William Lane Craig debate - the dimwits strike back

This heavily edited video clip, drawn from this original, is interesting. In it I respond to the question "Why does the universe exist" by saying "I don't know" (I then left a pregnant pause which produced a round of applause - that's been edited out).

The gist of the commentary is: "You, Stephen Law, don't know why the universe exists? Then you can't deny my God exists! I win! You're insane!"

Unfortunately, this way of thinking is very deeply entrenched in the minds of some of Craig's more dimwitted followers (not all of his followers, of course - plenty of them will wince at this).

The truth is an atheist might succeed in showing that Craig's God does not exist, whether or not that atheist knows the answer to the question "Why does the universe exist?", and whether or not they bother to refute Craig's Kalam cosmological argument. That's what I aimed to do in this debate, as I explained several times.

In this clip, Craig insists I need to address his Kalam cosmological argument. It's obvious I don't need to do that in order to show Craig's God does not exist.

There's a moral here so far as reaching this kind of person is concerned. The moral is:

You can never point out clearly enough, loudly enough, and enough times that, just because we don't know why the universe exists, or why it's fine-tuned, and haven't bothered to refute the Kalam cosmological argument, doesn't mean we haven't decisively ruled out their God.

See the Sherlock Holmes fallacy.


Eric Sotnak said…
I don't think Craig answers the question either. The question was "WHY does the universe exist?" Since Craig thinks God made the universe, he has really only pushed back the explanation one level. Ok, God made the universe, but why did God make the universe? Suppose he answers that God made the universe because he chose to. Well, then why did God choose to make the universe? Or why did he make it as he did rather than some other way? At some point, the theist, too, will have to answer "I don't know" or resort to sheer guesswork ("Perhaps he made it because he wanted to maximize the number and variety of beetles that exist, and he rather likes beetles.")
LadyAtheist said…
"But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success"

--Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

I think this explains Craig's technique fairly well.
Steven Carr said…
Can theists answer the question 'Why does just one universe exist?'
Angra Mainyu said…
I get the impression that, in general, their confusion may have a lot more to do with their emotional commitments to their religion and/or their in-group than with the way they generally think.

For instance, in the past, scientists didn't know about nuclear fusion, but they did the math and realized that the Sun's energy didn't come from combustion.

Yet, they recognized that they didn't know why the Sun shone.

I don't think many (or maybe any) of Craig's supporters would have said that scientists had failed to show that the Sun's energy wasn't from combustion just because they were unable to explain the process.

Similarly, if forensic examiners haven't yet been able to examine the cause of death but explain that it wasn't because of an old bullet wound, that would raise no suspicions from most if not all of those Craig's followers who are so confused on this particular matter.
Andrew said…
Dr Law,

When I first heard the Kalam argument I found it convincing, and I'm sure many people in that audience would have too. It wasn't until I read Graham Oppy's critique of the kalam argument in his book "arguing about Gods" that I discovered the argument is extremely lacking and not very convincing. For this reason, I think you should have addressed the argument in your debate.
Paul P. Mealing said…
It's a cheap trick, and I suspect you're right: some Craig supporters would wince, and perhaps Craig himself. If I was in Craig's shoes, I'd be just as angry if the contrary had happened.

It's amazing that some people think that when scientists, or philosophers, say 'We don't know' it's a capitulation, rather than an expression of the limits of our knowledge at the time. The 'God of the Gaps' will always have a home, no matter how much we learn.

Regards, Paul.
Paul P. Mealing said…
I notice that on the original YouTube post, he mistakes you for an Aussie. Typical American, I expect, he can't tell a Pommy accent from an Aussie one. I know I'm taking liberties: I can only call you a Pom when the Ashes are on.

I have to admit if this happened to me, I'd be bloody angry.

Regards, Paul.
Stephen Law said…
I'm often mistaken for an ozzy - I have slightly weird accent. Doesn't bother me at all.
Paul P. Mealing said…
No, I don't expect it would. That's not what I'd be angry about, in case you misconstrued me.

I'd be angry about the blatant misrepresentation of your argument.

Regards, Paul.
Peter Byrom said…
Yea I do wince watching this (!!)

However, I do think you need to refute the Kalam Argument. Otherwise I'd be entirely in my rational rights to leave the debate as a deist, at least, which would falsify atheism (your position). Also, granting the existence of at least **a** god means we'd have to take the Resurrection and moral arguments more seriously.

This brings me to a question I'd want to ask you about the Evil God challenge. I posted it elsewhere, so I'm re-pasting here purely for convenience, not spamming (though if you disapprove I'll not do it again)!

I'd like you to clarify something about your Evil God challenge:

It appears to me (correct me if I'm wrong) that you invest a lot in the following train of thought:

"look at all these many, many people who think The Problem of Good disproves Evil God. If they're entitled to think that, then I'm entitled to mirror their logic and argue that The Problem of Evil disproves Good God".

But the most important question, I think, rests upon that "if" statement: **IF** all these people are entitled to use TPOG, then I can use TPOE. Because surely, as a philosopher, the most important thing for you to do is not to just rest upon the number of people who happen to hold a view, but actually analyse whether the view itself is sound.

Say we analysed the actual logic of TPOG and found it didn't succeed in disproving Evil God, all we'd be left with is thousands of people using a bad argument, and your basis for using TPOE would be based upon mirroring a bad argument.

Does that make sense? I'm wanting to check whether you appeal to the masses who happen to use TPOG as justification for your using TPOE. If that is what you're doing, then that seems philosophically insufficient because you wouldn't have checked whether or not all these people are using a good argument (indeed it may even be some sort of ad populum fallacy)?

If, on the other hand, you actually do think TPOG is a good argument in and of itself (regardless of how many people use it), from which you can mirror it to TPOE, I'd like to know why that is (after all, people like Bill Craig simply reject TPOG thereby cutting off the attempt to mirror it into TPOE).

Hope that makes sense. Thanks! :-)

David Span said…

How does the Kalam Cosmological Argument show any god, even deist? It is an empirically based argument about existence and causes. At best, it would say that the physical universe as we experience it has a cause. But what is the cause? Unless someone shows how a god caused it, how can they justify saying it’s a god, even a deist one?

If I can’t find a pair of socks, and I can’t work out what happened to them, can I say that an elf took them? Wouldn’t I need to show evidence that an elf took them? Not just a definition that ‘elves steal things’. More importantly, shouldn't I need to show that elves exist to begin with? How can they simply be defined into existence?

So if the universe is being studied empirically, but a ‘god’ can just be brought in on a definition, where does the KCA really go? How do we know this god didn’t begin to exist? Just from a definition?

The KCA as an argument for a god has the same problem as any issue where we lack knowledge. So many arguments are of the form: we don’t know what caused X, or we can’t explain Y, therefore it must be a god. So how about Craig showing how a god caused X or exactly how Y is explained.

Better still, Craig can start with showing that a god exists. The mystery of X or Y can’t be put as evidence, as the god is being used to explain X and Y. So it would be a very circular argument.
Peter Byrom said…
David, you've missed out the whole last stage of the argument where an analysis is performed on what properties a cause of the universe would need to have. It's not just sticking God in a gap but reducing him through positive arguments. I recommend you check the full argument again.
Peter Byrom said…
*deducing, sorry.
David Span said…

Didn’t miss it. What is being deduced? Craig hasn’t established that such a ‘god’ exists to be deduced to. It’s still only a definition being smuggled in (like elves). Question begging.

What about how it was ‘deduced’ that the sun was drawn across the sky by a chariot driven by a god? Or how I ‘deduced’ that elves took my socks?
Peter Byrom said…
David, yes you have missed it. Watch Craig present the Kalam again.

He gives 2 arguments about why the cause of the universe would have to have specific properties such as being an un-embodied mind (instead of an abstract object) with the freedom of the will to cause a temporal effect from an atemporal state. He doesn't just place God in there, he uses further argumentation to arrive at the conclusion.

You're simply missing out parts of his argument. It would be as if I formulated Stephen's argument from Evil and missed out the whole chunk about Evil God.
David Span said…
On the contrary, a disembodied mind is an abstract concept – so Craig (and you) contradicts himself, and sinks the ‘argument’.
How does Craig (or you) know what a disembodied mind is? Or what it can do? Or how it could have freedom of will? Or how it could cause anything from an atemporal state? These are just claims. Just definitions. It’s elves all over again.

When Craig finds a mind independent of a physical brain, then maybe his ‘argument’ will start to have some semblance of reality.
Stephen and others,
I am writing a paper on the KCA and William Lane Craig. I would be interested in any thoughts. I have about a dozen weaknesses and outright objections with the argument, which is surprising given it is only 3 short lines long.

Anyway, sorry for the random intrusion, but any feedback would be gratefully received:


It is the first in a series of posts I will be doing.

Anonymous said…
Hello, does anyone know if the Kalam has ever been refuted? Is an infinite pass impossible?
Anonymous said…
@Oct 22, 2012 3:08

The Kalam has always been a refuted argument.
Anonymous said…
At one time you philosophically speaking could argue there was nothing wrong with believing you could travel faster than the speed of light, but Einstein proved it couldn't happen. If I could develop a syllogism with premises and a conclusion proving you could go faster than the speed of light is philosophy wrong or Einstein's science wrong?