Thursday, October 23, 2008

The William Lane Craig Debate Source

Transcripts, audios, and videos. It's all here.

56 comments:

Jason Pratt said...

Well the list is there. A few of the debates still don't have transcripts, audio or video yet... Oh, kewl, there's an mp3 of the audio of the 1998 debate vs. Keith Parsons! Jeff Lowder's topical summary has been handy, but a full transcript would be nice... trying to parse out whether I can justify scheduling time to type up a full transcript now...

(For those who don't know, I'm on record around here as calling the debate a win for KP by a solid edge. But that's based on JJL's topical summary, which has a few holes. Not that I expect to revise my call much {wry g}, but I'd still like to have a full transcript someday...)

And hey, did blogger change its comment engine...? Must test...

JRP

Charlie said...

What? A philosopher is actually bothering to debate Richard "anti-reason" Carrier? Who's he debating next, the rational response squad? pz myers? Why should fanatical fundie atheists even be granted an attempt to participate in reasoned philosophical debates? It's giving them credibility that they don't deserve, and it's a terrible disservice to the audience since no substantive, challenging critiques are likely to be brought up against theism. Craig needs to go up against somebody like J. H. Sobel.

Ugh.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Charlie: don't you know that Carrier solves epistemology, metaphysics, moral philosophy, and philosophy of mind in his book?

exapologist said...

Charlie and BDK: :-)

Actually, I think Craig is pretty hacky as well. I'd rather see Peter van Inwagen or Mike Almeida debate the theist's side, and Paul Draper or Wes Morriston debate the non-theist's side.

In fact, a *really* good debate would be on the issue of theism vs. *agnosticism*. I bet the theist couldn't make the case that belief is at least a smidge more reasonable than suspension of judgment.

Charlie said...

Actually, I think Craig is pretty hacky as well.

Right, well despite what followers over there at "Debunking Christianity" are taught to believe, Craig is actually well-respected outside of just Christian apologetics. He's considered one of the best philosophers of time (even a prominent atheist philosopher would tell you this), and is highly regarded among many atheist and theist philosophers in his field. More journal articles have been written on his revived Kalam cosmological argument than any other subject in philosophy of religion. He's actually taken pretty seriously. Only an out-of-touch grad student or a sec web guru would say he's "hacky".

Um. Also, I believe Morriston is a Christian theist, despite the impression some of his articles may give you.

I bet the theist couldn't make the case that belief is at least a smidge more reasonable than suspension of judgment.

And why is that?

Theists have already gone up against agnostics. See Draper's exchanges with theists on the evidential argument from evil, for example. (Draper is agnostic.)

Charlie said...

And who cares anyway? All of the issues have been settled by Carrier:

[What exists]? Is there good and evil, and should we care? How do we know what's true anyway? And can we make any sense of this universe, or our own lives? Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism answers all these questions in lavish detail...A complete worldview is presented and defended, covering every subject from knowledge to art, from metaphysics to morality, from theology to politics. Topics include free will, the nature of the universe, the meaning of life, and much more, arguing from scientific evidence that there is only a physical, natural world without gods or spirits, but that we can still live a life of love, meaning, and joy."

Did you hear that all you silly philosophers? IN LAVISH DETAIL!!

Charlie said...

"He's considered one of the best philosophers of time"


As in philosophy of time in metaphysics. Not as in...well you know what I mean.

exapologist said...

Hi Charlie,

No, I'm agreeing with you about Carrier.

But about Craig: he's less respected among philosophers than you think.

exapologist said...

Hi Charlie,

I agree with you re: Craig's work re: the philosophy of time. Philosophy of religion? Depends. The kalam argument? Not so much. His stuff on middle knowledge? Ask William Hasker, but it depends on who you ask. I'm guessing that Tom Flint likes it. Students who got their M.A. at Talbot and went on to get tt positions? You'll find a lot of sympathetic ears there (Tom Crisp?).

Charlie said...

Backpedal much? The point is, he's not "hacky". (Your original claim.)

For any philosopher you pick, she will be disliked to varying degrees by other philosophers, depending on who you talk to. This wasn't the issue.

exapologist said...

Nope, not backpedalling. The original topic was debates, and my original point was restricted to that topic (although I do think both his popular and academic writings on the kalam argument are hacky).

You then changed the subject to Craig's written work, in which case I was happy to follow you there.

Charlie said...

Even if you meant Craig is "hacky" in debates only and nothing else, (a) we can't read your mind, and (b) that'd be just as silly, since atheists and theists alike acknowledge his skill in debating.

I do think both his popular and academic writings on the kalam argument are hacky

With all due respect, that's the stupidest thing I've heard in quite some time. As both atheists and theists (philosophers of religion) would tell you, Craig's work was pivotal in defending the argument in the contemporary scene. Anybody now doing research on it must consult his work to be informed. Nowacki just wrote a whole friggin book on it through Prometheus -- he thinks the argument is sound, mind you. It'd do you well to read it before you say such things.

exapologist said...

With all due respect, you should probably not assume things you're in no position to know, such as what I've read or not read re: the kalam argument. I've read Craig's original monograph, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, several times, and when you were still in diapers. I've also read virtually every article in print on the kalam argument, as well as it's presentations in standard apologetics works, such as Scaling the Secular City, Reasonable Faith, etc.

I was a Craig acolyte for about a decade and half (sad to say), and used to use his arguments to persuade non-Christians when I was a believer. And to this day, I regularly assign readings and lecture on the kalam argument in my philosophy of religion classes.

Now maybe I'm all washed up on the sober truth re: the kalam argument, but you probably shouldn't just assume that.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Carrier single handedly resuscitated and vindicated logical positivism in that book, and without the need to discuss any later developments in philosophy (e.g., Quine).

Blue Devil Knight said...

I have no idea what the Kalam Cosmological argument is.

I just looked it up. It seems to be Aquinas' first cause argument in modern dress for those that don't know (wiki here).

Randy said...

BDK,
Carrier single handedly resuscitated and vindicated logical positivism in that book, and without the need to discuss any later developments in philosophy (e.g., Quine).

I don't think that is fair to logical positivism. :-)

exapologist said...

Hi BDK,

It's not quite the same as Aquinas' argument, as Aquinas thought a temporally finite universe could not be demonstrated by reason. The kalam cosmological argument, by contrast, argues that a temporally finite past can be demonstrated via both a priori and a posteriori arguments.

Craig has offered two a priori arguments and two a posteriori arguments for the finitude of the past. The first argument attempts to show that actually infinite sets of things cannot exist in reality, and so the set of past events cannot be actually infinite. The second argument attempts to show that even if an actually infinite set of things could exist in reality, its members could not be successively traversed. But if not, then since the members of the set of past events have been traversed -- after all, here we are -- that set must be finite.

According to the first a posteriori argument, the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe implies an absolute beginning to spacetime, in which case the past is finite. And according to the second a posteriori argument, the second law of thermodynamics implies an absolute beginning. For since the universe is winding down energywise, it must've been wound up, with an initial, massive imput of usable energy.

So the universe must've had a beginning. And since all things that begin to exist (note the qualification) have a cause of their existence, the universe had such a cause. Now there are two sorts of causes: personal and impersonal. But the cause can't be an impersonal cause, for any such cause must be in a state of quiescence or activity. But neither disjunct will do. For if the cause were in a state of dormancy, then since no events are occurring in that state (remember, we're talking about the cause of the first moment of time, and so no events can occur "before" the first event), it would remain in a permanent state of stasis. And if the cause were in a state of activity, then the universe would be eternal. For the effect of an impersonal cause occurs as soon as such a cause is present. And if the cause is eternal, then the effect is eternal. But we've just seen that the effect is finite. Therefore, the effect -- the universe -- did not arise from an impersonal active temporal first cause.

So an impersonal cause of the beginning of the universe is out. But a personal cause can play the role here. For it can (in principle at least) exist in a state of eventless quiescence and spring into action with a spontaneous, libertarianly free act of the will. Therefore, the universe had a beginning, and it was caused by the spontaneous, free act of a person of some kind. But since it is the cause of spatiotemporal, physical reality, it must be a timeless, immaterial being of immense power. And this, as Aquinas would say, we all call 'God'.

Doctor Logic said...

exapologist,

What do you think is the main flaw in the argument?

exapologist said...

Hi DL,

In my view, the two a priori arguments for the finitude of the past have undercutting defeaters, and the two a posteriori arguments only show that our universe had a beginning, which is compatible with temporally prior physical antecedents to our universe (e.g., the collisions of branes, if M-theory turns out to be correct).

In short, the a priori arguments for a finite past have undercutting defeaters, and the a posteriori arguments are probably right, but they only require a beginning to our universe, not a beginning of physical reality per se. Now the theist might reply that the positing of physical antecedents to our universe is purely speculative, and not based on observational evidence. But then of course the same thing goes for positing an immaterial tri-personal creator out of nothing as the antecedent to our universe. And as an agnostic, I need a positive reason for preferring either hypothesis over the other, as I suspend judgment in the meantime.

Wes Morriston (a philosopher at U Colorado, Boulder) is, bar none, the most forceful critic of the kalam argument. A point of entry into his arguments can be found here. But see his other journal articles on the topic here.

Anonymous said...

In response to exapologist's wish to see a debate of theism v agnosticism, I'd love to see a debate of atheism v deism-at-the-least. Especially in light of Dawkins apparently ceding that there's a strong case to be made for deism recently, though I still have to verify that. (Not that Dawkins is much better than Carrier.)

On the other hand, I think powerful arguments could be made in favor of a commitment to theism over agnosticism as well. And while sometimes I find Craig less persuasive on a given point, count me with Charlie in agreeing that he's not 'hacky'. For whatever faults he may have, he's damned formidable and persuasive - and when he's engaged in academic writing, I find him to be more humble than many philosophers, which is refreshing all on its own.

Doctor Logic said...

exapologist,

Thanks for your response and the links.

For me, the biggest problem is Craig's insistence that every beginning must have a prior cause. But a "beginning" of 4D spacetime is like the "beginning" of a geometric figure (e.g., the point of a triangle), and geometric figures don't have causes.

If this was Craig's only mistake, that would be one thing, but he's making many errors in kalam (as you and Morriston point out). The Craig argument about personal versus impersonal causation is really, really awful.

As for hackiness, I suspect Craig is not a hack in theology circles. However, I think theology itself is hacky.

Charlie said...

Hey "exapologist",

Don't presume to be intellectually superior to everybody else just because you've "read" things "several times". I know of college freshmen who've read nearly every article and book with critiques/defenses of the Kalam. Trust me, you're not special in that regard.

Regardless of whether it's sound, for you to call the argument that has, hands down, been worked on by serious philosophers of religion more than any other argument in the last decade or so "hacky" is beyond presumptuous. That's why it's clear (not just an assumption) that you're an out-of-touch grad student, with a membership on "Debunking Christianity" included. Only your type would say crumby things like that.

Why don't you confront Craig with an email to let him know that his argument is "hacky"? With a devastating critique like that, I'm sure he and all the other "hack" philosophers who thought it worthy of serious attention will stop wasting their time -- all because a grad student on "Debunking Christianity" says-so.

Let us know how that email goes.

Charlie said...

In my view, the two a priori arguments for the finitude of the past have undercutting defeaters,

Which are?

and the two a posteriori arguments only show that our universe had a beginning, which is compatible with temporally prior physical antecedents to our universe (e.g., the collisions of branes, if M-theory turns out to be correct).

Already you're not being careful here. They show, on the standard model that Craig defends, that time (or spacetime) itself began at the singularity, which is incompatible with "temporally prior physical antecedents" posited on other models. You'd have to show why those other models are scientifically more plausible than the Friedman-Lemaitre model or its close relatives.

In short, the a priori arguments for a finite past have undercutting defeaters,

For some reason, what these are remains a secret.

and the a posteriori arguments are probably right, but they only require a beginning to our universe, not a beginning of physical reality per se.

Then it's your burden to defend a model that implies a "physical reality" beyond our universe.

Now the theist might reply that the positing of physical antecedents to our universe is purely speculative, and not based on observational evidence. But then of course the same thing goes for positing an immaterial tri-personal creator out of nothing as the antecedent to our universe.

Similar to Mackie's critique that positing things that begin to exist uncaused is just as speculative (maybe less so) than positing a personal agent who creates ex nihilo. The problem here is that the theist has just argued for his conclusion; you've (so far) presented a mere possibility with no argument. So you're being more speculative.

And as an agnostic, I need a positive reason for preferring either hypothesis over the other, as I suspend judgment in the meantime.

As an agnostic as well, I can see that you haven't actually argued for your hypothesis; you just threw it out as a possibility. The theist has given you an argument for her hypothesis; you've responded with speculation. You can't drag the theist down to your level here.

Wes Morriston (a philosopher at U Colorado, Boulder) is, bar none, the most forceful critic of the kalam argument. A point of entry into his arguments can be found here. But see his other journal articles on the topic here.

Oh right, his article from seven years ago? Craig has responded to Morriston in print. If you want to claim that Morriston came out ahead in their exchanges, then I'll wait for you to demonstrate why. I would suggest reading Nowacki's latest to get up-to-speed.

Charlie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie said...

Hey Doctor "logic"

For me, the biggest problem is Craig's insistence that every beginning must have a prior cause.
But a "beginning" of 4D spacetime is like the "beginning" of a geometric figure (e.g., the point of a triangle), and geometric figures don't have causes.


What does "geometric figures don't have causes" mean? Can you give us an example of a geometrical object that began to exist without a cause? By the way, proponents of the Kalam do not argue that everything that begins to exist must have a temporally prior cause.

but he's making many errors in kalam (as you and Morriston point out).

What specific errors did exapologist point out? Please name them specifically when you respond. (I'll be looking for this.)

Please also defend your belief that Morriston came out ahead in his exchanges with Craig. Is it safe to assume you've carefully read each of those exchanges?

The Craig argument about personal versus impersonal causation is really, really awful.

Well calling it the "Craig argument" is a bit of a misnomer since he actually got that kind of argument from Swinburne, but whatever. Please demonstrate why it's "awful".

On a sidenote, haven't you been asked repeatedly in the past to change your name? What's the deal? It doesn't take that long.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

Are you serious or are you joking? Sorry I can't tell :\

exapologist said...

Hi Charlie,

I don't presume to be intellectually superior to anyone here. For all I know, you can outthink me any day of the week. But whatever, think what you want of me, if it makes you feel better. I'm primarily interested in what the arguments are here, and whether they're any good. I pointed to Morriston's criticisms of the argument. Let's start with the a priori arguments for a finite past -- say, Craig's "immortal counter" argument against the possibility of traversing an actual infinite. Which reply from Craig do you find adequate with respect to Morriston's criticisms of that argument that I linked to earlier (start with the point of entry article I linked to)? I'll be waiting right here for your answer...

Doctor Logic said...

Charlie,

Please change your name. It won't take long.

What does "geometric figures don't have causes" mean?

Suppose I have a "real" mathematical sphere which exists outside of time. What is the cause of the sphere itself? Is the sphere as a whole caused by its north pole, or by its equator? I would say that it is not caused by its north pole, nor by any other part of itself. The sphere as a whole just is. (I might suppose that it is caused by its axioms, but its axioms are just descriptions of what it is.)

Let me put it another way. In simple models in which the Big Bang is the start of the universe, the Big Bang is better described as the "tip" of the universe rather than the "creation" of it. Time is like a dimension that maps out the interior of the universe, and causality is defined in that interior context. Speaking about the cause of the universe is nonsensical in this picture.

Now, I could reject this sort of naturalistic picture by making all sorts of ad hoc assumptions, but kalam doesn't speak to this naturalistic picture at all. And, if I rejected naturalism, I don't think I would need kalam to believe in God in the first place.

What specific errors did exapologist point out?

Exapologist correctly pointed out that there are physical theories in which the Big Bang is not the beginning of the universe and in which Craig's a posteriori argument breaks down. You just argued against this very claim in your prior post, so I assume you recognized the error exapologist was pointing out (even if you disagree with exapologist's point).

He actually got that kind of argument from Swinburne, but whatever. Please demonstrate why it's "awful".

Because people like Craig think that personhood is some kind of magic. Well, sure, if magic is allowed in one's argument, one can prove anything.

An event is deterministic when its outcome is determined by constants (timeless factors) or by things prior in time. The logical complement of determinism is fundamental randomness because the outcome would depend on nothing (everything is in the past or timeless, unless it's in the future, which doesn't help).

There's no third "free" category because it's incoherent. And yet this is the kind of god person Craig is invoking in his argument. Mechanical causes are not enough, Craig says, but he argues that persons escape the constraints of the mechanical. However, as I explained, the only escape from mechanical is to run to the random/uncaused. Random events are like brute facts, and if brute facts are okay, then the universe itself can be a brute fact.

By the way, proponents of the Kalam do not argue that everything that begins to exist must have a temporally prior cause.

Sorry, did I say "temporally"? No, I didn't.

Oh, and no, I haven't read all the work on the kalam argument.

Charlie said...

Exapologist,

Hello?

Your claim: the Kalam is "hacky".

Your claim: the philosophical sub-arguments in the Kalam have "defeaters".

You have refused to defend these claims, even though I asked you to do so (more than once now). Participants in this discussion can plainly see that you dodged my last reply. Let us know when you're ready to get into the specifics.

You also seem to be of the opinion that the most "forceful critic" of the Kalam (as you put it), Wes Morriston, has refuted the argument. So I asked you to demonstrate where or how Morriston came out ahead in his exchanges with Craig. Your response, incredibly, is that I now am the one who has to point out where he doesn't. Well I'm sorry to inform you, sir, but arguments don't work that way. You made these claims, so it's your responsibility to back them up.

You've also (apparently) refused to email Craig himself to let him know that his argument is 'hacky'. Well what are you waiting for?

You owe the participants here a lot by way of supporting evidence, exapologist. So far we've not received any.

Charlie said...

Doctor "logic"

Thanks for that reply. I am content to let that count as the last word in our discussion.

Charlie said...

I doubt BDK is joking about Carrier. Why, just yesterday Carrier developed an exhaustive and correct theory of how the human mind works. Tomorrow he's also going to shoot an email over to Rea and Sider, letting them in on the correct theory of material constitution. I know it sounds unbelievable. But don't forget, he was a philosophical taoist at the age of 15... so...

exapologist said...

Oh for fuck's sake, Charlie, don't get all Triabloggy on me.

Let me unpack Craig's "immortal counter" argument for you. The argument can be expressed as a reductio, with (1) below as the premise set up for reduction:


1. The past is beginningless (conceived as a set of events with the cardinality A0, and the order-type w*).

2. If the past is beginningless, then there could have been an immortal counter who counts down from such a past at the rate of one negative integer per day.

3. The immortal counter will finish counting if and only if he has an infinite number of days in which to count them.

4. If the past is beginningless, then there are an infinite number of days before every day.

5. Therefore, the immortal counter will have finished counting before every day.

6. If the immortal counter will have finished counting before every day, then he has never counted.

7. Therefore, the immortal counter has both never counted and has been counting down from a beginningless past (contradiction)

8. Therefore, the past is not beginningless (from 1-7, reductio).

The undercutting defeater can be brought out by a careful look at (3). Grant the 'only if'. But why think the immortal counter will finish his count if he has had an infinite number of days to count them? For it's epistemically possible that he's counted down an infinite number of negative integers from a beginningless past, and yet has not counted them all. So, for example, he could now be counting "-3", so that he has just finished counting an infinite number of negative integers, viz., {...-5, -4, -3}, and yet he has not counted down all the negative integers. Given this epistemic possibility, any reason for believing his (3) is undercut.

Craig thinks he has a reply to this.

“I do not think the argument makes this alleged equivocation ['from infinite' to 'all'. -EA], and this can be made clear by examining the reason why our eternal counter is supposedly able to complete a count of the negative numbers, ending at zero. In order to justify this intuitively impossible feat, the argument’s opponent appeals to the so-called Principle of Correspondence…On the basis of the principle the objector argues that since the set of past years can be put into a one-to-one correspondence with the set of negative numbers, it follows that by counting one number a year an eternal counter could complete a countdown of the negative numbers by the present year. If we were to ask why the counter would not finish next year or in a hundred years, the objector would respond that prior to the present year an infinite number of years will have elapsed, so that by the Principle of Correspondence, all the numbers should have been counted by now.

But this reasoning backfires on the objector: for on this account the counter should at any point in the past have already finished counting all the numbers, since a one-to-one correspondence exists between the years of the past and the negative numbers.” (Craig, “Review of Time, Creation, and the Continuum”, p. 323.)

Thus, Craig thinks the objector is committed to the claim that the counter will finish his count iff the days he's counted can be put into a 1-1 correspondence with the set of natural numbers. And since this can be done at any day of a beginningless past, the counter should always be done. But that contradicts the hypothesis that he's been counting down from a beginningless past.

But this won't do at all. (And this is one place where his hackiness is on full display). For why, exactly, must the objector presuppose that the counter will finish his count iff the set of days he counts can be put into 1-1 correspondence with the set of natural numbers? Craig says that it's because otherwise the objector can't account for the possibility of an immortal counter who finishes the task on a particular day, as opposed to any other day. Now granted, counting a set of days that can be put into such a correspondence is a necessary condition for counting down a beginningless set of negative integers, but why in the world are we supposed to think it also sufficient?

Call the biconditional above 'Craig's Claim' (hereafter 'CC'):

(CC) The counter will have finished counting all of the negative integers if and only if the years of the past can be put into a one-to-one correspondence with them.

Now consider the following epistemically possible scenario as an undercutting defeater for CC:

Suppose God timelessly numbers the years to come about in a beginningless universe. Suppose further that He assigns the negative integers to the set of events prior to the birth of Christ, and then the positive integers begin at this point. Then the timeline, with its corresponding integer assignment, can be illustrated as follows:


…-3 -2 -1 Birth of Christ 1 2 3…


Suppose yet further that God assigned Ralph, an immortal creature, the task of counting down the negative integers assigned to the years BCE, and stopping at the birth of Christ. Call this task ‘T’. With this in mind, suppose now that Ralph has been counting down from eternity past and is now counting the day assigned (by God) the integer -3. In such a case, Ralph has counted a set of years that could be put into a one-to-one correspondence with the set of negative integers, yet he has not finished all the negative integers.

This case shows that, while it is a necessary condition for counting all of the events that one is able to put them into a one-to-one correspondence with the natural numbers, we have reason to doubt that it's sufficient. For if the events that are to be counted have independently “fixed”, or, “designated” integer assignments set out for one to traverse, one must count through these such that, for each event, the number one is counting is the same as the one independently assigned to the event. In the scenario mentioned above, God assigned an integer to each year that will come to pass. In such a case, Ralph must satisfy at least two conditions if he is to accomplish T: (i) count a set of years that can be put into a one-to-one correspondence with the natural numbers, and (ii) for each year that elapses, count the particular negative integer that God has independently assigned to it. According to CC, however, Ralph is supposed to be able to accomplish T by satisfying (i) alone. But we have just seen that he must accomplish (ii) as well. Therefore, being able to place the events of the past into a one-to-one correspondence with the natural numbers does not guarantee that the counter has finished the task of counting all the negative integers. And given that this scenario is epistemically possible CC is undercut. But recall that CC is Craig’s rationale for (3). Thus, (3) is undercut.

Charlie said...

Well it's about time you came up with some specifics. I'll be back on Monday.

BTW never imply that I'm being "triabloggy" again. That is crossing the lines.

exapologist said...

And by the way, I did put this objection to Craig at a speaking engagement. I handed him the paper in person, and asked him if he'd respond to it. He said, "Maybe I'll read it during a flight or something." Right.

I wrote the objection back in the day -- 1998. I was going to submit it for publication the following year, after I had polished it up. Who knows whether it would've been accepted. But in any case, Morriston came out with a similar (and much more thorough) critique at that time ("Must the Past Have a Beginning?", Philo, 1999.), and so I never did.

So there ya' go.

exapologist said...

:-) Ok. Ceasing and desisting.

Charlie said...

Wait a sec, please explain how this is possible:

"suppose now that Ralph has been counting down from eternity past and is now counting the day assigned (by God) the integer -3"

Sounds like you're begging the question against Craig with a supposition like that, since you're assuming that some integers are left out (namely, -2 and -1). That wouldn't be the case if Ralph were counting "from eternity", since there'd be a one-to-one correspondence between aleph-naught and the set of negative integers. So what's the basis for stopping at -3? (I assume btw that p is epistemically possible for S if and only if it is consistent with S's current knowledge that p. Hard to see how the scenario you describe is epistemically possible, given our knowledge of elementary set theoretical principles.)

I'm also not sure you've accurately exposited the argument. I'll have to read it more closely on Monday. More later.

Charlie said...

Remember, an infinite set is given as a completed series.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Logic, it seems to me you're 3-d geometrical figure just presupposes spacetime realism. And contrary to what you say, spacetime realism is not synonymous with naturalism. And given that spacetime realism derives from general relativity, and given that general relativity is in contradiction with quantum mechanics, you have all the less reason to hold to this as a true picture.

Besides, it's not uncontroversial to claim that the spacetime needs no cause, even if one were a spacetime realist. The ekpyrotic scenario proposes a cause of the existence of our spacetime.

I'm no expert, but it seems to me you don't need any ad-hoc or supernatural assumptions to conclude that your account is not adequate.

Charlie said...

Anonymous,

It's quite clear from his last post that Doctor Embarrassingly Pretentious Name doesn't know what he's talking about and simply makes up stuff as he goes along (e.g. when asked to give an example of something that begins to exist without a cause, he came up with something that "exists outside of time", demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that he lacks a proper understanding of this issue). I wouldn't waste your time.

exapologist said...

Hi Charlie,

Wait a sec, please explain how this is possible:

"suppose now that Ralph has been counting down from eternity past and is now counting the day assigned (by God) the integer -3"

Sounds like you're begging the question against Craig with a supposition like that, since you're assuming that some integers are left out (namely, -2 and -1). That wouldn't be the case if Ralph were counting "from eternity", since there'd be a one-to-one correspondence between aleph-naught and the set of negative integers. So what's the basis for stopping at -3? (I assume btw that p is epistemically possible for S if and only if it is consistent with S's current knowledge that p. Hard to see how the scenario you describe is epistemically possible, given our knowledge of elementary set theoretical principles.)


Hmm. I guess I'm not seeing how I'm begging the question against Craig. I'm not assuming the scenario is metaphysically possible. Rather, I'm making the weaker claim that I can't rule it out as metaphysically impossible.

I'm in a state of suspension of judgment about the possibility of actually infinite traversals. I reflect on Craig's CC. I think, "is this a necessary truth? Hmm. I don't know. There's this scenario I can't rule out as metaphysically impossible, and it entails the falsity of CC. So I don't know if CC is a necessary truth. On the other hand, I don't know if the scenario is metaphysically possible. So I don't know if CC is not a necessary truth, either. I guess I just don't know either way. I guess I should suspend judgment about the truth-value of CC."

Now you say that it's hard to see how my scenario is even epistemically possible, given our knowledge of elementary set theoretic principles. But which ones conflict with my scenario, in particular?

exapologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Looking back at my comment, I can see how you might take my analogy about a sphere as the actual model of our universe. It was intended as an analogy. I apologize for not being clearer. However, the analogy still holds.

Also, I did not say my picture was synonymous with naturalism. I said it was naturalistic. If kalam only applies to a subset of models of the universe, models in which the universe has a prior cause, then it's not a good argument for God's existence. It just reduces to the original cosmological argument.

If the universe has an origin at the Big Bang, it's plausible that there's no prior cause because our intuitions about what happens within the universe say nothing about causation of the universe as a whole. And in 4D pictures, the universe doesn't have so much a beginning as a vertex, so the first premise of kalam doesn't apply (unless you want to argue that timeless geometric figures also have to have prior causes).

The kalam argument relies on exclusive statements for its force, and yet it doesn't even apply to perfectly plausible physical pictures.

I also think it's a little misleading to call plausible physical alternatives "not uncontroversial". Does "not uncontroversial" mean "not a consensus view"? Then sure, it's "not uncontroversial" to say that the universe has no cause, but no laws of physics are violated by uncaused universes.

I'm no expert, but it seems to me you don't need any ad-hoc or supernatural assumptions to conclude that your account is not adequate.

Not adequate for what?

I'm not here to prove that we're not living in a simulation or prove that there was no prior cause to the universe or the Big Bang. I'm just saying that kalam doesn't work because perfectly plausible pictures easily slip through its net of "necessity".

Supernaturalism creeps into kalam when it argues that a personal god works and a mechanistic god doesn't.

Is a personal god (as Craig defines it) even possible? Is there a difference between a personal god and a semi-random god whose decisions are like random radioactive decays (either in what decision will be made or when it will be made)?

If there's no difference, the argument breaks down because a mechanical/random god might as well be replaced by a (meta-)physical mechanism. So the magical distinction is important to the argument. Morriston addresses this in section 7, albeit from another angle.

Craig is implicitly saying there's a third category after deterministic and random which he uses to distinguish a personal cause from a mechanistic one. I think that's a supernatural (and incoherent) distinction. Either God's decision to create the universe at a particular metaphysical time is determined by stuff in the metaphysical past or it isn't determined by anything at all.

Anonymous said...

"but no laws of physics are violated by uncaused universes."

That's a REALLY misleading way of stating the truth: that we don't have an account of physics that can encapsulate the beginning of the universe. Our two best theories for the job both cease to give us reasonable answers when dealing with the Big Bang. That doesn't give you carte blanche to say that your wild conjecture about causation only applying within the universe is "natural".

Besides, I don't agree that spacetime realism is totally plausible. There are some big ole problems with it, such as explaining why the arrow of time within a block universe only goes one way, and explaining how we experience consciousness moment to moment if our past and future selves are just as "real" as our present ones. But be that as it may, the fact that a spacetime realist, armed with conjecture about causation that isn't in anyway supported by any science, can fudge his way out of the kalaam argument, doesn't show that the kalaam argument isn't a good reason to believe in God for someone who is not a spacetime realist and who isn't willing to make unscientific conjectures about causation.

"Craig is implicitly saying there's a third category after deterministic and random which he uses to distinguish a personal cause from a mechanistic one."

Yes, Craig is pushing this entirely new idea called "liberarianism" that is entirely his own creation, and which does not have able contemporary defenders like Robert Kane and Peter Van Ingawen, who have responded at length to your sophomoric claims of incoherence.

Randy said...

DL,
If the universe has an origin at the Big Bang, it's plausible that there's no prior cause because our intuitions about what happens within the universe say nothing about causation of the universe as a whole

That is one of the main problems I have with the Kalam. It makes the assumption that the universe is like a thing that is in the universe. I am having trouble seeing why there need be a prior cause to explain the existence of the universe.

When things come into being in the universe through causation they are composed of things that existed before them. And it takes time for a cause to bring something into existence in the universe. And the causes themselves are composed of things and also took time to come into existence in the universe. If there was a prior cause to the beginning of the universe it would have to be radically different from anything that we describe by the word “cause” when talking about things coming into existence in the universe.

I think within the context of the Kalam, the word “cause” loses any real meaning. You might as well say there was a prior xeeecuy that was necessary and sufficient for the beginning of the universe. In other words, you’d have to create a new concept that others could understand in order to have a legitimate explanation for how the universe came into existence.

I know there is already an existing concept that could be used: supernatural cause. But it can be used to explain every and any logically conceivable situation, so is vacuous.

Anonymous said...

Randy and doctor logic: you both claim that extra-universal causation is in some way incoherent. What do you say then to the scientists working on theories that give causal explanations to the beginning of the universe? For instance, string theorists claim that the origin of our universe could be accounted for by a collision of massive branes in a multi-dimensional parallel universe. Are these string theorists arguments refuted by your conjecture that causation outside of our universe must be, like, weird, and therefore we can't talk about it? You should drop these scientists a note before they waste a lot of their time.

It's also kind of amusing that both of you are to a certain extent using the absence of time as an excuse to do away with the necessity of causation. But the central claim of spacetime realism, I believe, is that time itself is an (unexplained) illusion of (unexplained) experienced consciousness.

Steven Carr said...

I simply cannot believe William Lane Craig is going to debate Richard Carrier on history.

I would love to see Craig and Carrier debate the historical validity of the Gospels.

I am just amazed that Craig would ever sign up for such a debate.

Craig debate Carrier on the historicity of the Gospels?

I just can't imagine Craig doing such a thing.

Randy said...

Randy and doctor logic: you both claim that extra-universal causation is in some way incoherent. What do you say then to the scientists working on theories that give causal explanations to the beginning of the universe?

Did I say it was incoherent? I think you should re-read what I actually said instead of attacking a strawman.

If you are going to use the word “cause” to explain the origin of the universe you have to explain what the word means in that context. It can’t have the same meaning it does when talking about the origin of things in the universe.

And I’m not arguing for or against spacetime realism. I’m simply pointing out that the concept of causation as it applies to the origin of things in the universe is internally related to the concept of time.

If a scientific theory of the origin of the universe is given then the terms used in that theory will be have to be explained. Though personally I don’t think this is really a scientific question but a philosophical one.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Exapologist:

Thank you very much for the helpful summary of the Kalam argument. It still looks like a 'first cause' type argument in modern dress.

Like much philosophy, it looks like a neverending back and forth with no end in sight. Thank God I left philosophy.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I agree with Randy. Language mistakes feature prominently in this debate.

Besides, I don't agree that spacetime realism is totally plausible. There are some big ole problems with it, such as explaining why...

First, I don't have to advocate spacetime realism. I think it's aesthetically pleasing, but I'm indifferent. The issue is that a universe with a single initial event that has no prior events is perfectly plausible.

As for explanations... this is not about explanations. Kalam is not explanatory. Kalam (and all other supernatural arguments) are about possibility. Kalam doesn't answer any why questions at all. It claims that personal creation is the only possibility. (Except, of course, that it isn't the only possibility.)

Again, I'm not claiming that the universe begins at a single event, and I'm certainly not saying that such a conclusion would be scientific. However, it is compatible with science and no physical laws are violated by it. I'm not saying that physics has more support for my view than the others.

Yes, Craig is pushing this entirely new idea called "liberarianism" that is entirely his own creation, and which does not have able contemporary defenders like Robert Kane and Peter Van Ingawen, who have responded at length to your sophomoric claims of incoherence.

Really? I think not. We're talking about causality here, not moral responsibility. They still haven't overcome the luck objection, AFAIK.

. Are these string theorists arguments refuted by your conjecture that causation outside of our universe must be, like, weird, and therefore we can't talk about it?

I consider multiverse models to be valuable experiments in theoretical modeling. However, for any such model to be explanatory, the model either has to predict something about our own universe or else allow us to peer into other universes. If the model fails to do this, it won't be explanatory, no matter how pretty it may be.

It's also kind of amusing that both of you are to a certain extent using the absence of time as an excuse to do away with the necessity of causation.

You've missed my original point several times now. My point was not to advocate spacetime realism, but to refute the need for non-temporal causality.

Imagine a universe consisting of a spherical surface with no time. Does such a universe need a cause? No. It doesn't. It can simply be. If you think it does need a cause, I would love to hear your argument.

Randy said...

DL,
I consider multiverse models to be valuable experiments in theoretical modeling. However, for any such model to be explanatory, the model either has to predict something about our own universe or else allow us to peer into other universes. If the model fails to do this, it won't be explanatory, no matter how pretty it may be.

This is a very good point.

I think it important to realize that the Kalam is really aimed more at explaining why there is anything at all rather than just why this universe we live in exists. If there is a multiverse, then it will be used to explain that also.

A good book that covers several approaches to that philosophical question is B. Rundle’s “Why there is Something rather than Nothing”. A fair review of the book can be found at this page on the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews site. Now that the book is in paperback it can be found for a reasonable price at abebooks.com or amazon.

exapologist said...

Hi Charlie,

Remember, an infinite set is given as a completed series.

Correct. Is your point that the set of events in my scenario is not a completed, actually infinite set? If so, then that's not true. Any set that can be put into a 1-1 correspondence with the natural numbers is an actually infinite set with an A0 cardinality. But the set in my scenario satisfies this condition, as is demonstrated by the following correspondence:

1 2 3...
-3 -4 -5...

Hans said...

This is very useful.

Thank you, Professor Reppert.

Clayton said...

Long thread.

It's important to distinguish two versions of the Kalam cosmological argument. Some seek to establish apriori that the universe cannot contain an actual infinite. Some seek to establish aposteriori that our universe does not contain an actual infinite. Ignoring for now the aposteriori versions of the argument, I think it's true that Craig has generated quite a literature thanks to his work on the issue, but how many trained philosophers actually think it's good?

Here's a quotation from a debate between Craig and Cooke:
Philosophically, the idea of an infinite past seems absurd. Just think about it. If the universe never had a beginning, then the series of past events in the universe is infinite. But, mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradiction. For example, what is infinity minus infinity. Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality.


Here's the link. http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=s-nULVvgbx0

Start at 3:14.

I remember when this came up last time, I offered $5 to the first person daring enough to march into the office of a mathematics professor tried to use this argument on them and then report the results back here. The offer still stands. The problem with Craig, if I may, is that even if there's some good stuff in his work, there's stuff like this that is either just dishonest or shows he has no idea what he's talking about.

Steven Carr said...

CRAIG
Just think about it. If the universe never had a beginning, then the series of past events in the universe is infinite.

CARR
God never had a beginning.

He must have a very uneventful life.

normajean said...

Carr, perhaps there are other universes where God is/has been active.

Steven Carr said...

The multiuniverse theory lives on!