Common Objections to Kalam Part 7: Singularities and Infinities
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).
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 (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). 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) 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.” (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).”
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. 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.