Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Tactical Faith will live-stream the responses to the Craig-Carroll debate on Saturday

The schedule of events for Saturday is on the Greer-Heard web site.

Saturday, Feb. 22nd, 2014 schedule: (ALL TIMES CENTRAL)

9:00 a.m. Tim Maudlin, ”Cosmology, Theology and Meaning”

10:00 a.m. Robin Collins, “God and the Fine-tuning of the Universe for Discovery”

11:00 a.m. Lunch (New Orleans Style Red Beans & Rice) Cafeteria

12:30 p.m. Alex Rosenberg, “How Physics Fakes Design, and Makes Things Difficult for Theism”

1:30 p.m. James Sinclair, “Cosmology and Cosmologists Within the ‘Does God Exist’ Question”

2:30 p.m. Concluding Comments from Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig

For Eastern times, add an hour.

Click here for the the live-stream. Note: You have to click on this link and go back to the main page each time a response ends, because the youtube link is different for each response.

Is there a recording?

I do have a recording of last night’s debates, but I’m not posting it unless I get permission.

Quick thoughts on the debate:

Carroll was as good of a speaker as Craig in terms of style. Very easy to listen to, very quick on his feet, very civil. There was no clear winner on style.

It was difficult to assess the truth value of scientific points being made, especially for the layperson. I explained a few of them in my posts earlier this week, but I think laypeople might struggle with them if they are hearing about these things for the first time.

A couple of Craig’s slides: (click for larger images)

Slide 1 of 2:

Dr. Craig slide #1 of 2

Dr. Craig slide #1 of 2

Slide 2 of 2:

Dr. Craig slide #2 of 2

Dr. Craig slide #2 of 2

Quick summary: (this is not complete, because I couldn’t get everything they were saying noted)

Dr. Craig defended two arguments: 1) the kalam cosmological argument and the fine-tuning argument.

Dr. Craig supported the origin of the universe with 1) the expansion of the universe and 2) the second law of thermodynamics.

Dr. Craig said that the BGV theorem supports a beginning for the universe.

Dr. Craig said that the consensus of scientists did not accept Carroll’s naturalistic cosmology, quoting Stephen Hawking in support.

Dr. Craig said that multiverse models fall victim to the Boltzmann brain problem, where we should observe Boltzmann brains coming into existence and then phasing out again far more probably than embodied minds. But we observe embodied minds, and no Boltzmann brains.

Dr. Carroll said that science cannot study metaphysical questions.

Dr. Carroll said that science is about making models that may or may not be consistent with the experimental data.

Dr. Carroll said that the BGV theorem does not support a beginning for the universe.

Dr. Carroll proposed 17 alternative cosmologies, but did not provide a shred of scientific evidence for any of them, the way that Craig did for the standard model.

Dr. Carroll refuted Dr. Craig’s citation of Stephen Hawking, and Craig yielded the point.

Dr. Carroll speculated that science might progress to the point where the fine-tuning can be explained without an intelligent cause, and he gave an example of where that happened (inflation).

Dr. Craig argued that all 17 of the models suggested by Carroll either conflicted with evidence, had serious problems or did require a beginning.

Dr. Craig argued that Carroll’s own model required a beginning.

Dr. Craig argued that Carroll’s own model fell victim to the Boltzmann brain problem.

Dr. Craig argued that Carroll’s own model violated the second law of thermodynamics.

Dr. Craig re-stated his point that the baby universe spawning in Carroll’s model was speculative and incomplete, and cited Christopher Weaver’s work.

Dr. Carroll denied that things that pop into being out of nothing require a transcendent cause.

Dr. Carroll reiterated that science can only make naturalistic models, and that he did not have to answer questions about ultimate causes.

Dr. Carroll showed a photo of Alan Guth expressing his opinion that the universe is “probably” eternal. No evidence was given for this assertion.

Dr. Carroll said that the fine-tuning was not done in an optimal way, because one fine-tuned value was lower than it needed to be, and it should be exactly what it needed to be if God did it.

Dr. Carroll said that a finely-tuned universe is more probably in naturalism than in theism, because God can do anything he wants and doesn’t need a fine-tuned universe.

Dr. Carroll said he would stop defending his model now, and would instead defend Aguirre-Gratton.

Dr. Craig gave three reasons why the universe popping into being out of nothing requires a transcendent cause.

First, he said that nothing cannot cause anything to happen, because nothing is nothing.

Second, he said that if things pop into being out of nothing, then why don’t we see it happening all the time with other things.

Third, he said that we have no reason to dismiss the causal principle, especially when it is the basis of scientific inquiry and has been so fruitful in the progress of science.

Dr. Craig reiterated that baby universes in Carroll’s model would be dominated by Boltzmann brains, and we don’t observe that.

Dr. Craig said that even on the quantum gravity models that Carroll mentioned, there would still be a beginning.

Dr. Carroll said that Craig mustn’t say “popped into being” but instead that “there was a first moment of time”.

Dr. Carroll said that his model does indeed violate the second law of thermodynamics “YES!”.

At this point Carroll stopped talking about the topic of the debate and started expressing personal opinions about religion. It’s funny how often atheists do this in debates.

Dr. Carroll said that most theists don’t believe in God because of cosmology, but because of community and feelings.

Dr. Carroll said that science had learned a lot in the last 2000 years, so theism was false.

Dr. Carroll said that most philosophers don’t think that God exists, so theism was false.

Dr. Carroll said microscopes and telescopes were absent 2000 years ago, so theism was false.

Dr. Carroll said that religion should be about community and feelings, not about what is true.

Conclusion:

My conclusion was that Carroll lost because he is just satisfied to throw theories out and not to argue that they are true by citing evidence. Carroll never seemed to be interested in finding out what is true, but instead he just wanted to tell a story that didn’t include God, and assert that by Occam’s Razor, his story was a better explanation. I am not impressed with theoretical speculations, although the layperson might be. I kept waiting for him to respond to Craig’s points about how his model was falsified by experimental evidence and observations, e.g. – the Boltzmann brains or the baby universe generation, and he never cited the evidence I wanted him to cite. Craig did have some evidence for his views, but he could have been stronger in making his case. He could have shown the e-mail from Vilenkin that stated that he had understood the BGV theorem, and was using it correctly, for example.

For me the winning side comes down to evidence. The standard model is the standard model because of scientific evidence. Until that evidence is overturned, then speculative models are of no interest to anyone who is evidence-driven. Speculations are not science. A philosophical presupposition of metaphysical naturalism is not science.

The nice thing is that Robin Collins, one of Craig’s respondents, went deep into the science of the fine-tuning, especially on one of my favorite data points, the cosmic microwave background radiation. The paper he presented is now posted on his web site (H/T Christian Apologetics Alliance). I posted about the CMBR before in my post about particle physicist Michael Strauss lecture on cosmology and fine-tuning at Stanford University and the his more recent lecture at the University of Texas. Note that Strauss is an experimental physicist, not a theoretical physicist like Carroll.

Unfortunately, naturalistic respondent Tim Maudlin said nothing at all of value, choosing to use his time to speak about the evils of the coal industry and the threat of global warming, despite the fact that the IPCC says there has been no significant global warming in the past 17 years.

The last two respondents have started speaking. I’m expecting the philosopher Alex Rosenberg to stay away from the science, and then we’ll hear from the experimental scientist James Sinclair. Rosenberg spoke on Darwinian evoloution being incompatible with theism, and it was interesting, but off topic for this debate. James Sinclair is speaking now, and is giving a technical paper on cosmology.

I may be posting a more accurate summary sometime next week, especially if they release either the audio or the video. If not, this will be it.

UPDATE: here’s another review by Randy Everist of Possible Worlds blog. He explains the back-and-forth over Boltzmann brains and the BGV theorem in more detail.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22 Responses

  1. Mike Spivey says:

    Many thanks for the summary, WK!

  2. matt says:

    Do you know if the debate is availlable already to hear or watch online? Thanks.

  3. Brad says:

    Great Job Wintery. Thanks for your hard work here.

    Was there anything that was brought up on the Anti-theist side that was surprising or difficult to refute? What, in your opinion, was their best point? (I’m asking regarding the entire conference.)

    That was the first time I’d heard the Robin Collin’s argument for the fine tuning of scientific discovery. This was parallel to the Privileged Planet argument regarding Cosmological discovery. What do you make of this argument? I didn’t get to see how that was received. I had to leave shortly after.

    Thanks!

    • Well, Dr. Craig says that Collins has two books coming out on this, and in his speech he mentioned that he was able to find habitability / discoverability connections for several of the constants / quantities.

      The best point made made by the other side? I actually thought that Rosenberg’s Darwinian argument sounded interesting because he was trying to ground the randomness of it in science, but it was off topic for this debate. He was a billion times better this time as a speaker than last time. I was riveted by his speech from start to finish.

      As far as the best point for the atheists related to the discussion, I couldn’t pick a single thing that was put forward against Craig that bothered me that I thought “Craig is doomed”. That happened OVER AND OVER in the Millican debate, where I was like “Damn, Craig, Millican has you now – again!” And Craig had to scramble to fit in all his responses. There was nothing like that in this debate.

      I think it’s because I have a bias against speculations. I just don’t care what models a person can put on paper, I only care if they have evidence.

  4. Robby says:

    Hey Wintery, do you know who “Page” is in reference to one of the (I’m assuming) cosmologists/physicists that Dr. Craig mentioned in his power point? The last name sounds familiar but it’s so generic I’m having trouble finding anything on him/her

  5. […] debate is over. And I still need to go back and watch it. I have found a couple of reviews here. One is from Wintery Knight while the other is at The Possible Worlds […]

  6. […] commentary on the Craig/Carroll debate, check out Wintery Knight and Randy Everist’s […]

  7. The Thinker says:

    Funny how we all see things differently. I thought Carroll won because Craig just kept repeating his opening remarks and never addressed many of the points Carroll made.

  8. Jack Spell says:

    Firstly, keep in mind that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the universe does not satisfy the *only* necessary condition of BVG (Hav > 0), provided that we average H over the time from the end of the Planck epoch (t = 10^-43) up to the present (more specifically: for the temporal interval t* comprising the duration of continual time t > t = 10^-43, then: Hav[t*] > 0). On the other hand, we absolutely do have strong empirical evidence that corroborates Hav[t*] > 0. As Vilenkin affirmed, *all* of the evidence we have suggests this. It should be realized that nothing in this paragraph should be controversial. Everyone, Sean Carroll included, should agree that our universe has most certainly been, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion ***subsequent to t = 10^-43***. I want to make my point clear: insofar as we are talking about the average Hubble rate of the time *since* the Planck epoch, BVG is without a doubt satisfied. This is exactly what WLC has always argued; it wasn’t as though he was ignorant of the possible loopholes! That is why Guth does not in any way undermine his understanding of BVG by making the claim that the universe might be eternal. No, the real question is, How realistic are those purported loopholes?

    Dr. Carroll, like so many others, enjoys appealing to quantum mechanics in order to avoid the impending force brought on by the inevitable implications of BVG. In vacuum fluctuation models, the expanding universe is merely one of an indefinite number of mini-universes comprising the greater Universe-as-a-whole. Thus, the beginning of our universe doesn’t really represent an absolute beginning, but merely a change in the eternal, uncaused Universe-as-a-whole. However, these models face a deep internal incoherence: according to such models, it is impossible to specify precisely when and where a fluctuation will occur in the primordial vacuum which will then grow into a mini-universe. Within any *finite* interval of time there is a some non-zero probability of such a fluctuation occurring at any point in space. Thus, given *infinite* past time, mini-universes will eventually be spawned at every point in the primordial vacuum, and, as they expand, they will begin to collide and coalesce with one another. Therefore, given infinite past time, we should by now be observing an infinitely old universe, not a relatively young one. As WLC stated in the debate, if the vacuum were sufficient to produce the universe, it would have done it infinitely-long-ago.

    Moreover, contrary to what Dr. Carroll asserted throughout the debate, what’s crucial for naturalism isn’t to be found in any assessment of the merits of a *particular* cosmogonic model. Rather, the really relevant issue lies at a much broader, more fundamental level: naturalism necessarily must invoke *only* material entities and mechanical processes to explain the data; the spatiotemporal realm, on naturalism, is all that exists. Thus, it is absolutely foundational for naturalism to explain how an eternally existing set of necessary and sufficient *mechanical* conditions, could give rise to a temporal effect. In other words, it must answer the question, How could the cause of the universe exist from *eternity* past, and yet, the universe only begin to exist a *finite* time ago? You see, if the causal conditions that are sufficient to produce the effect are in place, then, so too should be the effect!

    It’s easy to see this fact with a simple illustration: the necessary and sufficient conditions to account for water’s freezing is sub-zero temperature; if the temperature is sub-zero, then any water around will necessarily be frozen. Now think about this: If the temperature were sub-zero ***from eternity past***, wouldn’t any water that was around be *eternally* frozen? Would it not be impossible for the water to *begin* to freeze merely a finite time ago? Indeed, how could causally sufficient mechanical conditions (sub-zero temp.) for the production of an effect (water’s freezing) be eternally in place, and yet, the effect not be co-eternal with the cause? How can the cause exist without its effect?

    Another way of seeing the severity of this dilemma is by reflecting on the different types of causation. For instance, there is what philosophers call “state/state causation”: the effect is some state of affairs (e.g., a ceiling fan rotating with constant angular velocity) produced by some other state of affairs (e.g., the switch being in the “on” position). In contrast, we have what’s known as “event/event causation”: the effect comes in the form of some event (e.g., the rotational motion of the fan undergoes a constant rate of deceleration until its angular velocity reaches zero. In other, simpler words: it stops.) which is caused by some other event (e.g., my Wife’s excercising her causal powers to alter the position of the switch from the “on” to the “off” position). The significance here is that in the former type, the cause/effect relationship between the two states could exist eternally; if the switch is eternally in the “on” position, then the fan will eternally rotate at a constant rate.

    However, in the case of the origin of the universe we have a peculiar case of what appears to be “state/event causation.” Namely, the effect that we are trying to explain is the origin of the universe (an event); but given the fact that nothing in the spatiotemporal realm existed prior to that first moment, what follows is that it’s logically impossible for whatever ultimately produced our universe to be, itself, also an event. How so? Because events, by their very nature, must have a temporal connotation — an “event” is an occurance; an instance of *something*. Thus, if *nothing* existed — no space, time, matter, or energy — then there could not have been any events. Moreover, since the universe’s coming into being at t = 0 simply is the *first* spatiotemporal event, it follows logically that there can be no time t* prior to t = 0 at which an event occurs. Therefore, the dilemma confronted is the need to provide a plausible account of how a past-eternal state of affairs, could give rise to a first, temporal event; in what intelligible way can naturalism account for state/event causation?

    While this dilemma is fatal for naturalism, it is no dilemma at all for theism. The contrast here is due to the fact that theism has at its disposal the explanatory resource of “agent causation.” You see, the only way in which a temporal effect could originate from an eternal, changeless cause would seem to be if the cause is a personal agent who eternally chooses to create an effect in time. A changeless, mechanically operating cause would produce either an immemorial effect or none at all; but an agent endowed with free will can have an eternal determination to operate causally at a (first) moment of time and thereby to produce a temporally first effect. Therefore, the universe is plausibly regarded to be the product of a Personal Creator, who I happen to call “God.”

  9. Scott says:

    A belated comment pointing to a recent blogpost by Edward Feser critiquing Carroll’s views on causation.

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