC does NOT say that is arguments are purely deductive, but rather inductive. That’s on the intro of “Reasonable Faith”.
                  In other words: his premises must not be necessarily 100% true. They only must be more plausible than not.

                  2 – Even if those unspoken assumptions are to be false, they do not refute the Kaläm’s premises… they refute the “imaterialness” and “intemporalness” of the First Cause.

                  The Kaläm says that “everything that begins to exist has a cause”.

                  Ex nihilo nihil fit. Nothing can come from nothing. Postulating the opposite means that something that does not exist has the power to bring something into existence.

                  Which is absurd. It doesn’t matter how many observations you have, it is impossible for something which does not exist to at all.

                  So, if nothing can come from nothing, then everything that BEGINS to exist MUST HAVE a cause.

                  And so the first premise of the Kaläm is proven, and the value of this argument stands.

                  • keddaw

                    “Also, the opposite interpretation of these assumptions is also dubious”

                    Well yes, but that’s not how the burden of proof works. (Plus, one of them is actually false.)

                    “They [his premises] only must be more plausible than not.”

                    But he’s talking about things that are not plausible. If I said a large molecule (e.g. buckyball) would display wave-particle duality in the twin slit experiment you’d require a lot of evidence because it is inherently implausible. But it does. What our monkey brains think of as plausible is rarely true at the best of times let alone at scales or energies or timescales that we are not used to.

                    “The Kaläm says that “everything that begins to exist has a cause”.”

                    And if he left it at that then there wouldn’t be (much of) a problem, but he doesn’t. He thinks one can go from a cause for the universe to it being immaterial and outside of time, which are not the amazing insights he thinks since time, space and material in this universe all began at, or just after, the big bang. But from such a seemingly modest position he then stipulates that the only thing that can be outside of time and space and immaterial is … not anything external to our universe, not natural forces outside our universe, not an infinite regress of bubble universes, no, he thinks a mind is the only thing that fits these criteria. And a big and powerful mind. And only one mind. And a mind that intervenes in our universe. A mind that impregnated a young Jewish girl who gave birth to that mind’s son who was then tortured horribly as part of the mind’s plan and if people don’t believe that their immaterial soul, which carries their thoughts, memories and feelings, will be tortured for eternity. And people believe this.

                    You can see how stopping this line of reasoning as far back as possible is the right thing to do, no?”

                    “So, if nothing can come from nothing…”

                    We have no way of knowing this. We can’t say if nothing has ever existed. We have never experienced nothing, we have never seen it, we have no way of testing it. All we know is that something exists now. And we only have a sample size of one in terms of universes so we can’t say that any theories we have here, however well evidenced, hold outside of this universe (even assuming they even hold everywhere and at all times here). One can’t even say if logic or cause and effect holds outside of this particular 4-dimensional incarnation of space-time (some may argue cause and effect don’t hold here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_choice_quantum_eraser).

                    • Alma Peregrina

                      keddaw said: “The Kaläm says that everything that begins to exist has a cause: And if he left it at that then there wouldn’t be (much of) a problem, but he doesn’t.”

                      It wouldn’t? Thank goodness! And here I thought that you were saying that the Kaläm didn’t have “any” value. After all, the premise holds and so does the Kaläm.

                      Since I’ve been defending the Kaläm argument, and not the “imaterial” or the “intemporal” arguments, I guess there’s not much trouble, then.

                      Unless, of course, you’re, you know “changing arguments”.

                      ————————————————————–

                      keddaw said: “Well yes, but that’s not how the burden of proof works.”

                      I do think that it is how the burden of proof works.

                      You’re saying that, outside of our observable and experienceable universe, the universe can go completely gaga, without logic or causes, contradicting everything that we have alrealdy observed and learned from our experience.

                      Yes, the burden of proof is yours. Until you prove what you’re saying, the default position is to work with what we’ve got.

                      And “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Quotes from SOME scientists’ opinions are no sufficient proof. I need something that proves that logic and causality do not apply to the unknown universe.

                      —————————————————————-

                      keddaw said: “You can see how stopping this line of reasoning as far back as possible is the right thing to do, no?”

                      Yes, I do. It is necessary to stop the line of reasoning that says that logic and causality may really not exist at all times and at all places. If this line of reasoning holds, religion will still stand, but science will surely not.

                      For, you know, the scientific method takes the “unproven assumptions” that the proven hypotheses from our experiments can be extrapolated to other similar situations at the universe at large. Also, the scientific method takes the “unproven” assumption that the results from our experiments are “caused” by the variables we manipulated.

                      —————————————————————-

                      keddaw said: “What our monkey brains think of as plausible is rarely true at the best of times let alone at scales or energies or timescales that we are not used to.”

                      Oh?

                      So do you think that, when your “monkey brain” says that it is implausible that a gread mind created the universe and impregnated a young jewish girl… then maybe your “monkey brain” could be wrong because it can’t fully aprehend the greatness of God?

                      ——————————————————————

                      keddaw said: “If nothing can come from nothing: We have no way of knowing this.”

                      So, answer just this: Do you think it is possible (not plausible, but possible in any conceivable universe) that something that doesn’t exist may actually bring something into existence?

    • Joe

      Most physicists would probably consider biology to be a “fuzzier” science than physics (with social sciences being even more fuzzy). That could explain why so many biologists are atheists.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      Biologists are atheists because they’ve been forced into it by the silly stands taken by special creationists and ID proponents. If you were told that you had probably won the lottery, but you wouldn’t receive the money for a hundred years, and in order to get the money – that you only might have won – you’d have to renounce your mother as a space alien, you’d probably say “to hell with it”, keep your mother and renounce the money.


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