1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning to exist).
2. Causal reality began to exist.
3. Therefore, causal reality has a cause (of its beginning to exist).
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning to exist)
2. Natural reality began to exist.
3. Therefore, natural reality has a cause (of its beginning to exist)
Compare with the following lecture by Vilenkin:
Implicit in Oppy's argument is the subtle naturalistic assumption that the causal reality and the natural reality are co-extensive or metaphysically equivalent, and hence what is valid to one is valid to the other. This question-begging assumption has to be exposed and rejected.
But even independently of the kalam argument, we cannot jump to the conclusion that the causal reality is co-extensive with the natural reality, and that what applies to one also applies to the other, for at least two reasons:
Can you see the asymmetry between the causal reality and the natural reality? Can you see why you can address them as symmetrical only if, implicitly, you assume that the causal reality is co-extensive or metaphysically equivalent with the natural reality (and hence, begging the question against theism)? Drop this assumption, and you can only claim that the natural reality began to exist, but you cannot say the same regarding the causal reality, because at best it is still an open question if such reality is co-extensive or not with the natural reality (and at worst, given the kalam argument and other evidence for theism, such co-extension is simply false).
Does Oppy's purely speculative supposition pass his own criterion of sucessful argument? I think it doesn't.
Nobel prize winner (by his work on the evidence for the Big Bang) Arno Penzias comments:
According to Paul Davies:
And no atheist is in position to quote just ONE proven scientific example of something coming into being uncaused from absolutely nothing (non-being).
It suggests, in passing, that many of Oppy's "perhaps" speculations (like the quiescent universe, or the universe not being co-extensive with the natural reality) are not successful arguments according to his own criterion, because given their speculative character they ought not to persuade reasonable people. In any case, such speculations are more weak and empirically unsupported than the premises of the kalam argument.
-It follows that the universe has a cause
If such strong a priori commitment to naturalism overrrides even an empirically verifiable and public miracle like the one mentioned by Smart, then clearly no possible evidence or argument will be good enough to refute such conviction.
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and wellinformed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning, and design as fundamental features of the world (The Last Word, p.130)
Even though in my humble opinion, Oppy is far more brilliant, competent and able philosopher than Smart and Nagel (and I consider Nagel and Smart to be heavyweights among naturalists), Oppy himself seems to be at times extremely close-minded regarding the possibility of having reasonable conclusive evidence supporting theism over atheism.
In his book Arguing about Gods, Oppy says:
even if it were conceded that the parting of the Red Sea occurred, it is not clear that the parting of the Red Sea demands a supernatural explanation; and, more important, even if the parting of the Red Sea does demand a supernatural explanation, it is not clear that the best supernatural explanation is to suppose that it is the result of the actions of an orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god (p.377)
Does professor Oppy really think that if the parting of the Red Sea actually occurred, a purely natural explanation of that event is more plausible than a supernatural, God-caused, one? If so, then what evidence could convince, reasonably, an open-minded atheist that God exists? What evidence would reasonably falsify atheism? If the absolute beginning of the universe is invoked, atheists will prefer to believe that "nothingness" is a better explanation. If the fine tuning is argued, they will appeal to mere cosmic accidents or hypothetical multi-verses. Even if the parting of the Red Sea were an historical event, atheists, following Oppy's suggestion, will have a way out... if all of this fails, then (following Smart), atheists will prefer to believe that they're crazy in order to avoid accepting that God exists.
I think the answer is clear, given the confessions of leading naturalists like Nagel and Smart (and, to my dissapoinment, like Oppy too).