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Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology 3: The Kalam Cosmological Argument

02/17/2012

This chapter is the longest in the book. Craig really fleshes out his argument. He argues that the universe had a beginning with both philosophical and empirical arguments. I can’t make odds or ends of this part. I mean, is an actual infinite possible? It sure would be weird if it was. Are Craig’s examples of absurd actual infinites accurate? I’m in the dark here still.

Also, are Craig’s scientific arguments correct? He argues for the A theory of time (in another book) and argues that no other current scientific models of the beginning of the universe really solve the problem. The universe has a beginning in the best models.

What does seem to continue to be clear is the weird leap from this basic argument to God’s attributes. The problem is acknowledged, but the philosophy making that leap is really bad.

The cause must be outside of time. Only abstract objects and or bodiless minds can exist outside of time. Abstract objects don’t cause anything, therefore a bodiless mind did. (Near location 5077). Really? This is the argument? I think the agency of the first cause is the most important, so this is a crucial point. It is very weak though. First, there’s no reason to limit timeless things to just abstract objects or minds. We really have no way of limiting the field. Where do we even look to see what things exist outside time? The choices are so outlandish and impossible to imagine, that to say that with any confidence at all that we can limit extratemporal things to those two choices is insane. Second, what reason do we have to believe that bodiless minds can even exist outside of time, or that minds can even exist outside of bodies? All our established encounters with minds have been embodied, temporal things. It may even be incoherent for a mind to even exist outside of time. How would it do anything? How could thinking occur? How could the first choice occur? How could it change from the state of not willing the universe to exist, to willing it to exist? Without time, these ideas seem to lose their meaning.

If Craig wants to lend his argument any plausibility, he needs to establish with some confidence his premise that a bodiless, timeless mind can exist, and that we can limit our choices of extratemporal beings to just two. He also needs to establish with some confidence how such a mind could enter into a causal relationship with the universe, or how the first act of creation could occur in the absence of time. Unless he shows that these are coherent, I think it is fair to call his argument unsuccessful.

Kindle Notes:

Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent cause is plausibly taken to be personal (5079).

Now a first state of the universe cannot have a scientific explanation, since there is nothing before it, and therefore, it cannot be accounted for in terms of laws operating on initial conditions. It can only be accounted for in terms of an agent and his volitions, a personal explanation (5086).

there appear to be only two candidates which can be described as immaterial, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, and spaceless beings: either abstract objects or an unembodied mind (5089).

Similarly, philosophers who hold to the possibility of disembodied mind would describe such mental substances as immaterial and spaceless, and there seems no reason to think that a Cosmic Mind might not also be beginningless and uncaused. No other candidates which could be suitably described as immaterial, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, and spaceless beings come to mind (5092).

no sort of abstract object can be the cause of the origin of the universe, for abstract objects are not involved in causal relations (5095).

this same conclusion is also implied by the fact that only personal, free agency can account for the origin of a first temporal effect from a changeless cause (5104).

The best way out of this dilemma is agent causation, whereby the agent freely brings about some event in the absence of prior determining conditions (5116).

Note: The choice comes from nothing.

Because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present (5117).

Note: Pushes the problem one back.

For example, a man sitting changelessly from eternity could freely will to stand up (5118)

Note: Really?

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