Wednesday, 27 June 2012

WLC2: Cosmological Argument ("God Did It") - FAIL

In earlier articles, I looked at William Lane Craig’s debating style (in Debatable Theism) and the logic in his “logical” arguments (in The Logic of an Apologist).  In the latter, I said that I would address the content of Craig’s arguments, please check that article if you are not already familiar with the logical forms.  This article addresses what I have numbered as Craig’s Second Argument – note that in presenting this argument Craig did not claim the he was proving the Christian God (but it is clearly something compatible).  First a quick recap:

Craig's Second Argument – Cosmological Argument from First Cause
(argued during Craig-Law – wording taken from Craig-Krauss)

1.    Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2.    The universe began to exist.
3.    Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This is a simple syllogism.

1.    Major Premise – Everything that begins to exist (All M) has a cause (P).
2.    Minor Premise – The universe (S) falls into the category of “Everything that begins to exist” (All M).
3.    Conclusion – Therefore, the universe (S) has a cause (P).

Note that this is not the entirety of Craig’s argument, since he doesn’t tend to stop with “a cause” but rather extends it out to an “uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe”.  This is Craig’s argument in his words:

Now from the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because we’ve seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless and therefore changeless, at least without the universe, because it created time. Because it also created space, it must transcend space as well and therefore be immaterial, not physical.

Now there are only two possible candidates that could fit such a description: either an abstract object, like a number, or an unembodied mind or consciousness. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. The number seven, for example, can’t cause anything! Therefore, it follows that the transcendent cause of the universe is an unembodied mind. And thus we are brought, not merely to an Uncaused Cause of the universe, but to its Personal Creator.

Here is my attempt to eke out the logic involved:

1.     Premise 1 – If something created the universe (A) then whatever created the universe must have created time and space (B).
2.     Premise 2 – If something created time and space (B) then that something must have existed before the existence of time (C1) and outside space (C2).
3.     Premise 3– If anything existed before the existence of time (C1) then that thing must be timeless (D).
4.     Premise 4 – If something is timeless (D) then it must be changeless as well as timeless (E)
5.     Premise 5 – If something is outside space (C2) then it must be immaterial (F).
6.     Premise 6 – If something is immaterial (F) then it must be an abstract object (G1) or an unembodied mind or consciousness (G2).
7.     Premise 7 – If something is able to create something (a generalisation of A) then that something cannot be an abstract object (not G1).
8.     Assertion 1 – Something created the universe (A).
9.     Conclusion 1 – Therefore, the something that created the universe is changeless as well as timeless (E), immaterial (F) and an unembodied mind or consciousness (G2).
10. Premise 8 – If there cannot be an infinite regress of causes (X) then there must be an initial uncaused cause (Y).
11. Assertion 2 – There cannot be an infinite regress of causes (Z).
12. Conclusion 2 – Therefore, there must be an initial uncaused cause (Y).
13. Bonus Conclusion – Therefore, the uncaused, changeless, timeless, immaterial and unembodied mind or consciousness (from Conclusion 1 and Conclusion 2) is a Personal Creator (Bonus).

This might not be accurate, because I cannot claim to know the mind of William Lane Craig.  Premise 6 is a problem, but we have seen it before (addressed in the article about the Cosmological Argument from Contingency).  Assertion 1 is a problem too, since it begs the question somewhat but it's really just part of the same problem exhibited in Premise 6 (the cause of the universe must be a thing, or a being, or a mind).

(Also, please note carefully that the Bonus Conclusion is not a logically valid conclusion since there are no premises which mention a Personal Creator from which the statement can be concluded.)

Fundamentally, this whole argument is just the Cosmological Argument from Contingency reworded for a specific purpose:

1.    Everything that exists has an explanation.
2.    The universe exists.
3.    Therefore, the universe has an explanation.

and for completeness, here is the Contingency argument as a First Cause argument

1.    Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2.    If the universe has a cause, that cause has certain characteristics.
3.    The universe exists.
4.    Therefore, the cause of the universe has certain characteristics.

So why have this separate argument, which is basically the same argument?

One reason is that Craig is trying to provide a cumulative argument for God.   Each argument, he thinks, provides an extra bit of support to his case.  So two arguments which are really the same argument worded differently appears like twice as much support.  Well, yes, but two times zero support remains zero support.

Another reason is that the cause of the universe remains firmly behind the curtain.  There is no further you can push a God of the Gaps argument.

But the actual reason for this rewording of the argument, from what I can determine, is that Craig hopes to circumvent the anthropic principle.  While this principle can be easily misunderstood, it simply points out that if the universe wasn't the way it is, then we'd not be here pondering why it is the way it is.  (We'd either be here wondering why it is the way it is, where the "way it is" would be different from the way it is, or we'd not be here at all.)  No matter how unlikely it might be that we are here, we are.  The universe is required for us to be here to be pondering at all.  Now, for the universe to be here, it is (as far as we can tell) also required to have had a beginning.

This is where Craig, yet again, uses conflation to confuse and distract. There is a logical, philosophical argument regarding requirement.  In this argument there is a logical requirement for the universe to exist so that we can be here to ponder why the universe exists and a philosophical requirement for the universe to have some sort of beginning at some time in the past in order to exist now.  Then there is a scientific, physics requirement for all effects to have a cause (or, more strictly, effects are required to have a nexus of causes and necessary conditions, but the shorthand "cause" is often used).

So, Craig uses these two ambiguities - is the requirement a philosophical requirement or a physics requirement and what is meant by "cause"?  Physics does not necessarily preclude a "causeless" universe - in so much as there may not be a single pre-existing point of causation, but rather only a cause or nexus of causes and necessary conditions which could only be identified retrospectively (if at all).  A scientifically minded person will agree, therefore, with the statement "Everything that begins to exist has a cause" within very narrow parameters.  What they will not agree with is "Everything that begins to exist must necessarily have a single point of consciously directed causation".

We need to reword the argument again to make it clear:

1.    Everything that begins to exist does so due to an event triggered by a nexus of causes and/or retrospectively necessary conditions.
2.    The universe began to exist.
3.    Therefore, the event which caused the beginning of the universe was triggered by a nexus of causes and/or retrospectively necessary conditions.
4.    (Bonus Conclusion) Therefore, God did it. 

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