#246

January 02, 2012

A Contradiction in the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

I came across a blogger who calls himself Angra Mainyu (destructive spirit) who has thought a lot about the Kalam Argument and bases several of his objections on the following quotations from your work. I am really hoping to hear your response

1) A contradiction follows from William Lane Craig's position:

William Lane Craig and J. P. Sinclair:
By an "event," one means any change. Since any change takes time, there are no instantaneous events so defined. Neither could there be an infinitely slow event, since such an "event" would, in reality, be a changeless state. Therefore, any event will have a finite, nonzero duration. (William Lane Craig and J.P. Sinclair, "The Kalam Cosmological Argument", in "The BlackWell Companion to Natural Theology", Edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. Page 106.)

William Lane Craig:
The reason I hold God to be timeless without the universe is that I think that an infinite regress of events is impossible, and, according to a relational theory of time, in the absence of any events time would not exist. The reason I hold God to be temporal since the beginning of the universe is that the creation of the universe brings God into a new relation, namely, co-existing with the universe, and such an extrinsic change alone (not to mention God's exercise of causal power) is sufficient for a temporal relation.
(http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5673)

William Lane Craig:
So if God is timeless, he is also unchanging, but it does not follow that He cannot change. I'd say that He can change and if He were to do so, He would cease to be timeless. And that's exactly what I think He did.
(http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5971)

God changes from timeless to temporal.

Any change is an event, so let E(0) be the event "God changes from being timeless to being temporal."i

Let's assume that (as Craig maintains):

a) Time begins to exist, at t=0.
b) The concept of timelessness is coherent.
c) The world contains a state of affairs S at which God exists timelessly. .
d) God exists at t=0.
e) An A-Theory of time is true.

Under those assumptions, at S, it's not the case that time exists, so it's not the case that God knows that time exists. At t=0, God knows that time exists. Thus, there is a change in God, from S to t=0.

Let E(0) be the event "God changes from a state at which he does not know time exists, to a state at which he knows time exists".

Then, E(0) is an event that ends at t=0. Let e>0 be the duration of E(0).

Then either there is an interval of time [-e,0], or at least a nonempty open interval (-e,0]. Either way, time exists before t=0, contradicting the assumption that time begins to exist at t=0.ii

Kevin

United States

These cited statements certainly appear to be inconsistent! Part of that appearance is due to the blogger’s cobbling together quotations from different sources, some of which are popular writing in which one sacrifices technical precision for communicability. Let’s try to sort through the inconsistencies.

The first quotation arises in the context of the second philosophical argument in defense of the premiss that the universe began to exist. That argument contains the premiss

2.12. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.

Here it’s crucial that one is clear about what constitutes an event. I'm stipulating that the events spoken of in "an infinite temporal regress of events" have each an equal, arbitrary, non-zero duration. What I want to rule out is instantaneous events, lest one think of the series of instantaneous states between, say, 1:01a.m. and 1:00a.m. as an infinite temporal regress of events. So in this technical sense, someone’s winning a race does not count as an event, so defined, because it is not temporally extended but instantaneous. The reason I give for so restricting the range of “event” is that I’m talking about changes, and changes take time to occur. I want to argue that there cannot have been an infinite regress of events so-defined. There must have been a first event of non-zero duration. (Note that such a conclusion is consistent with there being temporal intervals prior to the first event, so long as they are not long enough to qualify as an event themselves.)

It immediately follows that the creation of the universe by God would not qualify as an event on this definition because it is instantaneous, involving no lapse of time. Similarly, God’s becoming temporal, if He is timeless sans creation, could not be spoken of as an event, since it does not have a non-zero duration. Similarly, God’s coming to believe all tensed truths would not qualify as an event, since it, too, happens instantaneously. It follows that in this technical sense, God’s becoming temporal or coming to know tensed truths should not be spoken of as a change in God. There is no beginning or ending of such “events,” anymore than there is a beginning or ending of starting to move or coming to exist. At t0 God is temporal, knows that time exists, and knows tensed truths, without having been or done so previously (there being no “previously!”).

The second and third quotations come in the context of discussion of God’s relationship to time. Here I was using the word “change” in a different sense than the sense it carries in the kalam argument. In saying that God changed in creating the world, I meant merely that God is not the same in His timeless state and in His first temporal state. He has different properties. In that sense He changes. But that difference does not take place over time and therefore is not a change or an event in the sense spoken of in the kalam argument.

Now if you think that God’s becoming temporal or coming to know tensed truths ought to count as a change, that’s fine; just go back to the second premiss of the philosophical argument against an infinite temporal regress of events and clarify that what you are talking about there is changes of a peculiar kind: events of equal, arbitrary, non-zero duration.

In other words, the contradiction here is merely verbal and can be easily removed just by clarifying and correctly using one’s terms. Nothing has been said that undermines either the kalam cosmological argument or the view that God is timeless sans creation and temporal from the moment of creation.


Notes

i The choice of the change in God from timelessness to temporalness as the event is only one possibility.

There are alternatives. For instance, let say the actual world contains a state of affairs S at which God exists timelessly. Then, at S, time does not exist, so it's not the case that God knows that time exists. On the other hand, at t=0, God knows that time exists. Let E(1) be the event “God comes to know that time exists.”

Another alternative would be: At S, there are no tensed facts. So, it's not the case that God knows any tensed facts. At t=0, there are tensed facts, so God knows tensed facts. Thus, God's mind changed - he came to know tensed facts -, and one can consider the event E(2) “God changes from not knowing any tensed facts at S, to knowing some tensed facts at t=0”.

ii On his website, Craig says that it's not clear to him that creation itself is an event which determines a before and an after.

However, that E(0) – or, for that matter, E(1), or E(2) – is an event follows straightforwardly from the definition of “event”: an event is any change, and Craig himself says that God changed.

Also, Craig claims that any event takes time. A contradiction follows.

But in any case, let us suppose the event E(2) “God changes from not knowing any tensed facts at S, to knowing some tensed facts at t=0” has zero duration - contradicting Craig's claim that any event has a non-zero, finite duration.

So, at the beginning of the event, it is not the case that God knows any tensed facts - since the event is precisely the change in God from not knowing any tensed facts, to knowing some tensed facts.

On the other hand, at the end of the event, God does know some tensed facts.

Now, since the event ends at t=0 and its duration is zero, it begins also at t=0.

Thus, at t=0, God does not know any tensed facts, and at t=0, God knows some tensed facts. But that's impossible.

Someone might object that E(2) does not begin at t=0, but at the "timeless state" S.

However, using the word "timeless" is not a license to circumvent logic: if the event ends at t=0, and its duration is literally zero, then its beginning is also present at t=0 as well.