Originally posted by White Dust:
"According to Stephen Hawking in his book "The Nature of Space and Time", the universe was not eternal. During the Big Bang 15 billion years ago, physical time and matter began to exist. Thus, the universe began to exist during the Big Bang. Where did it come from? There must have been an uncaused, changeless and timeless being who caused the Big Bang. Premise 1 - Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Premise 2 - The universe began to exist, Premise 3 - The universe has a cause." - William Lane Craig's opening statement with his debate with Christopher Hitchens (2009)
My reponse - Consider the question "What created time?" Causality requires an application of time. asking what created time before time existed is a self contradictory statement. in essence, it's like asking "What's North of the North Pole?" Hence, to speak of causality before time existed is a self refuting concept. You cannot have creation in the absence of time. Secondly, it is not necessary for the universe to have a cause. The assertion presented is that since everytime thing that begins to exist in the universe has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause. This is a fallacy of composition (assuming what is true of a part is necessarily true of a whole). Thirdly, let us assume, just to make things more interesting, that the premises of the Cosmological Argument are correct. We are now left with a timeless, spaceless, immaterial creator. At this point, we have no idea what that could be. it could be the square root of 7, or the concept of an apple. How does one jump from non physical causation, as stated in the premises to God?
If I am not wrong, it is agreed that time, space and matter (catch all phrase for the universe) had a beginning. Secular folks call it "The Big Bang" that supposedly happened billions of years ago. The Bible calls it "The Beginning" that took place about 6000 years ago. But the recent scientific conclusion that the universe has a beginning merely confirms what the Bible has been saying for millennia.
Causality simply requires that effects have causes. If time is an effect, then its cause must be outside of time. There is NOTHING contradictory or self-refuting about that at all. I am not saying that there was a time before time began. The Bible does not begin this way either. BTW, that fits very well with the Biblical view of God, who stands outside of time (dwells in eternity) and created time. Our finite brain hurts to think of what eternity is like because we are space bound and time bound.
You argue that it is a fallacy of composition to say that the universe must have a cause. You have failed to understand the Kalam argument. It says that everything that has a beginning must have a cause. The universe has a beginning, therefore it must have a cause. There is no fallacy here at all, not even one of composition.
It is true that the Kalam argument only tells us just so much about what the cause must be, but not much more. However, at this point we have already one less atheist in the world. We simply need to move on and see if there is anything else that might reveal more of what this cause is like. But I am sure you appreciate the point that this timeless, spaceless, immaterial cause fits very well with the Biblical God.
Originally posted by White Dust:
Time is not an effect; time is a pre-requisite for cause and effect. Causality is necessarily temporal, which means it involves an a priori "before" and "after". The concept of before and after is absurd, not to mention self contradictory in the absence of time. Kalam works by an appeal to our cognitive faculties. We observe that "in this universe", everything that begins to exist has a cause. It is then said that therefore, the universe has a cause. But how are we to ascertain if causality exists "outside the universe" if all we've got are occurences of causality "in the universe"? This is the fallacy of composition which I'm referring to. I would also like to add that Kalam does not compel people from atheism, because of the plethora of "creators". One could just as well believe that a blue potato was the uncaused, changless and timeless creator without necessarily believing that said blue potato is a supernatural diety.
Even Hawkings concede the point of singularity, that time has a beginning. Again Kalam states that what began to exist must have a cause. There is again no logical flaw in this premise. Neither is there one in the case of the finite universe requiring a cause. What has been established is that the universe did not always exist. Logic then demands that something must have caused it to exist, even if it is timeless and outside of this universe, an idea that you are apparently not comfortable with. Whether we can ascertain anything outside our universe is irrelevant to the argument about causation. You would be confusing the proof with the logic of the argument.
Even, if for the sake of argument, you wish to argue that the cause of the universe is many creators, we can invoke Occam's Razor and dispense with the many when all we need is just ONE being or entity capable of creating the universe. Is God the same as a blue potato? What properties do you wish to endow your blue potato with? How you know it is blue? Blue is a property of matter, and thus fails the immaterial attribute you mentioned earlier. Again remember, whatever this cause is, it must at least be timeless, immaterial, all powerful (to be able to bring the universe to existence), and personal (to be able to exercise the choice to create the universe).
Originally posted by White Dust:
Hawkings has conceded that time has begun to exist, no doubt. There are 3 possibilities if the universe has a beginning in time. Either time begins with the universe, time began for a finite time before the universe, or time existed for an infinite period before the universe. Kalam rejects the last 2 possiblities so we'll just go with the first one. If the act of God creating the universe coincided with time in the beginning of the universe, then that act must have began to exist. This means the act must have had a cause (God). The cause (God) must have also began to exist, and so an infinite regress threatens.
Suppose, then, that God starts time before the universe. Perhaps he has a countdown: "5, 4, 3, 2, 1... kaboom!" In this case, the beginning of time would be an event in the mind of God - the start of the countdown. But here again, if God's act of starting the countdown is the beginning of time, that act begins to exist, and the temporal cosmological argument requires that that act also have a cause. Once again the infinite regress abyss yawns. Furthermore, as the British philosopher Le Poidevin pointed out, the 3rd premise of Kalam will be false if time was eternal or if time existed as a close loop with each moment preceding and following each moment.
Kalam claims that the cause of the universe is outside "the universe" Hence, it is of upmost importance that we verify how causality works outside of the universe. How then, can it be said that the universe MUST be caused if one does not know if causality even exists outside of the universe! The assumption of Kalam is that since what we observe in this universe follows the line of cause and effect, therefore the universe must also follow the principle of cause and effect. Which is like I pointed out, a fallacy of composition.
Occams Razor is a very interesting concept. I'm glad you brought that up. You see, Occams Razor does nothing to demonstrate what is true, it only demonstrates what is simple. Furthermore, if Occams Razor were to be employed, would the American physicist Lawrence Krauss be correct in asserting that the universe began out of virutal particles (a view quite a number of physicists hold - Alan Guth, Michio Kaku, Carl Sagan, Neil Tyson). Blue is immaterial, blue is a concept. Blue is simply something affected by photon diffraction on a line spectrum. Photons themselves have no rest mass; so cannot be considered material.
If you ask me, I think it is pointless to argue what was prior to "In the beginning God...". It's just academic. But we all agree that there was a beginning. The clock started ticking. If it started then something must have caused it to start. Now, we already said that whatever created the universe must be timeless, so why do you now suggest that it is not and thus requires a cause? We can either go infinite regress which explains nothing or we start with a necessary being God. There is nothing illogical about an uncaused cause.
Let's again not confuse the proof with the logic of the argument. Like it or not, there is no way we can transcend our confines to observe anything outside the universe. This is our limitation. But this does not in anyway proves that there is no cause that is outside of the universe. Cause and effect is a universal law, so it is perfectly logical and reasonable to apply it to the universe. Remember, your issue is more of how to verify the cause, not that there is no cause. Agnosticism about the cause is not the same as denial of the cause.
Occam's Razor is a method of reasoning, not a proof of anything. It is invoked to remove UNNECESSARY entities to explain something. The simpler the explanation it should be PREFERRED over those that multipliy entities unneccessarily. There is no need to burden ourselves with extra entities when a simpler one is available.
Originally posted by White Dust:
I agree with your first statement. Except that I would push it a step further, it is of little value to argue what existed before the Big Bang. You would agree that there was timelessness before the Big Bang. How can we then assert that there could be a timeless creator which created the universe (not to mention time) during timelessness itself? I do not think there is a timeless creator for the cosmos. Which is why I reject the 1st and 3rd premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I do not think we know enough about physical cosmology to ascertain if an actual infinite past can occur or if time exists as a closed loop.
I think it is precisely because of our inability to observe outside of the universe that we can't draw any conclusions regarding non-physical causation. Sure, we know a lot about physical causation. But what do we know about non physical causation? Nothing, absolutely nothing! Cause and effect is a universal law, which means it's principles hold true "in this universe". To then assume that it is also applicable to the causation of the universe, which if it did happen, would happen "outside the universe" is the Fallacy of Composition. Perhaps it is a little fuzzy; I'll try to give an example.
Set theory can help clarify. Suppose that everything, including the universe and whatever is outside of it is denoted as P. The universe is contained within P and we shall call it Q. Q is a part of P. To say that since the principle of cause and effect is true of Q, and it is therefore true of P is the fallacy I'm pointing to. Moreover I wish to add that causality cannot take place outside of time. I think it it is senseless to speak of the universe as having a cause since the very notion of "cause" involves temporal priority.
I strongly disagree with the methodology of Occam Razor. Simplicity is not always the best answer, not to mention not the most true. Preferences for epistemology aside, I find Bayesian Confirmation Theory to be much more useful at establishing truth claims.
By the way, I'm really enjoying our discussion thus far. Thanks.
1. I think humility should prevail when we have reached the limits of human reasoning and inquiry. We can wax eloquent about speculative things but it is still nothing but speculation. What we both should realise that in talking about what caused the universe we have left the physical universe and are talking about metaphysics. No more can we talk about empirical science or observations, or proofs and verification of anything. We are now arguing about what we BELIEVE and the reasonableness of belief, not what we can prove. What we have are arguments, not evidence. We cannot conclude based on what we do not know, but on what we do know. So it is about which argument makes the better case. If you are agnostic about it, then you cannot use your agnosticism to rule out my beliefs or to judge it wrong. Which comes back to the question, why can't I conclude that the cause of the universe is timeless? If time is an effect, the cause must be timeless i.e. not bound by time. And because the universe has a beginning, it is LOGICAL and reasonable to conclude that it has a cause because it is also supported by all our experience which tells us that everything that began to exists has a cause. Again you need to be clear as to whether you are being agnostic about the cause or are you denying there is a cause?
2. Your set theory example is flawed because it is ASSUMING that P is like Q, but just bigger to include Q. I am arguing that anything that can cause Q to exists is qualitatively different from Q. There is thus no fallacy of composition.
3. Occam's Razor is pretty much used everywhere. It is the economy of explanation that people look for. The simplest answer may certainly not be the best answer because the right answer could be anything but simple. But that's where the need to argue your case comes in. You have to give good reasons why Occam's Razor should not be applied in that instance to prefer the simpler explanation that can still explain the phenomena we wish to explain.
4. I'm happy to know that you are enjoying this discussion. So am I. Ignore the noise generated by the trolls like beta though. I'll do house-keeping as often as I can to keep out the trash and hopefully keep the thread alive and not being locked.
BTW, please see http://creation.com/universe-had-a-beginning and share your thoughts
Originally posted by White Dust:You cannot conclude that the cause of the universe is timeless because you can't have "cause and effect" without time. If you wish to assert that the universe has a cause, then you must also accept that time existed before the universe began to exist. Otherwise, the whole idea of causality is pointless in the absence of temporal priority. I also wish to reiterate that time is not an effect , time is the prerequisite for cause and effect. I am denying that there is a cause; that's my position with respect to causality.P is like Q? Not at all! Q is a subset of P. I don't understand what you mean by "Anything that can cause Q to exist is qualitatively different from Q." To argue that since everything in Q has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause (an occurence in set P, outside of Q) is the Fallacy of Composition. Or perhaps you could explain how there can be a cause of the universe in the absence of time?You just gave the answer youself haha. Which is, the simplest explanation may not necessarily be the best explanation. Furthermore, occam's razor has been used to argue against the existence of God that the universe spontaneously came into existence* (Daniel Dennett, 2007), just to give an example. On the other hand, I have offered another epistimic tool - Bayesian Confirmation Theory, where we can assess the prior probabilities with regards to claims. This is especially useful in determining the probabilty of resurrection accounts in critical history** (F. H Bradley, 1877).* Cambridge Companion to Atheism, Michael Martin, Chapter 8; Cambridge University Press.** Presuppositions of Critical History, F. H Bradley, The British Library.
1. By saying that you can't have cause and effect with time you are not making the distinction between that which is eternal and that which is temporal. As mentioned earlier, the cause of time must be timeless. That the universe has a cause is more reasonable than to assert that it has no cause. If the universe has no cause then it must have existed forever, but this is certainly not true. I argue that time is an effect in the sense that it has a beginning and thus requires a cause. While it is difficult for you to conceive of anything outside of time, there is nothing illogical about an eternal cause bringing about the existence of time simultaneously with space and matter.
2. To say that Q is a subset of P is to assume at the very least that Q shares similar attributes or characteristics with P. Wouldn't you then be committing the fallacy of composition by assuming that too? You are saying that just because cause and effects are time bound, therefore the cause of time itself must also be time bound and thus you pose back the question to me. But I am arguing that the cause of the universe (space time matter) is wholly other, an entity that is not subject to the universe and its confines. Consider an analogy, the creator of the computer is wholly other, i.e. human, not a computer itself.
3. To use Occam's Razor to argue against the existence of God is flawed. In the first place, this is attributed to Bishop Ockham who is certainly a believer in God. Secondly, I am also arguing that God is a NECESSARY BEING, and thus He is in a sense the precondition for the existence of the universe which is a contingent entity. I suck at maths and statistics, but I think while it may be useful to determine the probability of something happening it is not useful to argue about the existence of causes.