Quantum Events as an Objection to the Causal Premise

by Randy Everist

An advantage of blog posts is that we can focus on particular points within philosophy, theology, or apologetics. One of these things can be the kalam cosmological argument, as popularized by William Lane Craig. A very common formulation of his first premise is, “Whatever begins to exist had a cause.” One of the most common rebutting defeaters to that premise is to say, “But quantum events don’t have causes!” Craig usually has, as part of his response, “The virtual particles come from the quantum vacuum, and the quantum vacuum is a sea of energy, and not ‘nothing’.” I think many people are confused at this response, and don’t understand why it’s relevant. It’s my burden in this post to show why it is relevant, and why it means the skeptic’s objection here is the actual irrelevancy.

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First, we have to explain what the first premise is actually claiming, and what it is not. This is crucial to a full understanding of the kalam. The “causal premise” claims that if something begins to exist, then it had a cause for its beginning to exist. It does not claim that “Whatever events occur had a cause,” or something like that. Why is this important?

Because the objection is that quantum events do not have causes for those events occurring. Now some of us will see right away the issue: the skeptic is responding to things beginning to exist in terms of events occurring; it’s a category mistake…

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Possible Worlds: Quantum Events as an Objection to the Causal Premise