The Kalam, Evolution, & The B-Theory of Time

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

June 7, 2015

In my last article I discussed and explained one of my favorite arguments for the existence of God known as, the Kalam Cosmological Argument.[1] This argument is based on logic and utilizes science to confirm what we can logically prove. From the deductive conclusions of the Kalam, we can rationally infer the existence of God. Be that as it may, there is one objection to the Kalam that needs to be taken seriously. This objection, and the Kalam itself, both involve metaphysical assumptions.

I always tell my atheist friends that they need to be aware of their unexamined philosophical assumptions that their scientific claims are based on. If I had a dollar for every time an atheist dismissed logic, philosophy, and metaphysics, I would be a very rich man. I’m amazed at how many otherwise intelligent people make self-defeating statements such as: “Science is the only way of knowing.” One can immediately ask this advocate of scientism, “How do you know that?” This knowledge claim, stating that science is the only way to attain knowledge, is a knowledge claim that cannot be attained via the scientific method. Therefore, it actually offers proof that science is not the only means of attaining knowledge. This statement often proclaimed by atheists today is just as self-refuting as the following sentence: “There are no sentences composed of more than three words.” If one thinks it’s true that “science is the only way of knowing,” then that statement is actually false, and if the statement is false, then it’s false. Either way, the foundation of scientism is logically incoherent. It cannot be true!

This is a common example of an unexamined philosophical assumption made by atheistic advocates of scientism. The well-known atheist Daniel Dennett seems to have realized the blunders of many on his side of the theistic aisle and has stated: There is no such thing as philosophy-free science, just science that has been conducted without any consideration of its underlying philosophical assumptions.”[2] I couldn’t agree more!

Metaphysical Assumptions

Another example of a metaphysical assumption that many hold today involves an unexamined philosophy of time. Let me explain: In 1905 Albert Einstein developed his special theory of relativity which assumed that 3-demensional objects endured through dynamic time (what is now thought of as the A-theory of time). Three years later, Herman Minkowski offered Einstein’s theory in a vastly different manner. He presented it in a geometrical way no longer thinking of objects as 3-dimensional enduring through dynamic time, but rather, thinking of objects as 4-dimensional with the added dimension of physical time (the space-time block assumes what is now referred to as the B-theory of time).[3] This model of reality is not empirically observable, but rather, a metaphysical assumption of what reality is like.[4]

It must be said that the B-theory of time does make sense of much of the physicist’s math. However, it runs into some major problems as well. Be that as it may, this model has become the standard method of describing relativity theory in physics textbooks today. As William Lane Craig has noted, the science student today “absorbs this metaphysical assumption almost unconsciously as part of his science education.”[5]

Now, an opponent of the Kalam could argue for the B-theory of time although it is inconsistent with how we all live and perceive reality. This theory of time is also known as the static theory, or the “tenseless” theory of time. The Mutakallim (a proponent of the Kalam) presupposes, or holds with good reason, what seems to be a common sense and tensed theory of time, also known as the “A-theory.”

Let me try to explain the difference between these theories of time. The advocate of the A-theory holds that the properties of past, present, and future are objective. That is to say, what happened in 1985 is really a past event, and is no longer occurring. What is happening now is really happening right now, and what will happen tomorrow has not yet occurred. This seems to be prima facie justified and intuitively obvious. However, to avoid the final conclusion of the Kalam, one must logically refute one of the two premises. If one could show that the static, or B-theory of time, was reality, the Kalam would seemingly lose its force (unless the B-theory “block” of space-time came into existence). The B-theory of time holds that any point in time, or tense designation, is purely a subjective statement from an individual. There is no “now,” or for that matter, “no time like the present!” For people in 2015, 2015 is now, but for people in 1985, 1985 is now. Temporal becoming is nothing but a subjective illusion if the B-theory of time is correct.

To help visualize, here is a short animated video (actually made by an atheist) that does a good job describing the “B” or “block theory” of time:

 

[Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/F8G-eq7uGX4]

Evolution & The B-Theory of Time

I believe the B-theory of time ought to be rejected for philosophical, ethical, and scientific objections. As for now, allow me to focus on a scientific objection to the B-theory of time as I respectfully borrow from Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN).[6] Plantinga does not argue against evolution, but rather, he argues that if evolution is true, then atheistic naturalism is probably false. I will demonstrate something similar and show that if evolution is true, then the B-theory of time must be false. Please consider my “Evolutionary Argument Against the B-theory” (EAAB).[7]

Recently I’ve been reading many internet objections to the Kalam by those affirming the B-theory of time (the view that all moments of time are equally real) just to escape the theological implications of the Kalam’s conclusions. There are several philosophical objections to the B-theory, but it occurred to me that there is a scientific objection to it as well, namely that evolutionary biologists might have some strong objections against the B-theory of time. For instance, if evolution is simply explained as “change over time” and there really isn’t any genuine change or time on the B-theory, biologists should reject it because “evolution absolutely requires a sequence of events (e.g., mutation, survival, reproduction) and the order is important.”[8]

For the atheists who see the B-Theory as their escape route from the Kalam (and God), they unwittingly open themselves up to some major evolutionary problems. For example, on the B-theory, there is no genuine evolution. This space-time “block” just exists and every moment of time (or location on the block) is equally real. Now, if the “block” is contingent in any way, then God exists via the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument.[9] However, if the “block” began to exist, as I mentioned above, there would be an absolute A-theory of time as the foundation of the “space-time block” in which the B-theory applies (imagine a frozen aquarium of fish floating upon a moving stream).

It seems the only way the committed atheist could object to an ultimate or absolute A-theory of time is to affirm that the space-time block exists necessarily and eternally with no beginning. But, even if committed atheists want to argue that the B-theory “block” is eternal and necessary, that means humanity never really evolved. We exist “today” (on our part of the block) just as much as the first single-celled ancestor “still” exists on its portion of the block. Evolution, then, loses all explanatory power as to why advanced primates exist. We can summarize this argument in the following logical syllogism:[10]

Tim by the Biola Fountain1. If evolutionary biology is true, then change must have occurred insofar as there has been a genuine development of species.

2. If B-theory is true, then all species are equally old or ageless as the static block itself.

3. Therefore, if B-theory is true, then no development of species has genuinely occurred.

4. Therefore, if B-theory is true, then evolutionary biology cannot explain the complexity of developed species.

In conclusion, evolution makes zero sense on the B-theory, which is why an evolutionary biologist once told me that evolution seems to demand the A-theory of time. Therefore, if an atheist wants to appeal to the B-theory to reject the theistic implications of the Kalam, they must deny evolution. I am very open to the possibility that God created via evolution (this would not be a problem for an omniscient and omnipotent being), but atheists must appeal to evolution as a means to explain complex primates without a need for God. On the other hand, if the atheist holds to evolution as an explanation of primate complexity today, they must accept the Kalam (or at least not object to it by appealing to the B-theory).

Pick your poison (so-to-speak), but either way, God is the inference to the best explanation.

Therefore, affirming the B-theory of time just to resist the theistic implications of the Kalam is not a good idea. As, Dr. Craig says, affirming the B-theory of time “has a very high price tag!”[11] In my next article, I will explore other reasons as to why the “price tag” attached to the B-theory continues to skyrocket and is ultimately self-refuting.

Stay tuned and stay reasonable (Phil 4:5),

Tim Stratton

P.S. Here is my favorite Reasonable Faith podcast ever. In this RF podcast, Dr. Craig interacts with my scientific objection to the B-theory of time:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/questions-from-facebook


NOTES:

[1] Tim Stratton, Logic, Science, & God: The Kalam Cosmological Argument, http://freakengministries.com/logic-science-god-the-kalam-cosmological-argument/

[2] Daniel C. Dennett, Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking, Pg. 20

[3] Thank you to Ricardo Martinez for helping me understand this key distinction and communicate it properly.

[4] William Lane Craig, The Conflict Between Science and Philosophy, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-conflict-between-science-and-philosophy

[5] Ibid.

[6] Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2011

[7] A portion of my master’s thesis at Biola University was focused on this argument.

[8] Dawn Simon PhD, is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Nebraska Kearney. This was via Facebook message dialoging about evolution and theories of time.

[9] William Lane Craig, On Guard, Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (Pg. 53)

[10] Thanks to Roland Elliott who helped sharpen this argument via friendly debate.

[11] William Lane Craig, Questions From Facebook, Podcast where Dr. Craig interacts with my scientific objection against the B-theory of time: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/questions-from-facebook (accessed 7-17-14)

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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