William Lane Craig’s eight Special-Pleading arguments for God’s existence

William Lane Craig — Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology — has set out in the latest edition of Philosophy Now his eight “best” arguments for the existence of God (non-paywall access here). For an atheist these are worth reviewing if only to marvel at how bad such arguments — touted as the best of a “renaissance of Christian philosophy” — actually are. All show the pattern of deciding ones conclusions on wishful-thinking grounds and then using any amount of special pleading and spurious argument to defend them.

They are the sort of arguments (following in a long tradition including C. S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell and many others) that only convince those who already believe. Their general tenor is actually to make things worse, trying to “explain” something by pointing to something that is even harder to explain. Only, the believer doesn’t ask that question because at that point they’ve already got to their god, and so stops.

(I) God is the best explanation why anything at all exists

Right, so in order to “explain why anything at all exists” you start off with something unexplained, namely God. Anyone can “explain” why something exists if you’re allowed to start off with something!

Admittedly, even Craig can see that flaw, so he uses special pleading. While claiming that everything needs an explanation, he then exempts his god, which of course doesn’t need explaining. He does this by claiming a distinction between “contingent” things (which need explanation) and a “transcendent personal being” (which doesn’t). Thus his argument becomes:

1. Everything needs an explanation of its existence.
2. Except God, of course, which doesn’t.
3. Therefore God created everything else.

A 14-yr-old could see the flaw: “So, what caused God, then? And if we’re allowed to say that God doesn’t need an explanation then why not just say that the universe doesn’t require an explanation?”.

(II) God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe

William Lane Craig

Craig makes a big deal out of a mathematical theorem that traces back the current space-time of our universe and shows that it had to have a finite past, and thus a beginning. The trouble is that all physicists expect quantum-gravity effects to dominate in the extreme early universe (around the Planck time), and this theorem doesn’t take into account quantum-gravity effects. It can’t, since we don’t have a working theory of quantum gravity to apply at the Planck scale. Craig claims that the “theorem is independent of one’s theory of gravitation”, but on that he is simply wrong. His claim to know that the theorem survives quantum gravity, even though we don’t have a theory of quantum gravity, can only be wishful thinking.

But, even if time itself had a beginning (rather than our universe budding out of a pre-existing multiverse), so what? Why does that imply a god? Craig declares it so by fiat:

“If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a transcendent [= divine] cause.”

Here again, Craig is special pleading — demanding explanations and causes for things, while exempting his god from any need for explanations and causes.

Is it really true that everything needs a cause? What is the proof of that claim? As far as we know an instance of radioactive decay is not “caused”, and pair-production can bring particles into existence without (as far as we know) anything “causing” them.

(III) God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world.

No it isn’t. A far better explanation is that we derive mathematics from our observations of how things are in the universe. Craig asserts that: “The naturalist has no explanation for the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world”. Yes he does, I’ve just given it! If mathematics is derived from our world, why is it “uncanny” that it can then be applied to that world?

(IV) God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.

It really is remarkable that theists find this one persuasive, since there are so many problems with the argument (as I’ve expounded at length). As one example, where else would we expect to find ourselves, given naturalism, other than in a universe of the sort that could produce us? Indeed, not finding this would be an actual argument for “intelligent design”, since only by intelligent intervention could we find ourselves in a world — a “zoo” — that is not the sort that would produce us.

Against the idea of a multiverse ensemble, Craig asserts as “an insuperable objection”, the idea that: “By far, the most probable observable universes in a World Ensemble would be worlds in which a single brain fluctuated into existence out of the vacuum and observed its otherwise empty world”. Oh yeah? Craig, have you actually calculated the probability of a brain (a petabyte of ordered information) fluctuating out of the vacuum, or did you just assert that because it suits you?

But, again, at root the argument is special pleading. Craig asks for an explanation for all the remarkable properties of our universe, but offers no explanation whatsoever for the properties of his god.

If I were to assert that “the properties of our universe are easily explained, they simply arise from the properties of a pre-existing meta-universe”, then even the dumbest theologian would know enough to retort: “Ok, now explain the properties of the pre-existing meta-universe. Without doing that you’ve explained nothing”. How come they’re so bad at this retort when the “pre-existing meta-universe” is re-named “God”?

(V) God is the best explanation of intentional states of consciousness

The argument here is: “We don’t really understand consciousness, so I’ll assert that human consciousness is merely a chip off the block of God’s consciousness. Of course I’ll make no attempt to explain or understand the origin of God’s consciousness.” Anyone spot the special pleading? Here again the “solution” simply makes the conundrum worse.

(VI) God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties

The argument here is: “We don’t how objective moral values could arise in an atheistic universe, so I’ll assert that moral values are merely a chip off the block of God’s values. Of course I’ll make no attempt to explain or understand the origin of God’s moral values.” Anyone spot the special pleading? And no mention that this argument was destroyed 24 centuries ago by Plato in the Euthyphro dialogue.

(VII) The very possibility of God’s existence implies that God exists

Theological argument

Ah, the ontological argument. Are theologians still trying this one? Really, you can’t magic things into existence by word-play.

“God is the greatest conceivable being – a maximally great being. … He would exist in every logically possible world. … But this implies that if God’s existence is even possible, then God must exist. For if a maximally great being exists in any possible world, He exists in all of them.”

Yep, and if he didn’t exist in any of them then he wouldn’t exist in any of them. Note that the argument works just as well backwards, to prove the non-existence of God.

1) One possible world is a world not containing this “maximally great being”.
2) This maximally great being would (if it existed) have to exist in all possible worlds.
3) Therefore this “maximally great being” doesn’t exist.

Funny that Craig doesn’t run the argument this way. Craig’s argument thus needs to be that there is no possible world that does not contain his god, and thus that his god is logically necessary. Thus, in an atheistic world, this God would think, “but I need to exist, this universe can’t exist without me; I’m so great that I can necessitate my own existence”, and thus magic himself into existence.

What is Craig’s argument that his god is a necessary being, and that a universe without his god is a logical impossibility? He doesn’t give one. It is simply special pleading again. In order to plead for his god he adds — with no justification — the magic ingredient of the god being “necessary”.

(VIII) God can be personally known and experienced

The Bible promises, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) … For those who listen, God becomes a personal reality in their lives”.

In other words, if you believe it, you’ll end up believing it. Overall, Craig has nothing more than wishful thinking and special pleading. The remarkable thing is how feeble the arguments are, and yet this is the product of centuries of the best theological minds. This is the stuff that supposedly has atheism in headlong retreat.

Interestingly, though, at the same time as writing this piece in Philosophy Now, Craig wrote a similar piece for Fox News. It is a shorter and simplified piece with only five reasons, but one of the five is not in the longer Philosophy Now version. It is this one:

(IX) God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.

Why is this one not part of the longer and more technical piece? It can’t be because it is not a philosophical argument, so less suitable for Philosophy Now, since neither is (VIII). I suspect that it isn’t in Philosophy Now because it would be laughed at.

“Most historical scholars” agree that there was an empty tomb? Oh yeah? You have a hard enough time producing sufficient evidence for Jesus being a real person at all, never mind this. The only “evidence” for the “empty tomb” comes from accounts written by, well, we have very little idea who they were, all the gospels are anonymous, and written decades later, though we don’t really know when, and we have no idea what the sources of information were (none of the gospel writers name any source, and none of them claim to have met Jesus, nor do they even claim to have met anyone who had met Jesus). And the argument against these stories about the tomb being simply made up is … nothing; there simply is no corroboration of these “empty tomb” gospel accounts from anywhere (since of course the later three gospels all borrowed from the first).

To say that “most historical scholars” agree that there was an empty tomb is simply dishonest, it is an attempt to mislead readers. And it is revealing that Craig does this with readers of Fox News but doesn’t dare attempt it with readers of Philosophy Now.

That tells us a lot about all of these arguments. None of them is the sort of thing that convinces a fair-minded non-believer. I’m willing to bet that almost no-one has ever been converted to Christianity by this sort of argument. Rather, these arguments are all about shoring up the faith of the believer, giving them something to point to, to say, “look, there is the intellectual justification, produced by Professors of Philosophy”, even though their own faith derives instead from emotional desire and wishful thinking.

Update: The above article has been criticised by Jeffrey Jay Lowder as unfairly treating the cosmological argument, to which I have replied here.

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52 thoughts on “William Lane Craig’s eight Special-Pleading arguments for God’s existence

  1. Neil Rickert

    I see arguments 3-8 as obviously wrong, in the sense that they are trying to explain what does not require explanation. In all of those case, the natural world is already sufficient explanation.

    That leaves 1 and 2. And there, I agree with you, that the explanation raises more problems than what it tries to explain (the “who created god” problem).

    The other thing that always stands out to me, is that these are arguments to persuade the gullible. Anyone who gave any thought to the argument would recognize that, at the most, they are arguments for deism. They do not provide any support for Christianity. I guess that’s why Craig needs that 9th argument.

    Reply
  2. Gary Hill

    Thanks for this post Coel. It’s telling that Craig’s ‘evidences’ can be so effectively dispatched in such a short and sweet manner.

    I too have a number of problems with Craig’s ‘evidences’, but the superficiality of his argument from morality especially irritates. His argument is no more than this:

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2. The non-existence of objective moral values and duties runs counter to my presupposition that objective moral values and duties do exist.
    3. Therefore God must exist.

    Similarly, when faced with the view that a malevolent God would be expected to create a universe uncannily similar to the one we inhabit, Craig denies the possibility on the basis that:

    “……..such an entity, though certainly a creator, could not be a God as he would be unworthy of worship.”

    So a malevolent God cannot exist because he would be unworthy of being worshipped because Craig has defined God a-priori as a being worthy of worship! But it gets worse. Craig has actually stated that the ‘rational’ arguments he uses in his debates and books do not even form the basis of his own faith. His own belief is “self-authenticating” and “carries its own evidence.” From his website:

    “….even in the face of evidence against God which we cannot refute, we ought to believe in God on the basis of His Spirit’s witness……..Of course, anyone (or, at least any sort of theist) can claim to have a self-authenticating witness of God to the truth of his religion. But the reason you argue with them is because they really don’t……”

    “Even if you don’t find these arguments [for the existence of a God] rationally compelling, they at least show that belief in a Creator of the universe makes sense.”

    from a debate with philosopher Arif Ahmed, Cambridge, 2009:

    “Even when we have no good reason to believe and many persuasive reasons to disbelieve, even then the disbeliever has no excuse because the ultimate reason he does not believe is that he has rejected, deliberately, God’s will.”

    I can appreciate that Craig, as a Christian, feels he has to proselytise. What I don’t understand is why otherwise intelligent Christians cannot see that Craig’s ‘ministry’ is not one of personal experience, but outright intellectual dishonesty. He seems only interested in gaining (or maintaining) converts. He doesn’t care about the methods by which people come to believe like him; just that they do. He has no respect for the truth. If he believes that the evidence he presents, gathered over decades, sensibly justifies a particular conclusion yet he is not prepared to rest his own case (and indeed his own eternal life) on that conclusion he is either attempting to hoodwink his audience or he possesses a very high level of self-gullibility. In what discipline other than theology would such an approach be considered reasonable and acceptable?

    Reply
  3. paarsurrey

    Quoting your words:
    “that only convince those who already believe”
    “Only, the believer doesn’t ask that question”

    That is true of the Atheists too; in general.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      It might be true of Atheists (whoever they are) but it’s not true of atheists (no capital) who judge on evidence and do ask questions.

    2. paarsurrey

      I think whether it is Atheist or atheist; makes no difference.
      Any ignorant man could become Atheist or atheist; not everybody is used to follow evidence or to do search or research..

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  5. David Evans

    I don’t think you have quite disposed of (III). Sometimes we find out that a piece of mathematics has a physical application only long after we invented it (group theory in solid state physics, tensors in general relativity etc). I think we ought to be at least mildly surprised at this.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      I don’t see that as particularly surprising. I argue that mathematics and logic are “distilled empiricism”, derived from our world. If people then combine this mathematics and logic to produce some new ideas, then that is still “about” our universe, since it is derived entirely from things derived from our universe. Thus if some abstract area of maths is later found to apply to the universe, then isn’t that entirely in line with expectations?

  6. War machine

    I would love to see you debate WLC Coel or JP Moreland etc..You should try and set one up, and see how your arguments stand! Then we’ll get an idea of what you’re really preaching. I suggest the atheists should assemble a team of their finest-Michael shermer, sam harris or anyone else you have in mind etc,,,It would be interesting and to conclude the debate should be judged and a winner declared. It would be awesome if it was broadcast live on TV lol.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Live spoken debates are more about theatre than anything. Written debates are much better at examination of arguments. The theists usually shy away from those.

  7. LaplaceDemon

    “To say that “most historical scholars” agree that there was an empty tomb is simply dishonest, it is an attempt to mislead readers.”

    Its actually true. The literature reviews indicate this and Craig cites 40 names that do agree in the literature and published on it in his book.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      The problem with Biblical studies is that most of those who call themselves “scholars” on the topic are Christian apologists, often fairly literalist ones. For example many American Bible colleges have “scholars” of that ilk. No objective historical scholar can conclude in favour of an empty tomb, since there simply isn’t the evidence. If Craig had said “most Christian scholars” that would have been fairer, but to say “most historical scholars” — people who would be regarded as mainstream historians by other mainstream historians — is misleading.

    2. Ceres

      You’re just playing the ‘bias’ card.
      Even atheist historians like Michael Grant think the empty tomb was real. There is good evidence for it.

    3. Coel Post author

      Oh come on, there is nothing even resembling “good evidence” for an empty tomb. All you have is Mark’s gospel, a collection of stories written perhaps 50 years after the supposed events — but we don’t really know when, we certainly don’t know who wrote it, who “Mark” actually was, and we’re only guessing about where he got his information from and how much he made up. Only the gullible would regard that as “good” evidence.

    4. Gary

      @Ceres
      I assume you’re referring to Grant’s book ‘Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels’. If so you’re being disingenuous.

      Grant does agree that Jesus actually existed and was no mythological figure. However, re your assertion on the empty tomb, Grant stated that there is no evidence that anything supernatural had taken place and that the body was most likely removed by humans. He also argued that the miracles are either outright fictions, borrowed from mythology or have similarly naturalistic explanations.

      What was it you were saying about evidence and bias?

  8. LaplaceDemon

    “His claim to know that the theorem survives quantum gravity, even though we don’t have a theory of quantum gravity, can only be wishful thinking.”
    As for whether the BGV applies in quantum gravity

    “A remarkable thing about this theorem is its sweeping generality. . . . We did not even assume that gravity is described by Einstein’s equations. So, if Einstein’s gravity requires some modification, our conclusion will still hold. The only assumption that we made was that the expansion rate of the universe never gets below some nonzero value” Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One , pg 175
    So unless Vilenkin is lying or engaging in ‘wishful thinking’ about the assumptions in his theory, he is saying that he did not make assumptions regarding Einstein’s gravity and even if they did have to be modified by a quantum gravity theorem , the results would still hold.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Yes, Vilenkin is way over-claiming and being over-confident in the generality of his theorem, in the opinion of other physicists who are experts on this topic (for example Sean Carroll has written on this, and note that the other two authors of the paper have not joined Vilenkin in his claims on this). It is true that the assumptions made are more general than Einstein’s version, so he is not specifically assuming Einstein’s version, but there is no way that he can be confident that his theory would survive quantum gravity.

    1. Gary

      OK. But mine and Coel’s point still remains. First, there is no evidence for an empty tomb outside of Mark’s gospel, i.e., no contemporary or independent evidence. Second, the claim of an empty tomb tells us nothing about the alleged divinity of Jesus. The body may not have been buried in the first place – indeed, if it had been it would be the only crucified body we know of to have to have been allowed burial. All Greek and Roman sources of crucifixion state the bodies were forced to rot on the cross. Some person(s) may have removed the body. The alleged witnesses might have gone to the wrong tomb. They might have even hallucinated an empty tomb.

      The whole story is a prime example of mythology.

  9. shakauvm

    Hmm. Actually, most of those arguments seem pretty reasonable to me. If you’ve ever actually read him, which I doubt, he actually addresses your attempts at counterarguments.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Yes, I have actually read him, indeed I read the article that I was responding to. His arguments are the sort that only “seem pretty reasonable” to people who are already religious believers.

  10. shakauvm

    You don’t seem to understand what special pleading is. It only applies when you cannot draw a distinction between two different categories of objects. Craig (rightly) argues that God and a universe are two different sorts of things, with different rules, and explains why. So it’s literally not special pleading.

    Since you now claim to have actually read the arguments, I can only conclude you dismiss the arguments ironically for the same reason you accuse him of – you don’t like the conclusions, therefore it must somehow be fallacious.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Craig (rightly) argues that God and a universe are two different sorts of things, with different rules, and explains why.

      Really, what is Craig’s explanation and justification for them having different rules, other than the special-pleading justification that he needs that to be the case for his argument to work? My reply to Jeffrey Jay Lowder will be up shortly.

    2. shakauvm

      >Really, what is Craig’s explanation and justification for them having different rules, other than the special-pleading justification that he needs that to be the case for his argument to work?

      Consider someone claiming that it is special pleading that planes follow different rules than cars. But it is not. We don’t have speed limits for cars apply to planes, because planes are different from cars. If they have different properties, and these properties are germane, then the special pleading objection is defeated.

      God is the timeless, omnipotent, omniscient, ground for all reality. Our local universe by contrast has an origin to all locally connected space-time (the singularity preceding the Big Bang), and has a temporal dimension to it. Therefore, it would be fallacious to try to apply arguments that only work with time-bound objects to a timeless object. Rather, Craig’s approach is correct in that a timeless object and a time-bound object have different properties, and therefore it is NOT special pleading for all time-bound objects to have a creation event, but timeless objects to not.

    3. Coel Post author

      Consider someone claiming that it is special pleading that planes follow different rules than cars. But it is not. We don’t have speed limits for cars apply to planes, because planes are different from cars.

      If one can establish this difference independently of the argument you are using it for, then it is not special pleading. But, if someone were to argue that speed limits applied differently to red cars than blue cars, and they gave no justification for this other than that it suited their argument, then that is special pleading.

      God is the timeless, omnipotent, omniscient, ground for all reality.

      That’s just an assertion. No evidence has been supplied that God is timeless.

      Our local universe by contrast has an origin to all locally connected space-time (the singularity preceding the Big Bang), and has a temporal dimension to it.

      It is not established that there was a singularity at the beginning of the Big Bang, or that everything originated from that. It is entirely sensible to suppose that the Big Bang was a natural event arising from pre-existing conditions.

      Therefore, it would be fallacious to try to apply arguments that only work with time-bound objects to a timeless object.

      But it has not been established that the universe is time-bound, nor that God is timeless. These are just *assertions*, they are assertions being made because it suits the argument. That is special pleading.

      … therefore it is NOT special pleading for all time-bound objects to have a creation event, but timeless objects to not.

      True, but it is special pleading to declare that God is one category and the universe in another without adequately justifying those claims.

    4. shakauvm

      >If one can establish this difference independently of the argument you are using it for, then it is not special pleading. But, if someone were to argue that speed limits applied differently to red cars than blue cars, and they gave no justification for this other than that it suited their argument, then that is special pleading.

      He does establish the difference. By definition a necessary object must be timeless, because if there is a time when it did not exist, then it would not necessarily have to exist.

      So when he derives that a necessary object must be the grounds of all reality, that comes as part of the derivation.

      So it must be the case that God (i.e. the timeless ground of all reality) and the universe have different properties. Since they have different properties relevant to the matter at hand, it is not special pleading.

    5. Coel Post author

      He does establish the difference. By definition a necessary object must be timeless, …

      Definitions are not arguments, they are not evidence. Simply defining something to have some property is not in any way an argument that such a thing exists and does have that property.

      Since they have different properties relevant to the matter at hand, …

      Here you have jumped from a *definition* of a thing having a particular property to an assertion that it *does* *have* that property.

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  12. Dan Steeves

    If atheistic evolution was a true science, why is it not happening today? Where are the transitional life forms that connect reptiles to birds and birds to mammals? Where is the link that connects primates to mankind? There is no convincing evidence in the fossil record of evolution. Mutations are genetic accidents that only harm the organism or at best are neutral.
    There is no evidence that natural selection can create new life forms. Actually atheists confuse ADAPTATION with evolution. An organism can ADAPT to its environment but not evolve into a new life form. This has been proven many times such as in is the case of “Darwin’s finches.”

    But I have another question that convinces me of the existence of a Creator. The human body and most other life forms are made of about ten body systems. Por example, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the immune system etc. Each system is EXTREMELY complex. That is why doctors and medical researchers specialize in just one system. Some are cardiologists, neurologists, immunologists etc. If just one of these systems fail the organism dies within minutes, days or weeks. If the organism is to survive ALL of the body systems must function. The point is that all of these body systems would have had to evolve together and at the same time for the organism to survive. Nobody with a truly scientific mind could give credulence to such a an idea. The evidence is overwhelming that organisms were designed and created by a Divine mind. The great French zoologist Grasse had it right when he said “evolution is a fairy tale for adults.”

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      If atheistic evolution was a true science, why is it not happening today?

      It is!

      Where are the transitional life forms that connect reptiles to birds …

      Things like Archaeopteryx, Anchiornis, Xiaotingia, and Aurornis (link).

      … and birds to mammals?

      Mammals did not come from birds, they came directly from reptiles.

      Where is the link that connects primates to mankind?

      Things like Australopithecus afarensis and Sahelanthropus tchadensis.

      There is no convincing evidence in the fossil record of evolution.

      It’s convincing to most scientists. The people who aren’t convinced are those that don’t want to be convinced for religious reasons.

      Mutations are genetic accidents that only harm the organism or at best are neutral.

      On what basis do you assert that? Why couldn’t a mutation be helpful?

      There is no evidence that natural selection can create new life forms.

      If by “new life forms” you mean new species, then there is ample and abundant evidence of this. Speciation has been observed in the wild.

      Actually atheists confuse ADAPTATION with evolution. An organism can ADAPT to its environment but not evolve into a new life form.

      Why can’t a lot of adaptation — adding up over eons — add up to major changes in species?

      This has been proven many times such as in is the case of “Darwin’s finches.”

      Darwin’s finches have only been studied for a couple of hundred years, which is a very short time compared to the usual timescales for evolution.

      The point is that all of these body systems would have had to evolve together and at the same time for the organism to survive.

      The different systems co-evolved together. Each developed out of much simpler origins, all of them developing along with and in concert with each other.

      Nobody with a truly scientific mind could give credulence to such a an idea.

      But nearly all scientists do accept it. It’s only some religious people who don’t.

    2. Dan Steeves

      archeoraptor was a fake fossil from China and promoted by National Geographic. As regards “nearly all scientists accept evolution” you can log onto: rae.org/pdf/darwinskeptics.pdf and you will find there are thousands of respected scientists that reject evolution. Google has many web pages of scientists who reject evolution. It’s something like astrology, nothing more than a pseudosciencia. The fact is most people believe in evolution for more obscure reasons and not because of proven scientific evidence.

    3. Coel Post author

      archeoraptor was a fake fossil from China …

      True, but the fossils I pointed to are not fake.

      … you will find there are thousands of respected scientists that reject evolution.

      “Thousands” is not that many out of all scientists. America is a highly religious place and it’s not surprising that a fair fraction of American scientists are religious, which causes some of them to reject evolution. Also, on your list, many are not in fields related to biology. Some are not really scientists at all (surgeons are listed, as are philosophers, there’s a “spokesman for Islamic organisation”, and a historian, for example, and that’s just in the first few pages), many of the degrees are from religious institutions (“Southern Methodist University”, “Catholic University of America”, Texas Christian University”, etc).

    4. Dan Steeves

      You can log onto http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/scientists and you will find a LONG list of respected scientists who have serious scientific doubts about evolution. Many scientists who claim to believe in evolution say so out of fear of losing financial support for their research. In other words, publicly expressing belief in evolution is being “politically correct.”

    5. Coel Post author

      … you will find a LONG list of respected scientists who have serious scientific doubts about evolution.

      Many of whom are not that respected, not in fields relevant to evolution, or not really scientists. And anyhow, their numbers are a tiny fraction of all scientists.

      Many scientists who claim to believe in evolution say so out of fear of losing financial support for their research.

      Do they? Any evidence for that claim?

  13. Chris

    (III) God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world.

    No it isn’t. A far better explanation is that we derive mathematics from our observations of how things are in the universe. Craig asserts that: “The naturalist has no explanation for the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world”. Yes he does, I’ve just given it! If mathematics is derived from our world, why is it “uncanny” that it can then be applied to that world?

    What you’re doing here is using epistemology to answer an ontological question. What Craig asserts is that intelligence is required to achieve mathematical order in the universe. You simply state that it must be there because of our mathematical knowledge. But you did not answer why the mathematical order is there in the first place.

    On your allegations for special pleading, I think Craig argues against the possibility of infinite regress (of material causes, unintelligent causes, causes subjected to time and space) and therefore deduces that there must (necessarily) be something that is uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial and intelligent to act as a defeater for those infinite regresses. Craig basically says you either believe in an infinite regress of some sort, or in God. One is logically impossible, the other is not.

    And yes, this does not favour Christianity over deïsm or other theïstic worldviews, but it favours theïsm over atheïsm. Craig would be the first to admit that (and in fact, he does all the time). And that’s why he’s making a historical case for the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, precisely because that would favour Christianity over other theïstic worldviews. I would be eager to welcome the attempt to make a similar, rational case for other worldviews, and see how they would stand up to scrutiny.

    I’m disappointed in your rhetoric about the gullibility of religious people. God is a possible and reasonable answer to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Why is someone who accepts that answer gullible? The skeptic who refuses to accept it just because it doesn’t jive with his empiricism, isn’t he just stubborn? The honest seeker for truth doesn’t limit acceptable explanations to the realm of science, but keeps an open mind about all possible things.

    And besides, I think Scientism is guilty of the fallacy of Special Pleading, since there is no empirical evidence to support the truth of scientism.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Chris, thanks for commenting.

      What Craig asserts is that intelligence is required to achieve mathematical order in the universe.

      Perhaps, but as with many theistic explanations, this seems to assume what it tries to explain. Is it possible to have intelligence without also having order? Can an intelligence exist in a status of nothing but chaos? I suspect not, which means that starting with intelligence amounts to starting with what one is trying to explain. Further, I don’t see any good argument against there being an ordered but non-intelligent starting point.

      Craig basically says you either believe in an infinite regress of some sort, or in God. One is logically impossible, the other is not.

      Why is infinite regress logically impossible? Further, if we don’t have infinite regress, why doesn’t an ordered but *non*-intelligent starting point work just as well? Craig has presented no evidence that intelligence and purpose need to be part of the starting point. All we need is some sort of regularity and order.

      And that’s why he’s making a historical case for the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, …

      He’d be hard-enough pushed to produce sufficient evidence for Jesus as a person at all, never mind the resurrection!

      God is a possible and reasonable answer to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Why is someone who accepts that answer gullible?

      Its not a good answer because it starts off with what it attempts to explain. A God is not “nothing”. It’s easy to explain things if one starts with an omnipotent creator! Pointing to an “uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial and intelligent” being seems to me to be special pleading. A better argument woud start from nothing at all, and *then* explain why an uncaused intelligence happens to exist.

      The honest seeker for truth doesn’t limit acceptable explanations to the realm of science, but keeps an open mind about all possible things.

      Atheists would agree with you there (though they might disagree with you about limiting the scope of science). But, as I see it, of three possibilities: (1) infinite-regress causal chain, (2) un-caused non-intelligent starting point, (3) un-caused intelligent and purposive starting point, I don’t see that Craig has given any argument for preferring 3 over 1 or 2.

      And besides, I think Scientism is guilty of the fallacy of Special Pleading, since there is no empirical evidence to support the truth of scientism.

      We’d likely disagree there! As I see it, empirical evidence fully supports scientism. 🙂 (So long as “scientism” is interpreted sensibly, that is.)

    2. Chris

      Hi Coel!

      I apologise in advance, I don’t have the techskills to present my reply in a neatly presented fashion like your own. That is why I’ve put your quotes in brackets. If you have any advice on how to improve on that, it would be most welcome!

      [Perhaps, but as with many theistic explanations, this seems to assume what it tries to explain.]

      I think you have things backwards. We seek to explain the universe, and God is the explanation. We don’t seek to explain God.

      [Is it possible to have intelligence without also having order? Can an intelligence exist in a status of nothing but chaos? I suspect not,]

      You seem to assert that God needs to be put somewhere, or needs some facilitation for his existence. Of course, debating this is highly speculative, but I think the whole point of a timeless, spaceless and immaterial agent is that no metaphysical facilition is required. If God is not made of stuff, he doesn’t need to be anywhere. St. Augustine writes some amazing philosophical wondering in his Confessions about this. There’s no helpful answers there to help reach a verdict here, but it’s almost poetic.

      [Further, I don’t see any good argument against there being an ordered but non-intelligent starting point.]

      Well, it seems when time itself has a beginning, there must be some timeless cause as a starting point. Non-intelligent causes need external stimuli to produce an effect, they can not be an efficient cause in themselves. Craig says on this matter, the list of candidates to be a timeless, spaceless and immaterial cause is rather short. Only abstract objects (unintelligent), such as numbers, or an unembodied mind (intelligent, personal). And since the number 7 can’t cause anything, the only candidate left is an unembodied mind. I think what Craig means, is that unintelligent objects can’t produce change in a timeless state of being.

      [Why is infinite regress logically impossible?]

      To resort to an infinite regress to escape the conclusion that God does exist would shift the burden of proof to the person who claims the infinite regress can exist. But as an argument against the existence of an infinite regress, an actual infinite is absurd. For an actual infinite number of past events to have preceded today, we must have crossed those events one at a time to get to today. Imagine waiting for a friend, an actual infinite distance away, travelling at a finite speed in your direction. When would he arrive? Never. If there is no beginning of past events, there would be no way to get to the here and now. Another example that argues the absurdity of an actual infinite, check out Hilbert’s Hotel. Potential infinites are possible, since you could always add one more day after today into infinity, but the whole of history from any given point time would be finite, not infinite.

      [Further, if we don’t have infinite regress, why doesn’t an ordered but *non*-intelligent starting point work just as well? Craig has presented no evidence that intelligence and purpose need to be part of the starting point. All we need is some sort of regularity and order.]

      You would need causality, and the only cause conceivable in a timeless state would be personal choice, see the before last answer about abstract objects and unembodied minds.

      [He’d be hard-enough pushed to produce sufficient evidence for Jesus as a person at all, never mind the resurrection!]

      Sufficient according to whom? He received his PhD on the historical argument for the resurrection of Christ! Do you think the University of Munich sells PhD’s by the dozen? Or that they are in on the conspiracy? I’d like to understand your rebuttal, but asking for ‘sufficient evidence’ smells like moving the goalposts.

      [Its not a good answer because it starts off with what it attempts to explain. A God is not “nothing”. It’s easy to explain things if one starts with an omnipotent creator! Pointing to an “uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial and intelligent” being seems to me to be special pleading. A better argument woud start from nothing at all, and *then* explain why an uncaused intelligence happens to exist.]

      I’m not making sense of what you are arguing here. Again, we seek to explain our own existence and the existence of the universe, not God. ‘God’ and ‘nothing’ are the two main competitors for explaining our existence, so yes, obviously they are not the same. And an easy explanation doesn’t mean a false explanation. And it’s not like we’re saying, let’s throw in omnipotence as a trumpcard to win the argument. For the existence of the universe to be explained, everything short of omnipotence just doesn’t cut it.

      [Atheists would agree with you there (though they might disagree with you about limiting the scope of science). But, as I see it, of three possibilities: (1) infinite-regress causal chain, (2) un-caused non-intelligent starting point, (3) un-caused intelligent and purposive starting point, I don’t see that Craig has given any argument for preferring 3 over 1 or 2.]

      I think if you’ll study his work to a greater extend, you will find he addresses your options in great detail. You might disagree with his worldview and the scope of acceptable explanations, but I’m sure you’ll agree he is very thorough in doing his homework and answering to objections.

      [We’d likely disagree there! As I see it, empirical evidence fully supports scientism. 🙂 (So long as “scientism” is interpreted sensibly, that is.)]

      I’d love to hear you expound your case! Thanks for your time and intellectual insights!

    3. Coel Post author

      Hi Chris,

      For quoting, google for the html command “blockquote”.

      I think you have things backwards. We seek to explain the universe, and God is the explanation. We don’t seek to explain God.

      But, to me, that’s a cop-out and means that any such explanation fails to explain anything. As a comparison, suppose I said: “I can easily explain the universe and everything in it; I just start off with the universe as it was a hundred years ago, and that developed into what we have now”. The obvious reply would be, “OK, but how do you explain the universe as it was 100 years ago, unless you do that you’ve explained very little”. If I then replied, “I’m not seeking to explain *that*”, you would rightly reject the entire explanation as achieving nothing. In the same way, unless you explain your god, your explanation explains nothing.

      You seem to assert that God needs to be put somewhere, or needs some facilitation for his existence.

      I’m not assuming that, I’m asking a more basic question of whether an intelligent god already includes the attribute of being ordered. Can something entirely disordered and chaotic be intelligent? I wouldn’t have thought so. But, in that case, you are starting from something ordered and intelligent in order to explain order. That’s the same empty trick as my above example of starting from the universe as it was 100 years ago.

      Well, it seems when time itself has a beginning, …

      We don’t know that time itself had a beginning. It could be past-infinite.

      Non-intelligent causes need external stimuli to produce an effect, they can not be an efficient cause in themselves.

      First, we do not know that. Quantum indeterminacy seems to allow for un-caused effects, which have no prior cause. The fundamental-physics production of particle-pairs seems to be an example.

      Second, *intelligent* causes are no different. The only intelligences that we know of — such as humans and chimpanzees — *also* have prior causes. Thus saying that the cause is intelligent doesn’t help in any way. (Craig is smuggling this in because he knows the answer he wants to arrive at.)

      Craig says on this matter, the list of candidates to be a timeless, spaceless and immaterial cause is rather short. Only abstract objects (unintelligent), such as numbers, or an unembodied mind (intelligent, personal).

      The idea of an unembodied mind is close to preposterous. Does Craig have any known and proven examples of such a thing? If not, his argument is hot air and special pleading. If he wants to bring in an unembodied mind at this point, he really needs to argue for it and explain it, not just assume it.

      To resort to an infinite regress to escape the conclusion that God does exist would shift the burden of proof to the person who claims the infinite regress can exist.

      But it was your argument that infinite redress cannot exist, in order to make your argument work, so the burden of proof is surely on you?

      Imagine waiting for a friend, an actual infinite distance away, travelling at a finite speed in your direction. When would he arrive? Never.

      Or, rather, after an infinite time into the future. But, anyhow, this is not an argument against there being infinities.

      If there is no beginning of past events, there would be no way to get to the here and now.

      Yes there would, you’d just have had to wait for an infinite time, which is exactly what you have if time is past-infinite.

      You would need causality, and the only cause conceivable in a timeless state would be personal choice, …

      Again, neither you nor Craig have presented an argument against un-caused and non-intelligent material causes. The claim that every physical thing needs a cause is just a claim, what is your justification of it?

      Further, trying to get round this by appealing to a mind with no physical embodiment is pure speculation and special pleading. First demonstrate the existence if such a thing, showing that it is possible (do you have actual example of such a mind?), and then you’ll have an argument.

      At the moment, all you are doing is starting off with a non-embodied, personal and intelligent mind, and yet that is the very thing that the argument is supposed to lead to, namely your god. You’re simply starting your argument with the very thing you’re trying to explain.

      Sufficient according to whom? He received his PhD on the historical argument for the resurrection of Christ!

      Lots of theologians award each other degrees for such writings. But they are never convincing to anyone who isn’t already a religious believer. The historical evidence for the resurrection is utterly minimal, it’s simply not there.

      I’m not making sense of what you are arguing here. Again, we seek to explain our own existence and the existence of the universe, not God.

      Again, that you exempt your god from the need for an explanation is exactly why it seems to me that your argument is special pleading. All your argument does is land you with something even harder to explain (a god) and which point you don’t even attempt to explain it.

      ‘God’ and ‘nothing’ are the two main competitors for explaining our existence, so yes, obviously they are not the same.

      But an unexplained god fails to explain our existence any more than the competing model of “let’s start with an unexplained universe, as it was 100 years ago” does.

      And it’s not like we’re saying, let’s throw in omnipotence as a trumpcard to win the argument. For the existence of the universe to be explained, everything short of omnipotence just doesn’t cut it.

      If that second sentence is not “throwing in omnipotence as a trumpcard to win the argument” then what would be?

      … I’m sure you’ll agree [Craig] is very thorough in doing his homework and answering to objections.

      No, not at all, he never really attempts to answer atheists’ objections! He, like many apologists, is not attempting to talk to atheists, he’s attempting to talk to believers to boost *their* faith and to try to assure them that their faith is reasonable. Thus the things he writes are constructed for believers and are convincing only to believers.

  14. Chris

    Hi Coel,

    Hi Chris,

    For quoting, google for the html command “blockquote”.

    Thank you!

    But, to me, that’s a cop-out and means that any such explanation fails to explain anything. As a comparison, suppose I said: “I can easily explain the universe and everything in it; I just start off with the universe as it was a hundred years ago, and that developed into what we have now”. The obvious reply would be, “OK, but how do you explain the universe as it was 100 years ago, unless you do that you’ve explained very little”. If I then replied, “I’m not seeking to explain *that*”, you would rightly reject the entire explanation as achieving nothing. In the same way, unless you explain your god, your explanation explains nothing.

    I find it surprising this is your remark, since you’ve already conceded to the possibility for an uncaused, intelligent being. It’s absurd to ask for the explanation of such a being. You’re asking how an uncaused being came to be.

    Can something entirely disordered and chaotic be intelligent? I wouldn’t have thought so. But, in that case, you are starting from something ordered and intelligent in order to explain order.

    I totally agree with you, God is orderly and intelligent. I now understand your objection. However, since your objection is the same to the last remark, so is my rebuttal. If God is uncaused, it’s absurd to ask who or what ordered God. It’s like asking for the name of a bachelor’s wife. You might object with the fallacy of special pleading, but that is only valid if God was indeed caused. There’s a qualitative difference between caused and uncaused things, which renders the fallacy of special pleading useless in this debate.

    We don’t know that time itself had a beginning. It could be past-infinite.

    I’ll get back to your objection later on, addressing actual infinites.

    First, we do not know that. Quantum indeterminacy seems to allow for un-caused effects, which have no prior cause. The fundamental-physics production of particle-pairs seems to be an example.

    Quantum vacuüms are not nothing. In the best case, a material cause is absent. The efficient cause would be the quantum vacuum.

    Second, *intelligent* causes are no different. The only intelligences that we know of — such as humans and chimpanzees — *also* have prior causes. Thus saying that the cause is intelligent doesn’t help in any way. (Craig is smuggling this in because he knows the answer he wants to arrive at.)

    Of course, the only intelligence we have empirical knowledge of is caused by something else. But that doesn’t rule out uncaused intelligence. What Craig argues for is an uncaused cause. Abstract objects are likely to be uncaused, but are no cause. So when you have intelligence and non-intelligence, and caused and uncaused, and you’ve ruled out 3 out of 4 combinations (caused intelligence, caused non-intelligence, uncaused non-intelligence) as tenable explanations, only the fourth remains. Not only is uncaused intelligence logically possible, it is also a tenable explanation for the existence of the universe, since uncaused intelligence could at least make a personal choice.

    The idea of an unembodied mind is close to preposterous. Does Craig have any known and proven examples of such a thing? If not, his argument is hot air and special pleading. If he wants to bring in an unembodied mind at this point, he really needs to argue for it and explain it, not just assume it.

    You realise by now the unembodied mind is God, so it would be an uncaused, intelligent mind. Seeking an explanation for this is absurd. Preposterous, from human experience I would say yes. Logically impossible, no.

    But it was your argument that infinite redress cannot exist, in order to make your argument work, so the burden of proof is surely on you?

    I’m stating the cause for the existence of the universe can only be God. You concede to the fact that it could be God, but that there are far more probable candidates for the position, in this case infinite regress. That leaves the burden of proof for the existence of this infinite regress on you. You’re trying to make the argument here, that there’s more than one explanation for the existence of the universe. Hilbert’s Hotel shows why an actual infinite is absurd and therefore cannot possibly exist in an ontological way, only on paper and in thought experiments.

    Yes there would, you’d just have had to wait for an infinite time, which is exactly what you have if time is past-infinite.

    I’m guessing no further need to address this. You say actual infinites can exist, I say they don’t, and so does David Hilbert.

    Again, neither you nor Craig have presented an argument against un-caused and non-intelligent material causes. The claim that every physical thing needs a cause is just a claim, what is your justification of it?

    I’m claiming all caused things need a cause (seems self-evident). But, the alternative would be to concede to the possibility of spontaneous popping into existence of things by no cause at all. I’m do not believe anything in this universe is uncaused, because of the second law of thermodynamics.

    Further, trying to get round this by appealing to a mind with no physical embodiment is pure speculation and special pleading. First demonstrate the existence if such a thing, showing that it is possible (do you have actual example of such a mind?), and then you’ll have an argument.

    As I’ve argued before, an unembodied intelligence is the only option remaining to explain our existence. And since I believe I exist, I must necessarily concede to the unfathomable, yet only logically possible explanation of being the effect of an unembodied mind.

    At the moment, all you are doing is starting off with a non-embodied, personal and intelligent mind, and yet that is the very thing that the argument is supposed to lead to, namely your god. You’re simply starting your argument with the very thing you’re trying to explain.

    My argument is arguing against the logical possibility of the other options, AND arguing for the tenability of the only remaining option. This is not circular reasoning, since neither of my premisses presupposes the existence of God. If it does, show me my fallacy. I understand your objection, since my belief in God predates my understanding of the arguments for God. But that is simply because apologetics is not the only way to infer God. A transcendent God that creates this universe, surely has the possibility to reveal himself to us.

    Lots of theologians award each other degrees for such writings. But they are never convincing to anyone who isn’t already a religious believer. The historical evidence for the resurrection is utterly minimal, it’s simply not there.

    It’s indeed an incredible story, since people don’t generally rise from the dead. But, the existence of God does not depend on the resurrection of Jesus, but the resurrection does depend on the existence of God. If you already inferred an intelligent being powerful enough to create the known universe, surely a mere resurrection would be childsplay. No wonder skeptics are not convinced, since they don’t acknowledge the possibility of divine intervention.

    If that second sentence is not “throwing in omnipotence as a trumpcard to win the argument” then what would be?

    Well, I suppose you’re right. I do postulate omnipotence, and I do assert that that’s the only way the argument can be settled. Thanks for pointing that out. However, the burden of proof rests with the one asserting that something other than God (the unembodied, intelligent, uncaused mind) could have done the job. Tell me, what would that be?

    No, not at all, he never really attempts to answer atheists’ objections! He, like many apologists, is not attempting to talk to atheists, he’s attempting to talk to believers to boost *their* faith and to try to assure them that their faith is reasonable. Thus the things he writes are constructed for believers and are convincing only to believers.

    Not sure if it’s a justified attack or not, but this is just ad hominem. You could be right, but it does not matter for the discussion. The argument does not depend on the motives or character (flaws) of William Lane Craig.

    Thanks again for the response and the investment of your time!

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Chris,

      I find it surprising this is your remark, since you’ve already conceded to the possibility for an uncaused, intelligent being. It’s absurd to ask for the explanation of such a being. You’re asking how an uncaused being came to be.

      First, I’m asking a more general question than the *cause* of an un-caused, intelligent being, I’m asking for a justification for supposing that there is such a thing. Do we have any good reason to suppose that any such thing exists? If the only justification is “because we need it to create the universe” then that is the very definition of special pleading. A non-special-pleading argument would be to point to *other* justification for supposing such a being exists, and *then* using it to create the universe.

      Second, if you allow for uncaused intelligent beings, then why not allow uncaused non-intelligent beings? Craig has given no reason for supposing that the former is more likely than the latter. Thus again, his dismissal of the latter in favour of the former is special pleading.

      Indeed, we have far better evidence for uncaused non-intelligent stuff (in particle physics) than we do for uncaused intelligent beings.

      I totally agree with you, God is orderly and intelligent. […] If God is uncaused, it’s absurd to ask who or what ordered God.

      So your argument is that the explanation for the order in the universe is that it came from something ordered (God). This, again, is starting with exactly what you are trying to explain, and thus is not an explanation.

      What Craig argues for is an uncaused cause. […] So when you have intelligence and non-intelligence, and caused and uncaused, and you’ve ruled out 3 out of 4 combinations (caused intelligence, caused non-intelligence, uncaused non-intelligence) as tenable explanations, only the fourth remains.

      But Craig has not given any reason for ruling out “non-caused, non-intelligent”, and has not given any reason for supposing that “non-caused, intelligent” is a viable option.

      You concede to the fact that it could be God, but that there are far more probable candidates for the position, in this case infinite regress. That leaves the burden of proof for the existence of this infinite regress on you.

      First, the burden of proof is just as much on you. After all, your above argument only works if you’ve ruled out infinite regress. Second, the other alternative is non-caused non-intelligent.

      You’re trying to make the argument here, that there’s more than one explanation for the existence of the universe.

      And you’re trying to make the argument that there is only one.

      But, the alternative would be to concede to the possibility of spontaneous popping into existence of things by no cause at all. I’m do not believe anything in this universe is uncaused, because of the second law of thermodynamics.

      Sorry, but there is nothing in the second law of thermodynamics to prevent uncaused material popping into existence. Indeed, as far as we can tell, that is exactly what is happening in pair production, and other particle-physics processes.

      My argument is arguing against the logical possibility of the other options, …

      So why is non-caused, non-intelligent a logical impossibility (that’s a different matter from whether it is ruled out by the 2nd law or other things)?

      No wonder skeptics are not convinced, since they don’t acknowledge the possibility of divine intervention.

      Skeptics don’t dismiss the possibility out of hand, they simply demand good evidence for it.

  15. Chris

    Hi Coel,

    First, I’m asking a more general question than the *cause* of an un-caused, intelligent being, I’m asking for a justification for supposing that there is such a thing. Do we have any good reason to suppose that any such thing exists? If the only justification is “because we need it to create the universe” then that is the very definition of special pleading. A non-special-pleading argument would be to point to *other* justification for supposing such a being exists, and *then* using it to create the universe.

    Well, indeed the justification comes from the necessity of a defeater for an infinite regress of contingent, caused things, since this is impossible. But to call this special pleading is not valid, because something is not proposed that is the ‘same’ but causes the universe anyway, something ‘other’ is proposed, a non-contingent, uncaused thing. It is logically unescapable that another category of things besides the contingent is necessary for the contingent universe to make sense.

    Second, if you allow for uncaused intelligent beings, then why not allow uncaused non-intelligent beings? Craig has given no reason for supposing that the former is more likely than the latter. Thus again, his dismissal of the latter in favour of the former is special pleading.

    Well, in fact he does address this in this video (from approx 7m50s):

    He states: If the cause was just a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, the the cause could never exist without it’s effect. If the sufficient conditions are given, then the effect must be given as well. […] If the cause is permanently present, then the effect must be permanently present as well.

    So, a non-intelligent uncaused cause would produce a past eternal universe, which is impossible.

    He continues: The only way for the cause to be timeless, and the effect to begin a finite time ago is for the cause to be a personal agent, endowed with freedom of the will, who has the ability to spontaneously create a new effect without any antecedent determining condition.

    So your argument is that the explanation for the order in the universe is that it came from something ordered (God). This, again, is starting with exactly what you are trying to explain, and thus is not an explanation.

    Craig seeks to explain the (order in the) finite, caused universe. The order in God is uncaused, the same way that God is uncaused. No special pleading, just logical necessity.

    Sorry, but there is nothing in the second law of thermodynamics to prevent uncaused material popping into existence. Indeed, as far as we can tell, that is exactly what is happening in pair production, and other particle-physics processes.

    I argued from the 2nd law that nothing in this universe is uncaused as in past eternal, since I presupposed that uncaused would mean permanently present. Uncaused finite things popping into existence, that would mean something could be caused by nothing. You rightly asked me for justification for an uncaused, intelligent cause of the universe, which is at least something. What justification could be sufficient for an explanation from nothing at all? Nothing produces nothing and is no explanation.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Chris,

      But to call this special pleading is not valid, because something is not proposed that is the ‘same’ but causes the universe anyway, something ‘other’ is proposed, a non-contingent, uncaused thing.

      This whole argument is the very essence of special pleading! Wiki: “Special pleading”: “Special pleading is a form of fallacious argument that involves an attempt to cite something as an exception to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exception”.

      You are saying that general rules of causation apply to everything else; you are then invoking one thing to which the rules don’t apply, and you are doing that precisely because you need it for your argument. That is the very definition of special pleading. If you were to produce some *other* justification of evidence for the exceptional being, and *then* introduced it to this argument, then that would not be special pleading. But that’s not what you are doing!

      Well, indeed the justification comes from the necessity of a defeater for an infinite regress of contingent, caused things, since this is impossible.

      Again, I don’t accept that you have shown that an infinite regress of caused causes is impossible.

      He states: If the cause was just a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, the the cause could never exist without it’s effect. If the sufficient conditions are given, then the effect must be given as well.

      This isn’t the case. Again, it ignores the possibility of quantum indeterminacy, un-caused material causes. Craig is just ruling possibilities out by fiat in order to leave the one he wants to point to.

      He continues: The only way for the cause to be timeless, and the effect to begin a finite time ago is for the cause to be a personal agent, endowed with freedom of the will, who has the ability to spontaneously create a new effect without any antecedent determining condition.

      Again, he’s not shown that such a thing is in any way possible or plausible, he’s just claiming it is because that’s what he wants his argument to arrive at.

      Craig seeks to explain the (order in the) finite, caused universe. The order in God is uncaused, the same way that God is uncaused.

      It’s more straightforward to just say that the order in the universe is un-caused and “just is”, than to say that it comes from God and that God is un-caused and “just is”. Again, the latter is not actually adding to the explanation.

      I argued from the 2nd law that nothing in this universe is uncaused as in past eternal, since I presupposed that uncaused would mean permanently present.

      The 2nd law is irrelevant to that point. Nothing in the 2nd law prevents un-caused material causes (e.g. particle-physics pair production).

  16. Chris

    Hi Coel,

    Thanks again for your reply, I never thought this would be such a long conversation when I posted my initial comment. But I really enjoy the thoroughness with which you state your objections and position. Thanks for your integrity on this point! Here’s my reply to your latest addition.

    This whole argument is the very essence of special pleading! Wiki: “Special pleading”: “Special pleading is a form of fallacious argument that involves an attempt to cite something as an exception to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exception”.

    You are saying that general rules of causation apply to everything else; you are then invoking one thing to which the rules don’t apply, and you are doing that precisely because you need it for your argument. That is the very definition of special pleading. If you were to produce some *other* justification of evidence for the exceptional being, and *then* introduced it to this argument, then that would not be special pleading. But that’s not what you are doing!

    If you continue reading on Wikipedia, please also read the lemma on ‘reductio ad absurdum’. The cosmological argument which we are debating here rests on this valid logical principle. I’m arguing on all fronts from the logical impossibility of the alternatives. I’m saying a past eternal universe is impossible therefore it began to exist. The justification for this is sufficiently demonstrated in Hilbert’s Hotel, which shows that infinity is not equal to infinity, so an actual infinity is a contradiction in terms, to which you have yet to respond. Here’s Craig explaining it:

    Again, I don’t accept that you have shown that an infinite regress of caused causes is impossible.

    See the above.

    This isn’t the case. Again, it ignores the possibility of quantum indeterminacy, un-caused material causes. Craig is just ruling possibilities out by fiat in order to leave the one he wants to point to.

    No, Craig is reasoning using ‘reductio ad absurdum’ here as well, ruling out by logic the possibility of a non-personal cause. A non-personal cause would necessarily create an metaphysically absurd effect, namely, a past infinite universe.

    Again, he’s not shown that such a thing is in any way possible or plausible, he’s just claiming it is because that’s what he wants his argument to arrive at.

    No, it’s the logical conclusion of reductio ad absurdum.

    It’s more straightforward to just say that the order in the universe is un-caused and “just is”, than to say that it comes from God and that God is un-caused and “just is”. Again, the latter is not actually adding to the explanation.

    The statement ‘the order in the universe is un-caused’ is based on metaphysically absurd premisses, and therefore irrational to adopt as truth.

    The 2nd law is irrelevant to that point. Nothing in the 2nd law prevents un-caused material causes (e.g. particle-physics pair production).

    To which properties of the quantum vacuum are you appealing as a sufficient efficient cause for ‘creatio ex nihilo’, creation by nothing and from nothing? It sounds to me like you’re appealing to the omnipotence of quantum physics. If you were to clean up your argument, I suggest you use my tactics against me, reasoning from the metaphysical absurdity of an unembodied mind, stating it must therefore be uncaused natural causes, which I believe is absurd. It’s absurd because it couldn’t possibly have properties other then personal (a spontaneous free will) to create a metaphysically plausible effect.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Chris,
      I’m just getting round to replying to this!

      … I’m saying a past eternal universe is impossible therefore it began to exist. The justification for this is sufficiently demonstrated in Hilbert’s Hotel, which shows that infinity is not equal to infinity, so an actual infinity is a contradiction in terms …

      I don’t accept that this shows that a past-eternal universe is impossible, nor that an actual infinity is a contradiction in terms. All it shows is that the concept “infinity” is somewhat counter-intuitive and that one can have two different infinities, one larger than the other. But I don’t see why it follows that a past-eternal universe is impossible.

      But, even if a past-eternal universe were ruled out, I see no reason why an un-caused material cause is any less plausible than an uncaused disembodied-mind cause. Indeed the former is much more in line with what we know about the universe.

      To which properties of the quantum vacuum are you appealing as a sufficient efficient cause for ‘creatio ex nihilo’, creation by nothing and from nothing?

      Maybe we don’t need any “properties of a vacuum” at all in order to have creation from nothing. No-one has shown that we do.

  17. Chris

    Hi Coel,

    I don’t accept that this shows that a past-eternal universe is impossible, nor that an actual infinity is a contradiction in terms. All it shows is that the concept “infinity” is somewhat counter-intuitive and that one can have two different infinities, one larger than the other. But I don’t see why it follows that a past-eternal universe is impossible.

    Of course you’re free to accept whatever you wish, I’m just presenting logical and mathematical evidence against a past infinite universe. To further explain the implications from Hilbert’s Hotel, why is it reasonable to believe a hotel could be full at first, and could be half-full after just re-arranging the guests, not changing the number of guests, or the number of rooms. To just dismiss it as counter-intuitive without engaging with the argument is just wishful thinking.

    But, even if a past-eternal universe were ruled out, I see no reason why an un-caused material cause is any less plausible than an uncaused disembodied-mind cause. Indeed the former is much more in line with what we know about the universe.

    Craig explained in his video, and so did I in my comments, how a timeless, natural cause can only produce a past infinite universe, or no universe at all. Either circumstances are sufficient for the cause to produce an effect, and it does without fail, or circumstances are insufficient, and it does not, without exception. Natural law doesn’t have a choice.

    In a timeless state, either circumstances and cause are permanently present, or they are permanently absent. But since we exist, both must have been permanently present, or else no effect would occur. But this also means the cause cannot exist without it’s effect. The (temporal) effect is therefore permanently present, thus past eternal. You can’t rule out past eternal universes and hope for timeless, natural causes to bail you out of the conclusion of a personal cause for the universe.

    Maybe we don’t need any “properties of a vacuum” at all in order to have creation from nothing. No-one has shown that we do.

    The world’s greatest ever philosopher, David Hume, proposed an ontology called ‘bundle theory’, in which an object is nothing when you strip it of all it’s properties. I wonder what Hume would have to say to the person stating that the non-object that is the result of this removal of properties would all of a sudden start to cause universes. I think his skepticism towards divine miracles would be insignificant compared to his skepticism towards nothing causing something.

    This was my last contribution to this discussion. I’m under the impression it’s not about the argument itself anymore, but about willingness to accept it’s conclusion.

    To escape the conclusion of the Kalam cosmological argument intellectually, one would have to give just one example, even if it was in a thought experiment, of a possible past infinite universe, or of a non-personal necessary cause that is capable of causing a contingent, temporally finite effect. I have not seen examples of these things, and I would say it’s impossible to postulate them, since they’re philosophically absurd. I’d encourage you to a fresh perspective on Craig’s philosophical work, it’s not as preposterous as you think. I believe you are misrepresenting his arguments on your blog, or rejecting them on grounds other than intellectual.

    I’m very grateful for your time and attention, you are a very courteous blogger! I hope we’ll cross paths again.

    Chris

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Chris,

      To further explain the implications from Hilbert’s Hotel, why is it reasonable to believe a hotel could be full at first, and could be half-full after just re-arranging the guests, not changing the number of guests, or the number of rooms.

      The argument here seems to be: (1) the concept of infinity has counter-intuitive consequences; (2) therefore the concept of infinity is not sensible; (3) therefore the universe cannot be past-eternal.

      I don’t accept that (1) implies (2). Lots of things we’ve found from physics, auch as quantum mechanics and relativity, are highly counter-intuitive. This just means that the human brain has its limitations, and cannot be relied on for issues outside its everyday experience, such as infinities.

      So, for me to accept your argument, you need to better defend how (1) implies (2). For example, in the above, I can simply reply that the concept “full”, as we understand it, doesn’t apply in the case of infinite sets. Since infinities can be different sizes, “full” with respect to infinity-1 is not “full” with respect to infinity-2.

      Either circumstances are sufficient for the cause to produce an effect, and it does without fail, or circumstances are insufficient, and it does not, without exception

      First, this doesn’t allow for *probabilistic* causation. All of the causes are in place, and … sometimes the consequence happens and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t have any argument against this being the case for particle physics. Indeed, that is exactly what seems to be happening, given the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics.

      Second, the above is not an argument against an **un-caused** material cause, something whose effect does not depend on prior circumstances.

      I wonder what Hume would have to say to the person stating that the non-object that is the result of this removal of properties would all of a sudden start to cause universes.

      Your rebuttal is about a non-propertied prior-cause that then causes something. Yet, my whole point here is the possibility of an **un-caused** material cause, something that is not a result of any prior properties at all.

      You are happy to allow an un-caused, disembodied-mind God, as a cause, but are not happy to allow an un-caused physical-material cause. This is a case of double-standards. All your arguments against an un-caused cause work just as well against a god.

      … one would have to give just one example, even if it was in a thought experiment, of a possible past infinite universe, or of a non-personal necessary cause that is capable of causing a contingent, temporally finite effect.

      But you are postulating an un-caused-but-necessary, disembodied-mind cause. Aren’t you just as obligated to produce at least one known example of such a thing, showing that it is at least possible, before invoking it as an argument?

      Again the whole argument here is simple special pleading. You’re happy to apply critical scrutiny to the possibilities that you want to rule out, but you don’t apply the same scrutiny to the one possibility that you want to retain. That one possibility you argue for has all the same “absurdities” as the possibilities that you want to rule out.

  18. Dan Steeves

    According to the atheist faith in atheism the universe came into existence by a colossal explosion, a “big bang.” So the big bang theory was a blind, uncontrolled explosion. Something like a nuclear explosion maybe? But an uncontrolled explosion cannot produce order nor organization. That is something we all can agree on. However, the universe is staggeringly and marvelously ordered and organized. The solar system is highly ordered. Each planet is in a fixed orbit around the sun in accord with its mass, orbit velocity and distance from the sun. Earth’s moon is in a fixed orbit around the earth in accord with its trajectory speed, mass and distance from the earth. If any of these factors I’ve mentioned were altered the planets would either fall into a decaying orbit and crash into the sun or progressively increase their distance from the sun and fly off into outer space. The same applies on a galactic level. All heavenly bodies are in fixed trajectories orbiting one another for countless eons of time. What causes this order? The laws of physics. Dual, triple and quadruple star systems all move around a center of gravity. Groups of galaxies held together by gravity. So the laws of physics govern the universe. Natural law cannot legislate itself. All laws, either man made or natural, must be legislated by a lawgiver.
    The same rule applies on the atomic level. The periodic table is dramatic evidence of a Creator and lawgiver of matter on a subatomic level. And the same rule applies to the genetic code which holds the instructions for a living cell. Just as Bill Gates admitted, the DNA is a program but infinitely more complex than a program created by Microsoft. Which means that the living cell and its DNA must have had a creator and programmer. And I mean a Creator, Organizer and Lawgiver of the highest order. So really atheism is a born-dead idea and atheists have other darker reasons for their atheism which have nothing to do with true science.

    Reply
    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Dan,

      According to the atheist faith in atheism the universe came into existence by a colossal explosion, a “big bang.” So the big bang theory was a blind, uncontrolled explosion. Something like a nuclear explosion maybe?

      First, the Big Bang was nothing like a nuclear explosion, indeed it wasn’t even an “explosion”. Second, it wasn’t necessarily the start of everything (just the start of of the universe as we see it today). Lastly, there is no “faith” in atheism, merely an assessment as best we can.

      However, the universe is staggeringly and marvelously ordered and organized.

      No, not really. It obeys simple regularities that we call the “laws of physics”, but much lese is chaotic and random.

      The solar system is highly ordered. Each planet is in a fixed orbit around the sun in accord with its mass, orbit velocity and distance from the sun. Earth’s moon is in a fixed orbit around the earth in accord with its trajectory speed, mass and distance from the earth.

      No, not at all, the planets are just strewn about at random, more or less. There is nothing special about their current locations or orbits, as we now know from considering planetary systems around other stars.

      If any of these factors I’ve mentioned were altered the planets would either fall into a decaying orbit and crash into the sun or progressively increase their distance from the sun and fly off into outer space.

      Which is exactly what happened in the early Solar System, and what we see has happened in other planetary systems around other stars.

      Natural law cannot legislate itself. All laws, either man made or natural, must be legislated by a lawgiver.

      You just assert that without any evidence or argument at all. You’ve given no reason why an ordered universe without a god is less likely than an ordered universe with a god.

      And the same rule applies to the genetic code which holds the instructions for a living cell. Just as Bill Gates admitted, the DNA is a program but infinitely more complex than a program created by Microsoft. Which means that the living cell and its DNA must have had a creator and programmer.

      Sure, and the mechanism that creates and programs the cell and DNA is Darwinian evolution. That is a non-intelligent process that creates ordered life forms.

      And I mean a Creator, Organizer and Lawgiver of the highest order.

      Nope, just well-understood Darwinian evolution.

      So really atheism is a born-dead idea and atheists have other darker reasons for their atheism which have nothing to do with true science.

      Not at all, atheists advance atheism because they have evidence and science that point to it.

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