Welcome to Tuesday Morning Apologetics (TMA). Let’s talk about the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA):
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Back in KCA 02 I mentioned that some people go so far in attacking the first premise as to say that nothing actually “begins to exist”. I said that the first way they attack the premise in this way was by leaning on the Law of Conservation of Energy (The First Law of Thermodynamics):
“Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another."
In KCA 08 I explained why that doesn’t defeat the first premise of the KCA. However, this argument is also used to undermine the second premise of the KCA. So, let’s look into that.
You’ll recall that it is claimed that if everything is energy and energy can neither be created nor destroyed then that means energy has always existed. So, it’s not the case that anything “begins to exist” because all we're seeing is the same eternal energy merely transformed or transferred from one form to another. Therefore, since the universe is spacetime AND energy, and since there would be no energy if there were no spacetime, then that means the universe never began to exist. What must be emphasized here is that the First Law of Thermodynamics (FLT) is a physical law. So, we can have no problem with agreeing that it’s probably Physically Impossible for anything within the Physical World (1) to create or destroy energy. However, there are different levels of impossibility. To keep things as simple as possible, we’ll only be talking about three broad categories.
Physical Impossibility, Metaphysical Impossibility and Logical Impossibility.
I first introduced this concept in KCA 15. Take a look there to get more information on what I mean.
Examples of things that are physically possible are everything that we see around us right now. Our experiences of the Physical World (when reliable) correspond to reality as it actually is. If it’s actual, it’s also possible. Other examples are different ways the actual Physical World could have been. Like, it’s physically possible for me to have put on a black shirt rather than a red shirt this morning. An example of something Physically Impossible is me, as I am right now, flying around like Superman. Or using the ice in my freezer to freeze the glass of water on my table. Or creating a perpetual motion machine.
For the purposes of this argument against the second premise the important thing to remember is:
"Anything physically possible is also metaphysically possible. Anything Metaphysically Impossible is also Physically Impossible."
When we talk about the FLT, we’re talking about a law that says it's Physically Impossible for energy to be created or destroyed. However, Dr Craig's KCA is intended to provide justification for believing the universe is a physical effect with a transcendent cause. In this way the KCA is primarily interested in whether it's Metaphysically Impossible for the universe to begin to exist. By the way, Dr Craig's KCA kinda assumes that the universe is the same as the Physical World and not just a part of it (1). And he argues for that position in various places.
Is violating the FLT actually Metaphysically Impossible?
It doesn’t seem like it to me. Granted, it’s much more difficult to pin down what exactly is Metaphysically Impossible. But that’s precisely why I hesitate to making claims about things being Metaphysically Impossible. The only reason we believe the FLT is because of our observations. To me, there’s nothing about Energy that makes its creation impossible nor anything that seems to make it metaphysically necessary.
My biggest problem with the idea with the FLT being some kind of metaphysical law is why, then, isn’t the Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLT) also considered some kind of metaphysical law (by this I mean, not merely describing phenomena inside the Physical World)? Just as a reminder, according to the SLT, processes taking place in a closed system always tend toward a state of equilibrium. This law generally describes how the temperature in a stagnant room is the same throughout the room. Or how the pressure is evenly distributed to all areas within a basketball or car tire. This law describes how we have observed energy to behave in a closed system. That entropy always increases over time. And the universe is usually considered to be a closed system. If not the universe then definitely the Physical World.
However, the reason why we can observe this physical phenomena is because there are differences in energy levels. We observe energy always endeavoring to reach its lowest state. That’s why we see rivers flowing towards the ocean. And why oil and water stratify the way they do.
It looks completely arbitrary to me to consider the FLT to be a metaphysical law and not the SLT. So it seems like the fairest thing to do would be to say that they are both metaphysical laws. But here’s the thing. If the SLT is some kind of metaphysical law, then it would directly contradict the FLT.
Why is that?
Please remember that the FLT and the SLT are not things that are intuitively obvious. We've come to believe the truth of these laws because of what we've observed. The
SLT only becomes observable when there are differences in energy levels. So the big question is, "why do we observe differences in energy levels?"
There are a few possible answers:
1. The Physical World was created with different energy levels.
2. The Physical World is not a closed system.
3. The Physical World has some kind of physical mechanism that produces the differences.
I'm just gonna note (because it seems to be the most common type of atheism) that options 1 and 2 are incompatible with naturalism. And there are non-christians that think that 3, even if true, doesn't help the naturalist.
“… all Craig’s appeal to the second law of thermodynamics could potentially show is that naturalism (and hence a closed universe) is inconsistent with an infinitely old universe.” - James Fodor
We’ll probably start taking a closer look at those answers next week. What do you think? Can energy be created? Why or why not? Cosmically speaking, why do we observe increasing entropy everywhere we look? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.
The word “world” here is intended to mean, “a maximally inclusive situation encompassing all others”. When I say “Physical World”, I’m referring to all of matter and energy whether it’s all contained within our space-time universe or in the multiverse or whatever else that is physical. I use the term "Physical World" when I want to be more inclusive than what is meant by the word "universe". By "Universe" I mean that which is observable to us. This is like the planets, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters, the cosmic background radiation. All the stuff of modern cosmology. Our universe is either the same as the Physical World or is a part of the Physical World. I don't think there is enough evidence to support one claim over another.
Feser, Edward. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (Pg. 64, 70-71). St Augustine’s Press.
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith 3rd Edition (Pg. 140-141). Crossway
Fodor, James. Unreasonable Faith: How William Lane Craig Overstates the Case for Christianity (p. 114, 115). Hypatia Press. Kindle Edition.