F Rosa Rubicondior: William Lane Craig's Logical Kalamity

Tuesday 14 August 2012

William Lane Craig's Logical Kalamity

Let's have another look at William Lane Craig's filched (from mediaeval Islam) argument for a god (in his case, of course, not the Islamic god but the Christian god, which is the only one he will allow) the Kalâm Cosmological Argument.

I've previously debunked this fallacy in Favourite Fallacies - The Kalâm Cosmological Argument but a closer look at the argument reveals the basic flaws in logic with which Lane Craig bamboozles his credulous audiences using the same tactics as a televangelist wringing donations out of lonely, vulnerable and gullible people.

This argument isn't mine - I only wish it were - it's from Dan Barker's must-read book, Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One Of America's Leading Atheists.

Basically, the KCA argues:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therfore the universe had a cause.
Of course, like medieval Islamic scholars who wanted to prove the universe was caused by Allah and so declared Allah to be the cause, William Lane Craig concludes that it must be his preferred god (or more accurately, his desired conclusion) and so declares the Christian god to be the cause.

It's fun to substitute anything you like for 'God' in Lane Craig's argument and so 'prove' it was anything you want. It works. Try it! You can 'prove' a peanut-butter sandwich created the universe if you want to.

So, where is the fallacy? How come something which Craigites love to tell us proves their favourite god created everything, can also, with equal ease, 'prove' it was anything you like which caused everything to exist? The answer of course is that there is a subtle trick in the argument which Lane Craig hopes you won't see.

The trick Lane Craig pulls is hidden in the first line - everything that begins to exist has a cause. This clearly implies that there is a set things which don't begin to exist. So what is there in this set of things-which-don't-begin-to-exist? Can you think of any? Are these natural things? If not, why not?

How do we identify these things and, more importantly, if there are such things, how does Lane Craig eliminate them as candidate causes of the universe?

What Lane Craig does, having created this convenient set of things-which-don't-begin-to-exist simply by including the deceptive clause, 'which begins to', is to allow only his desired conclusion to occupy it, and so he rigs the argument by stating it in such a way as to exclude everything but the answer he wants.

If you deny him that right and, with the same justification that Lane Craig uses (i.e., no justification at all) put any number of things you want into that set of things-which-don't-begin-to-exist, you can create as big a range of choices of causes of the universe as you want.

You can also choose, with the same justification, to say this set-of-things-which-don't-begin-to-exist is empty; that there are no such things. After all, if Craig can simply deem his preferred conclusion to be in that set, we can equally deem it not to be. We can, if we assume the same right that Lane Craig claims, declare that there is nothing that could have caused the universe, and conclude that therefore the universe had no cause. QED!

But why should there not be perfectly natural things which don't begin to exist, such as a non-zero quantum energy field, a black hole in another universe, or simply 'something' which may be the default state of existence rather than the nothing assumed by the KCA?

In essence, the KCA as used by William Lane Craig is nothing more than saying, "If the universe had a cause it must have been my god.". It is of course, the religious ploy of fact by fiat. Fiat Deus! Let there be God!

The only thing it proves is that there is a gap in William Lane Craig's knowledge and understanding into which he has projected an imaginary deity. Once you take away his deception of the rigged argument, you open up the possibility of perfectly natural causes of universes whilst still retaining the logic of 'everything which begins to exist' having a cause.

And you don't need to subscribe to that other logical absurdity in the KCA: the notion that there can be such a thing as nothing. How on earth can something which, by definition doesn't exist, exist? How can there be nothing for any possible meaning of the word 'be'? And how can anyone possibly claim to be able to assign properties to it or to make any meaningful statement about nothing, like declaring that nothing can come from it?

This may well be the most absurdly irrational assumption ever made. I'd certainly like to hear of a more absurd one.


  1. The multiverse could be something that did not "begin to exist" and hence the origin of our universe is the multiverse.

    (or indeed, a peanut butter sandwich).


    1. Indeed. There are probably an almost infinite number of members of Lane Craig's set of things-which-don't-begin-to-exist, all of them perfectly natural.

  2. The universe didn't begin to exist either, it simply changed form when the singularity expanded and became space-time.

  3. Also, this argument has other issues, such as causality being dependent on Time, which "began to exist" at the instant of the Big Bang. There was no "before the Big Bang" because there was no Time until the Big Bang, unless WLC would like to admit that he's speculating on things existing "outside" this universe, for which I would immediately demand supporting evidence.

  4. Doctor Lewis Wolpert raised this bad objection during their debate. He said that the cause did not have to be God. This was trivially easy for Doctor Craig to answer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCUE10dY3Rc&feature=bf_prev&list=PLB5F1CFD398216BB6

    1. I'm surprised that, if it's that bad an objection, you appear unable to say why, and if it's that trivially easy to answer, you appear to be unable to do so.

      No doubt there is a simple explanation for these shortcoming...

    2. Oh, I posted a link to a short video explaining it. The traits that follow necessarily from being the cause of space and time redefine the thing that you are proposing. What you are calling a peanut butter sandwich would have to be timeless, spaceless, personal, intelligent, and powerful. So you are really just describing God, renamed, peanut butter sandwich.

  5. I think Craig's reasoning is being misrepresented here, or at least abbreviated to the point of absurdity. Because there is general consensus among cosmologists that at the Big Bang the universe came into existence from literally nothing, then the CAUSE of the universe cannot be something that came into existence as a component of it, such as space, time, matter, and energy. Craig's argument in more detail is that a space-less, timeless, immaterial entity caused the universe. He posits that only two things possess those properties - abstract objects such as numbers, or a disembodied mind. Then he makes the conclusion that it must have been a mind since the universe does not necessarily exist and a mind possesses the motivation to cause it to exist. He argues that a god caused the universe, but through further arguments other than the Kalam, he posits the Christian God.

    1. You appear to have merely repeated Lane Craig's logical fallacy and to have forgotten to say how you and he decided what should be in the set of things which don't begin to exist and why you have, apparently without any justification, limited it to the god you want to beg the question with to arrive at your intended conclusion.

      Perhaps you would like to run through your reasoning here, including why anything natural has been excluded.

      After all, that was the entire point of the blog and you wouldn't want readers to think you were just trying to create the impression that you could have explained it if you had wanted to when you couldn't really, would you?

    2. BTW, what is your reason for assuming that non-existence is the default state of existence in the first place, and what definition of 'nothing' are you using to justify that assumption?

    3. Let's go back to the old and trusted chestnut, where did your god come from? Out of nothing?


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