I had a reader send me this article over at the Strange Notions blog with a request that I put a comment in given the work I’ve done providing a counter argument to the Kalam.
find that the article brings up some good points on the theistic side
to address objections from quantum mechanics, but it leaves out key
points that would count most strongly against the Kalam.
there isn’t a direct difference laid out between efficient causation and
material causation, the difference is effectively discussed, but it’s
not made clear.
What we have in quantum mechanics is what
appears to be an effect without an efficient cause. One can argue that
there are interpretations of QM that will provide us with efficient
causes for these effects, but the standard view currently is that these
effects lack an efficient cause.
Given that the Kalam wants to
argue that the universe has an efficient, but not a material cause, this
is a fairly significant point that shouldn’t be understated.
Trent rightfully points out is that even if these QM events lack an
efficient cause, it’s not “something coming from nothing”, which he
calls the main intuitive support for Premise 1. What this is pointing
out is that we don’t have something coming beginning to exist without a
Combine this with the common interpretations of
QM, and we find intuitive and evidential support for the idea that we
can have things begin to exist with an “efficient and material cause” or
“just a material cause”, but never any cases where we have just an
efficient cause. This is again a very strong point against the Kalam,
since it supports the idea that “something material has always existed”.
line of thought brings us into premise two of the Kalam, which isn’t
really at issue here, so I won’t say much more than there is absolutely
no evidence that all of material reality was preceded by a state of
“absolute nothingness” in cosmology or philosophy. The most we could say
is "we don't know what happened before the first Planck second in the
But let’s get back to this issue of “something can’t
come from nothing” since it’s another point where I think counts very
strongly against the theist.
The idea that “something can’t come
from nothing” is typically supported by the idea that “we don’t see
things just popping into existence from nothing”. The QM objection that
Trent is addressing here tries to challenge this notion, which he
rebuffs by pointing out that “the quantum vacuum is not nothing”.
in doing this, Trent undermines the only support he has for the premise
that “something can’t come from nothing”. How does one know “something
can’t come from nothing”? Trent cannot appeal to the common experience
we have of things not just popping into existence, since he’s rightly
pointed out that when we DO see things popping into existence from
“seemingly nothing”, it’s not really the “nothing” he’s talking about in
the context of the Kalam.
Let’s pretend that “something could
come from nothing”, this notion is no longer problematic or at odds with
our common experience, because we have absolutely no experience with
the kind of “nothing” in question. This all boils down to how one
defines “nothing”, and the definition required by proponents of the
Kalam gives us a version of “nothing” that we have absolutely no
experience with that we have very good reasons for doubting that a state
of this kind of “nothing” could exist in the first place (the First Law
of Thermodynamics says hi).
When it comes to cosmological
arguments, atheists are generally left with the idea that “something
material has always existed” or “something actually can come from
nothing”. While I personally hold to the former, the apologist answer
to the QM objection shows that the latter could very well be a live
option simply because “something coming from nothing” doesn’t contradict
any of our common experience.