Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kalam Cosmological Argument and our intuitions about causes, Pt. 1.

My concerns with the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) rely largely on my objection to the reliability of our intuitions about the way the universe works on the quantum level.

At face value, this has nothing to do with the KCA, and Craig says as much in his 2009 article. Over the next few blog posts I'm going to outline why quantum mechanics (QM) does matter for cosmological arguments (all of them, not just Craig's) and then explain why Craig's argument shouldn't be accepted as it is currently presented and defended.

I am going to be making two claims that I must defend for this line of reasoning to bear fruit:

1. Craig's first premise relies on our intuitions about causality.
2. Our intuitions about causality are not reliable.

In these two lines of thought, we are going to have to ask some questions that bear on subjects like philosophy of science and other fields, such as: What does it mean to say something is caused? and What are the implications of all of this for the scientific enterprise?

I'm going to spend the rest of this post on #1.

As a reminder, the premise under discussion is:

Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
Craig defends this premise with three arguments:

1.1. Ex nihilo nihil fit
1.2. Why only universes
1.3. Experimental confirmation

We must touch on all three.

1.1. Ex nihilo nihil fit

From Craig's 2009 paper on the KCA:
First and foremost, the principle is rooted in the metaphysical intuition that something cannot come into being from nothing. For to come into existence without a cause of any sort is to come into being from nothing. To suggest that something could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and to resort to magic.

Strong words. I'll begin by pointing out the irony of an apologist accusing his opponents of making appeals to magic and move on to the important issue here, Craig is arguing that his first premise is intuitively true. If we deny any of this premise, we aren't doing serious metaphysics.

1.2. Why only universes

From Craig's paper.

The Causal Principle plausibly applies to all of reality, and it is thus metaphysically absurd that the universe should pop into being uncaused out of nothing.
1.3 Experiential Confirmation

And here is where it gets interesting. This should be the evidence we need to leave this whole intuition thing in the dust. Here Craig gives one sentence alone to justify that subheading.

Finally, (1.0) is constantly confirmed in our experience.

The entire rest of the section is dedicated to explaining how, if the first premise is wrong, it is detrimental to the entire scientific endeavor. We'll leave that for later. I just want to point out that there is no actual argument made to defend the thesis he lays out in that first sentence. By all means, go read it for yourself on pages 87-89.

The argument that causation is constantly confirmed in our experience is an interesting one, and true almost all of the time. It is the times when it isn't that we are interested in, and so we will discuss causation and when it breaks down in the next post.

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