31 January 2013

A response from Reasonablefaith.org

At the suggestion of a reader, I submitted the topic of my post from the other day to William Lane Craig's Q&A section at Reasonablefaith.org. Today I received a response via email -- not from Craig, but from Paul Gould, who occasionally fields questions for Craig (you can find out more about Gould via his website here). Below is my question, followed by Gould's response. I will offer my comments on it later, but for now I just wanted to put it out there for anyone who'd like to read and offer their own insights.

My question to Dr. Craig:

In the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, you state, "From start to finish, the kalam cosmological argument is predicated upon the A-Theory of time. On a B-Theory of time, the universe does not in fact come into being or become actual at the Big Bang; it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block that is finitely extended in the earlier than direction. If time is tenseless, then the universe never really comes into being, and, therefore, the quest for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived."

In another discussion on theories of time in your book "Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity", you state, "We have good reasons for believing that a neo-Lorentzian theory is correct, namely that the existence of God in A-Theoretic time implies it."

I realize these two statements are made in different contexts, but they seem to betray circular reasoning. The A-theory of time is essentially conjectural. Your solution is to create distinct categories of non-overlapping magisteria in "metaphysics" and "science"; in "Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity" you claim that (p152), "relativity physics...is not necessarily saying anything that is relevant for the metaphysician". Or, even if there is no direct evidence of the A-Theory of time (since you cannot sync a clock with "God time"), it still exists in some unmeasurable way. This is the essence of the Neo-Lorentzian interpretation of Special Relativity, which requires us to postulate the existence of an "aether" (or something like that) which is completely unverifiable and superfluous to the observable workings of the universe. In other words, it requires us to postulate something entirely unscientific  which is why physicists abandoned the aether nearly a century ago.

Since there is no direct evidence of absolute time, your justification for accepting the A-Theory of time is that God's existence implies it. And yet the A-Theory of time is the basis for the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is designed to provide evidence of God's existence. In other words, "The A-Theory of time is true because God exists, and the Kalam is true because the A-Theory of time is correct". I'd like for you to clarify your position here, because as far as I can tell this seems to be a classic case of begging the question.

Thanks for your time,

- Mike D

And Gould's reply:
My name is Paul Gould and I'll briefly respond to your question on behalf of Dr. Craig. You state your question very clearly--well done. I do not think however, there is any real worry about arguing in a circle, primarily, as you say, because the two quotes you reference are in different contexts. Bill provides a cummulative argument for the A-theory of time (see, e.g., his Time and Eternity). First he gives good reasons to think time is dynamic, second, he gives good reasons to think static time is problematic. His comment of relativity is simply to show that you can accept the mathematics without the Einsteinian interpretation. When it comes to the Kalam, you are correct, that it only works if the A-theory is true, but again, Bill doesn't hang the whole case for theism on the Kalam. He offers many other arguments, including a Leinizian version of the Cosmological argument, an argument from fine-tuning, a moral argument, and the ontological argument, among others. I hope this helps a bit! 

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