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Old 31st July 2009, 12:51 AM
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Criticism of William Lane Craig's debate opener

In another thread I commented on how disappointed I was with William Lane Craig's debating. Of course I was challenged on why I thought that and I said I would start a new thread about it, so here it is.

A few comments first. The arguments quoted below are from WLC's debate against Dr. Peter Atkins. His opening arguments tend to be relatively the same in every debate so this is what I went with. I also understand his debating tactic. He opens with an overview of his arguments and gets into more detail based on what the opponent says. I understand he may very well have some good responses to what I'm going to say, but his opponents that I listened to never brought these things up so hopefully you guys can shed some light on these criticisms. I'm going to be playing the atheist for this thread, for the purpose of digging for more of your guy's perpective. I am only responding to his opening arguments.

The following is the summary of his first of five arguments.

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist, has a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Premise 3: Therefore, the universe has a cause.


He never explains how we know that when something begins to exist it must have a cause. This may sound odd that I'd be demanding this of him, but what have we seen come into existence? In order to say with certainty that whatever begins to exist has a cause, we would need to see things begin to exist. The only observations we have of things coming into existence is virtual particles in vaccuum fluctuation, and they appear to be uncaused, or at least, no cause is yet known for them. We certainly can't infer an intelligent source from our immediate observations.

It may be that he is arguing that every event needs a cause. This is demonstrably false when we look into quantum mechanics. Nonlocality in quantum physics shows us this. When we measure the state of one particle then another particle's state, under certain circumstances, will be influenced. This is instantaneous, showing that there is no information travelling, and hence there is no cause for it to happen. Hidden variables have been tested for and it has been concluded that there is no hidden variable controlling this.

Another example of an uncaused event is the release of energy during radioactive decay. Although it is unstable, which tells us the energy will separate eventually, there is no detectable cause to make it happen in the moment we observe it happen. Maybe we haven't discovered the cause yet, but I'm basing this argument on what we know.

Furthermore, causality isn't even a part of modern physics. There is no "cause then event" considered. It is the constant relationship between masses. From wikipedia on 'causality': "It isn't accurate to say, 'the moon exerts a gravitic pull and then the tides rise.' In Newtonian mechanics gravity, rather, is a law expressing a constant observable relationship among masses, and the movement of the tides is an example of that relationship. There are no discrete events or "pulls" that can be said to precede the rising of tides."

Lastly, we don't even have any indication that "cause and effect" are a necessary part of the big bang. If the big bang was the beginning of time, then our common understanding of cause and effect would not apply, because we would not be able to preceed the effect with any cause.

WLC has stated in his debates that not only must his premises be stripped apart, but they must also be replaced with a better explanation. I feel that at the very least I have greatly weakened his first premise. When it comes to replacing his explanation with a better one, I must admit I don't have a conclusive answer. However, there are 2 different models worth considering.

The first is that the singularity has always existed. This does not mean that time must stretch back indefinitly. Time is a measurement between events, and since there were no events before the big bang, there was no time. The spontaneous event of the big bang was the beginning of time, and this view does not require that nothing create the universe. Everything came from the singularity, Much of the matter in the universe would have been created by the energy during expansion. The positive formation of particles during processes such as vacuum fluctuation would be offset by the negative energy from gravity and the particle could remain in existence.

The second model is the multiverse model. According to M-theory, we are the creation of a collision of the branes of 2 other universes. While there is no physical evidence that has been collected for this view yet, it does have the math of quantum physics on it's side, which is more than can be said for WLC's view.



The following is a summary of his second argument.

Premise 1: The fine tuning of the initial conditions of the universe is due to either natural law, chance, or design.
Premise 2: It is not due to either law or chance.
Premise 3: Therefore it is due to design.


He sets up a bit of a red herring here by saying that "chance" is one of the possible causes for the initial conditions of the universe. Chance is only a measurement of how likely something is, and in this case it is a measurement of how likely it is that a natural cause with multiple possible outcomes would give us the specific laws that we observe. Chance in itself is not a cause.

Given the 2 models I gave at the end of the first argument, we cannot conclusively state his second premise. For the singularity that may have always existed, we do not know that it is even possible to arrive at different laws. This may be the only possible universe. I can't state that conclusively, so between his assertion and my own, it seems we are at an impass. However, the natural model for the beginning invokes further investigation, whereas the suggestion that God made the laws the way they are is of no further use to us beyond a teleological claim.

However, regarding the multiverse model, an infinite number of universes with different properties would inevitably give rise to a universe that can support life, and of course, we would have to exist in such a universe. WLC has tried to dismantle the idea of infinity in a debate he had (I think it was the Hitchens one). He said that infinity is only a mathmatical idea and can't possibly be a part of reality. Of course, this also works against the notion of being in Heaven for all eternity.



His third argument is as follows:

Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective values do exist
Premise 3: Therefore God exists.


The problem here is that he doesn't give any support for his second premise. All he says is "Objective values do exist and deep down we all know it." Simply asserting that it's true doesn't make it true. What we do observe in reality is a subjective moral code. Most obviously, we see a difference in morality between species. Some gorillas kill infants when they take over a harem, and some sharks rape the females in order to reproduce. We couldn't switch those two attributes around because it wouldn't work with their social order.

Humans, as a social species, do exhibit some common characteristics for morality, but these can be attributed to our evolution as a social species. Even our altruistic behavior towards strangers can be attributed to a time when we lived and existed in smaller communities that were more dependend on each other. The desire to carry out these moral acts has become a part of our genetic code over millions of years of evolution. In "The Language of God" by Francis Collins he suggests that our criminal behavior can be partly attributed to mutations in our genetics. This would indicate that our socially correct behavior is hardwired into us by our naturally occuring genome. While he indicates that his example studies don't prove it conclusivly, he says "It is indeed possible that other modest contributions to antisocial behavior will be identified in the genome".

WLC also says that there is "nothing really wrong with rape from the atheistic view." This appears to just be word play. He uses the word "wrong" in an objective sense, which makes the sentence true. It is misleading though because even an atheist can think it is wrong to rape someone given our social order and necessary respect for the other people that we must co-habitate this planet with.

So basically, his second premise is completely unsupported, and the idea of evolved ethics is an already established principle in science, and is being improved upon with each passing year.


I won't address his 4th argument for now because (1) I've said lots for one thread already and (2) NT criticism is not my fortay.

His 5th argument he says is not really an argument, just that it coincides with his 4th argument.

I would like to point out the humor in his closing sentece though. He says "We have yet to see any evidence to show that God does not exist and we have seen 5 reasons to think that God does exist." I think its funny because of the way he emphasis in his tone how we haven't heard any evidence for atheism yet. Well, it's a brilliant deduction considering he's the only one who talked. He also didn't give 5 reasons, as he himself said the 5th wasn't really an argument.

Anyways, feel free to start ripping apart my response.
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  #2  
Old 31st July 2009, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by philadiddle View Post
The following is the summary of his first of five arguments.

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist, has a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Premise 3: Therefore, the universe has a cause.


He never explains how we know that when something begins to exist it must have a cause. This may sound odd that I'd be demanding this of him, but what have we seen come into existence? In order to say with certainty that whatever begins to exist has a cause, we would need to see things begin to exist. The only observations we have of things coming into existence is virtual particles in vaccuum fluctuation, and they appear to be uncaused, or at least, no cause is yet known for them. We certainly can't infer an intelligent source from our immediate observations.
Two comments. I think premise one is based on the 1st rule of Thermodynamics, which states energy is always transferred, not created. And second, I don't see in his premises you listed that the cause must be intelligent based on those 3 premises.
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Old 31st July 2009, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by philadiddle View Post
The following is the summary of his first of five arguments.

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist, has a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Premise 3: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

He never explains how we know that when something begins to exist it must have a cause. This may sound odd that I'd be demanding this of him, but what have we seen come into existence? In order to say with certainty that whatever begins to exist has a cause, we would need to see things begin to exist.
What about a baby being born? Haven't we seen them come into existence? Don't we know the cause?
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Old 31st July 2009, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by shinbits View Post
What about a baby being born? Haven't we seen them come into existence? Don't we know the cause?
Lets see. A man and a woman get together and........................
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Old 31st July 2009, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by philadiddle View Post

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist, has a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Premise 3: Therefore, the universe has a cause.



Premise 1: The fine tuning of the initial conditions of the universe is due to either natural law, chance, or design.
Premise 2: It is not due to either law or chance.
Premise 3: Therefore it is due to design.



Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective values do exist
Premise 3: Therefore God exists.

Geez...I can't even believe that he uses those arguments. The first set seems reasonable, since it is understandable that most people agree with the statement of "whatever begins to exist has a cause". But the second and third arguments sound like a joke. "It is not due to either law or chance" why would he draw this conclusion???

And above all...
"If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist"???

What if God didn't exist, but everyone believed that he did...wouldn't we develop the same moral objectives??? William is reaching big time!
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Old 31st July 2009, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by JesusbeLovin View Post
What if God didn't exist, but everyone believed that he did...wouldn't we develop the same moral objectives???
If there was no God or people pretended there was, how can we know if abortion is right or wrong? Or if extra-marital sex is ok? Or contraception? Or slavery? Or human cloning? Or greed?
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Old 31st July 2009, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by MrPolo View Post
If there was no God or people pretended there was, how can we know if abortion is right or wrong? Or if extra-marital sex is ok? Or contraception? Or slavery? Or human cloning? Or greed?
You aren't getting what I'm saying...
My statement was being used to disprove his argument. He is stating that


Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective values do exist
Premise 3: Therefore God exists.


"If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist"???

He is saying that since objective values exist, that we have proof of God existing. This simply isn't true, and I was just pointing out why this premise is not logical.

I was pointing out that if we were here on earth and we believed that God existed then all the moral objective values would exist...regardless of whether God exists.

I BELIEVE that God exists, but there is absolutely no proof of this. If we had proof then we wouldn't have faith now would we?
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Old 31st July 2009, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by MrPolo View Post
If there was no God or people pretended there was, how can we know if abortion is right or wrong? Or if extra-marital sex is ok? Or contraception? Or slavery? Or human cloning? Or greed?
I'm getting ready to leave on a trip so I'll comment on each response later, but for now I just want to point out that slavery was condoned in Levitican law, and now it is frowned upon. Seems subjective even in the bible.
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Old 31st July 2009, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by JesusbeLovin View Post
Geez...I can't even believe that he uses those arguments. The first set seems reasonable, since it is understandable that most people agree with the statement of "whatever begins to exist has a cause". But the second and third arguments sound like a joke. "It is not due to either law or chance" why would he draw this conclusion???

And above all...
"If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist"???

What if God didn't exist, but everyone believed that he did...wouldn't we develop the same moral objectives??? William is reaching big time!
You should probably read more than a forum poster's 3 line summary of an argument. his book "reasonable faith" is on googlebooks. Its a lot more complicated than that.
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Old 31st July 2009, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by philadiddle View Post
It is misleading though because even an atheist can think it is wrong to rape someone given our social order and necessary respect for the other people that we must co-habitate this planet with.
His premise is that the reason the athiest and the theist alike thinks that rape is wrong is because God gave us a conscience that knows the difference between right an wrong.

However the Athiest obviously does not agree with that, therefore all he has left is subjective morality (and I see that you agree with that), which is you decide what is good and evil, and I decide what is good and evil.

That is fine and dandy if we both think alike, however we both know that is not the case, if one of us was Ghandi and the other was Hitler. Neither one of us has the right to impose his morality on the other, because we both claim the right to subjective morality.
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