Saturday, February 22, 2014 Debate Review: Sean Carroll vs. William Lane Craig: God and Cosmology!

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“God and Cosmology” William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll – 2014 Greer Heard Forum

Published on Mar 3, 2014

For more resources visit: http://www.reasonablefaith.org

On Friday, February 21st, 2014, philosopher and theologian, Dr William Lane Craig, was invited by the Greer Heard Forum to debate Dr Sean Carroll, an atheist theoretical physicist. The topic of debate was, “God and Cosmology: The Existence of God in Light of Contemporary Cosmology.” The rigorous debate was concluded by a lengthy question and answer period with the audience.

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http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/ http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/tactical-faith-will-live-stream-the-responses-to-the-craig-carroll-debate-on-saturday/

The Humanist Hour #84: Dr. Sean M. Carroll

Published on Jun 27, 2013

In this interview, which took place before Dr. Carroll’s keynote speech at the American Humanist Association 72nd Annual Conference, he talks about issues ranging from his upbringing and education to research having to do with the Big Bang, quantum mechanics, the Higgs Boson, the idea of the multiverse, morality, the Large Hadron Collider, Hollywood movies where he’s been consulted, and more.

More details and show links can be found on the podcast website here: http://podcast.thehumanist.org/2013/0…

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, LA, –

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The views below agree with my conservative worldview. Dr. Sean Carroll’s reflections on the debate were quite different and his views on the debate can be found at this link. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Debate Review: Sean Carroll vs. William Lane Craig: God and Cosmology!

The debate on God and cosmology at the Greer-Heard Forum (hosted by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) was extremely interesting. Representing the Christian side was William Lane Craig, and representing the skeptic side was cosmologist/theoretical physicist Sean Carroll. This was an exceptional debate (though it could have been better), in part because Carroll did better than Lawrence Krauss. Since this debate was concerned mostly with cosmology and whether or not it acted as evidence for God’s existence, much of it was over my comprehension. As a result, what follows is a basic overview, and I will undoubtedly fail to represent some aspect of the science correctly (I’ll do my best to keep that to a minimum). As anyone who reads me knows, however, I will interact with the philosophy involved.

Craig wants to contend that contemporary cosmology makes God’s existence considerably more probable than it would be without it. This just means that he believes the evidence of cosmology functions itself as evidence (though now we are using “evidence” in two different ways: the first way to mean scientific evidence and the second to mean a more general, philosophical evidence). Craig claimed that in doing this, one is not employing contemporary cosmology to prove that God exists, but to support theologically neutral premises in arguments with theistic conclusions/implications. What Craig does here is appeal to only two main arguments for his subject. Many past critics of Craig should thusly be mollified (as a common complaint against Craig is that he simply presents too many arguments).[1] The arguments given are the kalam and teleological.

  1. If the universe began to exist, then there is a transcendent cause that brought the universe into existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, there is a transcendent cause that brought the universe into existence.

Craig initially takes (1) to be obvious, focusing on (2). He gives two lines of evidence to support that the universe had a beginning: evidence from expansion of the universe and evidence from the second law of thermodynamics. The absolute beginning of the universe is predicted by the standard model, and has not been avoided; in fact, it [an absolute beginning] has been only strengthened, Craig contends. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin [BGV] theorem predicts there will be a boundary; either something is “beyond” the boundary or not. If not, then the boundary is the beginning. If something is beyond the boundary, that it will be that thing that is the beginning. Craig also appeals to the quantum region to point out that, among other things, it remains problematic why the universe transitioned to the state in which it now is some 13.7 billion years ago, and not some other time, say from eternity (or even not at all). I think this is a very powerful argument, and one that Carroll may not have even understood, since no response was ever given. Moving to the next line of evidence, given the naturalistic assumption that the universe is a closed system, then heat death will follow (from expansion). Why, if the universe has existed forever, is it not now in a cold, dark state of heat death? The universe cannot have existed forever; there was an absolute beginning a finite time ago. Carroll’s solution is that the overall condition of the universe is a state of equilibrium, but we are in a baby universe in a state of disequilibrium. The production of such universes is conjectural (and, according to Craig, a violation of the unitarity of quantum theory). There are irretrievable natural laws from the mother universe.

The fine tuning argument (teleological) is how Craig usually does it. Craig addresses the objection that since we live in a finely tuned world, we shouldn’t be surprised that the world is finely tuned by using Boltzmann brains as a counter-objection. This objection is stating that there will be many more universes in which there are no actual observers such as we are than universes where there are such observers; of these non-observer universes, there will be many Boltzmann brains, brought about by thermal fluctuations. Therefore, on the whole of probability, it is far more probable that we would find ourselves as Boltzmann brains than the observers that we are, if a multiverse scenario were true.

It’s Sean Carroll’s turn, and his goal is not to win a debate. There’s no talk about what role God might have played in bringing the universe about, because it’s not taken seriously. He explains naturalism as all there is. He claims that naturalism works: 1. It accounts for all we see, 2. There is evidence against theism, 3. Theism is not well defined. Caroll wants to challenge (1) by saying that is false. He claims that a counterexample is the no boundary quantum cosmology model. It is completely self-contained and so comes without a transcendent cause. He wants to talk about BGV theorem—description of spacetime breaks down (our ability to describe the universe’s time gives out, so that there may be a beginning or it may be eternal). God of the gaps is charged against Craig. Here’s the problem with Carroll charging Craig with God-of-the-gaps: it’s just not true. Craig is making cosmological arguments from cosmological evidences; he’s not offering God as an explanation for a lack of arguments. This suggests that either Carroll does not understand God-of-the-gaps or he does not understand what Craig is arguing. Given Carroll’s previously professed ignorance of much of Craig’s work I am assuming the latter (I also think that is more charitable).

Carroll offers 5 reasons against fine-tuning: 1. There may not be a fine tuning problem. 2. God doesn’t need to fine-tune anything. 3. The fine-tunings you think are there might only be apparent. 4. Other naturalistic explanations: multiverse. 5. Theism fails as an explanation for fine-tuning. This criticism boils down to the fact that theism does not comport with what Carroll would expect. (He may be confusing predictive models with actual explanations.) For instance, Carroll thinks religious beliefs would be universal if theism were true. Carroll finishes his first speech with science of the gaps, ironically.

Craig’s second response: Craig points out many of these things are not relevant, since the topic is God being rendered more probable by evidences from cosmology, not God being a predictive model for cosmology, and the like. Craig responds in the criticism of the first premise of the kalam by saying it’s only required that the universe didn’t pop into being uncaused out of nothing. This is crucial, and this is one point Craig takes for granted that Carroll clearly does not understand (not because he’s unintelligent, but because it’s not self-evident to many). The reason Craig says this is because of the way the first premise is worded. Recall, the first premise of the kalam is:

  1. If the universe began to exist, then there is a transcendent cause that brought the universe into existence.

The only way to deny this is to affirm that the universe began to exist and yet had no transcendent cause. Most of Carroll’s critique centered on his affirmation of an eternal universe, and the other part was that he didn’t like the terminology, “pop into being.” The second part is just semantic, not analytical or metaphysical, and the first part is irrelevant. It would be relevant to the second premise, but not the first. This is why Craig explains that these other models offered by Carroll do not show the universe does not come into being, and there’s nothing in the theory that explains why that model exists rather than not.

Craig says most cosmology colleagues agree fine-tuning is real. It is no part of the fine-tuning argument to assert that the purpose of the fine tuning is us. There may be other forms of life in the universe, and even if not, low entropy is essential to discoverability of the universe (which makes sense on theism).

Carroll claims, in response, that Craig misunderstands the science. While Craig tends to quote or closely paraphrase Carroll, Carroll will not afford the same courtesy, often making simplistic caricatures. Carroll thinks that the primary reason we embrace causality is purely physical observation. This is a major issue that’s going to prevent him from embracing the causal principle. Carroll brings up Guth saying that he thinks that the universe is very likely eternal but no one knows. This won’t work, because Carroll strongly implies that Craig’s references to BGV are somehow invalid or inaccurate; but it is in this letter to Craig that Vilenkin confirms Craig has interpreted BGV correctly. So essentially, the move is nothing more than an appeal to authority, with literally no argument behind it.

In Craig’s final speech, he emphasized that nothing is not anything and so it is inconceivable metaphysically! This was to correct Carroll’s understanding of the justification of the causal principle.

In Carroll’s last speech, he was dismissive of the actual arguments or objections. Carroll ends his speech with four minutes of people not becoming theists because of arguments. He insists there’s no longer any reason to embrace theism, and you have three options: 1. Deny science. 2. Accept science but deny the implications (confusing science with metaphysics). 3. Assess the human condition and give up belief in God.

In the Q&A portion, Carroll got a question about free will; he states that we do have free will as emergent. It is not libertarian, but compatibilist. But “free will” seems to be a language game. It’s a description, a useful fiction since if he can know all the particles, they determine what he does. Craig parlays this into an objection against naturalism, since even the affirmation of naturalism is a-rational. Carroll does agree with Craig, actually saying religion ought to be relevant to all areas of life, which is absolutely correct.

All things considered, Carroll didn’t do much to show that the evidence from cosmology, used in non-theological premises in philosophically deductive arguments with theistic implications, does not render God’s existence more probable than if it were not present. He did not understand the first premise of the kalam, and offered no reason to think the second was false, or inscrutable, or otherwise anything but correct. In the fine-tuning argument, Carroll did argue by making a slightly obscure reference to other models that avoid Boltzmann brain scenarios (or at least, make them less prevalent). While it wasn’t explored, it at least counts as relevant. And in Carroll’s argument that the world is not what he would expect were theism to be true, he was, in principle, trying to be relevant again here. I think he was unsuccessful in showing his claims of fine-tuning being illusory, and made no attempt to offer justifications of why we should think theism as a predictive model is the correct way to approach the problem, or why we should think that Carroll’s particular inclinations would be what anyone else would expect.

Conversely, I think Craig, overall, did a good job explaining why this renders God’s existence more probable than it would have been if the evidence was not there. My one criticism is that Craig said it would be “vastly” or “considerably” (or some such word) more probable. I don’t doubt this is the case; I just would have liked to see some Bayesian reasoning, or, at the very least, just some basic explanation of why the degree of probability is raised in the way Craig needs it to be. As far as I could tell, if Carroll could have found some way of saying that the evidence from cosmology does raise the probability of God’s existence, but only slightly, he would have won. Perhaps, given the deductive nature of the arguments, if the premises are even more than slightly more plausible than their negations, then the conclusions follow, which conclusions significantly imply theism more than if they were not present. So perhaps even my one criticism of Craig is flawed. It’s late. What do you guys think? Did Carroll do a good job? Could Craig have done better?

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