Photo by Kirk Durston Of particular interest to me, in the thoughtful and collegial debate between Sean Carroll and William Craig, was Carroll’s response to Craig’s cosmological argument. This is the first of a series of posts reflecting upon various points Carroll made.

Carroll states at the outset that he believes naturalism is true, which he defines as ‘all that exists is one world, the natural world, obeying laws of nature which science can help us discover.’ Working within that belief, he happily grants that ‘within the physical world inside of which we are imbedded,’ causal relationships exist because things obey the laws of physics and the arrow of time permits a causal account.

When we speak of the universe/multiverse as a whole, however, he asserts physical reality is ‘not part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws.’ (By ‘laws’ I understand him to be referring to laws of physics.) He summarizes his position by stating, ‘… nothing gives us the right to demand some kind of external cause.’

In reflecting upon this, three things come to mind.

First: His naturalistic belief that the universe/multiverse is the sum total of reality, a priori rules out any possibility of a cause for physical reality by definition. This is always a risky thing to do and amounts to simply asserting a conclusion with no supporting argument. In a subsequent post, I will argue that there is rational justification for the belief that there is more to reality than nature.

Second: He states that, if we have a complete model that describes physical reality then ‘we have no right to demand more’. Would not rational inquiry be sufficient to justify at least asking why physical reality exists? Defining the universe as ‘all that exists’ seems to be a rational inquiry stopper. Perhaps it is a bit too strong to hold that we have a ‘right to demand’ answers but, surely, curiosity and rational inquiry are good things that justify asking if there is more than mere physical reality that might account for the origin of nature.

Finally: I am not so sure that the causal principle is a result of physical interactions. Rather, it may be the case that physical interactions are founded upon the causal principle. The laws of nature, which are independent of space, time, matter and energy, exercise a causal relationship upon the interaction of space, time, matter and energy. Thus, the laws of physics require the causal principle in order to work; the causal principle does not arise out of the laws of physics. Furthermore, the causal principle appears to be deeper than nature, being fundamental to logic for deductive inference; there is a causal explanation for the conclusion if the argument is valid, with antecedent causes determining logical conclusions. Similarly, the causal principle is essential to mathematics where the right side of the equation is the explanation for the left side, and the left side follows deterministically from the right. Thus, the causal principle seems to provide a basis for the laws of physics, mathematics and logic …. it must be antecedent to these things for them to work.

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