Prominent heavy-hitter for Christian apologetics, William Lane Craig, is well known amongst the skeptic atheist community for the inanity of his arguments. Regardless of how many times his particular arguments are disputed and refuted, he trots them out time and time again as if we had all forgotten. Many have taken a crack at dismantling this particular argument for the existence of God, including both YouTuber Thunderf00t and Arizona State University Professor Lawrence Krauss. Of the two, Krauss’ argument is perhaps the most pertinent—that even if something is logically consistent, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s true. In his own words, and one of my favourite quotes from Lawrence Krauss, is:
“The Universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not.” – Lawrence Krauss.
I think that this provides enormous insight into the validity of the old Aristotelian view that something can only be proven logically. Namely that the view is entirely fallacious. Our methods for discerning fact from fiction have come a long way in the last (nearly) 3,000 years. A vastly more effective means has rose in prominence in the Renaissance—the scientific method.
For the sake of brevity, and given William Lane Craig’s position is the position I wish to dismiss, I will be limiting my rebuttal only to the variant of the Kalam Cosmological Argument which he presents. Time and time again, it’s trotted out in a debate as if it’s repetition somehow garners it validity.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument (William Lane Craig Edition).
William Lane Craig often presents his argument in the form of a syllogism. A syllogism is a kind of deductive argument, wherein the conclusion is determined by the premises. If the premises are true, then it logically follows that the conclusion must be true. This is different from an inductive argument, something commonly used by science to draw a model from observations which, then, turn into a deductive argument when the model is tested for predictions. I am not going to describe philosophical logic in too much greater detail, but a couple of informative introductions to the matter can be found here and here.
Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument is:
Premise 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
Premise 2) The Universe began to exist.
Conclusion 1) Therefore, the Universe has a cause of its existence.
Conclusion 2) That cause must be God.
Observation 1: The Non Sequitur.
The first point that I would like to raise against the argument has to do with the second conclusion. While, in his debates, he fabricates a wide variety of reasons for the cause to be God, the conclusion simply does not follow from the premises. Even if you were to establish that the Universe had to have a cause, what that cause might be is not implied by the reasoning employed. That it exists, and that he has officially included it in his argument in the past, demonstrates an absurd degree of enthusiasm to leap to a bogus conclusion.
Furthermore, even if you were to grant that a god had to have been the cause, there is no necessary reason to believe that it’s anything more than a deistic, non-interfering, entity as opposed to the gods proposed by modern theological philosophers. Worse still for William Lane Craig’s Christian background that he has to succumb to employing an argument developed by Islamic theologians of the Kalam tradition. Remarkable since it’s even in the name.
Another major problem with the conclusion is it’s ambiguity. Demonstrably, the answer a person gets from the thing is entirely subjective. Logic, supposedly, offers explicit conclusions whose relevance is supposed to be objective. In this particular case it seems only to demonstrate that the classical approaches to philosophical logic, while intriguing, are fundamentally flawed. You can use logic to “prove” anything you want and, therefore, all things “proven” through logic alone are questionable.
This is why science doesn’t accept proofs the way that mathematics or logic does. Science concerns itself only with models which explain observation and experimentation. The moment the model no longer works predictively it is revisited. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the old model was wrong, or untrue, in the common sense of the terms. A more appropriate interpretation would be that it is less true than the newer model which explains more. Science is a cumulative process, the longer it works on a problem the more accurate it’s ability to explain is.
If you’ve never noticed, I have an enormous amount of respect for the knowledge garnered by the millions of man-hours dedicated to the pursuit of science. Which, of course, will lead us forward.
Observation 2: The Beginning of the Universe.
William Lane Craig’s assertion that the Universe “began” to exist is rather obviously, and odiously, misinformed. In the standard sense of the term, the Universe did not begin to exist. There was never a time in which the Universe did not exist and, therefore, there can be no commonly understood beginning. Apologists, such as Craig, quite often point out the discoveries of science as a rebuttal against science without quite understanding anything they’re talking about. In this case, it’s a complete lack of comprehension regarding the, even by scientific standards, poorly understood conditions of the early Universe.
I say early, because it’s a much better description that “start” or “beginning”. Why is that? All we can really understand is that, at one point in the definite past, the Universe was much, much smaller. So small, in fact, that it occupied no space at all. Then, for some unknown reason (although we have some good ideas here and here), it begun to expand. The Big Bang theory does not postulate an explosion into some pre-existing medium, as much as apologists might like to contend that it does, but rather that the Big Bang marked the beginning of a period called inflation where spacetime, itself, expands—quite rapidly in fact.
The simple fact is, however, our intuition fails under such circumstances. Our best science, also, falls short of an accurate picture of what happens under such infinitesimally small conditions. It’s one of those points where relativity and Quantum Mechanics come into stark conflict. The singularity from which our Universe emerged is infinitely small, but also infinitely dense and as massive as the Universe we see around us. Everything which gave rise to all we see (and, more importantly, the 99.9% of things we can’t see) came from that single point. Human intuition deals with, what Richard Dawkins refers to as, “Middle Earth”. Moderate length scales with moderate mass and moving at moderate velocities. Changes are predictable, to a rather surprising degree of certainty, with simple expectation. At the very small (Quantum Mechanics) or the very massive (relativity), however, such intuition falls, completely, to pieces.
To then suppose that our intuition, in the form of a logical argument, can be extrapolated to encompass something so far removed from our normal scale of understanding is to employ the most ludicrous of egotisms. And all coming from people who espouse humility. It’s, honestly, insulting.
Observation 3: The Fallacy of Composition.
For a fairer argument, it might be necessary to tackle it logically itself. So let’s do. A logical fallacy is a mistake in reasoning. When a conclusion really doesn’t follow from the premises (as in the first section of this article), you get a non sequitur which, literally, translates to “does not follow”. An “ad hominem” fallacy (or “to the person”) occurs when, rather than addressing the content of an argument, you attack the person presenting the argument. There are others. For a full list of logical fallacies, see here.
In this case, I would argue that the Kalam Cosmological Argument commits a fallacy of composition.
Just because all things within the Universe have a cause, you can not infer that the Universe, itself, must have then had a cause. Indeed, Lawrene Krauss has demonstrated that it is entirely possible for the Universe to have arisen on it’s own without any need to invoke an outside force. Does this mean that he’s proven that the Universe came from nothing? No. But he’s shown that it’s possible and that, unfortunately, is the nail in the coffin for the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Is Nothing Nothing? And Is Nothing, Which Is Nothing, Even Possible?
I don’t think so. And here’s why.
There is no evidence to suggest that it is even possible for, what apologists like to call nothing, to be a plausible alternative for the Universe we see. It can not be inferred that it is an equal possibility, by any means. It might be that, necessarily, Universes exist rather than nothing. It’s an odd contention, and an impossible one to prove I freely admit, but, from our local perspective, it almost seems to be the case.
And, yes, I am aware of what I said earlier about human intuition failing.
Even renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking, has weighed in on this issue—much to the delight of atheists such as myself. What can I say? I am a huge fan of his. Something, it seems, can definitely arise from nothing.
But That’s Not Nothing.
And neither is what you’re proposing. In fact, what science proposes as nothing is far more nothing than the nothing that apologists offer. Often overlooked, I notice, is the fact that apologists tell us all about nothing—and then insert their personal flavour of God. Your God is not nothing (at least from the perspective of the argument) and, yet, you excuse him from explanation. There is no need to explain where this enormously complicated super-entity came from.
That’s crap. If you’re offering God as an explanation, then you need some pretty compelling evidence to suggest that he exists in the first place. And evidence, ultimately, gives way to explanation.
You can’t demonstrate the existence of your God through argument alone. Time to find some evidence.