This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
"Actually, Morriston has said rather a lot against the Kalam argument"And with good reason. A thousand year-old argument which makes no informed reference to the current state of science or mathematics has a lot going against it.
Craig does interact with present-day science and mathematics fairly extensively in his writings. You may think he does so in a tendentious and biased manner, and that the scientific and mathematical evidence he adduces does not support his position the way he thinks it does. Clearly he does reference the current state of science and mathematics. When you say the reference isn't informed, what do you mean?
VR wrote: "When you say the reference isn't informed, what do you mean?"Much of what I would say in answer to this question has already been covered in detail by Morriston in his critiques of the Kalam argument. But my "no informed reference" comment was directly specifically at the following 3 points:1. The various paradoxes that Craig claims would result if the universe were infinitely old were resolved long ago (in the nineteenth century) by mathematicians in relation to the real, rational and natural numbers.2. No modern cosmologist (with the possible but doubtful exception of Stephen Hawking) has claimed that the universe popped into existence from nothing. Modern cosmological (Big Bang) theory does not make this claim, nor does it claim that time and space "began" at the Big Bang. (The second claim is often made, but it is purely speculative.)3. The concepts of "cause" and "effect" play no part in modern physical theories, which are fully described by differential equations governing continuous fields. (On this, see for example Bertrand Russell's "The Analysis of Mind", Lecture V.) It is true that certain physical concepts like "causality" or "locality" (or even the "laws of physics" themselves) are often equated with "cause and effect", but these are well-defined mathematical principles that do not in any way support vague assertions like "every effect has a cause".Now I am aware that Craig has written an essay examining some speculative cosmological theories of the time "before the Big Bang", and has concluded that they all predict that the universe had a "beginning". But none of these theories is commonly accepted, and the simple truth is that we do not yet have a definite theory describing the universe before a certain time, roughly 13 to 15 billion years ago.I am not aware of any of Craig's writings that addresses points 1 or 3. In any case, my "no informed reference" comment was not directed at Craig's writings, but at the Kalam argument itself, which is almost always written in the form you gave:1. Whatever begins to exist, must have a cause of its existence. 2. The universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.Premise 1 is meaningless within the context of modern physics.Premise 2 is a scientific claim, and we are in no position at the moment to determine whether it is true or not.
Most people who present the three-point argument are following Craig, and are going to be aware of Craig-type responses to, say, Cantorian objections. And the age of the argument has no effect on its legitimacy, otherwise we would be able to dismiss the argument from evil with no further ado. Your last point, about cause and effect having dropped out of physics, is surely highly controversial and would, I think, shock, many practicing physicists. Surely, in philosophy of mind, the question of mental causation was still very much a live issue last time I checked. It wouldn't be, if there was a consensus against the idea in physics. Even if Morriston is right and Craig is wrong, I don't think you're warranted in issuing a "you don't know what you're talking about"response.
Victor, a procedural clarification is in order here. At no point did I claim or imply that "you don't know what you're talking about". To state that the Kalam argument makes "no informed reference" to modern physics or mathematics is to pinpoint a weakness in the argument, not ignorance in the people who use it. I could just as well have stated that the argument makes no informed reference to C.S. Lewis (it doesn't), but this is not to charge that you or anyone else who uses the argument knows nothing of Lewis.To restate my objection, the Kalam argument has been around for much longer than Craig has, and its basic form has not changed in a thousand years. Considering that our scientific understanding of the universe has changed immensely in that time, it is not unreasonable to ask that the argument be refined accordingly. But it has not. It still deploys the same vague, emotive and pre-scientific language that it always has.VR: "Most people who present the three-point argument are following Craig, and are going to be aware of Craig-type responses to, say, Cantorian objections."You are shifting the burden of proof here. Craig is claiming that an infinitely old universe is impossible because of supposed paradoxes in transfinite arithmetic. Cantorian theory is not an "objection" to Craig's claim; it is a consistent mathematical theory of infinities, and any implication that Craig has shown it to be somehow inconsistent is unfounded.(Also, Craig is strangely silent about the fact that the standard Big Bang model is spatially infinite. Surely any paradoxes that arise from assuming infinite time apply equal well to infinite space? Similarly, classical physics presupposes that time is a continuous variable, so there are an infinite number of moments between, say, 1pm today and 2 pm today. Hasn't Craig now shown that classical physics is metaphysically impossible?)VR: "Your last point, about cause and effect having dropped out of physics, is surely highly controversial and would, I think, shock, many practicing physicists."I think not. You should rub shoulders with practising physicists more often. And perhaps you could explain what the "cause" is and what the "effect" is in a differential equation?(To avoid confusion I should clarify again that "cause and effect" is a term used in physics as a synonym for "determinism". Classical physics is deterministic, quantum physics is not. So "cause and effect" is routinely mentioned (as a metaphor) in the context of classical physics, but has dropped out of quantum physics. "Causes" and "effects", however, play no role in the equations of classical or quantum physics. And for good reason: it is notoriously difficult to define "causes" and "effects" in any given situation.)VR: "Surely, in philosophy of mind, the question of mental causation was still very much a live issue last time I checked."Funnily enough, philosophy of mind is neither a branch of modern physics, nor a theory of the early universe. The fact that "causes" and "effects" are useful explanatory concepts in the human sciences has no relevance to the physical sciences.
A word of reply to the above anonymous interlocutor:I'm afraid that you are a bit confused about Craig's argument on a number of fronts, and I will address each of these issues one at a time.(1) You say: "it is not unreasonable to ask that the argument be refined accordingly. But it has not. It still deploys the same vague, emotive and pre-scientific language that it always has."I agree with you that it is not unreasonable to somehow refine the language of a particular argument so that it may be more intelligible to modern thinkers. But it seems that you are insisting that Craig's argument in its basic form is somehow unintelligible because it uses similar language that the medieval thinkers employed. Thus, it doesn't really refer to current science. But this, of course, is wildly implausible. Just because an argument employs a certain kind of language doesn't preclude the intelligibility of that argument. For instance, there are some medieval thinkers who espoused the view that the earth was flat. Clearly, the language that they employed was unscientific and it certainly was vague, but that does not mean that we cannot understand the implications of what it was that they were talking about. The fact that this sort of thesis is rejected in modern times has nothing to do with the language that they used; rather it has everything to do with how the implications of their argument clash with our current scientific understanding of the world. The question that we should more so be concerned with is whether the argument in its most standard form clashes with our modern understanding of science, and you attempt to demonstrate this in other of your comments which I shall deal with below.(2) "You should rub shoulders with practising physicists more often. And perhaps you could explain what the "cause" is and what the "effect" is in a differential equation?"Okay, so the terms "cause" and "effect" may have fallen out of use in quantum physics. Does that invalidate Craig's argument? It certainly does not. Even if quantum physicists no longer employ terms such as cause and effect, it would be just plain wrong to suggest that physicists do not think that there is a sufficient reason for why we witness the phenomena that we do in the universe. Now, I do admit that the proper understanding of PSR is somewhat controversial amongst philosophers, but it is simply FALSE to say that there are practicing scientists (including physicists and cosmologists) who do not subscribe to at least a weakened version of this same principle. It is this sort of a proposition which entails Craig's argument, and thus it is wholly specious to suggest that his argument is somehow out of sync with modern scientific approaches just because he employs different language. This corresponds with what I spoke of in the above paragraph. Just because the language is different does not mean that the concept has been abandoned and/or is unitelligible, and this is certainly the case with Craig's argument.(3) "Craig is strangely silent about the fact that the standard Big Bang model is spatially infinite. Surely any paradoxes that arise from assuming infinite time apply equal well to infinite space?"You are correct in noting that the standard Big Bang model is spatially infinite. This, of course, has been a given amongst cosmologists since about 1998; however, you seem to be confusing "potential" infinity with "actual" infinity. If space is understood as being infinite, it is only understood as being "potentially" infinite, and if you are inclined to disagree with that I implore you to read up more on current cosmological models. Atheistic philosophers Quentin Smith and Graham Oppy have conceded as much, but they understand that this does not hinder Craig's case. Craig has no quarrel with potential infinities, rather it is actual infinities that he is disapproving of. So no, the same paradoxes that arise with "actually infinite" time do not arise when one considers "potentially infinite" space.There are other problems that I find with some of your comments, but I think that this will suffice for now. If you are interested in discussing this further, please let me know and we can continue to speak on these issues.
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