Friday, 14 December 2012

The Method of WLC's Madness

In his debates, William Lane Craig repeatedly claimed that one of the strengths of his arguments for god is their “explanatory power” – the explanatory power of a creator who initiated the Big Bang, the explanatory power of a creator who finely tuned the universe, the explanatory power of god resurrecting Jesus and so on.

His Argument from Contingency:

1.    Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in its own nature or in an external cause).

2.    If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3.    The universe exists.

4.    Therefore, the explanation of the universe is God.

And his Argument from First Cause:

We can also formulate this reasoning in the form of a deductive argument:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.

From which it follows logically that

Therefore, the universe has a cause

Again, as we have seen, the best candidate for such a transcendent cause is God.

And his Argument from Resurrection:

1.    There are three established facts about Jesus: his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

2.    The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

3.    The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exists.

4.    Therefore, God exists.

I did touch on this before, in Explaining Evidence, but I stumbled on a useful page on Wikipedia which expands on the historical method.  This is where Craig gets his “explanatory principle” from.

This methodology works, to a limited extent for the resurrection argument and only the resurrection argument, merely because some people claim that the Bible is history.  None of his other arguments are related to history, they are more in the domain of science (or rather of pseudoscience the way he handles them).  Scientific discussions should heed the scientific method, not the historical method.  Nobody was around at the time of the Big Bang, so there was no history to synthesise!

The reason why the methodology doesn’t work (not even for the resurrection argument) is that within the historical method, when done by real historians rather than theologians, a hypothesis is supposed to answer more questions than it raises – it is supposed to be less ad hoc than other explanations.

The major problem with a god solution is that the god solution raises questions that are more difficult than those it answers.  That’s negative explanatory power.

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