03 March 2013

The ten worst objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument – a response to William Lane Craig (parts 6 & 7/10)

I'm going to simplify and make this one a two-parter, because Craig attempts to answer the objection I'll present to #6 in his response to #7. It's the question, does anything really "begin to exist"? Here's the vid:



Craig just absolutely loves this one, saying it's his favorite bad objection. He starts off saying something perfectly sensible:
Just because the stuff of which something is made has always existed doesn't imply that the thing itself has always existed.
He's right! And I don't think that anyone would actually dispute that point. Craig doesn't source any of these "bad objections" except the last one, but I'm willing to bet based on the formulation I have seen that he's just straw-manning the shit out of this one. Of course nobody is stupid enough to assert that they always existed, save perhaps for the silly nihilist argument he describes.

The relevant point is that Craig is equivocating. When he says the universe "began to exist", he means that the universe was created ex nihilo – out of absolutely nothing. Not "formed from pre-existing matter and energy" or some such thing; God didn't mold the universe from some sort of clay – he spontaneously willed the universe into existence.

Well, it's safe to say that nobody has ever observed anything, ever, beginning to exist in that sense. All we have ever observed are things being formed from extant matter and energy. The fact that we observe this process within the physical universe is an insufficient grounds to affirm that it must also apply to the universe – again, because that requires us to make the unjustified assumption that any sort of cause can in fact transcend physical reality. Craig seems to have no trouble making that assumption, but he's never given a shred of independent evidence for it.

But it turns out Craig has an answer to this charge of equivocation, which he outlines in part 7:



Craig claims that by clarifying that "began to exist" simply means "came into being", he's eliminated the equivocation.

All Craig has done is play semantics – he swapped out one term ("begins to exist") for another ("came into being"), even though they mean the exact same thing. For some reason, Craig thinks this eliminates the problem, but all he's doing is restating the equivocation: "coming into being from a prior physical state" is not the same thing as "coming into being out of absolutely nothing" or "coming into being from a non-material state".




There's a common theme among all the objections so far: that there's a distinction between the natural and the supernatural. We simply do not know if natural forces like causation or beginnings have supernatural counterparts. Craig tries very hard to obscure the fact that the Kalam requires us, not merely speculatively but as a matter of objective fact, to assume that indeed these natural forces do have supernatural counterparts.

The problems should be obvious. Firstly, speculative things like "non-physical causality" or "coming into being from non-material states" cannot be used as the basis for a logical proof. The premises in a sound deductive argument must be unequivocally true – not speculative, not merely possible, not "true in one meaning of the term but false or speculative in another", but well-established empirical facts.

Secondly, when speculating about the existence of unverifiable supernatural counterparts to causality, beginning, existence, or whatever else, there's nothing to stop the theologian from defining the terms however they want. What does "causality" mean when there is no space, time, matter or energy? Obviously, it means whatever the theologian wants it to mean. We've never observed an "efficient" cause bringing something into being without a material cause, but Craig has to assume that this is possible for the Kalam to be true. Assuming that an efficient cause can transcend reality just so you can prove the universe had an efficient cause is clearly begging the question, as discussed in part 2.

Previous: Part 5
Next: Part 8

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