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#594 Theistic Arguments and Marxist Dialectical Materialism

September 02, 2018
Q

Dear Dr. Craig! I have a question for you about the cosmological argument of Leibniz. I am interested in the rationality of the second premise of this argument, although this may seem very strange to you. I am not sure in validity of this premise (not in its truth, but reasonableness).

First of all, because I live in a country in which, as you know, Marxist philosophy and so-called dialectical materialism were taught as only true doctrine. And this dialectical materialism is a philosophy that denies any casualities and brute facts. Its proponents believe that the Universe exists with necessity, exists because it has to exist by necessity of its own nature.

However, to be more precise, it is important to say that the proponents of the dialectical materialism, as a rule, do not say that our Universe exists by necessity of its own nature, but teach that matter exists by necessity of its own nature. For example, they theoretically can believe in the existence of many universes, multiverse, but, nevertheless, they say that all these universes are only forms and modifications of being of matter that exists with necessity. "The first property of matter is to be the cause of itself," so the dialectical materialism teaches.

You criticize such objections, arguing that the universe can be different, and matter consists of quarks, which seem to be its parts or components. And if these constituent parts or, if it possible to say, components of matter did not exist, matter would also not exist.

But the dialectical materialism just states that all these elementary particles are forms of being of matter. According to this doctrine, not quarks cause the existence of matter, but matter causes the existence of quarks. Engels wrote that no one had ever seen matter itself, that it is only an abstraction, not a collection of particles (however, this is contrary to the other dogma of dialectical materialism - the complete knowability of all being).

Thus, the proponents of dialectical materialism believe that the quark is only a modification of matter, which does not have to exist. They deny your position that matter would not exist if there were no quarks. In their opinion, every physically possible world is a possible modification of the abstract (!) material substance, and the particles are not components of matter, but its forms. The dialectical materialist would consider the statement "Quark is the basic unit of matter" to be false. So, do you know good reasons to consider the second premise of Leibniz's argument to be true? Is there any adequate objection to this argument of materialists? Sorry for any mistakes.

Nikolay

Russia

Dr. craig’s response


A

You can’t imagine, Nikolay, how delighted I was to receive your question. I so enjoyed my visits to your great land and love the rich cultural heritage of Russia. Your country has suffered so much during the last hundred years, and my heart goes out to your people.

It occurred to me while writing my first book The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (1979) that the kalām cosmological argument,[1] if sound, is a dagger in the heart of dialectical materialism. For inherent to dialectical materialism, as Lenin saw, is the claim that the regress of past events in the history of the world is infinite. Matter is past eternal and has been evolving from eternity past. So if the regress of past events is finite and had a beginning, then the Marxist doctrine of dialectical materialism is false.  One cannot help but speculate whether initial resistance to the Big Bang model of the universe by Russian cosmologists in favor of oscillating models (according to which the universe undergoes an eternal series of expansions and contractions) may have been influenced by a prior philosophical commitment or proclivity to dialectical materialism. In any case, it seems to me that the most direct and powerful refutation of dialectical materialism is therefore the kalām cosmological argument based on the finitude of the past.

But your question is about a different version of the cosmological argument, namely, Leibniz’s argument from contingency. For readers who are unfamiliar with Leibniz’s argument, it may be formulated as follows:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3. The universe exists.

4. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.

Now the dialectical materialist, as you note, rejects (2).  In my defense of (2), I consider the objection that perhaps the explanation of the existence of the universe is that the universe exists by a necessity of its own nature. This seems to me the route that the dialectical materialist must go. For by “the universe” I mean all contiguous spacetime reality--in other words, the same thing that the dialectical materialist means by “matter.”

Therefore, it is futile for dialectical materialists to say that they “believe in the existence of many universes, multiverse, but, nevertheless, . . . all these universes are only forms and modifications of being of matter that exists with necessity.” Just as in the case of oscillating models of the universe, all these different successive “universes” are really just successive phases of the same universe, as I define the term. So the question is, does matter exist by a necessity of its own nature?

I argue that according to the standard model of particle physics matter is composed of fundamental particles like quarks (devotees of string theory could postulate tiny strings instead). It would be fantastically implausible to maintain that every quark in the universe exists by metaphysical necessity. But if these quarks exist contingently, then, I argue, the matter composed of quarks also exists contingently.

Now you observe,

But the dialectical materialism just states that all these elementary particles are forms of being of matter. According to this doctrine, not quarks cause the existence of matter, but matter causes the existence of quarks. Engels wrote that no one had ever seen matter itself, that it is only an abstraction, not a collection of particles. . . . Thus, the proponents of dialectical materialism believe that the quark is only a modification of matter, which does not have to exist. They deny your position that matter would not exist if there were no quarks.”

In my book, I already anticipated this objection and responded to it. I stated:

Notice what the atheist cannot say at this point.  He cannot say that the quarks are just configurations of matter which could have been different, even though the matter of which the quarks are composed exists necessarily.  He can’t say this because quarks aren’t composed of anything!  They just are the basic units of matter.  So if a quark doesn’t exist, the matter doesn’t exist.[2]

The force of the term “fundamental” or “elementary” is that these particles are not composed of anything. So when Engels said that “matter . . . is only an abstraction, not a collection of particles,” that only shows how unscientific dialectical materialism is. Engels and Lenin wrote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before the discovery of quantum physics (not to mention General Relativity). So they had no understanding of contemporary physics. There is no causal connection between matter and quarks, and an abstraction couldn’t cause anything in any case. Dialectical materialism is therefore just as incompatible with modern particle physics as it is with Big Bang cosmogeny.

So contemporary physics gives us good reason to reject the claim of the dialectical materialist that it is false that "Quark is the basic unit of matter." Since we have far more reason to believe contemporary physics than dialectical materialism, the dialectical materialist is in big trouble.  This is especially ironic in view of the Marxist claim that his doctrine is scientific.[3]

 

[1] This argument may be formulated as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

For discussion, see, e.g., https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-kalam-cosmological-argument/

[2] On Guard (Colorado Springs:  David C. Cook, 2010), p. 61.

[3] Perhaps the best move for the (dialectical) materialist to make at this point would be to say that fundamental particles are just configurations of underlying quantum physical fields and that these fields exist by a necessity of their own nature. This response merits further reflection; but there is no reason to think that quantum physical fields are metaphysically necessary. Indeed, scientists assume that different fields might have existed.

- William Lane Craig