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On the Cosmological Argument, Part 2

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On the Cosmological Argument, Part 2

Continued from

here

The Natures of Beginning and the Infinite

According to the Cosmological Argument, no thing comes to be without being caused by - or without being dependent on - some other thing(s), and this apparently rather innocuous understanding immediately leads to the considerations regarding whether there is such a thing as a beginning to the process of dependent things coming to be.

If there is such a beginning, then that beginning would only be a beginning if it were not dependent on any other things such that this beginning thing would be rightly described in terms of being without having come to be; it could, in a sense, be rightly described as having always been inasmuch as it is actual without ever having come to be.

In terms of causes, if all things which come to be do so only by being caused, then the beginning thing is properly described as being uncaused inasmuch as it is without having come to be. The beginning thing is the first thing; in terms of causes, it is the first cause, and it is an uncaused cause.

One objection to the argument regards whether there is any reason for thinking that there is a beginning, a first cause for all that comes to be.

What has come to be called the Kalam version of the Cosmological Argument attempts to overcome the possibility of a beginning-less infinite regress of caused things by presenting a case for why there is and can be no thing which is actually (as distinguished from potentially or merely conceptually) infinite.

In the case of the Kalam argument, what is being claimed is that it is time which is not infinite. This is to say that the Kalam argument is a temporal argument, but there is also what has been described as an atemporal aspect to the Cosmological Argument, a version of the argument which might succeed both in the case of there being no such thing as an actually infinite and in the case of there being some thing actually infinite. It just so happens that this atemporal version of the Cosmological Argument might also go a long way towards dealing with relatively modern (and purportedly scientifically based) objections against the notion that anything which comes to be only comes to be by having been caused.

However, since the Cosmological Argument initiates from the observation of things having come to be by being caused, and since the notion of things coming to be most naturally suggests a passage of time, it might at first seem as though the Cosmological Argument can only be a temporal argument. There is, however, a quite old philosophical tradition commonly called “eternalism” which has more recently been thought of as having garnered scientific support from relativity theory from which it follows that, according to Hermann Weyl, the totality of all events

simply
is
, it does not
happen
.

Or, to quote Einstein:

For those of us who are convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future has no other meaning than that of an illusion ...
5

This is to say that according to eternalism the coming to be of things is a seeming or a mere appearance essentially born from the mistake of thinking about time as if it were separate from space. In accord with contemporary science, time is regarded to be just as much a physical thing – just as much a matter of physics - as is space, and time is effectively proposed as ultimately inseparable from space (or length, width, and depth) so that both time and space are most completely and accurately presented when discussed in terms of “space-time” rather than in terms of either just time or just space.

Basically, then, eternalism is atemporal in that the totality of all does not accumulate as a result of things coming to be or over time; rather than coming to be, the totality “simply is, it does not happen.” In effect, this is to say that, taking into account the time aspect for any constituent component of the totality, the totality of all time and space is never absent (even if parts are inaccessible) nor is totality incomplete.

The thing about this allegedly atemporal totality is that, even if it is a presumed to be an actual infinite, it is still regarded as ordered - which is to say that it exhibits sequence, even if that sequence is atemporal inasmuch as the sequence is never a matter of coming to be. So long as the sequence of totality does not lead to (or end at) its beginning, then this infinite could have an actual rather than an arbitrary beginning.

The point here that is relevant to the Cosmological Argument is that even if time (or space-time) were infinite, this condition in itself does not preclude there being a beginning to the ordering or the sequence of the infinite.

And, this would mean that, with the Cosmological Argument broadly understood as arguing that there is a beginning, a first something, then the only way of relying upon an actual infinite as a means of dispensing with the Cosmological Argument is to deny that the actual infinite is ordered or to deny that the end of the ordering does not lead to the beginning.

Of course, regardless of whether or not the first thing frequently referred to in the Cosmological Argument as the First Cause is itself actually a cause of the rest of the sequence which is the supposedly infinite totality, it would seem to be an inescapable conclusion that the first thing is uncaused.

However, a potential problem for the Cosmological Argument rests in the possibility noted earlier in this part that modern science may give reason to believe that not everything which comes to be does so by having been caused. If there are uncaused things which come to be, then would it be sensible to assert that the First Cause actually causes the rest of the sequence which is the totality of all that ever is?

Part 3 of 'On the Cosmological Argument' will take up the matter of 'Causes and Contexts'

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

5 The Weyl and Einstein quotes are cited in “Quantum Theory and Our View of the World”, by Paul Feyerabend, published in Physics and Our Views of the World, Jan Hilgevoord, ed., Cambridge University Press, 1994.




8 Comments

Posted

First, I would like to extend my gratitude for posting these entries. I am sure that others participating at this site would not protest if I were bold enough to claim that the gratitude is also proffered on their behalf.Anyway, I have a question regarding the 'something from nothing' principle.It is purported that matter can arise, seemingly from nothing, within a vacuum, and the fluctuating energy states existent in the vacuum preceding the Big Bang can account for the existence of our universe without begging inference to any 'God'. In that case, then, it seems that the CA is successful insofar as a first cause is posited, but ultimately defeated as a stepping stone to the establishment of the existence, or possibility of the existence, of God.Is there anything of scientific merit in this idea, or is there an escape clause for the deist/theist?

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Anyway, I have a question regarding the 'something from nothing' principle.It is purported that matter can arise, seemingly from nothing, within a vacuum, and the fluctuating energy states existent in the vacuum preceding the Big Bang can account for the existence of our universe without begging inference to any 'God'. In that case, then, it seems that the CA is successful insofar as a first cause is posited, but ultimately defeated as a stepping stone to the establishment of the existence, or possibility of the existence, of God.Is there anything of scientific merit in this idea, or is there an escape clause for the deist/theist?
I think that what will be shown in the forthcoming entries is that the "nothing" to which you refer is at most only seemingly nothing. That is, of course, to say that it is not actually nothing -- no matter what James Hartle and Stephen Hawking have claimed (Hawking will make his first appearance here in Part 3; Hartle will show up in Part 4). Even so, what we are left with is the matter of just what is this thing incorrectly (or inaccurately or misleadingly) referred to as "nothing". There is an initial consideration of its characteristics, mostly in Part 5. I find what gets discussed there to be most definitely compossible with God. But, as I hope will be clear, that just means that we end up with a successful Cosmological Argument (approach/perspective) while still having to fathom what other characteristics or qualities of God could be said to follow from what the Cosmological Argument provides.Michael

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Posted

Anyway, I have a question regarding the 'something from nothing' principle.It is purported that matter can arise, seemingly from nothing, within a vacuum, and the fluctuating energy states existent in the vacuum preceding the Big Bang can account for the existence of our universe without begging inference to any 'God'. In that case, then, it seems that the CA is successful insofar as a first cause is posited, but ultimately defeated as a stepping stone to the establishment of the existence, or possibility of the existence, of God.Is there anything of scientific merit in this idea, or is there an escape clause for the deist/theist?
I think that what will be shown in the forthcoming entries is that the "nothing" to which you refer is at most only seemingly nothing. That is, of course, to say that it is not actually nothing -- no matter what James Hartle and Stephen Hawking have claimed (Hawking will make his first appearance here in Part 3; Hartle will show up in Part 4). Even so, what we are left with is the matter of just what is this thing incorrectly (or inaccurately or misleadingly) referred to as "nothing". There is an initial consideration of its characteristics, mostly in Part 5. I find what gets discussed there to be most definitely compossible with God. But, as I hope will be clear, that just means that we end up with a successful Cosmological Argument (approach/perspective) while still having to fathom what other characteristics or qualities of God could be said to follow from what the Cosmological Argument provides.Michael
Yes, the 'supposed nothing' is what I have in mind. The way it has been explained to me is that there are opposing, fluctuating energy states within a vacuum. Since these states are diametrically opposed, they effectively cancel each other out such that the observational data pertaining to these energy states necessarily reads 'zero'. This, however, does not strike me as being congruous with 'non-existent'.
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Yes, the 'supposed nothing' is what I have in mind. The way it has been explained to me is that there are opposing, fluctuating energy states within a vacuum. Since these states are diametrically opposed, they effectively cancel each other out such that the observational data pertaining to these energy states necessarily reads 'zero'. This, however, does not strike me as being congruous with 'non-existent'.
While I will not be directly dealing with the energy states you mention above (although there is a very brief reference to virtual particles), you are right that the net zero you describe is not the same thing as what we might otherwise describe as a thorough nothing or utter nothingness.Michael

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Some comments, first, on the linked paper, “Stephen Hawking’s Cosmology and Theism,” by Quentin Smith. This paper was linked in the Part One of thie series. I hadn’t read this paper before. Smith argues:

P) Hawking's wave function law obtains, [which] entails © God does not exist.
That is, according to Smith, Hawking’s wave function law essentially states that there is a 95 percent chance that the universe as we know it will begin to exist. Or:
1) The probability that a universe begin to exist with the metric hij and matter field Phi is 95%.
According to Smith this observation invalidates classical theism, since under classical theism God is omnipotent and cannot fail to create a universe if he chooses to do so. But if it is 100 percent certain that the universe will exist if God chooses to make it exist, Hawking’s wave function law can’t be right, since it is probabilistic. Since we have good reason to believe the wave function law is right, then the God of classical theism can’t exist.There’s more to the argument then this, as well as a number of variants explored. I’m not going reprise the paper, since anyone can read it.With respect to the cosmological argument: if Smith is right, all that is ruled out is the God of classical theism. The cosmological argument itself is not seriously damaged. But I don’t think Smith succeeds in what he sets out to do. This can be shown by his statement midway through the article:
An acausal version of nonclassical theism may include the proposition that God is responsible for instituting the laws that govern whatever universe exists, but that God does not create the universe. In the actual world, God wills that the wave function law obtains but does not will that the universe exist. Rather, God leaves it to chance, a 95% chance, that the universe with the specified metric and matter field will begin to exist uncaused.
Which fact, of course, is all that the theist, or the defender of the cosmological argument, needs. The proponent of the cosmological argument does not need to claim that God (or whoever) created the universe. He/she just needs to maintain that God created the wave function that, with 95 percent probability, brought the universe we know into existence. Or, to put it another way, the wave function just is the universe, and so the idea of a first creation event (the cosmological argument) is unscathed, even in its classically theistic form. All that really needs to be ruled out, to save the cosmological argument, is that idea that the universe can pop into existence with 95 percent probability from an uncaused or uncreated wave function. The theist need only deny that an uncaused or uncreated wave function can exist; i.e., the theist just needs to argue that the wave function itself is a contingent fact, contingent on a necessary and uncreated being (God).Smith doesn’t like this, though, because:
It is important to emphasize that this version of theism, although consistent with Hawking's cosmology, is fundamentally at odds with central tenets of classical theism and is even more dissimilar to classical theism than is deism. It is central to classical theism and deism that God is the cause of the universe.
But, see my comments above. If the universe just is the wave function, there is no problem. What seems to be the problem for Smith is this probability aspect: the possibility, however relatively small, that the wave function will not do what God presumably wants: bring the universe into existence. Why would God gamble on such a proposition, when presumably he can create whatever he wants with 100 percent certainty?I don’t know; go ask God! Maybe he likes to play dice, Einstein notwithstanding. Also, notice that if the wave function fails to probabilistically bring about what God presumably desires, God can (being God) always roll the dice again!The fact that the universe may turn out to have an intrinsically probabilistic origin is not a defeater for classical theism or the cosmological argument. It only shows our ignorance, not having realized, earlier, that God created the universe in a chancy way. And just to speculate, one reason he might have done that is to salvage what is considered to be another aspect of a traditional theistic conception of God: that God desires that man have free will.There is a big literature on this, but the upshot is: well-crafted arguments exist that the quantum indeterministic nature of the universe not only allows for, but actually entails, human free will, which God is traditionally thought to desire. If these arguments are right (others of course contest these claims) then God has good reason to use a probability wave function to bring about the universe.Smith also overlooks the many worlds interpretation of QM in his analysis of Hawkings’ wave function law. If MWI is correct, there is nothing random or indeterministic about the creation of the universe: It’s just a metaverse, that’s all, in which, from the outset, it is guaranteed both that the universe will, and will not, come into being from the wave function. In one version of reality it comes into existence as it is (with 95 percent probability) and in other version the small, five percent probability wins out and the universe does not come into existence. And the same holds true for the probability calculations of all future events in history: everything with nonzero possibility happens. (This wreaks havoc with actual probability theory, but that is another topic.)I conclude that Smith’s argument against classical theism specifically, and certainly against the cosmological argument generally, doesn’t work.Having said all that, I don’t think the cosmological argument itself is very good, and I doubt it can ever be made adequate.The weak form of the argument is that everything that exists has a cause; the universe exists and hence must have a cause; i.e., God. And then the immediate objection is two-fold: it’s not clear that even if everything in the universe is (must be?) caused, then the universe as a whole must have a cause; this is the composition fallacy. Plus, more telling: If everything has a cause, what caused God?From here the theist understandably adopts the much stronger Kallam version: Everything that begins to exist must have a cause; the universe began to exist; and its cause is God, who is a necessary being and has never failed to exist (and hence does not Himself require a cause).Arguments are constructed in the hope that the conclusion follows from the premises, but even that is not enough: in addition, the premises must all be true. In the case of the Kallam, the conclusion does not follow from the premises, even if the premises are true; and anyway, the premises may not be true, and probably aren’t true. That is: it is seriously doubtful that everything that beings to exist must have a cause. The quantum wave function seems to show uncaused causes. Also, it is by no means clear that the universe began to exist. It may always have existed, either temporally into an infinite remote past, or as a simple Block Universe (eternalism) described by Michael above. (The various versions of the Big Bang do not entail that the universe began with the Big Bang.)Finally, even if we were confident in the relevant premises, that everything that beings to exist must have a cause, and that the universe began to exist, it by no means follows that the cause of the universe is God. All that would be required is a causally efficacious force to bring the universe into existence: it need not be a disembodied supremely powerful person, and it need not have a mind, goals or intentions at all. It could be the aforementioned wave function, for instance; perhaps the wave function is a brute (necessary?) fact that has always existed. This scenario is consistent with the eternal inflationary model of modern physics. We already know that seemingly designed entities can arise from the a causally efficacious yet by evidently wholly mindless force: that is how evolution produces species.It is, of course, possible that the Kallam argument is right: It may be true that everything that begins to exist has a cause; that the universe really did begin to exist in some relevant and recognizable sense; and that the only agent capable of bringing off this causal event is a necessarily existing God. The point, however, is that the argument by itself gives us no reason to think that the argument is true. The validity of the premises of the argument require an independent demonstration or proof, and even if they could be proved the conclusion to God does not logically follow from the premises.
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Some comments, first, on the linked paper, “Stephen Hawking’s Cosmology and Theism,” by Quentin Smith. This paper was linked in the Part One of thie series...According to Smith this observation invalidates classical theism...
Right, and, for those unfamiliar with Smith, he is just about perpetually focused on "classical theism". Personally, I think it would be more interesting were he to use classical theism as a critical starting point and then push out into the other possibly viable directions which remain even if his critiques are valid. That's not Smith's style, but I think the Koons paper to which you linked in the original discussion makes it quite clear that the Cosmological Argument is best considered (certainly initially) as intended to demonstrate something more narrow than "classical theism".I am going to put off taking up your other points - such as about whether the "95% chance ... invalidates classical theism" - until after my blog posts which are yet to come, because, in part, there is further discussion about Hawking's (and Hartle's) probability calculations.Michael

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Just to make it absolutely clear, lest the point might have been lost in that rather long response: I do not think that the "95 percent probability of a universe" wave function hurts classical theism at all. That is Smith's arguement. What would damage -- indeed destroy -- classical theism and the cosmological argument in general is if it were the case that the universe came from this wave function and that the wave function itself were irreducible, necessary or brute: requiring no God or creator.Or, as Smith notes, even if it were possible that the universe popped into existence from an uncreated wave function, than theism and the cosmological argument would both be destroyed, because both concepts entail that such a state of affairs cannot possibly happen — both concepts require a God/creator for anything at all to exist, whether you call it wave function or universe.I am mainly contesting Smith’s contention that if the wave function were created by God, and then, with 95 percent probability, spat out the universe, then this fact is incompatible with classical theism. I’ve already given my reasons why I see no incompatibility here and indeed, as I’ve noted, if it’s really the case, as some have argued, that quantum indeterminacy is necessary to preserve human free will and avoid Laplacean determinism, then a probability function is not only compatible with classical theism, it seems entailed by classical theism on the ground that under classical theism, God wants humans to have free will, and quantum indeterminacy might be the method he needed to bring this about.But, again, to be clear, the problem now for the theist or the advocate of the cosmological argument is to show that the wave function itself requires a creator. Yet this is one of the premises of the cosmological argument: that reality (whether you wish to call it a universe or wave function) began to exist and everything that begins to exist must have a creator, and that creator is God. For the reasons I already gave in my initial post, I find this argument weak. In sum, I find Quentin Smith’s against theism by appealing to the wave function to be weak, but I find the cosmological argument itself to be weak as well.

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What would damage -- indeed destroy -- classical theism and the cosmological argument in general is if it were the case that the universe came from this wave function and that the wave function itself were irreducible, necessary or brute: requiring no God or creator ... to be clear, the problem now for the theist or the advocate of the cosmological argument is to show that the wave function itself requires a creator. Yet this is one of the premises of the cosmological argument: that reality (whether you wish to call it a universe or wave function) began to exist and everything that begins to exist must have a creator, and that creator is God. For the reasons I already gave in my initial post, I find this argument weak. In sum, I find Quentin Smith’s against theism by appealing to the wave function to be weak, but I find the cosmological argument itself to be weak as well.
As you will see from the blog postings yet to follow, I do not think that the Cosmological Argument need conclude with "a creator" in order to succeed. Some people would like for the argument to end with a creator; others would like for the argument to try to conclude with a creator. However, history and tradition notwithstanding, that is not the main point of this argument. The main point is actually better put forth in some terms such as whether "the wave function itself were irreducible, necessary or brute".In Part 3, I will indicate one way in which the Cosmological Argument does not even have to be put forth in terms of a First Cause. What will be put forth, rather, is considerations about whether there has to be a first context other than the "universe or wave function". Part 4 will discuss whether the "Hartle-Hawking unconditional wave-function for the universe" requires a context other than itself. If it does require a context other than itself, then that wave function does not destroy the Cosmological Argument. Hartle and Hawking would have it believed that their wave function requires no context other than itself. I will discuss why they seem to be wrong.Michael

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