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William Lane Craig's logical blunder

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Posted

At Fox News, William Lane Craig offers A Christmas Gift for Atheists. He offers five reasons why God exists. It must be noted that these five reasons are the same reasons he has given in every debate that I have seen him have with atheists. (Once in awhile he'll toss in the Ontological Argument, but it is not among the standard Big Five.)

Below, I'm going to quote the first two reasons he gives. Then I'm going to show why Argument One is in direct logical conflict with Argument Two. This is easy to show. It amazes me that in all the debates in which I've seen Craig participate, literally no one, not even the philosophers he debates, seems to have noticed this flat logical contradiction. (I can excuse the scientists not seeing the contradiction and pointing it out, since, alas, scientists usually aren't very good at philosophy, and often hold it in as much contempt as theology. Their inability to notice and identify the logical contradiction between One and Two is a good refutation of their oft-repeated claim that philosophy doesn't matter. It DOES matter. )

So here are the first two arguments from Craig, which he has been giving for years:

]1. God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe. Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

2. God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life. That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range. There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature's laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

The first argument is the Cosmological Argument, though as stated, it fails to be the Kalam variant. Thus, it falls victim to self-contradiction: If nothing can pop into existence without a cause, who or what caused God? To be charitable to Criag, though, he has espoused the Kalam variant, so I assume he intends that here. The K variant is: Everything that begins to exist must have a cause. The universe began to exist, but God never began to exist: he has always existed, so God doesn't need a cause, but the universe does.

So the first argument is the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and the second is the fine-tuning argument.

Unfortunately for Craig, Kalam CA and FT are in direct logical conflict. The next time he debates an atheist thinker, can said atheist thinker please, please, please point this out, for the first time? Thank you.

The FT is a probability argument. It depends on the following formulation: It may be unlikely, on theism, that the universe should be fine-tuned for life. (we'll accept that it is fine-tuned for life arguendo, even though this is in dispute). However, it is considerably more unlikely (so the argument goes) that the universe should be fortuitously fine-tuned for life under metaphysical naturalism. Hence it is more likely that theism is true than that naturalism is true.

In order for FT to succeed, it must be conceded that life is possible without God, and that it is possible for something to exist -- a universe -- even if there were no life in it. The whole argument rises or falls on comparing the alleged probabilities of fine-tuning under theism vs. naturalism. Hence the FT, to be coherent, requires that the possibility of life existing, indeed of anything existing, is non-zero without a God.

This flatly contradicts the Cosmological Argument, which holds that the probability of life existing -- indeed, of anything existing at all -- is zero, without God. So one cannot, on pain of logical consistency, advance both Argument One and Argument Two. One must pick one or the other. But Craig, for all these years, has been running both Arguments One and Two without anyone calling him out on this plain violation of the Law of Non-Contradiction. Can someone now please at last point out this logical contradiction? In his next debate, maybe?

Two side notes: "Intelligent design" is also logically inconsistent with FT. If the universe was fine-tuned for life in advance, it doesn't need an Intelligent Designer. It doesn't need a frustrated Jesus, noticing how evolution fails to produce, say, a flagellum, to then retire to his Invisible Workshop in the Sky and use Jesus tools to build a flagellum. If Jesus IS required to build a flagellum, then FT cannot be true. So you cannot logically hold both to ID and FT, just as you cannot logically hold both to CA and FT.

Second, if you adhere to the Kalam CA, you must hope the universe had a beginning. If the universe has always been around, as modern physics seems to suggest (the Big Bang not strictly being a creation event), it follows that under the logic of Kalam, the universe does not need a creator, since it did not begin to exist. Thus Kalam runs afoul of Aquinas, who conceded the possibility that the universe has always existed, but that God was needed to uphold from moment to moment across infinity.

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Posted

Meanwhile, over at Pharyngula, P.Z. is attacking a straw man of the fine-tuning argument. He writes:

But Mr Craig! The universe isn’t finely tuned. The overwhelming bulk of it is inaccessible to us, and even on this one planet we inhabit, 70% is underwater, vast swathes are icy wastes or deserts, and those toasty warm damp tropics, which are otherwise paradisial, are heaven for parasites and diseases. You even admit this yourself when you say our nature requires an environment that falls within an “incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range”. Do think that range is everywhere?

This is completely wrong. The fine-tuning argument does NOT say that all of the universe should be jam-packed with life, or even that life should exist at all! It's perfectly possible to conceive a universe fine-tuned for life in which life, contingently, never arises anywhere or anywhen.

The FT merely states that for life to be possible at all, anywhere, even if only on a single lonely planet, then the constants of nature must be "fine-tuned" to a very narrow window; outside that window, no life could exist at all, even in principle.

Of course the FT has fatal flaws, but P.Z.'s argument does not show one of them, because he has straw-manned the FT. Just goes to show why scientists would benefit from studying some philosophy from time to time.

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Posted

On a positive note, There's this from P.Z. :heh:

Yep, :wtf: is exactly what I said when I read it this morning, too.

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Posted

I'm not sure the contradiction you mention is there. One can maintain the CA on the grounds that a higher force is necessary for anything to exist at all, whilst still maintaining the FTA on the grounds that its scope of possibilities extends to all worlds existent on the back of the first cause.

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Posted

One could maintain as follows: the world could not exist at all without God, but it's possible that God would create a world that is not fine-tuned for life, and hence has no life. (we accept, again, for the sake of argument, that the universe we live in really is fine-tuned for life.)

Even in that case, however, the FT argument is a failure. FT depends upon comparing the alleged prior probabilities, not of God creating a world with life vs. one without life. It relies on comparing a world fine-tuned for life by God, with a world fine-tuned for life without God, via the vagaries of naturalism. The latter state of affairs cannot exist under the CA, since the latter state of affairs concedes that the existence of a world, any world, without God is metaphysically possible. This is not metaphysically possible under CA, so the two arguments are in logical conflict.

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Posted

I'm not sure why Craig is obliged to offer both arguments at the same time. He might use the CA to try to convince you of God's existence in a foundational way, so to speak; that is, akin to Aquinas's five arguments. If you then respond with objections to the effect that the Big Bang is a more convincing theory then Craig could point to fine tuning as problematic and argue that God is the best explanation. In this way, conceding a non-zero probability of anything existence without God is undertaken to match the position of the opponent rather than expressing any conviction on the part of Craig.

None of this makes his Christmas gift worth reading, though.

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Posted

OMF! I actually clicked the link, and my mind is reading it in WLC's voice!

"For if God does not exist" with that effing drawn-out "o" in the "not." :freakout:

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