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 .
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’” . 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 .
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.