Refuting William Lane Craig’s Proofs of God

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 20, 2009 in Video,William Lane Craig

I’m sure you will all enjoy this:

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

André November 20, 2009 at 3:20 am

Great, isn’t it? :)

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lukeprog November 20, 2009 at 3:43 am

Yes. A great takedown of the real relationship between logic and Craig’s beliefs. But, the maker of these videos misunderstands Craig’s Kalam argument somewhat.

Thanks for the links, Andre!

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André November 20, 2009 at 4:43 am

You’re welcome :)

But it’s not Kalam that Craig is using on the video, is it? I think it’s the ‘standard’ cosmological argument. Anyway, I do agree that the author could do a better job on that one.

You should make your own series here. ‘Decraiging’ or something like that.

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ayer November 20, 2009 at 6:26 am

Give me a break. The first video (haven’t watched the others yet) is what you would expect–amateurish and weak. (Science will eventually explain everything–even outside of spacetime (“before the Big Bang” as he says nonsensically)–because he has great faith in science. Yes, that’s powerful). He needs to read some atheist philosophers, like Quentin Smith, who says:

““Why did spacetime begin to exist?”…I reject standard or traditional atheism and side with theism on this issue. A theory that includes an explanatory hypothesis about some observational evidence e, such as spacetime’s beginning to exist, is ceteris paribus epistemically preferable to any theory of the observational evidence e that does not include such an explanatory hypothesis. No atheist has ever provided a proof that the existence of spacetime is a brute fact and, consequently, standard atheism remains, in this respect, an unjustified hypothesis.” (http://www.qsmithwmu.com/time_began_with_a_timeless_point.htm)

I understand that atheists squeal like stuck pigs about Craig because he is so effective, but best to stick to serious critiques (like Smith, Dawes, Oppy, etc.) and not this amateur-hour stuff.

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Reginald Selkirk November 20, 2009 at 11:34 am

The beard looks good. How old is that footage?

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g November 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

André: yes, it is the kalam cosmological argument Craig is using there. Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe begins to exist; so the universe has a cause. I agree that the alleged refutation in the video isn’t terribly impressive.

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Paul November 20, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Why does logic dictate that the creator of the universe needs to be of “of unimaginable power”?

First (facetiously), didn’t WLC just imagine it?
A bit more seriously, the creator only need to have the power to cause the creation event and no more. Or at least I would think this the more reasonable statement.

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Paul November 20, 2009 at 1:35 pm

From Ayer’s post where he is quoting Quentin Smith –

“I reject standard or traditional atheism and side with theism on this issue. A theory that includes an explanatory hypothesis about some observational evidence e, such as spacetime’s beginning to exist, is ceteris paribus epistemically preferable to any theory of the observational evidence e that does not include such an explanatory hypothesis.”

What is the standard or traditional atheist’s theory? I had thought that in general (traditional?) the answer was more agnostic on the matter. On the level of we don’t have sufficient enough (yet) information on which to make a valid hypothesis.

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Lee A. P. November 20, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Craig thinks a powerful ghosts talks to him therefore he knows.

Then he thinks he can show we have good reasons to believe further cuz stuff begain and stuff cannot come fron nothing –except for the magical, invisible Stuff-maker, who always existed, magically, cuz the rules do not appply to Sthe stuff-maker.

Waiting for science to offer a better explanation is indeed preferable to this putridly stupid nonsense.

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ayer November 20, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Paul: What is the standard or traditional atheist’s theory? I had thought that in general (traditional?) the answer was more agnostic on the matter. On the level of we don’t have sufficient enough (yet) information on which to make a valid hypothesis.

According to Quentin Smith in the same article:
“The standard response of the atheist is to say that there is no answer to this question; spacetime’s beginning to exist is a brute fact or has no explanation. This standard atheist response seems to give theism a prima facie theoretical superiority to atheism; theists offer a detailed explanatory hypothesis about why spacetime begins to exists, and standard atheists are content to leave spacetime’s beginning to exist unexplained.”

When dealing with the origins of spacetime itself, you cannot “wait for science” to come up with the answer, since science by definition deals with cause and effect within spacetime. That is why we have philosophy. Smith goes on to try to give an nontheistic explanation (not very plausibly, in my view; but at least he knows what he is talking about and is willing to take up the burden, unlike the amateur who produced these silly videos).

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Lee A. P. November 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm

And maybe Ayer could stop quote mining Smith like a damned young earth creationidt creton — but he is generally too busy ball washing Craig.

“I shall argue that there is a causal, atheistic explanation of the beginning of spacetime that has greater prior probability and greater posteriori probability than theism.”

http://www.qsmithwmu.com/atheistic_versus_theistic_explanations_of_the_beginning_of_spacetime.htm

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GungFu November 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm

I watched this a while ago, ‘The Craigening”! I fell over laughing at the titles. good stuff.

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Bill Maher November 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I like how he talks about Craig’s fallacious math and statistics. Here is another that does a similar thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JQD6uVVqf0

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TaiChi November 20, 2009 at 9:14 pm

About Ayer’s quote of Q. Smith:

The thought here seems to be that any explanation is better than no explanation at all, which doesn’t seem to be true, given that a bad explanation may be an obstruction to finding good ones (I think that it’s fairly easy to argue that theistic explanations can be obstructive like this). But even if one believes otherwise, that we’re obliged to believe in the “only game in town”, it is clear that the theist can’t get what she wants, since (i) any postulated explanation for the existence of God would be likewise as obligatory (that is, sticking to our principle requires a belief in an infinite regression of Gods), and (ii) this principle doesn’t entitle any theist to believe in her particular God of choice – it only gets them so far as Deism.

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Briang November 20, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I’m enjoying this blog. Couple of comments on the videos.

I watched the first one. It seems that the critic misunderstands Craig’s argument on a fundamental point. Craig’s premise is not “whatever exists has a cause”, it’s “whatever BEGINS to exist has a cause.” So there’s no contradiction with his conclusion that God is uncaused.

Another thing I noticed is that the critic accuses Craig of making an argument from ignorance. This is sometimes call the “god-of-the-gaps.” I’ve noticed that atheists use this criticism a lot, even when it doesn’t apply. If someone said scientists don’t know what caused the big bang, therefore God did it, this would be a “god-of-the-gaps” fallacy. Craig isn’t arguing based on what science doesn’t know, he’s arguing based on the scientific finding that the universe had a beginning.

Finally, I noticed that the critic appeals to the fact that science will discover more in the future. This is another common trend I’ve seen among atheists. Of course science will learn more in the future, but you can’t use that as evidence against what we know today. Either it is or is not the case that the the best scientific evidence points to the universe having a beginning. The only reasonable way to make a judgment on this is by the evidence we have right now. Future evidence is only helpful for those with a time machine.
Christians can use this kind of argument too. “You’ll know that God exists on judgment day.” The atheist may believe on judgment day, but that doesn’t give him a reason to believe today.

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Reginald Selkirk November 21, 2009 at 5:58 am

ayer: According to Quentin Smith in the same article:
“The standard response of the atheist is to say that there is no answer to this question; spacetime’s beginning to exist is a brute fact or has no explanation. This standard atheist response seems to give theism a prima facie theoretical superiority to atheism; theists offer a detailed explanatory hypothesis about why spacetime begins to exists, and standard atheists are content to leave spacetime’s beginning to exist unexplained.”

First of all, the origin of the Universe IS unknown. It is not clear that we will ever have a solution which we can know is probably true. The advantage to being honest about this is that it shows that theist’s alternative to be an argument from ignorance.

I thought Craig’s arguments in the last two videos were especially bad; historicity of the resurrection and personal inner experience.

Notice how Craig states as fact events from the Bible, such as the women discovering the empty tomb? He then offers these facts as supporting evidence for other events from the Bible. I might just as well cite as fact that Paul Bunyan was born in Maine.

My usual response to the empty tomb argument:
Look: I have an invisible midget unicorn on the palm of my hand! What, you don’t see it? That proves it really is invisible.

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Reginald Selkirk November 21, 2009 at 6:01 am

Briang: Another thing I noticed is that the critic accuses Craig of making an argument from ignorance. This is sometimes call the “god-of-the-gaps.” I’ve noticed that atheists use this criticism a lot, even when it doesn’t apply. If someone said scientists don’t know what caused the big bang, therefore God did it, this would be a “god-of-the-gaps” fallacy. Craig isn’t arguing based on what science doesn’t know, he’s arguing based on the scientific finding that the universe had a beginning.

He is also basing his argument on things unknown to science: What, if anything, causes a Big Bang? Whether a Big Bang needs a cause, and what the nature of said cause might be really are unknown to science. I.e. they qualify perfectly as a “gap.”

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Briang November 21, 2009 at 9:08 am

Reginald Selkirk: He is also basing his argument on things unknown to science: What, if anything, causes a Big Bang? Whether a Big Bang needs a cause, and what the nature of said cause might be really are unknown to science. I.e. they qualify perfectly as a “gap.”

His argument isn’t that they are unknown to science therefore God is the cause. He’s only using science to show that the universe had a beginning. The remainder of the argument is philosophical. One can disagree with one or more of the premises, but it’s not a God of the gaps argument. Just because an atheist cannot refute a theistic argument, doesn’t mean it’s a fallacy on the theists part.

If you use “gap” in the wider sense that you employ, you have a problem. Consider the following proposition:

For all x if science cannot account for the cause of x and a theist argues that God is the cause of x, then the theist has committed the god of the gaps fallacy.

The problem is that most scientists would hold that God is outside their discipline. So unless a new definition of science becomes universally agreed upon, all evidential theistic arguments will be fallacious under your definition.

Now you might say “that sounds good to me, after all I’m an atheist.” However, this is a highly problematic way of arguing. The force of the argument is only supported by a mere definition of science. But just because God isn’t part of the proper study of science doesn’t mean that God cannot be the proper study of philosophy.

Furthermore, this strategy would seem to lead to some strange implications. God, if he exists, could not give us sufficient evidence to believe. For every piece of evidence that he gave us, would fall under the god-of-the-gaps fallacy. This would seem problematic for one of the atheist arguments “the hiddenness of God.” Maybe God has to be hidden, because to cause some effect in the world (such as a miracle) would be unaccounted for by science, and thus be a god-of-the-gaps fallacy.

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ayer November 21, 2009 at 9:21 am

Reginald Selkirk: Whether a Big Bang needs a cause, and what the nature of said cause might be really are unknown to science. I.e. they qualify perfectly as a “gap.”

There is only a “gap” if you are dealing with an area that is even within the scientific method’s purview, which the very origin of spacetime itself is not, as Nobel prize winner Peter Medawar pointed out:

“So what of other questions? What about the question of God? Or of whether there is purpose within the universe? As if pre-empting Dawkins’ brash and simplistic take on the sciences, Medawar suggests that scientists need to be cautious about their pronouncements on these matters, lest they lose the trust of the public by confident and dogmatic overstatements.

Though a self-confessed rationalist, Medawar is clear on this matter:

“That there is indeed a limit upon science is made very likely by the existence of questions that science cannot answer, and that no conceivable advance of science would empower it to answer…. I have in mind such questions as: How did everything begin? What are we all here for? What is the point of living?

“Doctrinaire positivism – now something of a period piece – dismissed all such questions as nonquestions or pseudoquestions such as only simpletons ask and only charlatans profess to be able to answer.”” http://www.free-online.org/free-thinking/lifes-big-questions/science/isn-t-science-more-rational-than-faith.htm

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Reginald Selkirk November 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Briang: He’s only using science to show that the universe had a beginning. The remainder of the argument is philosophical.

… because he has ventured into an area which a a gap in our current scientific knowledge.

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Reginald Selkirk November 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm

ayer: Though a self-confessed rationalist, Medawar is clear on this matter:

“That there is indeed a limit upon science is made very likely by the existence of questions that science cannot answer, and that no conceivable advance of science would empower it to answer…. I have in mind such questions as: How did everything begin? What are we all here for? What is the point of living?

So much for that. The Big Bang theory seems to have answered a question he put down as unanswerable.

The latter two questions fall under aesthetics, not epistemology.

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ayer November 21, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Reginald Selkirk: So much for that. The Big Bang theory seems to have answered a question he put down as unanswerable.

If you have a link to the scientific discovery of the cause of the Big Bang, I’d like to see that. Strange that it didn’t make more news when it was discovered.

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TaiChi November 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Briang: Consider the following proposition:For all x if science cannot account for the cause of x and a theist argues that God is the cause of x, then the theist has committed the god of the gaps fallacy.The problem is that most scientists would hold that God is outside their discipline.So unless a new definition of science becomes universally agreed upon, all evidential theistic arguments will be fallacious under your definition.  

What an odd response. Yes, if science does in fact hold that the God question is outside their ken, then all evidential arguments for theism will be fallacious – but that will be because the scientists take the God question to be the kind of question which evidence can’t decide, and so their methods are of no use. In other words, the opposition you have set up between scientists and theists is correct, because they disagree over the availability of evidence with regard to God.
Do you disagree with the verdict that evidential arguments for theism are fallacious? Well, then you disagree with the scientists view that the question of God is not a scientific question.

Briang: But just because God isn’t part of the proper study of science doesn’t mean that God cannot be the proper study of philosophy.  

Sure. I think I’ll agree with you that the transcendental deduction of God is something philosophy can do, in principle. However, Craig’s premise, that everything begins to exist has a cause, is supposed to be an empirical principle – supported by science. As the critic points out, we never actually see matter being created, only rearranged, and so science does not support Craig here. And I don’t think philosophy can support his principle where science doesn’t, even if it would allow him to infer God given the principle. Correct me if I’m wrong.

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Reginald Selkirk November 22, 2009 at 12:24 pm

ayer:
If you have a link to the scientific discovery of the cause of the Big Bang, I’d like to see that.Strange that it didn’t make more news when it was discovered.  

The statement is true as I wrote it. Changing a statement someone else made, and then asking them to prove it is about the baldest, most obnoxious form of a strawman. It’s a pity that your religious belief has not supplied you with a stronger ethical base.

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Rhys Wilkins November 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Open question to everyone:

Does anyone have any comments on this counter-syllogism to the Kalam?

(1) Whatever is sentient must have a cause

(2) If Yahweh exists, He is sentient

(3) Therefore, if Yahweh exists, He must have a cause

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lukeprog November 24, 2009 at 7:24 am

Rhys,

I think that is a very good way to respond to arguments like the Kalam. And there are many, many parallel arguments one could make, because the concept of God is so very bizarre.

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Tomas Wallin November 24, 2009 at 8:58 am

Rhys,

I like were that is going. However is there a valid argument for why premise (1) is true? Seems like that is the weak link in the chain. Also a conclusion (4) might be added.

(4) Since Yahweh is defined to be uncaused, either he is not sentient or does not exist.

Or something similar.

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majinrevan666 November 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Rhys, don’t you still have to refute the syllogism this serves as a counter to in order to show that your syllogism is superior?

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Rhys Wilkins November 24, 2009 at 6:58 pm

I think (1) can be reasonably inferred a posteriori from direct inspection of the world around us, my dog was caused by its parents having sex, I was caused by my parents having sex etc etc.

Dr Craig always says the cause of the universe must be sentient because that is the only way for a timeless cause to give rise to a temporal effect. However, he also says that it must be uncaused. We know from (1) that both these can’t be true, so if the cause was personal, it must have a cause itself. This invalidates the alleged timelessness of the sentient cause as well, since causation implies temporality. If something was somehow able to create the universe it cannot be temporal, because to be temporal you have to be a spacial object doing something, which infers you are a part of the universe, not outside of it. You cannot be a creator of a universe AND not be able to exist apart from it, this literally makes no sense at all. Another counter-syllogism which sums this up and further cripples the Kalam:

(1) Whatever is sentient must be temporal
(2) If Yahweh exists, He is sentient
(3) Therefore if Yahweh exists, He is temporal

You can have alot of fun with these kind of syllogisms to show how patently absurd the concept of an uncaused creator is:

(1) Whatever is sentient must be material
(2) If Yahweh exists, He is sentient
(3) Therefore, if Yahweh exists, He is material

(1) Whatever is sentient must be subject to the laws of nature
(2) If Yahweh exists, He is sentient
(3) Therefore if Yahweh exists, He is subject to the laws of nature

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ayer November 25, 2009 at 8:16 am

Rhys Wilkins: I think (1) can be reasonably inferred a posteriori from direct inspection of the world around us, my dog was caused by its parents having sex, I was caused by my parents having sex etc etc.

That only works if you assume a physicalist position on the nature of minds, which is a controversial position; many philosophers of mind currently and throughout history, and many educated non-philosophers using a posteriori reasoning, embrace nonphysicalism in regard to minds. (In fact, a posteriori reasoning so commonly leads to the conclusion that minds are nonphysical that physicalist philosophers have been forced to come up with “nonredcutionist” versions of physicalism).

The difference with Craig’s premise (1) (whatever begins to exist has a cause) is that its contrary (something can begin to exist without a cause) cannot be derived from a posteriori experience of the world around us, and it is difficult to find a metaphysical tradition that embraces the concept “something can pop into existence uncaused out of nothing.”

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Rhys Wilkins November 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Even if we embrace dualism, we still have to accept that the mind was caused by two previous minds ‘coming’ together (haha) to create said mind. This is the only observable way that we have seen minds being created, anything else is sheer speculation conjectured as fact.

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Rhys Wilkins November 25, 2009 at 4:30 pm

On another note, dualism is seen as a kind of cop out these days in explaining the inner workings of the mind, it is kind of like a soul-of-the-gaps hypothesis. However so many people still are unconsciously haunted by the ghostly remnants of dualism that it has exerted its unwieldy influence on physicalist theories of mind, going by the name of Cartesian materialism.

However there are so many phenomena that simply cannot be explained on the assumption that there is a kind of ‘Cartesian Theater’ in the brain, a place where the ingoing content converts into outgoing, a place where all conscious experience is stored.

So judging on these factors, I think it is reasonable to say that

a) The mind is a staggeringly complex material aggregation of information processing software, without some kind of ‘finish line’ in the brain where ingoing becomes outgoing.

b) It is physical, just like everything else.

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AgeOfReasonXXI August 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm

congrats.
apparently your Craigophilia hasn’t gone as far as I thought
few more posts of this sort and you might actually live up to your “common sense atheism”
keep up the good work

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PaulD November 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

Your syllogism is logical coherent in the sense that if the premises are true, the conclusion logically follows. As a theist, however, I would dispute your first premise.

Open question to everyone:Does anyone have any comments on this counter-syllogism to the Kalam?(1) Whatever is sentient must have a cause(2) If Yahweh exists, He is sentient(3) Therefore, if Yahweh exists, He must have a cause

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Christopher Wright November 11, 2011 at 7:02 am

I appreciate Triumph’s caution with burden of proof.

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