Philosophy of Religion and other things

Wonder

Posted on March 5th, 2014

I am convinced that philosophy and theology cannot be done well without an enduring sense of wonder, but I do not know what wonder is.  What is wonder? It will perhaps be helpful to consider undisputed cases wherein wonder is operative. The first case is when the man stands before a great misty mountain and has this sense, this experience. This experience we term wonder. The second case is when a man enters into a great dimly lit Cathedral.

In response to both cases, our alleged man has a sense of the grandeur that lays before him. Wonder here involves a sense of size or complexity, but neither are enough to capture the essence of wonder.

There is also a sense of mystery, of un-plunged depths. The man that stands before the great Cathedral sees immediately a hall of a million meanings. Every part that makes the cathedral the cathedral is infused with a mass of intentions. These intentions lay undisclosed, beyond a single reading. There is here a sense of complexity again, but complexity taken in a different light. It is thus perhaps unsurprising that ancient ruins or ancient cities better evoke a sense of wonder and mystery than a freshly laid concrete high rise. We get the sense of a thousand men dying and a thousand men rising amongst these ruins, and that sense moves us to consider, again, our own microscopic nature.

These observations are getting somewhere but they do not capture the fulness of wonder. Is it no surprise that a concept born of mystery itself remains undisclosed and beyond the powers of short ordered explanation?

Given all of what has been said, an interesting question arises, is there a close affinity between humility and wonder? Can the man that considers himself great enjoy the power of wonder? Wonder may disarm; it may indeed make a great man feel small, but insofar as he considers himself great, even before what is greater, a man cannot, it seems, enjoy the gift of wonder. This is because wonder does involve a sense of grandeur and a man that thinks himself greater than a Cathedral will inevitably see it as a stool for his own foot rather than a throne for the Almighty. Wonder is thus the reserve of the humble, though the great mystery of wonder is that it can turn a great man into a molecule.

The Concrete Warehouse Church and Its Opposite

Posted on October 19th, 2013

It has been far too long, my dearest God and Pen reader. Hopefully this drought of post and good witted humor will be replaced with a torrential hurricane of post and humor, though I can’t promise too much of either.

I was awoken from my blogosphere slumber by Facebook. That is not usually the thing that wakes people up, but alas, you all ought to know by now that “usual” is not worth much around “here.” Facebook tends to turn folks into drooling monsters, jumping around flailing their computers, and mocking every other goon that runs into their loony dustbin of a wall. But I, oh great that I am, do not have such friends. I’m sorry to gloat, but I must. My friends are the übermensch of men (and women). They are sensible, and downright funny. Their sensibility and humor is only outmatched by my own esteemed nobility, remarkable rationality, and notorious tomfoolery (and haberdashery for good measure). I’m sorry, my friends, but honesty is the only way to do good philosophy (and to be friendless). Think of Socrates; that guy was killed for being so awesome. So, um, I think I’ll die for awesomeness too.

Where was I? I do believe I took a misstep somewhere. Ah, yes! I know where I was. I was describing my friends and the reason for this post. I’ll get back to that. So I ‘shared’ a wonderful Facebook picture (I can’t find it now).

The picture is just to say that the “dark” ages weren’t so dim, and our modern period is not the poster child of solar illumination. The reason to say something like that? Churches. It’s always churches with me anymore. Either I’m complaining about the skeletal corpse that is our modern warehouse church, or singing the praises of the liturgical eucharistic tradition of high towers and deep chants. Churches were once high and excellent. They were once a proper meeting place between the Divine and the human. Church used to be less of a social institution and more of the place wherein the mystical Body of Christ becomes present at the Eucharist. So it was incredibly important, with this belief in mind, that one ornament the Church as if it were in some sense present before Christ, before the Heavenly Host.

“But wait you” so say my friends, “hold on a minute, Mr. Basil Eucharist-pants.” (that was not funny) “What about the poor? What about the downtrodden? Why throw the gold of our coffers into the bottomless invoice of church architecture? Think of the children, Basil, think of the tears that pour from their sickly eyes!”

This is an incredibly important objection. I’m reminded now of Peter Singer. Oughtn’t we to save a drowning child if it is in our ability to do so? And isn’t saving drowning children more important than building big hunks of shapely stone? Old Churches are certainly beautiful, but these are stacked stone and will fall, but men are eternal, and their wellbeing is more important than the frills of a building.

Saving drowning children is indeed more important than ornamenting pretty things, but that is not to say that ornament and beauty is unimportant. But there are drowning children, and starving children, and lost children. There are a countless array of fools like us that suffer and die alone, without love and without hope. Does not such a confession require that man live the most simplest kind of life, that his churches be skeletal shells?

I do not think it does. This is so because man is a certain kind of thing. Man is both a thing that requires food and a thing that requires God, requires beauty.

It will do no good to go saving man from drowning if the world you save him to is not suited to fulfill his deepest desires. Save every drowning man, that is man’s duty, but build a magnificent sacred space, that is also man’s duty. The two are not contradictory. And if you do think they are, then live on oats, banish all art and ornament, all celebration and beauty––save a man to a world of grey nothingness. The rest of us will acknowledge the entirety of man, a man that survives and a man that lives.

Atheism Is Not A Lack of Belief: Followup

Posted on April 11th, 2012

I received quite a bit of denunciations for my recent dialogue between the imaginary Atheist (let’s call him Carlo) and myself. One too many straw-men apparently came from my pen. The problem is that I don’t ever recall big bundles of straw beings crawling out of the nib of my pen or my lips, though perhaps I was sleeping when they did. That may not be what they meant. It was claimed that I misrepresented someone. I can’t say I misrepresented Carlo; I would be surely mad if so, and Carlo would be angry as well (that should be a warning). I imagine no one meant that either though. Did I misrepresent Atheists? I’m not sure if I did. I didn’t mean to. At the very least, I can excuse any faults by claiming one or more of three things: (i) Carlo made me do it, (ii) I wrote it in ten or so minutes, or (iii) I had a very similar discussion online. The last two are true, and the first shall not be affirmed or denied.

 

Our imaginary Atheist has re-entered my home and sat before my roaring fire in a deep leather chair, waiting for me to engage him. Off with it then:

 

B.. I noticed that you wished to challenge some of the points I made the last time we spoke.

A. For what other reason would I bother you at this hour?

B. Oh yes, I nearly forgot about your fondness of the night, you night owl. When you come at this hour, discussion and much of it is the only thing to expect.

A. I dare not think of coming for any other reason.

B. Well, now that you are here, perhaps I should ask you some questions again, to jog your memory and all that rubbish.

A. Yes, yes, get on with it.

B. Is Atheism a proposition? Can it be expressed in propositional form?

A. Indeed, there are two ways to express it. Either, (1) There is no being known as God, or (2) The lack of belief in God.

B. Aha! This is what I was after all along. I’m not so sure those are the only ways to express it, but––

A. I do imagine there are other ways and we might just introduce those further along, but for now I don’t suspect we need to be doing that. And before you do ask, I would subscribe to (2).

B. That’s quite alright. For now that will do. So the first one concerns real being––that which exists extra-mentally––and the second one concerns mental being. Do you agree?

A. What do you mean?

B. Mental being concerns strictly the objects of the mind, and real being concerns, as I noted, those beings which exist extra-mentally. An example of mental being: my beliefs or concepts existing in my mind. An example of real being: you, Carlo. When (1) involves agents and their beliefs, it is both concerned with mental being and real being. (2) would be concerned with the lack of mental being and not real being.

A. That sounds right.

B. But a problem seems to arise.

A. I suspected you might think so.

B. If one held exclusively to (2), it would be a description of their lack of some such mental being. The question I have, and what I find quite damning, is just how this works. Can someone strictly lack a belief in, say, Santa Clause, when they have existentially considered the proposition that Santa Clause exists? That is to say, would we not need to say more?

A. What are you getting at?

B. The act of considering some proposition x’s truth value executes in either (a) belief that x, (b) belief that not-x, or (c) belief in neither x or not-x (knowledge that one does not believe either x nor not-x).

A. There is a fourth option. I can also simply lack a belief that x.

B. But lacking a belief after considering some proposition x’s truth values is not enough. One does more than only lack a belief that x. Lacking a belief after considering the truth value of some proposition x leaves one with either (b) or (c). For in the case of (b), one lacks belief in x by believing the opposite, and, in the case of (c), one lacks belief in x by believing neither x or not-x. With (c), one has no burden of proof because one is describing his own mental life (“I know that I do not believe in either x or not-x”), whereas with (b) one does have a burden of proof, for where x = extra-mental being, one is making a claim about real being. Those are the sorts of claims that need, under certain epistemic systems, proof, or proper justification.

A. So you deny my fourth option?

B. No, I don’t consider it a fourth option to begin with. It is contained in (b) and (c). The crucial point involves the act of considering some proposition x’s truth value. In describing babies and others who have never considered the truth value of the proposition that God exists, it is true that babies and these others strictly speaking lack belief in God. They do not say that (a), (b), or (c).

A. I understand that. I would say that I hold to (c). I would call that weak atheism.

B. If the position is called weak atheism, does that make you a weak atheist?

A. I suppose it does.

B. I suppose every atheist is a weak atheist.

A. Hmm?

B. Is not every atheist weak?

A. Oh, how very funny. You always get sassy at this time of night.

B. I do try. I have to keep you on your toes after all.

A. Yes, “after all.”

B. Perhaps my problem with this understanding of atheism is quite minor. Atheism becomes this pitifully annoying neighbor that keeps claiming his neighbors home as his own. The atheist becomes a squatter.

A. You aren’t kidding are you?

B. No, I’m done kidding for now. I do mean that. Weak atheism is synonymous with weak agnosticism: the position concerned strictly with mental being that says that a fellow neither believes in x, nor not-x.

A. That sounds quite right.

B. If that’s what you will, then so will it. Please do be more specific from now on, however.

A. You weren’t all that specific the last time we spoke either.

B. I’ll grant that I was not.

A. I thought at first that you were suggesting that it is impossible to lack a belief in x, if you are aware of the proposition x.

B. Yes, that wouldn’t have been very good. I might have given that false impression by not crafting my words well enough during key moments in our short conversation.

A. You nearly did give that impression.

B. It is late, Carlo; I need to bathe in my glorious metal toed tub, and read a chapter of the Summa.

A. So it is late, you need to bath in your ridiculous tub, and you need to read a chapter of that old scholastic ho hum?

B. You are very observant tonight, Carlo. All of those facts taken together implicitly exclude you. Goodnight.

A. Very well. Goodnight.

Atheism Is Not the Lack of a Belief/Claim

Posted on April 10th, 2012

(1)Atheism is not a claim; it is the lack of a claim––the lack of belief in Theism. We’ve heard that one many times. At least, I have. What follows below will be a dialogue between myself and an imaginary atheist who thinks (1) is the way to go about handling Theism.

A. Atheism is not a claim and so it shoulders no burden of proof. It is the lack of the belief in Theism.
B. So it is a lack of a claim, and thus not a claim, yes?
A. Yes, that is what I said.
B. Just making sure. So a claim is simply a proposition?
A. What is a proposition precisely?
B. Well, it is a claim about reality.
A. Oh! Certainly then; atheism is not a claim about reality, but a lack.
B. So it is not a proposition and certainly not a command?
A. Yes, it is neither a proposition nor a command.
B. If atheism is neither a proposition or a command, I have no idea what it means. Is it not babble crammed together with letters?
A. No, no! It is certainly not babble! You misunderstand me. Think of some being in a far off galaxy known as Zoidyxilumop. Do you not lack a belief in such a being?
B. I did! But now that you’ve mentioned it––now that you’ve mentioned the proposition that Zoidyxilumop exists––I no longer only lack a belief, but also deny the proposition that Zoidyxilumop exists.
A. What are you getting at?
B. It’s all good and well to say I lack belief in x when I have no idea of the proposition x, but when I am aware of such a proposition, then I do have some belief about it. That is to say, I no longer only lack a belief, but affirm or deny a proposition, or maintain that I believe neither that it is or that it is not.
A. You say Zoidyxilumop does not exist? How could you say that?
B. I can be quite confident that no such being exists. You did make him up after all. Either way, you did not respond to what I said.
A. I am not quite sure what to say.
B. Now it is time I ask you an important question: do you have knowledge that there is such a proposition as that God exists?
A. Yes, I do know that such a proposition exists (in the mind).
B. So you cannot simply lack a belief in it. You either affirm, deny, or withhold judgement about it. And since you think the proposition God exists is not true of reality, then an affirmation of the opposite is explicit in your denial.
A. But what about babies? They lack belief in God?
B. Yes, they lack belief in the proposition that God exists, and in the proposition that God does not exist. They are babies after all! You on the other hand do not only lack belief, but also affirm the opposite.
A. So is Atheism a claim?
B. Yes, it is. Atheism is the claim that God does not exist, and since such a claim/belief excludes belief that God does exist, it is the lack of such a claim. Yet it is more. It is the lack of a claim, but also the affirmation of the denial of that claim. We might distinguish between Ignorant Atheists (those that know nothing of the proposition that God exists – for instance, babies) and Atheists (those that do know of such a proposition and indeed deny it).

Teleology and the Multiverse, Part 1

Posted on September 10th, 2011

Multiverse theory is quickly becoming a popularly accepted idea among many mainstream cosmologists. It is the hope of the naturalist that this theory will once and for all eradicate any vestige of design that may manifest itself in a standard universe model. Many teleologists and apologists are inclined to reject the multiverse theory all together due to the apparent devastating implications of a multiverse on design arguments. I, however, believe that there may be some scientific grounds for believing in a multiverse, and rejecting an idea because you dislike its implications is never an intellectually acceptable deed.

For an apologist, perhaps the most important question is not whether the multiverse actually exists, but rather what implications the multiverse has on one’s apologetic arguments. It is evident that the existence of a multiverse would drastically effect the validity of the common design arguments. In my next few posts, we will explore the implications of various multiverse models on our teleological arguments. Before I go any further, I should first elaborate on the various multiverse models that have been proposed.

Level 1 Multiverse- This multiverse theory simply states that there is a physical reality beyond our observable universe. While it is called a multiverse theory, this model argues that there is indeed only one universe, however it is much larger than our observable universe.

Level 2 Multiverse- This level of the multiverse asserts that there are actual, physical universes beyond our universe, presumably with different physical constants.

Level 3 Multiverse- The level 3 multiverse is derived from the idea that any possible quantum mechanical outcome exists in an actual universe. In this level of multiverse, every possible outcome of any probability actually exists somewhere in a universe that will never interact with our universe.

Level 4 Multiverse- This multiverse asserts that any conceivable universe exists. Any possible world exists as an actual world in a different universe.

For the remainder of this post, we will be dealing with only the implications of a level 1 multiverse.

Let me begin by saying that there seems to be sufficient reason for us to believe that a level 1 multiverse does indeed exist. If (most) big bang inflationary models are correct and our universe experienced a brief moment of extremely fast expansion, then it would almost certainly follow that a level 1 multiverse exists. Inflation would have caused the universe to expand far beyond the distance that light has been able to travel in the universe’s 13.7 billion year existence.

So what implications does a level 1 multiverse have on our teleological arguments? Traditionally, design arguments attempt to demonstrate the low probability of certain apparently finely tuned attributes of this universe when presented in a completely naturalistic framework. There are two types of fine tuning in teleological arguments: environmental fine tuning, meaning the specific finely tuned environmental aspects that cause earth to be a suitable home for intelligent life; and foundational fine tuning, meaning the finely tuned physical constants that permit our universe to be inhabitable for life as we know it. There are numerous examples of both types of fine tuning, and neither type is more or less convincing than the other. (Click here to see a list of  hundreds of apparently fine tuned parameters that are necessary for life to exist.1)

If a level 1 multiverse were to exist, depending on its size, it may be able to explain much of the environmental fine tuning that we observe. Because many teleological arguments attempt to demonstrate that our universe is unlikely given the sample size (our observable universe), if we were to increase our sample size by a factor of ten million, we would clearly have a much greater chance of coming across a planet similar to our own. Some scientists argue that our universe may even be spatially infinite, which could perhaps produce thousands of planets just like our own.2 (Granted, this idea is riddled with philosophical dilemmas.)

Regardless of how big the level 1 multiverse may be, it fails to address the improbability that all of the physical constants would be so apparently fine tuned to support life. Because the level 1 multiverse only asserts that the actual universe is much larger than what we can observe, it would follow that the rest of the universe would have the same physical constants as our observable universe. Thus, the level 1 multiverse has nothing to say about half of the common design argument.

The other half of the common teleological argument (environmental fine tuning) is, however, affected by a level 1 multiverse; the only question that remains is how well such a multiverse would be able to explain the apparent environmental fine tuning that we observe. Given the sheer quantity and microscopic probabilities of the environmental fine tuning we observe, the universe would have to be at least thousands (perhaps even millions or billions) of times larger than what we can observe.

So can the multiverse adequately explain all environmental fine tuning? The fact is that we simply do not yet know. Until scientists can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanism of rapid inflation, the exact size of a level 1 multiverse remains unknown.

In conclusion, despite the possibility that a level 1 multiverse may be able to explain environmental fine tuning, it fails to address the radical improbability that all of our finely tuned fundamental forces came about by purely natural processes. Thus, we are still left with a very strong teleological argument based on fundamental fine tuning alone. Next time, we will examine the implications of the existence of many universes with different fundamental forces (level 2+ multiverse models) and the effects that they have on our teleological arguments.

 

1.Ross, Hugh. “Fine Tuning for Life in the Universe.” Reasons to Believe. 2008.

2. Silk, J. “How Big Is the Universe.” Historical Development of Modern Cosmology, volume 252 (2001): p. 109.

On the Ontological Status of the Big Bang Singularity

Posted on July 18th, 2011

Quentin Smith is not persuaded by this line. He argues by way of a reductio that interpreting the ICS as equivalent to nothing entails (1) the denial of the truth of the Special and General Theory of Relativity, which represents spacetime as a continuum of instantaneous spatial points. Even further, if the ICS, Smith argues, were equivalent with nothing, then (2) the entire spacetime continuum would too be equivalent with nothing, and this is prima facie false. STR and GTR represent events as instantaneous spatial points having zero spatial and temporal dimension. “The difference,” Smith surmises, “between the Big Bang singularity and elements of spacetime is that the elements have four coordinates and the singularity has no coordinates; this difference is reflected in the fact that the singularity is a boundary or edge of spacetime and an event or element is a part of spacetime. Each event is a spatial point that is connected to other spatial points along the dimensions of height, width, and depth, but the initial singularity of a finite universe is a spatial point that exists in isolation. But each element of the manifold and the singularity are similar in that each is spatially and temporally pointlike.” As stated earlier, accepting the ICS as ontologically equivalent to nothing results by entailment in the prima facie false proposition that spacetime is ontologically equivalent with nothing. If 1. is true then given the high degree of plausibility assigned to GTR and STR, Craig’s contention that the singularity be ontologically equivalent with nothing should be denied. And certainly anyone half-well read in the confirmation of GTR and STR should deny the rather less plausible (in comparison) position that the ICS be equivalent with nothing.7

Smith’s arguments (1-2) would hold – should hold – did they not attend to a particularly weighty, in the bad sense of “weighty,” ontology. I, pace Smith and in accordance with Craig, do think such things as an ontological continuum do not exist. Such things as instants and points seem much rather to be mathematical fictions. This sort of position, that is, the position that says that points and instants do not exist, would undercut 1-2 such that they lose all of their power, but it might be argued “on less controversial grounds” that Smith’s argument fails. Instants of time and points of space are not themselves intervals of space and time, “but mere boundaries of intervals.” Within such an ontology it is perfectly consistent to hold that boundary points do not exist independently of the intervals they bound. Craig continues, “If instants and points exist only as boundaries of intervals, then they have no independent ontological status and so cannot subsist alone. But in the case of the initial cosmological singularity, this point-instant is said to exist independently. Therefore,” quite persuasively I think, “point-instants of the manifold can exist (as boundaries of intervals), while the singularity cannot.”8

A B-theorist would not agree with this distinction, for, under B-theoretic ontology, the singularity bounds the spacetime manifold. The A-theorist – notice how biased I am by using the for the latter and mere a for the former – would disagree with the B-theorist since he accepts temporal becoming, and since temporal becoming is predicated on a presentist ontology, the instant the ICS comes to be, all other instants would not yet exist. The ICS would thus exist alone, and supposing that instants and points exist only as boundaries of intervals and thus cannot exist alone, then the ICS would not exist; that is to say, the ICS would be ontologically equivalent to nothing. 9, 10

If the singularity were taken to be ontologically equivalent with nothing, then the universe would not have a first temporal instant, but would exist at any moment arbitrarily close to the ICS.11

The conclusion should thus be framed: given presentism, the ICS can plausibly be taken to be ontologically equivalent to nothing. Now what bearing does this have on the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the project of teologia naturalis which our blog is so very fond of? By itself, not much, but as a response to Q. Smith’s argument, very much. And this I suppose would mean it has much – well not too much, but much – bearing on the success of the KCA, and thus the project of Natural Theology (which I so cleverly referred to in its latin formulation). Watch out for the followup post that will frame this post within the context of Quentin Smith’s argument presented in Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, which I certainly recommend. It happens to be one of the best discussions of Kalam in print outside of The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (for others, see: The Kalam Cosmological Argument for God by Mark R. Nowacki). That is all. Adieu.

1. William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Clarendon Paperbacks) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 1995), page 167.

2. Ibid. 120. “Furthermore, it belongs analytically to the concept of the cosmological singularity that it is not the effect of prior physical events. The definition of a singularity that is employed in singularity theorems entails that it isimpossible to extend the spacetime manifold beyond the singularity. The definition in question is based on the concept of inextendible curves, a concept that has been most completely and precisely been explicated by B.G. Schmidt. In a spacetime manifold there are timelike geodesics (paths of free falling particles), spacelike geodesics (paths of tachyons), null geodesics (paths of photons), and timelike curves with bounded acceleration (paths along which it is possible for observers to move). If one of these curves terminates after a finite proper length (or finite affine parameter in the case of null geodesics), and it is impossible to extend the spacetime manifold beyond that point (for example, because of infinite curvature), then that point, along with all adjacent terminating points, is a singularity.”

3. Ibid. 167.

4. Ibid. 171.

5. Ibid. 226.

6. Ibid. 260.

7. Ibid. 245.

8. Ibid. 259-260.

9. Ibid. 260. Craig further adds, “It seems very difficult to reconcile the A-theory of time with the view that instants are not mere boundary points, but subsist as independent intervals of zero duration. “Not only does this raise the ancient puzzle of how the present moment can be an interval of zero temporal duration, given that past and future are ontologically unreal, but the notion that the present is a solitary instant also seems to post insuperable problems for the reality of temporal becoming, since instants have no immediate successors, so that one after another cannot elapse….”

10. Ibid. 260.

11. Ibid. 260.

Principles of Sufficient Reason

Posted on July 12th, 2011

I am sure most readers are familiar with the fact that there is a category of arguments for the existence of God that all go roughly like this:

  1.  For every fact, there is an explanation of that fact.
  2.  The physical world does not explain itself.
  3. Therefore, there is an explanation for the facts of the physical world that can’t be found in the physical world.

From (3), the argument continues that said explanation can only be found in the god of classical theism. (2) is easily established, but the “how” is depending on the exact formulation of (1). The important premise here is (1) and any statement like it is called a principle of sufficient reason. There are actually several of them, but there is one that is usually called THE Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR for short):

(PSR) Every contingently true proposition is explained.

There’s also what’s sometimes called the Strong Principle of Sufficient Reason (SPSR), which states that (PSR) is necessarily true – an unexplained contingent truth is impossible.

But you can find a weaker principle, like what Richard Gale and Alexander Pruss call the Restricted Principle of Sufficient Reason:

(RPSR) Every contingent truth can be explained.

But you can evenmake this statement weaker.

(WPSR) It is possible that every contingent truth can be explained.

It’s clear that a stronger principle implies a weaker one, but you can actually just appeal to the (WPSR) in our initial argument and it will do all we wanted from the SPSR.  Why? Suppose the WPSR holds. Then there is a possible world that the RPSR holds. Suppose that in that world, some contingently true proposition is unexplained. By the RPSR, the fact that it is unexplained is contingent, so we can apply the RPSR to “X is contingently true and X is unexplained” and find an explanation for it. But the explanation of the conjunction has to explain both propositions in the conjunction, which is a contradiction. So in that world, every contingent truth  does in fact have an explanatio, including the conjunction of all contingent truths.  I’ll leave it to another day to show how to get from this result to classical theism (or like you to papers that do just that), but I think that this conclusion alone is interesting enough. The next question should be: How much more plausible do we have to make our appeal to the need of explanations?

Note that the deductions in this argument use Axiom S5 of modal logic.

For more on this, read Pruss’ papers and/or blog for yourself:

https://bearspace.baylor.edu/Alexander_Pruss/www/papers/

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/

Common Objections to Kalam Part 7: Singularities and Infinities

Posted on July 2nd, 2011


Finally
here I am breaking the silence of months with yet another Common Objection to Kalam. I’ve heard this objection explicated most often by the youtube Atheist community (a very vibrant community, to be kind). In all of his written works on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, William Lane Craig defends the second premise (i.e. the universe began to exist) philosophically by arguing for the absurdity (read: impossibility) of the existence of an actual infinite. And following this he defends the second premise by way of empirical confirmation utilizing Big Bang cosmology and modern astrophysics. He argues, rather persuasively I think, that the universe began in an infinitely dense hot state wherein the universe was condensed to a single point – marking the edge and thus beginning of space and physical time (and given Ockham’s Razor, we might as well say metaphysical time too).[1]

The objector who finds this particular objection persuasive to Kalam argues that there is an alleged contradiction between claiming that an actual infinite cannot exist and claiming that universe began to exist in an infinitely dense singularity. For if the mutakallimun[2] (Kalamist) is arguing (1) that actual infinities cannot enjoy extra-mental existence and (2) that the singularity is actually infinite, then there is indeed a contradiction.

Now suppose for a moment that the singularity is infinite in a Cantorian sense, this would not mean that the mutakallimun must abandon Kalam. Not by any means. The mutakallimun might very well argue that the singularity does not enjoy ontological reality; that is to say, the initial cosmological singularity is not an existent, but is equivalent to nothing (and because of the trickiness of the word ‘nothing’ amongst physicists, I’ll specify what is meant by this sort – really the only sort – of ‘nothing’: non-being).[3][4] Otherwise, the mutakallimun might abandon empirical arguments from Big Bang cosmology and stick with the strictly philosophical ones. This last option is ill advised.

But as with most of the common objections to Kalam, it is based on a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding of the nature of singularities as possessing infinite curvature, density and temperature. This is not meant in a Cantorian sense. Writing in “Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology,” Quentin Smith lists three clarifications (of which I will list only two)[5] that further elucidate the point that the initial cosmological singularity is not infinite in a Cantorian sense. (1) As we approach the singularity, the values become higher and higher, “such that for any arbitrarily high finite value there is an instant at which the density, temperature, and curvature of the possess that value.”[6] (2) When the singularity is reached the values become infinite, but this in no way suggests that the singularity involves values such as aleph-null. Quentin Smith notes, “If the universe is finite, and the big bang singularity a single point, then at the first instant the entire mass of the universe is compressed into a space with zero volume. The density of the point is n/o, where n is the extremely high but finite number of kilograms of mass in the universe. Since it is impermissible to divide by zero, the ratio of mass to unit volume has no meaningful and measurable value and in this sense is infinite (emphasis his).”[7][8]

While a conclusion is not needed, one will be given: this objection is founded upon misunderstanding. As it has gone before, common objections don’t stand much of a chance of toppling the tower that is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This does not mean the argument succeeds in providing warrant for belief in God simpliciter.[7] The opponent of Kalam might yet have a catapult of objections to offer, but it would seem that these objections are not common and not simple. It takes more than just a nudge of the will to knock down the mutakallimun’s fortress.

 

1. See Craig, William Lane, and James D. Sinclair. “The Kalam Cosmological Argument.” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.

2. Taken as a cue from W.L. Craig’s The Kalam Cosmological Argument; meaning a defender of the Kalam argument.

3. Craig, William Lane, and Quentin Smith. “Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology.” Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology. Oxford [England: Clarendon, 1993. 258-261. Print.

4. My next post will be on the ontological status of the singularity.

5. The other clarification would have been redundant for our purposes.

6. Craig, William Lane, and Quentin Smith. “Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology.” Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology. Oxford [England: Clarendon, 1993. 209-10. Print.

7. Ibid. pg 210.

8. God simpliciter would be an agent that created the entirety of the spatio-temporal world ex nihilo.


 

New Theme and Updates

Posted on June 27th, 2011

Hello everyone!

As long as you’re not blind (or running windows 98) you’ve probably noticed something different about the website. Yes, it has been redesigned, and with what I take to be a much better theme. It’s easier on the eyes and has a depth which the previous theme lacked, or so says I. Please tell me what you think!

And as far as announcements go, I have a checklist of sorts that I’d like to share with you:

  • Post a new Common Objections to Kalam on Singularities and Infinity
  • Post on the ontology of Singularities
  • Post on the Comedic Argument for God’s Existence (a bit of a joke)
  • Post on the Islamic Principle of Determination
  • Lastly, post something on ‘existence’

I have completed the most difficult part concerning the first and second to-dos, so expect those fairly soon!

Common Objections to Kalam: Part 6: The Universe and the Sum Totality of Existence

Posted on June 18th, 2011

This objection is perhaps the worst, but since we are cataloguing rather common objections to Kalam, we should toss the following one into the mix. This objection goes something like this: The second premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument seems to put God in a rather difficult place when one considers that the word ‘universe’ means the totality of all that exists. God would be something that exists and so given that the universe began to exist [or all that exists began to exist], God too would begin to exist since God would be an existing thing.

The obvious problem with this objection is in defining the universe as all that exists rather than just the stuff of atoms, electrons, and their interaction.[1] This is without a doubt the worst objection to Kalam besides the famous, “Who caused God?” I posted this both because I’ve seen this objection pop up two or three times in the past week and because it provides a bit of comic relief for our dismal absence. That will hopefully change soon.

1. Thank you to Theo Warner for pointing out an issue of clarity on my part.