Category Archives: Natural Theology

Lawrence Krauss on “Nothing”

While not typ­i­cally clas­si­fied as one of the “four horse­men” of the New Athe­ist move­ment, Canadian-​​born the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist, out­spo­ken skep­tic, and critic of reli­gion Lawrence Krauss is one of the few liv­ing physi­cist referred to by Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can as a “pub­lic intel­lec­tual”, and he is the only physi­cist to have received awards from all three major U.S. physics soci­eties: the Amer­i­can Phys­i­cal Soci­ety, the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Physics Teach­ers, and the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Physics. He earned his PhD from MIT in 1982 and has been active ever since, gar­ner­ing acclaim from schol­ars and laypeo­ple alike. He was one of the first to sug­gest the notion of dark energy, served on Barack Obama’s cam­paign sci­ence pol­icy com­mit­tee, and was even inter­viewed by NPR.

In an inter­view, audio excerpts from which can be found in the Feb­ru­ary 23rd episode of the pod­cast “Rea­son­able Faith”, Krauss belies a fun­da­men­tal philo­soph­i­cal error con­cern­ing a premise on which the the­sis of his recent book hangs:

I’m amused that peo­ple keep redefin­ing their def­i­n­i­tion of “noth­ing” when­ever I point out that noth­ing can cre­ate some­thing. But they always want to sort of define noth­ing as “that which some­thing can never come from”. And that’s sort of [unin­tel­li­gi­ble] seman­ti­cally. I think if you’d asked philoso­phers years ago “what is noth­ing?” they’d say “empty space noth­ing­ness”. But then when you show that that can cre­ate some­thing you’d say “well that’s not really ‘noth­ing’, cause there’s—cause space exists”. And then I could show that while maybe the laws of physics that we now under­stand tell us that even space itself could be cre­ated from noth­ing. And they’d say “well that’s not ‘noth­ing’ because the laws, the poten­tial for exis­tence, is there”. And then I could argue, based on mul­ti­verse ideas, that even maybe the laws of physics arrived spon­ta­neously. And more­over I think it’s kind of silly to say the poten­tial for exis­tence is dif­fer­ent than noth­ing, that that’s the same as exis­tence. If there’s no poten­tial for exis­tence, then not even a cre­ator can cre­ate it, I assume. And more­over, as I argue in the book a lit­tle graph­i­cally, I think, the poten­tial for exis­tence is very dif­fer­ent than exis­tence. I mean as I point out the fact that I walk near a woman implies the poten­tial for cre­at­ing life, but it’s very dif­fer­ent than cre­at­ing it.

Krauss’ book claims to answer a ques­tion that Leib­niz noto­ri­ously posed as the basis of a philo­soph­i­cally tech­ni­cal argu­ment for the exis­tence of God from con­tin­gency, “why is there some­thing rather than noth­ing?”. Obvi­ously a crit­i­cal issue to clar­ify when dis­cussing “noth­ing” is the def­i­n­i­tion of “noth­ing”. Krauss uncon­ven­tion­ally uses “noth­ing” to refer to the quan­tum vac­uum instead of the object of uni­ver­sal nega­tion, and in doing so fails to even address Leibniz’s argu­ment, which uses “noth­ing” conventionally.

What piques my inter­est in this seg­ment in par­tic­u­lar is the bear­ing that the de re/​de dicto dis­tinc­tion has on the dis­course. Krauss acts out a dia­logue in which “philoso­phers years ago” point osten­si­bly to “empty space” in response to the ques­tion “what is noth­ing?”. All his­tor­i­cal con­tentions aside, if Philoso­phers Years Ago were to engage such a dia­logue using the con­ven­tional def­i­n­i­tion of “noth­ing” as the object of uni­ver­sal nega­tion (“not any­thing”), then their point­ing to empty space as an exam­ple of “noth­ing” would indi­cate the belief that there is not any­thing in empty space. How­ever, Krauss would have us take their osten­ta­tion to mean that “empty space” (and what­ever it is found to be or to con­tain) is “noth­ing” by def­i­n­i­tion. Then he shows that empty space is, or con­tains, vac­uum energy such that, given his def­i­n­i­tion of “noth­ing” as “empty space”, he becomes war­ranted in using “noth­ing” to refer to “vac­uum energy”. If he suc­cess­fully shows that vac­uum energy can give rise to the uni­verse as we know it, then he can claim to have shown how the uni­verse could have arisen from “noth­ing”. In fact one of the chap­ters in his book is enti­tled “Noth­ing is Some­thing”, and in his inter­view with NPR he says,

…both noth­ing and some­thing are sci­en­tific con­cepts, and our dis­cov­er­ies over the past 30 years have com­pletely changed what we mean by nothing.

In par­tic­u­lar, noth­ing is unsta­ble. Noth­ing can cre­ate some­thing all the time due to the laws of quan­tum mechan­ics, and it’s — it’s fas­ci­nat­ingly interesting…

…Empty space is a boil­ing, bub­bling brew of vir­tual particles…

So you can see that he never even intends to address why there is some­thing rather than there not being any­thing, nor does he attempt to explain how some­thing can arise with­out any­thing. He merely attempts to show how things like plan­e­tary bod­ies might be able to arise from a state of affairs in which there is a “bub­bling stew of vir­tual par­ti­cles” that he refers to by the word “noth­ing”. If those Philoso­phers Years Ago whom Krauss depicts as point­ing to empty space as an exam­ple of “noth­ing” used “noth­ing” to mean “not any­thing” as opposed to “vac­uum energy”, they would cease point­ing to empty space as an exam­ple of “noth­ing” upon being shown that it is, or con­tains, a par­tic­u­lar kind of energy, and would dis­pute Krauss’ iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the two. This would not be a rede­f­i­n­i­tion of the word “noth­ing”, but would sim­ply reflect a new under­stand­ing of “empty space” as “vac­uum energy”, which would mean that it is no longer an exam­ple of “nothing”.

If we were to tem­porar­ily adopt Krauss’ own rede­f­i­n­i­tion of “noth­ing” and tem­porar­ily grant the suc­cess of his attempt to show that vac­uum energy could give rise to the uni­verse as we know it, we could sim­ply restate Leibniz’s ques­tion as “why is there some­thing rather than there not being any­thing at all?” or “why was there vac­uum energy rather than there not being any­thing?”, or even “why was there ‘noth­ing’ rather than there not being any­thing?”. To my knowl­edge there is no doc­u­mented attempt by Krauss to answer this question.

In addi­tion to improp­erly han­dling de re/​de dicto dis­tinc­tions by rigidly defin­ing “noth­ing” as “empty space and what­ever it is found to con­tain” (which, by the way, also treads on what we con­ven­tion­ally mean by “empty”; in fact the NPR inter­viewer asks “…empty space is really not empty, cor­rect?”, Krauss’ answer to which is “That’s exactly right. Empty space is a boil­ing, bub­bling brew of vir­tual par­ti­cles…”), Krauss fails to rec­og­nize dis­tinc­tions in uses of the term “poten­tial”. He says,

I think it’s kind of silly to say the poten­tial for exis­tence is dif­fer­ent than noth­ing, that that’s the same as exis­tence. If there’s no poten­tial for exis­tence, then not even a cre­ator can create…

If the poten­tial for exis­tence is some­thing, and it exists, then some­thing exists. If the poten­tial for exis­tence is some­thing, and it does not exist, then there is not a poten­tial for exis­tence. If the poten­tial for exis­tence is not any­thing, then there is no ques­tion that it does not exist, and there­fore there is not a poten­tial for exis­tence. Con­tra Krauss, in none of the three states of affairs is there simul­ta­ne­ously a poten­tial for exis­tence and nothing.

It may be reel­ing to think of the poten­tial for exis­tence as some­thing that exists, but that is only because of the self-​​reference latent in the state­ment, and the con­fu­sion may be mit­i­gated by look­ing at the state­ment from its other side. If one sees that every actu­al­ity indi­cates its own poten­tial­ity, the state­ment becomes obvi­ous. That is, if some­thing exists then it must be pos­si­ble that it exists! If the poten­tial for exis­tence is some­thing, and it exists, then there­fore some­thing exists. If some­thing exists, then it must be pos­si­ble for some­thing to exist.

The poten­tial for exis­tence, if it exists, exists.

What Krauss may actu­ally be try­ing to argue is that the exis­tence of a meta­phys­i­cal poten­tial for the exis­tence of phys­i­cal objects is not equiv­a­lent to the exis­tence of phys­i­cal objects, and that if there were not a meta­phys­i­cal poten­tial for the exis­tence of phys­i­cal objects, then it would not even be pos­si­ble for an omnipo­tent being to cre­ate phys­i­cal objects. This is coher­ent, how­ever I think it obvi­ously unprob­lem­atic for the the­ist. He seems to imply that the impli­ca­tion of such state­ments is that both the­ists and skep­tics must admit that there is a poten­tial for exis­tence, and that a poten­tial for exis­tence is all he needs to demon­strate the pos­si­bil­ity of a uni­verse aris­ing “from noth­ing” and with­out any agent of change. This later state­ment is, inde­pen­dent of its uncon­ven­tional use of “noth­ing” and mutual exclu­siv­ity with the Prin­ci­ple of Suf­fi­cient Rea­son, obvi­ously not implied by its antecedents.

More Work on Premise 1 of the Kalam

In an attempt to rebut my orig­i­nal straw man sus­pi­cion I recently thought: Per­haps Craig isn’t actu­ally mis­rep­re­sent­ing the objector’s posi­tion so much as he is doing exactly what I said is required: argu­ing that the denial of premise 1 entails the affir­ma­tion that every­thing comes into being every­where at every moment. Per­haps the rea­son­ing goes some­thing like this: To admit that there is a reason—any rea­son whatsoever—as to why every­thing pos­si­ble doesn’t come into being at every point in space and at every moment in time—to say that there is any gov­ern­ing or reg­u­lat­ing fac­tor in the com­ing into being of objects—is to grant the first premise already. Thus, to deny the first premise is to deny that there is any rhyme or rea­son to the com­ing into being of objects.

Would such an argu­ment con­flate the Aris­totelian “effi­cient cause” with the Leib­niz­ian “suf­fi­cient rea­son”? If it would, would it there­fore be ille­git­i­mate to use in con­text of the Kalam, which only argues for the exis­tence of God based on the neces­sity for the uni­verse to have an effi­cient cause based on its past fini­tude, and not on the basis of the neces­sity of the uni­verse to have a suf­fi­cient rea­son for its exis­tence, regard­less of whether it is past-​​eternal?

Fur­ther­more, does it present a false dichotomy? Per­haps the choice isn’t between the affir­ma­tion that every­thing that begins to exist has a cause and the affir­ma­tion that every­thing comes into being every­where at every moment. Per­haps there is some­thing that gov­erns the com­ing into being of objects such that every­thing except the uni­verse that comes into being has a cause. Why would the uni­verse be exempt? Per­haps due to the nature of the uni­verse as a whole that is so rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from every­thing inside it. The uni­verse itself is not made out of mat­ter and energy like every­thing inside of it. Maybe the uni­verse itself—the very fab­ric of space and time—is just the sort of thing that could come into being out of noth­ing under the right conditions—namely, the con­di­tions that were present with­out (can’t say “before”!) the uni­verse: noth­ing­ness (not even a vacuum).

This view would only leave it inex­plic­a­ble why the uni­verse came into being “when” it did (darn those inescapably tem­po­ral words). But it wouldn’t leave it inex­plic­a­ble why every­thing doesn’t come into being at every moment every­where within the universe.

Of course, there are at least two prob­lems with such a view. One would be that it requires posit­ing this strange tran­scen­dent law that makes it such that the uni­verse could come into being uncaused out of noth­ing but that noth­ing else could, which is basi­cally self-​​refuting. If the law existed, on this view, the uni­verse couldn’t coher­ently be held to have come into being truly out of noth­ing. Whoops.

[Edit: This might be wrong. The objec­tor need not affirm that the uni­verse came into being uncaused out of noth­ing, but only that it came onto being uncaused. The view might still be vul­ner­a­ble to the LCA, and it would be grotesque and ad hoc, but it seems sur­pris­ingly resilient against the KCA’s the­is­tic conclusions.]

The other prob­lem with this view would be that the Kalam is eas­ily mod­i­fied to avoid it. All the defender of the Kalam needs to do is reword the argu­ment to be based on the exis­tence of mat­ter and energy within the uni­verse. If one grants for the sake of argu­ment that the uni­verse came into being uncaused out of noth­ing, the things within the uni­verse that come into being must be held to have causes. There­fore the Kalam could be re-​​worded:

1. Every­thing [within the uni­verse] that begins to exist has a cause.
2. [Every­thing within] the uni­verse began to exist.
3. There­fore, [every­thing within] the uni­verse has a cause.

The chain of cau­sa­tion of the exis­tence of things within the uni­verse could not regress infi­nitely and thus the need to posit some entity that is not within the uni­verse and that is not made out of the things out of which every­thing in the uni­verse is made out of, arises once again.

[Edit: This mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the argu­ment immu­nizes it against the objec­tion that empir­i­cal argu­ments in favor of premise 1 com­mit the fal­lacy of com­po­si­tion by infer­ring some­thing to be true of the whole uni­verse based on what is true of its parts, and it strength­ens it so that it goes through even against the posi­tion that every­thing, except the uni­verse itself, that comes into exis­tence has a cause.

How­ever, it leaves the Kalam vul­ner­a­ble to objec­tions claim­ing that cer­tain argu­ments in favor of premise 1 con­flate cau­sa­tion out of some­thing with cau­sa­tion out of noth­ing. In response to this objec­tion, I’ve argued in the past that cau­sa­tion out of noth­ing is much more intense than cau­sa­tion out of some­thing and that the for­mer is at least as involved as the lat­ter (requir­ing not just an account of the mate­r­ial cause, but of the effi­cient causes as well). There­fore the fact that noth­ing comes into being uncaused even out of pre­ex­ist­ing mate­r­ial just goes to show that noth­ing could come into being uncaused out of noth­ing at all.]

Possible Straw Man in Kalam Rhetoric

1 Every­thing that begins to exist has a cause.

Craig says that “…if things really could come into being uncaused out of noth­ing, then it becomes inex­plic­a­ble why just any­thing or every­thing does not come into exis­tence uncaused from noth­ing. Why do bicy­cles and Beethoven and root beer not pop into being from noth­ing?” (p. 186, Craig & More­land, 2009).

But is it really all of that to deny that every­thing that begins to exist has a cause? Per­haps an objec­tor could hold that nearly every­thing that begins to exist has a cause. Per­haps there is exactly one thing that began to exist, but with­out cause. Per­haps the uni­verse as a whole is the counterexample.

Let me try to put this more for­mally. To deny (1) is to assert ~(1), or:

(It is not the case that) (every­thing that begins to exist has a cause.)

Which is equiv­a­lent to affirm­ing that there is at least one thing that began to exist with­out a cause. How­ever Craig seems to accuse every­one who holds ~(1) of holding:

(2) Every­thing that begins to exist could come into exis­tence with­out a cause.

But ~(1) ≉ (2).

Unless Craig can cough up an argu­ment for why accept­ing that there is at least one thing that begins to exist with­out a cause log­i­cally leads to the propo­si­tion that any­thing could come into being with­out cause, I think he com­mits a straw man fal­lacy here.

Nat­u­rally I agree with (1), but I am begin­ning to think the rhetoric he offers up in sup­port of it might be in need of some reform.

On the “Infinitely Remote Beginning” II

While I think Pop­per, Mackie, and Cobb’s ver­sions of the “Assumed Infi­nitely Remote Begin­ning Point” objec­tion com­mit the straw man fal­lacy against Kant and by exten­sion G. J. Whitrow and Craig, I stum­bled across another ver­sion of the objec­tion for­mu­lated by Quentin Smith against Whitrow, P. M. Huby, and Craig that I think suc­ceeds [10].

Actu­ally, I don’t believe that Smith’s objec­tion holds against Kant’s argu­ment or any of the well-​​formed argu­ments against the for­mu­la­tion of an infi­nite set by suc­ces­sive addi­tion. Rather I think that Smith points out more selec­tively where Craig, et al. make sup­ple­men­tal argu­ments, or where they rephrase their orig­i­nal argu­ments, in ways that do com­mit the error in question.

Here is the per­pe­trat­ing pas­sage in Whitrow:

Con­se­quently, if the chain of events form­ing the past of E is in finite, there must have occurred events that are sep­a­rated from E by an infi­nite num­ber of inter­me­di­ate events [11].

(I can­not locate where in Huby’s paper the per­pe­trat­ing pas­sage is alleged to be [12].) And Craig’s:

If the chain of events prior to E is infi­nite, then there must be an event O that is sep­a­rated from E by an infi­nite num­ber of inter­me­di­ate events [13].

On the “Infinitely Remote Beginning”

In 1781, a 57-​​year-​​old Pruss­ian man by the name of Immanuel Kant pub­lished a lit­tle work enti­tled “Kri­tik der reinen Ver­nunft” or “Cri­tique of Pure Rea­son”. In it he dis­cusses four antin­o­mies. Each com­prises a the­sis and an antithe­sis, for both of which Kant argues. The first antin­omy con­cerns space and time.

The the­sis of Kant’s first antin­omy is that space and time are finite. He begins by argu­ing for the fini­tude of the past. If the past were infi­nite, an infi­nite num­ber of moments would have elapsed prior to any given moment. But an infi­nite series can never be com­pleted through suc­ces­sive syn­the­sis (time ticks by one moment at a time, and you’ll never form an infi­nite col­lec­tion of moments that way). So the pass­ing of every moment proves that its own tem­po­ral past is finite. In argu­ing this way, Kant antic­i­pates William Lane Craig’s sec­ond argu­ment for the sec­ond premise of his Kalam [6].

I have come across sev­eral philoso­phers who have each inde­pen­dently raised the same objec­tion to Kant’s argu­ment or some ver­sion of it [7]. The objec­tion says that Kant pre­sup­poses that there is a begin­ning point in time, but one that is infi­nitely far away. In this post I first try to imag­ine what it would look like to posit a first moment in time that occurred infi­nitely long ago. Then I explore why posit­ing a first moment in time like this might inval­i­date Kant’s argu­ment. Finally I exam­ine why one of Kant’s crit­ics says his the­sis does in fact com­mit this error, and I find that the crit­i­cism attacks only a straw-​​man ver­sion of Kant’s the­sis by ignor­ing the tensed nature of time.

An easy way to think about time is as a rope with tick marks on it. Each tick mark is labeled with an inte­ger, and the present moment is labeled “0”. So the moment prior to the present one is “-1″, and the next moment after the present will be “+1″. Of course one dif­fer­ence is that a rope is sta­tic and doesn’t move, so we can look at the full length of one all at once (or if it is a long rope, we can at least look at more than one “moment” on the rope at a time). Whereas moments ticks by one at a time; the past moments are gone and we can­not directly expe­ri­ence them, and future moments have not yet come to pass. So let’s imag­ine that we are hold­ing the rope and mov­ing our grip on it from one tick mark to the next dur­ing each moment in time that elapses in order to sym­bol­ize to our­selves what the pass­ing of time is like. (At present we are grip­ping “0”.)

Kant’s the­sis is that this num­ber line-​​rope can­not extend infi­nitely back­wards. Now, what would it look like for Kant to be assum­ing that there is a begin­ning point in time, but one that is infi­nitely far away? It would be like imag­in­ing that the rope has a last neg­a­tive num­ber on it, mark­ing one of the ends of the length of rope, but that this end is infi­nitely far away from 0.

Why would think­ing this way about the rope cause prob­lems? For starters, if Kant is try­ing to prove that the rope has a finite num­ber of neg­a­tive inte­gers, it would seem question-​​begging to assume from the get-​​go that the rope has an end on that side of it. Nat­u­rally, if the rope has an end, then it would be pos­si­ble to reach that end by count­ing moments back­ward to it. This is com­mon sense — to be finite is to be bounded, and to be infi­nite is to be unbounded. Assum­ing a bound prior to argu­ing for fini­tude is question-​​begging.

Sim­i­larly, if there is a begin­ning point in time, it would be impos­si­ble for such a point to be infi­nitely far away. To put this more math­e­mat­i­cally: for every pair of col­in­ear points x and y, the dis­tance between x and y is finite. So if the begin­ning point of time is a point and the present moment is also a point, then the span between the begin­ning point of time and the present moment is finite.

But beg­ging the ques­tion isn’t the only prob­lem. Kant’s argu­ment is meant to be some­thing of a reduc­tio ad absur­dum of the notion of an infi­nite past, that is it assumes for the sake of argu­ment that the past is infi­nite and then shows how such a view would lead to absur­dity in order to dis­credit it. But if Kant is assum­ing that the past has a start­ing point, and such is tan­ta­mount to assum­ing the past is finite, and he is assum­ing that the past is infi­nite, which is tan­ta­mount to assum­ing that the past has no start­ing point, then he is tak­ing the very two con­tra­dic­tory propo­si­tions between which he is try­ing to adju­di­cate, as premises in his argu­ment. And that’s just wrong.

On the other hand, if one doesn’t pre­sup­pose that there was a first moment in time, accord­ing to this objec­tion, one can see that the past may stretch back­ward infi­nitely. This would be like our num­ber line-​​rope hav­ing no end, no largest neg­a­tive inte­ger, or if you pre­fer no begin­ning. In this case, though any two points on the rope will only be a finite dis­tance away from one another, the points will go on into the neg­a­tive num­bers for­ever with­out stopping.

So why think that Kant pre­sup­poses a begin­ning point, before he even gets started try­ing to rea­son to the fini­tude of the past? Charles Cobb says that to say that “no infi­nite series can be com­pleted… is false unless we sup­pose that the infi­nite series has a begin­ning” (empha­sis mine) [8]. A few lines later he repeats that “to say that a series is not infi­nite because it has a last term is to say that it has a first term” (empha­sis mine again).

What does he mean by this? If a series we know to be infi­nite “has a first term”, he says “and each term has a def­i­nite suc­ces­sor, there can be no last term; for exam­ple, the infi­nite series 0, 1, 2, 3… begin­ning with zero, can have no last term” (since we know it to be infi­nite). But if we turn it around and con­sider “the [infi­nite] series …3, 2, 1, 0″ we can see that it has a last term, but is nev­er­the­less infi­nite. “There­fore”, he says, “to say that a series is not infi­nite because it has a last term is to [assume] that it has a first term” (empha­sis mine). He gives the exam­ple “3, 2, 1, 0, which has a last term zero, [and] is not infi­nite because it has a first term, 3″.

What are we to say to this? Is Kant’s posi­tion really that any series that has a last term must be finite? Would he deny that the set of all neg­a­tive inte­gers is infi­nite? I am inclined to say no. The dif­fer­ence between a series of sta­t­i­cally exist­ing mem­bers that has a last term, such as the series of neg­a­tive inte­gers, and the series of moments in time is that moments in time elapse [9]. Kant’s the­sis is that a series of elaps­ing mem­bers that has a last term can­not be finite — Cobb, et al. com­pletely ignore Kant’s “suc­ces­sive syn­the­sis” clause and thus mis­un­der­stand his argu­ment. Kant doesn’t presup­pose that a series with a last term must have had a first term, he demon­strates that an elaps­ing series with a last term must have had a first term, and thus must be past-​​finite.

FactChecking Mike D on Kalam

Self-​​proclaimed apos­tate and per­sonal trainer Mike D cri­tiques the argu­ments Dr. William Lane Craig used in a debate with noted jour­nal­ist Christo­pher Hitchens not long ago. How­ever Mike D’s blog reflects igno­rance of the depth of Craig’s schol­arly research in sev­eral areas and a gen­eral atti­tude of dog­ma­tism. Today I am inter­ested in cor­rect­ing this par­tic­u­lar post’s pos­ture toward Craig’s Kalam Cos­mo­log­i­cal Argument.

Craig’s for­mu­la­tion of the cos­mo­log­i­cal argu­ment goes like this:

1. Every­thing that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The uni­verse began to exist.
3. There­fore the uni­verse has a cause.

Mike D’s first objec­tion is a rebut­ting defeater of the sec­ond premise, his sec­ond objec­tion is sim­ply a mis­un­der­stand­ing of the con­clu­sion, and his third objec­tion is a very unclear rebut­ting defeater of the first premise. He never dis­putes the valid­ity of the logic.

He first argues that the uni­verse could exist in “a state in which time [func­tions] non-​​linearly as another dimen­sion of space, negat­ing… prob­lems with infi­nite regres­sions of time”. Some­thing like Mike D’s posi­tion was orig­i­nally advanced by John McTag­gart Ellis McTag­gart (yes, that’s his real name) in his famous 1908 arti­cle in Mind, “The Unre­al­ity of Time”, as “B-​​series” time. This view of time would see any begin­ning of the uni­verse like the begin­ning of a yard stick, whose length is tense­less. Most laypeo­ple how­ever, are unknow­ing believ­ers in what McTag­gart called “A-​​series” time, and pas­sively inter­pret their expe­ri­ence of tensed time as real.

Craig is aware that his view pre­sup­poses A-​​series time. In fact, he has done exten­sive schol­arly work, much of which is avail­able online, in under­cut­ting the B-​​series view and advanc­ing an A-​​series view (includ­ing a full book-​​length treat­ment of each). The qual­ity of his research is reflected by the fact that he was invited to pre­side over the Phi­los­o­phy of Time Soci­ety from 1999–2006. To sim­ply point out the well-​​known fact that there is a view of time which would pre­clude Craig’s argu­ment, and then declare Craig wrong with­out any fur­ther com­ment on the mat­ter, is both igno­rant and dog­matic [1][2].

Mr. D’s sec­ond “objec­tion” is sim­ply a mis­un­der­stand­ing of what it is that the argu­ment is try­ing to prove. Accord­ing to Mike D, the “sec­ond prob­lem… is that [Craig’s] argu­ment fails to answer why, even if a first cause is nec­es­sary, it must be ‘God’” [3]. Here Mr. D mis­un­der­stands the claim made by the argu­ment, which is only that the uni­verse has a cause, not that the cause is God. Inci­den­tally, Craig is always pre­pared with other argu­ments on hand that build on his kalam by attempt­ing to recover from it cer­tain attrib­utes that must be true of a uni­ver­sal cause [4].

Why didn’t Craig go into finer tech­ni­cal detail about these issues? Because Hitchens has no for­mal train­ing in either sci­ence or phi­los­o­phy, and demon­strated a pro­found igno­rance of the tech­ni­cal issues that have bear­ing on the dis­cus­sion. In fact, Craig is often frus­trated at just how shal­low his debates are, because his inter­locu­tors rarely bring up any meaty objec­tions at all (as was most cer­tainly the case with Hitchens, whom Craig “spanked… like a fool­ish child”, accord­ing to the infa­mous “Com­mon Sense Athe­ism” post on the debate).

Mr. D’s final objec­tion is unclear, but I think that it may be under­stood as a rebut­ting defeater of the first premise (though parts of it seem to assume he is right about the sec­ond premise being false). In it he ini­tially asserts that causal­ity requires space and lin­ear time. Yet he pro­vides no argu­ment what­so­ever for his meta­phys­i­cal dogma. Are we to take it on faith?

Next, while his first objec­tion defended a view of time which is non-​​linear, this final objec­tion claims that ‘lin­ear’ time is needed for causal­ity to occur. Are we to take it then that Mr. D denies the real­ity of causal­ity entirely?

After this he says that if the uni­verse were caused, we would all actu­ally be igno­rant of how causal­ity works out­side of the uni­verse. But if that’s the case, how does ‘he’ know that causal­ity requires things pre­cluded by Craig’s view?

Mr. D says it’s a “fal­lacy then to talk about a time ‘before’ the uni­verse”, but Craig does no such thing. His view is that “with­out” (not “before”) the uni­verse, God is time­less. And on this mat­ter too, Craig has writ­ten exten­sively at the schol­arly level, includ­ing a book-​​length treat­ment and dozens of arti­cles, many of which are avail­able online. Should Mr. D ever read any of them, he may remain in dis­agree­ment, but his post reflects only igno­rance of Craig’s research.

An hon­est piece describ­ing the thoughts of an arm­chair philoso­pher in process would be one thing, but Mr. D’s post is packed with dog­matic rhetoric and scathing dis­missals of a man whose peers regard him as eas­ily falling within the top 1 per­cent of prac­tic­ing philoso­phers in the West­ern world.