William Lane Craig, the artful dodger

One of the reasons I deconverted from Christianity – and eventually became a full-fledged atheist – is because I noticed a problematic pattern in supposedly rational arguments for the existence of God. Namely, the apologist would always take reason and logic as far as they would go; but then, when faced with a conundrum or contradiction, assert that the rules of reason and logic don't actually have to apply to God. William Lane Craig uses these ploys with facepalming frequency. We can demonstrate it in his defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Regular readers should no doubt be familiar with it, but here's a refresher:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Ergo the universe has a cause
Let's ignore for a moment the scientific inaccuracies and equivocation in this argument, and simply focus on causality. Causality as we know it exists as an outcome of the physical laws of the observable universe. The laws of the universe provide the framework by which we define the very concept of causality. Strip away that framework – i.e., imagine that the universe does not exist – and the concept of causality ceases to have any meaning. It's therefor fallacious to assume that causality within the universe implies the existence of causality beyond the universe. When faced with this conundrum in a Q&A at his website, this was Craig's response [excerpts]:
I must confess that I'm baffled why atheists would think that causation presupposes time and space or at least time.
You could also do a thought experiment. Ask [atheists] why one timeless entity—say, a number—could not depend timelessly for its existence on another timeless entity. Why is that impossible? Why couldn't God timelessly sustain a number in existence? That would clearly be an asymmetric causal relation. Why is that impossible?
But here's the doozy:
In any case, even if time is a precondition for causality, why should that preclude God's being the cause of the universe? Many Christian philosophers and theologians, perhaps the majority today, think that God has existed for infinite past time and created the physical universe a finite time ago. This was Isaac Newton's view as well. He thought absolute time was just God's duration, which is from eternity to eternity. Ask your friends why they think Newton's view was wrong.
Aside from the obvious name dropping to commit an appeal to authority fallacy (Newton also believed in alchemy), Craig is arguing at every turn that the laws of causality as we understand them don't actually have to apply to God. That's the thing about supernatural phenomena – since no one's ever observed it and since there is no means to reliably understand it, theologians like Craig can mold it into anything they want. Let's not forget that the whole reason we're supposed to agree with the first premise of the Kalam is because it conforms to our understanding of physical causality. But if God, being supernatural, can break all the rules of causality as we know it, what's the point in using physical causality to infer his existence? It's utterly nonsensical.

Craig repeats this kind of inanity when responding to Richard Dawkins. In The God Delusion, Dawkins suggests that it's fallacious to assume that the complexity of the universe implies the need for a designer; a designer would necessarily be even more complex than the universe he designed, turning the logic into an infinite regress: if complexity implies design, why wouldn't God need a designer too?

Craig retorts that God is metaphysically simple:
As an unembodied [sic] mind, God is a remarkably simple entity. As a non-physical entity, a mind is not composed of parts, and its salient properties, like self-consciousness, rationality, and volition, are essential to it. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable quantities and constants, a divine mind is startlingly simple. Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas—it may be thinking, for example, of the infinitesimal calculus—, but the mind itself is a remarkably simple entity.
All the minds we know of are remarkably complex. But since God is supernatural, the rules don't have to apply – God can magically be simple, yet have complex ideas. But what, exactly, does it mean to be a simple, "unembodied" mind? I'm not sure Craig himself even knows. Those of us familiar with Daniel Dennett would call that a "deepity"* – a statement that sounds profound but is intellectually vacuous. Craig's just arguing that all the rules we use to understand what a mind is and how it functions don't apply when we're talking about a supernatural mind.

If all the rules we use to understand the world around us simply do not apply to God – he can have complex thoughts but be metaphysically simple, he can alter the rules of causality so that it looks nothing like causality as we understand it, etc. – then there's no value in using our understanding of the world to infer anything about God, including his mere existence – since "existence" as we understand it need not apply to God any more than the rules of minds or causality as we understand them. Indeed, as the Reverend Mackerel says in Peter De Vries’s comic novel The Mackerel Plaza, “It is the final proof of God’s omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.”


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