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#70 Youtube Takes Out the Cosmological Argument!

August 18, 2008
Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8YN0fwo5J4

Can A "Beginning-less Universe" Exist?

I have to make a simple point about infinity

You cannot quantify infinity, infinity is boundless

example:

10 kilometers is made up of 10000 meters, yes.

inf kilometers is not made up of inf*1000 meters.

Please reply,

Greg

United States

Dr. craig’s response


A

When I saw your question, Greg, I thought you were referring to another Youtube video on the kalam cosmological argument called "Taking out the Cosmological Argument" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN9GnHLQNig . I don't normally respond to these sorts of things, but this latter Youtube video was so deliciously bad that I just couldn't resist saying something by way of response. Then I'll come back to your question.

The video wants to deny that the universe began to exist. Immediately, its attack gets off on the wrong foot by asserting that "In order for anything to come into existence, it first has to be non-existing." This formulation is an unhappy one, since it seems to suggest that something can first have the property of non-existence and then have the property of existence. But non-existence is not a property which anything can have: only existents have properties. So it would have been more accurate to have said, "In order for something to come into existence, there must be a time t such that the thing exists at t and there is no time t* earlier than t at which the thing exists," or more simply, "In order for anything to come into existence, there has to be a first moment of its existence."

The video itself realizes that something is amiss here, demanding, "How can anything be non-existing?" But instead of correcting its faulty analysis of what it means to begin to exist, it compounds its error by challenging the viewer: "Can you name me anything that came into existence??? Anything at all. . . ."

Well, I shouldn't have thought that much of a brainteaser! How about myself? Didn't I come into existence? Or does the author of this video seriously think that I existed prior to the union of my parents' sperm and egg?

The video tells us that the atoms of a watch have existed as long as the universe itself has existed, and that this is the same with everything in the universe. Never mind that atoms have not, as a matter of fact, existed as long as the universe; the more fundamental confusion is obviously the conflation of a thing with the material out of which the thing is made. Because the atoms currently composing my body have always existed, have I always existed? Did I exist during the Jurassic Age and the era of galaxy formation? If such a conclusion is not evidently absurd, reflect: I have certain essential properties, properties without which I could not exist. For example, it is essential to me that I am a human being. But my atoms prior to my conception were not a human being. Therefore, they were not I. Moreover, medical science tells us that every seven years the material constituents of my body are almost completely replaced by new constituents. So prior to my conception which set of constituents that have formed my body over my lifetime were me?

The video's suggestion that nothing has come into existence is therefore ludicrous. In fact, the remainder of the video contradicts this suggestion, since it later affirms that time began to exist. Worse, if, as the video claims, "In order for anything to come into existence, it first has to be non-existing," then time must be first non-existing before it began—which is incoherent, since that requires time exist before it existed. On the video's analysis, therefore, it is impossible by definition for time to have a beginning. Not only is that factually false, but these sorts of matters are not to be decided by mere definition, but by argument and evidence. Thus, this video is mired in hopeless confusion.

The video goes on to raise other objections to the claim that the universe began to exist. It concedes that "time cannot be infinite," and therefore time began to exist. But the video makes the remarkable assertion that the universe did not also begin to exist. Now this seems bizarre. The universe just is spacetime and all its contents. So if time had a beginning, how could the universe not have also had a beginning? The answer, according to the video, is that "The universe has always existed." There was never a time at which the universe did not exist. The problem here is that the word "always" simply means "at all times." But if time is finite and had a beginning, then something can have existed at all times and still have begun to exist. If time began five minutes ago, then the universe has "always" existed, but it has not existed beginninglessly. It began to exist five minutes ago.

Again, the video seems to realize that something is amiss here, for it acknowledges, "But of course, 'always' is a word regarding time. Therefore the universe has existed since time began." Right! And therefore even though it has "always" existed, the universe began to exist because past time is finite. Remember, in order for something to begin to exist there needn't be a time at which it did not exist (that was the error exposed above); rather there must be a time before which it did not exist (i.e., it is false that it existed before that time). That condition is fulfilled for both time and the universe if time is finite in the past.

The video then turns its analysis to the first premiss of the kalam cosmological argument, that Whatever begins to exist has a cause. This premiss is false, we're told, because "you would have to show that anything began to exist," which has not been done. The author of the video obviously doesn't understand that universally quantified sentences like this first premiss are conditional in their logical form. It has the form "For any x, if x began to exist, then x has a cause." That premiss can be true even if nothing begins to exist. The video says nothing to make it plausible that things can come into being uncaused.

What the video does say is, first, that the Big Bang model doesn't imply that the universe had a beginning. That assertion is simply false. According to the standard model all matter and energy, physical space and time themselves, came into being at the initial cosmological singularity, which is a boundary point for spacetime. P. C. W. Davies comments,

If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself. [1]

Thus, we may graphically represent space-time as a cone (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1: Conical Representation of Standard Model Space-Time. Space and time begin at the initial cosmological singularity, before which literally nothing exists.

On such a model the universe comes into being, since at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Second, the video charges that for the universe to come into being would contradict the Law of the Conservation of Energy, which states that mass/energy can be neither created nor destroyed. The author of the video had better hope that this is not the case or the paradigm of contemporary cosmology would be in stark conflict with the laws of nature! It cannot be emphasized enough that as yet we have made no theological claims or inferences whatsoever. We're talking straight cosmology. Cosmologists don't regard the standard model as in conflict with the Conservation Law because the law only applies within the universe—as our videographer would put it, it "always" holds. But it is not violated if the whole spacetime arena in which it holds comes into being, for that is outside the domain of its application.

From the two premisses it follows that the universe has a cause. The video protests that it is impossible for time to have a cause, for a cause must be temporally prior to its effect and there is no time before the beginning of time. Notice, however, that no argument is given for the claim that causes must temporally precede their effects. Indeed, this is not true, for there are cases of causes simultaneous with their effects.

In the case of the cause of the universe what is required is a cause that exists either temporally prior to the universe in a metaphysical time that is independent, as Newton claimed, of our physical measures thereof, or else, as I prefer, timelessly without the universe but which is drawn into time at the moment of creation in virtue of its real relation to the universe. My view is that God is timeless without the universe and temporal with the universe. These are profound issues, which I have discussed at length in my Time and Eternity.

The mistake of the videographer is his assumption that a being which exists timelessly is unchangeable. That doesn't follow. A timeless being must be changeless, but that does not entail unchangeability. A timeless being is timeless just in case He exists changelessly, but should he change, then he becomes temporal. That, I suggest, is exactly what God did in creating the universe.

But how could a changeless being initiate a change? By being a personal agent endowed with freedom of the will—hence, the conclusion that the cause of the universe must be a personal Creator. I noticed that the video labeled this argument a "logical fallacy" but never bothered to point out where the fallacy lies.

Hence, the naturalist represented by the video is mistaken when he asserts that (3) time can't be caused and that (4) the beginning of time is an uncaused cause. What's scary is that some people are apparently persuaded by such sophisms as are exhibited in this video.

To come, then, to your question, Greg, the answer is that an infinite distance is, indeed, composed of an infinite number of kilometers, but also of precisely the same number of meters and of the same number of centimeters. That's part of the craziness of the actual infinite. Take a look at my book The Kalam Cosmological Argument for discussion.

  • [1]

    P. C. W. Davies, "Spacetime Singularities in Cosmology," in The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser (New York: Springer Verlag, 1978), pp. 78-79.

- William Lane Craig