Saturday, February 22, 2014

Debate Review: Sean Carroll vs. William Lane Craig: God and Cosmology!

The debate on God and cosmology at the Greer-Heard Forum (hosted by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) was extremely interesting. Representing the Christian side was William Lane Craig, and representing the skeptic side was cosmologist/theoretical physicist Sean Carroll. This was an exceptional debate (though it could have been better), in part because Carroll did better than Lawrence Krauss. Since this debate was concerned mostly with cosmology and whether or not it acted as evidence for God’s existence, much of it was over my comprehension. As a result, what follows is a basic overview, and I will undoubtedly fail to represent some aspect of the science correctly (I’ll do my best to keep that to a minimum). As anyone who reads me knows, however, I will interact with the philosophy involved.

Craig wants to contend that contemporary cosmology makes God’s existence considerably more probable than it would be without it. This just means that he believes the evidence of cosmology functions itself as evidence (though now we are using “evidence” in two different ways: the first way to mean scientific evidence and the second to mean a more general, philosophical evidence). Craig claimed that in doing this, one is not employing contemporary cosmology to prove that God exists, but to support theologically neutral premises in arguments with theistic conclusions/implications. What Craig does here is appeal to only two main arguments for his subject. Many past critics of Craig should thusly be mollified (as a common complaint against Craig is that he simply presents too many arguments).[1] The arguments given are the kalam and teleological.

1.     If the universe began to exist, then there is a transcendent cause that brought the universe into existence.
2.     The universe began to exist.
3.     Therefore, there is a transcendent cause that brought the universe into existence.

Craig initially takes (1) to be obvious, focusing on (2). He gives two lines of evidence to support that the universe had a beginning: evidence from expansion of the universe and evidence from the second law of thermodynamics. The absolute beginning of the universe is predicted by the standard model, and has not been avoided; in fact, it [an absolute beginning] has been only strengthened, Craig contends. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin [BGV] theorem predicts there will be a boundary; either something is “beyond” the boundary or not. If not, then the boundary is the beginning. If something is beyond the boundary, that it will be that thing that is the beginning. Craig also appeals to the quantum region to point out that, among other things, it remains problematic why the universe transitioned to the state in which it now is some 13.7 billion years ago, and not some other time, say from eternity (or even not at all). I think this is a very powerful argument, and one that Carroll may not have even understood, since no response was ever given. Moving to the next line of evidence, given the naturalistic assumption that the universe is a closed system, then heat death will follow (from expansion). Why, if the universe has existed forever, is it not now in a cold, dark state of heat death? The universe cannot have existed forever; there was an absolute beginning a finite time ago. Carroll’s solution is that the overall condition of the universe is a state of equilibrium, but we are in a baby universe in a state of disequilibrium. The production of such universes is conjectural (and, according to Craig, a violation of the unitarity of quantum theory). There are irretrievable natural laws from the mother universe.

The fine tuning argument (teleological) is how Craig usually does it. Craig addresses the objection that since we live in a finely tuned world, we shouldn’t be surprised that the world is finely tuned by using Boltzmann brains as a counter-objection. This objection is stating that there will be many more universes in which there are no actual observers such as we are than universes where there are such observers; of these non-observer universes, there will be many Boltzmann brains, brought about by thermal fluctuations. Therefore, on the whole of probability, it is far more probable that we would find ourselves as Boltzmann brains than the observers that we are, if a multiverse scenario were true.

It’s Sean Carroll’s turn, and his goal is not to win a debate. There’s no talk about what role God might have played in bringing the universe about, because it’s not taken seriously. He explains naturalism as all there is. He claims that naturalism works: 1. It accounts for all we see, 2. There is evidence against theism, 3. Theism is not well defined. Caroll wants to challenge (1) by saying that is false. He claims that a counterexample is the no boundary quantum cosmology model. It is completely self-contained and so comes without a transcendent cause. He wants to talk about BGV theorem—description of spacetime breaks down (our ability to describe the universe’s time gives out, so that there may be a beginning or it may be eternal). God of the gaps is charged against Craig. Here’s the problem with Carroll charging Craig with God-of-the-gaps: it’s just not true. Craig is making cosmological arguments from cosmological evidences; he’s not offering God as an explanation for a lack of arguments. This suggests that either Carroll does not understand God-of-the-gaps or he does not understand what Craig is arguing. Given Carroll’s previously professed ignorance of much of Craig’s work I am assuming the latter (I also think that is more charitable).

Carroll offers 5 reasons against fine-tuning: 1. There may not be a fine tuning problem. 2. God doesn’t need to fine-tune anything. 3. The fine-tunings you think are there might only be apparent. 4. Other naturalistic explanations: multiverse. 5. Theism fails as an explanation for fine-tuning. This criticism boils down to the fact that theism does not comport with what Carroll would expect. (He may be confusing predictive models with actual explanations.) For instance, Carroll thinks religious beliefs would be universal if theism were true. Carroll finishes his first speech with science of the gaps, ironically.

Craig’s second response: Craig points out many of these things are not relevant, since the topic is God being rendered more probable by evidences from cosmology, not God being a predictive model for cosmology, and the like. Craig responds in the criticism of the first premise of the kalam by saying it’s only required that the universe didn’t pop into being uncaused out of nothing. This is crucial, and this is one point Craig takes for granted that Carroll clearly does not understand (not because he’s unintelligent, but because it’s not self-evident to many). The reason Craig says this is because of the way the first premise is worded. Recall, the first premise of the kalam is:

1.     If the universe began to exist, then there is a transcendent cause that brought the universe into existence.

The only way to deny this is to affirm that the universe began to exist and yet had no transcendent cause. Most of Carroll’s critique centered on his affirmation of an eternal universe, and the other part was that he didn’t like the terminology, “pop into being.” The second part is just semantic, not analytical or metaphysical, and the first part is irrelevant. It would be relevant to the second premise, but not the first. This is why Craig explains that these other models offered by Carroll do not show the universe does not come into being, and there’s nothing in the theory that explains why that model exists rather than not.

Craig says most cosmology colleagues agree fine-tuning is real. It is no part of the fine-tuning argument to assert that the purpose of the fine tuning is us. There may be other forms of life in the universe, and even if not, low entropy is essential to discoverability of the universe (which makes sense on theism).

Carroll claims, in response, that Craig misunderstands the science. While Craig tends to quote or closely paraphrase Carroll, Carroll will not afford the same courtesy, often making simplistic caricatures. Carroll thinks that the primary reason we embrace causality is purely physical observation. This is a major issue that’s going to prevent him from embracing the causal principle. Carroll brings up Guth saying that he thinks that the universe is very likely eternal but no one knows. This won’t work, because Carroll strongly implies that Craig’s references to BGV are somehow invalid or inaccurate; but it is in this letter to Craig that Vilenkin confirms Craig has interpreted BGV correctly. So essentially, the move is nothing more than an appeal to authority, with literally no argument behind it.

In Craig’s final speech, he emphasized that nothing is not anything and so it is inconceivable metaphysically! This was to correct Carroll’s understanding of the justification of the causal principle.

In Carroll’s last speech, he was dismissive of the actual arguments or objections. Carroll ends his speech with four minutes of people not becoming theists because of arguments. He insists there’s no longer any reason to embrace theism, and you have three options: 1. Deny science. 2. Accept science but deny the implications (confusing science with metaphysics). 3. Assess the human condition and give up belief in God.

In the Q&A portion, Carroll got a question about free will; he states that we do have free will as emergent. It is not libertarian, but compatibilist. But “free will” seems to be a language game. It’s a description, a useful fiction since if he can know all the particles, they determine what he does. Craig parlays this into an objection against naturalism, since even the affirmation of naturalism is a-rational. Carroll does agree with Craig, actually saying religion ought to be relevant to all areas of life, which is absolutely correct.

All things considered, Carroll didn’t do much to show that the evidence from cosmology, used in non-theological premises in philosophically deductive arguments with theistic implications, does not render God’s existence more probable than if it were not present. He did not understand the first premise of the kalam, and offered no reason to think the second was false, or inscrutable, or otherwise anything but correct. In the fine-tuning argument, Carroll did argue by making a slightly obscure reference to other models that avoid Boltzmann brain scenarios (or at least, make them less prevalent). While it wasn’t explored, it at least counts as relevant. And in Carroll’s argument that the world is not what he would expect were theism to be true, he was, in principle, trying to be relevant again here. I think he was unsuccessful in showing his claims of fine-tuning being illusory, and made no attempt to offer justifications of why we should think theism as a predictive model is the correct way to approach the problem, or why we should think that Carroll’s particular inclinations would be what anyone else would expect.

Conversely, I think Craig, overall, did a good job explaining why this renders God’s existence more probable than it would have been if the evidence was not there. My one criticism is that Craig said it would be “vastly” or “considerably” (or some such word) more probable. I don’t doubt this is the case; I just would have liked to see some Bayesian reasoning, or, at the very least, just some basic explanation of why the degree of probability is raised in the way Craig needs it to be. As far as I could tell, if Carroll could have found some way of saying that the evidence from cosmology does raise the probability of God’s existence, but only slightly, he would have won. Perhaps, given the deductive nature of the arguments, if the premises are even more than slightly more plausible than their negations, then the conclusions follow, which conclusions significantly imply theism more than if they were not present. So perhaps even my one criticism of Craig is flawed. It’s late. What do you guys think? Did Carroll do a good job? Could Craig have done better?

Here's another review by Wintery Knight! Check it out!

[1] Though it’s worth noting that the “too-many-arguments” objection loses force the more one hears about it, given that Craig has been giving largely the same exact arguments for years.


  1. I think Carroll's objection to the Kalam cosmological argument is not really with the universe having a beginning, but with the second part of premise 1 ("....then there is a transcendent cause that brought the universe into existence"). That's not self evident and Carroll tried to make that clear in several occasions. The words "transcendent" and "cause" are not clearly defined anywhere, so using them to state a (supposedly) self-evident truth is at best problematic. To me, the Kalam argument is no different than the following "argument":

    1. Everything we perceive was created by God.
    2. We perceive the universe.
    3. Therefore, the universe was created by God.

    1. Hello, thanks for the comment. The inscrutability claim doesn't fly, mostly because Carroll took the premise to mean something and that something, whatever it turns out to be analytically, was accepted implicitly by Craig. That is to say, Carroll utilized the idea of (1) in claiming there existed counterexamples to it, so in order for him to pronounce something as a counterexample, he had to have been employing some usage of the word. No criticism of Craig's turned on the ambiguity of the term (that is, Craig didn't claim that Carroll was using "cause" or "transcendence" incorrectly). Since what it means to be a material conditional means you can only deny it if you believe that the antecedent is/would be true and the consequent is/would be false, all that's required to defeat the causal principle used is that the universe did come into being uncaused out of nothing (since, otherwise, it would come into being uncaused out of something, which something must transcend [i.e., go beyond] the universe). Now I agree Craig took this for granted, in that he took it that Carroll or the audience would or should understand this to be the case, and on that I think he could have done better. But it remains that Carroll didn't show a single thing that would suggest to us the universe came into being uncaused out of nothing.

      Please forgive me, I'm a little skeptical that we're going to get a fruitful conversation. This is because you put scare quotes around the word "argument," implying some kind of ridicule, or else I don't know what. An argument, in logic, is any premises that imply a conclusion; a valid argument, in deductive logic, is any set of premises that, if true, necessarily require the conclusion to be true. A deductively valid and sound argument is one that is valid, but whose premises are also true. And finally, a deductively valid, sound, and good argument is one that is valid and sound, but also whose premises are held stronger than their negations. On any of these analyses, what you offer is an argument, plain and simple. It's called a categorical syllogism, and can be symbolized as follows, where P=perceived, C=created by God, and u=universe:

      1. All P is C
      2. u is P.
      3. ∴ u is C.

      Now, it seems quite valid, in that anyone who accepts the premises should logically accept the conclusion; it, in fact, seems impossible for both premises to be true and the conclusion to be false. However, no agnostic, skeptic, or atheist would accept (1) (even some theists may deny it!); in any case, any argument for (1) would be an argument for theism and God's creative property. So perhaps that's a clue to what you mean when you claim the kalam is "no different" than your example argument. It's certainly the same in form, but is it different in the acceptance of the premises? Clearly, one can accept (1) of the kalam without being a theist of any kind. One can also accept (2) without being a theist of any kind. So, this isn't the right comparison to make.

      So, perhaps you mean that the argument is "no different" in that they both claim to give self-evident truths, such that once one understands what is being claimed he cannot doubt it. Whether or not one thinks the causal principle is self-evident, no one (or almost no one) claims the alternate (1) is self-evidently true. Even if everyone believed (1), we wouldn't take it to be the kind of thing that is self-evident. For one might believe that we create and perceive some things in which God had no direct hand (deism will lend itself to this); in any case, it seems quite clear that one can be unsure of this claim even while understanding it. The principle that something cannot come into being from nothing is only denied by people in these contexts of theistic discussion. Even if it's not self-evident, it's still quite very obviously more plausible than not. In any case, I'm unclear in what way you think the arguments are "no different."

    2. I sure meant to ridicule my argument, but not because it's logically wrong (clearly it's not) but because it doesn't prove anything, it's just a word play without any real content. If you don't define the terms "cause" and "transcendent" you are just playing with words, your conclusions are true in any universe where your definitions happen to be valid, but the real problem is to determine whether our universe is one of those. The argument doesn't address that question, it just takes it for granted.

    3. Again, I just refer you to the claim above--Carroll seemed to understand precisely what Craig was talking about, and it became clear that "transcend" was used in the normal way (e.g., "going beyond"), "cause" being the thing/person/mechanism which brings about an effect, or the universe. These meanings were not difficult to discern, and indeed are even the "normal" uses of the term within the context of the argument. The only people who would be confused by this are those who are unfamiliar with the argument, or, as I suspect, those who are simply dishonest. In an ironic sort of way, it's difficult to know what you even mean by saying a definition has "validity." Perhaps you mean where that definition is "correct," but again, it's difficult to know what this even means. After all, the argument is again pretty straightforward (it only takes these for granted inasmuch as it takes any communication for granted--demanding a precise definition for every term before one accepts it will result in unintelligible nonsense, for any term I use must be defined, but that subsequent definition will presumably introduce other terms, which must be defined, and so on), and so the question is whether the causal principle applies: did the universe come into being uncaused out of nothing? That question is intelligible to virtually everyone.

  2. 1. No one knows whether it’s even accurate to conceive of the universe as a single thing that, as a whole, either had a beginning or did not and was either caused or was not. Maybe some of the basic components of the universe (time, matter, space, forces such as magnetism, “laws,” ??) had a beginning and others did not. And maybe some of them were caused and others were not. Maybe one or more began at different times. All of this is just uncritically assumed.
    2. But even if we assume for the sake of debate that it is accurate to conceive of the universe in this simplistic way, no one really knows whether it had a beginning.
    3. But even if we assume 1) that this simple conception of the universe is accurate and 2) that the universe had a beginning, that would not prove that it was caused. No one can really know whether it was caused or not.
    4. But even if we assume 1, 2, and that it was caused, know one knows whether it had a single cause or multiple causes.
    5. But even if we assume 1, 2, 3, and that it had a single cause, no one knows anything about the nature of that cause. For example, no one knows whether the cause was "transcendent," whether the cause was "personal" or just some impersonal thing with none of the features of the traditional western concept of god (consciousness, love [let alone "perfect" love], knowledge [let alone ALL knowledge], intention, emotion, morality [let alone a "perfect" and unchanging morality], etc.), whether the cause itself had a beginning, whether the cause still exists and will continue to exist forever, whether its essential nature has remained unchanged over those billions of years and always will remain unchanged, whether it had anything to do with the creation or evolution of living organisms, whether it can or does intervene in human affairs supernaturally, etc.

    1. Mike L, thanks for commenting! I think you overstate your case when you say, "No one knows..." and "all of this is just uncritically assumed." I'm giving you a one-time-only "free rhetoric pass." :) Craig did not "uncritically assume it," he actually gave a couple of arguments for it. You may not agree with those arguments, but the mere presence of these arguments that entail his conclusions means he is not assuming it, and his interaction with and quoting scholarly works on the matter is not "uncritical." As to your second point, I am unclear on what you mean by "know." It seems you mean "certain;" but Craig's arguments don't require certainty, just justified true belief--colloquially, that the premises be more plausible than their negations. It won't follow from any lack of certainty that we don't know anything about cosmology. As to the next point, Craig's causal principle is pretty straightforward. As to (4), considerations of parsimony when it comes to explanations work just fine. As to (5), on the nature of the kalam, and just regular thinking, it is transcendent of the universe by definition; there are no non-personal candidates (since any non-personal candidate would itself produce the necessary effect, and thus you'd be stuck with the same problem of the universe's eternality, and there's no abstract object that's going to do it). Finally, it's just a concession of the entire argument, and hence, that Craig's contention is true: the evidence of cosmology renders God's existence more probable than it would be were it not to be there.

    2. When I said “uncritically assumed,” I was referring specifically to the assumption that the universe is a single thing in the sense that whatever is true about the origins of one part of it is automatically true of the whole. I didn’t see any discussion of that at all in your summary. I didn’t see the debate, so I don’t know if anything was said about it during the debate or not.

      When I said “no one knows,” I meant exactly that: the premises of Craig’s argument and their supporting propositions are not known to be true; all of this is just pure conjecture. And I would go even further and say no one knows whether the premises are more likely than their negations. And therefore no one knows whether the conclusion is more likely than its negation. You say, “Craig’s arguments don’t require certainty, just justified true belief.” But to just assert that the beliefs are true begs the question. And whether or not a belief is “justified” is in the eye of the beholder. I would call my belief that no gods exist “justified” based on the fact that every single instance of consciousness that we actually know of is utterly and inextricably bound to and dependent upon a very complex and delicate physical brain. And yet theists want us to believe that there is a consciousness that defies literally 100% of the evidence we have in terms of the brain/consciousness connection. I doubt that you agree that this justifies my belief, but that just proves my point that “justified” is in the eye of the beholder.

      “Craig's causal principle is pretty straightforward.” By “causal principle” I assume you mean something like “anything that begins to exist is caused to exist by something else.” I have no idea if that’s true. I’ve never witnessed anything coming into existence. I’ve only ever seen changes in things or stuff that already existed. So I don’t know why that would be “straightforward.”

      “As to (4), considerations of parsimony when it comes to explanations work just fine.” Is that supposed to be a supporting proposition for the claim that if the universe was caused, then it only had a single cause, not multiple? It seems like what you’re saying is that because someone (scientists maybe?) prefer simpler explanations to more complicated ones, then simpler explanations are more likely true. It should be obvious that that is not the case. I’ll just state it differently: even if it could be shown to be true that the universe was caused, that by itself would not prove or even make it more likely than not that the cause was singular rather than plural. [continued in a separate comment below...]

    3. Ah, well thanks for the clarification! You did say that "all of this is uncritically assumed," so you can see how I thought you meant all of it. :) I'm not sure what's supposed to follow from this, as they were discussing whether or not space had an absolute beginning. Next, I think you're simply wrong--they are known to be true. Next, the account of justified true belief for knowledge isn't question-begging: that's the standard account. The truth condition is because "justified belief" isn't counted as knowledge in the case of falsehood. Actually, it wouldn't follow from your argument that justification is in the eye of the beholder, although I do agree that justification is a person-relative concept. So what's supposed to follow from that? It's unclear. By "causal principle" I mean precisely what was said: something does not come from nothing. You also assume an eliminativist view of something, and uncritically I might add. I'd say any view that denies your own existence can be dismissed. So much the worse for eliminativism, I say. I have given you one free rhetoric pass, but you used it up. You deny Ockham's razor, but just state it as "obvious" that it is false. So you do understand "transcendent"! If the universe has a cause, then it seems reasonable to think the universe is the effect of that cause. If the universe is the effect, and the cause is non-personal, and the non-personal cause is eternal, then the effect is eternal as well. On the kalam, the effect is not eternal. QED. It's part of the definition of abstract objects that they are causally inert. We're talking things like "Beethoven's 9th," the English letter "A," the number "17."

      Finally, you missed the point: the point of the debate is to show that the evidence of cosmology makes God's existence more probable than it would be if it were not present. It's just true, by definition, that whatever one's prior probability is for God's existence, if the universe had a transcendent, personal cause, God's existence goes up in probability. It doesn't go down, or remain inscrutable, or the same.

  3. “As to (5), on the nature of the kalam, and just regular thinking, it is transcendent of the universe by definition;”

    Define “transcendent.” Do you mean that the cause of the universe must be something other than the universe itself and something other than any part of the universe? If that is all you mean, then why use a theologically loaded term like “transcendent”? In fact, if it’s “transcendent” BY DEFINITION, then you should need no adjective at all in front of “cause" -- it would be completely superfluous.

    “there are no non-personal candidates (since any non-personal candidate would itself produce the necessary effect, and thus you'd be stuck with the same problem of the universe's eternality,…”: I’ll admit it, I have no idea what you mean. “any non-personal candidate would itself produce the necessary effect”? Would produce WHAT effect? If you’re saying that it’s impossible for there to be a non-personal thing (or stuff) that could a) be eternal or b) in some sense “timeless” (as I presume you imagine god to be), how could you possibly know something like that? As if you know the ultimate nature of all possible non-personal things/stuff so well that you can rule out such a possibility. The presumption of theists never ceases to amaze.

    “And there's no abstract object that's going to do it.” Once again, how in the world can you possibly know something like that? And yet you state it categorically, as though it’s a given.

    In summary, I have no idea if the premises are true; and I don’t know if the conclusion is true. But once again, even if both WERE true, that wouldn’t prove the transcendent cause was “god.” All it would prove is that the universe had a cause that was not itself the universe or anything in the universe. So what?

    1. >> Define “transcendent.”

      If the universe... meaning time, space, matter, and energy as we know it... came into existence, then whatever caused the big bang... the moment when the universe came into existence, cannot be dependent on either time, space, matter or energy. That cause is the origin of all of those things, and must causally precede them. It "transcends" our universe. By definition, that is something super-natural.

      >>In fact, if it’s “transcendent” BY DEFINITION, then you should need no adjective at all in front of “cause" -- it would be completely superfluous.

      One would think... but physicists like Lawrence Krauss are claiming that the universe could arise from a "quantum vacuum"... something that is NOT a complete absence of those four components, but is very much something that exists in our own universe and is dependent on our universe's energy and natural laws. Therefore, it's better to make perfectly clear statement... as you pointed out regarding Kalam above!

      Re: "there are no non-personal candidates...", I'll not speak for the author, but from my own perspective here. It's not logical to conceive of the source of the universe being something impersonal or abstract. If something had to "pull the trigger" on the big bang, then it could not be an abstract entity... abstract entities cannot directly interact with reality. Neither is it logical to assume an impersonal source; creation seems to need a "decision" to create. Furthermore, the Teleological argument shows how precisely balanced this universe is... something that is mathematically impossible to achieve with no intelligent input into its creation.

      >>But once again, even if both WERE true, that wouldn’t prove the transcendent cause was “god.” All it would prove is that the universe had a cause that was not itself the universe or anything in the universe. So what?

      Just based on this single argument, you have an infinitely powerful, intelligent, timeless, immaterial personal being who created our universe and everything in it. Those ARE the classical attributes of the being we call God. You can't say WHICH God based on this one argument, but the argument does present evidence that such a being exists. Other arguments are required to determine which, if any, of the deities men worship are the same entity as this being.

    2. Thanks Terry and Mike for commenting. Mike, sorry I missed yours. I think I'll leave the dialectic standing as is. :)

  4. The Kalam argument fails because it is based on special pleading. If God could always have existed so could have the mass-energy the universe is made of.

    1. Hi Boris, thanks for commenting! It won't do to say the kalam engages in special pleading, and so fails, because an argument is successful just in the case that it is deductively valid and one takes the premises to be true. The premises are:

      1. If the universe began to exist, then it has a transcendent cause.
      2. The universe began to exist.
      3. Therefore, the universe had a transcendent cause.

      So which premise would you wish to deny? If we say none, then it follows that the universe had a transcendent cause, in which case, the kalam succeeds. "But wait!" you might think. "That cause that transcends the universe could be this necessary and eternal energy!" Even if we grant this, it wouldn't follow the kalam was engaging in special pleading. We would just be agnostic as to whether or not it was from God. Well, there are a couple of problems with that. First, there seems to be no good reason to think that the energy itself can be necessary. You would have to postulate that the energy is a necessarily existent thing, and that would rely on ontological arguments for God--the difference being that there seems to be something to the notion of a being than which none greater can be conceived, than which none greater can be conceived? I'm not even sure what that means! Second, if the non-personal energy is both necessary and sufficient to bring the universe into existence, and is eternal, then the effect (the universe) is eternal. But under this analysis, we've granted the kalam's premise that the universe is not eternal. Therefore, we can't let the kalam stand without recognizing that some cause that is like a God in many ways brought the universe into being.

      So what should we do? Perhaps state that the energy is part of the universe, and so if the energy is eternal, then so is the universe. But now notice this won't work, because if the energy is just a part of the universe, then it is now subject to the criticisms of an eternal universe underlying premise 2! In any case, it's not special pleading, for no arguments given for (2) would be lodged against God as well.

    2. Hi Randy, thanks for responding! It's special pleading to insist that God doesn't need a cause but the universe does. Why can't the universe be the uncaused cause that gives rise to all other cause and effect? But I don't accept either of the first two premises of this argument either.

      1. If the universe began to exist, then it has a transcendent cause.

      > We could grant this argument this premise and everything else it asks and still assume that the cause you posit was vacuum fluctuation or some other physical cause. You say your cause is transcendent but let's call it what it really is supposed to be, a non-physical, a supernatural cause. All the causes we know about are physical. By positing a non-physical cause you are stacking the deck. So as far as I'm concerned the argument fails right there. You would first have to prove non-physical causes are possible and that your agent of causation, which you are now trying to argue into existence, actually exists. You can't incorporate the conclusion of your argument into its first premise.

      2. The universe began to exist.

      Prove it. I don't believe that and none of the books I've read on cosmology support that notion. We know the universe as we currently observe it had a beginning but since we have no evidence that mass-energy can be created or destroyed we have to assume that the stuff the universe is made of has always existed. If God could have always existed, so could have mass-energy. By predicating a supernatural or first cause to the universe you are moving the mystery a stage further back. This is a logical absurdity. The First Cause Argument is really a great example of the ancient custom of creating a mystery to explain a mystery. We can all be thankful scientists don't work that way.

      3. Therefore, the universe had a transcendent cause.

      I cannot accept either of the first two premises for the reasons I stated. Neither can I believe that the universe came from nothing or that a state of total nothingness ever existed or that it is even possible. What evidence do you have that there was ever just nothing, or that absolute nothingness is even possible? And exactly how would you define "nothing" anyway? I would think any description of nothing would imply some properties which would then make it something.

      I shouldn't have to point out that science isn't ever going to consider a supernatural explanation for the universe or anything else. How would assuming there is a supernatural cause for the universe change anything? Since we can't observe and test the supernatural the only way we could reach a supernatural explanation would be to eliminate all natural explanations. However we could never know if we have in fact eliminated all the possibilities. So even if a supernatural explanation were correct we can never know it. Any supernatural explanation couldn't be applied to anything and so it would be useless anyway.

      Thanks for reading my objections to the kalam argument. I look forward to your response.

    3. Hi Boris, thanks for replying! The kalam is not engaging in special pleading, and for the reasons I provided earlier. The salient reason? The universe began to exist while God did not. If, via your postulate, God began to exist, well that's fine--but that's not what the kalam states! Now you can't grant (1) and then deny (1)--transcendence is transcending the physical universe, so that its cause cannot be physical as well. The rest of your comment is irrelevant to your original assertion, as far as I can tell, and so can be safely ignored. :)

    4. Randy,
      You ignored the major points of my post, ignored my objection to your claim that the universe had a beginning, ignored all of my questions and then repeated your claim as if no objections to it were ever raised. You failed to prove the universe had a beginning and unless you can do that your argument fails.You also ignored all of the questions I posed. If you had answered these questions you know that would have exposed the weakness of your position, which is why you ignored them. Why can't the universe be the uncaused cause that gives rise to all other cause and effect? Why can't your cause be something like vacuum fluctuation? Can you prove non-physical causes are even possible? What evidence do you have that there was ever just nothing, or that absolute nothingness is even possible? And exactly how would you define "nothing" anyway? It's your blog and you don't have to answer any questions. But if you don't answer these questions then we will both know you have no answers to these questions and that my objections stand and cannot in fact, be safely ignored. If I make these objections and ask these questions other people will too.

      Ignoring a critics objections to claims and then repeating these same claims over and over and over and over again as if no objections to them were ever raised is a very common creationist debating tactic. Ken Ham tried using this tactic in his debate with Bill Nye and all it did was expose to everyone just how weak and absurd the case for creationism really is. You just demonstrated how weak and absurd the kalam argument really is. And BTW bad debating ethics reflect bad personal ethics.

      Finally, what's he point to any theistic argument? Science is always going to ignore any supernatural explanations. So why even make them up?

    5. Boris, you get precisely one free rhetoric pass (I try to give the same courtesy to everyone else. Just to be clear: I don't allow rhetoric on my blog: substantive interactions only, please. :)

      Also, to be clear: I'm the one that told you I was ignoring the rest of your post! I'm only concerned, at this point, with your claim, which was that the kalam fails because it engages in special pleading in stating the universe needs a cause but God doesn't. I believe I addressed the claim in two separate posts, providing clear reasoning behind it. Now if you want to abandon that claim, that's fine, but I won't proceed any further in the conversation until you either: a) rescind that particular claim, admitting it fails, or b) address the arguments and reasoning I gave.

      Even a cursory look around my blog shows I interact with many substantive criticisms of my positions, so, again, I ask you to dispense with the rhetoric, so we can move on with the conversation! :)

    6. Sorry, Boris, you already used your rhetoric pass. I won't be manipulated very easily. ;) You will only be allowed to comment if you refrain from rhetoric and address (a) or (b) above. Just so I'm clear, you might want to be as clear with me as possible about which of (a) or (b) you are doing, and how it applies. Because I might not be very good at interpreting some people some of the time, it's nice to get the help! God bless. :)

  5. Hi - in the interest of brevity I only want to address one thing - your comment about the 'non-personal energy' being the cause suggested by the Kalam argument. I will grant that the Kalam is a mostly coherant set of propositions and conclusions (as long as you make some very important qualifications, such as what counts as a 'cause'). I see no reason why the laws of physics themselves couldn't be the transcendant cause of the universe. Aside from anthropomorphism, they share a lot of charactaristics with God as typically envisioned (indeed, I think there's a large number of nominal christians who basically equate the two). They cause everything that happens (I think), and they have this wierd feature of being entirely non-corporeal and yet very materially present. They would seem to have the power to create just about anything - from atoms to stars to universes. They seem to be entirely timeless - as far as I can tell they're eternal. I'm unaware of a reason to assert their metaphysical necessity, but (and I hope I don't sound unduly dismissive) I have never quite seen the motivation for the concept of metaphysical necessity in the first place. Whatever form reality takes, it seems to me that one should of course question it, tinker with it, explore it, but I don't see grounds for categorically declaring it ontologically insufficient. By all means ponder it, but ruminations on whether a thing is metaphysically necessary seem a little contrived and maybe even futile. Even if the concept of metaphysical necessity is in some deep sense valid, I think it's epistemically presumptuous to suppose that we have the clairvoyance to distinguish between things which are and aren't necessary. The general retort to the broad class of ontological arguments is that they rely on a linguisticly constructed confusion between things which we imagine to exist and their actual existence - the classic retort to the 'greater than which none can be concieved' line is an island which is perfect and therefore must exist. The theistic counter is that islands can never be fully perfect. Either way, the point is that I see no reason why imagined perfect or great things are more or less inclined to exist. The argument seems to rely on the raw visceral awe of the believer as a conferrment of existance.

    1. Hi, jww, thanks for commenting! I will start by saying, however, that something can't be "mostly coherent." It either is or is not. There's nothing logically contradictory about the two premises of the kalam, so it's entirely coherent. I see plenty of good reasons the laws of physics cannot cause the universe: 1. They are part of the universe, they don't transcend it. 2. They are descriptive accounts of forces, which are physical. 3. There's no reason to think they Platonically exist. I would also dispute your claim that we have no way to adjudicate modality. I see no reason to think that is the case. The argument relies on modal considerations, which cannot be blithely dismissed. The problem with most atheists these days is they're quite content to pontificate on and on, without ever actually *showing* anything. I'm not trying to be offensive, but you just made claim after claim after claim, without trying to show any of them. I have been literally given no reasons to think any of what was said was true.

  6. Hi Randy,

    I would mostly agree with your assessment of the debate. This one was tough for me to judge because the science (and there was plenty of it in this debate) is simply way, way over my head. I prefer Dr. Craig's debates with philosophers over scientists because the philosophical arguments are only slightly over my head. :)

    The event has been described as a debate, but it wasn't clear from the promotional materials that there was a specific question being debated (i.e., "Does current cosmology provide evidence of God's existence?"). If that indeed was the question, then I think that Dr. Craig had a fairly easy task. Although I am not myself a theist, I think it is disingenuous to say that the apparent beginning and fine-tuning of the universe don't make the existence of a God more likely, even if only slightly, than if neither condition was present.

    Now, if the debate topic was "Does current cosmology provide evidence that God's existence is likely?", then my assessment of the debate would be different.


    1. Hi Bryan! Thanks for commenting. :) I enjoyed it, and I admit that I can't adjudicate purely scientific matters also. So, for instance, I can't criticize Carroll's cosmological discussions. Because of that, I can only judge the philosophy side. Craig took the question to be what you described, but said he wanted to defend the slightly stronger claim: "The evidence from contemporary cosmology makes God’s existence considerably more probable than it would be without it." In that respect, I'm a little surprised Craig didn't at least mention Bayesian factors (since one could, in theory, grant that cosmology provides evidence for God, but not enough to make it significantly more probable than it would have been without it). However, Craig may not have done this because, in part, he wasn't even claiming the stronger still claim that current cosmology provides evidence that God's existence is likely? After all, suppose one holds a prior probability that God exists at, say, .2 (being pretty unlikely). Craig's contention probably should be regarded as true, in this case, if the evidence from cosmology raised it to , say, .5 (or maybe even .4, but that's beside the point one way or another). Even though the person in this situation would not say that contemporary cosmology makes God's existence likely, she would say that such evidence makes God's existence considerably more probable than it would have been without it. Carroll didn't explicitly object to the question, but seemed to be defending that these things provided *any evidence at all.* But, he needn't have defended that claim. Just my thoughts! :)

    2. Randy,
      I don’t know how much a technical Bayesian argument would have helped Dr. Craig’s case, at least rhetorically. It’s obvious that for Dr. Carroll, the weight of all the cosmological evidence has lowered his probability that God exists. So, while Dr. Craig could and does argue that the probability of God’s existence is enhanced by certain cosmological discoveries, Dr. Carroll could interject that this is only after the prior probability has been beaten down by other scientific discoveries. Dr. Carroll alluded to this in his statement that 500 years ago he would have been a theist. However, even if one grants that science moves the probability needle down (and I’m not saying that it does), that does not mean that there is no cosmological evidence for God, or that science has eliminated all evidence of God (surely it hasn't).

    3. Bryan, thanks for your very insightful and respectful commentary. I think I see where you're coming from here. I do think that it would be, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the debate topic, however. The reason I say that is because the claim by Craig was that the evidence from cosmology increases God's probability. Oh--I see what you're saying. I was just about to launch into things outside of cosmology, and how those would be irrelevant. Well, then I see what you're saying. But it's worth noting that if cosmology provides any support for God's existence, then it's at least raising the probability when those things are considered. I can see that Carroll thought the probability was lowered, but it was extremely difficult to see why. He made a lot of assertions, and they may even be correct, but there wasn't a lot of argument or explanation, and as a result, people like me didn't get much benefit from his side.

    4. Hi Randy, I admire your tact, and knowledge in defense of truth! I also wonder if your "rhetoric pass" would be a tactic I should use myself. I myself was surprised Craig had such excellent rebuttals against Carroll's scientific models he proposed. I believe Carroll tried to shift the importance from the most important to the least. Although models are foundations, their veracity should be taken into consideration. Carroll talked about creating models as being most important, and named those which were in favor of his eternal models. In stressing the importance of creating models, he, in my opinion, offered a red herring to divert the attention away from their veracity... Craig went on to show how those particular models failed, which is what Carroll was lacking. Having observed some atheist responses online, they typically could care less about scientific data, and pretend Craig doesn't know anything about science. The fact of the matter is, Carroll did not state the probabilities of his models in comparison to the standard model and other ideas defended by Craig, while Craig was the one defending his position which actual cosmological data in depth, which showed how Carroll's models were in probability, realistically low.

      As far as the fine tuning goes, I agree, Carroll did not explain how the universe was not fine tuned adequately. He explained how in different universes, our laws of physics would be different, and the way we see things would not be fine tuned to us, but that does not explain how things are fine tuned in this universe, because they are.

    5. Hi John, thanks for the comments! I've found that the idea of a comments policy (which I have had for some time) only works if people read it, so the "rhetoric pass" is something I do now. I allow them to post pretty much whatever (as long as it's not *too* bad or vulgar or whatnot), but then tell them I won't accept what I call "rhetoric," where by "rhetoric" I mean poisoning the well, being off topic, shifting the burden of proof, making wild claims and refusing to substantiate them, etc. I try to be very sensitive to what is rhetoric and what is something I merely do not like. If it's the latter, I let it stay. If it's the former, I tell them that they've hereby used their one free rhetoric pass. :) Boris, specifically, has sent multiple comments for moderation now that have not passed, because he will not address the issue. It won't keep me up at night, and it keeps everybody's blood pressure down. ;)

      I think your assessment is pretty spot on with what I was thinking! I found Carroll to be either equivocating or irrelevant when it came to the fine tuning argument. On his blog, he insisted he wasn't saying there's no fine tuning, just that there was no fine tuning *for us.* It was horribly ambiguous in the debate, and in fact it looked as though he simply was denying that there was fine tuning for life, which was incredible. But then notice, if we accept that he meant that we cannot show that fine tuning is done for the purpose of our benefit, that he is addressing an irrelevant claim: it admits there is fine tuning, and doesn't address any premises in the argument. So what, Dr. Carroll? :)

  7. The problem with Craig's version of the Kalam that he used here, is that it is far from obvious that if the universe has a beginning than it has a transcendent cause. How can you cause the beginning of time? Simultaneous causation is a farce; it doesn't exist. Another thing Carroll brought up, is Craig's characterization of the universe popping into being. Even if one grants the A-theory of time, the universe doesn't really pop into being. The reason why is that this presumes that you somehow have absolute nothing - and then - the universe inexplicably "pops" into existence. But this is not how it works because it presumes time exists prior to the universe. Since time is intertwined with space, from the very first moment of t=0 you have a universe. There is no moment when nothing exists prior to the universe.

    Therefore, you start with a universe; it doesn't "pop" into being. It's the same way how you cannot rewind a DVD passed 00:00:00. There is no such time as -00:00:01 on a DVD player. From the moment the DVD starts at 00:00:00 you have a movie. Carroll brought this up during the Q & A but they were not allowed to go back and forth on it.

    1. Hello, thanks for commenting. You beg the question (or just give a bare assertion) when you say simultaneous causation doesn't exist. I say it does. The end. :)

      It's difficult to make sense of your criticism of that the universe doesn't pop into existence because it presumes that time existed prior to the big bang. In fact, in nearly all of Craig's presentations, he claims that time came into being at the big bang. So what's supposed to be the problem?

    2. Can you give me any actual examples of simultaneous causation that don't beg any questions?

      To your point about Craig, it just goes to show you how he deliberately misleads when he constantly accuses the atheist of believing the universe "pops" into being "from" nothing, as if nothing is a place the universe comes from. If there is no time before the our universe (and this is an assumption) and space and time are intertwined in what scientists call spacetime, then there is no moment when the universe doesn't exist. It therefore does not pop into being, it simply has a first moment. Is that more clear? I hope so.

    3. Hello, thanks for commenting! The dialectic is that you have said such causation is impossible--it won't work to then say "prove me wrong." Why should I think it's not possible? Craig is quite forthcoming on what "nothing" is, as we have seen with his discussions with Krauss. :)

      Thanks for the clarification on what the argument is: 1. If there is no time before our universe, then there is no moment when the universe does not exist. 2. There is no time before our universe. 3. Therefore, there is no moment when the universe does not exist. 4. Therefore, the universe does not pop into being.

      Of course, (4) doesn't follow. So I think I can strengthen the argument for you, symbolizing it as (4'):

      4'. If there is no moment when the universe does not exist, it does not pop into being.

      Now it follows, but it seems unclear why anyone should accept this argument. Especially since Craig uses "pop into being" to be synonymous with "come into being," and juxtaposes it with the clause "uncaused out of nothing."

    4. Randy, thanks for replying.

      On simultaneous causation, the reason why I'm skeptical of it is because every "cause" that we are aware of in the universe is a material cause and a temporally prior cause. There are no known example of actual simultaneous causality. Kant's example of a ball resting on a pillow doesn't work, because we know the ball was placed there prior to the indentation on the pillow. So the problem you face is how god can create time, if prior to time existing, literally nothing can happen? No events, physical or mental, can happen. I don't see how god, existing in a static state "from eternity," as it is said, can suddenly "decide" to create time. It makes no sense to me.

      On the topic of the universe "popping into existence out of nothing," your assessment is about right: there is no moment when the universe does not exist, and therefore, it does not "pop" into being. I don't see why it's unclear to accept this argument. Craig uses "pop into being" as a way to make the atheist look foolish, by arguing that there is "nothing" and then somehow a universe inexplicably "pops" into being. This is a total mischaracterization of the big bang model, as well as other models proposed by many cosmologists. Saying, "come into being" is still wrong, since again, there is never a moment in time when the universe doesn't exist. And saying "out of nothing" is also misleading because "nothing" never existed, it's purely conceptual, not ontological.

      So it seems unclear to me why I should accept the idea of "popping into being," "come into being," or coming "uncaused out of nothing." All of them are technically misleading.

    5. Ah, I see. As to simultaneous causation, the kalam just entails such a thing! Now it is said that nothing can happen prior to time, but that's not what simultaneous causation claims! :) The decision itself brings the first moment of time, and the decision, while explanatorily prior, is not causally prior. Even if something is universally true of something, we would not want to confuse it with a necessary condition or property of something (e.g., every human lives in the solar system, therefore every human must live in the solar system).

      I mostly consider the argument to be a bare assertion (at least as it comes with respect to [4']). And yes, it is an attempt to make the atheist look foolish, but it *is* accurate. Some atheists don't think it is foolish, and that's fine with me (I'm interested in the substance of it, after all). On Craig's analysis, it is perfectly legitimate to say the universe came into being out of nothing, as there was nothing (as in "no thing") and then the universe came into existence (note, not saying "after" there was nothing, just describing two states). Craig's analysis is as follows: e comes into being at t if and only if (i) e exists at t, (ii) t is the first time at which e exists, (iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly, and (iv) e’s existing at t is a tensed fact.

      Read more:

      The universe, under the kalam's premise 2, meets this requirement. Since the kalam just is something that entails the simultaneous causation. So in that case, in the absence of a good reason to think it's impossible, we ought to turn all attention to the premises themselves!

    6. I fully understand that simultaneous causation entails an effect without a prior cause, and since I find this stuff fascinating I will respond to your points individually.

      "The decision itself brings the first moment of time, and the decision, while explanatorily prior, is not causally prior."

      But since no events can happen before time, how does god decide on what kind of universe to create? In other words, how does a timeless god who knows everything "freely" chose to create our world and not some other world? God can't make decisions, because if he did that would require time, and he can't be indecisive because that would falsify his omniscience. So god must have the eternal desire and knowledge to create our world, say World X, and not some other world, say World Y, – meaning there was never a time god wanted to create World Y instead of World X. He always wanted to create World X. How then is the creation of World X "freely" decided by god if the creation of world Y or the forbearance to create any world never existed?

      William Lane Craig in a recent debate with Lawrence Krauss gives us an answer. "I would say that God exists timelessly with the intention that a physical world exist. And then there's an exercise of this causal power, um, that brings the universe into existence." But Craig's answer misses something very important. God cannot merely exist with the intention to create "a" physical world, he has to exist with the intention to create our physical world because any deliberation to create World X over World Y or vice versa would require time and indecision, which god cannot have prior to creating the universe. Craig goes on to say, "But we shouldn't think of God as existing, twiddling his thumbs, from eternity and then 'deciding' to make a universe." But if that's true, if god's decision to make a universe always existed, then how did he decide to "exercise his causal power"? To create something requires at least two decisions. First is the decision on what to create, and second is the decision to act that brings about the creation. I can intend to write a book and never get around to it out of laziness unless I decide to act and exercise my causal power. If having the intention to create World X (our world) existing eternally absolves god from having to make the first decision (even though it opens up additional problems), then the second necessary decision to act on it still requires time and would logically require an antecedent state of indecision. But if however, you argue that god's decision to act was also preordained and existed eternally, as it must have in order to avoid problems with god's timelessness and omniscience, then god has no free will and our universe was determined since it would have been impossible that it didn't exist. These are some of the things that convince me that "god" is not a fully coherent concept. Do you think I'm missing something?

    7. "I mostly consider the argument to be a bare assertion (at least as it comes with respect to [4'])."

      I disagree. The argument about popping into existence is not derived from physics. Craig's is derived from an intuition that I think is false.

      "On Craig's analysis, it is perfectly legitimate to say the universe came into being out of nothing, as there was nothing (as in "no thing") and then the universe came into existence (note, not saying "after" there was nothing, just describing two states)."

      I think you go wrong when you say, "there was nothing" - because there wasn't. That's my whole point. There is no time for nothing to exist, i.e. there is no moment when the state of affairs is said to have "no thing." If there was a moment when "no thing" could exist, then time would exist, and if you have time you have a thing. This is especially true on the B-theory of time, which is better supported by science and would invalidate (iii) and (iv) in Craig's assessment. But even without it, "no thing" can only exist in the negative time range (-1.0 seconds) which never exists. At t=0 we already have a universe because time begins with the universe. I don't think Craig's assessment shows the kalam to be true at all, it's both logically and physically flawed.

    8. God's decision is what brings time into being. The only problem is if you insist that God's decision requires a time prior to the decision, which assumes simultaneous causation is false, which is what we're trying to establish! :) Now Craig's view is not that God existed in an everlasting time prior to creation, but that time comes into being at the moment of creation, so that it won't make a non-trivial difference to say that there never was a time where God had not decided to create; that's trivially true since the first moment is simultaneous with the creative decision, which is simultaneous with the action (that's what we mean with the creative decision).

      I find your second post to be confused. It seems to assume something like "in order for there to be a state of nothingness, it must be the case that time does not exist." But I don't see any good reason to think that's true (your assertion of the B-theory is just an assertion). Again, we've been given no reason to support (4'), and no reason to deny (1) of the kalam.

      I have to ask that you at least provide some reason to think your claims are true. :)

    9. How does a static mind suddenly "decide" anything, especially when it knows everything? I've been studying Craig's view and he's a bit ambiguous here. He's written about "metaphysical time" where events can happen without time, which to me is nothing but wordplay. And he's spoken about "finite" time where god has time before creating the universe but this time is not past eternal. No time, no decisions. No indecision, no decisions. I don't see how you get out of this dilemma without wordplay. That's why I don't find theism plausible (among other things).

      On the second point when you say, "But I don't see any good reason to think that's true" is exactly where I think you go wrong. We have a very good reason to think that's true because time is something - wouldn't you agree? If you have time you do not have nothing. And if Platonism is true, you will always have abstract objects, hence you will never have nothing. So my argument would be that "absolute" nothing is merely a concept in our minds, but not something that can ever exist ontologically.

      On the B-theory, yes you are right that I didn't back it up with data, I didn't intend to prove it to you. But if you look at the data you will find that the B-theory is much better supported and it is in fact the A-theory that is asserted with little evidence. Now if you want me to provide more data on this, I will be happy to. But let's just say for now that the kalam is predicated on an ill-supported theory of time in addition to its philosophical flaws. I hope we're not talking passed one another.

    10. Thanks! I think we are reaching an impasse. I recognize those formulations, but Craig actually rejects all of those views in discussion (alternate times, as it were). I'm not sure what relevance it is to ask "how," or "by what method" God makes decisions. I assume his faculty of will! Now certainly that requires a moment, but not a prior one! Now this is all in response to: 4'. If there is no moment when the universe does not exist, it does not pop into being.

      As to the ontology of time, no, I don't think it is something. I think it's a measured objective feature of reality, like numbers and whatnot, but I don't think those are things either. But letting that pass, surely you don't think there is any kind of causal relationship or physical formation with respect to these abstract objects, right? That would be a new style defense, but one which I am unclear on how anyone would defend without also defending an eternal universe, which in the dialectic is presupposed to be false (since this is supposed to be an internal critique of Craig's complaint that a denial of [1] presupposes a universe that pops into being uncaused out of nothing).

      As to the B-theory, it is true that it is accepted more widely today than before, but I actually think it has far more problems against it than for it. No matter for now. I think one would have to make a pretty good case for the B theory anyway. :)

    11. Yes, it seems that we are approaching these topics from two very different metaphysical perspectives. The problem I see of the will, when god is timeless and omniscient, is to me a red flag for the explanatory power of theism. It seems to me that if one agrees with Craig, then god exists in a static state that you could say is eternal or timeless, knowing everything, including that he will create a universe exactly like ours and not any other, or no universe, and then somehow, like a man sitting from eternity who wills to stand up (to use one of Craig's analogies), god suddenly "decides" to create our universe (which he knew he would create), and this creates time.

      I just don't see this as plausible. A man sitting from eternity can never do anything, because his will to stand requires a change in mental states, which requires time. So I would argue that time must preexist in order for decisions to be made. And if his will to stand existed in his eternal state of sitting, then it is impossible any other state could have happened, like for example, to continue sitting for eternity. I see no room for free will.

      Anyway, on the topic of time, I certainly see time as something, that's why it's called spacetime. It's theists who are usually accusing the atheist of redefining nothing to mean something, now you're saying time could exist, and you'd still have nothing. My whole point on nothing is that it does not and cannot exist; it is purely conceptual, not actual. Thus, having something, is the ontological default state of things, not nothing. To your question, I'm actually an agnostic on Platonism, but I tend to lean away from it towards nominalism. But, no I don't think abstract objects have any kind of causal influence on the physical world. There are some scientists who hold to the "mathematical universe" hypothesis, in which case the numerical laws of physics are prescriptive rather than descriptive, but I'm skeptical of this.

      On the B-theory, I'd love to hear the problems you think it has. Just out of curiosity let me ask you this. If - let's just say if - the B-theory were to be true, do you think Christian theism is compatible with it? If so how?

    12. As to this quote: "A man sitting from eternity can never do anything, because his will to stand requires a change in mental states, which requires time. So I would argue that time must preexist in order for decisions to be made." But that just presumes that simultaneous causation is not possible--which is precisely what we want! The argument only works in that time is required in order to make a decision (since then we have a difference between two states, which is what we mean by time). I'm not saying "time exists" in anything but a colloquial sense, as in "numbers exist," "the truth exists," et al. That people call it space-time is just to assert a biographical fact about some people; interesting, but not itself an argument. ;) I think we have a reification of "nothingness" again: nothing is no thing and has no properties, not even the property of "being conceptual" or "not being actual." In any case, since it's not like you posit these abstract objects as having any causal influence, then it can't be used to deny the universe popped into being/came into being uncaused out of nothing. It would seem odd to say that because there are some possible propositions, say, "The universe can come into existence," that therefore the universe did not come into being uncaused out of nothing.

      I do think B-theory is quite compatible with Christian belief. Some two propositions are compatible just in the case they can both be true without being exclusive of one or the other. It would seem odd to me to say that "If objective becoming is not true, then God does not exist." I suppose we could argue that if Christian theism is true, a particular conception of God must be true, and this conception is not compatible with the B-theory. But I'd be far more likely to give up the conception than Christian theism (and of course, B-theory before Christian theism if they were to be incompatible). Of course, that's too far afield for this discussion. At its broadest, I'm interested in the kalam. Of course, B-theory isn't even incompatible with a modified version of the kalam (WLC speaks to this, and even an open letter has been written to Carroll more or less mentioning this [though, in fairness, it's more or less on a PSR]). Craig writes, "One B-theorist said to me, “If a horse starts to exists at some time t, of course the B-theorist would say that there has to be a cause earlier than t that explains why there is (tenselessly) a horse at t!” That seems eminently sensible to me." He also says elsewhere: "Now on a B-Theory of time I think it’s easy to see how God can create the universe in the sense that the universe contingently depends upon God for its being. The whole four-dimensional spacetime manifold just exists as a block on this view, and God exists “outside” the block and sustains it in being. On this view creating is not necessarily a temporal action; God can create timelessly."

    13. One of the major problems I think B-theory has to overcome is its counterintuitiveness. Temporal becoming is real on A-theory, and things really do come into and go out of being--surely a commonsense view. On B-theory, temporal becoming is not real and things do not really come into or go out of being. I realize B-theorists don't think this is an insuperable difficulty (I'm aware of the standard replies), but I'm also not one to blithely dismiss philosophical intuitions. It is a problem; whether one sees it as particularly difficult or insuperable will depend on other factors. Another problem is that on the B-theory, there is no truth about what time it is now, or even that anything is happening now, or that there even is a now. I think there are theological problems entailed by B-theory, such that God does not seem to know any tensed truths (not a problem for you, no doubt, but for me, yes). I think there are other issues, but I'd like to say that most of why scientists take time to be B-theoretic is because of physical measurements. However, as WLC argues: "That temporality is not inherently connected to the occurrence of physical events is evident from the fact that a succession of mental events alone is sufficient for a temporal series." That seems pretty legit. :) I also think the B-theory lacks any sufficient reasons for taking the "earlier than/later than" relations to be genuine; it just seems to be presumed. Of course, the way out of this is to deny that there are such relations on the B-theory, and insist this is not a big deal and there are no real temporal relations at all. That seems to me to count against the B-theory; so much the worse, as they say. But, after all that, the B-theory is technically even outside the scope of this original discussion (which was whether or not simultaneous causation is possible). On a B-theory, it's only not possible in the semantic sense, not in the actual sense (especially if this last critique sticks). WLC also has an excellent discussion on why the B-theory entails perdurantism, meaning that persons do not endure through time, and so there is no one "you," but many. These many persons cannot be said to be the same, so that the me writing this is a separate person from earlier times; in fact, a different person entirely started writing this post! That strikes me as too bizarre to be true. At least, it struck the me who wrote that sentence that way. ;)

      Read more:

      Read more:

      Read more:

    14. Randy, I love your replies, as they are well thought out.

      I guess this all comes down to simultaneous causality (SC), right? Here's why I'm skeptical of it. First, there are no real world examples of actual SC to my knowledge as all things with causes have physical and temporally prior causes. If you can give me a real world example, go for it. Second, it seems that a presentist or tensed theory on time must be acknowledged in order to safely claim simultaneous causation to exist. How then can something exist from "eternity" under presentism? I suppose a presentist will propose some sort of static or frozen timeless state that precedes the existence of time, but I struggle to grasp the idea of simultaneous causation in this scenario. If the cause is eternal, then the effect must be eternal too if they're simultaneous. One could not precede the other; they'd be frozen in time, unchanging. But if the effect can exist from eternity, why does it need a cause? An eternal effect seems to render the need for a cause as redundant.

      Third, how can this be related to the origin of the universe? I ask this, because I don't see how the cause of the universe and the effect of the universe beginning can exist from "eternity" in the same way that the usual SC analogies are poised, given a presentist theory on time where temporal becoming is real. Does the cause and effect "begin" to exist from nothing temporally? If so, doesn't that make the idea of existing from eternity actually impossible? And wouldn't god have had to will it to exist first? Or does god willing the universe coincide with the effect of the universe beginning to exist too? And how can we know what caused what if the cause and the effects are temporally simultaneous? A cause and effect existing eternally kind of reminds me of the idea of the universe causing itself to exist because the universe's cause and effect would exist simultaneous. Or, if existing from eternity is possible, why can't the earliest state of the singularity exist from eternity until it started to expand and create time along with it? The theist might say that a mind is needed to will time into existence allowing change, but then we're back to the idea of god's will existing from eternity, making it impossible that he could've chosen not to create the universe. And unless you want to propose some kind of 'metaphysical' time that is pure theological conjecture, our universe would not be contingent.

      Fourth, the problem with simultaneous causation is that if A can cause B at the same time, what's not to say that A can cause B which can cause C at the same time too? You can then imagine an infinite amount of causes and effects and say they all occur simultaneous and end up with a what can appear to be nonsensical. If an actual infinite number of simultaneous causes and effects isn't possible, then one occurring simultaneous probably isn't either. Temporal procession between effects and their cause prevents this problem. To say that a cause doesn't have to precede its effects opens you up to these kinds of conundrums. Thus if one accepts SC, then it seems one must also accept that actual infinities can exist, (which many theists have a problem with).

      On nothingness, if it has no properties, then you can't say something can't come out of it, because that's a property. Even on the A-theory, to say the universe actually came out of nothing, means to say that nothing existed, then something existed, it presupposes time. Back to my earlier point, if nothing never existed, the universe didn't "come out of nothing." Do you have any arguments to demonstrate that a state of absolute nothing ever existed ontologically?

    15. On the B-theory being counter-intuitive, I think that's a weak argument against it. If counter-intuitiveness was our falsification criterion, then evolution, special relativity, and quantum mechanics would all be false, since they are all counter-intuitive. Intuition is certainly not a practical epistemology when it comes to ontology. So I would, unlike you, blithely dismiss many philosophical intuitions. In Craig's world it seems nothing can exist that isn't intuitively obvious.

      I've been studying up on WLC's arguments against the B-theory and most are philosophical/theological. His only scientific argument comes from the neo-Lorentzian view on time, which very few scientists and philosophers hold too. It assumed the undetectable luminiferous ether, that is purely metaphysical, as there is no data that it exists.

      When it comes to earlier/later than, time is subjective on the B-theory. Think of time like a timescape, much like a landscape. What is "north" is subjective depending where you are on earth, hence what is earlier or later depends on where you are in spacetime. You still have temporal relations, they are just relative to where you are in the manifold. No crisis there.

      On perdurantism, (an esoteric term if there ever was one! ;) remember that subatomic particles that make up the spaces inside atoms are popping into and out of existence all the time. The physical matter that makes up you and me, doesn't endure at all. It simply just exists at different points in spacetime. Perhaps its all bizarre, but almost everything in QM is. I wouldn't believe it myself if there wasn't evidence for it. Therefore perdurantism doesn't strike me as a defeater either.

      Personally I find it hard to combine theism with the B-theory. If the universe is eternal, it certainly never came into being and needs no sustainer. God really couldn't have any effect on it and would be totally redundant. The contingency argument could still be made, but I think that on the B-theory, it too, like the kalam is rendered impotent. An eternal universe can have no creator, and thus to say god is the reason why there is a universe at all, implies that he had something to do with it's existence, which if it is eternal, he could not have. It forces us to reconsider the whole idea behind contingent ontology and the PSR.

      On top of all that, we have some empirical evidence that the B-theory is true :)

      Arxiv paper:

    16. Hi there peoples,

      I have written a good deal on the KCA and hope to have a book out on it later this year. It is, shall I say, a mild obsession, It is interesting to note that Craig has changed his formulation of it.

      On simultaneous causation, Craig takes a Kantian view which I think is not possible to uphold, especially given understanding of physics. Craig even uses the ball and cushion example, so we can take his views to be braodly the same as Kant.

      DH Mellor, in Real Time II, sets out exactly why SC is incoherent in his section on SC (this used to be available on google books, but they have changed the format to epub and now half of the section cannot be seen). Part of the problem with Craig is he special pleads an interpretation of Lorentz invariance which gives him an independent benchmark time. And he only does this because it gets him to God. And he only adheres to this interpretation because it is supported by the God hypothesis. In other words, the whole project is hopelessly circular. Counter Apologist has a good video on this.I think it might be this one but could be another:

      Another video that looks into it is:

      Grunbaum also talks about this and has argued with Craig over this:


    17. "The decision itself brings the first moment of time, and the decision, while explanatorily prior, is not causally prior."

      The problem is this: you and Craig merely assert ex nihilo nihil fit. That's exactly what it is. Craig admits that it is an intuitive assumption But of course, there is nothing other than inductive inference of things around us, possibly in the universe, and extrapolating that to the universe. Of course, if you allow that to be valid, then the claim that there is no such thing as simultaneous causation is also equally valid.

      In other words, you are special pleading the logic you use as being applicable to one aspect rather than to another which is inconvenient for you.



    18. I think I my have meant Special Relativity earlier, not GR.

    19. There is so much here, and my time is so limited, so I'll just list my responses to The Thinker in one post, and Jonathan in one other one (hopefully this is OK). :)

      The Thinker, I have really enjoyed these messages! I'll tackle each of the arguments against SC one at a time. To the real world example, if we assumed this principle against any individual example of something, then we would never be justified in affirming anything. For before we can affirm something as an example of category C, we must have some other thing fitting into C. But before we can know that is in C, we must know some other thing, and ad infinitum, so that we can never know something is in C.

      As to #2, since "eternity" is being used as "timeless state," then presentism just doesn't come into the picture. Presentism is a theory of time, so that time won't have anything to do with timeless. I agree if the cause is eternal, then so is the effect, but on the kalam, God is not eternally causing the universe; his single act of causation bring time and the universe into play. This is also the answer to #3, as the cause and effect do *not* exist from eternity on the kalam.

      As to #4, I reject actual infinites as being metaphysically possible. Apparently the argument is that if SC were true, such would be possible. But I don't see why. That's like saying if counting were possible, then actual infinites are possible, since, in theory, if one can count, then what prevents all numbers from being counted? The arguments supporting the lack of an actual infinite would also apply to these effects in the causal chain (that is, if one works, so does the other).

      It's not clear to me that being able to say something about the absence of any thing means that it has a property. For instance, saying nothing has no properties means that nothing has the property of having no properties would be the very mistake I am talking about: we shouldn't think that therefore, nothing has properties. We should rather think we have reasoned incorrectly by reifying nothingness. So it is with this: ex nihilo, nihil fit is a negative way of saying something comes from something.

      I'm certainly not saying that nothing counterintuitive exists. But I do mean to say that if something is counterintuitive, that counts against it. I see no reason to amend that claim. I don't think science can adjudicate the time debate, so philosophical arguments are precisely what we need.

      Perdurantism doesn't strike who as a defeater? You? Which one? The you reading this now isn't the same as the you who read it then, and he wasn't the same as the one who wrote it, and the one who wrote it wasn't the same as the one who wrote the last sentence. All of this is so much the worse for physicalism, as I say.

    20. Hi Jonathan, thanks for replying. I find it odd that you would think physics applies here, since there *were no physics* at the logical point of SC. I'm not sure you're using "special pleading" correctly. :) That happens when someone is using some principle to argue against X, that principle would also argue against Y, but the someone says, for no good reason, "this doesn't apply to Y."

      I don't want to be offensive, but I worry that you say you're publishing a book about this and think that Craig has no reasons or arguments for his particular premises/views. I surely don't expect you to think they're *good* reasons, but ignoring the arguments doesn't bode well. I assume the book is going to be self-published.

      "But of course, there is nothing other than inductive inference of things around us, possibly in the universe, and extrapolating that to the universe. Of course, if you allow that to be valid, then the claim that there is no such thing as simultaneous causation is also equally valid."

      You seem to recognize that the causal principle is formed via intuition, but then insist that induction is somehow the way in which this principle is validated. At best, this is the way the principle is confirmed! Two very different things. Simultaneous causation is an entailment of the kalam. Entailments are stronger than inductive inferences. QED. :)

    21. Sorry, Jonathan, I don't allow non-substantive rhetoric on my blog--that's why the comment was not approved. :)

    22. @Randy,

      Thanks for responding. In the essence of keeping things short I will respond only to a few points you made.

      1. If we don’t need real-world examples of things in order to assume them, then I can just assert that something can come from nothing and leave it at that. But that wouldn’t make for an interesting conversation would it? There are no real world examples of SC, and since it has philosophical objections, I think that counts against it.
      2. If god is not eternally causing the universe, then you have to believe the SC of the universe began to exist. It doesn’t make sense to say that something existed in a static state “from eternity” as Craig puts it, and then decides to create a universe. Like I said, such a being must have had the desire to create our specific universe eternally, which means no other universe was ever possible.
      3. The analogies of SC are therefore not reflective of SC when used to describe the creation of the universe. And since there are no real-world examples, SC is on much weaker grounds.
      4. Actual infinities in SC wouldn’t have to be added one after another in time, they’d all exist simultaneously. So the arguments that show the problems that limit potential infinities from becoming actual infinities don’t apply here. So you could ask yourself this question, can god create an actual infinity all at once?
      5. Absolute nothing cannot exist. You will always have something. If it existed ontologically, that would be something. That’s why I think something is the ontological default, not nothing.
      6. I see very good reasons to think that counterintuitiveness should not necessarily be a count against something when dealing with ontology because the history of science forces us to acknowledge this.
      7. When you say “you” I define “you” or “me” as a collection of atoms that were created billions of years ago inside stars and that are continually renewing. Every 7 years your body sheds all its cells and the matter making up your body is completely different from before. The information in my brain/DNA is what carries over as the cells regenerate. There's no need for a “soul”. You seem to think that I’d be a different person with different memories/personality, but that’s not the case at all. I don’t think there is a problem for physicalism at all.

    23. I appreciate you keeping it short! :) As to (1), I refer you to the epistemological problem above! As to (2), God need not have the specific desire to create this world, he just needs to eternally desire a world, and then the decision or desire to create this particular world brings time. That means (3) doesn't follow, of course. As to (4), Craig rejects actual infinites at all, not just with successive addition. His arguments include the bookcase, Hilbert's hotel, and others. I agree that there is always a state of something's existing, but that's because I believe God necessarily exists. What is "it" when you say "if it existed ontologically, that would be something." Is "it" supposed to be "nothing"? If so, then you are reifying "nothingness," treating "no thing" as if it were some thing. As to (6), showing that there are some truths that do run counter to intuition does not show that all, or even most, truths run counter to intuition, nor does it escape the idea that rational intuition is necessary for knowledge. Therefore, while it may not be the final word, counterintuitiveness does count against something. As to (7), since that's not how I am using "you" or "I," (nor how most people do), then it follows that, in the normal sense, "you" or "I" do not exist, which I find absurd. If denying my existence is what it takes, then so much the worse for physicalism. :)

    24. Let me respond briefly to your points.
      1. I’m not sure what you were referring to here. Care to reference?
      2. If god doesn’t have a specific desire to create this world, then it somehow arises before he creates time, which is illogical in keeping with his timelessness before creation and omniscience. And you are still unable to say that it was possible that god desired no world to exist.
      3. That means 3 still applies.
      4. I understand Craig’s arguments as in with Hilbert’s hotel, I just don’t think HH works as an argument against actual infinities. If god is omniscient and has knowledge of every number that exists – an actual infinity, then what would happen if god removed all the even numbers in his mind from the set? I don’t see how you can avoid this without saying that god doesn’t have conscious knowledge of every number, which means he isn’t omniscient.
      5. My point is that non-existence can’t exist. If nothing is non-existence, it’s a contradiction to say nothing existed.
      6. My point was that when it comes to ontology, common sense everyday intuition is not always a useful guide. Science proves this. So to say that the B-theory isn’t intuitive and therefore likely false is a non-sequitor. What matters is what the evidence says, and the evidence leans heavily on the B-theory, especially since new experimental evidence backs it up.
      7. I’m assuming that you're a substance dualist who believes humans are body+soul. Therefore you think the soul grounds identity, the “you” that you speak of. I don’t accept dualism as there is no evidence for it, so the “you” that I’m talking about, may be a semantic difference in how we define identity and personhood. This doesn’t mean that “you” or “I” do not exist, it just means we don’t exist in the way you think of it.

    25. I think this will be my last post, because I'm so busy. I would like to give you the last word, though, so please feel free to respond after this one! :)

      1. For this, the problem was, "To the real world example, if we assumed this principle against any individual example of something, then we would never be justified in affirming anything. For before we can affirm something as an example of category C, we must have some other thing fitting into C. But before we can know that is in C, we must know some other thing, and ad infinitum, so that we can never know something is in C."
      2. Why can't the specific desire to create be simultaneous with time (again, just simultaneous causation)? It doesn't matter to me which is first, or even if the desire must precede the creation in time, for if that desire is simultaneous, then we can properly frame that as creation (since, it does bring time). As for me, I don't see a problem with the desire/decision to be simultaneous, as the first moment in time, with the effect.
      4. WLC doesn't think numbers exist, so there's that. :) It's also not clear that God's knowledge has to be enumeratively propositional (at least, it's never been shown, to my knowledge).
      5. I think this is just the fallacy of reifying nothingness. When Craig, or someone else, says that, on atheism, without the universe, nothing existed, he's not saying, "Before the universe, something existed, and we call it 'nothing'". Rather, he is saying, on atheism, it is not the case that anything existed; the set of existing things is empty; the number of existing things is zero; there is no thing that exists; there is a lack of things in the category of existing, etc. :) None of those are contradictory--only by reifying "nothing" and treating it as if it were "something" is this a problem. :)
      6. As to this point, the kalam defender need not say intuition is *always* reliable in order for it to be generally reliable. If something is generally reliable, then yes, what goes contrary to this is a mark against it. Perhaps there will be marks in its favor that ultimately outweigh this, but the point remains. Science can only measure time, and its individual measurements. Science just isn't equipped to discuss the philosophical arguments for and against the A and B theories, respectively. It can only take certain things as givens, and proceed from there.
      7. I can assent to a "You-1", which is your definition, and a "You-2," which is my definition. You-2 may not require substance dualism, just the idea that a person is something above just a particular collection, and that something has a beginning. You-1 either begins to exist several billion years ago, or not at all, depending on who's making the claim. You-2 begins to exist at various times, depending on who the referent is. On the B-theory of time, You-2 cannot survive from moment to moment. There are a near-infinite number of You-2's (or at least extremely large), and none of them are identical to the others. Therefore, You-2's do not survive through time. Most people, including scientists and philosophers, think that You-2 does survive, and that there really are such things as You-2's. You do not, but in the dialectic, I'm supposed to be convinced that simultaneous causation is impossible, and that the B-theory is true. Since I do accept You-2's, I will need a good reason to overcome this.

      And that's my overall point: since the whole point was for you to say that SC is impossible, I'd say the kalam is in pretty good shape. :)

    26. I hope you’re finding our conversation about “nothing” to be ironically entertaining. Who knew nothing was so interesting!

      1. Thanks for clarifying. I don’t think an ad infinitum is necessary. All we would need is one real-world example and that would be enough. SC used to explain the creation of the universe by god is not a real-world example; it’s a philosophical claim that has no real world examples.
      2. Because a being that is timeless and omniscient can’t have “free will” to “choose” or “decide” anything. It makes no sense, and it is special pleading to apply this to god and say that he just does. A timeless being can’t have any change in desire and any desire(s) it has must be eternal, so there is no way god could have created another universe, or no universe. So to answer the old question, “Did god have a choice in creating the universe?” The answer is no if we accept the god of classical theism.
      3. Skip.
      4. I could’ve sworn he did. Can you link me to anything where he states this? Anyway, how else would you describe god’s knowledge of every number – an actual infinity? Can god think of the number 5 separately from all the other numbers? Is god consciously aware of every proposition concerning numbers – all infinity of them?
      5. On atheism, there is no “without” the universe (or multiverse), because the universe exists at every moment in time and there is no time “before” the universe. This goes back to my initial point. This is a huge area of disagreement. Nothing is the total non-existence of anything (except time according to you, but I disagree) but non-existence cannot exist. Therefore nothing cannot in principle exist. Anything that exists, is not nothing. So if you're saying that a state of affairs exists where “the set of existing things is empty” - that’s something.
      6. When it comes to fundamental ontology, intuition is not generally reliable, it is often, (but of course not always) unreliable. The Kalam is based entirely on intuition, that’s why it fails. Science is the most reliable way to tell us what time is, it is not merely a tool to measure time. The A and B theories comes from McTaggart who was responding to the new theory of special relativity, which is science. So I can't make any sense of your statement that “Science just isn't equipped to discuss the philosophical arguments for and against the A and B theories”. They come from science. Or better yet, the A-theory comes from intuition; the B-theory comes from science.
      7. You're right that the dualism is not required to avoid perdurantism, as the A-theory can be true without dualism. When does a human begin to exist? When does anything begin to exist? We know humans are made of atoms that have existed for billions of years. A “human” is just a particular arrangement of atoms, sans dualism, analogous to a particular arrangement of Legos in the shape of a building. The “building” made of Legos doesn’t really “begin to exist” as its parts preexisted. The name “building” is just what we use to describe a particular arrangement of Legos. In your example, You-2’s are never identical from moment to moment because skin sheds, and atoms/biological functions change, etc. It’s always changing. And as most scientists and philosophers are atheists and therefore materialists, and many of them accept the B-theory of time (which BTW does doesn’t require materialism). If You-2 does survive, where is your evidence for it? Where is your evidence for endurantism? Science shows us the B-theory of time is better supported, and that we live in a determined universe where there is no evidence for dualism. It seems your only evidence for SC is via a philosophical claim. The Kalam is riddled with holes that it would take much more time to get into but SC is only a part of it. SC entails actual infinities & like I said, you haven’t avoided that other than mention Hilbert’s Hotel and potential infinities, which I argued don’t apply because you're applying the rules of finite arithmetic to transfinite arithmetics.

    27. Hey Randy and The Thinker,

      I know you guys have been debating the feasibility of Simultaneous Causation (SC), but it seems a little unnecessary to me and I think that the concept of some kind of metaphysical time has been dismissed a little too easily as a theological invention.

      The fact that time in our universe begins at the Big Bang does not necessarily mean that there is not or cannot be any kind of time external to it; or that if there is it would need to be eternal. Furthermore, such a conception is not restricted to theologians.

      For example, proponents of The Multiverse who picture our universe as one of many that is created in an ongoing process by some kind of inflation field, or by any other process, are assuming some order of events and time external to our universe.

      It seems to me that it is beyond our ability to actually discover scientifically whether or not there is time external to our universe, so it seems that the best approach to this question would be to determine whether the existence of such metaphysical or supernatural (i.e. above and external to our natural, physical universe) time is a necessary part of the most sound origins model we can come up with.

      On that basis, I think that if an intelligent mind would seem to be the best, or even necessary, cause of the origin of the universe, there's nothing wrong with positing some kind of metaphysical time that begins at the point that this mind makes some kind of creative choice or deliberation regarding which possible world it will actualize, and that, upon deciding, the creative act itself that brings about this physical universe also necessarily brings about the origin of time inside the universe. Indeed, on a Biblical model, we might expect that this mind would have brought about an entire non-physical, supernatural realm and non-physical beings to inhabit it, before bringing about the origin of the physical universe.

      I don't see a problem with this. If time can exist external to our universe on a materialistic model like The Multiverse, then I don't see why it should be impossible on a theological model. Furthermore, The Multiverse itself would seem to eventually run into the same problem as our own universe in terms of a beginning, and the question would again arise regarding the necessary and sufficient conditions to bring about the origin of the Multiverse and get that ball rolling. So it seems like we ultimately still come to the necessity of a mind that can freely exercise a creative choice. And that might then further necessitate the existence of metaphysical or supernatural time, even if the the Multiverse was real.

      Thoughts? I apologize if any of this is rushed or unclear. It's almost 2am and I'm a little foggy.

      Take care,

    28. Hi Ryan,

      Interesting thoughts. However I think your logic is wrong. The multiverse would posit time outside of our universe, but that time would be physical spacetime - just like the kind we live in. I actually don't think time 'began' with our universe, I was just using that as an example for the sake of argument with Randy.

      You're still left with the fuzzy unknowable concept of metaphysical time for which there is no evidence whatsoever. So I still see a big problem with your assessment.

      Second, there are multiverse models that are past eternal that even one of Sean Carroll's opponents James Sinclair agreed is a workable model. See here:

      So Craig is full of BS when he says there are no workable past eternal models. He never responds to Carroll on these points, he just reiterates his talking points over and over, hoping the audience will start to believe it if they hear it enough times.

    29. Hey man, good to see you on here! I would ask that you please be careful with comments such as your last paragraph. What Craig argues, rightly or wrongly, is that BGV says that any universe that expands on average cannot be past eternal. Now Craig may take something one way, and Carroll another, and the laymen a third, and so on: but surely, even if Craig were to be mistaken, it wouldn't be charitable to attribute to him a kind of disingenuousness.

    30. Hi The Thinker,

      I have to *respectfully* disagree with you regarding your comments for the existence of tenable past-eternal cosmogonic models and, once more, *respectfully* say that you are simply misinformed regarding the Aguirre-Gratton (AG) model. This model denies the evolutionary continuity of the universe which is topologically prior to τ and our universe. In their attempt to evade BVG, AG argue that inflation may be eternal both to the past and to the future *if* (and that's a huge "if" considering we are talking about time deconstruction!) the thermodynamic arrow of time is allowed to point in opposite directions in different spacetime regions. The time coordinate τ varies monotonically from −∞ to +∞, with the universe contracting at τ < 0, bouncing at τ = 0, and re-expanding at τ > 0. Thus, the model evades the BVG theorem since the eternal expansion of the universe is preceded by 'contraction.'

      However, there are multiple, fatal problems. For one, the other side of the de Sitter space is not *our* past; the moments of that time are not earlier than τ or any of the moments later than τ in *our* universe. There is no connection or temporal relation whatsoever of our universe to that *other* reality. But we can leave all that aside, despite it's being fatal to any hope of the model restoring past-completeness. There is yet another insurmountable problem. As Alex Vilenkin demonstrated in [],

      "Suppose the vacuum that fills this de Sitter space is a metastable (false) vacuum and that it can decay to one or more lower-energy vacua through bubble nucleation. Suppose further that we impose a boundary condition that the entire universe is in a false vacuum state in the asymptotic past, τ → −∞. Then bubbles nucleating at τ → −∞ will fill the space, the energy in the bubble walls will thermalize, and the universe will contract to a big crunch and ***will never get to the bounce and to the expanding phase.***"

      Therefore, he concluded the following:

      "Even though the spacetime has no boundary in the AG model, it does include a hyper-surface on which the low-entropy (vacuum) boundary condition must be enforced by some mechanism. This surface of minimum entropy plays the role of the ***beginning of the universe*** in this scenario."

    31. This reply will have to be posted in multiple parts because it's too long for one.

      Hi The Thinker,

      Thanks for the response.

      You said:
      Interesting thoughts. However I think your logic is wrong. The multiverse would posit time outside of our universe, but that time would be physical spacetime - just like the kind we live in. I actually don't think time 'began' with our universe, I was just using that as an example for the sake of argument with Randy.

      I don't think my logic IS wrong. As you'll recall, my primary point was simply that I thought the concept of metaphysical time was being dismissed a little too easily.

      It seems I may have misunderstood you inasmuch as I thought you were arguing on the basis that time can't exist outside our universe, but even with your acknowledgement that time would have to exist outside our universe if a multiverse existed, I think you may be mistaken about something.

      To repeat, you said:
      The multiverse ... time would be physical spacetime - JUST LIKE the kind we live in

      Multiverse time might be LIKE the kind we live in, but I'm not so sure it would be JUST LIKE the kind we live in. It would be LIKE it because it would be a physical spacetime. However, if the time inside our universe is connected to the physical space of our universe, then it seems reasonable to think that it would be connected in some way to the laws that govern the physical space in our universe, including their finely-tuned values.

      If that's the case, then the physical spacetime of the multiverse would be connected in some way to the the physical laws in the multiverse and THEIR finely-tuned values, which we would have to assume would probably be very different from our own, because if they are the same then the multiverse doesn't really answer the fine-tuning problem at all.

      Now, my reason for arguing this is just to make the point that we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss the possibility of something SIMILAR to what we're familiar with, just because it isn't IDENTICAL to what we're familiar with. In reality, we probably shouldn't be overly quick to dismiss something just because we're not familiar with it at all, either, but one step at a time.

      So, getting back to the point, time in the multiverse may be a physical spacetime, but it may also operate in a way that would seem unusual to us. Furthermore, we don't actually have particularly good evidence for an actual multiverse at all. It is posited largely to offer a naturalistic explanation for a particular state of affairs in our universe. As such, we certainly don't have good evidence for the precise form that time would take in the multiverse. We simply infer that if the multiverse exists, time, in some form, must exist IN it.

      (to be cont....)

    32. ...
      So, taking all that into consideration, the argument I'm making is that IF we find that physical reality (whether our universe or a multiverse) REQUIRES a beginning and, therefore, a cause, it would seem to be rationally justified to posit the existence of some non-physical reality capable of being that cause. For reasons that have been argued elsewhere, it would seem that such a non-physical cause would have to be an immaterial mind. And, if that is so, it seems unwarranted to simply proclaim that a series of non-physical mental events CAN'T POSSIBLY occur without the presence of a PHYSICAL SPACEtime, and so this non-physical intelligence can't exist or be the cause of physical reality.

      It makes perfect sense that PHYSICAL EVENTS would require a PHYSICAL SPACEtime. After all, how could physical events take place if there was no physical matter to participate in the events and no space within which the events could unfold? That kind of problem gives us warrant for arguing that physical events could not take place outside of a physical spacetime. But the mere fact that a physical spacetime is what we happen to exist in doesn't present a particularly powerful logical argument against the possibility of some form of time existing in a non-physical realm, or against the possibility of non-physical events happening in sequence without requiring a physical spacetime.

      (to be cont...)

    33. ...
      You continued:
      You're still left with the fuzzy unknowable concept of metaphysical time for which there is no evidence whatsoever. So I still see a big problem with your assessment.

      Is it really all THAT fuzzy and unknowable?

      I'm not sure that the EXACT form time would take in the multiverse is actually knowable, and I'm not convinced it's even knowable if a multiverse exists at all. But we're still warranted in inferring that IF the multiverse exists, THEN time DOES exist in it in some form, whether we can get to know that exact form or not.

      As for being fuzzy, the basic concept of metaphysical time isn't really all that fuzzy at all. The basic concept is just what you'd expect: the possibility of events unfolding sequentially. The only difference is that metaphysical time would not be linked to a physical space. But since the events unfolding within metaphysical time would not be physical events, the absense of a physical space doesn't pose any obvious problems.

      As for there not being any evidence for the existence of metaphysical time, well, I count its seeming logical necessity within the scenario I described above to count in its favor.

      Most people who believe in a multiverse consider the fine-tuning of our universe to be evidence for the multiverse, simply because they think a multiverse is necessary to explain our fine-tuning. (For example, just watch the mini-series, WHAT WE STILL DON'T KNOW, where Martin Rees describes the line of reasoning that led to the positing of The Landscape. It's on youtube.)

      Of course, it's only true that a multiverse is necessary to explain our fine-tuning if we assume that naturalism is true. But IF the multiverse isn't eternal, and/or IF it must be fine-tuned in order to generate universes with randomly set dials for the laws and constants of nature within each universe, as it surely must, then the multiverse only pushes the fine-tuning and origin of physical reality problems back a step, and we still arrive at the need for a non-physical mind to bring physical reality into existence. In this case, the mutliverse could be skipped entirely as an unnecessary explantory entity.

      My point, if it's not clear, is that just because we don't happen to have DIRECT evidence for some entity or proposition, that doesn't mean there are no REASONS to think the entity could exist or the proposition could be true. And our lack of familiarity with something else that is IDENTICAL to it is not a strong reason to think it COUDLN'T exist or be true. To the best of my knowledge, neither science nor philosophy is generally opposed to positing unobserved explanatory entities to account for an observed state of affairs, even if that unobserved entity happens to be quite different from anything previously known.

      (to be concluded...)

    34. ...
      Next, you said:
      Second, there are multiverse models that are past eternal that even one of Sean Carroll's opponents James Sinclair agreed is a workable model.

      I'm not suggestiong people can't make mathematical models of a multiverse that is past eternal, or at least avoids a hard beginning. I believe that they have done so with our own universe in the past and continue to try to develop more. The problem is that lots of things that work inside of a theoretical mathematical model stop working when you try to translate them to reality. Randy has addressed some problems with the specific AG model, but apart even from any faults that may exist in any given model, the translation of any such model to the real world must overcome the philosophical objections that have been raised against the possibility of actual infinites in general, and with the problem of an infinite past in particular. I haven't personally seen any convincing solutions to those problems. I actually just stumbled across a post today by someone who was writing about this subject in relation to this specific debate. (See:

      Anyway, I have to run to bed, since it's like 4:30am right now. Thanks for the polite discussion so far. Any thoughts on what I've said here?

      Take care,

    35. Interesting thoughts, Ryan! In the future, though, I might suggest keeping the thoughts to one, or at most two, posts. This prevents The Thinker from having to write 3 or 4 of his own in reply, and then we have a runaway monster thread! :)

    36. Hi Randy,

      Yeah, I have to admit, I have a problem with being lengthy. :) I always start out trying to be brief but then find I have a lot more to say than I expected. And every time I try to make stuff shorter I find that the lack of detail causes confusion and the discussion then seems to be endlessly side-tracked by trying to resolve misunderstandings. You should see the posts I've written on Stephen Law's "Evil God Argument". Talk about lengthy. Still, I will try to be more brief in the future.


    37. Hi Ryan, as Randy suggested we should keep our comments short so I will try to be as brief as possible. If you want to carry this conversation on at length you can come over to my blog at

      To your points:

      As you mentioned I never said time cannot exist outside of our universe, in fact I think it does. What matters is the nature of time, and all investigation suggests that time is emergent and tied to space, hence spacetime. There are 4 different levels of the multiverse. In all 4 of them time is fundamentally the same as it is in our universe. I am not aware of any theory of the multiverse which posits a completely different time.

      The multiverse theories that are out there do posit different laws of physics and physical parameters and as such, other universes would be very different from our own. I am quick to dismiss metaphysical time because of the evidence we have about the nature of time in our universe and the theories we have for time in the multiverse all suggest spacetime. Until someone has good evidence that metaphysical time exists, I'm going to remain skeptical.

      The multiverse is a naturalistic explanation to explain the parameters of our universe but it was derived through the best theories we have in explaining our universe. I wasn’t hatched to explain the fine tuning. This is a popular misconception. We derive what kind of time exists in the multiverse because the same process which lead to our universe lead to others and it is all governed by the same kind of spacetime.

      A beginning to the universe does not imply it requires a cause. That’s your mistake. That’s why I reject the logic you employ behind concluding that there needs to be an immaterial mind to create the universe. Does metaphysical time have a beginning? Or is its past infinite? If it is finite when did it begin, and why? If time exists in a non-physical realm, then explain its nature and properties. Simply asserting that it exists is not going to help us get anywhere. Do you have any evidence at all that it exists besides speculation? The multiverse can at least be described mathematically.

      What logical necessity exists for metaphysical time? You haven’t made that argument; you’ve asserted that its possible, and you seem to be concluding that it therefore exists.

      There are a growing number of theists now who are claiming the multiverse is what we’d expect IF god exists, so I think you’re totally wrong that the multiverse assumes naturalism. The problem with theism is that it’s so flexible that it can be made to cover any scenario. However I think we have good evidence from within the universe that rules out an omni-deity. No omni-deity is compatible with the millions of years of conscious suffering that evolution produced for no logically necessary reason. So I don’t reject the omni-god merely because of the lack of evidence, but because of the good positive evidence we have against such a being.

      To your last point, if time cannot be past-eternal, then how do you explain metaphysical time in terms of whether it had a beginning? I see the same alleged problem. To say actual infinities cannot exist, then that’s to say god cannot create an infinity, or that god cannot have an infinite amount of knowledge, like say, of every number, or of every future event, which is said to be infinite. Don’t confuse this with counting to infinity.

      I think an infinite past is possible under the B-theory of time, since time does not objectively flow from one moment to the next. That solves the problem philosophers raise when they say we’d never get to the present if the past was infinite.

    38. "The problem with theism is that it’s so flexible that it can be made to cover any scenario." I think that's a problem for non-theists, as it's difficult to see what problem is raised for the theist!

      I see you made this assertion: "No omni-deity is compatible with the millions of years of conscious suffering that evolution produced for no logically necessary reason," but neither explained nor attempted to show any of it at all. There are several terms that need to be defined (e.g, "omni-deity," "compatibility," "conscious suffering," "evolution," "produced," and "logically necessary), and then there needs to be some reason we should take this as true.

      Another thing you tend to assert without argument, just to be sure, is that science somehow "shows" the B-theory, when it isn't so much as possible to do anything like that. Science can show *relativity*, but that's the measure of time. Since we have no way, scientifically, to distinguish between time's measure and actual, objective time, they've often been conflated. Instead, one always has recourse within the philosophical arguments, one way or another (it's worth noting that many philosophers who are B-theorists have philosophical arguments to defend this, even though I disagree with them).

      One last thing: if actual infinites cannot exist in reality, then a B-theory won't make the difference (seeing as a B-theory just *is part* of reality, if true). Also, on classical theism, God doesn't have propositional knowledge; his knowledge is a single, undivided intuition. Speaking of it as propositions is simply the logical relationship finite knowers have to truth (and it is a perfectly logical relation, to be sure). But all that follows is that we don't have an actually infinite number of propositions to assign to God's knowledge of the world by his knowledge of self.

    39. I think that's a problem for non-theists, as it's difficult to see what problem is raised for the theist!

      What could we find in nature that would work against theism according to you? How is theism falsifiable?

      I have kept my response brief and so I did not show all of my evidence that an omni-deity is incompatible with the millions of years of conscious suffering evolution produced for no logically necessary reason. But I assure I have elsewhere. I define an omni-deity in much the same way you probably do, a being that is all knowing, all powerful and all good, essentially the god of classical theism. Compatible means compatible in the logical sense. Do you think an omni-deity is compatible with gratuitous suffering? Yes or no. Evolution is defined as the standard view most scientists hold to, nothing radically different. Produced is defined here as things that came out of the evolutionary process because of it. Logically necessary here means it could not have been done another way. See my evolutionary argument against god here.

      Another thing you tend to assert without argument, just to be sure, is that science somehow "shows" the B-theory, when it isn't so much as possible to do anything like that.

      Then how do you explain this?

      Arxiv paper:

      Science can show *relativity*, but that's the measure of time. Since we have no way, scientifically, to distinguish between time's measure and actual, objective time

      Then how/why do you assert time is objective?

      One last thing: if actual infinites cannot exist in reality, then a B-theory won't make the difference

      My point was to say that if the B-theory is true, then actual infinities are possible. You’ve got it backwards.

      Also, on classical theism, God doesn't have propositional knowledge; his knowledge is a single, undivided intuition.

      And you know this because……? What evidence do you have that this is true other than some philosopher just thought of it some time ago? Describe for me what having a single undivided intuition is like. Does such a being have simultaneous awareness of all mathematical truths and numbers? If you cannot describe it than how can I tell it isn’t just an unwarranted assertion made by a mashing of words that have no basis in reality?

    40. Again, what's supposed to be the problem for the theist? You're not quite saying here, and I don't infer it for you! That would take the fun out of it. :)

      "...and so I did not show all of my evidence..." Or, indeed, any evidence whatsoever. So, if I'm taking you correctly, "compatible" means "coherent," where one can affirm a set of statements such that no logical contradiction arises from them. I don't see "conscious suffering" defined anywhere in your reply, and a new term is introduced which is also not defined (and is in fact a completely different argument, unless you use "conscious" and "gratuitous" as synonyms). I don't know what is meant when you define "evolution." What does this mean? There is a very specific reason I ask. Further, it seems you're using logically necessary in the standard way, but I'm wondering what logical necessity has to do with it.

      Scientists, in general, make pretty terrible philosophers. (e.g., Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, et al.). Time is asserted as objective, primarily, due to philosophical arguments. That is my point.

      As to B-theory, that's just an assertion. As in, if actual infinites cannot be instantiated in reality, then it won't make a difference if B-theory is true. Several of these arguments do not depend on a particular view of time (bookshelf, hotel, etc.). You might think these arguments fail, but it's not the case that if they were to succeed, and a B-theory were shown to be true, then the problem would go away.

      Your first question differs from the second. My contention is that on classical theism God's knowledge is an undivided intuition. I know this because I have studied Anselmian Perfect Being Theology, Aquinas, and other Scholastics/Medieval thinkers. Now, don't forget, in the dialectic, you have asserted that if actual infinites are impossible, then God doesn't have an actually infinite number of propositional beliefs (at least, it appears this is what you were driving at). I agree: God doesn't seem to *actually* have propositional beliefs at all. The propositions are what we finite knowers break up knowledge into. Now, implicitly, you think this is a problem, but this would mean you need to defend why God's omniscience *must entail* that he has propositional beliefs. So far, I haven't seen anything.

    41. This is a random reply to something Jonathan said, that I now recognize is incorrect: "Part of the problem with Craig is he special pleads an interpretation of Lorentz invariance which gives him an independent benchmark time."

      This isn't quite right (and yes, Jonathan, we are talking STR, for what it's worth). "For the characteristic feature of the Lorentzian Interpretation is that it rejects Lorentz invariance." Also, Craig writes a lengthy quote from John Bell, discussing a deeper, non-invariance, which is discussed by scientists, and not for theistic reasons.

      Read more:

    42. I tried to keep this short but it will be just over 1 post.

      Hi Thinker,

      Regarding the nature of time, you describe it as being "emergent and tied to space", and yet it may be entirely 'untied' from the physical laws and constants that define and govern that space. If that is the case, what is it about the brute fact of physical space, apart from all of the specific rules by which it is governed, that you think causes time to simply emerge?

      You said: "I am quick to dismiss metaphysical time because of the evidence we have about the nature of time in our universe and the theories we have for time in the multiverse all suggest spacetime."

      The question is not whether we have evidence and theories about the existence of spacetime. The question is why this should eliminate the logical possibility of time, in some form, being able to exist outside of physical space. When I entered this discussion I was targeting a specific issue, which was the idea that even if we accept the A-Theory of time and grant a beginning to the universe, we can't reasonably think an external God caused the universe to begin to exist because of the logical problems you see with the need for simultaneous causation within a timeless state outside spacetime. The point I'm responding to is roughly the equivalent of the claim that it is impossible for time to exist, in any form, outside of physical space and that it is therefore impossible for any sequence of events to take place outside of physical space, even if those events are not physical in nature.

      Basically, I'm trying to ask you why we should think this is actually impossible. Why should we not instead reason in the following way?

      IF A) the A-Theory of time is true
      AND IF B) physical space (whether the universe or multiverse) had a beginning
      AND IF C) such a beginning requires a cause on an A-Theory of time
      AND IF D) that cause would need to be a non-physical mind

      THEN E) it must be possible for a non-physical mind to have thoughts (sequential mental events) in the absense of physical space

      Again, I'm not going to bother getting into an argument at the moment over A-D. I'm merely asking why, if one accepts A-D already, they should consider E to be logically impossible. It simply does not seem to me that our familiarity with time within physical space offers any kind of argument that it is logically impossible for non-physical events to happen sequentially outside of physical space or that it is logically impossible for time to exist in some unfamiliar form outside of physical space.

      Moving on, you say that it is a popular misconception that multiverse theories were hatched to explain fine-tuning. I have two things to say about this.

      I do not say that ALL multiverse theories were hatched to explain fine-tuning. There are certain multiverse models implied by equations of Quantum Mechanics, but these tend to be of the Many Worlds / Parallel Universe variety, and it seems to be a subject of debate whether these Many Worlds should be considered as existing in reality or merely as theoretical mathematical constructs.

      (to be continued...)

    43. ...

      The type of multiverse theories I claim have resulted from a desire to account for fine-tuning are the ones that posit an extremely large, if not infinite, number of universes in which the the physical laws and constants are set to random values. Furthermore, it seems to me that while these kinds of multiverse models may flow out of "the best theories we have in explaining our universe", those "best theories", and the multiverse models they include, are informed by the presence of the fine-tuning itself. In other words, the discovery of fine-tuning was not an unsurprising discovery that simply confirmed pre-existng models and theories that predicted a multiverse of universes with randomly determined laws and constants in which we should find our own universe with a set of extremely finely-tuned values balanced on a razor's edge that allowed life to exist. Rather, the discoveries of the fine-tuning came first and those findings were progressively shocking in their specificity, and it was only after these findings that the theories and models emerged, or were adjusted, that could specifically account for the fine-tuning of our universe when combined with the Weak Anthropic Principle.

      If this is a misconception on my part, it's a misconception of which a number of prominent non-theistic cosmologists and astrophysicists must be disabused, including Martin Rees, Paul Davies and others. Now, I suppose they could be wrong, and I could be wrong right along with them, but everywhere I look, the consistent explanation of the motivation behind the type of multiverse models I'm discussing, including the explanations offered by the very people who hold to them, is that they are inspired by the finding of fine-tuning in a wide range of values, from the Flatness and Horizon problems right up to the Cosmological Constant and beyond. The only claims I ever find to the contrary are the ones where a person has confused this type of multiverse with the Parallel Universes of Quantum Mechanics, or where a person seems to get the cart before the horse by suggesting that because these theories that seek to explain the unusual features of our universe, including its fine-tuning, do (unsurprisingly) predict the kind of multiverses that would explain those features, then the theories and models were not really developed to account for the fine-tuning. Again, I think this gets things exactly backwards. Please do watch WHAT WE STILL DON'T KNOW - EPISODE 3 on youtube for an interesting discussion of this issue.

      As for the past eternality of metaphysical time, I don't think that's necessary and addressed it in my first post.

      Finally, I have to wrap this up to keep it as short as possible (even though it's already long), but I didn't say that "the multiverse assumes naturalism". Rather, I said that the only reason a person would require the multiverse to account for fine-tuning is if that person already assumes naturalism and denies the possibility of design. Do you see the difference?

      Take care,

    44. Hi Randy,

      I know I've mainly been having this discussion back and forth with The Thinker, but do you have any thoughts on the comments I've been making?

    45. @Randy
      First I linked you to my argument which you haven’t addressed at all. If you want me to paste it on your blog then I will do so. I refrained from doing so because I know you don’t like long comments.

      The problem for the theist is obvious. Do you agree that any non-humans are conscious? I don’t see how you can deny this. Since we evolved over a long slow process, for millions of years before humans evolved, non-humans were living, suffering and dying. How do you explain this with the idea of an omni-god who is all loving, powerful and knowing? WLC Craig thinks god is an “artist” who enjoys and takes pleasure in the evolutionary process. That would mean that god took pleasure in watching non-humans suffer and die for millions of years for no logically necessary reason, because god could have just created humans without the evolutionary process (hence gratuitous) and it is asserted that the purpose of this world is for us to know god. And to say that the devil tinkered with the evolutionary process doesn’t work either, because it is this very evolutionary process that lead to our existence. You’d have to believe that we wouldn’t have evolved unless the devil tinkered with the process, in which case we wouldn’t have evolved without it. Evolution cannot exist without suffering and dying. Any creator to our universe would either be indifferent, incompetent or cruel, there’s no logical way out of it. Thus, there is no logical answer to explain this and I’ve seen all the responses. If you’ve got one, I’d love to hear it.

      Some scientists make horrible philosophers, I agree. Theologians often make horrible scientists. The philosophical arguments against the B-theory of time fail. I am happy to debate all of them if you want either here, or on my blog. When it comes to making assertions, the theist is the one guilty of this more often than not. You assert many things for which you have no evidence for, like the Ether which the A-theory requires, and that length and time contraction do not happen. Physics doesn’t make sense without that. I don’t assert actual infinities exist, I say an actual infinity of time is possible under the B-theory. The arguments against it, like Hibert’s Hotel, apply the rules of finite arithmetic to transfinite arithmetic. That’s like applying classical logic to quantum mechanics – it doesn’t work.

      Explain to me the nature of knowledge that is an undivided intuition in detail. It sounds like a useless mashing of words. Perfect being theology is problematic. Make your argument that a perfect being necessarily exists and we can debate it here or on my blog. I don’t have to defend that god’s knowledge is propositional – yet. You need to explain the nature of undivided intuition first. You’ve asserted it without explaining it.

      I see that you rely on WLC a lot for your theology. I spend a great deal of time refuting his illogical arguments. Debating you seems to be like debating him. I’m all for it.

    46. @Ryan

      Man you write long responses.

      If you are going to argue based on what “may be” then so can I. It “may be” the case that immaterial, timeless minds exist only in our imagination, like vampires. I think time emerges because we have empirical evidence that it does, (see my links above) and our best theories that describe it show time to be emergent, not fundamental, (Aka the B-theory is true).
      The question to me is about the fundamental nature of time. So what should I trust? Scientists who understand it more than anyone else, or theologians who are armchair philosophers thinking things up using pure metaphysics? When it comes to fundamental physics, logic is simply not reliable, and the history of science proves that.

      Describe for me a non-physical event and show me your evidence for it.
      On the multiverse, there are inflationary versions and the many worlds versions from quantum mechanics. Here we are talking about the inflationary version. The multiverse is strongly implied from it, because as Alan Guth said, "It's hard to build models of inflation that don't lead to a multiverse." Even if alleged fine tuning weren’t an issue, the current inflationary models still predict a multiverse, regardless of whether you like it or not. So you’re flat out wrong when you think that multiverse models came about only in response to fine tuning. That would be to say scientists are making it up to explain fine tuning. Many theists, like Robin Collins think we’d expect a multiverse given a god. Go figure.

      I deny the possibility of design because the universe doesn’t appear designed for any purpose. No purpose proposed by any religion or theist makes any sense when critically examined. If the multiverse is true, the fine tuning argument is dead, and I think it is the only decent argument that theists have by a long shot.

    47. Hey, The_Thinker, you're right that I probably won't end up going to another blog (at least not most of the time). You say the problem is obvious, but I don't know what it's supposed to be!

      Next, you haven't defined "conscious," or "suffering," so I can't very well answer the question! All I'm doing here is critiquing your argument--that is, once I can figure out what it's supposed to be! So, if I understand how you're using "gratuitous," it is something that occurs contingently. So your argument is: 1. An omni-deity exists. 2. Conscious suffering (whatever that is) occurred contingently. 3. There is a logical contradiction between (1) and (2). Why think that?

      As to the rest of your post, you seem confused as to the dialectic. My point is that A-theory/B-theory is adjudicated by philosophical arguments, which point you seem to grant. Side note: the arguments against it are against its being instantiated in reality. Nothing would prevent these finite arithmetic operations from actually being done. Your last paragraph is quickly coming to rhetoric. Of course it has a *use*, it's use is to discuss the knowledge of God! You've forgotten the dialectic: you claimed God's knowledge is propositional (implicitly, if you drop this then we have no problem whatsoever), and I haven't seen any good reason to think this is the case.

      The fact that you think my arguments are gained mostly or solely from WLC betrays the unfortunate reality that you are simply not familiar with some of the best works in the history of (and contemporary) philosophy of religion. This is all too typical, I'm afraid, of the internet atheist (especially the misuse of the word "illogical"). My arguments can be found in Stephen T. Davis, Aquinas, Alvin Plantinga, Anselm, Paul Moser, Kelly James Clark, and so many more! There's so much to read out there!

    48. @Randy

      I kind of get the feeling that you’re pretending that you don’t understand the problem, but you really do. That’s my suspicion. Well first, suffering implies consciousness. If there is no consciousness, one can be hurt, but wouldn’t suffer. I’m defining consciousness as the quality or state of self-awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. WLC recently tried to argue that animals except higher primates do not experience third order pain awareness, and he’s been called out on it many times, see here. Besides, even if he were right, that still leaves out higher primates, and by extension all of our hominid ancestors who were suffering and dying for millions of years before we evolved. You’ve got to explain to me why this was logically necessary or how this is compatible with an omnibenevolent deity. My argument would be better described as this:

      1. If God (an all knowing, all powerful and all loving being) chose to use evolution as the process by which he created human beings and all other forms of life, then God knowingly chose a process that requires suffering that is logically unnecessary.
      2. An all-good, perfectly moral God would not create beings that could consciously suffer in a way that was not logically necessary.
      3. Therefore, the traditional notion of God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good does not exist.

      Suffering that is contingent is unnecessary, and unnecessary suffering is gratuitous. All the defenses against the problem of suffering posit that the suffering is not gratuitous, and they in effect are making the case that gratuitous suffering is not compatible with an omnibenevolent deity. If you disagree you’d be the first theist I ever heard say that they are compatible.

      Now when it comes to A/B theories on time, I find it hard to see how one can plausibly hold to the idea that Lorentz invariance is an illusion, when our satellites must take it into consideration in order to work. When you said it has a “use” in your third paragraph I do not know what you were referring to. When it comes to god’s knowledge, you haven’t made the case that it is “undivided intuition” whatever that is. You must define and explain the nature of undivided intuition in detail for your argument to work. That you haven’t done in any coherent manner and I predict you can’t.

      Lastly I am very familiar with WLC’s work and I hear his arguments being used by you and many other theists on a regular basis. I am well aware of other philosophers of religion, and I am well aware that many of Craig’s arguments originate from them. But he’s the most prominent popularizer of these arguments and his version of the arguments and the analogies he uses to defend them are what many theists today are using. But yes, this is not relevant to the dialectic, it’s just a side note.

    49. You just haven't said what the problem is supposed to be, and I try not to guess. :) Next, you're conflating two different arguments (one, the logical problem of evil [and hence "compatibility" issues], and the gratuitous problem of evil). Next, your definition is not how "gratuitous" is actually used in the literature, but we can get to that in a moment. More concerning to me is that you claim that "all" defenses against the problem of evil rely on evil's not being gratuitous. This isn't even true of WLC's defenses, much less *all* defenses. Kirk MacGregor, Bruce Little, and a host of others utilize defenses that at least treat evil as gratuitous in some cases, if not outright accept it. So there is, no offense, an ignorance of a wide swath of the literature here. But "gratuitous" evil is not defined as evil that is contingent. It is defined as evil which serves no morally justifying purpose (hence the discussion from Stephen Wykstra and others about the CORNEA principle). Now this is no big deal, as we can just call your term "gratuitous-1," and define that as evil that is not logically necessary. So then it's up to you to defend (2), and we've seen no good argument for it so far.

      As far as time theories, we should not confuse the measurements with the independent existence of the thing to be measured. You claimed that God's knowledge as an undivided intuition was "useless," and your not remembering that indicates to me it was plausibly just rhetoric.

      You've lost a little control of the dialectic: I am challenging you to show your implied claim that God's knowledge is propositional. So far, nothing has been forthcoming. I have to say it's a little disingenuous simply to assert a multiplicity of things and back it up with nothing. I have to say that unless you start retracting claims or backing them up, we'll have to make this the last post.

      As to the last paragraph, I think it's been demonstrated you are far less familiar with the literature than you would think.

    50. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    51. Sorry, you're just going in circles. You've made several claims, and didn't bother backing them up. You didn't show (or try to show) any incompatibility. I won't allow you to come here, fail to back up any assertions, and demand I prove you wrong. That's just not the way it works!

    52. Hi Ryan, I don't know a whole lot about the metaphysical time issue; I think, on an A-theory of time, it would be problematic (at least on a full-blown A-theory). I know that some have proposed a hybrid A/B theory, but this seems to be problematic (at least it's difficult to see how it handles objective temporal becoming).

    53. The_Thinker, you knew or should have known I don't have a high tolerance for non-substantive rhetoric. It really doesn't bother me whether you or anyone else comments here or not. I've got a full life (academically and personally) in the schedule sense, so I only have time to interact with either the best or the sincere.

    54. Non-substantive rhetoric? Really? How could I possibly make my argument more clear? I mean, what is it that you're asking, that I have not provided? Ask me, or challenge me on any direct questions that you have, because if I really have a incoherent argument, I want to know this so I don't keep making it. You have not shown my argument to be incoherent or logically incorrect. Would you be so kind as to show me exactly what/where my argument is false? I like good challenges.

    55. "You have not shown my argument to be incoherent or logically incorrect." This is the problem. There are two arguments: first, your argument is that God is logically incompatible with contingent (?) evil (it's not clear this is what you mean, though this is what it means to be not logically necessary). Yet no set of propositions has been displayed that engender a contradiction. You had a second argument, that is more or less that the character of an omnibenevolent God would not allow gratuitous (contingent?) evil. But these are two separate arguments.

      Finally, on the other major argument, you said if actual infinites do not exist in reality, then God cannot be omniscient. Amongst other complaints I have but have not voiced, I want to know why you think God's knowledge is propositional. I've literally seen nothing from you on why this would be, and you refused to either: a) retract the claim, or b) attempt to back up the claim. This is as clearly as I can lay it all out. You'll have to forgive me (I guess you don't, just a figure of speech is all), but I don't really buy that you're very concerned about whether or not what you're saying is true. It's more important to you that you win. And for that, I just don't have time.

    56. and I'm using "evil" here in the "natural" sense, so that as long as we don't think it's actually morally wrong, I'm only referring to suffering.

    57. "There are two arguments: first, your argument is that God is logically incompatible with contingent (?) evil (it's not clear this is what you mean, though this is what it means to be not logically necessary). Yet no set of propositions has been displayed that engender a contradiction."

      I asked in my last comment, which you deleted, "If omnibenevolence is compatible with the intentional creation of suffering that serves no purpose, well then how can we distinguish it from evil?"

      Your response can be either (1) there is no gratuitous suffering, or (2) gratuitous suffering is not incompatible with omni-benevolence.

      I'm just asking you to state what position you take before I go further because I want to address your theodicy, not someone else's.

      "Finally, on the other major argument, you said if actual infinites do not exist in reality, then God cannot be omniscient ... I want to know why you think God's knowledge is propositional."

      There are three kinds of knowledge: personal, procedural, and propositional. You say god has neither but instead has "undivided intuition." I asked you several times to explain UI since I cannot find a definition of it anywhere, and you flat out refuse. How do you expect me to criticize UI if you haven't made the case for it?

      All I ask is that you make your case so I have something to work with. Isn't that fair?

    58. The Thinker,

      I'll respond in the next few days. Been a bit busy for the past few.

    59. "I'm just asking you to state what position you take before I go further because I want to address your theodicy, not someone else's."

      But it won't matter what position I take, because incoherence means, logically speaking, impossible to go together. Therefore, literally any account I give will not overcome whatever positive argument you intend to make, if that argument is successful. Here's an example: suppose I have no theodicy, or no opinion on the matter. What would you do then? Now, reading your comments on the matter, I can discern this particular argument: If omnibenevolence cannot be distinguished from evil, then an omnibenevolent God and millions of years of suffering are incoherent. Omnibenevolence cannot be distinguished from evil. Therefore, an omnibenevolent God and millions of years of suffering are incoherent.

      Is this the argument? I can't tell for sure (it depends on my interpretation of your use of the word "it," for example).

      As to the rest, I think there's been some confusion. I'm not expecting you to criticize undivided intuition. I was expecting you to provide some reason to think that God's knowledge is propositional. Now, I'm not as concerned about the kinds of knowledge (that is, the ways in which knowledge can be broken up) as much as I am about the ways of knowing. I'm not 100% clear on what is meant by "personal" and "procedural" (though I can take a stab at them: knowing a person, and knowing how?), but these three kinds of knowledge certainly don't exhaust the ways in which persons come to know things, and that's what is relevant here. If God knows things propositionally, while I still think that the argument fails, it means that the way in which he gains or possesses knowledge is all perceptual (again, "perceptual" is a way of knowing). In any case, my major point here is that the three categories do not exhaust the ways in which something is known (see perception, which, for many reasons, does not usually [except upon later reflection] come in the form of propositions [even if it can be broken down into such]).

      I've been asking for positive arguments, and I've allowed this comment and responded as such because I think there is a lot of confusion on your part as to what's being claimed (perhaps the confusion is all mine, and I have no idea what's being claimed by you). In any case, if you've represented your claims accurately, then you should offer positive arguments for them (since it won't matter what my arguments are--a positive argument doesn't depend on counterarguments, strictly speaking). If I have completely misunderstood whatever it is you were saying, then we should start from square one, and be as clear as possible.

    60. For what it's worth, I don't even think these three kinds exhaust the kinds of knowledge there are (consider rational intuition, memory beliefs, perception). These can certainly do double duty as ways of knowing something (or at least retaining dispositional beliefs), but perception doesn't seem to be a "knowing who," "knowing how," or "knowing that p."

    61. But it won't matter what position I take, because incoherence means, logically speaking, impossible to go together.

      That would be my whole point: the god of classical theism is totally incompatible with the gratuitous suffering produced by the evolutionary process. There is no way to reconcile this. If you think you have one, or if you know of one produced by a philosopher you know, I would LOVE to hear it. But without a good refutation, theism is big trouble, and it's one of the main reasons why I reject it and many atheists do to, so you might want to care about it if you care about defending theism.

      Other than that, I still struggle to see why it has been so hard for you to understand my point. I've explained it about 5 times by now, and it's very simple to understand. Omni-benevolence is incompatible with gratuitous suffering, gratuitous suffering exists via evolution, therefore the god of classical theism cannot exist.

      I've defended these points several times and I have not heard a direct response to any of them thus far. If you don't have one, that's fine. If you don't know, you don't know. We can move on if that's the case.

      As to the rest, I think there's been some confusion. I'm not expecting you to criticize undivided intuition. I was expecting you to provide some reason to think that God's knowledge is propositional.

      This is another misunderstanding. I want to criticize undivided intuition. I need you to make the case for it first. I'm not convinced that UI is anything more than a mashing of words that theologians have created to avoid god's knowledge being propositional. We have no examples of other forms of knowledge other than the ones I've mentioned, and if you're offering UI as a forth alternative, you should defend it by defining it and explaining it in detail. That's all I'm asking.

      I've been asking for positive arguments,...

      My argument would be simple. The forms of knowledge I mentioned are the only forms we know of with a high degree of explanation. There are no others. UI is not defined or explained and appears (at least to me) to be an almost meaningless term. Therefore, the idea that god's knowledge is UI, needs to be defended by you.

    62. "Omni-benevolence is incompatible with gratuitous suffering, gratuitous suffering exists via evolution, therefore the god of classical theism cannot exist."

      Why should we think that's true? Where have you defended the premise that an omnibenevolent God is incompatible? Where have you shown a premise set that is logically incoherent, and defended why? This is seriously your last chance.

      As to the rest, it really doesn't bother me whether you like or don't like undivided intuition: you made the claim that if an actual infinite exists, God's knowledge cannot be omniscient, because (implicitly) he would have to know an actually infinite number of propositions. But that holds (implicitly) to some kind of perceptual knowledge, where God has propositional beliefs. I've also given you other examples of knowledge. You have to explain why these are not knowledge.

      Here's an example: perceptual knowledge. It seems to me that the words I am typing are appearing on the screen. It did not just seem to me to be so (upon reflection), but rather I have perceived this from the beginning of the post. This perception was not formed inferentially (e.g., "If I am typing the words on the screen and they appear, and if my senses are veridical, then the experience I have of seeing the words appear on the screen is veridical") nor was it reflected on propositionally (until the present time). Yet no one should deny I had perceptual knowledge (indeed, this is pretty uncontroversial in epistemology overall) even though I had no propositional knowledge. Notice it won't do to insist that the perceptual knowledge can be framed propositionally, as this misses the point. I have maintained all along that God's knowledge can be divided up (by finite knowers, just to give your memory a trigger) into propositions, but it is not known by them (or in virtue of them). So if your only argument that God's knowledge must be propositional is that propositional, know-how, and personal knowledge are the only three types of knowledge, then it's pretty weak. Indeed, it's doubly weak, since it implies God doesn't know persons non-propositionally, and he doesn't know how to do anything non-propositionally. A dubious claim, to be sure. All I have to do to reject your argument is criticize it. I have done so. Next.

    63. I did give you one last chance, but you didn't bother to take it. I did see, curiously, where you seemed to claim all perceptual knowledge was knowledge of and/or about persons. But why think that my perceiving a field is about some person? If all you meant is that all knowledge involves persons, then you're really reducing all knowledge to personal knowledge, in which case, either propositional knowledge isn't even allowed (problem solved), or else it's trivially true and we move on.

    64. Maybe this would help you: to say something is logically incompatible, we can define it in a few ways. In possible worlds semantics, we say that in no possible world are the claims jointly exemplified. In semantic terms, we can say that, analytically, in virtue of what the terms mean, the entire set of terms cannot all be true. In terms of logical laws, we can say that there are a set of terms such that they amount to a contradiction of the form "a" and "not-a" at the same time and in the same sense. All of these are logical equivalents. So, it seems you have two statements:

      1. God is omnibenevolent.
      2. There is gratuitous suffering.

      Supposedly, this is logically incoherent in the three ways above. But I certainly don't see why or how, and you've barely hinted at any kind of a reason. My honest appraisal is that you'll need a third, non-question-begging proposition. Then, we'll need an argument to believe that the propositions should be affirmed to the exclusion of the one that states an omnibenevolent God exists.

    65. I am having the hardest time communicating with you. Much more so than in my communications with most theists. I don't know why this is so difficult.

      First, I was not in any way saying that all perceptual knowledge is about people or that all knowledge is perceptual. I'm saying perception is a part of personal knowledge. But even if perceptual knowledge is its own separate kind of knowledge, how does that help you show that god cannot have propositional knowledge, which is the point you're defending? You still haven't explained how god can know propositional knowledge if he can't have that kind of knowledge. And why are we all capable of many forms of knowledge, but god is incapable of propositional knowledge?

      Second, you didn't clearly state what point you're defending of the only 2 options that you have. This makes me feel like you're trying to avoid something. From what you've written, you seem to be saying my option (2) that omnibenevolence is not incompatible with gratuitous suffering. Is that correct?

      Defending that proposition is very hard to do. I asked you how we can distinguish evil from omnibenevolence, if omnibenevolence is compatible with gratuitous suffering, and you gave no answer. Surely evil is compatible with gratuitous suffering, that is causing suffering for which there is no morally justifiable purpose. But omnibenevolence cannot logically be compatible with gratuitous suffering, or else the term ceases to make sense or have any meaning. So my point would be simply, that omnibenevolence cannot be compatible with gratuitous suffering because then it is indistinguishable from evil, but it must be distinguished from evil or else it ceases to be coherent.

      So you could answer the following:

      1. Is evil logically compatible with gratuitous suffering? (Yes or no)
      2. Is omnibenevolence logically compatible with gratuitous suffering? (Yes or no)
      3. If omnibenevolence is compatible with gratuitous suffering, how do we distinguish it from evil?

      And, as in possible world semantics, since god is defined as a being which must exist in every possible world, if there was just one possible world where god wasn't compatible, then that god couldn't exist. That world is our world which contains millions of years of gratuitous suffering via the evolutionary process.

      Now if you still feel that I have not made the case that omnibenevolence is incompatible with gratuitous suffering, or anything else, why not just ask me a few direct questions (e.g. 1. 2. 3.) and I will take them head on directly. Make them as challenging as you possibly can. Or, use an argument from a philosopher who has made the case that they are compatible, and I will take it head on. I love a good challenge :)

    66. You are probably having a hard time communicating with me because I demand precision, something you haven't done, at least here. First, as to perceptual/personal knowledge, it's been unclear what you have meant by "personal" knowledge. I tried to define it as a "knowing who," or knowledge of another person, but that can't be how you're using it (otherwise it's demonstrably false). So perhaps you mean "personal knowledge is knowledge held by persons," but that means your other proffered categories are simply subsets of "personal" knowledge, since all knowledge is (if a person knows p, a person knows p; if p is not known by a person, it's not known). Now perhaps you make a distinction between knowers and persons, but then it wouldn't follow that all perceptual knowledge is a subset of personal knowledge. Now you might be able to see why it's an annoying time waster to guess at what you mean by things. I will ignore the rest of the paragraph, as I'm simply criticizing your argument here.

      Second, I frankly don't care how what I do makes you feel. Next, I have no idea why we should think if certain actions lead to explanations that are epistemologically equivalent we should think that there is some ontological incoherence. The argument is of the form: X is inscrutable; therefore, X is logically incoherent. That's just a non-sequitur (both informally and formally). The argument is very weak.

      Don't forget: with possible worlds semantics, if God's existence is even exemplified in one possible world, then he must exist.

    67. Sorry, no going around in circles. You can feel free to review the dialectic, at any time.

  8. Hi Randy,

    Although I am fairly new to the world of "blogging,"I must say that I really enjoy what I've seen on this one. Keep up the good work! If anyone is interested, I wrote a response to the blog post of Sean Carroll regarding his post-debate reflections. I think there are several points that need to be addressed in his post. While I didn't get to all of them, nevertheless I still believe the ones that I did get to are significant; much of his reflecting seem to entail a highly misleading (I'm not arguing he was *deliberately* misleading; it very well could all be incidental) response. Therefore, I tried to address as many as I could without crashing the whole internet with the length of my post; seriously, I tried to keep it short enough so that he might respond, but it seems I was unsuccessful. Either way, I thought it might possibly be of help to someone to I'll repost it here, if that's okay? Thanks.

    Dr. Carroll,

    I want to thank you again for all of the thought-provoking material you produced over the two days of the conference. I say “again” because I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to thank you in person on Saturday after the conference had concluded. You might remember me; I was the really conspicuously good-looking guy who, during the Q & A on Friday and Saturday, asked you about (1) an eternal set of necessary and sufficient mechanical conditions producing a universe containing a first moment of time, and (2) the specifics of Alan Guth’s affirmation of the probable eternality of the universe, respectively. Alright, alright, I may have exaggerated the part about my good-looks a little, but in all seriousness you might possibly remember the questions. Nevertheless, it was a real privilege to shake your hand and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing your take on these interesting issues. Having familiarized myself with some of your published work, I’m well aware that you are skilled writer. But having never seen you lecture or debate, I had no idea that you would prove to be such a wonderful public speaker and formidable debater. I look forward to more of it in the future.

    While I’m sure that you have entirely too much on your plate to respond to every reply on your blog, nevertheless I would owe you a great debt of gratitude if you’re able to somehow find the time to respond to this one; that is, provided it’s substantive enough to warrant a response.

    In light of a recent post, you seemed to have cleared up what led to a persistent confusion for some during the debate: namely, your maintaining that a universe with a “first moment of time” isn’t necessarily one that “begins to exist.” It seems to me that you are able to consistently hold to this view because you ascribe to a tenseless or, B-Theory, of time. That is what I suspected. So if I understand you correctly, are you saying that a universe with a first moment of time doesn’t “begin to exist” because, on the B-Theory, the entire universe exists *timelessly* for all eternity as a static, 4-dimensional block? If so, is it not perfectly legitimate to inquire as to what determines that this particular statically-existing universe obtains, rather than some other one or none at all? Also, would you agree that the A-Theory of time is the much more common sense view?

    1. Hey thanks for the comments and the provocative thoughts! I let the first post stand, but because of the length, I decided I would not post the others. Is there a place where you have published this? If not, would you consider publishing it through Possible Worlds? If you would be interested, please email me at submitpossibleworlds at gmail dot com. :) I would be interested in publishing it.

  9. Should have figured my post would need to be screened first since this seems to be a pro WLC blog. Don't bother. I have zero interest in discussing anything in such a one sided forum. Even worse are WLC youtube videos, where nobody is allowed to comment.

    Funny how no skeptics that I know of feel the need to stack the deck. Except Atheism+, which feels the need for the same reason WLC does.

    1. Hi David, thanks for commenting. Yes, after the first few days, I do have posts set to moderate. This is because of two primary things. First, blogspot gets a lot of spam. This spam tends to show up after a post has been around longer rather than sooner, and I like to just get rid of it without my readers having to see it, or be exposed to anything weird like that. Second, I tend to get, a decent amount of time, some troll or jokester or whatnot that will attempt to slip in horribly mocking posts about Jesus, with crass and vulgar language. That's just not something I'll tolerate, and for whatever reason, that stuff also takes a while to make it to my site.

      And, while this blog is not dedicated to WLC, yes, it is pro-Christianity, and for that I feel no need to apologize. However, a simple search of the forum (including the present article on which you are commenting) reveals anything but a one-sided "forum" (if by "forum" you mean "commenting section;" if all you mean by "forum" is the blog itself, then what's supposed to be the problem? I don't let atheists write articles?); I just expect people to abide by the comments policy. Further, I expect them to be respectful. And I also respect your right not to want to be respectful, if that were to be your desire. A corollary of this, at least for what I want, is that I don't tolerate non-contributive or non-substantive rhetoric; if all you want to do is mock Christians, or "expose" them or whatnot, then do it on your own outlet. Why should I have to let you, or anyone else, just spew whatever and whenever on my blog? I appreciate your desire to show everyone up, or whatever, but I feel no ethical, moral, philosophical, or pragmatic reason to open up my comments completely. Have a good day! :)

    2. Did you not approve my other comment?

    3. I did not. They seemed to be mostly rhetoric and mockery. But I do approve lots of comments. I should add, however, that another person I know said that he tried to submit a comment, but I couldn't find it. If that happened (you had such a non-rhetoric post but it was never posted), I just somehow missed it, as I did my acquaintance's. :)

  10. Mr. Everest, I wanted to clarify something regarding some of Dr. Carroll's post-debate comments. This would invalidate the BGV theorem in showing the universe began to exist if true:

    "Craig emphasized a recent paper by Anthony Aguirre and John Kehayias. They examined the “emergent universe” scenario of George Ellis and Roy Maartens, in which the universe is in a quasi-static pre-Big-Bang state infinitely far into the past. Aguirre and Kehayias showed that such behavior is unstable; you can’t last in a quasi-static state for half of eternity and then start evolving. Personally, I didn’t think this was worth talking about; I completely agree that it’s unstable, I never promoted or defended that particular model, and I just didn’t see the relevance. But he kept bringing it up. Only after the debate did it dawn on me that he takes the specific behavior of that model as representative of any model that has a quantum-gravity regime (the easiest way out of the “beginning” supposedly predicted by the BGV theorem). That’s completely false. Most models with a quantum-gravity phase are nothing like the emergent universe; typically the quantum part of the evolution is temporary, and is surrounded on both sides by classical spacetime."

    1. I appreciate this, but I think the claim is overstated: it wouldn't "invalidate" the BGV, and it's not clear that Carroll's even denying it here (if he is, it seems as though he's being a little disingenuous). At worst, it invalidates the claim that every model that has a quantum-gravity phase is unstable because of a quasi-static state for half of eternity.

    2. I addressed this in my article on this site, which stated the following:

      According to that paper [],

      “We stress that we have analyzed only one version of the Emergent Universe, with a simplified model. Nonetheless, we believe that the effect that this analysis points to may be rather generic. For example, consider alternative theories of gravity. The Emergent Universe has been studied extensively in theories such as Hoˇrava-Lifshitz, f(R), Loop Quantum Gravity7, and others (see, for instance, [8–11], respectively). There have also been several studies of the stability of the Einstein static universe in alternative theories (see [12], for example). However, in our framework we have, in a sense, decoupled gravity – it enters only when assessing the affect of the spreading wave-functional. Even in alternative theories in which the Einstein static universe is more stable than in standard General Relativity, we anticipate that once the wavefunctional has spread enough, the geometry must follow, and the spacetime becomes classically ill-defined as well as containing portions corresponding to singularities. Therefore, this seems like a generic (and perhaps expected, given our construction of the scenario) problem with such an eternal and precisely tuned inflationary scheme. . . .”

      “. . . Models in which the field dynamics and material content are very different would require separate analysis, but may lead to a similar basic conclusion. For example, Graham et al. [14] construct static and oscillating universes with a specific non-perfect-fluid energy component that are stable against small perturbations. However, Mithani & Vilenkin [15] have shown that this model is unstable to decay via tunneling.

      “Although we have analyzed only one version of the Emergent Universe, we would argue that our analysis is pointing to a more general problem: it is very difficult to devise a system – especially a quantum one – that does nothing “forever,” then evolves. A truly stationary or periodic quantum state, which would last forever, would never evolve, whereas one with any instability will not endure for an indefinite time.”

      Unless I’m missing something, this paper seems to strongly support WLC’s contention: quantum instability seems to prevent *any* emergent scenario — regardless of if it’s an unstable state (ESS) or a metastable state (LQG) — from being past-eternal. Moreover, this notion appears to be reinforced here [] as well:

      “A number of authors emphasized that the beginning of inflation does not have to be the beginning of the universe. The ‘emergent universe’ scenario [11–15] assumes that the universe approaches a static or oscillating regime in the asymptotic past. In this case, the average expansion rate is Hav = 0, so the condition (1) is violated. The problem with this scenario is that static or oscillating universes are generally unstable with respect to quantum collapse and therefore could not have survived for an infinite time before the onset of inflation [16–18].”

  11. I thought Craig seemed way out of his depth, and was ultimately humiliated by Carroll. You could almost feel the migraine building in his thought process. Carroll's line summed it up well, when he noted that Craig was trying to look for the film in an i-phone. Astrophysics has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 50 years, but Craig's arguments have not. Isn't it strange that the god of the universe cannot be found anywhere at all in the universe (good work Hubble) - putting all your eggs in the invisible/spiritual realm basket is pretty irresponsible if you ask me. Meanwhile, scientists are constantly adapting, learning, striving to know truth, and it won't be long before the origins of life and our universe's non-mythical story is logically explained. And yet, scientists are still told by many in Christendom that they are arrogant, angry and doomed. What's that about? Fear, I guess.
    Spin the debate as you wish, but the stark reality is that the best debater for Christianity was just made to look completely irrelevant.

    1. I don't normally allow fully anonymous comments (or at least not often), but I wanted people to see the intellectual shallowness that often accompanies scientism and the New Atheism. Now I noticed you made a lot of assertions, but didn't actually make any kind of substantive observations about the debate. Your comments are empirically equivalent with someone who watched precisely 10 particular seconds of the entire thing. I'm not saying *you didn't watch it*, but I am saying that your comment doesn't reflect whether you did or not. As to your comment about Craig's arguments, I find that strange--Craig hasn't even been giving arguments for 50 years! But moreover, his arguments have demonstrably changed or been informed by new papers--he references the BGV theorem, Robin Collins' work in probability and teleology, he interacts with contemporary philosophy of physics, he changed the common formulation of the kalam cosmological argument, and many more things *only relating to this particular debate.* Comments like that just make you look ignorant, or, dare I say it, arrogant and angry. :)

  12. This was quite a dishonest review. Very disappointing.

    1. I can assure you it wasn't dishonest. Now if you merely disagree with something, you're welcome to interact with the content. Other than that, I'm not too worried about it. Have a good day!


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