Rebutting the rebooted rebuttal

Recently, I read an article that was designed to be a rebuttal of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Overall, a lot of it was a re-hash of arguments that William Lane Craig answered elsewhere, but I felt a response was needed, so what follows is that.

First of all, I had to read this twice to actually believe what I was reading. To start, he tries to list a definition of actual infinite to argue against the impossibility of an actual infinite of past events. The problem exists is that he’s dealing with the wrong definition. He’s referring to an abstract set of numbers and a pure mathematical definition of actual infinite. But what is relevant in this case is not the pure definition of actual infinite, but a set of actual infinite things (in this case, moments/intervals of time). This is like using the definition of the number nine to disprove that a set of nine things cannot exist (and probably wouldn’t anyway, since, we all remember, seven eight nine….)

He then goes on to argue two things, that  “1. Any pre-existing entity/entities that caused the universe do not have to be personal with a mind and will. 2. Any cause of the universe does not have to be the god of the Bible. No reason is given why biblical mythology should be taken more seriously than other bronze age mythology.” But, the Kalam Cosmological Argument (hereafter KCA) does not aspire to prove #2, so that point is irrelevant (especially when you consider that the argument was originally conceived of by a 12th century Muslim…) As far as #1 is concerned, it does indeed imply that, even if it obviously does not explicitly state it within KCA itself. Keep in mind that the Big Bang produced time, space, and matter. Therefore, anything existing prior to that, must be timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. Consider also that the since change is moving from one state with respect to another with respect to time, and time had yet to come into being, it must also be changeless. Given all that, we also know that the universe is a metaphysically contingent entity. This mean it did not have to exist, and did not always exist (also backed up by current scientific evidence). Also, it is obvious that the sufficient conditions for the universe to exist or begin did not always exist, otherwise the universe would have always existed as well. Nothing could have changed for these sufficient conditions for the universe to begin because the cause must be changeless. But, also from what was just stated, also immaterial (thereby eliminating possible material causes), timeless, and spaceless, all causing a non-necessary event. The best explanation for this is a personal mind willing something to happen. If there is an appeal to something as-of-yet unknown, it is up to that person to supply a.) good, compelling reason as to why this is a better explanation, and b.) a good explanation of what this thing is. This issue is also addressed (admittedly a tad sparingly) here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/argument-from-contingency , http://www.reasonablefaith.org/in-defense-of-the-kalam… , and http://www.reasonablefaith.org/god-as-the-cause-of-the… .

The counterargument offered immediately after this borders on absurdity. He tries here to argue that there was no beginning to the universe by establishing some form of contradiction. First of all, it is obvious the universe began to exist because all scientific evidence points to that, and so here he for some reason chooses to ignore all of this. This alone proves that his S1 and S2 states are distinct. Furthermore, they would be distinct just by there very definition since non-being and being are obviously distinct from each other by the virtue of what they are, and so none of his four possibilities are applicable or even relevant. His dismissal of his possibilities 3 and 4 are undermined by the nature of the Big Bang itself. With the Big Bang we can see that it is possible for an event to be prior to the creation of time, or simultaneous with time itself.

There are two possibilities for the occurrence of the Big Bang in relation to the creation of time. Let’s say that the point at which time came into being is t, and the Big Bang is t-1. Since time came into existence with the Big Bang, and the Big Bang occurred, then t-1 happened first, then time came into being at t. Or, the other possibility is that the Big Bang occurred and time came into being at the same moment, or t-1 and t are simultaneous. So, we can see just from this that either something can occur prior to time coming into being, or where cause and effect co-occur. Frankly I’m not sure why he finds this so hard to grasp, especially since after denying the beginning of the universe, he then goes on to base a couple more arguments on his understanding of the beginning of the universe.

 

His counterexample also confuses me. He states that some things in quantum physics begin to exist without cause while also stating their cause at the same time! Carbon-12 is caused to exist by radioactive decay, and particle-antiparticle creation is caused to exist by matter-antimatter collision. He seems to be conflating and/or confusing cause and randomness here. The law of cause and effect used in the KCA is also not the law of physics mentioned by the author, but a logical law of cause and effect. So here he seems to be confusing that as well.

The issue with Schodinger’s cat does not apply since Schrodinger’s cat is an epistemological problem, not an actual reality problem.

 

The circularity objection also does not make since. God would obviously not be included in the set of NBE, and the set of NBE is empty _by definition_, and would only include things as an intellectual exercise.

 

The equivocation objection is nothing more than the author reading things into the KCA that are simply not there. The KCA states clearly that “_whatever_ begins to exist…”, not just things he seems to suggest it means.

 

The objection of special pleading is ridiculous because it is not obvious that God had to begin to exist at all. In fact, it is up to the atheist to first demonstrate that He did indeed begin to exist for this objection to even be relevant. God, by definition, furthermore, is a metaphysically necessary being. That means that He within Himself provides the sufficient conditions for His existence (which is the definition of metaphysical necessity), and therefore must have always existed if He does exist (and therefore, never had a point where He began to exist). Appealing to the possibility of multiple causes violates Occam’s Razor, and it is up to the objector to demonstrate why it is better to consider a multiplication of causes rather than just one.

 

The appeal to a fallacy of composition is ironic because the author himself uses the laws of thermodynamics and time to argue against the KCA, and thereby commits the same fallacy himself. But, since this is not a physical law of the universe it would not be considered a subset of the universe anyway. Also, it would take some compelling reasons to think that this did not apply to the whole universe. Because otherwise we would encounter a situation in which a universe popped out of nothing for no reason, completely uncaused. We then have to ask ourselves, why then are universes not still popping into existence all the time? Why all of a sudden are they no longer popping into existence from nothing, since there is no rhyme or reason to why they do or do not. We would expect to see whole universes coming into existence all the time. And since the universe is a thing of great magnitude, and anything within it is obviously of less magnitude than a whole universe, why do we not see lots of other things popping into existence? Why didn’t a horse suddenly come into existence on my work table today? Why didn’t I come home to three dogs instead of just one? Or a three headed Cerberus? It would certainly make my dating life a lot easier if I could just wait around for a tall, attractive blond to suddenly appear before me already married to me.

 

His false dichotomy is really not a false dichotomy at all, and would obviously not be the case since we’re talking about the beginning of the universe and all things that constitute known natural causes would be subsequent to that (after 10^-43 seconds after if I remember right….) All in all, this does not seem to be to be much of a defeater of KCA

The death of romance…..

I’ve often heard stories from both female and male friends of romantic acts performed for them or their girlfriends (respectively). And nowadays I always think the same thing: “That sounds so exhausting…” I almost get physically tired hearing about it. Then I realize that I’m exhausted.

I’m exhausted by relationships. By love, everything having to do with it.

I think I don’t have the energy or emotional reserve right now (or possibly ever again) to be romantic. Now, keep in mind, I used to be a die hard romantic. I would do things for women that would simply take their breath away.

But it would ultimately come to nothing.

Then there was my marriage. I poured my life, my energy, my very self into that union. Only to ever have more demanded of me. It drained me, utterly. My overtures were met with ridicule. My sacrifices belittled. When it ended, I had almost nothing left in me.

And that may be why I am so exhausted by the idea of romance. I have given so much, and gotten so little back. I think I’m just tired.

And I don’t know when I’ll be rested again.

Atheism’s problem of truth.

It is no surprise that Atheists have values. Many are very upstanding people, not the baby-murdering, puppy-kicking deviants some might expect them to be. Most, especially the more out-spoken of their kind value truth. They believe that truth is important, it is valuable and worth pursuing. That is the very reason they preach that their view is superior to that of religion, because they have truth on their side and it is better to know the truth than not. They say that religion preaches lies and deceives people, and that should be avoided because that is not true.

Implicit in all this, though, is that truth is good, not-truth is bad.

Let me know if any Atheists reading this disagree with anything I’ve said so far. I think it’s safe to say that atheists think truth is good, otherwise they wouldn’t be so vocal about the issue.

Here’s the thing though: this is inconsistent with their own worldview.

To say that truth is good and not-truth is bad is to assign an inherent moral value to truth and non-truth. This is more than saying it is nice to pursue or know truth, or that you personally prefer to do so. This is to say that even if everyone on the planet unquestionably believed non-truth, this would be bad and it would still be better to believe what is true.

If perhaps you think an atheist might disagree with that statement, I would simply pose this scenario. Let’s say that everyone on earth unquestionably believed that the earth was only 6,000 years old, and God created every life form in six days fully formed (and for clarification, I am not a Young-Earth Creationist.). Would this be bad, good, or neither?

The thing about valuing truth, to insisting that other people believe it, to say it is the better way to go, to assign a moral value to truth, implies morality. It is to imply an objective morality by which we judge truth to be good and assign it that value.

Simply put:

1. If truth is morally good, then there is an objective morality

2. Truth is morally good

3. Therefore, there is an objective morality (from 1 & 2).

If we bypass the problems materialistic/naturalistic atheists would have with the existence of abstract things such as an objective morality, we can focus on the big problem this poses for atheism  as a whole.

Simply put: if objective morality exists, then God must exist.

Now, others have written extensively on the moral argument for God’s existence (see point 3 here, for instance) But, let’s summarize the argument here:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

  3. Therefore, God exists.

Let’s then insert my argument from above:

Simply put:

1. If truth is morally good, then there is an objective morality

2. Truth is morally good

3. Therefore, there is an objective morality

And combine the two into:

1. If God does not exist, then moral values and duties do not exist.

2. If truth is morally good, then moral values and duties do exist.

3. Truth is morally good.

4. Therefore, objective moral values and duties do exist (from 2 & 3).

5. Therefore, God exists (from 1 & 4).

Worrywort….

There he sits. My dad. In his chair, with his cushions, playing video games. His figure is more gaunt that it used to be. The slope in his neck and shoulders belies the tall, proud man he used to be. But in there, you can still perceive a glimmer of quiet strength. The strength that now is imbued on me and runs in my veins. The same strength that undoubtedly runs in my son’s veins. He has lost much, and sacrificed much in his life. But God has seen him through all of it.

Now, though, the Parkinson’s has taken away that man from us. The dementia resulting from it has addled his mind. He weaves conspiracy theories everywhere and is paranoid to a fault. He is a shadow of the man he used to be. 

But what he used to be wasn’t always that great. He made it clear to me far more times than not that he saw me as a complete failure in life, thought all my decisions were horrible and held me in the shadow of himself and my little sister. He left a legacy in me of self-doubt, feeling incredibly insignificant in life, and a terrible fear that I will be a father like he was.

It wasn’t all bad, though. He’s the one that sparked my passion for science, he built the foundation for reason, strength, and a hard work ethic in me. Taught me right from wrong, and how to treat a woman.

Why do I write all this? Because in my father’s life one of the few constants that he held onto were fear and worry. These things motivated his every decision, every motivation. He spent a lifetime running from them. Guarding against them.

Sure, they led to a lot of really good safety precautions and wise decisions. But, it also led to the very thing that is now killing him. The intense stress from a lifetime of fear has put him in that chair, in the condition he’s in now. And yet, he still clings to it. Still killing him.

I write this to illustrate what worry accomplishes. Nothing at best, decay of our lives at worst.

Christ said in Matthew 6:25-33

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

I especially like verse 27:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?

 

Luke 12 adds this part after that line (verse 26):

Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 

Worry does exactly that: nothing. Think about it, just by the act of worrying itself, what has that ever accomplished? I can worry about getting a job, but that does not make a job appear. I can worry about getting into an accident, but that doesn’t make me a safer driver. With all I’ve gone through it’s become incredibly clear to me how little worrying actually accomplishes…..

Now, there is a difference between concern and worry. There’s also a difference between judicious decision making and worry. Worry is a feeling. You might think that “Well, this feeling may not accomplish anything, but it can lead to me doing something which will accomplish something.” But, I would add, worry is not a necessary component in that equation. You can decide to do what is needed, wise, or right without worrying. I can be concerned about something without worrying about it. But the key lies in the decision. Neither of those things necessarily leads to a decision or action. I can decide to be a safer driver because it is the wise thing to do without worrying about getting into an accident. And I know that getting a job is something I need to do to support my son and myself without worrying about it. 

Sometimes we need to separate feeling and action.

This is where trust is inserted. Trusting in the Lord is usually a bigger leap than trusting in another person. A person you can see right there, get verbal or even written confirmation that that person intends to do such-and-such a thing. You can have all sorts of visual or other types of confirmation that it is being or has been done.

With God, you just have to trust the big, abstract guy in the sky.

But, with trusting, with doing, comes ability. It is only through doing sometimes that you can learn to do anything. It’s one of the hardest things you will ever do, and just when you get better at it usually it will suddenly get harder again. But, oftentimes, it is the only way to see results.

Not too much to take…. part 1

There are two sides to the problem of evil. That is, the logical problem of evil, and the emotional problem of evil.

Maybe I should back up a bit.

By “problem of evil”, I mean, of course, the problem people have reconciling the coexistence of both God and evil in the world.

Maybe I should back up more.

The logical version of this, struggles with purely the logical concept of the coexistence of a good God and the presence of evil. This is well addressed through a variety of logical arguments showing there is no logical contradiction here. This is beyond the scope of this post and more on it can be found here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/the-problem-of-suffering-and-evil-aalborg-university and many other sources. But, the version of this is of a completely (in my opinion) different type. That is the emotional problem. This does not deal with any apparent logical contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of God on an objective, universal level, but instead is more personal. This is rooted purely in emotion: in hurt, anguish, and pain. Instead of saying “I don’t see how this can be…”, it says “How can this be???”

It is that point when you’re so broken down, so torn down, in so much pain, when you conclude there must be no God because if there was, He wouldn’t let this happen.

I think we’ve all been there.

But I’m not.

Usually the only way to deal with this version of the problem of evil is through counseling and experience. But I would like to suggest that there is a logical way to address this. Either way you boil this down, you are ultimately dealing with an issue of personal belief, because there’s no logical way to justify the position that there is no God in all of existence just because you yourself are having a hard time (to say the least). That’s incredibly narcissistic and you honestly aren’t that special. At most you can conclude that as far as you can determine from your own experience, there is not likely to be a God (because there could be a God, just one who’s punishing you, not looking after you, basically not a good version of God). But, this is ultimately rooted in the problem that you are emotionally and intellectually seemingly incapable of believing in the existence of a good God and this evil going on in your life. Because, let’s face it, if you did still decide to believe in Him despite what’s going on in your life, you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. So, it stands to reason that if just one person has gone through a terrible circumstance in life and is still able to believe in God, then it stands that God can still exist, and the problem is merely a personal one in which you find it hard or impossible to personally believe in God in your circumstance, but that He really does exist.

So let me tell you my story….

November 2009: marry the woman I love. February 2011: birth of my first son. August 2011: Got a cushy, well-paying government job. December 2011: Graduate with my masters pursuing my dream of an academic career in paleontology. Sound like I had everything going for me? Yes and no. Behind the scenes, my life is miserable. My wife has severe emotional problems and I am practically a single dad despite being married. Every morning I go to work sick to my stomach with worry that my spouse will be able to handle taking care of our son, anticipating one of the week’s several intense emotional crises, and despite my best efforts I can barely keep a decent balance in the bank account and pay all the bills. In the midst of all this, I was getting progressively sicker. Starting really in January I was regularly experiencing intense gut pains that would make normal men want to curl up in the corner and cry, but I still had to take charge of child care every night and weekend. My wife’s demands and instability led me to miss work regularly, and my sickness caused me to miss even more.

April 2012: Missing work catches up with me, and I am let go. Suddenly I have to figure out how to provide for my family. Fortunately, I pull out what retirement money I built up on the job, and I got unemployment insurance when that ran out. Little did I know my troubles were just beginning.

May 2012: I go in for a routine procedure at my gastroenterologist’s office. By the time I get there, I’m experiencing the worst pain yet. I was curled up on a bed, barely able to talk. They admit me to the hospital. The treatment: stick a tube up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach to pump out the contents and starve me for several days. In the meantime I have to deal with my wife’s constant emotional breakdowns trying to deal with our son all by herself for the first 24/7 time in our marriage. I expend just as much energy calming her down and convincing her to take care of him as I do recovering.

I get out, still in pain but put on a special low-fiber diet. For the most part, I can’t eat much. I was still in pain, though not quite as much. I lost some 15-20 lbs in the hospital.

Within a month, I would go back in. The ironic part of what comes next is my wife and I started a marriage class at our church a week prior. But this night, I was in intense pain again. Unable to straighten up or hardly talk, I’m taken back to the ER. This time, they operate. Everything goes fine. Then, that night, I get a call from my wife.

“I cheated” She cried. She invited some random guy into our house, and slept with him in our bed. The nurse has to give me some sort of muscle relaxant to calm me down. She says she’s sorry and I say we can get past it and move on. I work on forgiving her.

Two days later she comes into the hospital room with hickies covering her neck.

She swears it’s over. We argue, I forgive her, and we try to move on.

After I get out of the hospital, the lies continue. I find text messages, pictures on disposable phones, catch her at his house late at night, messages to other guys on dating sites. Each time she swears up and down, sometimes with tears in her eyes, that it’s over and she won’t do it again. So I ended it, contacted to guy and told him to stay away. Her response? She was furious at me. Then, I catch her going to meet a second guy one night. I contact him and tell him she’s married and he ends it, too.

She comes home, and I tell her I’m filing for divorce.

To make matters worse, while I was in the hospital my former employer takes me to court and sues to remove my unemployment benefits. They succeed, and I’m required to somehow pay back everything they gave me over the prior two months. So now I end up draining my savings while waiting for welfare to kick in and help out with bills.

Did I mention our lease was about to end at the house we were all living in?

Fortunately, God intervened and a good friend of mine stepped in saying they need someone to occupy their rental property before her parents moved in and took over the place next year.

And, during that, I found out my wife was pregnant. The big question became: with who’s baby?