Design and the Cosmological Argument

William Lane Craig

The cosmological and teleological arguments for God's existence are as old as natural theology itself. This paper explores the relationship between one version of the cosmological argument, the kalam cosmological argument, and the teleological argument. The unique genius of the Islamic formulation of the cosmological argument is its attempted demonstration of a personal Creator of the universe, a conclusion almost identical to that of the teleological argument. The inference to the personhood of the cause of the universe was based on the Islamic principle of determination, which states, roughly, that if one of two equally possible states of affairs is actual, its actualization is due to the free choice of a personal agent. Applied to the beginning of the universe, the principle requires that the origin of the universe be ascribed to a Personal Creator endowed with freedom of the will.

The principle of determination is apparently undercut by quantum indeterminacy. Indeed, cosmogonic models of the origin of the universe on the model of a vacuum fluctuation in effect substitute the primordial vacuum for the role traditionally assigned to God by Islamic theology. However, such models can be shown to be lethally flawed, so that at most they show how the universe might originate without a material cause-an insight which the natural theologian, who posits God as the efficient cause of the universe's coming to be, can freely appropriate.

Quantum gravity models also appeal to quantum indeterminacy to subvert the inference to a Personal Creator. In such models the primordial Euclidean four-space fills the role and function of God as Creator. The success of such models in obviating God depends crucially, however, on the plausibility of a realist construal of these theories and on a physically reductionistic concept of time. There are good reasons to reject both of these presuppositions.

Finally, on behalf of the Standard Model in which the universe originates in a singularity is the consideration that in the absence of the initial cosmological singularity the inconceivably improbable, initial low entropy state of the universe becomes inexplicable. The fine-tuning of the initial thermodynamic state of the universe would then seem to point to a Cosmic Designer, just as the traditional teleological argument concluded. Thus, one is faced with a choice between two alternatives, both of religious significance: either a Personal Creator as posited by the kalam cosmological argument or else a Cosmic Designer as posited by the teleological argument.

Source: In Mere Creation, ed. William Dembski (Downer's Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), pp. 332-359.


From earliest times the cosmological argument and the teleological argument have served the natural theologian as "weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left" (II Cor. 6.7) in his defense of philosophical theism. Both were employed by Plato (Laws 10.884-899d; Timaeus 29, 47; Philebus 28) and Aristotle (Physics 8.1-6.250b5-260a15; 8.10.266a10-267b25; On Philosophy, in Cicero, De natura deorum 2.37.95-96) in support of their theism, both are to be found in Aquinas’s famous Five Ways of demonstrating God’s existence (Summa theologiae 1a. 2. 3), and both were vigorously attacked by Hume (1779 ){1} and Kant (1781, A603/B631-A630/B658, pp. 507-524). In our own day both have been dramatically resuscitated by discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics, which have prompted lively debates over the metaphysical implications of Big Bang cosmology and the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.

The cosmological argument aims to prove that there exists a First Cause or Sufficient Reason for the existence of the cosmos; the teleological argument aspires to show that there is an Intelligent Designer of the order in the cosmos. The teleological argument shows that the First Cause demonstrated by the cosmological argument is not some mindless "ground of being," but a personal, intelligent Mind; the cosmological argument shows that the Cosmic Designer is not a mere artificer or demiurge working on pre-existent materials, but the Creator of all space-time reality. The arguments are thus clearly complementary and together comprise a considerable part of a cumulative case for theism.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Teleological Argument

In this paper I wish to examine more closely the relationship of the cosmological argument to the teleological argument. More precisely, I want to examine the relationship of one particular version of the cosmological argument, the so-called kalam cosmological argument,{2} to the teleological argument. This version of the cosmological argument originated in the attempt of early Christian philosophers like John Philoponus to rebut the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of the universe and was developed by medieval Islamic and Jewish theologians, who bequeathed it to the Christian West, where it became the subject of heated debate, pitting Bonaventure against Aquinas. It was championed by Bentley and defended by Locke and eventually found its way into the thesis of Kant’s First Antinomy concerning time.

As formulated by one of its greatest proponents, the medieval Islamic theologian al-Ghazali, the argument is extremely simple:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

In defense of the second premiss, Ghazali presented various philosophical arguments to show the impossibility of an infinite regress of temporal phenomena and, hence, of an infinite past. The limit at which the finite past terminates Ghazali calls "the Eternal" (al-Ghazali, 1095, p. 32), which he evidently takes to be a state of timelessness. Given the truth of the first premiss, the finite past must, therefore, "stop at an eternal being from which the first temporal being should have originated" (al-Ghazali, 1095, p. 33).

Now if the kalam version of the cosmological argument is sound, it has obvious relevance to the teleological argument. One of its most important implications is that infinite past time is not available for the realization of the vanishingly small probability of the origin and evolution of intelligent life apart from a Cosmic Designer. Hume’s suggestion that "many worlds might have been botched and bungled, throughout an eternity, ere this system was struck out" (Hume, 1779, p. 167) is excluded, as is Wheeler’s speculation concerning an eternally oscillating universe with different sets of physical constants and laws for each cycle (Wheeler, 1973). Of course, the detractor of the hypothesis of design might insist that while the number of prior oscillations or universes was finite, nonetheless it was just enough for the realization by chance of the probabilities calculated by the proponent of teleology. But such a response has an air of ad hoc-ery about it. As Swinburne has pointed out, the postulation of any finite number of universes seems to cry out for explanation (Swinburne, 1979, p. 94). We should want to know why the universe has completed just that number of oscillations which it has, a number which is put in by hand to fill the bill presented by teleology. By demonstrating that the universe had a beginning, the cosmological argument thus diminishes the plausibility of the hypothesis of a chance origin of anthropic fine-tuning and biological complexity.

Today, however, I want to focus on another, more directly relevant implication of the kalam cosmological argument for the hypothesis of a Cosmic Designer. The unique genius of the medieval Islamic formulation of the cosmological argument was that it aimed to show not merely that a cause of the universe exists, but that this cause is a Personal Creator. It thus entails virtually the same conclusion as the teleological argument: that behind the cosmos stands a Personal Mind.

How does this conclusion follow from the kalam argument? The answer is that that argument is a remarkably fecund source for deduction of traditional divine attributes through conceptual analysis of what it is to be a cause of the origin of the universe. For example, the cause must be uncaused, since an infinite regress of causes is impossible. One could, of course, arbitrarily posit a plurality of causes in some sense prior to the origin of the universe, but ultimately, if the kalam argument is sound, this causal chain must terminate in a cause which is absolutely first and uncaused. There being no reason to perpetuate the series of causes beyond the origin of the universe, Ockham’s Razor, which states that we should not posit causes beyond necessity, strikes such causes in favor of an immediate First Cause of the origin of the universe. The same principle dictates that we are warranted in ignoring the possibility of a plurality of uncaused causes in favor of assuming the unicity of the First Cause. This First Cause must also be beginningless, since by contraposition of premiss (1) whatever is uncaused does not begin to exist. Moreover, this cause must be changeless, since, once more, an infinite temporal regress of changes cannot exist. We should not be warranted, however, in inferring the immutability of the First Cause, since immutability is a modal property and from the Cause’s changelessness we cannot infer that it is incapable of change. But we can know that the First Cause is changeless, at least insofar as it exists sans the universe. From the changelessness of the First Cause, its immateriality follows. For whatever is material involves incessant change on at least the molecular and atomic levels, but the uncaused First Cause exists in a state of absolute changelessness. Given some relational theory of time, the Uncaused Cause must therefore also be timeless, at least sans the universe, since in the utter absence of events time would not exist. It is true that some philosophers have argued persuasively that time could continue to exist even if all events were to cease (Shoemaker, 1969; Forbes, 1993), but such arguments are inapplicable in the case at hand, where we are envisioning, not the cessation of events, but the entire absence of any events whatsoever. In any case, the timelessness of the First Cause sans the universe can be more directly inferred from the finitude of the past. Given that time had a beginning, the cause of the beginning of time must be timeless.{3} Finally, this Cause must also be spaceless, since it is both immaterial and timeless and no spatial entity can be both immaterial and timeless. If an entity is immaterial, it could exist in space only in virtue of being related to material things in space; but then it could not be timeless, since it undergoes extrinsic change in its relations to material things. Hence, the uncaused First Cause must transcend both time and space and be the cause of their origination.

Abstract Objects and Personhood

Now the personhood of the First Cause is already powerfully suggested by the above considerations. For there appear to be only two candidates which can be described as immaterial, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, and spaceless beings: either abstract objects or unembodied mind. If the former can be ruled out, then that fact implies that the First Cause is unembodied mind, or the Personal Creator of the universe. That is, we can argue as follows:

4. If the universe has a cause, then the cause of the universe is either an abstract object or unembodied mind.
5. An abstract object cannot be the cause of the universe.
6. Therefore, if the universe has a cause, then the cause of the universe is unembodied mind.

Together (3) and (6) imply

7. Therefore, the cause of the universe is unembodied mind.

With respect to the two candidates mentioned in premiss (4), abstract objects like numbers, sets, propositions, and properties are very typically construed by philosophers who include such things in their ontology as being precisely the sort of entities which exist necessarily, timelessly, and spacelessly. Similarly philosophers who hold to the possibility of disembodied mind would describe such substances as immaterial and spaceless, and there seems no reason to think that a Cosmic Mind might not also be beginningless and uncaused. For my part, I cannot think of any other candidates which could be suitably described as immaterial, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, and spaceless beings. Nor has anyone else, to my knowledge, suggested any other such candidates. The disjunction would therefore seem to be complete, and, hence, premiss (4) is not question-begging.

With respect to premiss (5), some thinkers have suggested that the cause of the origin of the universe is, indeed, some sort of abstract object. For example, John Leslie, the foremost authority on the Anthropic Principle, champions a Neo-Platonic concept of God as the creativity of ethical requiredness (Leslie, 1989, pp. 165-174). That is to say, the universe exists because it should; it is morally necessary that a universe of free agents exist. This ethical requiredness of the universe has a sort of creative power which makes the world exist. Less seriously, Oxford University scientist P. W. Atkins, drawing on John Wheeler’s notion of a pre-geometry which somehow underlies existing space-time structure, suggests that "at the time before time" there existed a chaotic "dust" of mathematical points, which, constantly re-assembling, finally combined by chance into the geometrical structure of space-time; and thus did our universe "come into existence without intervention, and . . . there is no need to invoke the idea of a Supreme Being . . ." (Atkins, 1992, pp. vii, 129). If it be asked where the points came from, Atkins will reply, "time brought the points into being, and the points brought time into being" (Ibid., p. 141). This piece of metaphysical bravado is obviously self-contradictory and incoherent. The postulation of a time before time is a clear self-contradiction, nor can this notion be written off as a mere rhetorical flourish, for Atkins’s idea of a collection of points constantly combining into various structures and then dissolving until they organize into our space-time geometry presupposes the reality of time. The sort of causation which he posits between time and the pre-geometrical points is viciously circular and, hence, incoherent. More fundamentally, Atkin’s confusion of abstract and concrete objects makes it impossible to state the difference between actually existing space-time and an uninstantiated space-time (say, with a Bolyai-Lobachevskian geometry), since both are composed of mathematical points. In a sense the implication of Atkins’s view is not that the universe was caused by an abstract object, but that it is an abstract object, which is absurd.

Nor does it seem to me any more plausible, despite Leslie, to claim that any sort of abstract object can be the cause of the origin of the universe. For, quite simply, abstract objects are not involved in causal relations. Since they are not agents, they cannot volitionally exercise a causal power to do anything. If they are causes, they would be so, not as agents, but as mindless events or states. But they cannot be event-causes, since they do not exist in time and space. Even if we allow that some abstract objects exist in time (for example, propositions which change their truth-value in virtue of the tense in the sentences which express them), still, in view of their abstract nature, it remains utterly mysterious how they could be causally related to concrete objects so as to bring about events, including the origin of the universe. Nor can they be state-causes of states involving concrete objects, for the same reason, not to mention the fact that in the case at hand we are not talking about state-state causation (that is, the causal dependence of one state on another), but what would amount to state-event causation (namely, the universe’s coming into being because of the state of some abstract object(s)), which seems impossible. Thus, premiss (5) is most certainly true.

Perhaps the most promising route for the non-theist to take at this point is to assert that neither is it possible for unembodied mind to be the cause of the universe. Thus, despite first appearances, (4) is false (there is some third, unknown alternative) or else (3) is false. But if we are to reject those premisses despite their prima facie warrant, then the non-theist must give us warrant for the negation of (7) which is sufficient to overwhelm the warrant for (3) or (4). What does he have to offer? Perhaps he might agree that an unembodied mind could be beginningless, immaterial, and spaceless, but deny that such a mind could be timeless. Temporality, he might claim, is essential to personhood. But I must say that, having written on this question at some length elsewhere (Craig, forthcoming c), I have been unable to find any good reason to think that a personal being cannot be atemporal.{4} Perhaps the non-theist will claim, even more radically, that mind cannot be unembodied, because mental states are either identical with brain states or dependent upon brain states. But this sort of critique constitutes an argument against theism as such, since God’s immateriality and personhood are essential divine properties, not merely a defeater aimed at a premiss in the kalam cosmological argument. It would be as if I had rejected (5) on the basis of the nominalist claim that abstract objects do not exist. It opens up an entirely different topic with its own proper set of issues and wealth of literature which cannot divert us here. If non-physicalists working in neurology and the philosophy of mind succeed in turning back the force of this objection to theism,{5} neither can it be used to defeat (7); au contraire, the kalam cosmological argument, with its prima facie warrant for (3)-(5), constitutes a small part of the case against physicalism.

So in the catalogue of attributes deducible from the kalam cosmological argument, we have good grounds for inferring that the First Cause of the universe is a Personal Creator.

A Temporal Effect from an Eternal Cause

But the kalam argument affords a more direct demonstration of this same conclusion. The philosophers whom al-Ghazali opposed held that the world must be sempiternal because they rejected "the procession of the first temporal being from the Eternal" as impossible (al-Ghazali, 1095, p. 32). They took it "as a self-evident fact that nothing can be distinguished from its like, unless there be something which gives it a special character" (Ibid., p. 24); that is to say, something must account for why one of the two similar alternatives is actualized. They held, in effect, that the hapless animal which later came to be known as Buridan’s ass would have starved to death caught between two equally appetizing bundles of hay. Now, they reasoned, "in the case of the world, which was possible of existence as well as of non-existence, . . . there was nothing to give existence a special character" (Ibid., p. 24), since there was nothing prior to the beginning of the universe. If it be said that the First Cause lent to existence its special character and thus brought the universe into being, then the First Cause is causally (if not temporally) prior to the beginning of the universe. But then the question arises, how could a first temporal effect arise from an eternal cause? Either the causal conditions sufficient for the existence of the universe were eternally actual or not. If not, then they must have arisen at some moment of past time, indeed, at the first moment of time, the same moment at which the universe, its causally sufficient conditions now present, sprang into being. The problem with this alternative, of course, is that now we must ask why the causal conditions arose when they did, and off we go on an infinite regress--which has been shown to be impossible. Suppose, then, we say that the causal conditions for the world’s existence are never absent from the First Cause. In that case the world should exist co-eternally with its Cause. If the causally sufficient conditions for an effect exist, then the effect must also exist. It would be impossible for the First Cause to exist alone sans the universe, for it constitutes the causally sufficient conditions for the world’s existence. Therefore, the philosophers conclude, if the Eternal is causally prior to the world, "it will be necessary that both should be either eternal or temporal. It will be impossible for one to be eternal, while the other is temporal" (Ibid., p. 36). In effect, what the philosophers were arguing was that it is impossible to have state-event causation, especially where the state is atemporal and the event is temporal.

This is a powerful objection, and al-Ghazali subverts it only by appealing to a different analysis of causation. He agrees that there must be something which gives special character to the existence of the world over its non-existence, and he finds it in the notion of an agent cause. The Islamic theologians who developed the kalam argument adhered to the so-called Principle of Determination, which I shall formulate as follows:

PD: If two physical states of affairs, S and its complement ¬S, are physically possible at a time t and S obtains at t, then there must be a personal agent who, by the free choice of his will, instantiates S rather than ¬S at t.

For example, if it is physically possible at t for me to raise or not raise my left arm, then it is not determined by the causal antecedents prior to t that I raise my arm. If it were so determined, then it is not in fact physically possible for me to not raise my arm. Suppose, then, that at t I raise my arm. It follows from (PD) that my arm’s rising is the result of the free choice of my will, that I am, in effect, the agent cause of my arm’s rising. On the basis of the Principle of Determination, al-Ghazali reasoned that the First Cause of the origin of the universe must be a personal agent who freely chooses to create the temporal world. So Ghazali responds to the philosophers,

The (eternal) will produced the world as it is, wherever it is, and whatever it is like. As regards the will, it is an attribute of which the function it is to distinguish something from its like. If it had no such function, then power would have had to be regarded as an adequate principle. But since power bears an equal relation to two opposite things, and since it becomes necessary to posit a cause which gives one of these two things a special character, therefore, it must be said that, over and above power, the Eternal has an attribute whose function is to distinguish something from its like . . . . so the answer to the . . . question should be: ‘Will is an attribute of which the function--rather nature--is to distinguish something from its like’ (Ibid., pp. 24-25).

The origin of the universe requires not merely power to produce the world, but power which is exercised through free agency. The Eternal must, in order to produce a temporal world, be an agent with the freedom to bring about the beginning of the universe wholly in the absence of any antecedent determining conditions. Ghazali’s argument that the cause of the universe is a Personal Creator is thus

8. If the universe has a cause, then the cause is either a set of impersonal causal conditions or a free, personal agent.
9. The cause of the universe is not set of impersonal causal conditions.
10. Therefore, if the universe has a cause, then the cause of the universe is a free, personal agent.

Together (3) and (10) imply

11. Therefore the cause of the universe is a free, personal agent.

On behalf of (8), it can be said that this appears to be a necessary truth, since a cause which is not a free, personal agent just is an set of impersonal causal conditions. The argument for (9) is the argument given by the philosophical opponents of Ghazali. Even if one accepts (8) and (9), however, one might be led to reject (3) if (11) could be shown to be a metaphysical impossibility. One would need in that case overwhelming warrant for denying (11) in face of the warrant for (3). It might be claimed, for example, that the relation of the Personal Creator of the universe to time cannot be coherently sorted out on this view or that the very notion of agent causation is unintelligible. I have discussed the first issue elsewhere, however, (forthcoming a; forthcoming d) and believe that a coherent doctrine of divine eternity and creation can be formulated. As for the latter issue, there is some latitude for maneuvering here, and I shall leave the formulation and defense of personal agency and freedom in the able hands of others (Moreland, 1997; O’Connor, 1995; Taliaferro, 1994; Morris, 1988).

Rather I wish to discuss a serious challenge presented by contemporary physics to (9). It is a commonplace of quantum physics that due to indeterminacy on the fundamental level, events occur for which fully determinate causes do not exist. It cannot be precisely predicted, for example, when an atom of radium will decay into radon. Nor is this unpredictability an epistemic affair only; rather it is due to an ontic indeterminacy on the quantum level. At best probabilities can be calculated for the occurrence of quantum physical events; but precision is impossible because reality itself is indeterminate in this respect. Now if quantum indeterminacy is a fact of nature, then it follows that (PD) is false. If S is the decay of a radium atom and ¬S is the continued existence of that atom, then both states are physically possible at some time t, being indeterminate with respect to the state of the atom prior to t, and yet no personal agent is required to choose which state is instantiated at t.. Nothing determines whether the atom decays at t or not; it just happens. Accordingly, (PD) would have to be replaced by

PD*: If two physical states of affairs, S and its complement ¬S, are physically possible at a time t and S obtains at t, then either (i) there must be a personal agent who, by the free choice of his will, instantiates S rather than ¬S at t or (ii) S’s instantiation at t is the result of an indeterminate, quantum physical transition.

Since the assumption of (PD) underlay the kalam cosmological argument for a Personal Creator, the substitution of (PD*) suggests an alternative explanation in quantum indeterminacy.

Ontic Quantum Indeterminacy

But must we accept (PD*) rather than (PD)? The answer to that question will depend on whether we take quantum indeterminacy to be ontic or not.{6} Although the majority of physicists and philosophers of science hold quantum indeterminacy to be ontic and although such an interpretation of quantum theory is almost universal on the popular level, such an understanding is by no means inevitable. For there are a number of interpretations of quantum theory which are fully deterministic and yet which are both mathematically consistent and wholly compatible with the experimental data. For example, there is the Ensemble Interpretation of quantum theory, according to which that theory is not applicable to individual particles, but is a theory of ensembles of particles.{7} This interpretation holds that the behavior of individual particles is deterministic but that quantum mechanics is concerned only with calculations about averages over a large number of similar systems. Hence, indeterminacy does not lodge at the most fundamental level. Or there is de Broglie-Bohm Pilot-Wave Model, according to which hidden variables exist along with a force field which permits superluminal influences.{8} "Like it or lump it," says J. S. Bell, "it is perfectly conclusive as a counter example to the idea that vagueness, subjectivity, or indeterminism are forced on us by the experimental facts covered by nonrelativistic quantum mechanics" (Bell, 1984, p. 70). There is even the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics, which holds that every result of a quantum measurement is actualized in some universe. Not only are these interpretations deterministic, but some of them, at least, are every bit as plausible as indeterministic views such as the realist construal of the Copenhagen Interpretation, according to which quantum entities acquire determinate values of dynamic properties only when measured by a classical apparatus or observed by a conscious being. Contrary to popular impression, ontic indeterminacy is not an implication of quantum theory itself, but rather of certain interpretations of quantum theory which are speculative and controversial and which enjoy no privileged status over deterministic interpretations. One recent commentator remarks, "Seventy years after the discovery of modern quantum mechanics, there is still no consensus as to how the theory should be understood" (Lockwood, 1996, p. 159). In fact, my sense is that there is a growing discontent with the received Copenhagen Interpretation and a renewed interest in deterministic interpretations of quantum theory.

More than that, however: even if we accept the received Copenhagen Interpretation, ontic indeterminacy follows only on a realist construal of that interpretation. But the orthodox Copenhagen Interpretation is notoriously anti-realist in orientation. According to Bohr, there really is no quantum world such as the theory describes. There is only an abstract quantum physical description.{9} The theory is purely instrumentalist in nature; it enables us to make accurate predictions but should not be taken as a literal description of the way the world is. Schr÷ dinger also resisted any interpretation of quantum theory which implied ontic indeterminacy. After a week of indecisive discussion with Bohr in September of 1926, Schr÷ dinger grumped, "If all this d--- quantum jumping (Quantenspringerei) were really to stay, I should be sorry I ever got involved with quantum theory!" (reported by Heisenberg, 1971, p. 75). The whole point of his famous cat was to show how intolerable a realist construal of quantum indeterminacy is by providing an illustrative means of magnifying its effects to the macroscopic world, where indeterminacy is completely counter-intuitive. He never anticipated that otherwise sensible people would actually believe that a cat exists in a superposition of states until somebody opens the chamber and looks inside. Instrumentalism with respect to quantum theory does not commit one to scientific anti-realism in general and may be justified with respect to quantum theory in light of its counter-intuitive consequences. The measurement problem illustrated by Schr÷ dinger’s cat is probably insoluble within the context of a realist construal of the Copenhagen Interpretation.{10} Therefore, an instrumentalist construal of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum theory is not at all implausible and is in line with the orthodox understanding of that interpretation.

Given, then, the availability of deterministic interpretations of quantum theory which are no more implausible than the received Copenhagen Interpretation and the plausibility of a non-realist construal of the Copenhagen Interpretation itself, I see no reason to believe that ontic indeterminacy exists and therefore no reason to prefer (PD*) over (PD).

But I recognize that this is a minority viewpoint and that it would be imprudent to stake my claim on such hotly-contested ground. Therefore, let us concede ontic indeterminacy as described in quantum theory and accept (PD*). How would this affect the kalam argument for a Personal Creator of the universe?

Vacuum Fluctuation Cosmgonic Models

What (PD*) seems to allow is that the origin of the universe may be the result of an indeterminate quantum physical transition. Now at first blush this seems absurd. If the universe began to exist, then there simply was nothing prior to the beginning. Thus, it is incoherent to speak of any sort of process or transition as a result of which the universe came into being. An absolute beginning of existence cannot be a change of any sort because there is no enduring subject whose properties change while the subject lasts from one state to the next; rather the subject with its properties just begins to exist at a certain timet.. Incredibly, however, many physicists have spoken of the origin of the universe precisely in terms of a quantum transition out of nothing. One finds frequent statements to the effect that "the universe quantum tunneled into being out of nothing," or that "nothingness is unstable" to fluctuations which grow into universes, or that "the universe is a free lunch" because in this case "we got something for nothing." If such statements were taken literally, they would be absurd because they treat nothing as though it were something, a sort of substance possessing properties and governed by the laws of quantum physics. In fact such statements turn out to be just rhetorical flourishes, which, while unfortunately misleading the public, no informed scientist takes literally. Most of these statements have reference to the quantum vacuum, which underlies all of space-time reality and is a fluctuating sea of energy. Some quantum physical models postulate the origin of our universe, not in an initial space-time singularity, but as a fluctuation in the energy of the primordial vacuum. Because the primordial vacuum is a physical state existing in space and time, such models do not envision a genuine origin of the universe out of nothing, as Kanitscheider emphasizes:

The violent microstructure of the vacuum has been used in attempts to explain the origin of the universe as a long-lived vacuum fluctuation. But some authors have connected with this legitimate speculations [sic] far-reaching metaphysical claims, or at most they couched their mathematics in a highly misleading language, when they maintained ‘the creation of the universe out of nothing’ . . . .
From the philosophical point of view it is essential to note that the foregoing is far from being a spontaneous generation of everything from naught, but the origin of that embryonic bubble is really a causal process leading from a primordial substratum with a rich physical structure to a materialized substratum of the vacuum. Admittedly this process is not deterministic, it includes that weak kind of causal dependence peculiar to every quantum mechanical process (Kanitscheider, 1990, pp. 346-7).

Now if we consider the primordial vacuum to be a state of the universe, what the proponents of such models really deny is our premiss (2), not (9). But suppose we take "universe" to refer only to that expanding matter/energy field in which we find ourselves. In that case the universe did begin to exist according to such models, and the cause of the universe was the primordial vacuum. Since the universe originates out of the vacuum via a spontaneous fluctuation of its energy, the proponent of such models will deny (9), while affirming (PD*). He will not deny (1), contrary to oft-repeated assertions that quantum physics falsifies that premiss (Post, 1991, p. 85; Oppy, 1995, pp. 240-241; Worthing, 1996, p. 50){11}, for, as Kanitscheider’s comments indicate, there are causal conditions of such quantum mechanical transitions, though they are not fully deterministic. The unique contribution of these models lies rather in their denial of a material cause of the universe. Since the positive energy associated with mass is precisely offset by the negative energy associated with gravitation, the sum total of the universe’s energy/matter is zero. This has unfortunately led to some silly statements to the effect that even now nothing exists! John Gribbin, for example, declares that in this case we got "Not something for nothing, after all, but nothing for nothing" (Gribbin, 1986, p. 374). Karl Philberth differentiates between the "interior" and "exterior" aspects of the cosmos, claiming that from the interior aspect there is existence, but from the exterior aspect there is nothingness--apparently oblivious to the self-contradiction that from the exterior aspect, in his words, "Cosmic spacetime is closed on itself" and "Objects subject one another to the collective gravitational potential" (Philberth, 1977, p. 127). What such models imply is not that nothing exists now (after all, positive and negative energy are very real!{12}), but that the universe lacked a material cause. No energy was borrowed from the vacuum to produce the universe. But, as Isham emphasizes, there is still a "need for ontic seeding" to produce the energy, even if on balance it is naught (Isham, 1994, p. 8). The primordial vacuum was the efficient cause of the origin of the universe, but not its material cause. In this sense the quantum vacuum plays a role very analogous to God in the biblical doctrine of creatio ex nihilo: it spontaneously brings the universe into being without a material cause. Accordingly, the proponent of such vacuum models will affirm that the cause of the universe is, indeed, a set of indeterministic, impersonal causal conditions, just what is needed to subvert the kalam argument for a Personal Creator.

The defender of kalam might reject such an alternative account of the causal origin of the universe on philosophical grounds. Since there cannot be an infinite regress of fluctuations, the primordial vacuum would have to be absolutely quiescent; but the quantum vacuum is the very antithesis of quiescence. Therefore, it would itself have required a cause.{13}

But to consider the theory on its scientific merits, such models turn out to be fatally flawed. For given the infinite, homogeneous past of the primordial vacuum, there is no way to determine when and where fluctuations which produce universes will occur. Thus for any point in space there is within any finite time interval a non-zero probability of a universe-generating fluctuation occurring. Given an infinite past, universes will form at every point in space and, as they expand, begin to collide and coalesce with one another. Thus, we should observe either an infinitely old universe or else "worlds in collision" with our own, which we do not. About the only way to avoid this problem is to postulate an expansion of the primordial vacuum itself, but then we must ask about its origination, and we have solved nothing. Christopher Isham has called this objection "fairly lethal" to such models and says that therefore they "have not found wide acceptance" (Isham, 1990, p. 10; idem, 1988, p. 387). They were "jettisoned twenty years ago" and "nothing much" has been done with them since (Isham, 1994, p. 8). These theories are now obsolete, having been abandoned even by their original proponents (Brout and Spindel, 1989).

It is sobering to note, however, how eagerly and uncritically these theories have been adopted by popular science writers, even long after their demise. For example, referring to the quantum vacuum as "the originating power [which] gave birth to the universe," Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry of the so-called Center for the Story of the Universe substitute for the Genesis story what amounts to a scientific mythology for our time: "In the beginning was a flashing forth of evanescent beings," particles which dissolve back "into the same night that had given them forth, into non-existence, absorbed back into that abyss, that originating and annihilating power that is the marrow of the universe" (Swimme and Berry, 1992, pp. 17, 20). In the same way Daniel Matt, a pantheist and cabalistic mystic, begins his book God and the Big Bang with the words, "In the beginning was the big bang, fifteen billion years ago. The primordial vacuum was devoid of matter, but . . . pregnant with potential . . . . Through a quantum fluctuation, . . . there emerged a sort of hot dense seed . . . containing all the mass and energy of our universe" (Matt, 1996, p. 19). The primordial vacuum does not exactly replace God. Rather "‘God’ is the name we give to the oneness of it all . . . . The entire world is God in myriad forms and disguises" (Ibid., pp. 36, 39). How God can begin to exist is not explained. Again, in the current issue of the Phi Kappa Phi magazine National Forum, J.-M. Wersinger, while acknowledging that theories of "the appearance of the universe out of the nothingness of vacuum" are "highly speculative" and "not corroborated experimentally," nevertheless touts such theories as the first milestone of "a plausible scenario for the appearance and evolution of our universe" (Wersinger, 1996, p. 15). In contrast to the standard Big Bang model, which seemed "to give in to the Judeo-Christian idea of a beginning of the world" and "also seemed to have to call for an act of supernatural creation," now "science has come up with a theory of Genesis that does not have to rely on an supernatural intervention" but "is entirely described by mechanisms rooted in the currently known laws of physics" (Wersinger, 1996, pp. 9, 15). Reading these accounts, one can only agree with Isham’s judgment that aversion to the theism seen to be implicit in Big Bang cosmology has at times led to scientific ideas--in this case, vacuum fluctuation models--being advanced with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect that psychological factors, rather than scientific evidence, is the driving force behind them (Isham, 1988, p. 378).

Such models may not, however, be entirely without worth, even to the natural theologian. Some detractors of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, such as Hume, have charged that that doctrine is incompatible with the maxim ex nihilo nihil fit (Hume, 1777, XII. iii. 132, p. 164). Of course, that is not the case, since the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo denies only a material cause of world, but insists on the presence of an efficient cause. Still, insofar as vacuum fluctuation models render it plausible that the universe lacks a material cause, they are of service to theism, since any dispute that might exist between theists and the proponents of such theories will concern only the identity of the efficient cause of the universe. There is no reason that the theist could not explain creatio ex nihilo by saying that the sum total of the matter/energy in the universe is zero and thus God in creating the universe required no material substratum. The only person I know of who has adumbrated such a position is Philberth, who holds that "the Universe is creation in the proper sense of the word: produced by the free will of a personal creator, of God, who Himself is not subject to space, time, or matter" and then proceeds to affirm, after explaining the balance of positive mass energy and negative gravitational energy, that "Matter was generated because the Creator wanted its generation; and the non-applicability of local energy conservation is nothing but the method, the mode of this generation’s realization without violation of physical laws in the cosmos" (Philberth, 1977, pp. 115, 126). Philberth does retain the empirically untenable hypothesis of a primordial, undifferentiated gas in which the universe forms, a sort of analogue of the quantum vacuum. But it must be said that any such an entity is wholly unnecessary as a material cause; the universe on such models has zero energy/matter and so borrows nothing of the Urstoff. It needs the quantum vacuum only as an (indeterministic) efficient cause. But the theist who affirms God as the Creator has no need of the vacuum and so can ascribe creation directly to God as its efficient cause.

Quantum Gravitational Models

At any rate, theoretical cosmology has, as I say, moved beyond the old vacuum fluctuation models in search of the Holy Grail of physics: a unified theory, including a quantum theory of gravitation. Such a theory will be required to describe the state of the universe prior to 10-43 sec after the Big Bang, where space-time curvature becomes so extreme that the classical General Theory of Relativity (GTR) will not apply. Since quantum effects normally dominate on such scales, gravitation will likely have to be quantized. Unfortunately, since quantum theory and gravitational theory are in their present formulations incompatible, something has got to give; and nobody knows what. As a result, the brief moment prior to the Planck time has become fertile ground for cosmological speculation.

Many theorists hope that a unified theory will serve to remove the initial cosmological singularity which characterizes classical Big Bang models. Undoubtedly the most well-known quantum gravitational model is the Hartle-Hawking model popularized by Stephen Hawking in his best-selling A Brief History of Time. Less famous, but also important, is the cosmological model of Alexander Vilenkin. Both models eliminate the initial singularity by converting the conical hyper-surface of classical space-time terminating in an initial point into a smooth, curved hyper-surface having no edge. This is accomplished by the introduction of imaginary numbers for the time variable in Einstein’s gravitational equations, which has the effect of converting time into a dimension of space. Thus, our classical space-time emerges from a four-dimensional space which Vilenkin characterizes as a "state in which all our basic notions of space, time, energy, entropy, etc., lose their meaning" (Vilenkin, 1983, p. 2851) and which Hawking describes as "completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would be neither created nor destroyed. It would just BE" (Hawking, 1988, p. 136). Here is a God-substitute worthy of the name: this Euclidean four-space is uncaused, immaterial, beginningless, and transcendent with respect to both time and space (classically conceived). It is the indeterministic cause of the origin of the universe. Yet it is not a personal agent; it is comprised of a set of impersonal causal conditions. To put it in Kanitscheider’s words, "In quite an amazing way the quantum principle came to the aid again to rescue the rationality of science of the universe from miraculousness" (Kanitscheider, 1990, p. 346).

Hawking is not at all reticent about what he sees as the theological implications of his model:

The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary . . . has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe . . . . So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end. What place, then, for a creator? (Hawking, 1988, pp. 140-141).

Not only are such models said to obviate the need of a Personal Creator in the sense envisioned by the kalam cosmological argument, but both Hartle-Hawking and Vilenkin also claim that their theories serve to explain the origin of the universe out of nothing. Hartle-Hawking interpret their equations as giving the amplitude for some three-geometry "to arise from a zero three-geometry, i.e. a single point. In other words, the ground state is the amplitude for the Universe to appear from nothing" (Hartle and Hawking, 1983, p. 2961). More recently, Hawking has claimed that on their model the universe "would quite literally be created out of nothing: not just out of the vacuum, but out of absolutely nothing at all, because there is nothing outside the universe" (Hawking and Penrose, 1996, p. 85). Similarly, Vilenkin claims that his model postulates the creation of the universe "from literally nothing" (Vilenkin, 1982, p. 26). These lofty claims, however, are easily dismissed. By "nothing" Vilenkin meant merely "a state with no classical spacetime" (Vilenkin, 1983, p. 2851). As metaphysician John Post points out, "In fact the ‘nothing’ out of which the universe tunnels in this scenario is a space, even though it is not a space-time with all the structure that that implies (Post, 1991, p. 89; cf. Isham, 1993, pp. 72-74{14}). As for Hartle-Hawking’s claim, a three-space having zero volume and subject to the laws of physics is not the same as nothing (Drees, 1987, p. 940). Moreover, since time is imaginary in the Planck region, that zero volume point exists timelessly and does not come into being. When Hawking says that there is nothing outside the universe on their model, he is forgetting the Euclidean four-sphere itself. Thus, these scenarios do not envision an origination of the universe out of nothing, but (taking "universe" to refer to classical space-time) the origination of the universe via a transition from a timelessly subsisting, Euclidean four-space into classical space-time. Given such an entity, there is no need for a Personal Creator such as is implied by the kalam cosmological argument.

In assessing these quantum gravitational models, we need to have a clear realization that their force in obviating the need for a Creator depends entirely on (i) the plausibility of a realist construal of such theories and (ii) a physically reductionistic understanding of time. With regard to the first question, one of the chief obstacles to a realistic understanding of such theories is their use of so-called imaginary time. Imaginary quantities in science are fictional, without physical significance.{15} Thus, use of such numbers is a mathematical trick or auxiliary device to arrive at physically significant quantities represented by real numbers. It makes no more sense to speak of an imaginary duration than of an imaginary length or an imaginary volume. The Euclidean four-space from which classical space-time emerges is thus a mathematical fiction, a way of modeling the early universe which should not be taken as a literal description.

One might consider profitably the analogy of the use of imaginary numbers for the time co-ordinate in the metric of Minkowski space-time, a mathematical trick which suppresses the curvature in space-time and so allows one to treat a pseudo-Euclidean four-space as a Euclidean four-space. Space-time itself, as an (ex hypothesi) objectively existing reality, is not changed by this re-description. It is still a pseudo-Euclidean four-space, but we can treat it as if it were Euclidean by using imaginary numbers for the time coordinate. The only change that occurs is on paper. As early as 1920, Sir Arthur Eddington remarked, "It is not very profitable to speculate on the implication of the mysterious factor Ö -1 (square root of negative 1), which seems to have the property of turning time into space. It can scarely be regarded as any more than an analytical device" (Eddington, 1920, p.48). Illustrations like imaginary time, he said, "certainly do not correspond to any physical reality" (Ibid., p. 281). In a similar way, Hawking’s use of imaginary numbers for the time variable allows one to redescribe a universe with an initial cosmological singularity in such a way that that point appears as a non-singular point on a curved hyper-surface. Such a re-description suppresses and also literally spatializes time, which makes evident the purely instrumental character of the model. Such a model could be of great utility to science, but it would not, as Hawking boldly asserts, eliminate the need for a Creator.

Remarkably, Hawking has recently stated explicitly that he interprets the Hartle-Hawking model non-realistically. He confesses, "I’m a positivist . . . I don’t demand that a theory conrrespond to reality because I don’t know what it is" (Hawking and Penrose, 1996, p. 121). Still more extreme, "I take the positivist viewpoint that a physical theory is just a mathematical model and that it is meaningless to ask whether it corresponds to reality" (Ibid., pp. 3-4). In assessing the worth of a theory, "All I’m concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements" (Ibid., p. 121; cf. p. 4). The clearest example of Hawking’s instrumentalism is his analysis of electron/positron pair creation in an electric field as a combination of an electron quantum tunneling in Euclidean space (with time being imaginary) and an electron/positron pair accelerating away from each other in Minkowski space-time (Ibid., pp. 53-55). This analysis is directly analogous to the Hartle-Hawking cosmological model; and yet no one would construe particle pair creation as literally the result of an electron transitioning out of a timelessly existing four-space into our classical space-time. It is just an alternative description employing imaginary numbers rather than real numbers. Ironically Hartle-Hawking stand indicted by the same charge leveled by Hawking against certain GTR theorists: "People were so pleased when they found a solution that they didn’t care that it probably had no physical significance" (Ibid., p. 3) But then what becomes of Hawking’s vaunted claim to have eliminated the need for a Creator? It turns out to have been just sensationalist, theological bunkum, which left theists wringing their hands in consternation and Hawking laughing all the way to the bank.

Now it might be said that so-called "imaginary time" just is a spatial dimension and to that extent is physically intelligible and so is to be realistically construed. Our world of three spatial dimensions plus one temporal dimension originated in a realm comprised of four spatial dimensions, one dimension of which gradually evolved into time (Hartle-Hawking model) or out of which our space and time world arose via a sort of quantum tunneling (Vilenkin model). But now the metaphysician must surely protest the reductionistic view of time which such an account presupposes. Time as it plays a role in physics is not the full-blooded notion of time known to us by experience, but is an operationally defined quantity varying from theory to theory: in the Special Theory of Relativity as a quantity defined via clock synchronization by light signals, in classical cosmology as a parameter assigned to spatial hyper-surfaces of homogeneity, in quantum cosmology as a quantity internally constructed out of the curvature variables of three-geometries. In physics time is so defined, not merely measured. But clearly these are but pale abstractions of time itself.{16} For a series of mental events alone, a succession of contents of consciousness, is sufficient to ground time itself. An unembodied consciousness which experienced a succession of mental states, say, by counting, would be temporal; that is to say, time would in such a case exist, and that wholly in the absence of any physical processes. I take this simple consideration to be a knock-down argument that time as it plays a role in physics is at best a measure of time, rather than constitutive or definitive of time. In short, Isaac Newton was correct when he distinguished between time itself and what are merely our "sensible measures thereof" (Newton, 1685, I. 8). Confirmation of this distinction comes from the further fact that physics knows nothing of the tense determinations of past, present, and future in its concept(s) of time, though such determinations are, I should argue, essential to time itself (Smith, 1993; Craig, 1994, pp. 241-43; idem, forthcoming f). Hence, even if one were to accept at face value the claim of quantum cosmological models that physical time really is imaginary prior to the Planck time, that is to say, is a spatial dimension, that fact says absolutely nothing at all about time itself. When it is said that such a regime exists timelessly, all that means is that our physical measures of time (which in physics are taken to define time) break down under such conditions. That should hardly surprise. But time itself must characterize such a regime for the simple reason that it is not static. I am astonished that quantum theorists can assert that the quantum regime is on the one hand a state of incessant activity or change and yet is on the other not characterized by time. If this is not to be incoherent, such a statement can only mean that our concepts of physical time are inapplicable on such a scale, not that time itself disappears. But if time itself characterizes the quantum regime, as it must if change is occurring, then one can regress mentally in time back along the imaginary time dimension through concentric circles on the spherical hyper-surface as they converge toward a non-singular point which represents the beginning of the universe and before which time did not exist. Hartle-Hawking themselves recognize that point as the origin of the universe in their model, as we have seen, but mistakenly identify it as nothing. In fact, how that point came into being (in metaphysical, that is, ontological time) is not even addressed by their theory.

Hence, even on a naive realist construal of such models, they at best show that that quantity which is defined as time in physics ceases at the Planck time and takes on the characteristics of what physics defines as a spatial dimension. But time itself does not begin at the Planck time, but extends all the way back to the very beginning of the universe. Such theories, if successful, thus enable us to model the origin of the universe without an initial cosmological singularity. Despite Hawking’s assertions, then, such models, by positing a finite imaginary time on a closed surface prior to the Planck time rather than an infinite time on an open surface, actually support, rather than undercut, the kalam cosmological argument. It is the doctrine of reductionism, which is a metaphysical, not a scientific issue, that the defender of the kalam argument rejects.

Thus, it seems to me that the introduction of quantum gravitational models--what Vilenkin calls exercises in "metaphysical cosmology" (Vilenkin, 1983, p. 2854)--do not at all undermine premiss (9) of the kalam cosmological argument. For their dependence on so-called imaginary time requires us either to adopt an anti-realist approach to such theories or to make explicit the untenability of any physically reductionistic construal of time. Significantly, this conclusion is not based on some scientific shortcoming of such theories --and these are, it must be confessed, legion--which might be remedied at some future date, but rather on an inherent feature of these models which is of metaphysical significance (Isham, 1992, p. 56).

Again, one can only shake one’s head in bewilderment at how uncritically popularizers of science have swallowed Hawking’s claim to have eliminated the need for a Creator. For example, an exuberant John Gribbin proclaims, "The kind of unified theories that physicists are now groping toward, and may discover (or invent) before the end of this century, ought to be able, combined with Hawking’s universe, to explain every phenomenon that ever has happened or ever could happen in the universe . . . . Hawking’s universe holds out the prospect of combining General Relativity and cosmology in one grand theory of creation . . . . There is no need to invoke miracles, or new physics, to explain where the universe came from" (Gribbin, 1986, p. 391). Thus, he solemnly declares that Hawking’s quantum cosmology spells "the end of the road for metaphysics" (Ibid., p. 392). In Gribbin’s words,

Hawking has already indicated an end, not to physics but to metaphysics. It is now possible to give a good scientific answer to the question ‘Where do we come from?’ without invoking either God or special boundary conditions for the universe at the moment of creation. As of the Vatican Conference of 1981, it is the metaphysicians who are out of a job (Ibid.).

What makes this pompous proclamation so amusing is that Hawking’s claim to have eliminated the need for a Creator rests, as we have seen, precisely on crucial metaphysical assumptions about the nature of time--assumptions which too often go unexamined.

Finally, a word should be said on behalf of the beleaguered cosmological singularity of classical Big Bang cosmology. John Barrow has rightly cautioned that "one should be wary of the fact that many of the studies of quantum cosmology are motivated by the desire to avoid an initial singularity of infinite density, so they tend to focus on quantum cosmologies that avoid a singularity at the expense of those that might contain one" (Barrow, 1994, p. 113).{17} Noting the same tendency, Roger Penrose states, "I have gradually come around to the view that it is actually misguided to ask that the space-time singularities of classical relativity should disappear when standard techniques of quantum (field) theory are applied to them" (Penrose, 1982, p. 4). For if the initial cosmological singularity is removed, then "we should have lost what seems to me to be the best chance we have of explaining the mystery of the second law of thermodynamics" (Ibid., p. 5). What Penrose has in mind is the remarkable fact that as one goes back in time the entropy of the universe steadily decreases. Just how unusual this is can be demonstrated by means of the Bekenstein-Hawking formula for the entropy of a stationary black hole. The total observed entropy of the universe is 1088. Since there are around 1080 baryons in the universe, the observed entropy per baryon must be regarded as extremely small. By contrast in a collapsing universe the entropy would be 10123 near the end. Comparison of these two numbers reveals how absurdly small 1088 is compared to what it might have been. Thus, the structure of the Big Bang must have been severely constrained in order that thermodynamics as we know it should have arisen. So how is this special initial condition to be explained? According to Penrose, we need the initial cosmological singularity, conjoined with the Weyl Curvature Hypothesis, according to which initial singularities (as opposed to final singularities) must have vanishing Weyl curvature.{18} In standard models, the Big Bang does possess vanishing Weyl curvature. The geometrical constraints on the initial geometry have the effect of producing a state of very low entropy. So the entropy in the gravitational field starts at zero at the Big Bang and gradually increases through gravitational clumping. The Weyl Curvature Hypothesis thus has the time asymmetric character necessary to explain the second law. By contrast, the Hartle-Hawking model "is very far from being an explanation of the fact that past singularities have small Weyl curvature whereas future singularities have large Weyl curvature" (Hawking and Penrose, 1996, p. 129). On Hawking’s time symmetrical theory, we should have white holes spewing out material, in contradiction to the Weyl Curvature Hypothesis, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and probably also observation (Ibid., p. 130). Penrose supplies the following figure to illustrate the difference:


Fig. 1. Contrast between the universe as we know it (assumed for convenience to be closed) with a more probable universe. In both cases the Big Crunch is a high entropy (~10123), complicated, unconstrained singularity. For the left-hand picture the Big Bang is a low entropy (< 1088), highly constrained, initial singularity, while for the right-hand picture it is an unconstrained, much more probable Big Bang. The "stalactites" represent singularities of black holes, while the "stalagmites" represent singularities of white holes.

If we remove the initial cosmological singularity, we render the Weyl Curvature Hypothesis irrelevant and "we should be back where we were in our attempts to understand the origin of the second law" (Penrose, 1982, p. 5). Could the special initial geometry have arisen sheerly by chance in the absence of a cosmic singularity? Penrose’s answer is decisive: "Had there not been any constraining principles (such as the Weyl curvature hypothesis) the Bekenstein-Hawking formula would tell as that the probability of such a ‘special’ geometry arising by chance is at least as small as about one part in 101000B(3/2) where B is the present baryon number of the universe [~1080]" (Ibid.). Thus Penrose calculates that, aiming at a manifold whose points represent the various possible initial configurations of the universe, "the accuracy of the Creator’s aim" would have to have been one part in 1010(123) in order for our universe to exist (Penrose, 1981, p. 249; cf. Hawking and Penrose, 1996, pp. 34-35). He comments, "I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010 (123)"( Penrose, 1981, p. 249).

Now this puts the detractor of a Cosmic Intelligence in an awkward dilemma. If the universe began with an initial cosmological singularity, then the kalam cosmological argument implies that since a temporal effect cannot arise from an impersonal, eternal cause, a Personal Creator of the universe therefore exists. On the other hand if one removes the initial singularity, then we are left with the inexplicable and incomprehensibly finely-tuned initial conditions of the universe, which supplies grist for the mill of the teleological argument for a Personal Designer of the universe. Take your pick.

Concluding Remarks

In conclusion, I hope to have shown the close links between the kalam cosmological argument and the teleological argument. The former provides good reason to believe that behind the existence of our universe stands a Personal Creator, whom the teleological argument shows to be also a Cosmic Designer. That the cause of the universe is a Mind is already implied by the causal impotence of the only alternative, abstract objects. The attempt of some quantum cosmologists to explain how a temporal effect could arise from an eternal cause by supplying Ersatzgötter in the form of a quantum vacuum or a Euclidean four-space ultimately misfires. Even if we concede ontic indeterminacy on the quantum level, such models fail to obviate the need for a Personal Creator due to the finitude of past (ontological) time as implied by those very models. Thus, the cause of the origin of the universe must be a transcendent Personal Agent.


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{1}The Dialogues in general are a critique of the teleological argument; the cosmological argument comes under attack in Part IX.

{2}For background and a defense of the argument, see Craig, 1979; for a debate on its cogency see Craig and Smith, 1993.

{3}This needs some qualification, since the kalam argument strictly demonstrates only that metric time had a beginning. For discussion, see Craig (forthcoming a; idem, forthcoming b).

{4}See also Mann, 1980, p. 270; Helm, 1988, pp. 64-65; Yates, 1990, pp. 173-175; Leftow, 1991, pp. 285-290. For an intriguing non-theistic analysis, see Walker, 1978, pp. 34-41.

{5}Important defenses of a non-physicalist account of mind may be found in Popper and Eccles, 1993; Swinburne, 1986; Smythies and Beloff, 1989; Foster, 1991; and Robinson, 1993.

{6}For some discussion of the two routes I mention in the text, see Shimony, 1986.

{7}For a defense of this interpretation, see Brody, 1993.

{8}For a recent review of this model, see Holland, 1993.

{9}For a discussion see Petersen, 1963.

{10}--unless, that is, one invokes God as the ultimate observer to break the measurement chain (Craig, forthcoming e).

{11}Post’s objections to a transcendent First Cause are strangely question-begging. For he begins with the assumption, "by definition the universe contains everything there is or ever was or will be" (Post, 1991, p. 85), which rules out a transcendent cause by definition! The only way to escape a vicious circle is to hold that the definition leaves open the possibility of a timeless being not in the universe. But Post never even considers such a possibility. Thus, his argument is either question-begging or unsound. He is also guilty of the non sequitur that because "the singularity cannot be caused by some earlier natural event or process," therefore "the universe has an uncaused beginning. . . . it seems contemporary physical cosmology cannot be cited in support of the idea of a divine cause or creator of the universe" (Ibid., p. 87 [my emphasis]). Not content with making this mistake once, he again states that the initial four-space in the Vilenkin model "cannot be caused by some earlier natural event or process" and therefore "talk of divine creation . . . appears to contradict physical accounts according to which the universe has an uncaused beginning via tunneling from literally nothing. It is not easy to make friends of science and religion" (Ibid., pp. 89, 91 [my emphasis]). Perhaps it would help if they were introduced to each other by logic.

Kanitscheider’s own remarks on this head are curiously inconsistent. On the one hand he doggedly insists that if the universe began to exist in a singularity, "the only inescapable conclusion would be the existence of an absolute zero of time. Nothing could be read into this formula beyond physics. An absolute zero of time would transcend just as little the realm of naturalistic ontology as the existence of an absolute zero of temperature does" (Kanitscheider, 1990, p. 344); this despite the fact that "If taken seriously, the initial singularity is in head-on collision with the most successful ontological commitment that was a guiding line of research since Epicurius and Lucretius," viz., out of nothing nothing comes, which Kanitscheider calls "a metaphysical hypothesis which has proved so fruitful in every corner of science that we are surely well-advised to try as hard as we can to eschew processes of absolute origin" (Ibid.). Contra Kanitschieder, the crucial disanalogy between an absolute zero of temperature and of time is that only in the case of the latter is it a matter of something’s coming into being out of nothing. This is in such violation of the metaphysical principle extolled by Kanitscheider that it propels us beyond physics and the realm of naturalistic ontology. Funnily enough, Kanitscheider’s exposition of the standard model actually refutes the uninformed assertion of Mario Bunge that "the model assumes explicitly that the universe existed prior to that time" at which the expansion started (Bunge, 1985, p. 238); Bunge thinks that otherwise "it would be unscientific, for science abides by the principles that nothing comes out of nothing or turns into nothingness . . . and that everything happens according to law rather than miracles" (Ibid., p. 239). Kanitscheider says, "This principle seems to be self-evident from common sense knowledge and it has been defended in a long philosophical tradition" (Kanitscheider, 1990, p. 345). But that is true only of the first principle enunciated by Bunge; Kanitscheider just ignores the long philosophical tradition which has shown the vacuousness of arguments against the impossibility of miracles and freedom of the will. When Bunge belatedly remonstrates, "Natural theology cannot be revived at this late date" (Bunge, 1985, p. 239) and Kanitscheider mistakenly asserts that the singularity "cannot have a cause of any kind," not even a supernatural cause, so that there is "no help in natural theology," (Kanitscheider, 1990, p. 345), then it is evident that the force driving their conclusions is fear of the bogeyman of natural theology.

{12}See the quite sensible remarks by Drees, 1991, p. 70. Unfortunately Drees does not distinguish clearly efficient causation from material causation in his critique of the kalam argument. Indeed, what he says supports the kalam argument by showing that what is required for creatio ex nihilo is an efficient, not a material, cause.

{13}See the related discussion in Craig, 1991.

{14}Contra Smith who in Craig and Smith, 1993, pp. 301-302, imagines two Vilenkin models despite Vilenkin’s explicit statements to the contrary in Vilenkin, 1983, p. 2849; idem, 1988, p. 888.

{15}In the case of quantum mechanics, for example, "the state victor in the Schrödinger equation is not a physical magnitude, for it is an imaginary function and such functions do not represent real physical magnitudes" (Liu, 1993, p. 622). Liu contends that in the mature theory of quantum gravity a fundamental arrow of time will obtain.

{16}See the interesting lecture by Rovelli, 1993, p. 17, where he lists eight properties of time as characterized in natural language and compares the concepts of time found in thermodynamics, STR, GTR, and so forth; time as it is defined in quantum gravity has none of the properties usually associated with time. Cf. Isham, 1992, pp. 17-19, who describes ten different definitions of time in quantum gravity alone.

{17}Elsewhere Barrow observes that the singularities which GTR renders inevitable do not require infinite density and temperature and that if, in fact, they do not possess these properties, then quantum gravity will not save us from their reality (Basrrow, 1988, p. 310).

{18}Weyl curvature is the curvature of space-time which is not due to the presence of matter and is described by the Weyl tensor. Space-time curvature due to matter is described by the Einstein tensor. Together they make up the Riemann tensor giving the metric for space-time.