William Lane Craig Defeated Part 2 - The Argument for the Existence of Contingent Beings

This is my response to the arguments for the existence of god, given by William Lane Craig in his debate with Lawrence Krauss at NCU. William Lane Craig's argument is below, and my refutation follows:


Craig's argument:


P1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in its own nature or in an external cause)

P2. The universe exists.

P3. If the universe has an explanation if its existence, that explanation is god.

C. Therefore the explanation of the universe is god.


My response:


Craig believes he has formulated a clever argument that will not fall prey to the usual cosmological counter--but it does. Adding the phrase "either in its own nature or in an external cause" does not help. Let's see how he intended to use this loophole. Adding the phrase "in its own nature" is an effort to fend off the question and infinite regress of, "What explanation can be offered to explain god?"  The answer would be, "Another god."  But that leads to an infinite regress, where the explanation of gods existence is explained by another god, and so on to infinity.  Craig wants to use the notion that the explanation of god is "in his own nature" to prevent the infinite regress. However, this move by Craig provides a counter to his own argument.  We can use the same explanation for the explanation for the existence of the universe, in that, it is "in its own nature."  Let me illustrate this for you.


One could say, "Well, god exists, therefore he must have an explanation." Then Craig could simply answer his explanation is "in his own nature." Note, this is merely by description, and assertion, without any facts or evidence. Worse, we can say the same thing for the universe, but in this case, one explanation has been offered by Lawrence Krauss using Quantum Mechanics. Whether this is true or not is neither here nor there, but the fact of the matter is that we have more evidence for the universe being explained by "its own nature" than we do for any "gods or goddesses" as the explanation for its existence. Furthermore, the universe is considered circular and infinite by many religions; for example, Taoism, Buddhism and ancient African religions; and this is supported by the Second Law of Conservation of Energy, as well as Quantum Theory, as pointed out by Dr. Krauss.


So we see from examining P1, that Craig commits a fallacy worse than the fallacy of "False Dilemma,"

for, in P1, he gives a disjunction, with two disjuncts. One disjunct being "in its own nature" and the other disjunct is "an external cause." He goes on to P3, and limits the possible explanations of the universe ONLY being an external cause. There is no justification for such a limitation, as I have already shown.


Furthermore, I do not have to provide an explanation of how the explanation of the universe is "in its own nature." As Craig himself points out about the explanation of a "best explanation":


"...that can be left open for future inquiry... If the best explanation needs an explanation, we're left with an infinite regress."


Therefore, I do not have to provide an "explanation of my explanation" of the universe being "in its own nature." Clearly, this explanation is just as viable, if not more viable, and a better explanation, (due to scientific inquiry) than saying "Goddidit!!!" This shows that P3 is not justified, and the argument does not work, as it is an open question as to the explanation of the existence of the universe. William Lane Craig's ATTEMPT to prove god's existence as the best explanation for the existence of the universe in the above argument fails.

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Tags: Existence_of_Contingent_Beings, Wiiliam_Lane_Craig, argument

Comment by Kevin Harris on April 9, 2011 at 5:58pm

Leibniz first formulated this argument. It is usually formulated like this (but P2 and P3 can be reversed without effecting the argument):


1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the
necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3. The universe exists.

4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.


P1 is valid because if the universe is eternal or does not have a cause then it is a necessary existence. If it's not Special Pleading to claim the universe exists necessarily, then it's not Special Pleading to claim that God exists necessarily.

But contrary to what you say, the evidence shows the universe is contingent and not necessary. Matter is contingent on various parts working together in motion, etc. Even in the case of QM, it is subject to physical laws and complexities that if had not come together matter would not exist.

If the Big Bang had not occurred, the time/space/material universe would not exist (even in the case of multiple bangs). So the universe is a complexity of whirling parts subject to entropy. Further, there are Possible Worlds wherein the time/space/material universe does not exist (e.g. a world wherein only abstract objects exist). Therefore, the t/s/m universe is not necessary but contingent. And if contingent, it requires an external cause. Something necessary would exist in all possible worlds, otherwise it wouldn't be necessary.

Since an actual, concrete infinite regress is impossible (see my "infinite auditorium" illustration on another thread) then contingent things stop at something non-contingent (or independent).

It makes more sense that something immaterial and/or simple in it's nature is a better candidate for being a necessary existence than something material and complex.

Surveying philosophy, Craig points out there are only two candidates that are described as immaterial, simple, and necessary: something of the order of abstract objects (like numbers) or something of the order of mind.

But abstract objects don't cause anything (the number "7" does not stand in causal relations). Therefore, we're pointed toward something of the order of mind (which can cause something).


Comment by Olav Kalgraf on May 6, 2011 at 5:37am
Pretty much everyone agrees that causality is not a universal phenomenon so you don't have to justify that some things can simply exist. What you do have to justify however, is that there is a phenomenon there to begin with. If you want to introduce "God" you need some evidence, otherwise he's a victim of Occam's razor. The existence of nature however, is an uncontroversial presupposition in this argument - you're trying to argue it has a cause after all.

When you talk about the universe being contingent you're solidly in wordplay and equivocation territory. If you were interested in presenting a real argument you'd have talked about spacetime the whole way. Using the word universe makes people substitute in "everything" though. If you had done this it would have become clear that we have no problem imagining natural, eternal causes. In fact, this is what you'll find in Stephen Hawkings works among others. But frankly, there are severe issues involved with knowing anything at all near T=0 so I don't see why it would be unreasonable to simply reject your assertion that the universe is contingent on the basis of the ignorance of mankind.

That is, I'd accept your argument that certain things must be able to simply be, but claim that I don't see any reason that nature can't be eternal, regardless of what may or may not be a cause of big bangs.

Your comment about Possible Worlds is irrelevant to reality. The universe doesn't have to be logically necessary in that sense. It could simply be what happens to be reality. That you appeal to realities of abstract objects really underlines this, because abstractions only exist in material minds as far as anyone knows. We have no reason to think that everything we can think of is actually possible and what's actually necessary has to be true in every imaginable world. The naturalistic argument here is not one from logical necessity anyway. That's the business of the people who'd like to skip the entire "evidence" part of an argument about reality.

Your assertion that it makes more sense that something immaterial and/or simple in its nature being a better candidate for being a necessary existence than something material and complex really has to be unpacked.
First, we have no evidence of anything immaterial at all. How something immaterial could make more sense than a version of something we have evidence of is incomprehensible to me. If you can't demonstrate manifestation, your claim is indistinguishable from the non existent. Extrapolating "nature" and saying "more of the same" is a strictly better approach.
I'd agree that the simple is preferable to the complex, but I do not get why something material would not qualify. At least not after it's clear that we can have natural causes of universes in the event that they were contingent. I don't see why those would not be referred to as material either, if they exist, they had a material result after all.

It's nice that Craig surveys philosophy for immaterial, simple and necessary things, but we're dealing with claims about reality here, and I could only accept "simple" without objection. I'd grant a severely restricted version of "necessary", but I'd need a demonstration of "immaterial" before I'd even know what you're talking about.(Hint: Things that manifest in material human brains, like numbers, do not qualify as immaterial or having separate existence until you show it to be so)

However, commenting on the two options, I agree that numbers don't cause anything(They're also only found in material brains as far as anyone knows).
When it comes to minds, these are of course part of causal relations, but only because minds are the processes performed by material brains. As far as I'm concerned, dualist views have no support what so ever and have so fundamental unanswered problems that they amount to claims of magic. Not only that, but material brains are the most complex material machines we know of by several orders of magnitude. Minds therefore falls flat on their faces as a candidate for explanation due to the simplicity requirement, and the problems are compounded to infinity when we also realize that the kind of mind you're talking about here is in fact a non-material entity that there's no evidence of in the first place, nor is there any evidence you know what you're talking about when referring to them. In short, the transcendental mind is in all likelihood a fiction, and fictions don't cause anything either.

A quick summary:

Failure to realize that some aspects of nature might exist independently of big bangs.
Failure to demonstrate that supernature/God actually manifests.
Worthless and unfalsifiable mind-scenario that is the very antithesis of an explanation.(Especially when WLC continues with his argument about the personal, omnibenevolent mind etc, Frankly, this approach simply begs for unfalsifiable naturalistic parodies)

I can see no reason what so ever to abandon methodological naturalism at this point. Both because physics is still making progress and because it's not possible to distinguish between an infinity of possible supernatural explanations without evidence. Without any observation we don't even have any need to invent supernatural explanations. They buy us exactly nothing in terms of understanding or applications. They could buy us a false cosmology however, that could be much more damaging to future science than the much simpler "We don't know yet". After all, the moment we've declared that the big bang was caused by an ancient Jewish war god, there's no need to look into it further. There simply is nothing more to know. You guys are free to start working on the Physics of Prayer though. What are you waiting for? There's no reason to think current physicists have any competence in that field anyway - they're all atheists to begin with.

However, what puzzles me the most is why WLC, a proponent of Christianity, would think that he has anything to contribute to such a discussion. His bible uses Mesopotamian cosmology in its creation myth for crying out loud. With skydome and heavenly ocean and all kinds of embarrassing bells and whistles. And he wants to pretend that it could somehow be a good idea to pile his bronze age monster on top of the big bang theory? I'm sorry, but I can barely contain my laughter at the delusional nature of that man.


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