Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cause, Effect and the Cosmos

James at Just Thomism writes a brief review of Sean Carroll’s refutation of William Lane Craig’s version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument by focusing on this passage by Carroll:

Why should we expect that there are causes or explanations or a reason why in the universe in which we live? It’s because the physical world inside of which we’re embedded has two important features. There are unbreakable patterns, laws of physics—things don’t just happen, they obey the laws—and there is an arrow of time stretching from the past to the future…. But crucially, both of these features of the universe that allow us to speak the language of causes and effects are completely absent when we talk about the universe as a whole. We don’t think that our universe is part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws. Even if it’s part of the multiverse, the multiverse is not part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws. Therefore, nothing gives us the right to demand some kind of external cause.

I have no comment at the moment on James’ review, but I look forward to reading more of his posts. He’s a self-described “Catholic Thomist”, and he appears to be a thoughtful guy, although I’m mystified that people still follow medieval theology.

My immediate interest is solely Carroll’s thought:

nothing gives us the right to demand some kind of external cause

It raises the more general question: “what right do we have to think the universe should conform to our expectations?” When I consider existence in this way, it reinforces the thought that only by observing patterns in the world can we make sense of the world. It is an empirical approach to the cosmos that will help us understand it.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for mystery, faith or magical thinking in the world - tens of billions of people have survived by the seat of their pants. But when you ask life’s “deeper questions” - mystery, faith and magical thinking will not get you in line with the cosmos that you observe.

So start paying attention to the world.

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