The Kalam, taxicab fallacy, and atemporal causation

In this post I criticize the Kalam argument, but first some preliminary remarks about theistic views on God and time.

Craig has a hybrid view of God and time where God is timeless sans creation and in time since the moment of creation.  Craig responds to an objection of this view here.  I think there are problems with Craig’s hybrid view, but I’ll bracket that for now.  I think most theists hold to either an atemporally eternal God or a temporally eternal God, and not Craig’s hybrid view. My criticism applies to either Craig’s hybrid view or the atemporally eternal view.

In a recent debate with Sean Carroll, William Lane Craig says:

Finally, all the empirical evidence we have supports the truth of the causal principle. When Dr. Carroll says, “The universe is different than our experience,” this is really committing what Alexander Pruss calls the taxi-cab fallacy, that is to say, you go with the causal principle until you reach your desired goal and then you think you can just dismiss it like a hack because you don’t want there to be a cause of your entity – the universe.

Why shouldn’t theists also be accused of the taxi-cab fallacy?  After all, theists are getting off one stop after the atheist.   These theists already believe that the universe is caused by God; so we have an atemporal cause (God’s action) and a temporal effect (the universe).  (Craig’s view is different here, because he thinks creation is simultaneous with the first moment in time, but my argument will apply to him nonetheless.)  Given that they think that that is coherent, what’s the incoherence of a temporal cause and an atemporal effect?

Some atheists say if God exists, we can’t have free will, because we can’t do other than what God knows.  Another way to put it is to say God or God’s knowledge is the cause of our actions.  A theist may reply that God or God’s knowledge isn’t the cause of our free actions; our actions are the cause of God’s knowing it.  In this way our free will can be secured.  So what we have here is a temporal cause (our actions) and an atemporal effect (God’s knowing it).  Alternatively, our temporal actions cause God’s–sans the universe–timeless knowledge of them.  Craig probably disagrees as he thinks God’s knowledge is innate rather than perceptual.  But if the theist accepts a counterfactual account of causation, it will be difficult to avoid the idea that our actions cause God’s knowledge of it.

If that example doesn’t work for you, here’s another: our prayers cause God to sometimes timelessly respond to them.  If they don’t, then are our prayers are epiphenomenal towards God’s answering our prayers?

A typical atheist question: What caused God?  The theist may respond that God doesn’t have a cause because he’s atemporally eternal.  But by the theists own lights they seem to accept that atemporally eternal things can be caused, if my above two examples are right. So the theist needs to reply with something different than “because he’s atemporally eternal”, because that no longer holds water.

The obvious reply for the theist is to say that God is necessary.  If God is necessary, we can’t use a counterfactual description of causation. In other words, we can’t say that if there’s no A state of affairs, there’s no God state of affairs; because there’s always a God state of affairs.  At this stage of the dialectic the first premise of the Kalam

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

becomes the weaker

  1. * Whatever is not necessary has a cause.

So it seems the Kalam argument becomes a theological argument from contingency.  But, presumably, theists want the Kalam to be independent argument.

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1 Response to The Kalam, taxicab fallacy, and atemporal causation

  1. Grundy says:

    Free will is often poorly defined. If it is just our ability to choose between options, then we can’t have free will if the future is known because we actually have no options. We can only follow the path to the known future. Maybe you are defining free will differently.

    Interesting thoughts though. To Craig’s first statement I’d just say that all the empirical evidence also supports the truth that nothing is eternal, temporally or a-temporally. For the eternal to be a more probable option than a causeless effect or an infinite regression of causes, there should be an example of it.

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