WLC on cosmology and theism

Kind of a fun, introductory video to the Kalam Cosmological Argument:


  1. Ah, long time no Craig :-) When was this taped I wonder? Not so much new to say about his argument.

    Has anyone here read Paul Davies's "The Goldilocks Enigma" (initially called "Cosmic Jackpot")? I would recommend it, to those who are interested in somewhat more scientifically instructed speculations in cosmology. Some atheists are upset with Davies because he received the Templeton prize, and he sometimes likes to flirt with mystic language, hinting at a form of pantheism. "The Goldilocks Enigma" however, is presented in a very neutral way, as Davies tries to make the best possible case for each theory, even those he personally think are bunkum. Well worth a read.

  2. Also worth reading is the article in Scientific American (the wikipedia article is pretty much a synopsis of the article) on some of the cosmological hypothesizing stemming from developments in loop quantum gravity.



  3. Unrelated to the entry, i just want to say: Great blog! I see I'm not the only one who's critical of debunking christianity. I just started my own blog on them...

  4. Mattcast, Hi!
    Mariano, Josh, and the rest are about the coolest guys you've ever met. They believe in God though, which makes conversation with them sometimes stilted. (Ok, I know I've been a complete ass in the past, that didn't help. I'm changing. These guys have won me over.

    Ok now that's out of the way can one of you guys please rip that silly William Lane Craig video apart? I just don't have the time, energy or motivation. It's like arguing the reality of Noahs Ark, with a 5 year old.


    ps. did you know that John Loftus over at http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ Studied under William Lane Craig? He's a good guy too.

    Sorry Mariano, I'm trying not to drift to far. Hey i noticed you fixed the font in the header, it looks better. I'll stop now.

  5. You know I should really read posts properly before I comment on them. And maybe shouldn't be stoned while I do it. Mattcast, are you working with Charlie? She's a pretty cool person too.
    Glad to see you guys have got some posts up. I'll start going looking through them.

  6. I have a couple of problems with the Kalam Argument, starting with the first premise:

    Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

    The problem here is, we are looking for an explanation of the origin of the Universe. At the very beginning, all known laws break down, so we have no way of knowing if causality holds.

    And if we someday know more about the origin of the Universe, I'm willing to bet that this knowledge will come from the analysis of data, not from syllogisms.

    In any case, the Kalam Argument boils down to this: we can't explain how the Universe came to exist, so we will invoke a God whose existence can't be explained, or doesn't need an explanation.

    The trouble with this is that rather than explain anything, it simply says "Magic!" Now, if postulating a God helped us make predictions about measurable phenomena, then one could say that God helps to explain things. But I'm not aware of any such predictions, so I will continue to apply Ockham's Razor and accept my simpler version: a Universe with mysteries, rather than a Universe with God and mysteries.

  7. Zilch,

    The counter argument you presented is spot on. The basic Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) syllogism has a valid logic structure but, as you pointed out, the first premise is certainly suspect. So, by the rules of Aristotelian logic any conclusion drawn is certainly suspect as well. The fact that the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) does not, in any way, support a theistic claim is transparently obvious. So, that leads us to a question that I don't have an answer for: Why do people, like WLC, continue to make the argument? Are they just being intellectually dishonest thinking that since they 'know' their answer is 'true' that it is ok to use an erroneous argument if it just convinces some people? Or, is there a fundamental flaw in their worldview that tricks them into accepting an incorrect argument?

  8. "So, that leads us to a question that I don't have an answer for: Why do people, like WLC, continue to make the argument?"

    Because it's essentially what Dennett would call an "intuition pump," that is, an argument designed to elicit a certain natural response that resonates with our base intuitions. This makes it an easy sell to people who don't think deeply enough about it.

    Where intuition pumps fail is when they are applied to a domain of inquiry where we have no reason to expect our mundane intuitions to be reliable guides to reality. In quantum mechanics we learned this he hard way, and in the theory of mind we are still learning it - but here at least we can do experiments to demonstrate that our intuitions are indeed deceiving us. In quantum cosmology that's a bit more of a challenge, but maybe not impossible.

    So I think people fall for the KCA because they get sold on that initial "gut feeling," that it just sounds logical and therefore "feels" right. But as Carl Sagan said:

    "I try not to think with my guts."

    Let's follow his example :-)

  9. adonais,

    An interesting idea but I don't think that the KCA meets the basic description of an 'intution pump'. The argument doesn't seem to promote any particular perspective or generate any ideas or images. What it does seem to do is to grant emotional permission (in a superficial way) to hold a belief that is otherwise unjustified.

  10. jdhuey:

    I was referring to how the KCA relies, critically, on the notion of mundane causality to have explanatory power in what is completely uncharted territory (the first premise). As both you and zilch pointed out, beyond the Big Bang horizon this is just question begging, pure speculation. It could perhaps turn out to be true, but pure logic alone does not suffice to settle the issue, and relying on intuition here is no guarantor against being dead wrong.

    "What it does seem to do is to grant emotional permission (in a superficial way) to hold a belief that is otherwise unjustified."

    I agree - and I think that our intuitive notion of causality is what provides that (faux) permission. Well maybe it's not an intuition pump in a strict sense (I guess I don't actually know what a strict definition would be). Anyway, I still think that an intuitive feeling for the logic of common-sense causality is at the heart of why some people take the argument seriously.

  11. From the horse's mouth about intuition pumps:


    I can only conjecture as to what is going on inside the brains of the people that find this argument compelling. I would truly like for someone who accepts this as a good argument to explain to me why they think that way.