Common Objections to Kalam: Part 1: Quantum Mechanics:

In leu of the periodical nature of my previous post, I thought I would do something similar with the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. Thus, Common Objections to Kalam (COK for short) has been birthed! Like Bedside reading this will be a weekly endeavor, but unlike Bedside reading, I’ll eventually run out of objections, and at a rather quicker rate. Regardless, this week the objection mentioned is easy, nay too easy, but we have to start somewhere, and why not start with one of THE most popular objections to the first premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Of course, before I do that I’ll have to state the Kalam:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

Lots of our internet pals like to throw around the claim that quantum mechanics has shown that the first premise is not true. It is said that within quantum mechanics quantum physicists observe the beginning to exist of subatomic particles without any prior material cause! Similarly, it is said that certain cosmological models invoke quantum fluctuations such that the universe begins to exist uncaused (see Vilenkin’s quantum creation model, for instance).

In response, one might note that the sort of interpretation of quantum events being proffered here is the Copenhagen interpretation. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is an indeterministic interpretation of quantum physics. Many physicists have become dissatisfied with the traditional indeterministic view, and are therefore exploring deterministic interpretations (see the Bohmian interpretation); in fact, most available interpretations are themselves deterministic.[1]

Now, even on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, subatomic particles do not literally pop into and out of existence without any prior cause, but rather they arise as spontaneous fluctuations in a quantum vacuum. The quantum vacuum is the indeterministic cause of the fluctuation; it cannot be characterized as nothing, but as a vacuum operating under physical laws. In the same turn, universe models that describe the universe’s coming to be as a quantum event are said to arise from a quantum vacuum that is a sea of fluctuating energy subject to physical laws.[2]

1. Craig, William Lane, and James D. Sinclair. “The Kalam Cosmological Argument.” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Ed. James P. Moreland. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 182-83. Print.

2. Ibid., 183.

20 comments

  • This is pretty much the same response I found in the writings of Craig, along with his explanation of Leibnizian cosmology. It really confuses me how naturalists can not only be so certain that nothingness can be the cause of something, but that it is more plausible than an eternally existent Being being the cause of something as well. At least if they thought that both propositions were on par with each other… but anyway.

    I noticed that you used the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology as a source; I was wondering how good it was. I was interested in reading it but its steep price range is a bit of a stumbling block for me. Does it touch a lot of areas in philosophy and theology?

  • Yes, you can bet that I’ll be citing Craig’s works for many of the future Common Objections to Kalam. Albeit, I do know of some objections Craig probably hasn’t heard (from some internet folk) that I’ll be responding to.

    I wrote this out first without the use of any sources, but then I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything from Craig and Sinclair’s helpful essay in the Blackwell Companion. So I added the bit on Vilenkin’s quantum creation model, how *many* physicists are dissatisfied with the traditional view along with the bit on most available interpretations being deterministic. The Blackwell Companion is very expensive, but one would be hard pressed to find such an extensive volume on Natural Theology; in fact, I don’t think there is one that compares. I’ll list the chapters along with contributors:
    1. The Project of Natural Theology: Charles Taliaferro (St. Olaf College)
    2. The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument: Alexander R. Pruss (Baylor University)
    3. The Kalam Cosmological Argument: William Lane Craig (Talbot School of Theology) and James D. Sinclair
    4. The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe: Robin Collins (Messiah College)
    5. The Argument from Consciousness: J. P. Moreland (Talbot School of Theology)
    6. The Argument from Reason: Victor Reppert (Glendale Community College and Grand Canyon University
    7. The Moral Argument: Mark D. Linville
    8. The Argument from Evil: Stewart Goetz (Ursinus College
    9. The Argument from Religious Experience: Kai-Man Kwan (Hong Kong Baptist University)
    10. The Ontological Argument: Robert E. Maydole (Davidson College)
    11. The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: Timothy McGrew (Western Michigan University and LydiaMcGrew[1]

    PS: I have a pdf of the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology I could share with you.

    [1]

  • That would be nice, thanks. It would tide me over until I decide to get the actual book (I will always prefer reading with real books to reading in front of a screen). The argument from consciousness and the argument from reason seem the most interesting!

  • Now, this doesn’t have much to do with your specific post, but it does relate to what Alexander Dst said in response, namely that only somethingness can be the cause of something, and that nothingness being the cause of something is absurd.

    Have you ever pondered what exactly God is? I mean, God exists, so therefore God must be something to some extent, some “substance” that is not subject to any other existent laws but that from Him who is The Law these dependent existent laws carry forth (are created, are sustained, are dependent upon Him who created where He is independent of them). Some underlying Infinite Principal with all the omni- qualities we normally describe God as, and perhaps or perhaps not others we do not/cannot know him as. Simply put, God is something and not nothing. God is not simply an abstract existence but an actual existence with real somethingness about Him, whatever that may be.

  • Yes, I have pondered on that Jeremiah. God is something concrete and not abstract. It’s very interesting but was there another purpose entirely to saying that? I don’t mean to sound rude at all, I just wanted to know if you wanted to add to what I said or say something more. Regardless, you do make a very interesting point.

  • Forrest,

    For as long as I can remember I’ve pondered the nature of God. When I was younger and attending a Catholic school I was enamored by the concept of a trinity. I never really quite understood it until studying Philosophical Theology, but even then it is difficult to grasp. Now, as you could tell from our discussion on Divine Simplicity and God as pure act, I do not tend to agree with those views of God. The need to regard God as pure act stems from an Aristotelian metaphysic, which I no doubt do not agree with. Now onto another thing: I think you would enjoy a book on Philosophical Theology. I have the following book, but there are a host of others to choose from: http://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-Companion-Christian-Philosophical-Companions/dp/0521514339/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1291582319&sr=8-5

  • I’m a bit confused here. I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the notion of God as pure act and what it is exactly with which you’re in disagreement pertaining to Forrest’s (whom I should assume is also Jeremiah?) post. My apologies if the point is obvious, though. It sometimes takes me a while to get things through.

    Oh, and thanks for another book reference, Basil. This one seems like it would be quite useful to me, as I currently have no actual book on philosophical theology that I can use as a starting point (all I have are the Oxford Readings, which are simply essays).

  • I thought you might say something like that, Alex, based on how my comment kind of read (I noticed that after I’d already posted). So no, it was just a comment, just something I thought of.

    And Basil…wait what huh? Please, by all means, lay down what exactly you believe because that’ll give me a better context of how to respond. And…what was “our discussion on Divine Simplicity and God as pure act”? (back in Henson’s class?) Do I recall correctly that he taught that as true? (?) And, essentially, are you saying that God has potential? To what extent? I would assume just within interacting with our universe, but I’m open to whatever you have to say.

    As for the book, I’ll buy it at a point when I’m not bankrupt. (notice I did say I would buy it)

  • And, I’m not sure how what I said implies pure actuality…

    And what are you referring to when you say “those views of God”? What you said after? (pure actuality) Or what you said before? (trinity)

  • @Alexander,

    Forrest is Jeremiah (sorry for the confusion). Here is a blog post that discusses Thomas Aquinas’ notion of pure actuality: http://www.alanrhoda.net/blog/2006/02/is-god-pure-act.html

    @Forrest,

    Sorry for how that might have appeared random. I was thinking of God and conceptions of God, and I thought I’d comment on a discussion we had on Facebook concerning God as pure act (actus purus). I’m somewhat puzzled as well why I brought that up, but it isn’t a bad discussion so let’s begin. Let me say first that I have not studied the view of God that says to the effect that God has no potentiality to the extent to which I am an expert on it. I am merely an acolyte and so I could be wrong; nevertheless, I’ll attempt to comment by way of what others have said.

    On my view and the view of a good bit of contemporary Christian philosophers, I am not persuaded to think that God cannot have potential; for instance, I think God has the potential do all sorts of things he hasn’t done (e.g. create the universe, create me or refrain from doing so, etc.). I also think God has the ability to enter into time (that is a VERY long discussion, but I’ll refer you to Time and Eternity by WLC). Of course, you’ll gather by now that I don’t take God to be immutable (unchangeable). God has essential properties and accidental ones (properties not essential to him). The sort of Aristotelian principle being expounded by the proponent of God as actus purus just isn’t intuitively true, and so I’m not persuaded to accept it.

  • *clarification: God has the potential to do all sorts of things he hasn’t done (refrain from creating me, refrain from creating the world, or create a man named Tim that isn’t existent in the actual world, etc.).

  • I read this article here (I’ll likely get the book at some point because this seems to clear up a lot…and I often get asked this kind of thing by my closest friends…who, over the years, have all happened to be agnostics and atheists…I really wonder why that is). Anyway: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/eternity.html

    And a quote:

    “Time is merely a relation among objects that are apprehended in an order of succession or that objectively exist in such an order: time is a form of perceptual experience and of objective processes in the external (to the mind) world. Thus the fact that time is a relation among objects or experiences of a successive character voids the objection that the beginning of the world implies an antecedent void time: for time, as such a relation of succession among experiences or objective processes, has no existence whatever apart from these experiences or processes themselves.

    Therefore, if nothing existed and then something existed, there is no absurdity in speaking of this as the first moment of time.”

    What I said earlier fits with this precisely. I wasn’t really talking about God’s nature so much as exactly WHAT God is (one might say God is His attributes, but hmmm I’m not certain of this). The word “what” being synonymous with “something rather than nothing”.

    I’ve thought for a long time (even before I started reading my dad’s physics books some years ago) that time is utterly dependent upon movement/change in position (if you want to get technical, time being dependent upon velocity – I assume you already know this). For without this, everything would be static, unchanging. Much more comes to mind, but I should probably take up and read your suggestion by the great WLC before commenting on those matters.

    It would seem that God has the potential to do things, and either He does them or He doesn’t. (et. al. He creates our universe, or He doesn’t). If this is all based on His essential properties and free choice in the matter, it’s truly a beautiful thing to think about.

    You mentioning accidental properties brings me to recall something I asked a certain someone last year, to which this person gave me a response that didn’t sound true to me. I inquired on the wrath of God, and whether it was an essential property of God or an accidental one, and the response I got was “essential”…and furthermore, that God is “infinitely frustrated with sin”. It would seem to me that sin ought to appear first in spacetime, and then God is given by man the accidental property of anger/wrath/frustration, etc. Your thoughts on this?

  • I recently acquired God, Time, and Eternity. It covers an extraordinarily interesting topic, but I’d first recommend you read Craig’s popular work (Time and Eternity) before delving into the, no doubt, more difficult GT&E. I’ve just began reading Time and Eternity myself, and it is fascinating.

    In a physical Einsteinium sense time is merely a change in motion, but time more properly put is merely change. We might also want to keep in mind that when a thing begins to exist it might not change in motion or position at all, but it would still be in time, for 1 second after its beginning to exist it would have the property of being 1 second old. It would constantly undergo changes in properties, thus, it would be in time even without a change in motion or position. But you are quite rightly onto something there. I think you’d be fascinated as I am by the philosophy of time and God’s relation to time. They are two topics that push the very boundary of human inquiry, and so its only natural that gents such as ourselves should feel so compelled to press towards it.

    I think I can recall your question. Did you submit it into a certain someone’s question box? Regardless, I think we need to first set the tone of this sort of thing. When people say things like, “God is infinitely frustrated with sin,” it has always sounded silly to me, so even if it doesn’t to you, I’d like to set the tone, if you’ll grant me. What better way to do so than to relate it to human beings? I know that I dislike sin. I see wrong things and declaratively renounce them; such a renouncement is part of our nature and it doesn’t sound so silly when we think of it like that. Now onto your question: it would appear to me that God being omniscient would know that there is a possible world in which there are non-excellent things, and it is excellent to not enjoy such non-excellent things, of course; in fact, it would seem such a being would not like those things very much. God would seem to have a dislike of these things in virtue of knowing some possible world W. Now, I think one could say that God has a dislike of these things eternally in virtue of his omniscience, but it must also be mentioned that God would have some accidental properties in that sort of relation. For instance, God would have the accidental property of disliking a non-excellent action in the actual world W* at the present time t. There is a world in which God refrains from creating the actual world of spatio-temporality, and God would not have knowledge thus of there being some present time at which a non-excellent action is occurring. In that sense I think God’s dislike of non-excellent (read: sinful) things is essential because it flows from his omniscience, but if the property entails a very specific present moment and actual world, then yes these would be accidental properties of God.

    You mentioned that your dad has lots of books on Physics? That is fascinating. I personally love cosmology. If I had the time and desire after (inshallah – lol) receiving my Phd, I would love to get a doctorate in cosmology or astrophysics. I’m not so keen on mathematics, but I do seem to enjoy the concepts behind higher levels of math (transfinite arithmetic). It’s just a thought, and a damn near improbable one at that. But what about you? What sort of topics in physics do you enjoy?

  • Thanks very much for the link Basil, I love learning about new concepts in philosophy (or in this case, philosophical theology).

    The article lays it on a bit heavy, but I’m pretty sure that I get the gist of it. Pure actuality shouldn’t apply to God since he has the potential to do things.

    I have a few questions though. I know that this is a bit petty, but I find it strange. From the excerpt, Aquinas states:

    “For motion [motus, i.e., change] is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality”

    Why should the process of change from potentiality to actuality be a REduction? If something has the potential to be or exemplify something, shouldn’t its upgrade into actuality be a PROduction? I suppose it’s nothing that’s terribly important, but it just bothers me…

    Also, being a sort of beginner in Christian philosophy, I’m afraid I’m not familiar with what exactly are God’s essential and accidental properties. That is to say, I know what essential and accidental properties are, I’m just not familiar with the ones that God would have. If anyone of you could enumerate just a few or post a link to a list or something like that, it would be greatly appreciated.

  • In short, your assessment sounds true. It’s a little difficult to follow, but I think I understand your point.

    And yes, “God is infinitely frustrated with sin” is a rather rash and naive thing to think…indeed silly…even though that certain someone was sort of pressured by my question in the first place and cornered so to speak. This someone in fact stated in my own presence that this was a silly question, and I just couldn’t let that slide, so I indirectly let this someone know who submitted the question by questioning this someone further after his stating the submitted question was silly. It’s a rash thing to say a question is silly…because sometimes the question is meant to test how that answerer will respond, and not always because the questioner does not already have a view on the matter.

    I enjoy conceptual and theoretical physics…the numbers, not so much. So long as I can imagine the concepts without the math.

    “For motion [change] is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.” Is potential greater than actuality? That is the question…and in short I think the answer is yes. You have the potential to do an almost uncountable number of things, but you only actually do some. So in a way, it is a reduction. But in another way, you are PROducing an actual act. I think the point is that out of all the potentials, something is singled out, and so, in a way, a reduction is taking place.

  • @Alexander,

    I took, “For motion [motus, i.e., change] is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality,” to mean something like the following: Motion ends up occurring when something goes from potentiality to actuality. One might replace “reduction” with “=” such that we get something like this: motion = the going of something from potentiality to actuality. For modernity’s sake we might as well use “change” instead of “motion,” and I imagine most would agree, if not should agree.

    God’s essential properties would include God being omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, necessarily existent, etc..

    @Jeremiah,

    I am with you on that. I love conceptual and theoretical physics.

  • @Basil,

    Yeah, I agree with that (how ‘reduction’ is basically synonymous to ‘equal). Still, I find it a bit of a poor choice of words, since a reduction is literally “a taking away from.” Jeremiah raises an interesting point in saying that a reduction is a sort of “singling” out, but in that case I think a DEduction would be a better choice of words. Like I said, though, this is really a very trivial thing to discuss about but, being the philologist that I am, I can’t help but scrutinize words.

    Thanks for those essential properties Basil, I have a clearer understanding of them now. I was wondering though: God, being a necessary being, has accidental properties. This means that those properties could not have been true of Him. How is this so? I hope this doesn’t deviate too much from the original post. I wouldn’t want to clutter up the comments, but I’m having a very good time with these discussions. Thanks for having me!

  • @Alexander,

    Sorry for my delay. I think reduction is still fitting in that context because it is used to show that their is a simplification; that is, motion ends up being reducible to the going of something from potentiality to actuality.

    To your second question: God has essential properties such as God exists in all possible worlds and a whole host of others that would ensure his necessity while also allowing for accidental properties such as “God has the property of knowing that world W is actual.”

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