Reflections on the Craig / Carroll debate Part 2:-

2) In my last post I tried to outline some of the problems that arise when one attempts to ride roughshod through the principle of causality or apply it only arbitrarily. Yet, this is exactly what Carroll advocates, all the while remaining oblivious to his later apparent contradiction when he insists that, “Our metaphysics must follow our physics.” But more than this, 2 further problems were exposed which would seem to contradict his rather bold declaration that he made in his opening speech: “naturalism is far and away the winner when it comes to cosmological explanations.”

If memory serves, both of these problems were pointed out by William Lane Craig. The first being the second law of thermodynamics. For if the universe has existed eternally then it remains inexplicable as to why the universe is not already in a state of thermodynamic ‘heat death’. Aware that this observation would most likely be raised in the debate, Carroll’s response was to point to (failed) attempts at constructing eternal models of the universe, like his own, that somehow avoid this problem. But he again conceded: “It’s certainly a true issue that we don’t know why the early universe had low entropy and entropy has ever been increasing. That’s a good challenge for cosmology.” Having mentioned that he’s written a whole book on the subject, he’s still left declaring: “We don’t know why.” He goes on to ask: “Are there realistic models of eternal cosmologies?” And, as if throwing up some sort of smokescreen, he then mentions finding 17 such models in half an hour on the internet. But he happily declares that, “none of them are right…we’re nowhere near the right answer yet.” If you’re left scratching your head at how this response supposedly addresses the entropy ‘problem’, well you’re not alone!

It was immediately apparent that this smokescreen was really a part of his adoption of the tired-old straw man attack that theists are just appealing to a ‘God of the Gaps.’ He says, “I keep re-iterating: what matters are the models, not the abstract principals.” Such a comment is telling, on many levels. Firstly, it smacks of the naive and yet familiar prejudice that: ‘scientism and verificationalism trump philosophical reasoning,’ an attitude which seems so common within the science fraternity. Moreover, it conjoins with his continual complaint that, “theism is not well-defined.” What he’s inferring, of course, is that it doesn’t offer the intricate empiricism that can be found via the models of theoretical science. It appears that his presupposition is that the 2 are at odds. But this is not the case. It’s simply that many theists (like WLC) have explored and examined the findings and data that the scientific method has given us and then inferred that the explanation that there is a transcendent, causal agent behind reality, is the best explanation. This was the case for Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Faraday et al.

Secondly, it is always worth pointing out how oblivious the Atheist/naturalist is being when making such claims about their own levels of ‘faith’ on which they themselves are depending. (and this is usually whilst holding a condescending, dismissive attitude towards the theist for the levels of ‘faith’ on which they, supposedly, depend). For Carroll pleads, “Maybe the universe is eternal and has no equilibrium state…Maybe there is no high entropy state…maybe there is no equilibrium for it to fall into.” So, as well as arguing (pretty vacuously) against what has often been regarded as metaphysical bedrock: the principle of causality, here he is rejecting another bedrock principle, this time from physics: the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This is yet more pleading that flies-in-the-face of decades of established science, as well as the gamut of observational and empirical evidence on which the law is grounded. And he offers nothing empirically or theoretically that succeeds in addressing the problem. I, for one, would love to know what he means with his equivocation that while no models that have ever been proposed are “right,” he describes them as being ‘viable.’ Well, I’m sure Fred Hoyle’s ‘steady state’ theory of cosmology would still be seen as ‘viable,’ were it not for the magnitude of evidence that proved the theory wrong and the Friedman / LeMaitre model right!

You know, I happened to listen to a Tim Keller sermon last night ‘How the Gospel Changes our Apologetic’ and towards the end of it Keller spelt out his usual 3-step evangelistic technique. Step 2 involved illustrating how it actually takes more faith to deny the truths of Christianity than it does to embrace it. If that sounds like he’s setting the bar pretty high, just put it in the context of Carroll’s appeal that “we hope some day we get there..” (ie that there is a past-eternal cosmological model) having already made his, “naturalism is far and away the winner when it comes to cosmological explanations” claim. Of course, alternatively, Carroll could just put his ‘faith’ in the idea that something really can just ‘pop’ into existence (or come into being, if you prefer) from literally nothing. Then again, surely that would sound too much like an abstract principal…

Now, even if Carroll holds firmly in his ‘faith’ that one day some extravagant cosmological model can be conceived of that will overcome the thermodynamic problem, he would still be left with a further problem that was pointed out by WLC in his response: the age of the universe, given its rate of expansion. As Craig rightly points out: “Why would the universe transition to classical space-time just 13 billion years ago? It could not have existed from infinity past in an unstable quantum state, and then just 13 billion years ago transition to classical space-time. It would have done it from eternity past, if at all.” In other words, if the ’cause’ of our universe were just a prior eternal quantum state then the ‘effect’ of that cause: our universe, should also be eternal. Unless I’d fallen asleep and missed it entirely, Carroll never even attempted to respond to this glaring conundrum.

In part 3 I hope to raise another potential dichotomy that the naturalist faces when considering entropy and conditions suitable for life, that was discussed in the debate.

link to the debate – http://www.tacticalfaith.com/media/greer-heard-forum-2014/

God Bless ;-)

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2 Responses to Reflections on the Craig / Carroll debate Part 2:-

  1. While my wife and I attended the debate I enjoyed your commentary on it, also. We bought the CD’s for review and study but I haven’t tried them yet so, your remarks are helpful and interesting. I had the feeling Carroll was skipping over important objections but wasn’t sure I was right.

    Also one of Carroll’s team made the point that if we were looking for God in cosmology (or physics – I forget which) we would not find him. I thought to myself, “Fair enough. For that we depend upon revelation anyway.” The cosmology is merely suggestive, though inadequate, to stand alone as a metaphysical and moral *explanation* of the universe.

  2. Thanks Leo. Yes, I quite agree

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