Can the Universe “begin to exist” without a cause?

Reasons given for answering "No"
  • Whatever “begins to exist” has a cause

      For any entity x, if x “begins to exist,” then x has a cause.1 (Similarly, see every event has a cause. This is relevant, of course, because the Universe is an existing thing/entity.

      1. This should allegedly be granted because it is so intuitive. In fact, Craig says any argument for it is apt to be less obvious than the principle itself. (He sympathetically cites:

        C. D. Broad: “…I can not really believe in anything beginning to exist without being caused…. [I] find it impossible to give up the principle…” [“Kant’s Mathematical Antinomies”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 55 (1955): 9-10.]).
        By way of response, however, Craig needs to do more to defend this premise. After all, his analysis of "begins to exist" is a bit more metaphysically loaded than a premise like “every event has a cause”; Craig's premise not clearly what Broad had in mind in the quote above. To elaborate:
        (a) Given Craig's analysis, the causal-principle depends on a controversial theory of temporal becoming called 'presentism'. The view is very intuitive, but it plausibly needs to be argued for more frequently since it is rejected by most scientists, in virtue of conflicting with the traditional 4-dimensionalist view of time (which is allegedly supported by Relativity theory[3]). This has lead some philosophers like Graham Oppy to complain that we don't ‘intuit’ Craig's notion of “begin to exist” (See his Arguing about Gods(Cambridge, 2009), 150.) [Side-note: I suspect that most of Craig's debate proponents would have hammered Craig on this assumption if they had realized it was knit in to his analysis of begins-to-exist; I predict ithis will be a future source of criticism as the fact becomes more popularized.]
        (b) Given Craig's analysis, the premise might also require defending Suarez's theory of causation, which is very controversial and not clearly intuitive (See Rutger philosopher Christopher Weaver's highlighting of this possible deficiency in Craig's argument here). If this argument does require a Suarezian theory of causation, then some might prefer a less demanding Kalam like this one.

      2. The Einsteinian interpretation of Relativity theory is incompatible with Craig's view. However, the arguments for the widely-accepted Einstein interpretation are historically grounded in an old tradition of overturned verificationist assumptions. Craig therefore defends a neo-Lorentizian view of time, which is empirically equivalent to Einstein's; e.g. "[Relativity theory] can be interpreted along the lines advocated by H. A. Lorentz as a theory about the behavior of clocks and rods in motion" [Time and Eternity (Crossway, 2001), 239.]. Elsewhere, Craig and Sinclair write "One could harmonize the A-Theory and relativity theory in at least three different ways: (1) distinguish metaphysical time from physical or clock time and maintain that while the former is A-Theoretic in nature, the latter is a bare abstraction therefrom, useful for scientific purposes and quite possibly B-Theoretic in character, the element of becoming having been abstracted out; (2) relativize becoming to reference frames, just as is done with simultaneity; and (3) select a privileged reference frame to define the time in which objective becoming occurs, most plausibly the cosmic time, which serves as the time parameter for hypersurfaces of homogeneity in space-time in the General Theory of Relativity." [The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell, 2009), 113.] An alternative Newtonian view of time that a defender of this argument could take up has also recently been articulated by Dean Zimmerman (“The A-Theory of Time, The B-Theory of Time, and ‘Taking Tense Seriously’” Dialectica Vol 59. N. 4 (2005):401-457.) Among other things, he explains that Special Relativity is false and notes that "the difficulties squaring [General Relativity ] with quantum theory throw its status into question as well; and a successor theory uniting gravity and quantum theory holds out even more hope for the presentist who is looking for a physically privileged foliation”.
  • Existence “after” non-existence is incoherent

      If something can come from nothing, then non-existence can be “followed by” existence. This is relevant because non-existence being “followed by” existence is straightforwardly impossible.1

      1. David Oderberg: “[The words ‘followed by’ here] cannot mean is that there is at one time nothing and at a subsequent time something, because the nonexistence of anything is supposed to include time: to say that at one time there is nothing whatsoever is self-defeating because it is to say that there is a time at which nothing exists — hence something did exist. But it is hard to see how else we are supposed to understand ‘followed by’; or when the denier of the causal principle says that it is possible for something to come from nothing what are we to understand by “from”? Again it cannot have a causal sense because something is supposed to have come into existence uncaused. All that appears to be left is a timeless contradiction — the existence of nothing and the existence of something.” [“Traversal of the Infinite, the 'Big Bang' and the Kalam Cosmological Argument.” Philosophia Christi 4 (2002): 305-36.]
  • TOGGLE MENU