Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reply to Professor Graham Oppy's response to my article on the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the criterion of successful argumentation


In my previous post, I argued as my main contention that the Kalam Cosmological Argument meets professor Graham Oppy's criterion of a successful argument, which implies that such argument OUGHT to be accepted by reasonable people (regardless of whether such people are actually, as a matter of fact, psychologically persuaded or not by the argument). Oppy's criterion is normative and epistemological, not psychological.

Let's not conflate psychology (a matter of fact about our beliefs) with epistemology (which has normative dimensions about what we "ought" to believe).

Professor Oppy has kindly replied to my post in this article on the Secular Web blog. Being a sophisticated and serious philosopher, Oppy's remarks are, as always, thoughtful and insightful, and many interesting comments could be add to his discussion. In this post, I'll try to show that Oppy's remarks are largely irrelevant or unproblematic for the success of the kalam argument.

Before commenting on Professor Oppy's comments, let's first to remind the readers that the kalam argument is a valid deductive argument which says:

1-Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning of existence)

2-The universe began to exist

3-Therefore, the universe has a cause (of its beginning of existence).

Being a valid deductive argument means that if its premises are true, the conclusion must true too. It doesn't matter if you don't like the conclusion, or if you have other objections against theism, or if you strongly believe in naturalism. Provided the argument is sound (with premises more plausibly true than their negations), the conclusion must be true. Everything else are red herrings.

Now, let's comment on professor Oppy's reply:

1-He asks "Two immediate questions to ask when we come to assess it: (a) What lies in the scope of the quantifier in (1)? (b) What exactly do we mean by "the universe"?"

Regarding question (a), I think the answer is that the principle applies universally to whatever begins to exist or comes into being.  Tecnically, the first premise of the Kalam Argument is universally quantified sentence, which we could analyze in the following conditional form:

"For any x, if x began to exist, then x has a cause".

The proposition in question predicates the property "being caused" or "having a cause" of every thing which begins to exist or comes into being. So, the principle is an universally quantified sentence.

Regarding question (b), by "universe" it is meant the whole of PHYSICAL reality (i.e. the whole of matter, energy, space-time, and the physical laws operating in the universe) as understood by contemporary physics. (This definition of the unvierse excludes non-physical entities like abstract objects and supernatural entities like God or immaterial souls). I think most naturalists would agree with this definition and find it unproblematic, at least for the argument's sake.

Under the above definition of "universe", the second premise of the kalam argument claims that the universe began to exist.

Oppy says "Let "causal reality" be the complete network of actual causes. If God exists, then God is part of causal reality; if not, not."

Oppy's definition of a causal reality is a good one (at least for the purposes of this discussion). Keep in mind that such definition is a neutral one, because it allows the possibility of God being part of the causal reality. So, his definition doesn't beg the question in favor or against of theism or atheism.

I accept Oppy's definition of causal reality for the purposes of this post.

Oppy adds "Let "natural reality" be the entire domain of natural causes. If God exists, God is not part of natural reality; rather, if God exists, God is the cause of natural reality. However, if there is nothing supernatural, then natural reality just is causal reality."

I also agree with Oppy's definition of "natural reality". Keep in mind that both definitions are different (the "causal reality" allows the possibility of God's existence, while the "natural reality" precludes the existence of God).

As Oppy adds, if God doesn't exist (i.e. if there is nothing supernatural), then the causal reality and the natural reality are co-extensive. (Note that this co-extension is conditional: IF naturalism is true, then they're co-extensive. Therefore, we can only assume co-extension if we assume naturalism) This latter point is crucial, because addresing both realities as if they were the co-extensive begs the question in favor of naturalism.

Oppy's adds: "Causal reality is structured by the causal relation. Under the causal relation, causes are prior to their effects. Note that this has nothing to do with temporal priority: if there are non-temporal causes and effects, the causal relation still imposes a priority / posteriority relation on them.

Since Oppy is a sophisticated philosopher, he avoids the common mistake committed by some atheists (like Michael Martin, for example) of claiming that causes are temporally prior to their effects. Oppy realizes that the topic of causal directionality is a heated one, and that there is possible cases of simultaneous causation. At least, simultaneous causation is logically possible.

So, Oppy is correct in arguing that causes are (ontologically) prior to their effects, but not temporally prior to them.

Oppy asks: "Question: Is there a first cause in causal reality? If so, then, causal reality begins with that first cause. Moreover, it might seem right to say that causal reality begins to exist with that first cause. (Of course, "begins" here is not temporal; it is simply causal.)

I think Oppy's question is pretty confused. He asks whether a first cause exists "in" the causal reality, when actually the question is whether there is a first cause OF the causal reality. Only in latter case, it follows that "If so, then, causal reality begins with that first cause".

Obviously, the causal reality could have a part which is uncaused (the divine part of the causal reality) even if "in" it there is a first cause of another, new and created part (the natural reality, for example) which began to exist and is part of the wider causal reality. For example, suppose that God exists. In this case, part of the causal reality is eternal and uncaused. But after God's creation of the universe, another part of the causal reality, namely, the natural reality was created by a first cause "in" the causal reality (that is, the causal reality is composed of an uncaused part, namly God, and another one which is caused, namely the natural reality. In this case, it is true that "in" the causal reality exists a first cause... but not of the eternal part of it, but of the part of the causal reality which is contingent and began to exist).

This confusion of "in" and "of" (regarding the first cause and the causal reality) pervades Oppy's whole post.

So, having clarified Oppy's apparent confusion, let's interpret his argument charitably as claiming that there is a first cause OF the causal reality. Only in this interpretation makes sense Oppy's comment that such causal reality began to exist.

On that interpretation, the answer to the question of whether the causal reality has a first cause is NO (only a part of the causal reality, namely, the natural reality, which began to exist, has a first cause of its existence). This view is implied by the conclusion of the Kalam Argument. Given that one of the properties of the cause of the universe is that such cause is timeless (because it is the cause of time), it follows that the cause is eternal (timeless is one of the ways in which eternity has been classically understood). Moreover, given that "beginning to exist" implies time (because it is an event), if the cause of the universe is timeless, if follows that it doesn't began to exist.

Therefore, according to the kalam argument, the cause of the universe didn't begin to exist, it is timeless and hence it is eternal and lies outside of the causal principle (which only applies to things which begin to exist).

In short, the straightforward reply to Oppy's question is: No, there is not a first cause OF the causal reality simpliciter (but there is a first cause of part of the causal reality, namely the natural reality, because such natural reality began to exist).

So far, Oppy has said nothing which refutes or undermines the Kalam Argument.

Oppy continues:

Consider this argument:

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).

The conclusion of this argument is necessarily false. (Causes are distinct from their effects. A cause of causal reality would be distinct from causal reality. But all causes belong entirely to causal reality.)

 So, one of the premises of this argument is false.

Oppy is fully right here. Since the conclusion of his argument is "necessarily false", it follows that at least one of the premises of the argument is false. Now I ask the readers: Which is the best candidate to be a false premise, the first one (Whatever begins to exists has a cause of its beginning to exist), or the second one (The causal reality began to exist)?

If the Kalam Argument is sound, then the second premise of Oppy's argument is false, because as showed above, the cause of the universe is timeless, eternal and uncaused. Hence, it is false that the causal reality simpliciter began to exist... only a PART of it (the natural reality = universe) began to exist.

But let's forget, for the moment, the kalam argument. Let's to analyze Oppy's argument on face value and on its own merit. Even in this case, it seems clear that the second premiss is the best candidate to be false, because the first premise is constantly verified in our experience, and it is a basic pillar of science when seeking causal explanations of the origin of any thing or phenomena (e.g. of new biological species. No atheist would say that new biological species "come uncaused fron nothing at all". On the contrary, he would appeal to Darwinian theory of evolution as the causal explanation of the coming into being of new biological species. Likewise, no atheist would say that "consciousness" comes into being uncaused from nothing. On the contrary, even admitting the "hard problem of consciousness" and not having any idea of how the hell pure brain matter creates consciousness, scientific atheists strongly believe that consciousnes is caused by the brain and that consciousness ends with the biological death, that is, that the brain is the efficient cause of the coming into being of consciousness. The causal principle is essential in the atheist's own metaphysical positions, like mind-body materialism).

The atheist cannot mention any scientific and proven example of something coming into being uncaused from absolutely nothing.

So, there is not independent reason to doubt or deny the first premiss. This premise seems to be very secure. (It is only doubted by atheists in the context of the debates about God's existence and the beginning of the universe, in order to avoid theism).

Hence, it is more probable that the "necessary falsehood" of the conclusion of Oppy's sillogysm is caused by the falsehood of the second premiss: That the causal reality began to exist.

But since the "causal reality" is a neutral concept, the atheist cannot beg the question assuming that the causal reality is co-extensive with the natural reality, and hence claiming that the denial of the coming into being of the causal reality implies the eternity of the universe. It could be that the universe (natural reality) began to exist and is caused by the eternal part of the causal reality (namely, God).

As said, the Kalam Argument fully supports Oppy's point, because this argument only shows that the NATURAL reality began to exist, not that the causal reality simpliciter began to exist. In fact, as argued above, the kalam argument actually implies that the cause of the universe is timelss and eternal, which implies that the causal reality is uncaused and hence that the second premiss of Oppy's argument is false.

Oppy says:

Now, consider this argument:

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)

By the lights of naturalists, then, at least one of the premises of this argument is false.

The problem is that we cannot assume "the light of naturalism" in order to conclude that one of the premises of the argument is false, because precisely it is naturalism what is in question. Just compare: In the "light of six day creationists", the cosmological evidence for the age of the universe and the Earth is based on premises that, for creationists, have to be false. But such "lights" do nothing to refute the empirical evidence. Likewise, the "light of naturalists" do nothing to refute the causal principle and the cosmological evidence for the absolute beginning of the universe (natural reality).

Obviously, if you assume that naturalism is true, then you have to believe that at least one of the premises is false. But for the same reason, if the premises are true, then naturalism is false. The key question for honest, truth-seeking naturalists is: Are they intellectually open-minded enough to follow the evidence for the causal principle and the universe's beginning wherever they can lead, or are they so strongly committed to naturalism that they have to reject at least one of the premises, just in order to avoid the argument's conclusion? Is their a priori commitment to the conclusion (naturalism) what motivate and determine their evaluation of the evidence, or is the objective, detacthed evaluation of the evidence itself which dictates the conclusion they must to reach? )

I was taught in philosophy that one should follow the evidence wherever it leads, not to read the evidence in terms of the a priori conclusions that one want to avoid. (If the latter methodology is followed, then one could accept  ANY position, even the craziest ones, simply undermining, ignoring or explaining away the evidential weight of the premises which refute one's cherished conclusions).

If you have good independent (i.e. independent of the metaphysical debate between naturalists vs theists) scientific and philosophical reasons to think that the causal principle is true (more plausible than its denial) and that the natural reality began to exist, then the conclusion of the argument follows deductively and inescapably: The natural reality has a cause. And it follows that naturalism is false. Like it or not.

And the objective, detatched evaluation of the evidence suggests that the natural world (=the universe) began to exist. In his book Many Worlds in One, world's leading cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin comments:

It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (p.176).

Compare with the following lecture by Vilenkin:


No "light of naturalists" can override the scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe, unless we want to allow the naturalistic prejudices to govern our thinking instead of letting empirical science and rational philosophy to determine what is true.

But Oppy, who is an insighful philosopher, has an interesting point here (a point which in my opinion is telling of the weakness of atheism). He says:

Moreover, what naturalists say about the falsity of the premises in this latter argument is dictated by what is said about the falsity of the premises in the former argument. If we avoid the conclusion that causal reality has a cause by rejecting the claim that *Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning to exist)*, then we avoid the conclusion that natural reality has a cause by the very same move. However, if we avoid the conclusion that causal reality has a cause by rejecting the claim that causal reality began to exist, then we avoid the conclusion that natural reality has a cause by denying that natural reality began to exist. Moreover, if we nonetheless maintain that there is a first cause in causal reality, then we also nonetheless maintain that there is a first cause in natural reality!!

The problem with Oppy's argument is that he assumes that the "causal reality" and the "natural reality" are on a par, and thereby that what is said about the argument based on causal reality can be said about the argument based on natural reality (note that the natural reality is on par with the causal reality ONLY if naturalism is true. But if naturalism is true or false is precisely the issue at stake, so we cannot assume that naturalism is true in order to justify the rejection of an argument against naturalism. This would be a textbook example of the fallacy of begging the question).

If we adopt Oppy's initial and more neutral position according to which the "causal reality" is the whole of actual causes (which could include God, if He exists), and the natural reality as the whole of natural causes (which definitively excludes God), then it is no clear that the causal reality is on a par with the natural reality and hence there is nor reason to think that we can reject one argument appealing to the same reasons to reject the other. The reason is that, if theism were true (and Oppy's neutral definition of causal reality allows this possibility) then the causal reality could have a part which is eternal and uncaused while the natural reality could be caused and finite in time. And in this case, the rejection of the beginning of existence of the causal reality gives us absolutely no reason to reject the beginning of existence of the natural reality.

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.

So, it is simply unwarranted (and question-begging), to suggest that both  arguments are on a par regarding Oppy's premises of the modified Kalam Argument.

On the contrary, the Kalam Argument suggests that the causal reality and the natural reality are metaphysically asymmetrical and what applies to former doesn't need to apply to the latter (and viceversa).

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:

1-In the case of the "causal reality", defined neutrally as the whole of actual causes (which could include God, if He exists), we have not independent evidence for its beginning to exist. So far, it is an open question, it could have begun to exist (if naturalism is true), or not (if theism is true). But in lacking a proof for naturalism, we simply don't know if God's exist and hence if the causal reality includes an eternal entity which is part of such causal reality.

2-On the other hand, in the case of the natural reality (the whole of natural causes) we HAVE solid and independent scientific reasons to think that such natural reality began to exist, and hence to think that it is not eternal nor uncaused.

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).

The above two considerations imply that we are not justified in considering the causal reality and the natural reality on a par (except if we beg the question in favor of naturalism). Therefore, naturalists cannot automatically reject one argument for the same reasons they reject the other.

Professor Oppy continues:

So, here's the response. Tell me whether you think that there is a first cause in causal reality, and tell me whether you think that causal reality began to exist with that first cause. If you accept both of these claims, then you must reject that claim that whatever begins to exist has a a cause of its beginning to exist. However, if you reject the claim that there is a first cause in causal reality, then you are not a theist!; and if you reject the claim that causal reality began to exist even though there is a first cause, then surely you have to allow that I can deny that natural reality (the universe) began to exist even though there is a first natural cause!

Here we have again Oppy's confusion about "in" and "of" regarding the first cause of the causal reality. 

When  Oppy said  "a first cause in causal reality", is he referring to a first cause OF the causal reality, or IN (inside or among) the parts of the causal reality?

If the former, the answer to the first question is no: There is not reason at all to think that the causal reality had a first cause and that began to exist, . Why? Because the causal reality, in Oppy's neutral definition, "could" include God's existence, and in such case (given God's basic attribute of eternity) at least part of the causal reality didn't begin to exist. (Note that in this point I'm not begging the question assumingt that God actually exist. I'm assuming only Oppy's neutral definition, which explicitly allows the possibility of God's existence, and hence of God's eternity, and hence of the possibility of the causal reality containing a part which is eternal and uncaused).

On Oppy's neutral definition of causal reality, which allows  the possibility of God's existence, there is not reason to think that such causal reality is caused and began to exist.

If the latter (a first cause IN the causal reality, i.e. among the parts of the causal reality),  the answer is yes, because the eternal part of the causal reality (God) could be the first cause of another part of the causal reality (the universe = natural reality), and this is why the natural reality began to exist.

The second part of Oppy's argument is based on the equivocation mentioned above (the first cause "of" the causal reality or "in" the causal reality). He says "However, if you reject the claim that there is a first cause in causal reality, then you are not a theist!"

This is simply false and is based on Oppy's above confusion. If you reject the claim that there is a first cause OF the causal reality, you're simply asserting that the causal reality is uncaused and eternal. And this is what theists think of God. (It doesn't exclude that other parts of the causal reality, namely the natural reality, were caused to exist by God). So, we need a proper qualification about exactly which part of the causal reality we are talking about.

And we can consistently claim that a part of the causal reality (God) is eternal, but another part of it (natural reality) began to exist and hence was caused by a first cause. Oppy's continuous uses of a first cause "in" causal reality obscures the subtle distinction between a first cause OF certain parts of the causal reality (e.g. natural reality) and the causal reality simpliciter (which allows the existence of eternal causal entities like God, which are uncaused).

I simply don't see how claiming the eternity of part of the causal reality, or God creating new forms of causal relations or realms and being the first cause of them, affect theism.. On the contrary, theism (at least classical theism) requires that you think of God as a necessary and hence eternal and uncaused being which is the creator or first cause of everything else besides himself, including a natural world which began to exist a finite time ago!

Oppy says: "if you reject the claim that causal reality began to exist even though there is a first cause, then surely you have to allow that I can deny that natural reality (the universe) began to exist even though there is a first natural cause!"

We don't need to reject that the causal reality began to exist while conceding that there is a first cause of it (such a position seems to be self-contradictory). Rather, we have to expose the sophism of conflating a first cause OF the causal reality simpliciter (which we have to deny given Oppy's neutral definition) and a first cause IN the causal reality (which we can assert) as explained above.

Only a specific part of the causal reality, namely the natural reality which began to exist, has a first cause. The other part of the causal reality, namely God, is eternal and didn't begin to exist, and hence it is uncaused. Such view is perfectly coherent.

By the way, I agree with Oppy that naturalists can "deny the that natural reality (the universe) began to exist even though there is a first natural cause!". The question is whether naturalists OUGHT to deny the beginning of existence of the universe given the current scientific evidence (remember that my initial post was about the kalam argument meeting Oppy's criterion of successful arguments, not about what naturalists "can" or "cannot" claim or deny). Naturalists are free to deny or assert whatever they want,  including obviously absurd, necessarily false and irrational propositions like Peter Atkins's masterpiece "Nothing exists", Lewis Wolpert's legendary "the cause of the universe is a computer" or Lawrence Krauss's Nobel-Prize level argument that 2+2=5:




                       
But Oppy's epistemological criterion of successful argumentation puts a limit to the wild speculations of naturalists and affect what they OUGHT to claim or deny in order to convince reasonable people who disagree with them, specially when faced with argument which is based on premises which are, independently of the debate between atheism and theism, more plausible than their negations). Otherwise, on Oppy's own criterion, their arguments are unsuccessful.
 
Oppy says:

What if you suppose that "the universe" is a proper part of natural reality? Well, in that case, on any view, the universe can have a natural cause. But most working cosmologists do think that what they call "the universe" is a proper part of natural reality. So we lose nothing by identifying "the universe" with what I have called "natural reality".

What evidence do we have to "suppose" that the universe is just a part, and not identical and co-extensive with, the natural world? It is sheer speculation.

On the other hand, if the universe (the whole of matter, energy, spacetime and physical laws) is just a proper part of the natural  reality, then which is the composition of the other part of the natural reality? It cannot be composed of matter, energy, spacetime and physical laws, because it is precisely what "universe" means. So, by definition, the "beyond-universe" natural world has to be composed of other entities. What entities are these? If not physical, material entities, obeying physical laws like entropy and conservation, then what kind of entities are them? Non-physical entities? Abstract objects? If abstract objects, then it is impossible for such objects to be the cause of the universe, since abstract objects are causally impotent. (Hence, in this cause, even if such abstract objects exist and are the only entities which composes the other part of the natural reality, it follows that the cause of the universe is supernatural, because abstract objects are causally effete).

Spiritual entities? This sounds so much like theism to be countenance by serious naturalists...

It is not clear which is the composition of such natural reality beyond the known features of the universe. Sheer specualtion motivated by not having a satisfactory answer, in the naturalistic worldview, to the universe's absolute beginning.

Does Oppy's purely speculative supposition pass his own criterion of sucessful argument? I think it doesn't.

Oppy says that "most cosmologists" consider the universe a proper part of natural reality. I don't know what cosmologists he has in mind. At least regarding the standard Big Bang Model, there is nothing natural beyond the singularity in which the whole of matter, energy, spacetime and physical laws began to exist.

In his seminal and monumental book The The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, John Barrow and Frank Tripler comments:

"At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo. (p.442)

Nobel prize winner (by his work on the evidence for the Big Bang) Arno Penzias comments:
 
Astronomy leads us to a unique event. A universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life.  In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan (Cosmos, Bios, and Theos, p. 83)

According to Paul Davies:

If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view [the Big Bang Model] the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself. (Davies' contribution to the book The Study of Time III, pp 78-79)

Contrary to Oppy, it seems that "most cosmologists" see the singularity as the beginning of the universe, and such singularity is a pure mathematical idealization in which, as Davies remarks, no physical reasoning is possible anymore, because there is nothing physical to reason with.

Traditionally, atheists have considered the material universe co-extensive with the natural world... but now, in order to avoid the soundness of the kalam argument, they make the universe to become just a part of the natural world (wihout specifying the components or features of that supposed non-universe part of the natural world).

Oppy continues:

What if you insist that "begins" in the argument must be read temporally. "Whatever comes into existence in time has a cause of its coming into existence in time. The universe comes into existence in time. So the universe has a cause of its coming into existence in time." Well, now we ask: what about those things that exist at the first moment of time (assuming that there is one). Do they come into existence in time at that time? If God exists, does God come into existence in time at that first moment of time? If not, why should we say that the universe comes into existence in time at that first moment of time? (Note, by the way, that many working cosmologists think that there is a part of the history of the universe that is not temporal. Time may not be fundamental!)

I don't see the problems that Oppy mentions. If by "universe", we include the notion of "time" (spacetime), then the conclusion "the universe began to exist in time" is unproblematic, because the beginning of time itself is co-extensive with the universe's coming into being.

It does nothing to refute the theistic conclusion of the Kalam Argument.

But Oppy ask: what about those things that exist at the first moment of time (assuming that there is one). Do they come into existence in time at that time?

If the first moment of time was caused, then YES: they come into existence in time at that time. More specifically, they begin to exist with time itself.  (The creation of time would be co-extensive with whatever things came into being at that time. This seems specially evident given a relational view of time).

Again, this conclusion is perfectly consistent with the kalam argument.

Oppy insists:

If God exists, does God come into existence in time at that first moment of time?

If God exists, he would be timeless without the universe and temporal since the beginning of the universe. In this latter case, God's temporality would come into being in time at that first moment of time (note that here what begins to exist is God's RELATION with time, that is, God's temporality, not God's ontological existence simpliciter. And the cause of God's temporality coming into being is God's decision to create time).

Again, the conclusion of the kalam argument seems to be unaffected by these considerations (see further in William Lane Craig's book God, Time and Eternity).

The advantage of the kalam cosmological argument is not only that it provides a successful argument for God's existence, but that it exposes how far atheists are prepared to go in order to deny the existence of God. Oppy's final remarks and speculations are suggestive of this point.

Oppy says:

Note, by the way, that many working cosmologists think that there is a part of the history of the universe that is not temporal. Time may not be fundamental!

The problem is that according to Einstein's relativity theory, time (and space, more properly space-time) is a fundamental dimension of reality. 

Moreover, one could argue that space seems to be necessary to the existence of matter (since an essential property of matter is spatial extension). And since space-time is one dimension, the non-existence of time implies the non-existence of space and hence the non-existence of matter.

But if Oppy's purely speculative suggestion about time not being fundamental to the universe were true, then it follows that space is not a fundamental part of the universe either. And this implies that matter (e.g. physical matter and energy) is not fundamental either, because they cannot exist in the total absence of spacetime.

Now, if not matter, nor energy, nor space nor time are fundamental to the universe, then what remains of the "universe"? This "part of the history of the universe that is not temporal" not only seems to be highly speculative and ad hoc (in order to avoid theism), but that such part of the universe seems to be a pure abstraction, with not physical, material correlate.

By a part of the history of the universe which is not temporal, Oppy seems to be suggesting the hypothesis of a quiescent universe, which became temporal only after the occurence of the first event. Leaving aside the purely speculative character of this hypothesis, William Lane Craig has mentioned the following two objections in his book on the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

Either the necessary and sufficient conditions giving rise to this first event were eternally present or not. But if these determinate conditions were eternally present, then their effect also would be eternally present in the universe -- which makes the existence of the first event impossible. On the other hand, if the necessary and sufficient conditions for the first event were not eternally present in the universe, then these determinate conditions themselves had to arise in the universe, and we have only succeeded in pushing the temporal regress of events back one more event into the past. (p.100)

And:

An absolutely quiescent universe would have to exist at the temperature of absolute zero, since heat is the result of motion and there can be no motion in the universe which we envisage. But such a model of the universe is once disqualified, since it is physically impossible to reach absolute zero... there always be some heat and some motion and hence some events (p.102)

I know of no plausible and satisfactory replies in Oppy's works (or somebody else's works, for that matter) to these two objections to the hypothesis of the quiescent universe.

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

As I argued in my first post, and have repeated in this, the kalam cosmological argument is based on premises which are more plausible than their negations. In particular:

-The causal principle is more plausible than its negation, that is, than the view that something can come uncaused from absolutely nothing. No atheist denies the causal principle in any other context outside discussions of God's existence and the beginning of the universe.

And no atheist is in position to quote just ONE proven scientific example of something coming into being uncaused from absolutely nothing (non-being).

-The absolute beginning of the universe is more plausible than Oppy's purely speculative hypothesis of a quiescent universe. These speculations are based, not on the evidence (because there is not such evidence), but in the desire of avoiding a theistic conclusion.

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

No argument offered by Oppy in his post (or published works, as far I know) has refuted the above premises. Cavils, speculative objections, unwarranted conjetures, mere "perhaps" scenarios are insufficient to refute the overwhelming empirical evidence and rational arguments supporting both the causal principle and  the universe's beginning.

For the reasons argued in this and the previous post, I think the kalam comsological argument meets Oppy's criterion of successful argument, because it ought to convince reasonable people.

But also, I'm absolutely convinced that most atheists won't be convinced by this argument (nor by any other), because, as naturalist philosopher J.J.C.Smart has conceded: ""Someone who has naturalistic preconceptions will always in fact find some naturalistic explanation more plausible than a supernatural one... Suppose that I woke up in the night and saw the stars arranged in shapes that spelt out the Apostle's Creed. I would know that astronomically it is impossible that stars should have changed their position. I don't know what I would think. Perhaps I would think that I was dreaming or that I had gone mad. What if everyone else seemed to me to be telling me that the same had happened? Then I might not only think that I had gone mad-- I would probably go mad" (J.J.C. Smart in his contribution to the book Atheism and Theism, pp.50-51. Emphasis in blue added)

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.
 
After all, as naturalist Thomas Nagel wrote:
 
I believe that this is one manifestation of a fear of religion which has large and often pernicious consequences for modern intellectual life.

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)

Such a strong commitment to naturalism cannot be broken by scientific evidence and rational argumentation. If the cause for naturalism is lost, the naturalist even can appeal to "nothingness" to defend his worldview, and if it fails, then perhaps (like Smart) he would prefer to think he "had gone mad".

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.

Above, I asked naturalists this personal, intellectual and moral question: Are they intellectually open-minded enough to follow the evidence for the causal principle and the universe's beginning wherever they can lead, or are they so strongly committed to naturalism that they have to reject at least one of the premises, just in order to avoid the argument's conclusion? Is their monumentally strong commitment to the conclusion (naturalism) what motivate and determine their evaluation of the evidence, or is the objective, detacthed evaluation of the evidence itself which dictates the conclusion they must to reach?

I think the answer is clear, given the confessions of leading naturalists like Nagel and Smart (and, to my dissapoinment, like Oppy too).