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Image of birds flying. Image of birds flying.

#723 Our Newest Video on the Philosophical KCA

March 14, 2021

You may be interested in the objections below from my friend Joe on Facebook, about the new Kalam part 2 video.

“Still haven't heard a truly convincing case for this. Here they misrepresent Infinity, applying Hilberts hotel incorrectly. This presupposes mass and thus a way of 'keeping' time. If you have just photons, say in the way Roger Penrose does in his cyclic conformal cosmology model, then there is no time and infinity isnt really a problem. Time as we refer to it requires clocks, which require mass, so time that this video refers to, the same time that physics usually refers to, is time since the big bang. Time itself is not infinitely divisible either, which also undercuts the paradox, the Plank time is the smallest unit of time according to qft. The video also says numbers probably dont exist, which is true unless you're a Platonist, in which case mathematical objects and structures such as infinity, truly do exist. Well, if they do exist, they could exist in the same sense as God, in an immaterial realm. In which case this video sort of contradicts itself, saying infinity is impossible, but an infinite God in possible, as long as it 'exists' in some strange realm we have no evidence for. I'm just sceptical of the process or mechanism God uses to interact with the material universe. ........ I will never be satisfied I think, until I can watch the universe being made! Which of cause is impossible, but I can dream!” - Joe.


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Dr. craig’s response


Thanks, Peter, for drawing attention to our newest Zangmeister animated video on the philosophical kalām cosmological argument! I hope that you were able to respond to Joe’s objections. I’m afraid that I didn’t find them very compelling. I identified five different objections in his post, as follows:

1. The video misrepresents infinity, applying Hilbert’s Hotel incorrectly. Until Joe identifies a specific error, this allegation is baseless. I think it’s pretty implausible that I, not to speak of Hilbert, don’t understand the concept of the actual infinite.

2. Penrose’s Conformal Cyclic Cosmology avoids the problems of an infinite temporal regress. Recall that this second video is on philosophical arguments, not scientific arguments, for the beginning of the universe. So the objection here has to be that Penrose’s model avoids the philosophical problems of an infinite temporal regress. Now wholly apart from the empirical inadequacy of Penrose’s model,[1] I think it’s evident that his model does nothing at all to avoid such a regress. Even if time fades out, so to speak, in each expanding universe—itself a moot question[2]—, the fact remains that the number of universes prior to the present universe is actually infinite. This can be seen simply by counting the number of new beginnings, when time certainly does exist, and the answer can only be an actually infinite number of new beginnings. The model thus does nothing to avoid the philosophical absurdities attending the existence and formation of an actually infinite number of things, any more than did the older cyclic models.

3. Time itself is not infinitely divisible. The kalām cosmological argument doesn’t presuppose that it is. Indeed, the argument is easier to put through if time is quantized, i.e., if there are indivisible time atoms or chronons. Just ask yourself: if the universe never began to exist, how many chronons have there been prior to the present chronon?  An actually infinite number!

4. If Platonism is true, then an actually infinite number of things (viz. mathematical objects) exist. Right! So what’s Joe’s argument for the truth of Platonism? (For the contrary view see my God Over All [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016].)

5. The video contradicts itself, saying that infinity is impossible, but that an infinite God is possible. The argument never aspires to prove God’s infinity; but, in any case, Joe needs to appreciate that when theologians speak of God’s infinity, they are not using a mathematical or quantitative concept. God is not a collection of an actually infinite number of definite and discrete things. His infinity is qualitative: He is necessary, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, morally perfect, etc. Note that God’s not being a mathematical infinite has nothing to do, as Joe imagines, with His existing “in some strange realm.” Existing in a strange realm, as do mathematical objects, does nothing to annul their numerosity and hence actual infinity.

Finally, Joe’s comment that “I will never be satisfied I think, until I can watch the universe being made!” betrays an anti-scientific, not to say anti-philosophical, attitude that ironically characterizes young earth creationists!

[1] Joe is really putting all his eggs in one very fragile basket. As Ethan Seagal, the senior science writer for Forbes, writes, “Although, much like Hoyle, Penrose isn’t alone in his assertions, the data is overwhelmingly opposed to what he contends. The predictions that he’s made are refuted by the data, and his claims to see these effects are only reproducible if one analyzes the data in a scientifically unsound and illegitimate fashion. Hundreds of scientists have pointed this out to Penrose — repeatedly and consistently over a period of more than 10 years— who continues to ignore the field and plow ahead with his contentions” (Ethan Seagal, “No, Roger Penrose, We See No Evidence Of A ‘Universe Before The Big Bang’,” Forbes (Oct 8, 2020), https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2020/10/08/no-roger-penrose-we-see-no-evidence-of-a-universe-before-the-big-bang/?sh=318e41ac7a0f.

[2] Penrose uncritically equates time with our physical measures of time, a reductionistic view that I find quite implausible.


- William Lane Craig