The Grand Design (Book Review)

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Book Review

The Grand Design.jpgSome of the thinkers most opposed to theories of design are also the most preoccupied with it. Richard Dawkins wrote The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence for Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. Stephen Hawking’s recent book was titled simply The Grand Design. The two books share common purposes: to explain and defend theories answering vital questions (biological diversity for the one, the entire physical universe for the other); and to show that their theories render God unnecessary and therefore nonexistent.

When Dawkins wrote The Blind Watchmaker he was an engaging writer (I can no longer say that of him, sadly), and the book was a sparkling read. His obvious broad-ranging intellect set me up to expect a truly challenging close, when he would finally get around to revealing (per the subtitle) why the evidence for evolution reveals a universe without design. When he got there, though, I was truly disappointed. I wondered, “Is that all he has to offer?” The book’s argument could be summed up as, “Here is how life could have come to be if there were no God. Therefore there is no God.” As Alvin Plantinga noted later (the link is no longer available), even if the premise were true, there’s quite an embarrassingly large jump from there to the conclusion. I could have come here by walking; therefore I did not drive. If that’s a valid argument, then Dawkins’s might be too. (Need I point out that it isn’t?)

Hawking’s book, too, is engagingly written. The first hundred pages or so felt like a pretty quick read. The second half (it’s only 188 pages long) gets more challenging, but I think most educated readers would still find be able to follow his treatment of the physics, as far as he intended it to be followed, at least. It’s on a par with other popularizations in the field, and considerably less challenging than his Brief History of Time.

He has made the same embarrassing leap from premise to conclusion that Dawkins has made, though. Let us begin with his premises, for better scientists than I have raised doubts about their truth. John Lennox said bluntly that Hawking is wrong. Science journalist John Horgan thought Hawking might have been playing a joke (or perhaps gunning for publicity and sales). Hawking rests his hopes on M-Theory, a complicated patchwork of mathematical theories that might someday unify the other so far mutually snobbish fundamental physical theories into one happy family—though Hawking doubts even M-Theory will ever be completely unified itself. Its predictions, such as they are, remain almost completely untested, and the most significant of them will probably never even be testable.

But let us grant him the benefit of the doubt on that. He still makes the same embarrassing leap that Dawkins made (and an even worse one besides). On page 180 he writes,

Because gravity shapes space and time, it allows space-time to be locally stable but globally unstable. On the scale of the entire universe, the positive energy of the matter can be balance by the negative gravitational energy, and so there is no restriction on the creation of whole universes. Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing in the manner described in Chapter 6. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue torch and set the universe going.

In this light it’s worth going back to the very beginning. The book begins,

We each exist for such a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe…. people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? …

Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.

Stephen Hawking.jpg

The torch theme appears in both of these excerpts, though I would not want to infer too much from that. I am more interested in how he began: “We each exist for such a short time.” Stephen Hawking is a man aware of mortality. He has lived much longer than expected. About two weeks ago I helped with the funeral of a 41 year-old friend whose battle with ALS began only about four years ago. Hawking was diagnosed with the same disease around 1963.

Few men or women have ever displayed such an intense desire as Hawking has to explore the whole universe. He is among the most highly regarded scientists of our era, with a cosmic scope to his curiosity, by which he opened up unexpected realities of those most mysterious cosmic objects of all, the black holes. He has found science to be enormously powerful, and philosophy to be dead, in the pursuit of the truth of ultimate reality. “Philosophy is dead” is for him an intentional overstatement, I’m sure; he averts to philosophical discussion several times in this book, including a fascinating foray into questions of scientific realism vs. anti-realism, and some less clear-sighted ruminations on free will.

Still, one wonders what caused him not to see Philosophy jumping out of its presumptive grave and kicking fresh clods of dirt over his own arguments. For, as much as Hawking is a genius for the ages, he seems to have missed two crucial points. One of them is “nothing.” He never says quite what he means by “nothing,” except that from it, the universe had the capacity to create itself. Now, this is not “nothing.” It is perhaps neither matter nor energy, but it is at least potentiality of some sort; and potentiality is not nothing. What it might be is something that philosophers and scientists might debate for ages to come, but it strains reasoning to suppose that in the end they would agree, “well, okay, then this universe-creating potentiality turns out to be quite absolutely nothing after all.” No, whatever it is, it is something. So in saying that nothingness can create something, he jumps a step. Where did the kind of “nothing” he has in mind, the kind that has this vast potentiality in it, come from?

Others have asked the same question in a more specific sense.If there is something in the laws of the universe that allow it to create itself (as Hawking suggests), then where did those laws come from? Suppose Hawking is right as far as he goes; he does not go back far enough.

And then let us be as charitable as we could possibly be, setting aside every doubt, every presumption we might attach to Hawking’s theories of the universe’s ability to self-create. Then what he has done is nearly the same thing Dawkins did: “Physics shows that the universe could have created itself. Therefore there is no God.” His atheism is not as strident as Dawkins’s; he never says outright, “This proves there is no God.” He’s letting the rest of the world draw that conclusion for him; and my sense is he did that on purpose. The leap from premise to conclusion, however, (even if the premise were true) is far too great.

Hawking’s intent might have been less than that: the universe could have created itself; therefore certain arguments for God are undermined. I wish he had stated it that way. It would have been a more interesting book. He would have had to deal, however, with the full force of those arguments, especially those having to do with a First Cause. I am quite sure—without taking time to review them all here—that they would stand up. For as much as he might be trying to say so, he doesn’t really mean the universe came from nothing. It still came from something. Or Someone.

(Also posted at First Things: Evangel)

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37 Responses to “ The Grand Design (Book Review) ”

  1. Einstein once said that the scientist makes for a poor philosopher.

    Hawking’s entire enterprise is to undermine philosophy, but he ends up solidifying it by engaging it to suit his anti-realist purposes.

    Quite simply, Hawking wants it both ways.

  2. A nice review, and I’m enjoying the various responses that have come about to Hawking’s book – though personally, my view is that Horgan was right. Hawking’s aim here was more self-promotion than anything else.

    My only other comment for now is that William Lane Craig recently put up a Q&A response that goes into Hawking’s book. If you’ve not read it, I think you’ll enjoy it, particularly the conclusion.

  3. Gentlemen:

    This assumes, of course, that any support Craig (or anyone, for that matter) has provided in terms of reasoned argumentation is nonetheless not a demonstration of the soundness of the Kalam argument. Why? Because it’s second premise (that the universe has an absolute temporal beginning) that doesn’t work.

    There are two strong issues I take with Craig’s second premise.

    First, the fact that Craig resorts to what is essentially an MES approach (with bones thrown to mathematics)–missing the whole point: the MESs cannot per se demonstrate that the universe has temporal existence because the MESs are–by their very nature–observations physical efficient causality. Demonstrations, in contrast, are based on the natures of things… and natures understood philosophically can tell us nothing about the actual histories of things. Now, that’s not to say that solid, probable (i.e., dialectical) arguments cannot be made. BUT, the probable nature of dialectical arguments doesn’t cut it with Divine providence. In other words, you can’t refer to the universe through MES-argumentation to demonstrate an absolute temporal beginning any more than you can refer to MES-argumentation to demonstrate a temporally-infinite universe. (The Kalam argument imposes upon God the limitation that He could not have created an infinitely temporally existing universe–but that ridiculous.) It is only through revealed faith that we obtain full certain knowledge that the created universe has a temporal beginning. Craig is claiming full certitude based on reason alone, and he’s wrong.

    Digression: I understand the fear this may raise in some people: if the universe is infinitely temporally existent, then surely everything could have happened an infinite number of times. But that’s an illicit conclusion to draw because (1) an infinite past is NOT an actual past, and (2) an infinite past does NOT require that there have been an infinite traversal of that past. In other words, an infinite past does not necessarily imply what Craig demands it does. Moreover, some may fear that an infinite past opens the door to a mere mechanistic Darwinian account of both the coming-to-be and evolution of life. But this latter point is finely dispatched by the former explanation.

    Second, to me at least, Craig’s use of the MES’s (or at least an MES mindset) parallels ID Theorists’ attempts to use the MESs to “prove” (“infer” if you will) the existence of design–reducing design to something fully captured by the MESs–without first asking the very simple question: does “design” exist in the same way as, say, a “neutrino”? No, of course not: each requires different means by which to demonstrate their respective existences–the latter can rely exclusively (the human capacity to reason notwithstanding) on the MESs, the former demands input from the MESs but then relies on non-MESs arguments. Historically, such an error goes all the way back to Duns Scotus’ (Franciscan Monk) ontological flat-landing of all existents–an error that denies “in-kind” distinctions of beingness, reducing ontological distinctions to “in-degree”.

    Now, all if this is not to deny the highly-probable argument that Craig puts forth: I have little issue with Craig if he characterizes his argument as such. Moreover, as far as I can tell in my observations of those who try to completely undermine the Kalam argument (mainly coming from atheists buoyed, ironically, by their imposition of the MESs upon the issue), these “arguments” are mostly silly or ignorant attempts to push aside threats to their ideologically-naturalistic world views.

    The Kalam Argument is sound because of revealed knowledge; it is only probable (perhaps highly so) by reason alone. Therefore, to use it–which Craig does–as a kind of “proof” to somehow “validate” revealed knowledge is deep, deep question-begging: to “prove” the existence of the thing that maintains the existence of the universe by means of and referencing created existents (including, by the way, human reason) doesn’t work.

  4. Holopupenko,

    In Craig’s defense, everything I’ve read from him indicates that he himself does not view the MES’s as “proving” the Kalam cosmological argument, nor does he think that (say) the Big Bang theory demonstrates that Kalam is true. In fact, I think he’d agree with you that such a demonstration or proof one way or the other is not possible by the MES’s. Now, I think Craig might disagree with you about the certainty or lack thereof of Kalam when argued purely on terms of philosophy / logic / reason, but when it comes to MES, I think Craig is after a much easier thing: Consistency of scientific findings with the Kalam claim, and possibly what those scientific findings themselves imply not about God, but about our universe.

    The review Craig gives certainly doesn’t suggest that he thinks the MESs have proven or demonstrated what you seem to think he may. If you’ve read him saying otherwise, let me know – I’d find that interesting. But he’s always struck me as someone who (contrasting him favorably with Hawking here) does not mix up his claims like that, or overstate his case, or engage in baiting and showmanship to get attention for his books or his articles.

    That said, if you want a theistically inclined presentation of the Big Bang (from a physicist even) to criticize, I have one for you: Frank Tipler’s recent blog. If I read him right, he identifies God with the hypothetical Big Bang singularity itself.

  5. I think Craig is after a much easier thing: Consistency of scientific findings with the Kalam claim, and possibly what those scientific findings themselves imply not about God, but about our universe.

    I see the Kalam argument as a defeater to the claim that Christianity is nothing but blind faith. The truth is that the revealed divine knowledge we have fits nicely with the various knowledge we have collected from different areas of life – math, science, philosophy. I think Craig would say it’s a “Reasonable Faith”. 🙂

  6. Hi Crude:

    Good observations, but possible lack of clarity on my part notwithstanding, I must disagree with your characterization of Craig’s version (meaning in particular his expansion of the second premise) of the Kalam Argument is most certainly MES-animated.

    As a first piece of evidence, visit his “Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe” (http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html) site and play close attention to his expansion on the second premise. He claims later in the article that the arguments he presents are “purely philosophical,” which is simply not true. Worse, the section in which he states this is itself problematic: “First Scientific Confirmation.” That’s a contradiction: if it’s “purely philosophical argument” then there is no need for “scientific confirmation.” (There are non-MES truths out there that require empirical verification nor can they be empirically verified.) That’s a misuse of science: science (meaning, crudely, observation and explanatory description of the real extra-mental world) can challenge premises directly and can challenge conclusions IF they are sensory-observable conclusions. But what exactly is “observable” (to the five primary senses and therefore accessible to measurement as empirical data) about the conclusion that “the universe has a cause of its existence”? How does one “verify” that cause qua cause? Nothing, because one must reason to that conclusion, but the existence of a First Uncaused Cause cannot never be reduced to sensory accessibility. Also, what Craig appeals to in his expansion upon the second premise most certainly is MES-based (including mathematics as applied to real existents) in nature. Note the words he uses: “successive addition” and “traverses” when applied to infinities. But that can only be true of he’s describing actual infinities. He’ll deny this, but Craig can’t have his cake and eat it too: he can’t claim all that he does about infinite traversals of real existents while appealing to the MESs—which is what I meant when I stated “an infinite past does NOT require that there have been an infinite traversal of that past.”

    As a second piece of evidence, consider his response to Adoph Grünbaum (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/origin.html) where he writes in the introduction: “His objections to the scientific argument for creation are based on idiosyncratic definitions or deeper presuppositions which need to be surfaced and explored. He therefore falls short in his attempt to show that the question of creation is not a genuine philosophical problem.” Now, I get what he’s trying to say, but such sloppiness (implying that MES arguments are legitimate when dealing with creation—as opposed to origin, while at the same time (correctly) countering Grünbaum’s scientistic discounting of philosophical arguments for creation) doesn’t serve him well. Worse, why does Craig continue to—either directly or by implication—keep seeking verification of a philosophical argument (which is holds as sound) in the MESs? If he really believes it’s a sound argument (which means it’s a demonstration in the logical sense), then what more does he need? I realize that rhetorically (meant in the sense of a form of logical argumentation) he feels some appeal must be made if, for nothing else, to get a foot in the door with scientists. But why? That scientists neither understand nor accept that philosophical arguments have their own subject matter and therefore their own methodologies, etc., is their problem—not his. Appealing to the MESs to confirm philosophical truths or somehow make philosophical arguments sound sexy enough so as to entice scientists is not good.

    (There are other examples, I just don’t have the time to nip at their heels as well.)

    So, the paragraph before last was only one example of his appeal to the MESs as part of this argument. The previous paragraph speculated on why Craig feels he must do this. To counter what you said: he doesn’t use the MESs to “prove” the Kalam Argument, but he does use them to support his second premise and to add “sex appeal” (through “verificiation”) to scientists who might be persuaded by rhetoric. Also, when you say, … Craig is after a much easier thing: Consistency of scientific findings with the Kalam claim, and possibly what those scientific findings themselves imply not about God, but about our universe,” I’m not sure that’s correct. First “consistency” means almost nothing apart from the meaning of the word: consistency in no way implies either correlation or causation or both. Even if I grant you the “implication about our universe thing,” so what? No one buys an implication—one pursues truth through argumentation. Moreover, what is implied to one person is trash talk to another—especially in cases of world view clashes.

    Regarding Tipler, God is the singularity? Oh boy… He’s misapplied, if you will, Aquinas… and he’s trying to make “sexy” cosmological arguments by labeling them with a word whose original meaning has to do with (crudely speaking) dividing by zero. This love affair with mathematics as some kind of an actualizer of reality has got to go. By the way, I suspect Tipler may be over-reacting to a really dumb assertion by Quentin Smith: “I argue that the timeless, uncaused, simple, independent, necessary and transcendent being that causes space-time’s beginning to exist is not God but a spatially zero-dimensional point.” Nuff said. I don’t have time for Tipler…

    … but your questions and Craig’s arguments are much better informed and professional than that. I want to emphasize that Craig is a fellow traveler in faith and an excellent philosopher-evangelist. But, there are certain errors that must, nonetheless, be countered in the spirit of I Peter 3:15. Craig’s conclusion (in the last paragraph) was not something I liked but something that made my eyes roll for exactly the reasoned I provided in my last comments: “With respect to the kalam cosmological argument, the authors’ preferred theory affirms the fact of an absolute beginning of time and the universe, which is the key premiss of the argument.” If this is not appealing to the MESs (of a Hawking pedigree no less!) to “affirm” kalam’s second premise, I don’t know is.

    Finally, Kalam is small potatoes compared to a much more serious error that he and Moreland make: their claim that being is a genus is a show-stopper for ontological distinctions because they quite literally claim (in their textbook, for example, pg. 188) “everything that exists will have existence or being in the same sense. Being… means the same thing for all existents.” They even provide an example of the number two (an accident of real being) and a carbon atom (a real extra-mental existent) and agree they exist in the same way! Worse, this section of their book provide a very brief facile treatment of an issue over which uncountable discussions and publications have tackled: consider for example their using the accidental unity of a heap of sand to paint a straw man of the other side’s position. Why do you think Craig generally supports the ID Movement? Because if, as he holds, ontological distinctions are flatlanded, then indeed the MESs are all we need… and the risky attraction to use the MESs to verify or validate greater verities is an inevitable follow-on… like with the second premise of the Kalam argument. If “design” (accessible to reason) is the same kind of thing as a neutrino (accessible to empirical observation), i.e., if these two exist in the same way as Craig holds, then I’m Little Bo Peep.

    Sorry, I know that was too much… but I’m pretty intellectually passionate about these things. Thanks very much for your observations.

    SteveK: There is no such thing as “blind faith”–so as far as it goes I agree with you. But that’s not how the kalam argument is being used.

  7. Holopupenko,

    Well, I disagree with Craig about some things, but Kalam is what he is most known for and all I had in mind in my response. So I’ll let your other criticisms go unanswered – I vaguely recall my disagreeing with Craig on abstracts.

    I’d agree with you that if an argument is purely philosophical, and if it is true (say demonstrably true, by reason), then of course no “scientific confirmation” is needed. The most I’d say is that discoveries of science could be consistent with this argument, perhaps even that the discoveries of science should be interpreted in light of this argument. But again, you’re right that a purely philosophical argument doesn’t sit around waiting for “confirmation from science”.

    On the other hand, I suppose that two arguments could be made: An argument from philosophy on the one hand, and arguments (a posteriori?) that call on observation. Now, you may fire back here “Well, if your argument from philosophy works, you don’t need observations at all. So what’s the point?” But what if the people you’re approaching rule out or are skeptical of purely philosophical arguments from the outset? Or what if they need to hear that the conclusion of the philosophical argument is consistent with scientific observation? Now, I suppose you could reply “Then they have deeper problems that need to be addressed, and just offering up an inferior argument they’ll for whatever misguided reason be more open to rather than getting to the heart of the problem is a mistake”, but I admit I’m not sure that choice is so clear.

    So, when it comes to Craig and the MESs, I’m not convinced he has – if I read your claim right – one argument, which is a mishmash of philosophy and MES views, with the former subordinate to the latter. My impression is that he has multiple, distinct arguments that point towards the same conclusion, and he deploys all of these – possibly with the hope that if a person who prefers one argument over the other sees that argument, they may be more open to the other arguments even though they’re distinct. Hopefully I’m making myself clear here.

    Now, when it comes to Craig’s conclusion, I disagree that him pointing out that Hawking himself accepts an absolute beginning of time and the universe qualifies as him subjugating his philosophical argument to the MESs. Here’s why: This all hinges on whether or not Craig himself thinks that Hawking’s position on that point is itself a scientific one. After all, if Hawking said “I think there was an absolute beginning of time and the universe, but this is a philosophical view, not scientific”, Craig would still point it out. Part of the problem is that Craig points out that Hawking is engaging in some bait-and-switching in his book, and also trying to pass off metaphysics as science (Craig says this explicitly.) Now, maybe Hawking is compelled to accept this position because of some MES finding, and you could criticize Hawking for sloppy reasoning on that point (again, the distinction between philosophy and MESs.) But for Craig, however Hawking got there, it would be a key concession on Hawking’s part.

    Finally, on ID. You and I will disagree here, perhaps strongly, though I respect your views – we’re in agreement on quite a lot, I think. But look at Tom’s OP. Look at Hawking’s book, look at the popular media reactions to it, and – perhaps most importantly (You reading this, Matzke?) look at the reactions of the scientists and science defenders. Hawking declared philosophy as dead, he’s strongly implied science just showed that God did not create the universe, he’s bungled science with metaphysics in ways that Dembski, Behe and others could only dream of, he’s called for (implicitly and explicitly) a dramatic recasting of the definitions and scope of science, and he did it with a book that’s received tremendous media attention and popular reaction. If ID mugged science, Hawking just knocked it out with ether, dragged it to his basement, butchered it, and ate it with a side of fava beans.

    And. Hardly. Anyone. Cares.

    Again – Matzke, you reading this?

    Science. Defenders. Don’t. Care.

    Sure, there have been critical responses to Hawking. Horgan thinks he’s full of it, Penrose likewise. But apparently, one of the world’s most well-known scientists putting out a book which wildly mixes philosophy and metaphysics with science – indeed, one which calls upon redefining what we call science, and declares philosophy dead – merits little reaction. Hawking strongly implies that science has shown the universe wasn’t created by God (and that science can investigate design questions), and we get hardly a peep. Behe implies that perhaps design of indeterminate origin is evident in nature, and all hell breaks loose because this sort of thinking will make the US lose its status as a scientific superpower (And that there’s a national security concern! ID proponents are saboteurs, unpatriotic, guilty of treason!) and every cancer patient will be skipping out on their chemotherapy because their horoscope advised self-reliance to overcome adversity. Baloney!

    Now, I said hardly anyone cares. YOU care, clearly. And I care too. But we’re just two guys, and I won’t speak for you, but I’m a damn nobody. The science defenders, the scientists themselves, clearly could care less – in fact, many of them seem to downright approve of Hawking’s abuse, even his “redefinition”. The ID proponents are just playing the same game (Which I’ll point out, for both parties, involves not merely inordinate kneeling towards ‘science’, but redefining the scope of the MESs in the process) and therefore have their failings by my measure. I don’t think ID is using MES simply to verify or validate philosophical or theological views – I think they’re using a very altered, redefined version of “science” to bolster and present their views. Just like Hawking is. Just like many other scientists, including some of the “greats”.

    In the interest of cutting short this comment-turned-essay, I’ll sum my ID view down to this: While I wish strongly that people would recognize the limitations of the MESs, along with the importance of philosophy (and with it, theology), at the end I admit to having a practical streak. And if academics and scientists wish to turn a blind eye to the abuses of science by those whose non-scientific goals they favor, then I shall – nobody though I am – continue to grant aid and comfort to the equivalent abuses of science by those whose non-scientific goals I favor. And I will continue to point out that if it’s A-OK for so many scientists to argue that there is no design in nature (and that this is a scientific conclusion!), then saying ‘that subject is outside the bounds of science!’ for ID proponents and their like does not work. Either they’re all abusing science (and thus merit equal treatment and condemantion) or none of them are. And if it’s okay for the “science defenders” to be partisan, then hell – it’s okay for me and others too. Even if I do it while still talking about how this problem could go away if we’d just define MES as it should be. (The problem there being that this would, in essence, disarm science/MES as a weapon on both sides. And it would, to a large degree, leave atheism unarmed.)

    Anyway, I hope you forgive me my rant. I hope Tom forgives me too, if I’ve taken this thread too off-topic.

  8. > For, as much as Hawking is a genius for the ages, he
    > seems to have missed two crucial points. One of
    > them is “nothing.” He never says quite what he
    > means by “nothing,” except that from it, the
    > universe had the capacity to create itself. Now,
    > this is not “nothing.” It is perhaps neither
    > matter nor energy, but it is at least potentiality of
    > some sort; and potentiality is not nothing. What it
    > might be is something that philosophers and
    > scientists might debate for ages to come, but it
    > strains reasoning to suppose that in the end they
    > would agree, “well, okay, then this
    > universe-creating potentiality turns out to be
    > quite absolutely nothing after all.” No, whatever it
    > is, it is something. So in saying that
    > nothingness can create something, he jumps a step.
    > Where did the kind of “nothing” he has in mind,
    > the kind that has this vast potentiality in it,
    > come from?

    An excellent point. However, I don’t think the theist position is any better. After all, there could not have been literally nothing “before” the Big Bang; there was God, or this “potentiality”, or some other thing we haven’t yet conceived. Hawking hasn’t answered the question, “why is there something instead of nothing?”, but only because nobody really has.

    (Of course, using temporal terms to discuss entities outside of spacetime is a bit problematic in my above paragraph, but oh well…)

  9. If ID mugged science, Hawking just knocked it out with ether, dragged it to his basement, butchered it, and ate it with a side of fava beans.

    And. Hardly. Anyone. Cares.

    Again – Matzke, you reading this?

    Science. Defenders. Don’t. Care.

    Excellent observation, Crude.

    And if academics and scientists wish to turn a blind eye to the abuses of science by those whose non-scientific goals they favor, then I shall – nobody though I am – continue to grant aid and comfort to the equivalent abuses of science by those whose non-scientific goals I favor. And I will continue to point out that if it’s A-OK for so many scientists to argue that there is no design in nature (and that this is a scientific conclusion!), then saying ‘that subject is outside the bounds of science!’ for ID proponents and their like does not work. Either they’re all abusing science (and thus merit equal treatment and condemantion) or none of them are. And if it’s okay for the “science defenders” to be partisan, then hell – it’s okay for me and others too. Even if I do it while still talking about how this problem could go away if we’d just define MES as it should be.

    I am very sympathetic to this approach. I think this is the approach that many take, and through no fault of their own, I suspect. They are merely following the lead of those in the scientific community that continually demonstrate that it’s a valid approach.

    Matzke, you reading this?

  10. Holopupenko,
    After reading all your comments here I’m not sure I understand your reticence regarding the KCA. Do you think:
    (1) It is invalid?
    (2) The use of the MES’s in support of Premise 2 is superfluous?
    (3) The use of the MES’s (or any assumptions entailed by their use) in support of Premise 2 is inconsistent with other the other evidences provided?
    Thanks,
    R

  11. I just want to point out one thing here.

    I think the only difference between myself and Holopupenko on the subject of ID – or at least, the greatest difference – is really just one of tone. Holo is fair (he criticizes the science ‘defenders’ as much as ID proponents), and I respect his take on the MESs, and on philosophy. I’m only explaining why I just don’t get as animated when noting that ID proponents are trying to make MESs do what they can’t do (or are trying to redefine science to include what should rightly be excluded), and why I have considerable sympathy to their response.

    Just wanted to make that clear.

  12. Crude & Reidish:

    Both of you deserve a serious response, but today I gave a physics exam and am in the middle of correcting 28 of them. I’ll be back…

  13. Holo,
    One day I’d like to hear about your experiences in the science classroom as it relates to the MESs properly understood and practiced. Do students fail to grasp the proper limits of science? Do you correct their misunderstandings and preach a similar (non-religious) message there as you do here?

  14. Hey Holopupenko,
    Before I hit “send” I hope to have perused your comments here but right now I am only at your first.

    First, the fact that Craig resorts to what is essentially an MES approach (with bones thrown to mathematics)–missing the whole point: the MESs cannot per se demonstrate that the universe has temporal existence because the MESs are–by their very nature–observations physical efficient causality.

    Craig does not rely upon the MESs for his arguments. He uses Leibniz’ argument to an uncaused first cause, which, like Aquinas’, does not even require a Universe with a temporal beginning. When he develops the Kalam argument, which does have as a premise a Universe with a temporal beginning, he opens with more philosophy, just as he did with Leibniz’ argument. His argument, from early Christianity, Judaism, and medieval Islam, uses as evidence for a finite-in-the -past Universe, the absurdity of the existence of an actual infinity and the impossibility of an infinite number of past events.

    Craig is claiming full certitude based on reason alone, and he’s wrong.

    Not so. It’s true that Aquinas thought we had only faith and revelation to tell us that the Universe had a beginning. But Aquinas did not rule forever on the state of our empirical knowledge. The empirical evidence is that the Universe did have a beginning. This adds empirical support, not proof, to the philosophical conclusion that Craig presents in his iteration of the Kalam argument. And he does not claim full certitude; he claims premises more probable than not.

    Now, all if this is not to deny the highly-probable argument that Craig puts forth: I have little issue with Craig if he characterizes his argument as such

    Ahh, good. I hope I’ve helped then your realization that you have no problem with Craig.

    Therefore, to use it–which Craig does–as a kind of “proof” to somehow “validate” revealed knowledge is deep, deep question-begging: to “prove” the existence of the thing that maintains the existence of the universe by means of and referencing created existents (including, by the way, human reason) doesn’t work.

    “”On the basis, therefore, of both philosophical and scientific evidence, we have good grounds for believing that the universe began to exist.”
    W.L. Craig, On Guard, page 99

    As I finish reading this thread I see no reason not to submit this comment.

  15. Hmmm…

    I was about to jump in and provide my belated response to Crude and Reidish, but luckily ran across Charlie’s comment.

    I’ll have to respond to Crude and Reidish by first exposing a bit more rigorously Craig and Moreland’s univocity of being error. Why? Because it stands behind, among other things, Craig’s Kalam argument. So, I’ll start with the first, and then follow up by springboarding to Kalam.

    Where is the “univocity of being” error promulgated? Moreland wrote a paper on defending the univocity of being, partly referencing (if memory serves) Duns Scotus’ error (Catholic monk, theologian, and Doctor of the Church). I don’t have access to all my e-files at work, so I have neither the title nor year of the article… and I’m not actually sure it was ever published. I’ll have to check. However, on page 188 of Craig and Moreland’s Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (section 2.1) the error is made explicitly while defended in a very superficial way that contains an error in its own right. They devote all of three (!) paragraphs to one of the most far-reaching and important subjects of philosophy—this despite the fact that other topics they present in their text are covered fairly rigorously. The gravity of the error and the brevity by which they try to defend it is, frankly, stunning.

    (I will deflect (false) accusations of Bulverism by avoiding, at least here, what animates their thinking, i.e., what I strongly suspect lurks in the background. Instead I will try to show why their notion is a very serious error.)

    What is the error? They hold that being is a genus, in other words they hold that ALL beings (I’ll grant them the implied exception of God) exist in the same way, i.e., that they are ontologically the same kind of thing. Here is the quote: “… whatever existence itself turns out to be, everything that exists will have existence of being in the same sense. Being is a univocal notion that means the same thing for all entities whatsoever.” In the remainder of the paragraph they state (in one sentence!) the non-univocal notion of being, and then hand-wave the following as if we should swallow what they claim: “It is most natural to take being as a genus…” In the second and third paragraphs they attempt to throw a bone to “other philosophers” who don’t hold such a notion, and then—most surprisingly—they provide one and only one example… and this one from nominalism (!! Ockham, Catholic monk) by comparing grains of sand to the heap they comprise.

    Why is it an error? First, a non-rigorous example—the one Craig and Moreland use: they claim the number “2” exists in the same manner as a carbon atom. Amazing! A bit more rigorously: if being were a genus, then to differ from being would permit us the distinction we require. But what differs from “being”? Non-being, i.e., nothingness. But that’s trivial! I’m simply amazed Craig and Moreland don’t get that… or intentionally avoid a rigorous defense of their univocal notion of being.

    What is the implication? A per se distinction from what is per accidens becomes impossible, in other words (for example) the essence of Charlie (as a substantial being) is the same kind of existent as Charlie’s age, color, height, position, etc. (as accidental beings). The double-whammy is that Craig and Moreland walk right into the trap of the secular MESs and naturalism—despite their strong attempts to counter these errors: IF, as they claim, ALL things exist in the SAME WAY (i.e., they are ONTOLOGICALLY the SAME KIND OF THINGS), they we come to KNOW these things by one and the same way: pure empirical observation. Ontologically speaking, a neutrino is a design is a pig is a boy is a number, etc. Therefore, the MESs indeed suffice to know all existents… and, oh how ironically, Craig and Moreland are in the same camp as DL! There is very little, then, separating such a deeply erroneous notion from the conclusion that we are the sum of our accidents: if one can list all the sensory accessible characteristics/properties of a human being, one “has” knowledge of a human being in its entirety.

    That is precisely the irony of IDT: the vain use of the MESs to prove the existence of God. Even the simplest of understandings of God as Existence Itself should give such thinkers pause… but it doesn’t. Dembski and Behe changed their tact (to their credit) early on by switching from “show” or “prove” to “infer” the existence of intelligence behind the origin of life and subsequent descent with modification. But this switch doesn’t avoid the univocity of being error—in fact, it highlights this underlying error: to reason to (i.e., to “infer”) the existence of intelligence, teleology, design, etc. by definition precludes a univocal notion of being: some things like real, extra-mental existents can be “seen” by the MESs, but one must go beyond that. In other words, because the subject matters of higher immaterial verities and material verities are so different, each of them demands quite distinct arguments and methodologies.

    One does not and cannot “infer” the existence of design from information (a non-measureable thing, no apologies to “information theory”) in DNA and the complexity of biological in the same way that one “infers” the existence of a neutrino based on initially-observed (supposed) violations of the conservation of energy, conservation of momentum, and conservation of angular momentum in beta decay. The MESs don’t, strictly speaking, “demonstrate” or “prove” anything: it is WE (rational agents) that reason to certain new knowledge. Moreover, the MESs are a methodological means for obtaining new knowledge from previous knowledge, and they are also habits of the mind, and even to a certain extent art (in the sense of their productivity) THAT REST UPON non-MES PRINCIPLES.

    That’s enough for implications regarding IDT. There are other historical and hermeneutical (yes, hermeneutical!) issues animating the claim by ID theorists that IDT is an MES in its own right. No time for that here, and, while important, they are incidental to the main point. (In just over a month, I’m giving a talk—and then hopefully publishing at some point—on the whole story.)

    What are the implications for Craig’s Kalam argument Roughly the same. I’ll repeat here the error Craig makes in his second premise, and then show why it’s an “application of an MES-mindset” error. An unfortunate error in presentation I made (earlier on) is that I labeled as a “digression” the central error animating Craig’s second premise. So, while I provide my full quote, please ignore the “digression” label and focus on the bold-faced central issue (the last two paragraphs are repeated for context):

    First, the fact that Craig resorts to what is essentially an MES approach (with bones thrown to mathematics)–missing the whole point: the MESs cannot per se demonstrate that the universe has temporal existence because the MESs are–by their very nature–observations physical efficient causality. Demonstrations, in contrast, are based on the natures of things… and natures understood philosophically can tell us nothing about the actual histories of things. Now, that’s not to say that solid, probable (i.e., dialectical) arguments cannot be made. BUT, the probable nature of dialectical arguments doesn’t cut it with Divine providence. In other words, you can’t refer to the universe through MES-argumentation to demonstrate an absolute temporal beginning any more than you can refer to MES-argumentation to demonstrate a temporally-infinite universe. (The Kalam argument imposes upon God the limitation that He could not have created an infinitely temporally existing universe–but that ridiculous.) It is only through revealed faith that we obtain full certain knowledge that the created universe has a temporal beginning. Craig is claiming full certitude based on reason alone, and he’s wrong.

    Digression: I understand the fear this may raise in some people: if the universe is infinitely temporally existent, then surely everything could have happened an infinite number of times. But that’s an illicit conclusion to draw because (1) an infinite past is NOT an actual past, and (2) an infinite past does NOT require that there have been an infinite traversal of that past. In other words, an infinite past does not necessarily imply what Craig demands it does. Moreover, some may fear that an infinite past opens the door to a mere mechanistic Darwinian account of both the coming-to-be and evolution of life. But this latter point is finely dispatched by the former explanation.

    Now, all if this is not to deny the highly-probable argument that Craig puts forth: I have little issue with Craig if he characterizes his argument as such. Moreover, as far as I can tell in my observations of those who try to completely undermine the Kalam argument (mainly coming from atheists buoyed, ironically, by their imposition of the MESs upon the issue), these “arguments” are mostly silly or ignorant attempts to push aside threats to their ideologically-naturalistic world views.

    The Kalam Argument is sound because of revealed knowledge; it is only probable (perhaps highly so) by reason alone. Therefore, to use it–which Craig does–as a kind of “proof” to somehow “validate” revealed knowledge is deep, deep question-begging: to “prove” the existence of the thing that maintains the existence of the universe by means of and referencing created existents (including, by the way, human reason) doesn’t work.

    Craig MUST addressed the bold-faced error above.

    Now, regarding Charlie’s and Reidish’s points.

    First, Charlie’s statement “Craig does not rely upon the MESs for his arguments. In fact, he does: the MESs (or, again, at the very least an MES mindset) stand behind the bold-faced points I just provided—especially the second one. “Traversal” means crossing actual times, i.e., crossing an actual accident of real being—time—which is the metric for change, i.e., an infinite series of temporal causes. I don’t think there is any other way of expressing the problem more clearly—in fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m going to pursue (on my own) a potential category error Craig makes: he appears to be presenting the “traversal of time” thing, which is an accident, together with a per se distinction. I need to think about this a little more. In any event, the Leibnitz argument also fails for precisely the same reason: an argument from contingency neither requires or eliminates (which you correctly point out: “the absurdity of the existence of an actual infinity and the impossibility of an infinite number of past events”) a temporal beginning to the universe. (I’m doing this on the fly, so I’ll need to double check this…) BUT, then why is Craig’s second premise (the universe began to exist) dependent on rejecting an infinite series of temporal causes? In and of itself it’s correct, but it’s that orange that’s being mixed into the apples of an argument that addresses non-temporal issues by its very nature. Moreover, and to repeat, a series of temporal causes are known through the MESs… period. That’s not what Aquinas is doing, and it is what Craig is inserting into his argument.

    Second (to address Charlie’s next two paragraphs), where does Craig ever explicitly claim the kalam argument does not lead to its inescapable conclusion? In other words, where does he come out and explicitly characterize it as a dialectical argument? Granted, he does (in the reference Charlie provides) soften his tone—but that’s not an explicit characterization. It is, in fact, a rhetorical deflection. Moreover, he directly references both philosophical and scientific knowledge to support the kalam argument… but he does so with the underlying assumption of the error of metricizing an infinite series of temporal causes. He’s first got to correct that error before presenting the argument. I agree that Aquinas does “not rule forever on the state of our empirical knowledge.” What he does say, however, is that the very nature of our human reason precludes anything but probable support for the temporal series of causes. That’s a very important distinction.

    As for Reidish’s questions: no, I make none of the three claims. Perhaps the best way of addressing those is to respond more generally using Crude’s observation: “Regarding your speculation that I might respond to Craig, ‘Well, if your argument from philosophy works, you don’t need observations at all. So what’s the point?’” Actually, no. I wouldn’t be caught dead asserting or implying that, and if that’s what came across… and I’ll take the hit for being unclear. While all our knowledge comes through the senses, not all knowledge is sensory knowledge. Take the most fundamental First Principle of Non-Contradiction: we know that principle and we know no proof is either required or even possible. We start sensing what? Even in the womb we humans start with a very superficially—yet undeniable—knowledge of beingness, and we eventually mature intellectually to the point where we understand that something cannot be and not be in the same manner and at the same time.

    Philosophical reasoning depends vitally, crucially on a good understanding of the real, extra-mental world. But there’s a HUGE difference between philosophical knowledge and MES knowledge: the latter is very constricted and in many cases limited to a handful of people (scientists) “in the know,” while the former is broad across ALL being. Very few of us are seismologists, many (but far from all) people have experienced an earthquake, while ALL of us “know” what motion is. Motion is not just dx/dt; motion is—most broadly—the reduction from potency to act. That may help cast more light on Craig’s error: it’s the pedigree of the thinking that employs seismologist-type knowledge in a philosopher-type argument. Seismologists make dx/dt predictions to describe the motion of tectonic plates; philosophers don’t have it so easy because they need to explain WHAT motion is in the widest sense because it sets the stage for the narrower investigations of motion by the particular MESs.

    Okay, that’s it for now… hope I haven’t neglected anything.

  16. Tom, Crude, Charlie, Reidish, SteveK:

    You guys are a breath of fresh air: I must thank you for the reasoned, well-supported points you raise: they help me to better focus my thoughts and responses, and they are a breath of fresh air in the wake of the uninformed nonsense (which Geoff and Nick, for example, run away from actually supporting) the loyal opposition bandies about here. It’s not just because the loyal opposition are atheists: it’s that you guys think.

    Also, just to make sure you understand: I generally agree with Crude’s point regarding Craig’s MO, and I again want to clearly emphasize he is a fellow traveler in faith, a solid philosopher, and has contributed much to reason and its proper place for Christians. I hope to spend a LOT of time with him on the other side of Glory in “knowing,” contemplating, praising, and loving our Summum Bonum. In particular, I agree with Crude’s characterization of his approach as a collection of arguments that, taken as a whole, paint an undeniable vision of what faces each and every one of us—atheist and believer alike. I have a minor suggestion for him to reflect, comment upon and bring out in his writings a greater focus on ALL the trancendentals—not just truth (although it is primary) as reflections upon the nature of God: beauty, goodness, oneness, beingness are all aspects of truth seen from “different angles.” Dostoevsky is known for quipping that “Beauty will save the world,” and then there’s the “you either see it or you don’t” rock-solid “arguments” like “Mozart. Therefore there is a God.”

  17. Holopupenko,
    Your comments are both intellectually stimulating and philosophically fruitful. Thanks for the response to my questions. Now to follow-up:
    Regarding the “univocity of being” error, I don’t read Craig and Moreland the same way you have interpreted them. You said:

    They hold that being is a genus, in other words they hold that ALL beings (I’ll grant them the implied exception of God) exist in the same way, i.e., that they are ontologically the same kind of thing. Here is the quote: “… whatever existence itself turns out to be, everything that exists will have existence of being in the same sense. Being is a univocal notion that means the same thing for all entities whatsoever.”

    In the following I will also assume the implied exception of God from the discussion. Now I think what they are driving at is that there are no varied states of “existence”, meaning that all things that exist have equal claim to the status of “being”. But, it sounds like you are interpreting them as saying that all things that exist are essentially of the same class. This, I think, is an entirely different claim. Moreover it doesn’t sound to me like they are promulgating univocity of being after all. As far as I understand it, that theory attempts to fuse the notions of essence and existence (ie, it is not possible to consider what a thing is apart from acknowledging its existence or instantiation).

    For example, suppose we adopt an ontology that allows for the existence of both concreta and abstracta. Craig and Moreland, I think, would say that these classes of object both stake an equal claim to existence. One is no more, and no less, real than the other. But that is consistent with maintaining that these classes of objects are characterized by different, indeed sometimes mutually-exclusive, essential properties (the distinction over causal power, for instance). Existence may be necessary for consideration of the objects, but not sufficient to define them.

    Now regarding the implications of what you take to be their error. You write:

    The double-whammy is that Craig and Moreland walk right into the trap of the secular MESs and naturalism—despite their strong attempts to counter these errors: IF, as they claim, ALL things exist in the SAME WAY (i.e., they are ONTOLOGICALLY the SAME KIND OF THINGS), they we come to KNOW these things by one and the same way: pure empirical observation.

    I have two comments.

    First, even if we grant that they are committing a univocity of being error, that does not necessarily commit them to methodological naturalism as an epistemology. They could still maintain that all knowledge is gained via direct intuition of a substance, for instance. So, it seems that only by conjoining methodological naturalism with the (granted, for argument) particular ontology you impute to them do we arrive at the “trap” of using the MES’s to argue for God’s existence.

    Second, since I take it they are not grouping all objects into the same class of substance, we can allow for different methods of discovering truths about such objects, tailored to what type of object is under consideration. Methodological naturalism seems like a good way to gain knowledge of electrons but a terrible way to know moral propositions. The Christian should have no trouble here – God grants us minds capable of considering all of His creation in varying ways.

    A quick comment about IDT. You write:

    That is precisely the irony of IDT: the vain use of the MESs to prove the existence of God.

    I think this is an unwarranted conclusion. I take it that the MES’s are used to assemble observations that we then synthesize, using other methods available to us, into an inference about such objects. That is, crudely: given what we know about the natural world (brought to us via the MESs), the God hypothesis is the best explanation for the natural world.

    Thanks again for your comments, there is much to ponder there. You can have the last word if you wish.

  18. Hi Reidish:

    No, I have no claim on the “last word”: I view each of us as fellow travelers committed to underlying principles on the path to truth. As Tom’s subtitle states: truth possesses us.

    Anyway, for now I’ll make this very short (which is a relative term for me 😉 ) and focus on one of your claims regarding what you believe Craig and Moreland say. (If I have time I’ll chase the other points later.)

    I think what they are driving at is that there are no varied states of “existence”, meaning that all things that exist have equal claim to the status of “being”.

    Well then, you must follow through on that understanding and ask yourself: does the color of a ball “have equal claim to the status of “being” as the ball itself? Of course not: I can have a ball that’s white or blue or red. In fact, I can have a ball that’s 1 cm in diameter or 1 m in diameter. I can have a ball that is rubber and a ball that is steel. I can have a ball that was manufactured 30 minutes ago or one that is five years old. I can have a ball in York, VA, USA or in Edmonton, Alberta, CA. I can have a ball that is motionless and at room temperature and a ball that is travelling 30 m/sec due north and at 35 degrees C. All those characteristics or “properties” of the ball are ACCIDENTAL to its SUBSTANCE as a ball. (SUB-STANCE being the thing we actually UNDER-STAND, the underlying quiddity of the ball, i.e., what it is in its essence… and I’m not going to quibble over the fact that it is an accidental unity because it is a human artifact.)

    Even before I begin to expand on the philosophical underpinnings of the distinction between accidents and substance, a simple observation of the case makes it a very, very valid question. At the very least to not make the distinction is to shut one’s observational antennas off (and philosophy is reflection on observation data available to all people not influenced by any pathological limitations, e.g., motion as opposed to seismological knowledge.)

    Now, even after such a straightforward observation, can you still defend the claim that all things that exist have equal claim to the status of “being”? Maybe you can, and if so I’m VERY interested.

    The problem isn’t with the accidents: they are all accessible to the MESs in some way, shape, or form. What is most certainly not accessible to the MESs is substance as substance, or more broadly being qua being–which is sometimes pointed to as the subject matter (proper subject) of metaphysics.

    And let’s not stop there: what about a shadow? It certainly exists, doesn’t it? If not, if there is no such thing as a shadow, you would not be able to reason about shadows because they don’t exist in some way. Yet, there they are. They do “exist” but only in a very, very rarefied way: as a privation (lack) or being (light). Does a shadow “have equal claim to the status of “being” as light? No way.

    What about Craig and Moreland’s example of the number two and a carbon atom? The first is a multiple of unity and is the first accident of real being–quantity. The second is a real extra-mental existent (although in most cases the beingness of the carbon atom is subsumed under a higher ontological being). Do these both have the same claim to the status of “being”? Not on your life.

    By the way, I forgot to mention why the heap of sand vs. grains example these gentlemen provide is so poor. A heap of sand is, to employ the term of art, an “accidental unity,” and so it isn’t a substance in the same way that, say, a human is. A human is not an “artifact” (except wrt to God in an analogous sense) but an “organic” (not in the chemistry sense) unity: remove some grains of sand and you still have a heap; remove an arm and you have a badly damaged human being; remove a heart and you no longer have a human being but a corpse. (A robot is also an accidental unity, by the way.)

    The confusion here is important to bring out: a heap of sand does NOT have the same claim to beingness as a human being–these are, ontologically-speaking, two very different modes of existence, i.e., two different modes (ways) of being… two very, very different kinds (classes) of things. But, if they DO (as Craig and Moreland assert) have the same claim to beingness, then not only are they the same kind of things, but we know them in the same ways… which is where the MES problem comes in. (Side note: this is why I find Dembski’s version of the “demarcation question” so, well, facile… but that’s a whole other discussion.)

    The whole issue centers about understanding the distinction between nominal definitions and essential definitions: the latter are true definitions in the sense that they provide knowledge of the essence of the being for whom a definition is provided (human = rational animal); the former is a definition based not on a per se essence but on a per accidens unity. I can manufacture a pencil for writing on paper. But that pencil can also be used to help ants traverse a 1 m chasm to escape Raid being sprayed on their hill. So, which is it: a pencil or a bridge? Well, in this limited case, Ockham’s nominalism was correct: it’s whatever I define that small piece of wood to be, i.e., the name only accidentally tells me what it is. What about a human being? Can a human being be him or herself and reason like a philosopher or scientist or theologian, or can he or she be used as a bridge? No, because it is not essential to the nature of a human being to be a “bridge.” If a human being is being used as a bridge (yes, I admit my kids when small have used me as one!), then–quite literally–a human’s ontological status is being denigrated.

    (This opens up the whole issue of why we can learn, from the Natural Law, morality and ethics: it is morally good to clothe a human being with animals skins to stay warm or for the sake of modesty, the reverse is certainly not the case… but that is yet another entire and separate topic for discussion.)

    Anyway, that’s it for now. I hope I’ve at least touched upon the first point of your comments in this short (heh) response. By the way, there are many realist philosophers who take great issue with Craig and Moreland’s univocity of being. I just doubled checked with the head of our philosophy department: he’s familiar with Craig and Moreland’s position, and considers their error a show-stopper for the proper understanding of the real world.

  19. Charlie:

    Do you have any references for Craig’s kalam that indicate a clear reliance on Leibnitz? Thanks.

  20. Hi again Charlie:

    By the way, Craig does believe the conclusion of his version of the Leibniz-animated kalam argument is inescapably (100%) true:

    “Now this is a logically AIRTIGHT argument. That is to say, if the 3 premises are true, then the conclusion is UNAVOIDABLE. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the conclusion. It doesn’t matter if you have other objections to God’s existence. So long as you grant the premises, you HAVE TO ACCEPT the conclusion.”

    (Reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36cKSRVojRE)

    What Craig does is remove the second of Leibniz’s three premises–perhaps in order to make it more palatable to non-believers. This, of course, doesn’t nothing to remove the error of Craig’s second premise (which I explained above).

    There are two versions of Craig’s argument–a short and expanded version. For the record, I provide them here with the false sub-premises highlighted:

    SHORT
    P1 Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    P2 The universe began to exist.
    CC Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    LONG
    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe began to exist.
       2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite.
         2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist.
         2.12 An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
         2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
       2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition.
         2.21 A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
         2.22 The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
         2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

    Craig has tried to defend his second premise (http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html), but neither was that defense convincing nor rigorous. Consider his defense of 2.12: “The truth of this premiss seems fairly obvious.” That’s it. That’s all he offers. Really. True, he does try again a little later with this:

    With regard to (2.12), the most frequent objection is that the past ought to be regarded as a potential infinite only, not an actual infinite. This was Aquinas’s position versus Bonaventure, and the contemporary philosopher Charles Hartshorne seems to side with Thomas on this issue. Such a position is, however, untenable. The future is potentially infinite, since it does not exist; but the past is actual in a way the future is not, as evidenced by the fact that we have traces of the past in the present, but no traces of the future. Hence, if the series of past events never began to exist, there must have been an actually infinite number of past events.

    Well, that’s troubling because it mischaracterizes (or Craig misunderstands) Aquinas’ point: an infinite past does NOT require that there have been an infinite traversal of that past. Craig can’t just get away with dismissing it (almost out of hand!) while at the same time mischaracterizing it, but needs to provide a full-fledge reasoned argument that correctly identifies exactly what Aquinas meant. (Aquinas was famous, for among other things, faithfully laying out the arguments of those in error so as to afford them the fullest strengths of their merits… then he sliced and diced them. The Summa’s style of argumentation in every single one of the questions it poses is built around such an approach.)

  21. Thinking back (way back) to my days in calculus, you can have a finite value with a converging infinite series. Relating this to the argument, the number of temporal events is infinite, but the summation of those temporal events is finite. Not sure if that concept can be applied to the past though. Hmmm….

  22. SteveK:

    TIME is one of nine accidents of real being. QUANTITY (discrete or continuous) is the first accident of real being. Mixing the two is a category error. However, mathematically it is convenient to reduce time to a dimension (i.e., to something that can be measured and applied as if it were a spatial dimension) in order to more effectively describe a particular physical phenomenon. (After all, you need to know the position of a particle as a function of time in order to make predictions about where the particle will be in the future.)

    Is time really a “dimension”? No, of course not: time is the metric of change… similarly to mass being the metric of inertia, i.e., the metric of a body’s resistance to change in motion. Calculus is a mathematical system invented by humans (i.e., it is a human artifact) to describe change in the real world–initially by Newton and Leibniz to describe motion, but later extended to other phenomena.

    There is no such thing as a “4th dimension” EXCEPT from perspective of the highly reduced and abstracted tool known as mathematics. We humans like to view things (to “image” them, i.e., to “imagine” them or “see” them in our “mind’s eye”) and so we naturally like to employ quantities to describe them. Just because we employ mathematics to describe physical phenomena doesn’t mean those physical phenomena (or their properties) ARE in their BEINGHESS mathematical. Max Tegmark makes this horrible mistake explicit… as does Hawking. When string theorists (with no verification, by the way) try to convince you that there REALLY are 11 dimensions, they’re speaking nonsense: the 11 dimensions are mathematical constructs that help us understand complex physical phenomena. Ultimately, physics (and the MESs in general) MUST find confirmation in the REAL WORLD… not merely in the minds of sophists who like to impress others with their skills at mathematical manipulation.

  23. Hi Holo,
    Thanks for he link. This is exactly his presentation in his book and there are two points that you seem to be missing as you advance against what I have offered:
    1) A logically valid argument is not necessarily a sound argument. I know you know this, obviously, but, likewise, Craig never misses this point. He never claims that a logically 100% airtight logical argument forces belief; he always allows that rejection of the premises is a possibility.
    He defends his premises, as you note, but he does not claim they are beyond dispute. He does not claim soundness but validity, and then argues for the high probability by defending his premises. This is what you said he ought to do.

    Craig: “It seems that premise one is more plausibly true than false.”
    “How about premise two … is it more plausibly true than false?”
    “Premise two is very plausible in its own right.”

    This is not arguing, as you said, for full intellectual certitude based upon reason, but for probability.

    2) The other point is that Craig is arguing without reference to the MESs. He does the same in his Kalam argument even though he marshals scientific consensus as further support for what can be garnered through philosophical reason.

  24. Hi Charlie:

    Before the small concession, I think you not listening to Craig’s own words defending the premise in an absolutist fashion (provided above), to wit “Such a position is, however, untenable.” That’s NOT a exactly an example of him “never claiming [his premises] are beyond dispute”–he’s quite categorical in the defense of his premise. Moreover, you say “[Craig] never claims that a logically 100% airtight logical argument forces belief…” I hope not, because a 100% airtight logical argument (that is sound) DOES force new knowledge. To not accept certitude is to act irrationally.

    In any event, only a small partial concession on the first point, and only to the extent that, indeed, Craig employs a seemingly dialectical argument (one that is only probable) in a rhetorical (logically-speaking) manner. That’s okay as long as one is upfront about it. However, the rhetorical manner (i.e., the way he’s presenting it, e.g., “in all my debates and discussions I have never met anyone that can refute this premises” [I’m recalling this claim from memory]) is quite forceful… and untrue. I still need to think about it a little…

    BUT…

    (1) It’s not just that the premises are a little off. They are outright errors, which means the argument collapses. Formal (structural) validity does not and cannot impart “a little” soundness to Craig’s argument by itself: it’s an either-or thing. Syllogistically speaking, it fails. Even dialectically it seems to fail because it’s NOT a probable (issue of degree) but (again) an outright error in an important premise. (It’s not that Craig may possibly be incorrect–he IS incorrect. Now, I realize this goes against what I said before (that his argument is highly probable), and so I really need some time to think about how Craig presents the argument as a whole. If anything, I’m now even more set against kalam.

    (2) What is the nature of the premises AND how are they known by us? Those particular premises are NOT philosophical premises but observational premises. In other words, the premises (the material components–analogically speaking) are the building blocks of the argument… and they ARE MES-based. I repeat again the important point Craig misses: an infinite past does NOT require that there have been an infinite traversal of that past. How does one “know” this (leaving aside his premise being incorrect)? Successive addition of time IS metrically accessible. Nuff said.

    (3) Kalam must be seen in the context of the much more serious philosophical error of the claimed univocity of being, i.e., that being is a genus. If all extra-mental existents have the same claim on beingness, and if we know at least some extra-mental existents are accessible to our senses, then all extra-mental existents must be accessible to our senses because they are the same ontological (claim to beingness) kind of thing… so Craig and Moreland throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just think about how repugnant that is to common sense (without even beginning a rigorous philosophical exposition): in black and white in their textbook they compare the number 2 and a carbon atom, and we are supposed to believe that both these things have the same claim on beingness. Further, getting back to kalam, Craig is animated by this univocity error (perhaps unintentionally) and hence makes the error of premise 2.22 “The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.” It’s the implication behind the univocity of being error that he avoids.

    Thanks very much for your comments.

  25. Hey Holo,
    I’m not going to pursue this any further because I have no desire to argue with a brother on such an issue. But I want to point out a few more things. You say I am not hearing Craig right, but think you are hearing neither Craig nor myself aright.

    I hope not, because a 100% airtight logical argument (that is sound) DOES force new knowledge. To not accept certitude is to act irrationally.

    Of course I was talking about an argument that is 100% airtight with no acknowledgment of its soundness. I was referring only to its validity.
    Bad typing aside, that’s what I was saying in the next sentence with mention of the premisies:

    He never claims that a logically 100% airtight logical argument forces belief; he always allows that rejection of the premises is a possibility.

    —-

    (1) It’s not just that the premises are a little off. They are outright errors, which means the argument collapses

    You might be right. But I wasn’t adding my two bits in defence of his premises.

    Thanks for your in-depth responses. Sadly, as is often the case, I don’t grasp them well enough to discuss them much with you.

    Peace

  26. Hi Charlie:

    Some of the terms of art I employ are difficult and highly-nuanced (to point out that the claim “genus is a species” is an error is a good example). I admit to this, I’ve been called (correctly) on presupposing a certain understanding of such terms from others, and for that I apologize. In contrast to Craig who is a good speaker because he brings things down to earth, I am typically verbose and technical.

    This is not to suggest the sheer weight of highly-nuanced technical terms wins the day–it does not. Moreover, I’m willing to provide Craig (who is a bit of a sacred cow amongst a significant portion of Christians… as is Plantinga, who has his own issues) some maneuvering room within the locus of non-technical language to describe complex and nuanced issues of faith and philosophy.

    Nonetheless, it is truth that is to be served. From the philosophical perspective, Craig’s animating error (univocity of being) is egregious… and I’m far from the only one pointing this out.

    Kalam is chump change compared to the univocity error, but it’s highly visible because it’s an allegedly “good” argument for the existence of God. Similarly, IDT is also chump change compared to the univocity error, but it as well is highly visible because it purports to prove the existence of a hyper-intelligent designer, namely, God. Those issues get public traction because they’re sexy.

    On the other hand, try rousing a crowd to consider the highly-nuanced and far-reaching philosophical notion that being is not a genus: it would be like a teenage boy suffering from acne wearing BCG’s (birth control glasses) while trying to get a date with Miss Universe. Yet, ironically, misunderstanding the concept of being leads to the errors of kalam and IDT.

    I too will not continue to chase you on the “understanding-misunderstanding” thing. But I do conclude with the following open request to Craig: the next time he either writes about kalam or lectures on it or publicly speaks on it, he should preface any such intervention with: “The argument I provide has not risen to the level of soundness, and the nature of the argument is probable–assuming the premises themselves are true propositions. Reasonable criticisms of some of its premises–by both believers and non-believers alike–have been raised and must be addressed: the truth of these propositions must be demonstrated Now, what do you think are the chances Craig will provide such a qualifier? So far, his track record is dismal: he’s discounted ALL challenges to his premises (see above) as “untenable”… to him. To him.

    Thanks again for your great comments.

  27. Holo,
    Help me sort this out. Your complaint of Craig and your request of him appear to be in conflict.

    You said:

    First, Charlie’s statement “Craig does not rely upon the MESs for his arguments. In fact, he does: the MESs (or, again, at the very least an MES mindset) stand behind the bold-faced points I just provided—especially the second one.

    In your last comment (see snippet below) you SEEM to be requesting that Craig qualify his argument by appealing to the MESs, or an MES mindset. I say that because you use the word “demonstrated”.

    Reasonable criticisms of some of its premises–by both believers and non-believers alike–have been raised and must be addressed: the truth of these propositions must be demonstrated.

    Help a fellow brother out. 🙂

  28. I’ve been reading Craig’s blog for several years. He has a QandA weekly.
    Here’s one on an infinite past and Thomas Aquinas.
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8197

    More on an infinite past:
    vhttp://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5732

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7491

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7279

    On Leibniz:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7593

    On MES and Kalam

    So much for the philosophical arguments; what about the scientific confirmation of the beginning of the universe? On this score Swinburne agrees: “My assessment of the present state of science is that this is what it does tend to show.” Of course, conclusions supported by scientific evidence are always provisional, but in Swinburne’s view that evidence does support the conclusion that the universe came into existence at some time in the finite past.

    Swinburne thus accepts both premisses of the kalam cosmological argument on inductive grounds. This means that it enjoys the same sort of support as Swinburne’s own favored version of the cosmological argument. Given the modest force which he ascribes to his own version of the argument, the kalam cosmological argument therefore deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with Swinburne’s own argument in his cumulative case for theism.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5911

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5705

    On abstract objects:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6879

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7779

    The End.

  29. Hi SteveK:

    Here’s a dime…

    😉

    Regarding the first reference text you provide: no, not at all. By providing examples, I merely counter Charlie’s characterization of Craig’s argument as being–at base–non-MES.

    Perhaps one clarification is needed: when I characterize Craig’s argument as MES-based, I mean at least some of the building blocks (the premises) of the argument are animated by a sensory observation-only mindset. Consider my favorite whipping boy: 2.22 The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition. That’s wrong because what Craig is saying an infinite temporal series of past events must have been traversed.

    Point one: that simply doesn’t follow because an infinite past does not necessarily require that there have been an infinite traversal of that past. Could not God have simply brought into existence a temporally-infinite universe but in a particular state somewhere along that infinite time? Of course He could have: neither is there no good reason to limit Him in His work, but there’s no contradiction of the type “can God make a rock so large that He can’t lift it?” nor is there any violation of any First Principles. But, there is no way we can know that without stepping outside of time. (Job 38:4 is brilliant in this regard when God asks, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?”) In other words, there is no way human reason alone can conclude either yes or no on the question–which was Aquinas’ point: we need revealed knowledge to pin it down for us. We know, from above our capacity to reason about it, that the universe was brought into existence at its time = zero.

    Point two: the nature of Craig’s argument. Given the above, how could Craig possibly claim the premise is true? Philosophically? No, for that was just ruled out: he provides no argument but merely rejects the positions of others’ as “untenable.” MES-tically? Well, that’s at the base of his premise: “past events [are] a collection formed by successive addition.” But how is that verified? By observation/measurement… which is impossible. (When Craig invents a time machine to really permit us to return to the past, I’ll be happy to ride shotgun for him.) Hence, by it’s nature Craig’s premise is MES-based… and there is no way he can actually verify that without having formed that collection through observation.

    Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not discounting MES-observations to provide “input data” for philosophical reflection–in fact, I’m fundamentally for it: the principle “while all knowledge comes through the senses, not all knowledge is sensory knowledge” must hold. What I’m criticizing is an MES (observational) claim about past temporal events of something that is not observable, namely (paraphrasing) the “collection of past events formed by successive addition.” Moreover, note again the parallel to IDT: Dembski is making MES (observation/measurement) claims about something that is NOT observable/measurable (design).

    Regarding the second referenced text you provide, the truth of the propositions (Craig’s erroneous premises) must be demonstrated by means of arguments. Demonstration is not only limited to the MESs.

    Hope that helps.

  30. Hi Charlie:

    Thanks for those references, although I think I’ve visited some of them. I will try very hard to follow up–not necessarily here, but by reading the material.

  31. Hi again Charlie:

    I don’t mean to be focused on nit-picking Craig to death–especially since I need to follow up on what you’ve provided. But, here’s another example where he errs: “Of course, conclusions supported by scientific evidence are always provisional…”.

    That’s a categorical statement (“always”) and simply not true. First, by “provisional” what Craig means is “contingent upon new knowledge correcting or displacing older knowledge.” Fair enough. But there are things we know through the MESs that (1) are impossible to obtain through philosophical reflection, and (2) are 100% certain. For example: on the molecular and atomic level we know hydrogen is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Will any new scientific information ever be able to displace this knowledge? Nope. How about the human circulatory system: will any new scientific information ever be able to displace the knowledge that a non-pathological human heart is a complex muscle system with four chambers and four values that circulates blood through a closed circulatory system which exchanges CO2 for O2. Nope. Protein folding or gravitational lenses anyone? Nope, not the subject matter of philosophy.

  32. Uggh!

    Hi Charlie:

    Touche!! It reminds of the cartoon of the bleary-eyed guy hunched over his computer late into the night. His wife is calling him to bed, but he responds (with all seriousness): “Not now, dear… there’s someone wrong on the Internet.”

    😉

  33. Uggh is right.
    One last (?) Craig resource.

    The objections to either premiss therefore seem to be less compelling than the premisses themselves. Together they imply that the universe began to exist. Hence, I conclude that this argument furnishes good grounds for accepting the truth of premiss (2) that the universe began to exist.

    Once again, then, the objections to (2.21) and (2.22) seem less plausible than the premisses themselves. Together they imply (2.23), or that the universe began to exist.

    First Scientific Confirmation

    These purely philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe have received remarkable confirmation from discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics during this century.

    We therefore have both philosophical argument and scientific confirmation for the beginning of the universe. On this basis I think that we are amply justified in concluding the truth of premiss (2) that the universe began to exist.

    In conclusion, we have seen on the basis of both philosophical argument and scientific confirmation that it is plausible that the universe began to exist.

    Therefore, on the basis of the kalam cosmological argument, I conclude that it is rational to believe that God exists.

    http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html

  34. Holopupenko,

    First, I wanted to thank you for giving very complete replies here. Most of what you say targets Craig, and I’ll just leave others (who seem to have a deeper grasp of his arguments) to reply for me.

    However, you say..

    For example: on the molecular and atomic level we know hydrogen is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Will any new scientific information ever be able to displace this knowledge? Nope. How about the human circulatory system: will any new scientific information ever be able to displace the knowledge that a non-pathological human heart is a complex muscle system with four chambers and four values that circulates blood through a closed circulatory system which exchanges CO2 for O2. Nope. Protein folding or gravitational lenses anyone? Nope, not the subject matter of philosophy.

    Well, don’t these questions get a lot of their certainty from some extra-scientific certainty? For instance, the talk about H2O. You can’t be pinning your scientific certainty on our model, right? And by that I mean, you can’t be saying that there’s no way for H2O to ever be anything but two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom owing to the fact alone that that is how H2O is defined. Otherwise it would be like saying that we know a phlogiston is the substance released during burning – sure, we know that’s the case. What we don’t know (I suppose, what we now know is not the case) is whether the idea corresponds with reality.

    So I take it you’re saying that H2O’s correspondence is what could never be overturned. But for that to be right – and forgive me if I’m mangling your claims here – wouldn’t we need to know what atoms are, what everything ultimately is ‘composed of’? It seems to me we could in principle come across information that would radically alter what we view ‘atoms’ as, and that therefore it would revise what we think of as ‘water’.

    As I write this, I realize that maybe you take a (I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this) Aristotilean approach to science, and consider that necessary to do science to begin with. Or at least you may say that science has certain metaphysical grounds, and if we abandon those grounds then science is crippled in the process. In face I recall you talking about this, so I’ll hold off until you answer that. Lest I go on for pages on a wild goose chase.

    Earlier back, though, you said something which is more the heart of my own problem.

    Moreover, note again the parallel to IDT: Dembski is making MES (observation/measurement) claims about something that is NOT observable/measurable (design).

    I view this as key. And again, you rail against ID, but you are really one of the only people I know who does so fairly, lambasting both atheists and IDists for the abuse. (And in equal helpings, too!)

    But as I said originally… a big problem I have is that your division, your claim that design is not something the MESs are even competent to address, is a division few recognize. Again – look at Hawking. Look at Weinberg. Look at so many others, who blatantly say that science (anthropomorphizing science is a tireless endeavor for some) has discovered that there is no design in nature, either in particular cases or in the broad sense.

    I already went over this, so I’ll be brief. You say that science (the MESs) can’t rule on questions of design (certainly design on the level of designing nature and universes and so on). You also say that WLC and company are enslaving themselves to the MESs by relying on science to advance their arguments. But again I wonder, are they? Or are they making the word ‘science’ refer to things other than, or even beyond, the MESs? I consider that distinction important.

  35.