Although originally set forth as a refutation of a Kalam argument proposed by WLC, Sean Carroll gives a refutation of any attempt to found a cosmological argument on the findings of modern cosmology:
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.
Carroll wins this debate decisively, and while he may not always respond to Craig formally (which might lead some to think he isn’t responding to him) he clearly refutes the arguments against him. For example, he gives very good reasons why fine tuning can’t be designed, and so must either be a stroke of good luck or follow from some law. Since he sees fine tuning arguments as the best Craig has to offer (and he’s right in this) nothing I say after this, which will be critical of Carroll, need bother him all that much. I concede his refutation of what is, to him, the best argument against him. But I disagree with the universality of the account of cause that Carroll is working from.
Carroll’s argument turns on what can count as a cause, and for him this is an entity that is prior in time (and so in the general procession of entropy) and which is co-ordinated with its effect under some general law. First, my suspicion is that it is impossible to restrict the meaning of “cause” to this, even in cosmology, for two reasons: (I) At some point cosmologists will appeal to a cause and effect happening at the same time, and so the arrow of time will become superfluous, but this is the only connection that Carroll’s account of cause has to concrete objects in the universe (one can sense time and disorder but not “laws”). (II) cosmologists will have to make some use of statistical laws, but a statistical law cannot predict a particular as particular (e.g. the likelihood that I will have a car accident can’t explain my having this accident here and now.) But so far as this is the case, Carroll’s account of a cause can only be exhaustive if either i.) There is no cause at all of particulars. or ii.) Particular things are not real. Both alternatives commit him to idealism, just as Berkeley proved they would; and “idealist naturalism” is almost certainly an oxymoron.
But the deeper problem with Carroll’s attempt to universalize his account of cause is that if all he means is that there can be no intrinsic argument within cosmology that concludes to God, then it’s not even clear if Craig himself needs to dispute this. If all Carroll means is that theology is not included as a subtopic in cosmology, and so can’t be concluded to by methods that Cosmologists use, then its hard to see what objection Craig would have. But if what Carroll wants to deny that cosmology can provide various data points that provide evidence for God when viewed in light of an account of cause that is broader than the one used by Cosmologists, then he is ipso facto working from the wrong account of a cause. After all, he’s giving an account of cause that is tailored to cosmology, or at least to the science of natural objects.
To his credit, Carroll does offer some dialectical arguments for Naturalism too, which I’ll have to deal with later.