Skip to main content

Craig On Causal Candidates for the Origin of the Universe

(Very rough draft)

Leaving aside formal and final causes, there appear to be four possible scenarios for the origin of our universe:

(i) Both an efficient cause and a material cause
(ii) An efficient cause without a material cause
(iii) A material cause without an efficient cause
(iv) Neither an efficient nor a material cause

Now William Lane Craig thinks (iv) is prima facie implausible, and so the position of last resort. However, it should be noted that even Craig grants that (iv) is unobjectionable if the universe is a 4-dimensional block of some sort. But the worry is that many scientists and philosophers think that ours is such a universe.  Many will therefore part company with Craig at this early stage of his argument. However, let's waive this objection for the moment, and grant, arguendo, that Craig is right. Now Craig  ultimately wants to argue that (ii) is the most probable candidate scenario for the origin of the universe. What about the other options?

One might think that, prima facie, (i) is the most natural to assume as a starting point. Indeed, Craig seems to agree. However, Craig has argued that (ii) is the most plausible, on the grounds that our best scientific models indicate that there was an absolute beginning to the expansion of all physical reality, including the multiverse, if such there be. Craig thinks this is supported by the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem.

At this point, one might quite reasonably object that a beginning to the expansion of the universe (or multiverse) doesn't entail a beginning to the existence of the universe (or multiverse). For the universe could've existed in a quiescent state. However, Craig has argued that such a purely naturalistic quiescent universe can be ruled out on the grounds that it would be in an state of absolute rest, from which no event could arise (barring supernatural intervention). However, Wes Morriston has argued persuasively that a similar worry arises for the hypothesis of the creation of the universe by a God who is quiescent prior to the creation of the universe. If so, then neither the theistic hypothesis nor the quiescent naturalistic universe hypothesis has an epistemic advantage over the other. Therefore, (iii) seems to be at least on an epistemic par with (ii).

To add to this debate, I'd push the point further and argue that if (ii) and (iii) really were the two most plausible candidates, (iii) has an epistemic advantage over (ii), on the grounds that we have strong a priori and a posteriori reasons for thinking that a version of the principle of material causality (PMC) is true, and thus that creation ex nihilo is metaphysically impossible. Indeed, it looks as though PMC provides roughly equal grounds for preferring just about any of the other candidates over (ii). However, given the prima facie oddity of a universe arising from an absolutely quiescent state, candidate (i) (i.e., matter/energy, or its ultimate constituents, are eternal, and thus that our universe arose from prior materials) and candidate (iv) (in particular, an eternal 4d block universe) appear to have an epistemic advantage over both (ii) and (iii).

Comments

At this point, one might quite reasonably object that a beginning to the expansion of the universe (or multiverse) doesn't entail a beginning to the existence of the universe (or multiverse). For the universe could've existed in a quiescent state. However, Craig has argued that such a purely naturalistic quiescent universe can be ruled out on the grounds that it would be in an state of absolute rest, from which no event could arise (barring supernatural intervention). However, Wes Morriston has argued persuasively that a similar worry arises for the hypothesis of the creation of the universe by a God who is quiescent prior to the creation of the universe. If so, then neither the theistic hypothesis nor the quiescent naturalistic universe hypothesis has an epistemic advantage over the other. Therefore, (iii) seems to be at least on an epistemic par with (ii).

I agree with this. But I'm still bothered by both (ii) and (iii). Both options still have the oddity of the universe arising from either a natural or supernatural quiescent state. It almost seems preferable to go with option (i) and have an infinite regress if one rejects, as I do, the arguments against the existence of an actual infinite.
Angra Mainyu said…
Hi EA,

Just a brief comment, and a question:

1. There is a further worry about iii. If space, or time, spacetime, etc., had a material cause M, wouldn't M also be part (or a state, etc.; I don't mean for this to have a mereological commitment) of the universe, in the sense of "universe" that is used by Craig?
If this is so, then it seems to me iii. can be ruled out on conceptual grounds.
Or maybe Craig's usage of "universe" is just not precise enough to be properly used in the context in which he intends to use it. I don't know.

2. Do you have any reference where Craig grants that (iv) is unobjectionable if the universe is a 4-dimensional block of some sort?
My impression is that he grants that this avoids the intuition that everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence, but the argument from contingency still works.

Popular posts from this blog

Epicurean Cosmological Arguments for Matter's Necessity

One can find, through the writings of Lucretius, a powerful yet simple Epicurean argument for matter's (factual or metaphysical) necessity. In simplest terms, the argument is that since matter exists, and since nothing can come from nothing, matter is eternal and uncreated, and is therefore at least a factually necessary being. 
A stronger version of Epicurus' core argument can be developed by adding an appeal to something in the neighborhood of origin essentialism. The basic line of reasoning here is that being uncreated is an essential property of matter, and thus that the matter at the actual world is essentially uncreated.
Yet stronger versions of the argument could go on from there by appealing to the principle of sufficient reason to argue that whatever plays the role of being eternal and essentially uncreated does not vary from world to world, and thus that matter is a metaphysically necessary being.
It seems to me that this broadly Epicurean line of reasoning is a co…

CfP: Inquiry: New Work on the Existence of God

NEW WORK ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
In recent years, methods and concepts in logic, metaphysics and epistemology have become more and more sophisticated. For example, much new, subtle and interesting work has been done on modality, grounding, explanation and infinity, in both logic, metaphysics as well as epistemology. The three classical arguments for the existence of God – ontological arguments, cosmological arguments and fine-tuning arguments – all turn on issues of modality, grounding, explanation and infinity. In light of recent work, these arguments can - and to some extent have - become more sophisticated as well. Inquiry hereby calls for new and original papers in the intersection of recent work in logic, metaphysics and epistemology and the three main types of arguments for the existence of God. 


The deadline is 31 January 2017. Direct queries to einar.d.bohn at uia.no.

Notes on Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

0. Introduction
0.1 Mackie argues that the problem of evil proves that either no god exists, or at least that the god of Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, does not exist. His argument is roughly the same version of the problem of evil that we’ve been considering.
0.2 Mackie thinks that one can avoid the conclusion that God does not exist only if one admits that either God is not omnipotent (i.e., not all-powerful), or that God is not perfectly good. 0.3 However, he thinks that hardly anyone will be willing to take this route. For doing so leaves one with a conception of a god that isn’t worthy of worship, and therefore not religiously significant.
0.4 After his brief discussion of his version of the problem of evil, he considers most of the main responses to the problem of evil, and concludes that none of them work.

1. First Response and Mackie's Reply
1.1 Response: Good can’t exist without evil; evil is a necessary counterpart to good.
1.2 Mackie’s reply:
1.2.1 this see…