The Kalam Cosmological Argument and the B theory of Time

"atheistspirit" sent me this criticism of the Kalam for your consideration. Enjoy.

1) The Kalam-Cosmological Argument

The Kalam-Cosmological Argument (KCA) is based upon the idea that the universe has an absolute beginning in time and therefor necessarily has to have a cause of its existence.
Since the beginning of the universe marks the beginning of all physical entities its also the beginning of space and time (or space-time) itself.

As the cause of all physical entities, the cause of the universe itself can not be a physical entity. Since this cause cannot be a physical entity, it is argued, that it has to have a bunch of properties that correspond to the traditional understanding of god.

A formalized version of the KCA reads as follows:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefor the universe has a cause.

It is then argued that a cause of the universe has to have the following properties:
Timelessness, spacelessness, immateriality, transcendence, personality and unfathomable power.

Surely the argument is logically valid, which means that if its premises are true the conclusion logically follows.

The focus of this argument obviously lies in the problem of the universe 'beginning to exist' or 'coming into existence'.

The problem arises only on the presupposition of what in philosophical terms is called 'presentism' otherwise known as the dynamic or the tensed view of time. In more modern terms this has been branded the 'A-Theory of Time'. The A-Theory of time holds that the past just as the future does not exist; the only ontological commitment it has is the commitment to the existence of the present moment.

On this view of time the universe would have to 'come into existence' at a certain time since the universe is past finite. This means there is a past boundary of time before which the universe doesn't exist, so to say, the universe has an absolute first moment.

On the philosophical view of eternalism, nowadays described as the 'B-Theory of Time', its not only the present moment that exists but rather, past, present and future exist all together. On this view the universe doesn't come into existence, rather, the universe is seen as multi-dimensional object that tenselessly exist and doesn't ever 'come into being' but simply exists.

Dr. Craig concedes this point by stating:

"From start to finish, the kalam cosmological argument is predicated upon the A-Theory of time. On a B-Theory of time, the universe does not in fact come into being or become actual at the Big Bang; it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block that is finitely extended in the earlier than direction. If time is tenseless, then the universe never really comes into being, and, therefore, the quest for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived." - Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology pp 183-184

So, according to this quote by Craig himself, if the B-Theory of Time is the correct view on the nature of time the first premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument: "Everything that begins to exist has a cause" is false.
The universe still has a beginning in time but it doesn't become actual at this point in time, it rather exists tenselessly as a multi-dimensional object or, as it is sometimes called, a "block".

The philosophical clash between these to different views of time circles around the correct interpretation of the theory of relativity as it was put forward by Albert Einstein.

There are three different interpretations of the theory of relativity, two of which favour The B-Theory of time (Einsteinean and Minkowskian) and one favoring the A-Theory of Time ( (Neo) - Lorentzian)

The ideas behind these interpretations are the following:

Einsteinean and Minkowskian abandon absolute simultaneity and a preferred reference frame while the Neo-Lorentian Interpretation seeks to restore it.

Without a preferred reference frame for identifying a simultaneous moment which would be called 'now' one has to conclude that presentism is false. So if the Einsteinean or Minkowskiean are correct one would be forced to give up presentism.

Still, if the Neo-Lorentzian Interpretation could be shown to be true this would not constitute a falsification of the B-Theory of time, since even if perfect simulteanity were true, this would not mean that the past does not exist nor that the future does not exist.

In order to argue for the B-Theory of Time to be the correct view on the question of the nature of time i offer papers written by philosopher's Putnam, Balashov and Janssen that argue for just that position.

The paper by Balashov and Janssen argues for the Minkowskian Interpretation of the theory of relativity because of its explanatory rigor, which, as they claim, exceeds the Neo-Lorentzian interpretation because "the universality of the behavior of the rod (i.e., any physical system whatsoever will exhibit the exact same contraction) suggests that space and time are Minkowskian. Length contraction is part of the normal spatiotemporal behavior of systems in Minkowski space-time."

Further they argue that "the neo-Lorentzian interpretation violates the symmetry principles of Earman (1989, p. 46), which state that every symmetry of the space-time posited by a theory should be a symmetry of that theory’s dynamical laws and vice versa."

Further they conclude that "No matter how the argument is made, the point is that there are brute facts in the neo-Lorentzian interpretation that are explained in the space-time interpretation. As Craig (p. 101) writes (in a different context): “if what is simply a brute fact in one theory can be given an explanation in another theory, then we have an increase in intelligibility that counts in favor of the second theory.We just presented such an argument in the case of the space-time interpretation versus the neo-Lorentzian interpretation."

The objections raised to counter this line of argumentation can be summarized by two points:

1) General Relativity restores an objective view on temporal relations; for example it restores an objective notion of the age of the universe
2) Our intuitions lead us to favour the the A-theory of Time since we intuitively experience the 'flow of time' as something real.

To answer the first point one only need to take a further look at the paper I mentioned:

"First, the uniform cosmic time is a feature only of idealized (homogeneous and isotropic) cosmological models. Second, the notion of cosmic time originates, not from the nomological framework of GR, but from the contingent boundary conditions imposed on it. Finally, before one obtains such a notion, one still starts with the four-dimensional space-time manifold, whose essential role is hard to square with the ontological requirements of presentism."

The fact that we can approximately determine the age of the universe does nothing to show that presentism has been restored, rather it stems from idealization of the model. Therefore the authors conclude: "Apart from the fact that the connection between the absolute time of neo-Lorentzian theories and the cosmic time is unclear, the notion of the latter itself is not robust enough to identify it (as Craig does) with “metaphysical time” appropriate for presentism."

One could also make an appeal to an argument from authority and mention that the majority of philosophers of time (adding Craig Calendar and Vesslin Petkov for example) just as the majority of physicists themselves favour interpretations along the line of eternalism. (Since arguments from authority constitute the groundwork for arguments for the ressurection of jesus in any debate format Dr. Craig participates in, one may as well reference the majority of opinions from experts in this field as an argument for a specific conclusion).

To answer the second point:

The claim to be made here is that there can, in principal, be no intuition that points to neither the A- nor the B-Theory of time. This is because both Theories predict the exact same intuitions.

One may take a closer look at this:

"The claim is that we have experienced the past just as we now approach the present and we sense that the future has not yet occurred just as the past is no more real since it has passed."

Now, why does this fail to give us reason to favor a presentist view of time?

Let us first take a look at the exact situation:

Person A exists at a certain point in time T. At time T person A remembers the moment T* that lies in the past and anticipates the moment T**.that lies in the future. The only intuition that person A can have is the memory of havng experienced T* , experiencing T right now and anticipating T** in the future. At any point of time this is the only knowledge about time that person A can have.

But this tells A nothing about the nature of time. At time T person A will have a memory of the moment T* and an anticipation of T** whether presentism or eternalism is true. Even if eternalism is true, this doesn't change the fact that at moment T, the moment T* is merely a memory and T** has not yet been experienced. The only intuitions A can have is his memory, his present awareness and his anticipation, none of which are excluded on an eternalist point of view. Therefor dynamic theories of time do not have an explanatory advantage and nor are tenseless theories of time falsified or rendered implausible by intuition.

Since the Minkowskian-Interpretation has greater explanatory rigor than the Neo-Lorentzian Interpretation, we are on good grounds favoring it over the Neo-Lorentzian Interpretation. Still, even if the Neo-Lorentzian Interpretation could be shown to be true, this would not constitute a successful argument for presentism. From this it follows that we are justified in rejecting the Kalam-Argument due to the fact that it is based on a Theory of Time that is not supported by the available evidence.

But even if we had no available evidence supporting one theory of time over the other, we would still be left with an equal probability distribution concerning the two theories, so that the Kalam, even in this case, has a fifty percent chance of being valid.

Given all this, it is obvious that the Kalam-Argument can not sucessfully advance the case for theism.