Tag Archives: Kalam

(Not) Answering the Question

ClassClown_webtile_041012Though he’s finished with his reasons why he disagrees with the idea that the universe had a cause of its beginning, Hallquist has some other things to say about the Kalam. Essentially, he rejects the idea that a cause to the universe would be God.

This is where I come the closest to agreeing with Hallquist. He notes that Craig spends little time on this point, and doesn’t answer questions that seem rather important to raise. I can definitely relate, as I had this same thought when I first encountered the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

My disagreement, however, is twofold:

1. He thinks this means there are no answers to these questions, and

2. He seems to think this defends materialism.

Starting with the latter point, I’m not sure whether Hallquist actively thinks this or not. But it is definitely worth noting that the fact that the universe had a cause is a blatant contradiction of materialism. Craig spends little time elaborating, I’d wager, because thoughtful materialists realize that we’ve already moved past their view.

So, unless Hallquist is willing do defend some form of Platonism (which contradicts the New Atheists’ favorite memes), this isn’t a valid objection.

But, regarding the first point, he simply attacks our certainty of the idea that the universe could have a personal cause by assuming that personal causes must be scientifically measurable. But this, like every New Atheist argument I’ve encountered, is simply assuming that materialism is true rather than proving it.

If Hallquist had ventured a guess at a superior alternative, then, I think it would have been much more obvious how much worse his materialism really is at accounting for the facts.

And this is very telling for me. Initially, I wasn’t impressed by the Kalam for much the same issue as Hallquist raises here. I didn’t see that it should lead me to conclude that God exists–and wondered what other options might be there.

However, the fact that neither myself, nor any of the (many) opponents of the Kalam I’ve read, have been able to give a superior alternative is very important. Actually, no one in history seems to have been able to give an option other than those Craig lists.

Anyone who extolls  the importance of science, of “following the evidence where it leads” and the like, should be willing to accept the concept of a personal cause as the best explanation.

But, instead, Hallquist has simply insisted (without support) that personal causes must be physical as well, and skirted the question of what such a cause of the universe might actually be like.

So, when he should be trying to answer the question Craig has raised, he offers this as a reason to dismiss the Kalam: We don’t already know that there is such a thing as an immaterial mind. But the Kalam is itself a argument for an immaterial mind. Unless Hallquist can give a good objection to it (including a better alternative), then it is reason to believe in exactly the sort of thing Hallquist dismisses.

And it’s Always Been Forever…

Mea_Culpa_(After_Forever_album)_coverartIn attacking the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence, Chris Hallquist has insisted that the universe can be past eternal (and therefore doesn’t require a cause).

But, among the scientific reasons why the universe cannot be past-eternal, there is this argument:

1. The series of events in time is a collection formed by adding one event after another.

2. A collection formed by adding one member after another cannot be actually infinite.

3. Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite.

Essentially, this is the argument that you can’t put together an infinite collection of things one step at a time because you’d (literally) never get there.

Now, Hallquist makes the objection that this assumes that the universe started at a certain point, and that this is wrong-headed. The idea of an infinite past is that the universe has always been here, so that it didn’t ever start. Thus, it was always infinite–there’s no need to build it up to an infinite age one moment at a time.

Admittedly, someone as formidable as J.L. Mackie takes this approach. Still, I think it misses the real point of the argument. The claim of an infinite past is, after all, the claim that there are moments in history which are infinitely distant from the point we are now at. And that it is a logical impossibility for us to have reached this moment from those times in the infinite past. It makes no difference whether or not any of them are the “starting point” of the universe, or even that there would be no starting point.

So, one cannot get out of the argument simply by denying that infinitely distant moments weren’t the beginning. One would have to deny that there are no infinitely distant moments at all. But this last is agreeing with the idea that the universe isn’t past-eternal.

That being the case, Hallquist has not given us a reason to doubt that the universe has a cause of its coming into existence. In fact, he’s not adequately refuted any of the reasons for thinking that it has a cause.

But he needs to refute all of them for his argument to work.