In a discussion William Lane Craig VS Christopher Hitchens about atheism VS Christian theism, Craig made the following series of arguments:
- Inductively, Universe must have a creator
- Universe is being of time and space
- Therefore the creator must reside outside the realm of time and space
- Thus God exists and does not need a starting point/cause/creator

P.S. I am not a student of philosophy, I might have miss-formulated the arguments in translation from speech to text. Here is the Youtube link of the discussion.

  • The initial premise is based on a flawed assumption. There is no evidence to suggest that the universe "must" have a creator. Any conclusion drawn from that flawed premise is necessarily flawed. – Roger Aug 13 '14 at 13:57
  • I think that this reasoning makes sense. See my question: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/15069/… – user8669 Aug 13 '14 at 17:11
  • The step 3->4 is flawed as well. Why not assume the "Creator" created the universe and immediately died of exhaustion? – gnasher729 Aug 13 '14 at 23:27
  • He argued inductively, i.e., Everything we see has a creator, therefore Universe must has a creator. – Kashan Danish Aug 15 '14 at 12:16
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    But as @jont said it would not be wise to use our everyday induction to explain extreme scenarios. – Kashan Danish Aug 15 '14 at 12:20

Craig loves this argument. Its proper title is the Kalam Cosmological Argument and it is formally phrased thus:

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
    • Therefore:
  3. The universe has a cause of its existence.
    • Craig and apologists like him then add two more steps.
  4. If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
    • Therefore:
  5. God exists.

The first three steps of the argument have a number of flaws when examined for logical inconsistencies.

Firstly, the argument hinges on a sloppy generalization that "Everything that begins to exist has a cause" This is an unsupported assertion. It has been demonstrated in laboratory conditions that some events (on the quantum scale) do not have a cause or if they do, we have no understanding of them and to call them God would be fallacious. One must question whether it is appropriate or even possible to apply our every-day, inductively derived understanding of causality to extreme conditions such as the beginning of the universe. The philosopher Hume argued that the only way to know if a principle holds in conditions very different from those in which it was derived is to have direct experience of it happening.

Secondly, the original formulation of the argument simply proves the universe had an extant cause. Craig and his ilk add additional steps with no logical basis to get to their god of choice. You can go on YouTube and see Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a well known Islamic apologist, use the same argument to prove his god is the creator of the universe. Whilst this doesn't refute the argument itself it does cast some doubt on William Lane Craigs use of it especially given that Craig himself admits that he doesn't believe in God because of this argument but because of personal experience and the revelation of scripture.

Thirdly, A close examination of of the premises reveals a number of logical fallacies:

Special Pleading: The argument attempts to avoid the question of gods origins with the words "Everything That Begins To Exist" without justifying why god should be exempt from the laws of causality that are then invoked to argue that everything else that exists must have been created by god.

Equivocation Fallacy: The KCA posits that the universe was created Ex Nihilo (out of nothing). This is not how everything we see around us came into being. The world around us is created Ex Materia (out of matter) in a logical chain of events involving a causal agent, some acted upon 'stuff' and a resulting event. In other words, every example we have of creation (except the afore-mentioned quantum events) is one of matter being reconfigured into different matter, not popping into existence fully formed. The universe is the only example of something truly "beginning to exist" from a previous state of nothingness, leaving no inductive support for the premise that "whatever begins to exist (Ex Nihilo) has a cause".

Taking account of this the argument should be reformulated thus:

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

The argument is obviously invalid and can be discarded

Composition Fallacy Taken from Dan Barkers article 'Cosmological Kalamity'

The first premise refers to every "thing," and the second premise treats the "universe as if it were a member of the set of "things." But since a set should not be considered a member of itself, the cosmological argument is comparing apples and oranges.

We describe the the way physical objects behave within the universe by relying on induction and the laws of physics, neither of which can apply in the absence of a universe. It is a fallacy of composition to assert that the individual elements of a thing possess the attributes of a thing. A computer is good at calculations. this does not mean that every component of a computer is good at calculations. Your power supply cannot add up your bank balance.

Finally, even if we accept all its premises, the KCA does not allow for the possibility of another cause for the universe such as a natural process or a non-divine intelligence. Given all this one must conclude that the KCA is not a sound or valid argument for the existence of god.

Sources: www.reasonablefaith.org www.wikipedia.org wiki.ironchariots.org infidels.org

For another deconstruction of WLCs use of Kalam I recommend the YouTube channel Theoretical Bullshit. TBS has an entire playlist devoted to Craig and has managed to reformulate Kalam to disprove the existence of God.

  • 1
    Well researched answer. I don't understand about the equivocation fallacy though: science pretty definitively holds that there was a moment "before" which there was no matter and after which there was matter. Seems creation ex nihilo is needed, it's just a question of how that happened. No? – James Kingsbery Aug 13 '14 at 22:30
  • The equivocation is between Creation Ex Nihilo and Ex Materia. The KCA holds the two as equivalent when they are not. They are separate premises with separate implications. – JonS Aug 13 '14 at 22:33
  • Separate from KCA, though, it seems the universe was created ex nihilo. It also seems that, since this is the only ex nihilo event we know of that generated something behind virtual particles, you either need to use intuition from ex materia events or resolve to not say anything about it. Do I misunderstand? – James Kingsbery Aug 13 '14 at 22:40
  • The universe may be the first example we have of an Ex Nihilo creation event. Or it may be formed from some Pre-Universe mater we have no knowledge of. Without further information the best we can do in formation a new argument would be something like this: P1: Everything created from preexisting material began to exist. P2: The universe began to exist. C: the universe was created from pre-existing material. Incorrect; This syllogism is sound but not valid we need more information to go further. – JonS Aug 13 '14 at 23:04
  • Your summary at the top is quite good. Your claim that expecting events to have causes is "unsupported assertion" is strange. I'm not sure which QM effects you are referring to in suggesting they are uncaused events. – virmaior Aug 13 '14 at 23:45

The existence of god can't be used to explain the existence of the universe for two reasons.

First, suppose that we say we require an explanation for the existence of the universe and that god creating it is the explanation. Then why doesn't the existence of god require an explanation?

Second, god can't play any role in any explanation, including any explanation of the existence of the universe. Perhaps God had some reason for making the world the way it is, in which case we can just say the world is that way because reason X. For example, if he made eyes so that we can move around without bumping into stuff any mechanism that would respect the priority of not bumping into stuff will do, God is not necessary. For example, if not bumping into stuff helps spread genes for not bumping and genes for bumping don't spread, then evolution can explain non-bumping. If God make the world the way it is on a whim, then we might just as well say "shit happens", so that isn't a satisfactory explanation involving god either. Plato wrote down the substance of this argument before the birth of Jesus in Euthyphro:



I would split your question into two parts: is the argument tenable, and is it logically so necessary that it would convert skeptics.

As to the first, it is a tenable argument, and it seems opponents should take it seriously. I do not mean they necessarily should agree with it, just that it is not a silly argument, and it is deserving of rebuttal. Williams Lane Craig did not invent that argument. The earliest argument I know of like this is from Aquinas, but since then many smart people for many centuries have rediscovered or restated that argument in some form or another. Arguments that are not just wrong but are merely silly tend to be discarded much faster.

As to the second, we empirically see that the people most likely to buy that argument are the ones that already agree with its conclusion, and the ones that disagree with the argument already disagree with the conclusion. It does not seem a particularly good argument for converting people.

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