How William Lane Craig misrepresents Alexander Vilenkin, part 2: quick thoughts on the big question

Before I jump into the next part of this discussion, it's crossed my mind that this subject matter may seem too esoteric for many, and I can certainly understand why. There's a lot of technical terminology being tossed around, and even those of us who have a grasp on the general concepts don't generally understand the academic literature at a technical (mathematical) level.

But I think that even if this kind of stuff seems a bit technical, it's worth studying. That's because it all hearkens back to a very basic question: Why are we here? There are other ways to phrase that question, like Why does the universe exist? or Why is there something rather than nothing?, but I think they all touch on the same existential mystery that perplexes humanity.

I deconverted from Christianity when I was 19, but it wasn't until I was 28 that I considered myself a full-blown atheist. Part of what kept me holding on to theism was precisely the above existential mystery. God, it seemed to me, was an intuitive and satisfying answer to that question. It wasn't until I read Stephen Hawking's modern classic A Brief History of Time that I changed my tune, because Hawking raises a fascinating question: what if the origin of the universe can be described scientifically? What if it is "self-contained", meaning that it didn't require any sort of external cause to bring it into existence (such as a Creator)?

What intrigued me is not the notion that we've answered the question by giving a complete, scientific answer to the universe; clearly, we're a ways from doing so. However, my assumption, for many years, was that it was in principle impossible to do such a thing. Hawking shattered that assumption.

Alexander Vilenkin, in Many Worlds in One, takes a similar path, saying,
[Scientists] might have been too rash to admit that the cosmic beginning cannot be described in purely scientific terms. True, it is hard to see how this can be done. But things that seem to be impossible often reflect only the limits of our imagination.
William Lane Craig is a devout Christian who, let it be said clearly, is not ignorant. I suppose that is what frustrates me most about him: he is intelligent enough, and educated enough, to know better. I'm not going to go so far as to suggest that Craig is deliberately dishonest in the sense of purposely misrepresenting data to prove his point, but I believe that he is intellectually dishonest by tacitly doing so. It's my belief that Craig so desperately needs to believe in God that he unwittingly cherry-picks the science, disregarding the finer details that contradict his presuppositions. Of course, that's a pretty serious charge, which is why I'm writing this series. In part 1, I gave unambiguous examples of how Craig's representation of the science is misleading. As I move on to the next couple of parts, I aim to do the same.

I just want to be clear, though: this shouldn't be viewed as an academic or inaccessible discussion. This discussion hits on an issue that goes to the heart of religious beliefs (or the rejection thereof), so it's worth taking the time to understand what it's all about. 


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How William Lane Craig misrepresents Alexander Vilenkin, part 1

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