Morriston’s criticisms of the KCA.

by metacognizant

For Christmas, I received the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Now, due to extraordinary errors on the part of Barnes & Noble, I won’t actually be getting the book to read until tomorrow. Nevertheless, I’ve done some anxious reading on the book in expectation of it. One thing that I came across was a blog entry by exapologist that expresses disappointment with WLC because of his not addressing Wes Morriston’s arguments for the plausibility of an actual infinity. Exapologist states that Morriston’s arguments are arguably the most forceful in the literature. Now, I would contend that Oppy’s dealings with infinity are arguably more forceful, but this is beside the point, and WLC apparently addresses Oppy in detail in the BCtNT. Morriston is a theist, and appears to be Newtonian in his view of God’s relation to time, thus he argues for an actually infinite temporal succession.

I’m simply going to write up a short blog to deal with Morriston’s criticisms. In part because I want to do so for the general public, and in part because I want to be able to read the book without this lurking in my mind. For the sake of the length of this post, I’m not going to address Morriston’s criticisms of WLC’s argument of never reaching the present. I find it a very, very poor argument, to say the least, and if any reader wishes me to explain, please just comment and I’ll reply.

Morriston’s dealing with the Absurd Implication seem exceptionally poorly thought-out. Morriston claims that the Absurd Implication only arises “from the way in which infinity interacts with other features of the example [Hilbert’s Hotel]. A hotel is a collection of co-existent objects (rooms and guests) whose physical relationship to one another can be changed. It is only when these features are combined with the property of having infinitely may rooms and guests that one can draw the Absurd Implication. If the rooms and guests did not exist simultaneously, the idea of the hotel’s being “full” would lose all meaning” (p. 5). I don’t think that Morriston really thought this one through. WLC doesn’t use Hilbert’s Hotel to illustrate the Absurd Implication in an interview with Lee Strobel in The Case for a Creator. He uses an example with marbles, but his analogy can equally be done with moments of time and without anything co-existent with those moments.

Imagine that an infinite amount of time exists. In one instance, suppose that time itself was annihilated. In this case, infinity – infinity = 0. In another instance, suppose that every other moment in time never existed. In this case, infinity – infinity = infinity. In a final instance, suppose that every moment in time aside from 3 of those moments were annihilated. In this case, infinity – infinity = 3. It is clear then, that an actual infinite in time can draw the Absurd Implication without necessitating anything to be co-existent or combined with it. Therefore, an actually infinite, metric set is absurd, and cannot be found in reality.

Morriston then attempts to prove that an actually infinite set can be formed by successive addition. He does this by asking the question, “How many praises will be given to God in heaven?,” and claiming that the only number of praises that can be given to God in heaven is infinity. He attempts to add force to his argument by claiming that not only could the only number given be infinity, but that God, in His perfect omniscience and foreknowledge, would currently know the number of all of the praises, and thus the answer, he claims, cannot be that it is indefinite.

Paul G. Hiebert, in his Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues, shows that there are four basic ways of viewing the world: in terms of extrinsic, bounded sets; intrinsic, bounded sets; extrinsic, fuzzy sets; and intrinsic, fuzzy sets. For the purposes of this blog, I won’t worry about defining extrinsic versus intrinsic–I simply did not want to misrepresent Hiebert. What I’m discussing is bounded versus fuzzy. Here in America, we inexorably view things in bounded sets. By this, I mean that we are profoundly committed to view things as always having a boundary, or a stopping point–“you’re either in or you’re out.” Morriston’s “praises in heaven” argument exemplifies this. His question, asking “How many praises will be given to God in heaven?” subtly begs the question. Due to our preconceptions, it poses heaven as a bounded set, with a measuring point for its totality. However, heaven, by definition, is unbounded–fuzzy–and unending. Because of this, when asked numerically, how many praises will be given (bounded)  to God in heaven (unbounded), the responder is unable to give a definitive answer, as the only apparent answer given Western culture is infinity. The correct answer to this question, however, is not infinity, but an unending–or a numerically indefinite–amount, and the numerical answer given is dependent upon the amount of time that has passed. If asked how many praises will be given (bounded) to God in heaven after 18 billion years (bounded), a definite answer can be given, as the question remains consistent in its subtle implications.

Now, some may say that God, in His omniscience, must know the answer to the aforementioned question, else He is not omniscient. However, it must be kept in mind that this is a self-contradictory question. There is no answer, not even one that an omniscient being can give, to this question. To explicate this, let me state the standard definition of omniscience:

O: S is omniscient = For all p, if p, then S knows that p and does not believe that ~p

The source for this definition is William Lane Craig’s God, Time, and Eternity: The Coherence of Christian Theism II: Eternity, page 126. It should be clear from what has been said that the aforementioned question has the answers of neither p nor ~p, as the only answer that can be given is numerically indefinite. Therefore, it is no more of a stab at God’s omniscience to say that He cannot answer this contradictory question as it is to say that God cannot know the shape of a square circle. Thus, Morriston’s argument fails to show that what passes by successive addition can be actually infinite.

With that, I’m looking forward reading the BCtNT :). Comments?

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