Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Argument From Contingency Vs. The Block Universe & The Principle Of Sufficient Reason

William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith sight is such a treasure trove of misinformed logic and bad arguments for the existence of the Christian god, that any intelligent atheist would have a field day picking it apart. On a recent Q and A titled the Argument from Contingency, Craig responds to a question about the argument's potency in light of the B-theory of time which posits an eternal 4-dimensional block universe. Craig rightfully admits that the kalam cosmological argument is basically rendered impotent on a B-theory of time, but says that Leibnizian argument from contingency still packs a punch. (To see the argument from contingency click the link about it above as I will not be dissecting the actual argument here.)

Craig asks: why does this four-dimensional spacetime block exist? He goes on to say that if the naturalist says the block universe just inexplicably exists, he's then committing the "taxicab fallacy." I've heard this fallacy being thrown around before, so let me explain it for you now. From street apologetics we get a definition:

The “Taxi-Cab Fallacy” is committed when one hops in and assumes a certain system of thought or worldview in an attempt to make a particular point but then jumps out of the system of thought when it suits their fancy.

Craig argues that the naturalist "treats the Principle of Sufficient Reason like a hired hack that can be dismissed arbitrarily once one has arrived at one’s desired destination. No, the existence of a contingently existing spacetime requires explanation, too, just as do planets and dogs and periwinkles."

Let's examine his response. First, the naturalist who doesn't hold to the principle of sufficient reason acknowledges that certain facts may indeed be brute facts and at some point there might be something that simply just is. So why should we hold him to the PSR? The PSR is also not a logical law. The theist cannot logically prove that there must be a sufficient reason or cause for everything, they just assume that there does. Second, we don't know if the universe is contingent. It might be possible that every physically or mathematically possible universe exists. It's a theory called the mathematical universe, which is the level-4 multiverse. Now no one knows if this theory is true; it's a possibility. But if every physically possible kind of universe exists, then ours is guaranteed to exist as one of them. 

Anyone holding to the PSR will then ask, why the multiverse? I'm not sure why a multiverse would or should exist, but I do know that absolute nothing cannot exist. If you press a theist on it hard enough, they will have to concede that absolute nothing is just a concept in our minds, not something that actually existed. And since nothing is impossible, something has to exist, and that something might include our universe. Besides, an eternal block universe cannot not exist. Since it is eternal, there's no possibility of it not existing. 

In the Q and A, the questioner thinks that under the PSR, if one compares asking why an eternal god would exist with why an eternal block universe would exist, the theist has the upper hand because god is a mind. Craig agrees saying:

how else could one get a contingent reality from a necessarily existing being, unless that being is a personal agent endowed with freedom of the will, who can freely choose to create a contingent universe? Absent free will, the effect of a necessary being must be as necessary as the being itself.

How can god be omniscient and have freedom of the will? If one knows all things, they cannot have free will. For example, if I know what I'm going to eat for breakfast tomorrow, I cannot have free will to choose something different; I have to eat what I know I'm going to eat. Likewise for god, if he knows he will create a universe just like ours in which all the events that happen in our universe occur, he cannot do otherwise. He's simply locked into his choices through his omniscience. I don't call that free will at all. I'd actually argue, that in such a scenario, our universe would be necessary, since it would be impossible that god wouldn't have created it.

Craig's last sentence hits this notion right on the spot. Without free will, god's effects are as necessary as the being itself. Logically it looks like this: If A is a necessary object in that it must exist, and if A exists, then B must exist too, in that you cannot have A alone and it must always be accompanied by B, then since A necessarily exists, B necessarily exists too, since it is impossible that B cannot exist.

Craig then goes onto say, "I can’t think of any way to get a contingent effect from a necessarily existing cause unless that cause is a personal agent endowed with freedom of the will." But to me, this is exactly why the god hypothesis fails. Craig does not explain how it's possible for an omniscient being to be "endowed with freedom of the will." Here, he simply asserts it.

Craig then moves onto another assertion he often makes: "the only candidates that we know of for a metaphysically necessary being beyond the physical universe are either abstract objects or a Mind." I'm sorry to have to inform Craig, but we have absolutely no evidence that a mind can exist apart from a physical brain let alone all of space and time. Theists like Craig simply just assert this, just like they do when they assert that omniscient beings having free will, which is logically impossible. A timeless mind is by definition nonfunctional, and therefore can't do anything.

So the theist faces at least three problems with their "ultimate" explanation for why contingent objects might exist:

  1. How is it logically possible that an omniscient being can have free will?
  2. How is it physically possible that a mind can exist independent of a physical brain, as well as space and time?
  3. How is it logically possible that a timeless mind can freely "choose" to create time? Isn't it true that from timelessness, timelessness comes?

Craig has attempted to address these problems on other Q and A topics but glances over them here. I suppose he just assumes that his readers are aware that he's already written about them and can find them. Unfortunately, the leading explanation he offers seems to be that god just somehow wills time into existence "from eternity," whatever that means. Sounds like sophistry to me. 

Finally, what advantage does the theist have over the naturalist here in regards to the PSR? Craig ends saying, "theism’s conjunction of metaphysical necessity and the ultimacy of mind seems to give the theist a decisive advantage over the naturalist." In other words, according to Craig, theism just asserts that intangible, omniscient, timeless minds that are somehow metaphysically necessary, just exist. If that's supposed to give theists an advantage, I must have missed it. The logic backing Craig's assertions up is highly contentious. It is not at all obvious that such minds are even possible, let alone necessary. On top of that, Craig has failed to prove or even demonstrate that the PSR is logically necessary. What's the explanation why every fact needs an explanation? Craig is silent on this. 

1 comment:

  1. You reminded me of an old post I did for Debunking Christianity which i have reposted:

    God cannot be contrary to his own predictions.



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