I think that I can agree with Bill that many of the brightest philosophers today are theists, but I recall Shakespeare’s statement that it is the fool who knows in his heart the truth, and I rely on Shakespeare to defend me in my response to Bill tonight.
Bill’s basic argument is this: his first premise is: Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Second premise: The universe began to exist. And the conclusion is: The universe had a cause. Now this argument commits the fallacy of equivocation, and what that means is that the word "cause" is used in a different sense in the premise, Whatever begins to exist has a cause, than it is in the conclusion, The universe has a cause. For when we examine "things that begin to exist have causes," what we really are examining are re–arrangers of pre–existent materials. Anything we point to in our daily life that we say has a cause, say, a statue, is a rearrangement of, say, a slab of marble. And even a human being is a rearrangement ultimately of chemicals and atoms and quarks and so on. And so insofar as "Whatever begins to exist has a cause" has any support at all, it would have to mean "Whatever begins to exist has a re–arranger of its pre–existent materials." Now given that, and given the second premise, the universe began to exist, we cannot infer that universe has a re–arranger of its pre–existent materials, for if the universe began to exist, there are no pre–existent materials, so that if "cause" has any meaning at all in the conclusion, it has to mean something that creates the materials from nothing, and we have absolutely no experience of that in any of our lives, in any of science, anywhere. It's just an idea that appears solely in theism. So I see no evidence for it based on empirical observation, scientific evidence, or anything. It seems to me a proposition of supernatural theology. So I don't think that that is an argument that a rational person should accept.
Bill Craig also says that "Whatever begins to exist as a cause" is self–evident. And he also says that "The universe has a cause" is self–evident or intuitively obvious. But that clearly is not the case. Most physicists who work in this area—Stephen Hawking and all the rest—most philosophers and just purely on my anecdotal evidence from asking students in my classes what they think—more than half usually say they don't find this self–evident. In fact, only a small proportion say they find it self–evident, and they always happen to be theists, and the other ones say either they don't know (the most common response) or that is not self–evident. They don't know whether it's true or false. It may be true or false, but they don't know. So clearly, it's not self–evident that the universe has a cause, and it is giving it much too high of a status to call it self–evident. Maybe it has some degree of possibility—that can be granted. But I think that going beyond that you need a lot more argumentation given, since there are numerous people who deny that.
Bill Craig casts aspersions upon infinity, which is a courageous undertaking for a finite being. Now he says that infinity minus infinity is self–contradictory. But let's take an infinite number of persons and subtract Bill Craig from them. You still have an infinite number of persons. Now Bill would say that's self–contradictory. I would say no, not only because I would still like Bill Craig around, but because I think it's not self–contradictory. And before I explain why, I would simply note that virtually every single mathematician today, virtually every single physicist, and virtually every single philosopher believes there's nothing at all wrong with the arithmetic of infinity or applying it to the real world. There's only a tiny handful of people like Bill Craig, and Whitrow, and one or two others who actually try and find problems with it, and it’s simply not at all prevalent, not at all a standardly accepted view in contemporary thinking. It's not just sheer conformity. There are good reasons why. All of Bill Craig's arguments against infinity are based on one simple mistake. He applies the rules of finite arithmetic to infinite arithmetic, and once you do that, of course you get contradictions. Well, it's a veritable mistake to begin with, to apply the rules of finite arithmetic to infinite arithmetic. And here's one example of how this is done. Bill says we can't count one by one to infinity. Well, of course not! The definition of finite numbers is that you can count one by one. Given any finite number we can count one by one and reach it. Even if the number is ten trillion, we can imagine some idealized being who is very powerful, lives a long time; that person eventually will get to an extremely high number if he keeps counting. But if numbers are infinite, then no matter which number you count, there’s still another number, so you can't count to them. But that's a rule of finite arithmetic, and you only get a contradiction if you introduce rules of finite arithmetic to infinite ones. So I don't think those arguments are sound.
And finally, regarding the empirical evidence that the universe began to exist, it’s not nearly as strong as Bill Craig suggests. For example, one model that Bill did not mention is A. D. Linde's oscillating model. He developed a new oscillating model, not the old one that was developed in the early 1960s which the Hawking–Penrose Singularity Theorem refuted. There are some technicalities there (Bill knows what I’m talking about), but the point is that A. D. Linde came up with a new theory of this, for which there's no good counter–argument. I'll wax technical for a couple of sentences and give you a rough idea of what I mean. There are four forces in nature—the strong force, weak force, electro–magnetic force—and there are coupling constants for each of those three forces, and we have theories of those, and they're workable. Now A. D. Linde shows that by analogy there should be a coupling constant to the gravitational force, and given that, this will solve all the problems of an oscillating universe that have ever been brought up. For example, one problem is that, if the universe oscillates, if it goes through a Big Crunch and expands again, then all the radiation from a previous cycle will accumulate in the next cycle, and as that one expands it'll get larger still because it will have more radiation from all the energy in its stars, and eventually you'll get to something that's so big it'll expand forever, and then you'll no longer have an infinite number of oscillating universes. But A. D. Linde’s theory shows that all this excess radiation from the cycle that's contracting before it hits the big bounce, when it gets near the so–called Planck era, which is about 10–43 seconds, a very short time before it begins to bounce out again, all the entropy, the disorder that's built up in the previous cycle, and all the excess light and radiation that comes from the stars is lost. So in each new cycle we begin anew, the new Big Bang, and so his theory solves all the existent objections against an oscillating universe that's infinitely old, and in the literature no argument I'm aware of shows that there's no good reason to accept A. D. Linde's theory. So I think that on empirical grounds it's simply false that all the evidence points to the fact that the universe definitely began to exist 15 billion years ago.
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