Dialogue With an Atheist Philosophy Professor on the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence and its Possible Alternatives

Part One
Go to: Part Two

Dave Armstrong vs. Dr.Ted Drange (tmdrange@earthlink.net)

     TABLE OF CONTENTS  (Hyper-linked)

I. Dr. Drange's Initial Criticisms of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

II. Dr. Drange's Five Alternate Explanations for the Existence of the Universe, and Dave Armstrong's Counter-Replies:

(A) The Universe Was Created Out of Nothing by a Personal Immaterial Being Who Subsequently Ceased to Exist

(B) The Universe Was Created Out of Nothing by a Group of Several Personal Immaterial Beings

(C) The Universe Had an Impersonal Material Cause (Possibly an Infinitely Old "Hyper-Universe")

(D) The Universe Had an Impersonal Immaterial Cause

(E) The Universe Originated a Finite Time Ago, Uncaused

III. Burdens of Proof / The Nature of the Universe

IV. David Hume's Belief in the Teleological (Design) Argument for God's Existence

V. Reiteration of the Opposing Claims and Arguments

VI. "Sumo Philosophy": Trying to Get the Best Position

VII. Conversation on Editing and Website-Posting Approval

VIII. More Wrangling on the Nature of Proof, Evidence, Methods of Arguing, and Knowledge

IX. Dr. Drange's  Disclaimer and Addendum

The following exchange took place between 24 April and 25 May 2001 on a delightful Internet List devoted to the question of whether God exists. This material is uploaded with the full consent of Dr. Drange, though with some trepidation and disagreement as to editing methodology  (see section IX). I thank him for the fascinating and stimulating discussion. Dr. Drange's words will be in blue. Here is his autobiography (2000):

I have been teaching philosophy at West Virginia University since 1966 (at the rank of full
professor since 1974). Prior to that I taught philosophy at Brooklyn College (1960-62), the
University of Oregon (1962-65), and Idaho State University (1965-66).

My teaching specialties are Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Language, and Theory of
Knowledge. I have also taught many other subjects, including Logic, Philosophy of Mind, and
Philosophy of Science. Two courses which I invented and which I teach on occasion at WVU are
Philosophy of Games and Philosophy of Fundamentalism. The latter course is a critical study of the
doctrines of Christian fundamentalism and their philosophical implications.

I received my B.A. degree in 1955 from Brooklyn College (which is now part of CUNY) and my
Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1963. Among my publications are two books. One is in the philosophy of language entitled Type Crossings (The Hague: Mouton & Co., 1966). The other is in the philosophy of religion entitled Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, NY: Prometheus
Books, 1998). There are also several articles published in print journals, the most recent ones being the following:

     "Liar Syllogisms", Analysis 50 (1990), pp. 1-7.
     "The Argument from Non-belief", Religious Studies 29 (1993), pp. 417-432.
     "Slater on Self-referential Arguments", Analysis 54 (1994), pp. 61-64.
     "Biblical Contradictions Regarding Salvation", Free Inquiry 14 (Summer 1994), pp. 56-57.
     "Nonbelief vs. Lack of Evidence: Two Atheological Arguments," Philo 1, no. 1
     (Spring-Summer 1998), pp. 105-114.
     "Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey," Philo 1, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 1998), pp.
     49-60.

Personal Data: I was born in 1934 in Brooklyn, NY and married in 1959. I have two children,
both living in CA, and five grandchildren.

EDITORIAL NOTE:

Predictably, there were the usual editorial gripes with regard to a discussion thread as confusing as this (expressed in Dr. Drange's "Disclaimer"). The way I have tried to resolve that throughout my website and to be fair to my opponent is to list his name and e-mail (and website, if he has one) so that anyone can write and receive their edits of the discussion if they wish; because dialogues (especially Socratic / Internet ones) can be edited in several different ways. I also was gladly willing to allow Dr. Drange to add clarifying comments, in which he expressed his opinion that the editing was unfair to his presentation. I don't mind if he has a different opinion on that (does any writer ever have much appreciation for his editors? :-), but I was very concerned to receive his express permission to post the dialogue as edited.

I try not to repeat sections over and over in the web version (as usually occurs in list discussions) because that takes up a lot of space and I think it makes the final product more tedious and less understandable to the reader and less likely for the whole to be read. I try to achieve a straightforward, back-and-forth Socratic dialogue, as much as possible, which means oftentimes changing the order so as to maintain the dialectical flow of discussion, and also the breaking-up of paragraphs, so it is completely clear what words are in response to what other words.  To put it another way, I place a higher priority on context and logical order than on literal chronology. Editing is a somewhat subjective enterprise; I agree, but in any event I do allow opposing views to be "aired" on my website, which seems to be a rare thing, and at no time do I ever attempt to deliberately distort, or to be unfair.

I. Dr. Drange's Initial Criticisms of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

   The Kalam Argument's explanation of the existence of the universe is
    that it was created out of nothing by a personal immaterial being, who
    still exists at the present time.  That explanation is defective in
    many ways, some of which are the following:

    (1) Creation out of nothing violates the conservation laws of physics.

[For philosophical explanations and expositions of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, see the following links:

Graham Oppy on the Kalam Cosmological Argument (William Lane Craig)
Prof. Mackie and the Kalam Cosmological Argument (William Lane Craig) ]

It is (at the very least) every bit as plausible as any other explanation
for what caused the Big Bang. The real  "creation out of nothing" (a
spirit is not "nothing") would be that which involves "random" or
mysterious material processes causing whatever happened to bring about
("create") the initial BANG, rather than an intelligent creator-spirit.
Even spirit and matter are not quite as distinct as they used to be, under
the paradigm of modern, sub-atomic, quantum physics. An eternal universe is
what is not possible, under present cosmological / astronomical assumptions
about the origins of the universe. Something caused this universe to come
into existence as we know it. We say it is God. You say it is? Well, an
explosion . . . . Caused by? At that point your guess is no better than
ours. To believe otherwise is to fool and delude yourselves. All views
require "faith" when we go back to this point.

    (2) Creation out of nothing of everything that exists, including time,
    implies that there was a time before there was any time at all, which
    is incoherent.

No; your characterization is what is incoherent. There simply was no time
at all before time was created. The theory of relativity makes this a quite
plausible - if not a necessary - scenario as well (at least insofar as I
understand it, as a layman).

    (3) "Personal immaterial being" is incoherent, since there would be
    nothing for an immaterial being to do,

Such a being can will and think and create. On what basis do you assert
that a Spirit-Being would have "nothing to do"? Why does a conscious being
need a material body, pray tell, to "do" anything?

    and so it could not in any way manifest
    personal attributes.  ["It" is the proper pronoun for anything
    immaterial.]

Again, you will have to explain this to me. You may think "personal" things
like love for a wife or child are simply matters of roving neurons and
chemical impulses; I do not. I think such things are possible without
matter (indeed, originate apart from matter). They are ultimately
spiritual.

    (4) To be personal requires being within space and time, which
    precludes creating space and time.

Why do you think space and time are required for "persons"? In what sense
does consciousness need - of pure necessity - either space or time? You
will have to explain the basis of your reasoning to me.

    (5) There are alternate explanations for the existence of the universe
    that are at least as good as that of the Kalam Argument.  Some of them
    are the following:

II. Dr. Drange's Five Alternate Explanations for the Existence of the Universe, and Dave Armstrong's Counter-Replies:

(A) The Universe Was Created Out of Nothing by a Personal Immaterial Being Who Subsequently Ceased to Exist

    (a) The universe was created out of nothing by a personal immaterial
    being who subsequently ceased to exist.

Why is that superior to or equally as plausible as an eternal being?
And what evidence for such a view do you bring forth?

    I am not here claiming that it is superior . . .

No, but you did claim it was "at least as good." That being the case, I
don't think it unreasonable to expect you to explain why you think that,
so that this is a true philosophical exchange, not merely a mutual
statement of axioms or possibilities not subjected to rational examination.

    and I am not here claiming to have separate evidence for it.

Again, if you subject the Kalam argument to unending skepticism and
scrutiny, why do you not do that to your own views, or possible views - all
of which are set forth as alternatives? How can I, and why should I,
ditch my present view if you don't show me how another is more plausible,
empirically verifiable, and logically superior? I understand there are
other theoretical possibilities, but to me that is a truism and thus
uninteresting to inquiring minds. One must go on to explain and defend. If
you are unwilling to do that, by all means tell us plainly. It will save a
lot of time and effort. :-)

    I am simply addressing the claim made in the Kalam Argument (KA) that
    the God hypothesis is better than all other explanations.  I am asking
    the question: why is it better than (a)?

1. The empirical evidence I presented today via the Schaefer and Craig
papers.

[Further William Lane Craig papers and the Schaefer paper:

The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe
The Caused Beginning of the Universe: A Response to Quentin Smith
God and the Initial Cosmological Singularity: A Reply to Quentin Smith
Creation And Big Bang Cosmology
Prof. Grünbaum on Creation
A Response to Grünbaum on Creation and Big Bang Cosmology
The Origin And Creation Of The Universe: A Response to Adolf Grünbaum
Wallace Matson and the Crude Cosmological Argument
The Special Theory of Relativity and Theories of Divine Eternity
Timelessness and Creation
Stephen Hawking, the Big Bang, and God, Part 1 (Henry Schaefer)  Part 2  ]

2. If such a being were in existence prior to the universe, so that it could create it in the first place, then I contend that it is more plausible for it to continue in existence, probably eternally, than to go out of existence. To me that is more
plausible and logical than the  scenario you posit. Chances are that a
Being with the Power and Intelligence to create this amazing universe would
not "die" and peter out like an old fig on the vine.

    Explanation (a) refers to: "a personal immaterial being who
    subsequently ceased to exist."  It says nothing about "petering out." I
    see no  reason why the creator of the universe is probably still in
    existence.  Maybe he got fed up with existence and wanted to give it
    up.  Who knows?

That's fine, but simply stating that you "see no reason" is not an
argument. It is merely a statement of your own belief without explanation
and elaboration. Please do the latter, if you could. I am interested. I've
heard all the arguments against theism. I want to look at arguments for
some alternative. Why do you believe what you believe?

    Why believe that if there was a personal immaterial being who created
    the universe out of nothing, then that being would (probably) want to
    continue to exist?  You have no good answer to this, and so your objection to
    (a) is  a failure.

Why believe that He wouldn't want to continue existing, or that He wasn't
eternal in the first place? I answered, based on plausibility (itself
oftentimes quite subjective, but there you have it).

    I sure wouldn't want to exist if I were to have no body.

Sounds great to me! No aching joints in the morning. No indigestion, etc.
No migraine headaches or allergies.

  Right, no nothing.  What would you do all day, reminisce?

Naw, I would think of melodies while "floating" on a cloud . . .

There are two views here:

V1: If there was a personal immaterial being who created the
universe out of nothing, then that being (probably) would either be eternal or would at least want to continue to exist.

V2: If there was a personal immaterial being who created the
universe out of nothing, then it is not the case that that being (probably) would either be eternal or would at least want to continue to exist.

You say that V1 is more plausible than V2, but you gave no reason
for thinking so.  Without such a reason, you have no reason to claim
that the God hypothesis is superior to alternate hypothesis (a).  [For my part, V1 and V2 seem equal, so far as plausibility is concerned.]  Your attack on (a) is thus far incomplete.

I did give a reason, which seemed to me to possibly be a variation on the ontological argument, viz., that a Being who had the power would create would likely also possess eternality and self-existence as attributes. But beyond that, this would entail a long discussion as to the nature of plausibility, wouldn't it?

I don't know what "self-existence" is supposed to be, but I see no reason
whatever why a being who can create a universe would likely also be
eternal.  If you could supply such a reason, I'd appreciate it.

(B) The Universe Was Created Out of Nothing by a Group of Several Personal Immaterial Beings

    (b) The universe was created out of nothing by a group of several
    personal immaterial beings.

Same question. These are certainly theoretical possibilities, but it is
your claim of metaphysical equality or (implied) superiority which
fascinates me. I would like to see it backed up.

    Same question as above.  Why is the God hypothesis a better explanation
    for the universe than (b)?

It is simpler (Occam's Razor). But several such beings merely add
quantity to the "God hypothesis," rather than deny it or change its
essence, so I don't find it compelling. But again, you offer nothing to
make us believe why it is a better hypothesis, or equal. I have given my
opinion as to why I believe it is inferior.

    No, the God hypothesis is NOT simpler than (b).  (b) offers an infinite
    number of options: 2 beings, 3 beings, etc.  The God hypothesis, on
    the other hand, restricts the number to just one, namely the number 1.
    "This house was built by exactly one being" is NOT simpler than "This
    house was built by at least two beings."

According to David Hume (the great skeptic) it is. :-)

Were men led into the apprehension of invisible, intelligent power by a
contemplation of the works of nature, they could never possibly entertain any conception but of one single being, who bestowed existence and order on this vast machine . . .

{Natural History of Religion, 1757, ed. H.E. Root, London" 1956, 21, 26}

    Almost all things around us that were created at all were created by
    groups of beings rather than by a single being.  This makes (b) more likely
    true than your single-creator hypothesis.  Occam's Razor is relevant only
    when all other things are equal, but here that is not so.

What are these other things that were created ex nihilo? I have no idea
what you are talking about. If you refer to procreation, well, that is not
creation; it is a new combination of existing materials (egg and sperm).
That's not ex nihilo, it is "ex egg + sperm."

I was thinking mainly of artifacts that are manufactured.  They are
produced by groups of beings rather than by a single being.  My
generalization is that if X is created by Y, then probably Y is a
group of beings rather than a single being.  If you think that the universe is an exception to this line of thought, then please explain why it is an exception.  Only then might you have some reason to prefer the God hypothesis to alternative (b).

Perhaps a relevant analogy to a single Creator would be great inventors, like Edison. But I think Occam's Razor would apply. You guys never want to introduce God into the equation; well, we feel the same "intuition" about introducing multiple gods when one will suffice. :-)

Even great inventors and artists depend on others to supply them with the
basic materials with which they start out, so there is still a kind of
group effort involved.

(C) The Universe Had an Impersonal Material Cause (Possibly an Infinitely Old "Hyper-Universe")

    (c) The universe had an impersonal material cause.  It may have emerged
    out of a hyper-universe the basic stuff of which (matter, energy,
    space, & time) is infinitely old.

And you think that is better than Big Bang cosmology (with or without a
God)? Why?

  Again, I am not claiming it is better.

No, but you say it is equal, and refuse to give your reasons for thinking
that. We simply say that the present laws of physics do not permit
"infinitely old" matter. That's something to sink our teeth into. It's
based on an empiricism we both commonly accept. But what is your
evidence? I'm waiting with baited breath for the answer. The mere
conceptualization of alternatives does not undermine an otherwise-supported
hypothesis. One must show why they are equal or better hypotheses. You
simply do not do that.

   What is this business of "otherwise-supported"?  How is the God
    hypothesis "otherwise-supported"?

Scientific evidence alluded to above, and the anthropic principle and
various arguments from teleology and the difficulty of evolution of things
like DNA or the eye or the brain from materialistic, random processes.

    I am simply asking: why is the God hypothesis better than (c)?  This
    goes back to my question, above,  in connection with objection (1) [at
    the top].

Simply put, because such a theistic notion is not antithetical or contrary
to physics and cosmology (though that is not a proof, of course). Your
scenario, on the other hand, runs up against science.

   This makes no sense whatever.  How could there be empirical evidence
    that our present universe did not emerge from some prior situation if,
    as you have already granted, it is impossible for there to be empirical
    evidence regarding any matter that occurred as far back as the
    beginning of our present universe?  You seem to be contradicting
    yourself here.

We can only empirically know what happened back to the beginning, in the
presently-accepted Big Bang cosmology, because that is as far back as the
present scientific laws are in operation. Before that, we can only
speculate, so you guys come up with you various theories designed to
preserve atheism, and we posit a Creator-God and so forth. Either way, all
of the possible hypotheses are purely philosophical and/or religious at
that stage, not scientific.

So in that broad sense, your "prior situation" is just as feasible as our
Eternal Supreme Being / Creator, or First Cause. I maintain that our view
is the most plausible, based on many different theistic arguments and the
nature of the data we do possess. I don't think I have contradicted myself.
It is a very complex subject, so it can be confusing, and I very well may
have expressed my views unclearly.

    I do not understand what you mean by "A is just as feasible as B, but B
    is more plausible than A."  What distinction is THAT?

As I explained (if you would simply read my words carefully): A was equally
feasible "in that broad sense," whereas B (my view) "is the most
plausible, based on many different theistic arguments." Since I was talking
about two entirely different things, there is no contradiction.

    The claim that the basic stuff of the universe is infinitely old could
    take the form of the "old Steady State Theory" or the theory of an
    oscillating universe, but it need not.  My "hyper-universe" suggestion
    is  something quite different.

What is it, then? Please explain (briefly!).

    It ["hyper-universe"] is the hypothesis that our present universe
    emerged out of a situation quite different from it, either in terms of number
    of dimensions or in terms of the basic laws that are in effect or the
    relative proportion of matter to energy or some other fundamental difference,
    and that that prior situation (what I refer to as a hyper-universe) either
    is infinitely old or else itself emerged out of something prior to it.  As
    you can see, this idea is not either the Steady State Theory or the
    Oscillating-universe Theory.

And what empirical evidence exists in favor of it? And, failing that, why
should anyone believe this, except for a prior predisposition to support
atheism and/or materialism?

    The hyper-universe idea need not conflict with the Big Bang model.  The
    emergence of our universe from the prior situation could very well have
    taken a form which appears to us as a "big bang."  Scientists have no
    evidence that pertains to the moment of the "big bang" itself (t = 0)
    or to anything temporally prior to that moment.  Thus, they have no evidence
    whatever that would refute (or count against) the hyper-universe idea.
    If  you think they do, please state what it might be.

So you are in effect saying that this hypothesis is no more supported one
way or another than the hypothesis of some sort of Intelligent Author? How
could one rationally decide between hyper-universe and Creator? Simply,
again, by prior intellectual commitments?

    Also, emergence out of a higher dimension (like when a circle is
    imprinted on a plane by stamping it) would be a different idea.  In any
    case, it is a claim, I believe, that some cosmologists make, though I
    need to do some research to get references on that.

Okay, fair enough. But there must be some legitimate reason why the Big
Bang is the overwhelming consensus at this time. I don't think scientists
just pulled it out of a hat and latched onto it.

    What KA appeals to is the God hypothesis, which in this context is a
    version of creationism (not theism in general).  The Big Bang is not
    anything peculiar to creationism.  All my alternate explanations
    include the idea of the Big Bang as among the facts to be explained.

Good.

    As was pointed out above, there is no scientific evidence
    relevant to the truth or falsity of hypothesis (c).  If you think there
    is any, please state it.  Note that (c) makes no reference to atoms or
    quarks. It refers to matter, energy, space, and time.  Note also that (c) does
    not claim that our present observable universe contains any properties
    which (as you put it) "were always that way." On the contrary, (c) is
    an appeal to radical change in the properties of the universe, with the
    emergence of something (perhaps via a "big bang") that did not exist
    previously in the same form.  Your objection to (c) is a complete dud.

What I am trying to show here is that you have misinterpreted (c).  If
indeed I am right, then your passage does not present any reason to prefer
the God hypothesis to (c).  In order to do that, it would at least need to
interpret (c) correctly, which it does not do.

It is (c) which is a "complete dud" unless and until you give me
some reason to believe in your "hyper-universe." You have given no
empirical reason to do so; indeed you argue that there cannot be such a reason, by
definition. So why believe in it at all? On what basis? I reject it
precisely because there is no basis (and we mustn't accept fancies with
no basis; I thought this was elementary). It involves matter, yet the study of
matter, physical science, can offer no proof for it, nor is it even capable
of doing so, according to you (and I agree). So it boils down to:

A) A view of matter "before" the Big Bang which must ultimately be believed
in wholly by faith, and which cannot be verified at all by the study of
matter: science (empiricism).

            vs.

B) A view of Spirit (God) "before" the Big Bang which must ultimately be
believed in wholly by faith, but which notion can be suggested by virtue of
several independent philosophical arguments, especially when taken together
as a cumulative "proof."

To me (lowly philosophical layman that I am), B (far from being a
"complete dud") is far more plausible. Your explanation A has no
basis, according to its own realm of knowledge (matter / empiricism). It is
simply and purely a fideistic view itself; a religious view, but quite an
unfounded one at that.

I have no belief in your (A), above.

Yet you say that a "hyper-universe" is "superior." Do you grade beliefs, yet refuse to espouse any of them? Is that what this is about?

I don't grade beliefs.  I grade hypotheses.  I would say that (c) and (e)
are the best, and that (a), (b), and (d) are inferior hypotheses yet
nevertheless equal to the God hypothesis.  I do not believe any of the
hypotheses.

In any case, your A vs. B issue is off the topic of this thread, which only has to do with the assessment of KA.  I can only repeat: do you have any reason to prefer the God hypothesis to hypothesis (c)?  Yes or no?  If yes, then what is it?

I've given it. When this is posted on my website, that will be even more clear, and all this unnecessary tedium will be seen for what it is.

    As for your phrase "no empirical data," it is misplaced.  There would
    be empirical data in support of something ONLY IF that something were the
    best explanation there is for some given phenomenon.  Since we are already
    comparing two competing hypotheses to ascertain which of them provides
    the better explanation, the issue of empirical data is out of place.

I don't see how, when you are positing a theoretical physical universe of
some sort "before" the Big Bang. The oddity here is your belief in such a
"pre-universe," yet without any empirical reason to believe in it. You even
want to assert that empiricism is irrelevant. Or maybe I am totally missing
your point.

Yes, you ARE missing the point.  I have no belief in hypothesis (c).
I am not claiming that it is true.  I am only claiming that it is at least as good an explanation for the universe as is the God hypothesis.  The  burden of proof is on YOU (or any other defender of KA) to show otherwise.

Case in point. First we murder the horse, then we beat it, then we skin it, roast it, cook it, make purses from its hide, beat it some more . . . enough already! LOL It gets to be literally "anti-philosophy" at a certain point . . .

I fail to get your analogy here.

I personally believe that the hyper-universe hypothesis is superior
to the God hypothesis as an explanation of the universe.  However, that is not relevant to this thread, which has only to do with the strength of KA.

Then please start another thread and support and explain your contention that the hyper-universe is more worthy of belief than KA and the Christian extension of it, up to a Transcendental Creator.

I do not know what you mean by "KA and the Christian extension of it, up to
a Transcendental Creator."  As for my demonstration that the hyper-universe
hypothesis is superior to the God hypothesis (as formulated above), I'll do
that as soon as you concede that you have failed to adequately defend KA
against my objection to it, which is the subject matter of this thread.

For the purpose of attacking KA, it would suffice that the two
hypotheses be EQUAL.

Not in my book, because I think there are many other factors involved. Christianity and its defense is a sort of "super-theory" composed of a huge variety of arguments, all of which - taken together - lend themselves to the conclusion that Christianity is true. Christianity explains all of this data (and life and human experience, generally) in the most coherent manner; therefore it is worthy of belief.

Here again you seem to have lost sight of what this thread is all
about.  Let me review.  KA is the following argument:

(1) The existence of the universe is best explained by the God hypothesis
(i.e., the hypothesis that it was created out of nothing by a personal
immaterial being who presently exists). [In other words, the God hypothesis
is a better explanation for the universe than (a)-(e), above, and all other
alternatives.]

(2) Therefore, there exists good objective evidence that such a being
exists.

I have granted that the argument is valid.  I attack it only at its premise
(1).  My claim is that there is no good reason to believe (1) and you have
not supported it in the least.  That is, none of your comments about my
alternate hypotheses (a)-(e) shows the God hypothesis to be superior to ANY
of them.  But for me to refute (1), I do not need to defend all five
alternate explanations.  All I need do is produce one alternate explanation
which is EQUAL to the God hypothesis as an explanation for the
universe.  Do you agree with THAT?  In other words, do you agree that if I
were to produce just one alternate explanation which is EQUAL to the God
hypothesis as an explanation for the universe, then I have refuted KA's
premise (1)?

If indeed the two hypotheses are equal, then rationality
would dictate that a person NOT regard one to be superior to the other.

Only if the two hypotheses were the only considerations. That's what you are overlooking. But they are not equal in the first place.

I do not understand your point here.  What considerations might show that
it could be rational to regard A to be superior to B even though A is not
superior to B (but rather equal to it)?

One should then take an "agnostic stance" regarding them.

You yourself just asserted that the "hyper-universe" is "superior." Why? I don't care how you pigeonhole this discussion, or how you think ideas ought to be categorized and related to each other. I want to know why you believe in this particular theory over against the theistic one.

I did not say that I believe the hyper-universe hypothesis.  I think that
hypothesis (e) is as good as (c), so I have no preference for either of
them over the other.  I do, though, regard both (c) and (e) to be superior
to the God hypothesis, for various reasons.  However, this is a subject for
a different thread, since it is not relevant to my attack on KA.  [My
attack on KA does not call for any demonstration on my part that any of my
alternate explanations is superior to the God hypothesis.]

I agree with you that fideism is irrational.

It's nice to agree once in a while! LOL

I do not understand what you mean by "faith."

For the Christian, belief in God and the supernatural and the afterlife, itself granted as a gift from God. For all people (in another sense), necessary axioms which all must adopt in any worldview.

These are certainly matters that we should pursue in other threads, for I
have many questions about them.

I never claimed that there was any empirical evidence for hypothesis
(c) or that anyone ought to believe it.

Ah, but above you say it is "superior" to the God-hypothesis. Why? You seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth here.

The reasons for the superiority of (c) lie, not in empirical evidence, but
in defects within the God hypothesis.  I'll say more about that after we
get clear on just what the God hypothesis is.  (See below.)  I never
claimed that I believe hypothesis (c) or that anyone ought to believe it.

My only claim is that you have not given any reason whatever to think that the God hypothesis is a better explanation of the universe than (c) is.  The burden of proof is on YOU to produce such a reason.  Without it, your defense of KA is a failure.

Now Ted; I certainly have given a reason; you simply disagree with it. This seems to be a theme of yours: a denial that your opponent has answered at all, whenever you disagree with his answer. My "defense" has failed according to the criteria you have set up for it (it has not failed at all in terms of its position in my overall epistemology). Now it's time to see your reason for thinking the "hyper-universe" is a "superior" explanation.

You keep losing sight of what this thread is about.

You define it in your way; I have a more expansive outlook. Whichever method is preferable,  we need to move ahead. I won't stay here with you counting the angels on the head of a pin. :-)

  (D) The Universe Had an Impersonal Immaterial Cause

    (d) The universe had an impersonal immaterial cause of some sort.

By all means describe it; don't keep us in suspense.

    "Impersonal immaterial cause" does not strike me as any more obscure
    than "personal immaterial simultaneous-creator of time."  Anyway,
    please state why KA's explanation (if it can even be called that) is
    better than (d).

Because the anthropic and teleological principles strongly suggest that a
universe containing personhood and design would be created by an
"immaterial cause" itself possessing these attributes or at the very least
the potentiality of those things. All of these ideas stand together in one
coherent hypothesis. The cumulative evidence of science and philosophy
render (classical Christian transcendental) theism compelling.

   What are the anthropic and teleological principles, and how do they
    help show that if the universe had an immaterial cause at all, then it
    must have been a personal one.  Please present the demonstration
    step-by-step.

These are other discussions. But I would say briefly that I agree (with Hume) that these arguments don't prove a personal God, strictly speaking. They lend themselves to belief in a Creator or First Cause. Personality is a further inference from what has been created ("the stream can't rise above its source" sort of argument).

In order for me to assess your reason for regarding my explanation
(d) to be inferior, I need to understand what the given principles are to
which you are here referring.

Am I to be given to believe that you have never heard of the Argument from Design, or Teleological Argument? I understand that you are probably trying to get me to define these things, so as to expose my alleged ignorance of their definitions, but I don't think that is necessary. I think you and others can see that I am well
familiar with the basic theistic arguments. We don't need to deal with
every jot and tittle. I am much more a "forest" guy than a "trees" guy.

    On the matter of explaining the existence of persons, that is a totally
    separate issue.

No it is not; not if the subject at hand is whether God is impersonal or
personal. That being the case, it makes perfect sense, it seems to me, to make
analogies to the only thing that we know to be personal besides God: us.
Rather Cartesian, perhaps . . .  The very existence of personality, mind,
intelligence and so forth, suggests that a First Cause would also possess
these attributes, so as to make it possible for them to come about
(teleological argument).

Well, if you insist on having the existence of persons explained by
each hypothesis and not merely the existence of the universe, then we are way beyond simple discussion of the adequacy of KA as an argument for God's existence.

SIGH. I guess that if I introduce any analogy which I feel to be quite relevant as a reply to your various questions, then I get off-topic. So, then, by your methodological criteria, I can only "properly" answer by giving the answer you wish to hear. Every answer I give that doesn't fit into your schema is "off-topic." I think it is ingenious! A way has been found to "win" every argument before it even gets off the ground . . .

In that case, simply tack on the theory of evolution to each of the five alternate explanations, (a)-(e), above.  Since the theory of evolution adequately explains the existence of persons (or explains it at least as well as the God hypothesis does), the resulting combined hypothesis [(a) + the theory of evolution, (b) + the theory of evolution, etc.] would explain not only the existence of the universe but also the existence of persons.  What you need to show, then, is how the God hypothesis is a better explanation [for the existence of the universe and the existence of persons] than is (d) + the theory of evolution.  Can you do that?

Evolution is way off-topic, which is: "simple discussion of the adequacy of KA as an argument for God's existence." See, I can play your game right along with ya.

If it is legitimate for you to expand the God hypothesis so that it is no
longer simply an explanation for the existence of the universe but also an
explanation for other observable facts (such as the existence of persons),
then it would be equally legitimate for me to expand each of my alternate
explanations accordingly.  I thus expand (d) to "(d) + the theory of
evolution."  What you need to show, then, is how the expanded God
hypothesis is a better explanation for the existence of the universe and
the existence of persons than is (d) + the theory of evolution.  Can you do
that?

What is there about persons that the theory of evolution fails to
adequately explain (but which the God hypothesis DOES adequately
explain)?

Brains, DNA, eyeballs, the incest taboo, the culturally-universal religious sense, normative monogamy, for starters.

All of these things are quite adequately explained by the theory of
evolution, as any qualified scientist can attest.  Do you wish to go into
each of these items individually?

   The only issue before us at this point is whether there is any good
    reason to maintain that the Big Bang probably had a personal cause rather than
    an impersonal cause.  If it is given that the cause was immaterial, then it seems to
    me more plausible to say that it was also impersonal, for ALL the personal beings
    with which we have any direct acquaintance are material beings.  In any case, I
    cannot think of a single reason to regard such a cause to be personal (or probably
    personal). Please supply one.

I did (recounted above).

(E) The Universe Originated a Finite Time Ago, Uncaused

    (e) The universe originated a finite time ago, uncaused.

I consider this sheer nonsense. How can something "originate" but not be
caused? Do you say that it could create itself?

     No, "X created X" is indeed sheer nonsense.  If I understand prevailing
    cosmology, it is explanation (e), not the God hypothesis, that enjoys
    the current consensus among physicists.  Do you agree with that or not?

I do not. We must distinguish between the propositions:

a) "the universe came into being but was uncaused."

               and

b) "the universe came into being by means of a cause we know nothing about,
and cannot know anything about, according to present laws of physics."

I say that "b" is the current consensus. Or so it seems to me, anyway.
Science is all about causation. Without such cause, it falls back upon
sheer metaphysics (the horror, the horror!). But the honest scientist is
happy to acknowledge the natural boundaries and limitations of his
endeavor. This is one such instance. We can't know what caused the Big Bang
(scientifically) but that doesn't make it necessary to deny that a cause
existed, either an unknown physical process, or a spiritual being or
immaterial cause, if you will.

Many scientists, of course (stepping out of their own "shoes" for a moment), freely acknowledge God as that First Cause. Even Einstein did that to some extent (he also, by the way, expressed profound admiration for the Catholic Church for its heroism in saving Jews and opposing Naziism in World War II). They have a solid basis in both science and rational philosophy to hold such a view.

    (By the way, where did Einstein ever say that the universe requires an
    Intelligent Designer or Architect?)

Could not the "spirit" he refers to be the equivalent of Hume's impersonal
Designer? Not in a theistic sense, but perhaps in a pantheist? I don't know.

    I do not find that quantum theory is (as you say) "all about
    causation."

I was referring to science in general, of course, but I take your point.

  There are parts of science, e.g., quantum theory, where universal
    causation  (or general determinism) is not assumed.  Try again?

So then (since this is your possible hypothesis), please relate quantum
mechanics to this "hyper-universe" you posit.

I have no empirical evidence for hypothesis (e).  I am only claiming
that you have no reason whatever to prefer the God hypothesis to it. If you think you have such a reason, please formulate that reason.  [BTW, note that (e) has no connection whatever with the hyper-universe idea.]

Fine; just deal with the hyper-universe, then.

Why should I deal with hypothesis (c) when I find hypothesis (e) to be
equal to it?  Do you grant that you have supplied no reason whatever to
prefer the God hypothesis to (e)?  If not, then please copy and paste in
the passage from a previous post of yours in which you supplied such a
reason.  I have hunted for such, but to no avail.

III. Burdens of Proof / The Nature of the Universe

Remember that the burden of proof is on YOU.  You seem to keep forgetting that.

It was . . . now we are in a NEW thread (or so I hope and pray). But if I have to endure this sort of tedium again, that thread (or at least my participation in it) will be short-lived.

Apparently you feel very uncomfortable in a thread in which the burden of
proof is on you, and you wish to end it.  Fine, just concede that you have
failed to meet that burden of proof and your agony will be over.  [I see
that Rex is willing to defend KA, so, following your concession, you could
pass the torch on to him if you wish.]

    The burden of proof is on advocates of the Kalam Argument to show that
    their explanation is BETTER than all of these alternate explanations,

Personally, I think that is obvious, but of course we all have our biases
and predispositions, no doubt. I'm the first to admit that.

    and, to date, they have not done that.

Perhaps not (I am skeptical of your pessimistic appraisal), but you also
need to explain why your alternate scenarios are philosophically and
scientifically superior to ours.

    If there is just one other explanation
    at least as good as theirs, then the Kalam Argument fails to provide
    good objective evidence for the existence of its deity.

That is a questionable proposition as well, I think. I believe science is
on our side on this one, so that your scenarios indeed are inferior. That
more than adequately tips the scales. Nor is our view at all self-contradictory.
But the alternatives all have glaring problems to be overcome. You can
believe this stuff on sheer faith if you wish (Christians value faith; we
won't discourage you from that, though we would question the object of
your faith). But then if you do that, you become much like what most
atheists deride in theists and Christians, no? I fnd the irony in that most
delicious; always have.

    All I have claimed is that I cannot think of a single reason to say
    that the God hypothesis if better than any of my alternate
    explanations.

So are they all fallacious to more or less degrees or do you actually
espouse one of them? You must tell me what you believe at some point. I'm
not gonna go round and round playing the skeptic's game . . .

    Well, let's keep on with the discussion.

Sure, but I want to move on. Please elaborate on your reasons for your
beliefs, whatever they are (I am almost completely baffled, especially
after you denied that you were a materialist).

    It should be noted further, that even if the Kalam Argument were
    successful in supporting the present existence of a single personal
    immaterial creator, that would not support the existence of God as
    commonly conceived.  God is commonly conceived to love humanity or at
    least to have some sort of involvement with humanity, and the Kalam
    deity has not been shown (to any extent whatever) to possess that
    feature.

That's right; one thing at a time. I have always maintained that the
Christian God is far removed (philosophically; logically) from a
Creator-Spirit or First Cause of some sort. Of course I think they are
one and the same, but science alone cannot bring one to the full Christian
God in all His glory and majesty. I have not seen such a thing argued by
any major theistic or Christian philosopher, but I certainly could have
missed it somewhere.

    Is it your view that modern science has proven that it is IMPOSSIBLE
    for the universe to be infinitely old?  (Or is it merely that such a
    conception does not square with the hypothesis about the universe
    currently accepted by most cosmologists?)

The second proposition would more accurately describe my view, but I would
contend that it is in effect or practically impossible, given very strong
physical and astronomical (empirical, verifiable) evidence, and presupposing the laws of science as we know them. All bets are off when we get back to the beginning of the universe in this cosmology, as no one can hope to demonstrate what laws and processes - if any - were in place before the origination of our present universe and laws of science and matter. That is why we are all in the same epistemological and metaphysical boat in terms of necessary speculation, or "faith," if you will.

But in any event the traditional theist/Christian hypothesis of Creation ex
nihilo is perfectly consistent with, and adequately accounts for (philosophically, if not scientifically), the Big Bang, whereas materialistic views - it seems to me - are operating on sheer faith with no evidence whatsoever to support them; i.e., none which can be synthesized with the laws of physics as we know them. That is what I would call special pleading, or close to it; perhaps "desperation" would be a better description, and a decidedly "unscientific" approach to the empirical data
we have at present. In my opinion, our view requires far less "blind faith" than
yours does.

Furthermore, science always by nature accepts these physical laws as a
given and a constant, by the principle of uniformitarianism. Otherwise it
couldn't get much accomplished, either theoretically or concretely. Before
the Big Bang in the currently-accepted cosmology, all hypotheses are
necessarily in the realm of philosophy and religion, as science can no
longer authoritatively speak (and science itself inevitably reduces to mere
speculative philosophy, rife with ultimately unprovable axioms, but that is
a separate discussion).

At that point (pre-Big Bang), I contend that our view is far more
plausible and consistent with what we know, as well as more elegant and
simple (Occam's Razor). God may be complex, but simply positing His
existence and creator-function is not a complex or implausible proposition
in and of itself (certainly not as complex as imagining convoluted material
and physical processes which bring about the same marvelous universe;
therefore Occam's Razor supports our position).

    Is it your view that when God created the universe, it was a
    "simultaneous creation," that is, one in which the intention to create
    and the willing of the creation and the carrying out of that will and
    the effect of the carrying out (the coming-into-being of the universe,
    including time) all occurred simultaneously?

I believe that would be the standard orthodox Christian view, yes,
excepting developmental or evolutionary processes. In that case, the
potentiality would be in place from the beginning, thus causing all the
later actuality of material development. Teleology . . .

    The immaterial thinking, and possibly even the willing, I can grasp,
    but not the creating.  How can that which is immaterial bring into
    existence that which is material?

Beats me (I certainly can't comprehend the "mechanics" of that), but it
would be a function of this Being's omnipotence, which He possesses, and
has always possessed by His very nature. It is far more logical to posit
such an extraordinary immaterial Being than it is to posit an eternal
material universe, because the latter has to collide against blatantly
contrary findings of cosmology and astronomy.

Spirits by nature have nothing to do with science or empirical
verification.  Granted, "proof" of them is harder to come by (especially for
an atheist's rigidly and dogmatically empirical, overly-skeptical mind,
based on axiomatic and often unexamined assumptions), yet the existence of
spirit and spirits is neither illogical nor impossible, and indeed made
more plausible by the amazing findings of quantum and sub-atomic physics in
the last 100 years, where, e.g., many dimensions may exist "together"
simultaneously.

Now Jesus walking through walls yet possessing a body (cf.
the phenomenon of bi-location) is not the silly old wive's tale it would
have been thought to be by the smug philosophes of the French so-called
"Enlightenment," but rather, quite consistent with modern physics.

    The very idea of a person who has no physical form
    or characteristics is difficult to understand.  Is it possible to (in
    any way at all) imagine such a being?

You have already done it by "imagining," which reminds me of Descarte's "I
think therefore I am."

    I don't know what you mean here.  I certainly CANNOT imagine such a
    being.  Can you?

My point (admittedly unclear) was that you possess an imagination, and
imagination can conceptualize any number of things which appear "fantastic"
at first glance. I have no problem imagining a spirit. I need only look at
myself. When I am thinking and imagining, I don't see any necessary
relationship of that at all to my body. I understand that the brain is
involved, but I don't think thoughts reduce to the brain. The soul (in
theology) is entirely non-material. The mind-body question is one of the
most debated in the history of philosophy, as you know.

    Scientists claim to be able to explain all those features of our world
    naturalistically, and even physicalistically, and I see no good reason
    to deny what they say.  But this is a topic for a separate thread.

Some do, some don't.

For my part, I find it very difficult to conceive of a universe of all matter and no spirit. I think it is palpably absurd to regard things like love, beauty, courage, heroism, loyalty, sacrifice, and suchlike, as merely material processes; atoms and electrical impulses.

Why is it that atheists accept unconditionally the unquestionable truth of
empiricism as the be-all and end-all of reality? That is not at all
certain, and obviously so. One must, e.g., uncritically accept the notion
that we can trust our senses to provide an accurate report of material
reality, a notion upon which science rests. Uniformitarianism is another
such assumption, which is taken to somehow disallow the miraculous, or the
temporary suspension of the normal laws of nature (it merely defines it
away as an impermissible category, which is no real rational argument -
more like a word game).

That was David Hume's alleged "disproof" of miracles (again, it was a
naked, axiomatic belief, rather than any sort of compelling argument). But
even Hume (who some seem to think was an atheist) accepted the Teleological
Argument for God's existence (I surprised even a philosophy professor with
that little tidbit of information one day :-).

    I haven't a clue as to where you get all this.  I am not a logical
    positivist and have not said anything that implies that I am.  Nor am I
    a materialist.

What are you, then? Forgive me if I was presumptuous. But I was referring
mainly to the thoughts, not to you, personally, anyway. By all means,
please summarize your viewpoint. I argue differently, based on the position
of my opponent.

    All I said was "An immaterial being could not in any way manifest
    personal attributes."  This is a claim about the concept of a person.

According to which philosophers?

    Three of them who would make that claim are Antony Flew, Paul Edwards,
    and Kai Nielsen.  I'm sure there are many others.

How about some classic philosophers from times past? Just curious.

    It has nothing whatever to do with positivism or empiricism.

Okay; so you're saying that spirit exists, but it is inherently and
necessarily impersonal, right?

    Nor has it anything to do with uniformitarianism or with miracles.  If
    you wish to reject my claim, then you need only supply a
    counter-example to it, i.e., an example of some personal attribute that
    might be manifested by an immaterial being.  All these tangents merely
    make the posts unnecessarily long.

:-) That works both ways! Spirits can love; souls can love. Souls are
eternal. I haven't studied much the arguments for immortal souls, and it is
another subject.

    It is not neurons that I imagine when I imagine love, but rather,
    performing actions that benefit the beloved (esp. actions that cause
    harm to oneself).  And I can't imagine the performance of such actions
    apart from some body that performs them.

But that is because you have a body, and have never not had one, so we
would expect that paradigm of plausibility. Nevertheless, I'm sure you can
imagine the will and desire and good intention to perform the actions
which truly constitute the love. Those things go back to spirit, and they
are the origins of the actions which do make more sense from a human
perspective, performed by a physical being, though not necessarily so, by
any means.

    To be personal calls for performing actions, and to perform actions
    requires being in space and time.

Can't you imagine a Being which is pure will, knowledge, and love? Pure
Being and Essence? The power of the will of such a conceivable Being is
such that the physical reality of what it wills comes about by the very
fact of the willing, because it also possesses omnipotence, as well as
omniscience. If we can imagine a conscious being of some knowledge, then
we can imagine one with super-knowledge, or comprehensive knowledge, no?
Then we get back to the ontological argument. It is not one of my own
favorites (I rarely use it in argument), but I grant (as most on both sides
seem to do) that it is fascinating and ingenious.

    I gather we agree on the point about the burden of proof.

I assume so; that's precisely why I await your further explanations.

    Let me ask you a question here.  According to Eric, KA assigns no
    content to the idea of the "creator of the universe."  It does not even
    maintain that that creator is/was personal.  Do you agree?

William Lane Craig (a major exponent of it) apparently would disagree, and
I would yield to his judgment, being an amateur philosopher myself.
Methodologically, I am quite reluctant to move (on a purely philosophical
plane) from philosophical deities to the Jewish/Christian YHWH, the God of
the Bible. Insofar as I would attribute those qualities to the
Creator-Spirit, in the course of discussion with non-theists, I would base
it on the anthropic and teleological principles/arguments, as I did above.
That would  keep it in the realm of philosophy, not theology per se.

I (and most Christians) think revelation is necessary to arrive at the
"full-bodied" notion of the Christian God, though Romans 1 teaches that
some significant things can be known "through the things he has made"
(1:20), which is why, e.g., the greatest Greek pagan philosophers
(Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) believed in a God or gods of some sort. The
Bible presupposes this prior inherent knowledge, which is why it never
really takes pains to prove God's existence. We know that St. Paul
undoubtedly engaged the Greeks in many philosophical discussions, but
unfortunately we know very little of the content (the discourse on Mars
Hill of Acts 17 provides one fascinating example).

    Or is it your conception of KA that it DOES take the creator of the
    universe to be a (single) personal being (who presently exists)?

I believe so, yes. Either way, though, it is superior to any materialistic
explanations, which are insubstantial, implausible, anti-scientific, and
often self-defeating from the outset (sorry!).

    Let me understand this.  Is it the position of cosmologists that we
    cannot know what happened at the beginning because our extrapolation
    procedures are blocked from reaching that point?

I think so. Robert Jastrow [NASA astronomer] stated:

. . . the properties of the universe in its early moments - an infinite or
nearly infinite pressure, temperature and density - must necessarily have melted down and eradicated any material evidence left over from a pre-existing Universe. As a consequence, the astronomer can never hope to discover the evidence that might tell him the cause of the Universe's beginning; he cannot hope to discover whether the universe even existed prior to that first moment.

{in The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, ed. Roy A. Varghese,  Chicago:
Regnery Gateway, 1984, 16}

    If so, then how can they know that our present universe did NOT emerge
    from some prior situation?

Because various evidences (red shift, expansion outwards of matter,
thermodynamics, etc.) suggest a Big Bang and a beginning, and the inability
to reach beyond that point with any empirical "certainty."

    Also, are  there any cosmologists at all that hypothesize the universe to be
    infinitely old?  By this, I do not mean "universe" in the sense of our
    present universe with its laws as we know them, but rather, the basic
    stuff of it: matter, energy, space, and time.  Do any of them say that
    that basic stuff is, or may be, infinitely old?

I'm no expert on that (or on any of this; Catholic apologetics is my area
of expertise), but my understanding is that there are very few left who
would contend the old Steady State Theory or something similar to it. The
new "oscillation" or "wave" theories are in the early stage of formulation
and are minority opinions with no substantiating scientific data to back
them up as of yet, as far as I know.

    It all comes down to whether or not there is any explanation that is
    better than all the others.  If there is, then we can say that that
    theory is supported by good evidence.

I have given some of my reasons for why I think Big Bang + theism + the
cosmological argument best explains all the data we have at present. I
don't claim that it is an airtight proof - not at ALL! I believe that
virtually no proposition is able to be absolutely proven, and that
unprovable axioms are inevitable in all positions.  But I believe it is the
best, the most plausible and rational explanation, based on cumulative
evidences.

    But if there is no such explanation (that is, if there is a tie among
    competing explanations), then we cannot say that there is any good
    evidence for any of the relevant theories.

I don't see how that follows. I gave my (mostly scientific) evidence for my
view and why I think it is the best one. Now you need to give arguments for
an alternate view, not just stand outside all of them and maintain a
detached skepticism. But the mere existence of other views does not in
itself undermine any one view, strictly, philosophically, speaking.

    All you are doing, above, is declaring the God hypothesis to be the
    "best of the bunch," but that is the very point at issue here.  If it
    is not actually the best explanation, then there is no good evidence
    for it whatever.

Show me why it is not the best! The burden is on you now. I gave you my
best shot. Do you always simply critique, and never present anything?

    Whether or not it is that depends on how it fares against specific
    alternatives.

Yes, yes, YES! Can we please move on now to presentation and defense of
other possible views?

    Your reference to "pre-Big Bang" seems to me to be incompatible with
    your statement, below, that the creation was simultaneous.  If  God
    created the universe, including time, in a simultaneous act, then there
    was no "pre-Big Bang."

I stated as much, by saying that before the Big Bang, there was nothing: no
time or space, only God the Spirit. You know: "Creation ex nihilo." It is
difficult to be totally consistent in a discussion such as this, where we
are dealing with an absolutely unique, mysterious, and singular event.

    For my part, the notion of simultaneous creation makes no sense.  I
    have always had the idea that the creator must temporally precede the
    created entity, that this is built into the very idea of what it means
    to "create."  John disagrees and says that temporal priority is not
    part of the concept of creation.

That's right. As he said, it is, rather, an ontological, or logical
"precedence," not a temporal one. We believe that God is outside of time.
He created it. Time is a function of matter. It is a dimension, as Einstein
showed. Spirits do not have extension or dimension. The universe to God is
like a book to an author. When the author returns to his book, it is always
"now" to him. He can take six months off between writing two words of a
sentence. But when someone reads the same sentence, those two words will
be consecutive in time. But it was not so for the author. That's how God is
in relationship to both the universe and time.

    In any case, what you say here conflicts with some of the things you
    say in other parts of your post. Your statement about potentiality and actuality is
    unclear.  Obviously, the actual universe must have been in existence
    from the very beginning.

What do you mean by "beginning"? Isn't this what is at issue?

    God's decision to create it could not have occurred prior to its actual
    existence, at least not according to the "simultaneous creation" model.

Well yes. I was just answering off the top of my head. But as I said, I
don't know all the mechanics of the creation, nor does anyone else. It's
fun to think about, but no one can achieve any "certainty" about it. I'm
the first to agree that there is faith involved, but I say that the
non-theistic position requires more faith and sheer, unsupported
speculation than the theistic view.

    The eternal material universe idea is not any of my five alternatives
    below.  The closest one would be explanation (c), but even that  allows
    that the hyper-universe out of which our present observable universe
    emerged may be quite different in nature from our present universe,
    possibly  consisting of pure energy.

Yes, sure, but, as Jastrow said, we have no way of determining that
scientifically or empirically.

    This issue connects with the question (above) about the basic stuff of
    our universe being infinitely old.  I can only repeat my question: if
    the cosmologists are unable to extrapolate back to the very beginning
    itself, then how can they have any reason to deny that the basic stuff
    of our universe (matter, energy, space, time) is infinitely old?

Again: the physical evidence I alluded to above.

    What you say here also raises another question.  Is it part of the
    hypothesis advocated in KA that the creator of the universe is
    omnipotent?

I'm not sure. That is certainly an attribute of the Christian God, but it
may not be posited or required by the Kalam proof. This Creator would only
need enough power to create, not all power.

    If so, then I have two further questions for you:
    Q1: How, exactly, do you define "omnipotent"?

Having the power to do (or bring about) all that is logically possible to do.

    Q2: Why is the God hypothesis superior to the following alternate
    explanation (call it "(f)" and put it after the five others that I
    previously suggested)?

    (f) The universe was created out of nothing by an eternal personal
    immaterial being who is not omnipotent.

It is not philosophically superior. They would both be equally possible and
plausible, on purely philosophical grounds, it seems to me.

    I deny that modern physics implies anything about spirits or is
    compatible with Jesus walking through walls, but perhaps that should be
    put into another thread.

It should. :-) But renowned physicist Henry Margenau, whom I cited in
another post today, wrote:

In Relativity Theory materialistic things change their size even with
motion. The mechanists would never have believed that. In Quantum Mechanics there is no mechanism at all. We don't even speak of mechanisms any more. Heisenberg's principle had an enormous effect on this . . . We need four-dimensional space now in order to explain what's happening . . . That has nothing to do with religion directly. But it certainly looses the grip which the materialistic, mechanistic view had upon us.

{in Varghese, ibid., 40}

    Your admission, above, that you have no explanation, or even
    understanding, of how the immaterial can create the material just shows
    that the "explanation" appealed to in KA (and claimed to be the best
    one) is radically incomplete and thereby defective.

No, it simply shows that I can't explain the particulars of it (nor is it
possible for anyone, I should think). All cosmological views require
inductive leaps and "faith." That has been my position for many years now.
I believe science points us in a certain direction, on grounds of
plausibility and contradictoriness and insufficient explanatory value of
alternatives. As a Christian I also apply my faith and theological beliefs
to Creation, of course. But I don't claim that the Big Bang cosmology
proves the Christian God in His fullness, by any stretch of the
imagination. Let's not confuse things here. I have a very thought-out
epistemology, developed through many years of reflection on matters such as
these. That's not to say it is unassailable; just that I have thought a lot
about it over the years.

IV. David Hume's Belief in the Teleological (Design) Argument for God's Existence

     Hume's argument against miracles is quite compelling, but that is a
    separate issue.

I don't think it is compelling at all. In fact - beyond being weak -, it
isn't even an argument, as far as I can tell, but an assertion of an
axiom, itself undemonstrated by Hume. But it has been a while since I
examined this.

    By the way, can you supply a reference to where Hume said or implied that the
    Teleological Argument is sound?

Sure:

The order of the universe proves an omnipotent mind.

{Treatise, 633n}

Wherever I see order, I infer from experience that there, there hath
been Design and Contrivance . . . the same principle obliges me to infer an infinitely perfect Architect from the Infinite Art and Contrivance which is displayed in the whole fabric of the universe.

{Letters, 25-26}

[Found in Capaldi, see below]

The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion . . .

Were men led into the apprehension of invisible, intelligent power by a contemplation of the works of nature, they could never possibly entertain any conception but of one single being, who bestowed existence and order on this vast machine, and adjusted all its parts, according to one regular plan or connected system . . .

All things of the universe are evidently of a piece. Every thing is
adjusted to every thing. One design prevails throughout the whole. And this uniformity leads the mind to acknowledge one author.

{Natural History of Religion, 1757, ed. H.E. Root, London: 1956, 21, 26}

Philo and Cleanthes, in the Dialogues accept the argument from design.
Hume scholar Nicholas Capaldi states that:

All of the characters in the Dialogues speak for Hume, and the message of the Dialogues is that morality is independent of religion.

{David Hume, Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1975, ch. 9, 188-97;  Capaldi is an internationally-known Hume expert and founder of the Hume Society}

Unfortunately I didn't record the individual page numbers but I have
photocopies from the book in front of me. Capaldi states in the above
section:

Hume believed in the existence of God. He rejected the ontological
argument. He accepted in one form the argument from design. God exists, but his properties are unknown and unknowable by us . . . In none of his writings does Hume say or imply that he does not accept the existence of God. On the contrary, Hume says in several places that he accepts the existence of God . . .

Guided by basic misunderstandings of Hume's position on causality or at the very least the negative aspects of Hume's skepticism, most readers assume that the central question is one concerning God's existence.

Thus we have, e.g., Sir Isaiah Berlin of Oxford falsely assert:

In 1776 he died, as he had lived, an atheist . . .

{The Age of Enlightenment: The 18th Century Philosophers, NY: Mentor,
1956, 163}

This shows that "experts" (this is from a very famous series on the history
of philosophy) can often get things - in this case, straightforward factual
matters - dead wrong by not examining closely enough a person's thought,
and by often extrapolating their own beliefs and premises onto the other
person (long one of my own contentions in discourse). It's also a function
of the over-compartmentalization of knowledge, in my opinion.

Otherwise, how could Berlin have not read or considered plain, undeniable
statements such as the above, and the demonstrable facts brought forth by
Capaldi? There are plenty of real atheist philosophers, so that there is
no need to appeal to a theist simply because his mind and technique is so
revered by one and all, and because he tore down some of the other
traditional theistic arguments. So what? Alvin Plantinga does much the same
(but in his case, he accepts the ontological argument). That doesn't make
him an atheist! On the contrary, he is one of the most respected theistic philosophers today.

    Thanks, I'll check some of these out.  I can see, though, how Hume,
    living in the 18th century, was in no good position to put forward
    scientific explanations for many of the natural phenomena that
    impressed him.

Yes; we have far less excuse to doubt the Designer today, what with all the
marvelous knowledge of Creation we have attained.

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Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 25 May 2001, from public list discussions, with the express permission of Dr. Ted Drange.