Quentin Smith

One of Bill’s points was that simply my saying that no existent philosophical definition of causality can be applied to God and the Big Bang is not a strong argument because there is very little agreement about what is an existent and correct definition of causality. And, of course, that's true for any single philosophical theory, any subject. Philosophy is the area where the so–called experts disagree with one another, and once they start agreeing, then the whole subject matter stops being philosophy and becomes a science. It's like linguistics used to be philosophy in the nineteenth century; then the experts started agreeing with each other, and they got shoved off and became a science. So philosophers are at the task where all the so–called experts disagree with each other, and all the non–experts disagree with the experts and with each other, and the only things they can agree upon is that other philosophers aren’t any good! They can’t agree why they are needed. So I don't think this is any unique case about the fact that there's no one accepted definition of causality.

But there is something in common to every single definition of causality I gave that all philosophers agree upon (one might make exceptions for one or two or three theists maybe). So virtually all philosophers agree upon this. In all these definitions the cause is something, usually an event, that does not logically entail the event that's the effect. Take what every philosopher says, the sun shines on the stone, and the effect is the stone becoming warm, and I say, O.K., that's a law of nature, but can we derive that just from pure logic? Is it a logical contradiction to say the sun shines on the stone, and the stone does not become warm? No. To have a logical contradiction, you have to say something like: the sun shines on the stone, and the sun does not shine on the stone. So all these definitions of causality, even though they differ in a number of respects, all agree in this very fundamental point, that the cause is not logically sufficient for the occurrence of the effect. And that's precisely how they all differ from the relationship of God to the Big Bang. And, of course, if Craig wanted to rest his argument just there (which he doesn't, but if he did), we'd have to ask Craig for some definition of causality, preferably one that applies both to God and to things in the world, and then clearly we’re no longer talking about causality, or at least some definition of causality that applies to God and not to the world. And in that case we’re in grave danger because we're not quite sure what causality means anymore at all. For theists say God caused the Big Bang, but this is different from anything we normally mean when we talk about things’ causing. We mean something else, and we’re quite unclear what the something else means, and you can question whether words are being used meaningfully. They just metaphors, really. And it's not clear what's behind the metaphors.

But Craig goes beyond that. He doesn’t leave this argument right there. Craig wanted to say that Lewis' definition of causality applies to God and the Big Bang. But I confess that I did not follow that argument very well because I couldn't see how Lewis' definition was satisfied by God and the Big Bang at all. For there's a part of David Lewis' definition that, if some event c is going to cause some even e, then Lewis holds that if the event e had not occurred (which would be the Big Bang), then c (God’s willing) would not have occurred. And that does not apply to the case of God and the Big Bang. Lewis holds that, in this case, if e had not occurred (the Big Bang had not occurred), then c (God's willing) would have occurred just as it did, but have failed to cause e (the Big Bang). But that's inconsistent with the notion of theism, which implies that if God's willing occurs, it is a logically sufficient condition of the Big Bang.

O.K., I have some more time. Let me see. Remind me of some more arguments you brought up, Bill.

Craig: Newton, Swinburne, Wolterstorff’s view that God exists temporally prior the Big Bang….

Smith: O.K., that's a good argument. In that case, in the case of conflict between science and religion, that's one part of a response. But holding that there was time before the Big Bang is in direct contradiction to the Hawking–Penrose Singularity Theorems, which entail that time began at the Big Bang singularity. So we have to reject physical cosmology. We have to reject Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Big Bang cosmology in order to accept those positions. And then we’re on a different debating ground. We’re no longer talking about whether "God exists" is consistent with contemporary science. By that one statement we’re rejecting contemporary science, which, in the form of Big Bang cosmology and General Relativity, holds that time began with the Big Bang singularity. But even if you suppose there was a time before the Big Bang, that does nothing to solve the problem, and I assume Bill brought that up because that shows that God could meet one condition of being a cause, that God's act of willing the Big Bang is temporally prior to the effect, which would be the Big Bang. But still that doesn't address the main issue, the crucial issue is that God's willing the Big Bang is a logically sufficient condition of the Big Bang. And once we have that condition, then that violates every existent definition of causality. Craig might respond and admit that it does and say, "Well, maybe all these existent definitions are false." But then he seems to be introducing his own sense to the word cause. It seems to be analogous to this: he could say, "Well, all the existent definitions of causality are false. Let’s redefine causality so that it allows that God's being a logically sufficient condition of the Big Bang counts as a cause." Well, that seems to me just a case of changing the meaning of the words in order to save the theory. Suppose I’m a theist, and someone says, "Well, I just proved to you that God does exist because of the problem of evil." And I say, "Well, you’re all wrong because what God means [tape unintelligible] so all your arguments are invalid." When I think my simply changing the meaning that all philosophers, scientists, and everybody else means by cause, changing that meaning is not going to rescue the theory that God caused the Big Bang.

Alastair Norcross, Moderator

I’m going to open the floor up for questions now, and as this event is specifically aimed at students, I would very much like to encourage questions from students. They don’t have to be good questions, just questions.

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