Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Outline of The Cosmological Argument for the Universe and for the Mind

The Cosmological Argument Combo

The (Kalam) Cosmological Argument – William Lane Craig (WLC)
First, science is not used to prove the existence of Agent (My nondescript way of referring to a higher being, i.e. God). This does not mean that we don’t have ways of determining whether or not Agent exists. Science itself is based on logic and reason. We can use logic and reason, just as we use it to support science, to come to conclusions about whether or not Agent exists.
In addition, scientific findings can be used to support premises in philosophical arguments that have conclusions with theological significance (paraphrase of WLC).

Argument 1: The Cosmological Argument (kalam)
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Objection #1: What caused God? –Dawkins
Response: God did not begin to exist. God is a necessary being. The universe began to exist. It is not necessary.

Objection #2: The universe is eternal.
Response: Borde, Guth, Vilenkin theorem—Even cyclic universes had a beginning.
Response: The impossibility of an infinite past.

Argument 2: The Cosmological Argument (mind)
1. Our minds exist (in the form that we experience them)
2. The experiential part of the mind does not exist in the physical world—our experience of the world does not contain anything that can be pointed at and labels “human experience”.
3. Therefore, our experiences exist outside of the physical world.

a. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
b. Our minds (experiences) began to exist.
c. Our minds (experiences) did not begin to exist as an emergent property of the physical world. Rather, our minds (experiences) began to exist because of a cause that is outside of the physical world.
3. Therefore, our minds (experiences) have a cause.

NOW, it is extremely noteworthy that our minds (experiences) are tied to brains. Therefore, it is likely that whatever Agent created the universe also created our minds (experiences), and wed the two together. This implies that Agent had a particular purpose for human life/experience.

Objection 1: Brains are sufficient for the mind (human experience)
Response: You can’t point at a tree, or a computer screen, or any of our mental projections in an actual brain—what you see are massive complexes of neurons. Brains correspond to and are tied to our minds, but do not completely equal our minds. You can put someone into a black and white room from birth and give them full knowledge of the universe, but they won’t know what the color ‘red’ is.
Editors note: This part is very difficult for me to explain, but I truly believe it is a homerun. See this series on Screens:


  1. Some thoughts:

    1. These are both "gaps" arguments. They rely on the assertion that existing gaps in our scientific knowledge can only be filled by metaphysical explanations, not naturalistic ones. To quote one of my favorites, Tim Minchin, "throughout history every mystery ever solved has turned out to be Not Magic." There is a substantial burden of prior plausibility to overcome when asserting that any particular mystery, when finally solved, will break this pattern.

    2. "The Universe cannot be eternal" - this relies at best on uncertain and hotly debated science, which is a poor foundation for a belief system. Notable scientists such as Stephen Hawking entirely disagree with this assertion, and we will only be able to really understand the mechanics of a singularity with a unification of relativity and quantum mechanics. If you have not read "A Brief History of Time," I strongly recommend it. Even the authors of the cited paper acknowledge that it does not absolutely require a beginning, and does not need a metaphysical source for such a beginning anyway (

    3. "You can’t point at a tree, or a computer screen, or any of our mental projections in an actual brain" - I still don't understand this statement. You can absolutely point at the pattern of electrical firing in a brain that represents a specific experience, and at the chemical changes that encode long-term memory. This are definite physical things that we can see and measure.

    I don't see how the assumption of a metaphysical component is in any way necessary here, and thus Occam's Razor suggests it should be discarded.

    1. Hi Travis! Thanks for posting!

      1. We need to use all of our tools for gaining knowledge. Science is a form of philosophy (a fantastic one). It isn't the only one, though. It is fine to use logic to establish that the universe had a cause that is outside of the universe.

      The one who claims that the universe came into existence is the one saying that magic happened.

      Science currently points to a finite beginning at the big bang. If the universe came into existence a finite time ago, something had to cause it.

    2. 2. Right now the leading scientific theory is the standard big bang model. If that changes, I will happily follow the evidence wherever it leads. Are there alternative theories? Absolutely. Right now I am simply following the scientific consensus.

      Hawking argues that when the physics is described using imaginary numbers, the singularity goes away because space-time becomes "boundless". But when you switch back to real numbers the singularity appears once again. I'm not saying that Hawking doesn't have a possibly sound argument--its just that the majority of the evidence points towards the standard big bang right now.

      Yes, I have read "A Brief History of Time," as well as "The Grand Design," and "A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion." The last one was my favorite, and I highly recommend all of them.

    3. 2. (Continued)

      I recommend reading this correspondence between Alexander Vilenkin, Lawrence Krauss, and William Lane Craig:

      Here are a few good quotes, but you should really read the whole thing instead of relying on me to pick out quotes for you.

      "My letter was in response to Lawrence’s email asking whether or not I thought the BGV theorem *definitively* rules out a universe with no beginning. The gist of my answer was that there is no such thing as "definitive ruling out" in science. I would say the theorem makes a plausible case that there was a beginning. But there are always caveats."

      -Alexander Vilenkin

      I think this quote pretty much sums up the counter argument the blog post you sent to me made--that because there are caveats or alternative possibilities, we should jump on them. I think that we should go with the most straightforward answer with the best scientific backing, rather than grasping at fringe possibilities.

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    5. 3. I totally agree that you can point at the pattern of electrical firing in the brain. I will actually get to do this as I conduct research in neuroscience! :)

      Because the visual projection you experience has properties that the pattern of neurons does not have, and the pattern of neurons has properties that the visual projection you experience does not have, they are not equivalent.

      For example, if I had two identical apples, they would be identical. But if I painted one of them green, they would no longer be identical. At least one has a property that is not shared by the other.

      Property that your visual experience has that neurons don't: The color green (when you look at a tree, for example). I can't point at anything that is green in the brain.

      Is there a pattern of neurons that corresponds to green? Yup. Absolutely. But that pattern of neurons is not, itself, green. It doesn't have that property.

      Property that your neurons has that your experience of a visual field does not have: It looks like neurons. (the visual field you experience doesn't look anything like neurons--right now it looks like a computer screen filled with the words of some crazed-amateur scientist wannabee philosopher.

    6. "Is there a pattern of neurons that corresponds to green? Yup. Absolutely. But that pattern of neurons is not, itself, green."

      Are you sure? How would you know? What test could you perform to determine this?

      This is an important question, because we need an objective method to distinguish the two conflicting hypotheses.

      "Property that your neurons has that your experience of a visual field does not have: It looks like neurons."

      Only from the outside! From the inside it looks like, well, you know ;)

  2. To put that last statement another way: I _could_ believe that my consciousness has a metaphysical component, but why would I want to?

    1. Your experience of your visual field (or any of your senses) exists because you are experiencing it directly--in the same way I know that I exist because I am thinking.

      Your evidence for the existence of your experiences is better than your evidence for the existence of the physical world.

      Believe that things exist because you have evidence for their existence.

    2. My consciousness exits, certainly. That is not in doubt at all (and indeed logically can not be). Additionally, it should be axiomatic that it has some form of substance, whether physical, metaphysical, or a combination of the two.

      But what exactly that substance is can absolutely be questioned. Given the assertion that the material brain can produce the experience of consciousness on its own with no metaphysical component, it is completely insufficient to respond simply, "I feel that is not true."