The Kalam Ontological Argument

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is well known: if the cosmos had no beginning, it would not require a creator. Yay, for the atheist! But then, the cosmos would be infinitely old; and, so, it would be impossible for finite events (such as all those that constitute reality insofar as we can apprehend it) to complete the infinite traversal from the infinitely distant past to any moment whatever of the cosmogonic timeline. Zeno would be pleased. There could then be no present moment, for no such present moment could ever yet have happened. Nothing whatsoever could then ever happen. But, tace Zeno, there is always a present moment, events do transpire, ergo etc. The infinity of the past is refuted by the reality of any present event (or any past event, for that matter). The cosmos is therefore temporally finite, had a beginning, so stands in need of an extracosmic cause, and so forth: God, QED.

But there is also an analogous Kalam Ontological Argument. Ontological arguments proceed from a priori premises, that do not at all depend upon a posteriori observation, such as your indisputable observation of this present moment of your experience. They work whether or not there is anything out there to be observed, or anyone to observe it.

The Kalam Ontological Argument is really quite simple. It is founded upon Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, which we have often here discussed. The basic notion (noticed by JR Lucas) is that, the world being intelligible, it must be ordered according to some logical calculus – or, as we usually call such things, some system of natural law. But, as Lucas points out, Gödel has proved that no such calculus can be both consistent (so that it can express no contradictions) and complete (so that it is capable of demonstrating all the true propositions that it is capable of expressing consistently). The complete demonstration then of all the true propositions that a given logical calculus L is capable of expressing without contradiction depends upon the invocation of a more expansive logical calculus, M, that includes L as a subsidiary. The same goes for M: it depends for its complete demonstration upon some N. So likewise for N, etc., ad infinitum.

What we find is that the complete demonstration of all the obvious truths of *any* logical calculus hangs upon *an infinite stack of superordinate and ever more comprehensive logical calculi.*

We are here faced with an infinity of priorities not dissimilar to those we encountered with the Kalam Cosmological Argument. To demonstrate the manifold and manifest truths of any particular logical calculus – which is just to say, the truths of any particular actual world, such as our own (so as to obtain such a world in the first place: no truths about the world ↔ no world) – we cannot but recur to an infinite stack of logical calculi.

The problem though is that no finite intelligence is at all competent to plumb or fathom, or therefore to invoke, an infinite stack of truths. Nothing less than an infinite intelligence could be competent thereto. Then for any mind to make sense of anything, an infinite mind must first have made sense of everything. So, no infinite intelligence, then no lesser intelligences; but then, no intellection whatever; and so, no worlds, at all; for, a world is among other things a system of mutual intellections.

There are in fact worlds, or at least there is one such that we know of, certainly. So there are mutual intellections; so then must there be an infinite intellection. QED.

That we can even begin to explain anything whatsoever entails God.

18 thoughts on “The Kalam Ontological Argument

  1. It strikes me that the argument in your first paragraph is based on false premises. Setting aside the question of the temporal traversal of infinity (which I grant as obviously impossible), even if we have an infinite unchanging universe (because everything is One, and apparent changes are simply a matter of perception) with no creative cause in time, that does nothing whatsoever to remove the need for the Prime Mover. The Prime Mover is the Final Cause of the universe, not the efficient cause. In other words, the Prime Mover isn’t the original cause in time, but in logical order.

    So the argument incorrectly cedes ground where not only it need not, but for logical consistency it ought not. It starts off with a category error.

    • Sure; totally agree: being contingent, the cosmos stands in need of a cause whether it is static or not, and since efficient and material causation are eo ipso and per se intramundane, the cause of the cosmos in toto, being therefore necessarily extramundane (this being the only way it could be the cause of the whole shooting match) cannot be efficient or material, but must rather be formal and final.

      The Kalam Cosmological Argument does not try to establish the character of the cause of the cosmos, but rather only to demonstrate that it must have had a beginning, and that it must therefore have a cause. A cause within the spatiotemporal extent of the cosmos would not do, for it would be intramundane, and would therefore stand itself in need of some extramundane cause. Then only an extramundane cause can suffice as the cause of the entire cosmos.

      • I don’t think it successfully establishes the temporal finitude of the cosmos either, though. There is nothing about the character of motion itself that ipso facto implies such. It is correct to argue against a comprehensive infinity but that still leaves the door open to indefinite regress or progress, so long as the motion involves a return to form, like rotation rather than translation.

        Or, much more difficult to discuss, the Parmenidian idea that All is One rather than Many.

      • Absolutely correct that Kalam presupposes that there is no everlasting reiteration; that time is not cyclical. But then, let’s see what happens to Kalam if instead we presuppose that time is cyclical. In that event, for the cycle to arrive at any particular point thereof, it would have had to complete an infinite number of previous cycles. Again, not possible: no number of finite temporal cycles, howsoever great, could suffice to arrive at the beginning of any one of them, or therefore at any point within any one of them. This particular cosmic cycle in which we find ourselves could never happen.

        NB: indefinite is not the same thing as infinite. An indefinite number of cycles could be completed, provided that number was finite. But then, any finite number of cycles would certainly need a cause outside itself. If we suppose that the number of cycles is finite, then it had to have had a first cycle – a beginning – and Kalam has no work to do in showing that the cosmos must be temporally finite.

        As for Parmenides, I was just an hour ago considering whether to start a post on the topic. But I decided I was too tired. The basic notion is easy to express, though: sub specie aeternitatis, Parmenides, Zeno, and the block universe theorists – and Shankara – are right. Sub specie temporitatis, they are wrong.

        To the characters of the play, their motions are actual, and Parmenides & alii are wrong; to the playwright, all those motions of the characters from beginning to end are laid down as a singularity: the play, and Parmenides & alii are right.

        It’s all in Boethius.

      • Yes, indefinitude is not the same as infinitude, because the latter is unreal. On this, we agree. But the important distinction has to do with counting, and the question of whether or not the nature of the cosmos would allow us to complete a count of the motions of the cosmos in time or not is the real point of the argument, and its weakness, methinks.

        Obviously I also agree that a first cause is needed and that this doesn’t impinge on their being a Prime Mover whom we might as well call God.

        The problem is that if the number of motions of the cosmos is arithmetically indefinite or arithmetically definite is not easily determined by an observer. It is not simply a matter of pointing out the infinite regress in time – I see no reason why an infinite regress in time couldn’t be granted, assuming the nature of the motion in question does not admit of decay and generation. And I think that assumption is the basic lacuna of the argument. It is true that no infinity in time would ever be comprehended, but that isn’t a barrier.

        Flip the argument from infinity around, in fact. You could say that, if we find out by inspection the cosmos has no first efficient cause, that merely requires a more potent Prime Mover; one who can compass infinity, contradiction in human terms that may be.

        The fact that we are at some particular moment (and here I mean this loosely, without intending to get into the subdivisibility of time or what a moment even is) doesn’t really imply only a finite stretch of time either before or after itself.

        Similarly the cosmos need not be bounded in space; in fact it cannot be, since that naturally brings up the question of what lies outside the cosmos, and if something lies outside the cosmos then it isn’t very cosmic, is it?

      • Thanks, Rhetocrates. In what follows, I do not mean to fisk your comment, but rather to respond to it bit by bit. Almost every sentence of it generated a different response in me – sometimes of confusion! With that:

        Yes, indefinitude is not the same as infinitude, because the latter is unreal. On this, we agree.

        I think we don’t, quite, even though it is clear to me that we are on the same page as to substance, or at least as to intent. What is indefinite – what has no definite, specific form – cannot be any particular thing, and so can’t be actual. The infinite on the other hand is perfectly definite, so it can be actual (to show that it is in fact actual, or a fortiori necessary, takes a few more steps).

        But the important distinction has to do with counting, and the question of whether or not the nature of the cosmos would allow us to complete a count of the motions of the cosmos in time or not is the real point of the argument, and its weakness, methinks.

        I’m not sure of your point here, but for what it’s worth, it seems to me that the important distinction is not counting, but rather happening (counting being one sort of happening). An infinite quantity of finite events cannot be completed, within (or without) any cosmos whatever. No matter how many events of that quantity had been completed, there would still be infinitely more to come. If the past is infinite, then no possible series of finite events can ever complete it so as to arrive at any present event, so no present event has ever come to pass. Events have come to pass, ergo etc.

        The problem is that [whether] the number of motions of the cosmos is arithmetically indefinite or arithmetically definite is not easily determined by an observer.

        Well, but what we are worried about with Kalam is not whether the number of motions of the cosmos is definite, but whether it is finite. If it is, then the number of its motions must be definite, whether or not we can ascertain that number. If it is not, then again the number of its motions must be definite: i.e., it must be infinite – a perfectly defined quantity, albeit incomprehensible.

        I see no reason why an infinite regress in time couldn’t be granted, assuming the nature of the motion in question does not admit of decay and generation.

        We don’t need to assume that the nature of the motion of our cosmos does or does not admit of decay and generation. We know for a certainty that the nature of the motion of our cosmos does certainly admit of decay and generation. We know the universe is going to run out of gas. If its supply of fuel had ever been infinite, running out of gas would be impossible, and the temporal extent of the cosmos would be infinite.

        … if we find out by inspection the cosmos has no first efficient cause, that merely requires a more potent Prime Mover; one who can compass infinity …

        Yes. By the nature of efficient causation, we can be sure that the first efficient cause of our cosmos was within it, meaning that it was a creature. It was a feature of the cosmos, and so could not have been its origin. So we can be sure that that first efficient cause was not the Prime Mover, who brought that first efficient cause – and all others – into being.

        The fact that we are at some particular moment … doesn’t really imply only a finite stretch of time either before or after itself.

        Well, that’s just what the Kalam Cosmological Argument is about. It shows that the fact that we are at some particular moment does indeed imply only a finite stretch of time before that moment. It does not however show that there is only a finite stretch of time after that moment.

        Similarly the cosmos need not be bounded in space; in fact it cannot be, since that naturally brings up the question of what lies outside the cosmos, and if something lies outside the cosmos then it isn’t very cosmic, is it?

        That would be true if space were an absolute volume that contained events. But space and time are measures of the causal relations of cosmic events internal to the system of such events. The bound of time at time t then is just t: the total duration of events so far. Likewise, the bound of space at t is the total distance between events at t.

        There could be many cosmoi. Each would be external to all the others. But that would not necessarily entail that there was space between them. This gets tricky. Consider the world of Othello and the world of Midsummer’s Night Dream. Within each, the other is simply inaccessible, so it doesn’t make sense to think of the distance between them.

      • I meant that the Seraphic Doctor would be pleased by yet another argument showing knowledge of God as fundamental . . . though perhaps Herr Gödel has already had some intellectual adventures with Bonaventure. I don’t know how that all works, of course. Anyway, as you may know, the Franciscan’s grounding of knowing in knowing God is a theme throughout his work. However, you can see it very clearly in his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. My copy (tr. Boehner) is the second volume of his collected works, published in cheap paperbacks by the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University (https://www.franciscanpublications.com/collections/st-bonaventure-and-works-of-st-bonaventure — I see that the price has risen five dollars since my 1998 issue). It’s a nice version — with Latin on the left and English on the right. I just found the original 1956 version online (http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~bstephenson/Courses/Itinerarium.pdf). That’s great — because it saves me the trouble of typing a few passages that I’d like to share. Shoot — the link just has the first chapter. I found a substitute — though less graceful — translation on EWTN (https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/minds-road-to-god-1451).

        Chapter III, part 3:

        3. The operation of the intellect is concerned with the meaning of terms,
        propositions, and inferences. The intellect however, understands the
        meaning of terms when it comprehends what anything is through its
        definition. But a definition must be made by higher terms and these by
        still higher, until one comes to the highest and most general, in ignorance
        of which the lower cannot be defined. Unless, therefore, it is known what
        is being-in-itself [ens per se], the definition of no special substance can be fully
        known. For can being-in-itself be known unless it be known along with its
        conditions: the one, the true, the good. Since being, however, can be known
        as incomplete or complete, as imperfect or perfect, as potential or actual,
        as relative or absolute, as partial or total, as transient or permanent, as
        dependent or independent, as mixed with non-being or as pure, as contingent
        or necessary (per se), as posterior or prior, as mutable or immutable, as
        simple or composite; since privations and defects can be known only through
        affirmations in some positive sense, our intellect cannot reach the point
        of fully understanding any of the created beings unless it be favored by
        the understanding of the purest, most actual, most complete, and absolute
        Being, which is simply and eternally Being, and in which are the principles
        of all things in their purity. For how would the intellect know that a
        being is defective and incomplete if it had no knowledge of being free from
        all defect? And thus for all the aforesaid conditions.

        The intellect is said to comprehend truly the meaning of propositions when
        it knows with certitude that they are true. And to know this is simply to
        know, since error is impossible in comprehension of this sort. For it knows
        that such truth cannot be otherwise than it is. It knows, therefore, that
        such truth is unchangeable. But since our mind itself is changeable, it
        cannot see that truth shining forth unchangeably except by some light
        shining without change in any way; and it is impossible that such a light
        be a mutable creature. Therefore it knows in that light which enlighteneth
        every man that cometh into this world [John, 1, 9], which is true light and
        the Word which in the beginning was with God [John, 1, 1].

        Our intellect perceives truly the meaning of inference when it sees that a
        conclusion necessarily follows from its premises. This it sees not only in
        necessary terms but also in contingent. Thus if a man is running, a man is
        moving. It perceives, however, this necessary connection, not only in
        things which are, but also in things which are not. Thus if a man exists,
        it follows that if he is running, he is moved. And this is true even if the
        man is not existing. The necessity of this mode of inference comes not from
        the existence of the thing in matter, because that is contingent, nor from
        its existence in the soul because then it would be a fiction if it were not
        in the world of things. Therefore it comes from the archetype in eternal
        art according to which things have an aptitude and a comportment toward one
        another by reason of the representation of that eternal art. As Augustine
        says in his “On True Religion” [Ch. 39, 72], “The light of all who reason
        truly is kindled at that truth and strives to return to it.” From which it
        is obvious that our intellect is conjoined with that eternal truth so that
        it cannot receive anything with certainty except under its guidance.
        Therefore you can see the truth through yourself, the truth that teaches
        you, if concupiscence and phantasms do not impede you and place themselves
        like clouds between you and the rays of truth.

        Chapters V, parts 3-8:

        3. If you wish then to contemplate the invisible traits of God in so far as
        they belong to the unity of His essence, fix your gaze upon Being itself,
        and see that Being is most certain in itself; for it cannot be thought not
        to be, since the purest Being occurs only in full flight from Non-Being,
        just as nothingness is in full flight from Being. Therefore, just as the
        utterly nothing contains nought of Being nor of its conditions, so
        contrariwise Being itself contains no Non-Being, neither in actuality nor
        in potency, neither in matters of fact nor in our thinking. Since, however,
        Non-Being is the privation of Being, it cannot enter the intellect except
        through Being; Being, however, cannot enter through anything other than
        itself. For everything which is thought of is either thought of as Non-
        Being or as Being-in-potency or as Being-in-actuality. If, therefore, Non-
        Being is intelligible only through Being, and if Being-in-potency can be
        understood only through Being-in-actuality, and if Being is the name of
        that pure actuality of Being, Being then is what first enters the
        intellect, and that Being is pure actuality. But this is not particular
        Being, which is restricted Being, since that is mixed with potentiality.
        Nor is this analogous Being, for such has a minimum of actuality since it
        has only a minimum of being. It remains, therefore, that that Being is
        divine Being.

        4. Marvelous then is the blindness of the intellect which does not consider
        that which is its primary object and without which it can know nothing. But
        just as the eye intent upon the various differences of the colors does not
        see the light by which it sees the other things and, if it sees it, does
        not notice it, so the mind’s eye, intent upon particular and universal
        beings, does not notice Being itself, which is beyond all genera, though
        that comes first before the mind and through it all other things. Wherefore
        it seems very true that just as the bat’s eye behaves in the light, so the
        eye of the mind behaves before the most obvious things of nature. Because
        accustomed to the shadows of beings and the phantasms of the sensible
        world, when it looks upon the light of the highest Being, it seems to see
        nothing, not understanding that darkness itself is the fullest illumination
        of the mind [Ps., 138, 11], just as when the eye sees pure light it seems
        to itself to be seeing nothing.

        5. See then purest Being itself, if you can, and you will understand that
        it cannot be thought of as derivative from another. And thus necessarily
        that must be thought of as absolutely primal which can be derivative
        neither from nothing nor from anything. For what exists through itself if
        Being does not exist through itself and of itself? You will understand
        that, lacking Non-Being in every respect and therefore having no beginning
        nor end, it is eternal. You will understand also that it contains nothing
        in itself save Being itself, for it is in no way composite, but is most
        simple. You will understand that it has no potentialities within it, since
        every possible has in some way something of Non-Being, but Being is the
        highest actuality. You will understand that it has no defect, for it is
        most perfect. Finally, you will understand that it has no diversity, for it
        is One in the highest degree.

        Being, therefore, which is pure Being and most simply Being and absolutely
        Being, is Being primary, eternal, most simple, most actual, most perfect,
        and one to the highest degree.

        6. And these things are so certain that Being itself cannot be thought of
        by an intellect as opposed to these, and one of these traits implies the
        others. For since it is simply Being, therefore it is simply primary;
        because it is simply primary, therefore it is not made from another nor
        from itself, and therefore it is eternal. Likewise, since it is primary and
        eternal, and therefore not from others, it is therefore most simple.
        Furthermore, since it is primary, eternal, and most simple, therefore it
        contains no potentiality mixed with actuality, and therefore it is most
        actual. Likewise, since it is primary, eternal, most simple, most actual,
        it is most perfect. To such a Being nothing is lacking, nor can anything be
        added, Since it is primary, eternal, most simple, most actual, most
        perfect, it is therefore one to the highest degree. For what is predicated
        because of its utter superabundance is applicable to all things. For what
        is simply predicated because of superabundance cannot possibly be applied
        to anything but the one.[1] Wherefore, if God is the name of the primary,
        eternal, most simple, most actual, most perfect Being, it is impossible
        that He be thought of as not being nor as anything save One alone. “Hear, O
        Israel, the Lord our God is one God.” If you see this in the pure
        simplicity of your mind, you will somehow be infused with the illumination
        of eternal light.

        7. But you have ground for rising in wonder. For Being itself is first and
        last, is eternal and yet most present, is simplest and greatest, is most
        actual and immutable, is perfect and immense, is most highly one and yet
        all inclusive. If you wonder over these things with a pure mind, while you
        look further, you will be infused with a greater light, until you finally
        see that Being is last because it is first. For since it is first, it
        produces all things for its own sake alone; and therefore it must be the
        very end, the beginning and the consummation, the alpha and the omega.
        Therefore it is most present because it is eternal. For since it is
        eternal, it does not come from another; nor does it cease to be nor pass
        from one thing to another, and therefore has no past nor future but only
        present being. Therefore it is greatest because most simple. For since it
        is most simple in essence, therefore it is greatest in power; because
        power, the more greatly it is unified, the closer it is to the infinite.
        Therefore it is most immutable, because most actual. For that which is most
        actual is therefore pure act. And as such it acquires nothing new nor does
        it lose what it had, and therefore cannot be changed. Therefore it is most
        immense, because most perfect. For since it is most perfect, nothing can be
        thought of which is better, nobler, or more worthy. And on this account
        there is nothing greater. And every such thing is immense. Therefore it is
        all-inclusive (“omnimodal”), because it is one to the highest degree. For
        that which is one to the highest degree is the universal source of all
        multiplicity. And for this reason it is the universal efficient cause of
        all things, the exemplary and the final cause, as the cause of Being, the
        principle of intelligibility, the order of living.[2] And therefore it is
        all-inclusive, not as the essence of all things, but as the superexcellent
        and most universal and most sufficient cause of all essences, whose power,
        because most highly unified in essence, is therefore most highly infinite
        and most fertile in efficacy.

        8. Recapitulating, let us say: Because, then, Being is most pure and
        absolute, that which is Being simply is first and last and, therefore, the
        origin and the final cause of all. Because eternal and most present,
        therefore it encompasses and penetrates all duration, existing at once as
        their center and circumference. Because most simple and greatest, therefore
        it is entirely within and entirely without all things and, therefore, is an
        intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference
        nowhere. Because most actual and most immutable, then “remaining stable it
        causes the universe to move” [Boethius, Cons. III, met. 9]. Because most
        perfect and immense, therefore within all, though not included in them;
        beyond all, but not excluded from them; above all, but not transported
        beyond them; below all, and yet not cast down beneath them. Because most
        highly one and all-inclusive, therefore all in all, although all things are
        many and it is only one. And this is so since through most simple unity,
        clearest truth, and most sincere goodness there is in it all power, all
        exemplary causality, and all communicability. And therefore from it and by
        it and in it are all things. And this is so since it is omnipotent,
        omniscient, and all-good. And to see this perfectly is to be blessed. As
        was said to Moses, “I will show thee all good” [Exod. 33, 19].

      • Gorgeous.

        But a definition must be made by higher terms and these by still higher, until one comes to the highest and most general, in ignorance of which the lower cannot be defined. Unless, therefore, it is known what is being-in-itself [ens per se], the definition of no special substance can be fully known.

        A succinct summary of the Kalam Ontological Argument. Gödel and Bonaventure are clearly reading from the same page.

  2. “The cosmos is therefore temporally finite, had a beginning, so stands in need of an extracosmic cause, and so forth: God, QED.”

    Nope, not at all. Nothing to show that your version of some god is the creator, nor that this god is needed at all. at best, you can postulate some force, nothing more. No intelligence needed, just physical laws.

    • Welcome back, Schadenfreude! How nice that you are still reading here from time to time.

      I’m afraid your statements are moot: force and physical laws are features of the cosmos, and cannot therefore be adduced to account for themselves, or for the system of which they are features. Many have of course argued that force and the laws are eternal, so that they stand in no need of any cause. The problem with that move is that force, like all the physical laws, is a relation among cosmic events – a function of their relative masses and accelerations. Events within our cosmos being all finite, no number of them could add up to infinity, so the cosmos with its forces and other laws cannot be eternal. It must be temporally finite. Indeed, its finity is implicit in the laws of thermodynamics. It must therefore have an exogenous cause.

      If that cause were not intelligent, its creation could not be intelligible, or sustain intelligence: nemo dat quod non habet. The cosmos is intelligible and sustains intelligence, ergo etc.

      • And unsurprisingly, Kristor is confused. There can be a “force” in the cosmos, but no evidence for the gods invented by humans, including the Christian one (which Christians can’t agree on at all).

        Physical laws and this “force” do not have to be features of the cosmos. There is nothing to show that they can’t exist independent of it. They are not a “relation’ at all.

        I do love how Christians are forced to make up nonsense to excuse their god, Kristor. Nothing to show that physical laws can’t be eternal.

        It’s also lovely to see yet one more theist have no idea about the laws of thermodynamics. Nothing about them requires the physical laws to be finite.

        There is no need for an intelligent first cause to make the universe intelligible or causing intelligence. we just have to evolve to that point. I do love when a theist has to pretend that using latin makes them special. nemo dat quod non habet – no one can give what they do not have. There is nothing “giving” anything. Not even your poor ol’ god that you still can’t show exists.

        Try again, and do provide some evidence for your baseless claims.

      • Schadenfreude, leave off the snark, for Pete’s sake. It is discourteous, superfluous, and worst of all, it makes you seem like an ignorant kid. Not a rhetorical help for your side; indeed, it is embarrassing.

        If you want to look smart, you’ll have to come up with arguments that are responsive. More work, yes. But if you can’t show your work, why then, again, you’ll just look like a sophomore, who thinks he knows more than he actually does.

        E.g.:

        There can be … no evidence for the gods …

        Where’s your syllogism proving this statement? If you don’t have a pretty doggone cogent proof of its truth, then this statement is nothing more than an expression of your baseless opinion – so far as you know, at any rate (some other atheist might have such a syllogism at his disposal, although I have never read of any such). Show your work.

        There is nothing to show that [the laws of the cosmos] can’t exist independent of it.

        Wow, OK; so, you are a supernaturalist. I agree. And, I’m surprised – and gratified. Good for you; that shows true intellectual scope. Most atheists are naturalists, which makes it impossible for them to explain nature. Mea culpa for supposing that you were, too.

        I take it then that, qua atheist, you are a supernaturalist of the more or less agnostic Platonic Realist sort. That’s interesting, because most Platonic Realists end up theist (like Plato himself, and Gödel). Because why? Because if we take the Platonic Forms as real, we are then confronted with the task of explaining the Forms.

        Nothing to show that physical laws can’t be eternal.

        OK, great. But, if we address the problem by proposing that the Forms are eternal, and so stand in no need of explanation, then what we have done in effect (whether or not we realize it) is tantamount to endorsing theism; for, on theism, the Forms taken as a whole are the eternal and necessary Lógos of all things (including the Lógos itself) – are, i.e., aspects of what theists have always called God.

        If you take the Laws as real apart from – and, so, prior to – their instantiations in the cosmos, how do you avoid that Platonic step to theism? I mean, Plato and Gödel couldn’t see a way to avoid it; how do you?

        [Force] is not a relation.

        F = ma is not a relation? Hm. You use the word, but “relation” does not mean what you seem to think it means.

        Nothing about [thermodynamics] requires the physical laws to be finite.

        Sure. It is a category error to suppose that a law might be either finite or infinite; like supposing that the Grand Canyon might be socialist (tace for the nonce on the prevalence among Gnostic socialists these days of the categorically absurd notion that reality is fascist, racist, or sexist).

        But then, if you had been reading with due care you would have noticed that I wasn’t suggesting that thermodynamics entails that the laws of nature are finite. I was suggesting rather that it entails that *the cosmos* is finite in temporal extent. If the cosmos were infinite in temporal extent, then it would have to be supplied (forever and always) with an infinite and thus inexhaustible quantity of negative entropy in order to keep on existing and using up that negative entropy right on down to this present moment (or any other present moment)(which then gives rise to the question, whence that infinite supply?). But the only way to make sense of the notion of entropy in the first place is to suppose that it exhausts a prior finite supply of negative entropy in a closed thermodynamic system. All of physics presupposes that the cosmos is a closed causal system; the conservation laws all entail that it must be. Now, you can’t get entropic work out of entropy (nemo dat quod non habet). And infinite quantities are inexhaustible, by definition. So, the only way thermodynamic laws can be true, or therefore obtain in our cosmos, is if the cosmos is indeed a closed system with a finite supply of negative entropy, *that is in the process of being exhausted.*

        Thermodynamics being what they are, any finite supply of negative entropy must sooner or later be used up in the heat death of the cosmos (the only possible out being a gravitationally mediated Big Crunch, in which the supply of negative entropy would be renewed for a successor cosmos on the other side of a cosmic singularity – a successor cosmos that, NB, *would not be our own* (but, given the interposition of the that singularity, how could we possibly judge whether or not the cosmic supply of negative entropy was thus in it renewed?)). If the cosmos were infinite in temporal extent, there could therefore be no heat death; no end, nor any beginning. Thermodynamics then predicts a temporal beginning of the cosmos.

        Lo and behold, the cosmic background radiation, the relative prevalence of heavy elements, the red shift, and so forth, all indicate just such a beginning. The cosmos does not seem to have been around forever. It seems to be about 14 billion years old. Interesting.

        Anyway, that’s all I meant to indicate by my tangential mention of thermodynamics. The Kalam Cosmological Argument provides us all that we need in order to be sure that the cosmos cannot be eternal, on purely logical grounds that can have no possible refutation in physical fact. What must have had a beginning had to have been caused.

        Likewise the Kalam Ontological Argument provides us all that we need in order to be sure that the cosmos cannot be eternal. What might have been otherwise had to have been caused.

        Excursus: I should here perhaps make clear just why it is that contingents cannot be eternal, and so had to have been caused. It is not hard to see. What is contingently true and thus factual might not have been factual and true in some possible world. But what is eternal must be true in every possible world. E.g., in every possible world all the truths of geometry are true (this is so, NB, whether or not such truths are in any such world instantiate). To say that the truths of geometry are true in all possible worlds is to say at once that they are true both eternally and necessarily. Going then in the other modal direction: to say that the truths of geometry are true eternally is to say that there is necessarily – in every state of affairs – some world in which they are true; and, if they are thus true in any world then they are true in all possible worlds.

        Plantinga used this same form of argument in his successful ontological argument; substitute God for geometrical truths in the foregoing paragraph, and you have Plantinga’s Ontological Argument.

        I would be interested to hear of any arguments you have against either of the Kalam arguments here adduced – whether cosmological or ontological. You have quite ignored them. What have you to say about them? Anything?

        There is no need for an intelligent first cause to make the universe intelligible or causing intelligence.

        Again, you’ll have to show your work here. Show how utter stupidity can give rise to intelligence. Show how utter disorder can give rise to order. Show us, i.e., how nemo dat quod non habet is false. It’s a tough row to hoe, I know. That’s probably why nemo dat quod non habet is so intimidating to you that the best you can do is mockery *because it is expressed in Latin.* Dude – dude – it is expressed in Latin because it has been well understood by all thinkers *for a thousand years.*

        Show your work. How do you get x from no x at all? Give us just one example. Make it from physics, so that it’s dispositive. How do you get momentum, or force, or mass, or heat, or potential energy, from the zero of such things?

        Conservation laws much? Heard of them? The conservation laws of physics are just special cases of nemo dat quod non habet. Indeed, were it not for the Scholastic definition of nemo dat quod non habet, the conservation laws – and Newtonian mechanics, and all the rest – might not yet have been discovered.

        Man oh man, is it ever handy to know a few things about intellectual history!

        Try again, and do provide some evidence for your baseless claims.

        OK, back at you: do provide some evidence for your baseless claims that there is no God. But hey, in the spirit of generous non-snarky dialectic, let’s make this *lots* easier: just provide us with evidence for the nonexistence of unicorns. Or Nessie. Or Bigfoot. Or the greys. Have at it; any such will do. Show us the readouts from physical measurements that disprove the existence of such things. Any of them.

      • Kristor, I have no reason to pretend courtesy to imaginary and harmful nonsense. I don’t find my words embarrassing at all. It seems that the only one who finds them embarrassing is you since you can’t refute what I say.

        I already “look smart” and am smart. It is always amusing when a Christian tries their very best to try to convince me that somehow my argument aren’t responsive aka answering. I’ve addressed your claims. Do show how that isn’t responsive.

        That should be fun.

        It’s even more fun to see try to misrepresent what I’ve said. Unable to handle what I have said, you try to edit my words with a rather hilariously inept use of ellipses. Again, there can be a force in the cosmos, but no evidence for your god or any god. I’ll be happy to consider anything you’d like to present as evidence your god exists. Do tell why I should care about a syllogism if you have nothing, Kris. A syllogism proves nothing at all.

        Show your evidence. And do remember to make sure that it can’t be used for any god. You need to show that your god and your god alone exists, is the creator, etc.

        It’s also hilarious that you claim I am a “supernaturalist” whatever that might be. I don’t believe in magic or gods, so I have no interest in supernatural nonsense. That’s you. Nothing shows that physical laws can’t exist independent of a universe. Please do show how they can’t if that is what you want to claim.

        I’m still waiting for you to show your god exists and that anything at all depends on it. I know that nothing but reality is what we have, no magic involved. I’m also not a Platonist either. What a silly idea that there are magical ideals of things. It’s so noticeable how desperate you are to have me agree with you in your fantasies.

        Oh and look more Latin. How pretentious and sad. Do show how Plato was a theist like you, Kris and how that makes your god real. Many intelligent people can have completely idiotic ideas. The idea that there has to be a perfect god is not supported by anything at all. Theists can’t even agree on what “perfect” would even mean.

        Your nattering about the “forms” is meaningless since that idea is no more true than your idea that some god killed itself to make itself happy and as a scapegoat for the humans it failed with. No need for gods, no need for “forms”. And thus no need for theism at all.

        It’s wonderful to see you try to ignore what I mean by “force” in your desperation, Kris. No, dear, I’m not talking about the idea of “force” in the physics equation. I have to wonder: is it that you find you need to play dumb or that you are? A force as in an entity or power that can have an effect. Nothing about that indicates intellect or consciousness. So, no force is not a relation.

        Again, we see you have no clue about simply physics. You have claimed that the laws of thermodynamics somehow make things finite and yep, when asked to show how, you can’t. You have to swan off into lies about people, and try to claim that you “really” weren’t saying what you did. I read with care and you failed in your attempt to create a need for your god. But nice try to blame me for your failure. I also love that word salad you’ve invented to excuse yourself. I think this is the best part “. If the cosmos were infinite in temporal extent, then it would have to be supplied (forever and always) with an infinite and thus inexhaustible quantity of negative entropy in order to keep on existing and using up that negative entropy right on down to this present moment” which is entirely meaningless. I wonder, how does one “use up” negative entropy aka order. And poor Kris, do show how you know we are in a closed system. You’ll win a Nobel Prize for that, if you can show it.

        Nothing about physics assumes a closed system. But since you want to claim this “All of physics presupposes that the cosmos is a closed causal system; the conservation laws all entail that it must be.” Show it.

        There may have been a beginning. No god needed. You’ve failed again. Lots of smoke and no fire. The Kalam argument still fails.

        Then you go on about contingency and necessity. Alas, for theists, they cannot show what makes something necessary at all, nor can they agree on which of their gods is the necessary one or that their god has to be true in all worlds. Right now, we have one world and no sign of your god here. Plantinga failed too.

        it would be nice to see you use your big words correctly. You’ve yet to adduce anything, Kris e.g. “to offer as example, reason, or proof in discussion or analysis”. I’ve already shown how the cosmological argument fails to show a god is needed or that your god exists.

        Now we have the god of the gaps argument, the last gasp of a theist “Show how utter stupidity can give rise to intelligence. Show how utter disorder can give rise to order” I can’t show you yet, and I may never be able to. That still doesn’t’ show your god exists at all. And more latin, how quaint. There is nothing intimidating about “no one can give what they do not have”. You still can’t show anything giving anything. It’s a nice latin phrase but can’t show that a god exists at all. Hmmm, Kris, we don’t’ know yet how we can get something from nothing, though right now it seems to be just part of reality with particles popping in and out of existence. Still no evidence of your god: no magical creation, no magical flood, no exodus, no jesus christ, no salvation. No god that is outside of time, that somehow has existed “forever”, etc. It seems you want me to believe that baseless nonsense without even trying to show it is true.

        I’ve shown my work. You have shown you’ve done none. And no, dear, no one needs to know silly latin phrases to have physical laws or to discover them. People knew them long before the phrase was coined. Yes it is very handy to know things about intellectual history so I can catch you in your lies.

        Hmmm, no evidence for any of the supposed events that this god caused and evidence that entirely different things happened. That’s all I need. I am glad to see you admit that your god is of the quality of unicorns, Nessie, Bigfoot, and the greys. All lunacy invented by humans, who have nothing to show they exist. Let’s see “My god exists and you can’t show it doesn’t.” “My dragon, Fred, is in my garage and you can’t show he doesn’t exist”. Carl Sagan did a lovely take down of how silly theists are when all they have is: “well, you can’t show it *doesn’t* exist!” By that, then all of the gods you are sure don’t exist, do.

        Do look up his essay “The Dragon in My Garage”. Here’s what I find the important part of it “Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.” And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work. Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so. The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head.”

      • It is clear that you have no idea what the real philosophical issues are, or how to address them properly. It would be trivially easy to fisk your incoherent, rude, inept, inapposite, and puerile comment – easy to rip it to shreds – but useless to you, for it is clear that you are incapable of learning. And it would be an insult to our other readers. And because your comment is so long and contains so many incredibly stupid howlers, its evisceration would waste a lot of my time, in which I could learn but little by explaining all this basic stuff about theism to you, which, as we can all see quite well, you are not able to understand.

        Your admiration for Sagan’s argument is indicative. Like Russell with his teapot and Dawkins with his Flying Spaghetti Monster, he *totally misses the point.* He thinks theism is about something like a dragon. It isn’t. So Sagan in that essay is tilting at a straw man. He’s not even on the same field as the theists. He’s not even playing the same game. He’s tilting, while the theists are hunting.

        It’s pathetic, really. A mind as powerful as his, and yet so dunderheaded! It is hard to think that such foolishness is not at least a bit willful. It is hard to imagine that Sagan did not *intend* to be stupid about this. Russell of course – one of the most brilliant minds of the century – has no excuse. But given his sordid private life, one can understand his desire to eliminate morality from human life in the cosmos.

        This is an easy thing to grasp. Here CS Lewis puts the extremely simple, indeed rather obvious case in terms aimed at a radio audience of mean intelligence – try to make it out:

        … why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there’s anything behind the things science observes – something of a different kind – this is not a scientific question. If there is “Something Behind,” then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some quite different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there’s no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. … After all, it’s really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Don’t you see that the questions “Why is there a universe?” “Why does it go on as it does?” “Has it any meaning?” would remain just as they were?

        The Case for Christianity, page 19 ff.

        Don’t you see? Evidently not. You must have heard this argument before, because it is so simple, so obvious, and so often encountered in debates about theism. Yet here you are after all these years, still flogging away at the straw man Sagan and his ilk have knocked down for you.

        If I fisked your comment, you wouldn’t understand what I was talking about, or how you had been refuted or shown to be mistaken. And you’d only come back with another clueless inept 1400 word comment that utterly missed all the salient points and made you look even more foolish than you already do.

        You are a troll, and a waste of our time. I shan’t feed you. But, I feel sorry for you, mewed up in your dark little cave and confused by shadows. So, I shall pray for you.

        There; just did.

        NB: my decision not to fisk your comment is nowise an admission of my incapacity to destroy you philosophically. It is to say only that the encounter with your thought is a waste of life.

  3. How do you feel about Chris Langan´s ideas, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uSq9w3VwAM. And the very long one´https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-bRM1kYuNA. I am basically sold already on the concept that he had an odd life story and no interest in academia despite being teased or even begged into it. I have experienced in person that IQ takes on a qualitative aspect rather then the quantitative one it is expected to work towards. It was apparent in my own elevated states and prolongedly so with my closest friend, Chris managed to stay sane slightly below the upticks of these states, for almost 40 years. Alas. Not a golden calf, i am still working out my own model.

    • From what I know of Langan’s ideas – not too much – I have no quarrel with him. I have not checked in to him in a few years though, and should refresh my encounter with him.

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