Let’s continue examining William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument (part 1 here). His version of the argument has two premises and a conclusion:
(Premise 1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
(Premise 2) The universe began to exist.
(Conclusion) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Premise 1 sounds like common sense until you realize that Craig is talking about
- a supernatural creation (he provides no examples of a supernatural anything),
- out of nothing (he provides no examples of creation out of nothing),
- before time (which didn’t yet exist before the universe came to be)
- with “begins to exist” as a special-pleading caveat to carve out a God-shaped exception
- to the “everything has a cause” rule, which is false.
Seen this way, premise 1 loses all common-sense appeal, but let’s flog this dead horse and continue.
Second premise: The universe began to exist
Craig defends the second premise this way:
Let’s consider the second law of thermodynamics. It tells us the universe is slowly running out of usable energy… and that’s the point.
If the universe had been here forever, it would have run out of usable energy by now. The second law points us to a universe that has a definite beginning.
6. The second law of thermodynamics is no ally to the apologist.
Unlike his frequent metaphysical handwavings, Craig makes a plausible argument here. If the universe is like a clock that’s running down, it can’t have been running forever.
But does Craig really want to argue that things always run down, so therefore everything must have a beginning? If so, then this must apply to God as well.
It turns out that a clock is a poor analogy to the universe. The zero-energy universe theory says that matter and light are positive energy, but gravity is negative energy. Add it all together, and the sum is zero—the universe has zero net matter and energy. Alexander Vilenkin, a cosmologist who Craig often cites, agrees, “The gravitational energy, which is always negative, exactly compensates the positive energy of matter, so the energy of a closed universe is always zero” (source: video @24:00). Though it seems like cheating, it takes no energy to create a universe.
WLC might say that the zero-energy universe theory might be overturned with new evidence. True, but then his argument has become “The second law of thermodynamics argues for a beginning … or maybe not.”
7. The universe began … in its present form. We don’t know what preceded or caused the Big Bang. The universe might’ve come from nothing, or it might be a rearrangement of material from another universe. (This point and point 6 may not coexist as objections.)
8. Response to Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin. Craig frequently cites the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem (BGV) to argue for a beginning to the universe and, if you want to posit a multiverse, a beginning for that, too.
He’s such a fan that he has the following quote by Vilenkin on 22 pages at his web site:
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning. (Alexander Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One , p.176)
That’s powerful evidence for Craig, but if he’s such a fan, I wonder why he ignores this bit from Vilenkin on the very next page:
Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God … So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist.
Oops—it looks like Craig wants to pick and choose his evidence and hope that we don’t notice. (We’ll soon see that the cosmologists he cites aren’t the allies he imagines.)Cosmologist Vic Stenger sees limitations to BGV:
I asked Vilenkin personally if his theorem required a beginning. His e-mail reply: “No. But it proves that the expansion of the universe must have had a beginning. You can evade the theorem by postulating that the universe was contracting prior to some time.” This is exactly what a number of existing models for the uncreated origin of our universe do.
In Carroll’s debate with Craig (my summary here), he made clear that BGV starts with assumptions. Discard those assumptions, and the rules are different and eternality is possible. Carroll said:
BGV … is certainly interesting and important, because it helps us understand where classical general relativity breaks down, but it doesn’t help us decide what to do when it breaks down. Surely there’s no need to throw up our hands and declare that this puzzle can’t be resolved within a materialist framework. (Source: Vic Stenger, The Fallacy of Fine Tuning, p. 130.)
In the debate, Carroll mentioned that there are over a dozen plausible models for the universe, including eternal ones.
Craig says he’s BFFs with B, G, and V, but then these guys go off and say things that Craig can’t possibly agree with. When arguing for Kalam, Craig needs to rethink who his allies are.
- Vilenkin says that the universe can have no cause.
- Vilenkin argues for the multiverse, which defeats Craig’s fine-tuning argument.
- Alan Guth says, “It looks to me that probably the universe had a beginning, but I would not want to place a large bet on the issue.”
- Craig likes to channel The Sound of Music and declare, “Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could.” But Guth says, “Conceivably, everything can be created from nothing. And ‘everything’ might include a lot more than what we can see. In the context of inflationary cosmology, it is fair to say that the universe is the ultimate free lunch.”
- And I’m guessing that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin aren’t convinced by their own theorem to become theists.
Though I’m open to disconfirming evidence, it seems that Craig simply cherry-picks his evidence to cobble together a sciencey argument, then stamps it with his two doctorates. He has no interest in following the evidence.
He also enjoys mocking the pathetic plebes from his ivory tower. Take this defense of Kalam’s first premise:
I think the first premise that whatever begins to exist has a cause is virtually undeniable for any sincere seeker after truth…. It’s silly then when popularizers say things like, “Nothingness is unstable to quantum fluctuations” or “the universe tunneled into being out of nothing.” (Source: video @22:55)
No argument here, just derision. Note also that Craig dismisses the “popularizers,” who include the very cosmologists he cites as allies.
I’ll close with an apt summary by the Uncredible HallQ:
This is just an example of Craig’s annoying tendency to make unsupported claims and then demand his critics disprove them, and it’s an absurd way to argue. If Craig is going that way, why not just announce God exists, demand atheists prove otherwise, and be done with it?
People are so unsophisticated in their thinking.
I am just appalled, honestly,
when I read the stuff that’s out there on the internet,
how inept and sophomoric people are.
— William Lane Craig
Photo credit: NASA