Review of William Lane Craig’s “Reflections on ‘Uncaused Beginnings,’” Faith and Philosophy 27 (2010): 72-78.
In William Lane Craig’s reflections on Graham Oppy’s recent critiques of the cosmological argument, particularly kalam, Craig finds his arguments to lack serious considerations of a temporal order of causation and that the metaphysical theorizing of modality and causation are ambiguous and lack rigor. Oppy’s argument is based on what an “initial state” of the universe is and its essential properties. His initial state is ambiguous but Craig explicates Oppy later in his critique.
Oppy’s argument is not really against a temporal state as he defines it. Craig clarifies Oppy’s argument and focuses on Oppy’s real concern; the temporality of the initial state and its cause if such a cause existed. The proponent of kalam agrees with Thomas and is more than willing to concede the point that there can be an actual infinite of in fieri causes but it is impossible to have an infinite in esse causes. Just as if one were to pull the last boxcar to the front of the train to make a circle, it would not initiate any causality. The kalam proponent finds himself affirming that it is impossible for any existing thing, whether occupying an initial state of reality or a later state of reality, to come into being without a cause. Craig’s counterargument is predicated on objective temporal becoming, an A-theory of time. The whole concept of kalam requires that time be objectively tensed as opposed to an atemporal reality and where all temporal becoming is illusory, a mere side effect of human consciousness. Oppy’s argument is metaphysically consistent with a tenseless theory, but he cannot explicate an infinite series of in fieri causes with objective temporal becoming. Craig reformulates Oppy’s argument along tensed lines:
1´. If it is possible for something to come into being without a cause at a first moment of time, then it is possible for things to come into being without a cause at later moments of time.
2´. It is not possible for things to come into being without a cause at later moments of time.
3´. Therefore, it is not possible for something to come into being without a cause at a first moment of time.
Oppy argues that the contingent things that feature in the initial state of reality are the only kinds of things that can have no cause. Only some sort of fundamental entity as described by a theory of everything or some quantum gravitational model. Only those entities can come into existence only at a first moment of time and those things which come into being at later times could not come into being at a first moment of time. The driving force behind the argument is the intuition that there is nothing about temporal moments as such that could make their location relevant to whether something can spring into being at that point without a cause of any sort.
Oppy constructs a metaphysic suggesting that all possible worlds have the same initial state. This modality is incredibly constrained to the necessity of such an initial state of affairs. Evidentially, the spin, charge, flavor, and color of a particle are descriptive and not prescriptive. Popular quantum fluctuation models of the universe’s coming into being necessitate a vacuum of instability and to answer the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” the response is that nothing is unstable or impossible. The question, then, is what necessitates the vacuum? If all possible worlds necessarily have the same initial states of affairs then physics must follow this metaphysic. The initial state of affairs has certain essential properties that later contingent things do not possess. So Oppy follows suit and recognizes that currently existing entities must have a cause to their coming into existence in time because these entities do not have a
Oppy’s metaphysic is too ad hoc and Craig appropriately critiques Oppy’s metaphysic by questioning why the entities have odd essential properties, which are nothing but arbitrary predications masked as qualities [of the physical world]. Oppy’s argument that the universe’s essential components comprising the initial conditions are essentially uncaused fails to be consistent because it is arbitrary. Why would things not pop into [or out of] existence at this moment in time? It seems highly problematic, even falsifiable, given thermodynamics.
Oppy certainly poses an interesting challenge for kalam proponents by introducing a metaphysic of modality. The problem for Oppy is to provide a stronger foundation for why certain particles have an essential property that begins to exist in time without any previous cause. The metaphysic is too ad hoc and arbitrary. The physics needed to follow his metaphysic is problematic as well since the physics are currently viewed as a temporal contingency.
 See his Philosophical Perspectives on Infinity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), ix, as well as his Arguing about Gods (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 148-53.
 The kalam proponent would reject Oppy’s initial first premise: If it is possible for reality to have a contingent initial state under the causal relation, then it is possible for other (non-overlapping) parts of reality to have no cause.
 Oppy could attempt to circumvent the problem of thermodynamics (matter cannot be created or destroyed) by stating that it is merely a property of the initial essential conditions and is irrelevant and we should not expect to find things popping in and out of being. This only pushes the problem back a step because though thermodynamics may potentially constrain spontaneous creation post-the-essential-becoming of the initial state of affairs, the initial state of affairs themselves have no limitation or constraint on what begins to exist. What is to differentiate essential particles from non-essential particles and its respective causation [or lack of causation]?
 This view would be descriptive of the standard model as well as any other oscillating model or multiverse given the truth of the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth theorem, which suggests that any inflationary universe/multiverse must have an absolute beginning. This stands at odds with an essential/necessary particle that stands in no initial causal relationship.