Dhorpatan’s criticisms of the KCA.

by metacognizant

I’ve been asked by a reader of mine to write up a response to Dhorpatan’s peculiar criticisms of the KCA. Dhorpatan is simply a youtube user. These are most certainly unusual criticisms indeed, and I’ll show them all to be flawed.

This video attempts to rebut the kalam cosmological argument (KCA) primarily by asserting that the first premise:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause,

is constructed in a conniving way, so as to prove the existence of God when in actuality a proper premise would not prove said existence. The author of this video (Dhorpatan) states that the first premise, properly constructed, should assert:

(1*) Everything that exists has a cause.

Dhorpatan goes so far as to assert that the KCA is guilty of special pleading by asserting (1), which he claims is a premise with a double standard for God. He claims that all things in reality begin to exist, so constructing the premise in such a way as (1) is a covert way to avoid applying (1) to God.

He also claims that to say it is logically impossible for God to have a cause is meaningless. He states that everything in reality has a beginning, and therefore, nothing in reality is beginningless, and to claim that something is beginningless is nonsensical: “There is no entity in reality that does not have a cause, so saying that God, who is conceptually another entity, does not have a cause, simply because the concept entails it, is fallacious and meaningless.” He then continues, “In order to rescue such a claim, you would have to find a single thing/entity in reality that does not have a cause.” He then tries to present a parody, stating that we could define the “gutter god Goosha conceptually so as not to require a cause,” but that this would not mean “anything ontologically or factually.”

Perhaps Dhorpatan’s most interesting argument is that creatio ex nihilo is both logically incoherent and impossible. I’ll quote him so I don’t take down a straw man: “Something existing causing something non-existing to begin existing is not only without evidence or support, but logically incoherent. For God to cause energy, time, space, and matter, energy, time, space, and matter must be causally influenced by God. Problem is, if energy, time, space, and matter didn’t exist, then energy, time space and matter cannot be causally influenced by God. Energy, time, space, and matter would literally have to exist before itself in order for God to cause energy time space and matter to begin existing. To put this to you even more powerfully, in order for me to create something made of wood, wood would already have to exist. I cannot create something made of wood, from non-wood. Saying that God is an efficient cause does not solve this logically impossibility, it only delays what you cannot show, which is how a being like God, can create something from nothing. In efficient cause by definition, an agent brings about the change, an agent has to have something to change before it can bring about said change to begin with. Reduced even further, we have to show how space come from non-space? How does time come from non-time? How does energy come from non-energy? How does the physical come from that which is non-physical?” He continues, “until [theists] solve these logical impossibilities,” he claims, “atheists are justified in rejecting the KCA as fallacious, unconvincing, and invalid evidence towards the existence of God.”

I’ll subdivide his video into three claims, simply for ease of reference, which I will dismantle individually:

(D1) The KCA is guilty of special pleading by asserting a causal principle that purposefully excludes God.
(D2) That it is logically impossible for God to have a cause based upon the concept of God is incoherent and meaningless because nothing in reality is beginningless.
(D3) Creatio ex nihilo is impossible.

(D1) The KCA is guilty of special pleading by asserting a causal principle that purposefully excludes God.

Let’s deal with this point first. To start, the KCA can be reasserted in more benign premises that lead to the same conclusion—but let this pass for now. Additionally, (1) is a causal principle reached by modal logic—not by observation of the aggregate of the universe—, and (1*) cannot be reached by this same model logic—but let this pass for now.

Dhorpatan states that

1*) Everything that exists has a cause,

Is the causal principle (CP) we should be using; the one based in reality. But is (1*) based in reality?

In order to avoid making (1*) equivalent to (1) (i.e., “Everything that exists has a cause when its existence begins”) (1*) is given tensed in the present—rather than referring to a past event such as the thing’s coming into existence. This presents a problem, however. The problem with this CP is that includes not only a things coming into existence as being caused, but also a thing’s ontological change in state as caused. This is because (1*) is given in the present tense—but it must be given in the present tense to avoid not applying it to whatever does not begin to exist. We have here a different CP than (1). Not only does (1) not apply to beginningless beings, it also applies to any change in state of an entity. Is (1*), then, based in reality?

To give a counter-example to (1*), the example given in an earlier blog of mine (In Defense of Causation) of The Dome refutes (1*):

In the setting of The Dome a unit mass is initially at rest and perfectly balanced on top of a dome where the only force acting on it is gravity. However, classical physics says that after any given amount of time the unit mass can slide down the frictionless surface of The Dome along any given radial direction and without any apparent “cause” (and in violation of any principle of determinism).

Further, it is known that radioactive decay occurs acausally. To quote physicist Jim Swenson, “most radioactive decays happen with no visible external provocation” (Jim Swenson, email response). These examples are clearly ones of an entity experiencing an ontological change in state. This in itself shows Dhorpatan’s CP to be flawed.

Further, as has been mentioned, the fact is that (1) is a CP that can be reached by modal logic, whereas (1*) cannot (see my blog entry “In Defense of Causation” for more on this). And finally—even if Dhorpatan’s faulty claims held—, one can simply rework the premises of the kalam and end with the same result:

1) Out of nothing, nothing comes.
2) The all of time and physical reality began to exist.
C) Therefore, a transcendant cause of time and physical reality exists.

And then one, of course, finishes with the conceptual analysis of this cause.

(D2) That it is logically impossible for God to have a cause based upon the concept of God is incoherent and meaningless because nothing in reality is beginningless.

Abstract objects. Chew on that one for a moment. Those entities, whether or not one accepts them in one’s ontology, show that the concept of beginninglessness is not absurd. The very possibility of these entities that are by definition and concept beginningless is a direct refutation of Dhorpatan’s claim that an entity must have a beginning or be nonsensical. Also, one could point to Wun-Yi Shu’s universe to show that it is not just philosophers who view the concept of beginninglessness as meaningful.

What Dhorpatan does not seem to grasp is that by stating that it is logically impossible for God to have a cause is to remove God from the contingent mode of existence. In modal logic, entities are either necessary (they must exist), contingent (they may or may not exist), or impossible (they cannot exist). To say that the concept of God requires that God does not have a cause is to simply recognize that God is not contingent. To demonstrate that God is not contingent, one simply has to refer to Alvin Plantinga’s famous modal argument for God’s existence. We find as a consequent of this argument that God’s existence is either necessary or impossible—regardless of what we make of the conclusion for God’s actual existence. Because God is not contingent, God is either necessary (in which case God could not have a cause, as nothing necessary could possibly fail to exist, and a thing having a cause implies that it could fail to exist if that cause did not exist) or impossible (in which case God could not have a cause, as nothing that does not exist can have a cause). Far from being nonsensical, this claim makes perfect sense in modal logic. Perhaps Dhorpatan does not understand his terminology before he makes his claims.

To address Dhorpatan’s parody of the gutter god Goosha, he states that we could define Goosha as not allowing a cause, but that this would not mean anything ontologically or factually. I’ve just outlined why this is plainly not the case. To define Goosha in this way is to simply state that Goosha is not contingent—which indeed says something ontologically and factually. What’s left for the proponent of this parody is to explain why Goosha’s existence is both not contingent (remember that God not being contingent can be shown through argument) and/or impossible—and there are good reasons to think that it is impossible, such as Maydole’s Supreme Being argument that allows for only one entity that we might call God.

(D3) Creatio ex nihilo is impossible.

This argument is so bad it has actually made me laugh on a few occasions while contemplating it. I’ll quote Dhorpatan again to refresh everyone’s memory:

“Something existing causing something non-existing to begin existing is not only without evidence or support, but logically incoherent. For God to cause energy, time, space, and matter, energy, time, space, and matter must be causally influenced by God. Problem is, if energy, time, space, and matter didn’t exist, then energy, time space and matter cannot be causally influenced by God. Energy, time, space, and matter would literally have to exist before itself in order for God to cause energy, time, space, and matter to begin existing. To put this to you even more powerfully, in order for me to create something made of wood, wood would already have to exist. I cannot create something made of wood, from non-wood. Saying that God is an efficient cause does not solve this logically impossibility, it only delays what you cannot show, which is how a being like God, can create something from nothing. In efficient cause by definition, an agent brings about the change, an agent has to have something to change before it can bring about said change to begin with. Reduced even further, we have to show how space come from non-space? How does time come from non-time? How does energy come from non-energy? How does the physical come from that which is non-physical?” He continues, “until [theists] solve these logical impossibilities,” he claims, “atheists are justified in rejecting the KCA as fallacious, unconvincing, and invalid evidence towards the existence of God.”

If this argument doesn’t make sense to some of my readers, it is because it isn’t logical. First off, let’s directly rebut his first claim, “[s]omething existing causing something non-existing to begin existing is not only without evidence or support, but logically incoherent.” Without support? Try consciousness. Under the atheistic view, consciousness certainly has not always existed—and it should be obvious that on either view, not all consciousness has always existed, as yours and mine are not eternal—and so something that was existing caused non-existent consciousness to begin existing. This is true whether one wants to take the stance of materialism, emergentism, property dualism, or any other stance on the problem of consciousness—in all three aforementioned cases, the previously existing entity that caused consciousness to begin existing was matter. Also, an important point to note is that (D3) does not rebut or refute either premise of the KCA or its conceptual analysis—it is just a claim that creatio ex nihilo is impossible. But the very success of the KCA proves his claim false. We see, then, that Dhorpatan’s main claim here is false, but let’s continue dissecting his argument and deal with it point by point.

For God to cause energy, time, space, and matter, energy, time, space, and matter must be causally influenced by God. Problem is, if energy, time, space, and matter didn’t exist, then energy, time space and matter cannot be causally influenced by God. Energy, time, space, and matter would literally have to exist before itself in order for God to cause energy, time, space, and matter to begin existing.

No. If God caused energy, time, etc., to begin existing, then after their existence they would be causally influenced by God. However, before they began existing, they would not be causally influenced by God, as God hasn’t even done anything to them conceptually, let alone actually. Dhorpatan’s conclusion is completely unsubstantiated, and this should be painstakingly obvious by his example: “[t]o put this to you even more powerfully, in order for me to create something made of wood, wood would already have to exist. I cannot create something made of wood, from non-wood.” Here, we don’t have the impossibility of wood being created ex nihilo, we have the impossibility of an agent making something out of wood before wood exists. Well, duh! Theists and Christians don’t claim that God composed the universe without first creating its composite parts—energy, etc.; rather, theists claim that God created energy, etc., and fashioned the universe out of those—and there is nothing logically incoherent about that. Dhorpatan’s argument, therefore, falls entirely short of the conclusion he intends it to prove.

Saying that God is an efficient cause does not solve this logical impossibility, it only delays what you cannot show, which is how a being like God, can create something from nothing. In efficient cause by definition, an agent brings about the change, an agent has to have something to change before it can bring about said change to begin with. Reduced even further, we have to show how space come from non-space? How does time come from non-time? How does energy come from non-energy? How does the physical come from that which is non-physical?

One might possibly make the argument that an entity cannot create a reality unless one already has a reality more fundamental than that reality. I think this is what Dhorpatan is trying to say, he just has a little trouble saying it. It is not incoherent for a more fundamental reality to create a less fundamental reality from it. It seems that Dhorpatan thinks Christians are stating that God created the universe from absolute nothingness (which is quite paradoxical, for if God existed then there would not be absolute nothingness, but this appears to be Dhorpatan’s thought nonetheless). But theists—yes, even Christians—do indeed affirm the principle that ex nihilo, nihil fit–out of nothing, nothing comes. What the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo affirms is that God did not create the universe out of pre-existing energy, matter, space, etc., but instead that God created energy, etc., and made the universe with them. Could the mind of God, then, be the most fundamental reality? This isn’t far from where quantum mechanics is going at all; indeed, quantum physicist David Bohm argued precisely this in his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Bohm argues that because quantum physics and relativity theory are contradictory, they point to a more fundamental reality that unifies the two, and argues that this reality is a fundamental, all-present consciousness. That a mind is the most fundamental reality is also precisely what Robert J. Spitzer argues in his Longeranian argument for the existence of God (and I believe this argument holds). We see, then, that it is certainly not incoherent for a mind to be the most fundamental reality. If a mind, then, could be the most fundamental reality, and we know that it is not incoherent for a more fundamental reality to create a less fundamental reality, then it is not incoherent for God to create energy/time/space/matter. Once again, Dhorpatan’s argument fails.

Conclusion

We see, therefore, that all of the alleged “logical impossibilities” that Dhorpatan totes are, in fact, frivolous. None of Dhorpatan’s criticisms hold any water; they are either unsubstantiated arguments or a plain lack of understanding of terms argued against. Therefore, atheists are unjustified in rejecting the KCA on any of the aforementioned grounds.

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