bookmark_borderOmnipotence and the Actual Infinite

According to William Craig’s defense of the kalam cosmological argument, an actual infinite cannot exist. This claim is important not only for Craig’s main claim that the universe had a beginning, but also for a followup response to the suggestion that the universe cannot be part of a wider, infinitely regressive history wherein our universe is only one of infinitely many that have existed. Instead of actual infinites, Craig proposes that only potential infinites can exist. A potential infinite is a collection of things that is finite in size at any given time, but is growing without limit.
So suppose that God has created Zeke and set him to run across an infinite number of flagstones. What God cannot do, according to Craig’s view, is to create Zeke at time t and place him on a path that (at t) already has an infinite number of flagstones on it, since such a path would be actually infinite, and this is what is claimed cannot exist. Instead, what God must do is place Zeke on a path that has some number n of flagstones at t, but then as Zeke runs, more flagstones get added to the path, so that (for example) at time t+1, the path has n+1 flagstones on it, at time t+2 the path has n+2 flagstones on it, and so on.
But what limits God at t, from creating all the flagstones that Zeke is going to run across? Since God can only create a finite number of flagstones at t, suppose Zeke is initially placed at the very end of the path. In order for Zeke to continue his run, God is obliged to create another flagstone at t+1 as Zeke takes his next step. But what prevents an omnipotent God from having already created that flagstone back at t?
If we are to say that God is omnipotent, it seems we should accept the following principle regarding omnipotence and creative power:

If God is omnipotent, then if it is logically possible for God to create x at t, then God can create x at t.

So when God creates Zeke at t and places him at the end of a path consisting of n flagstones, it is logically possible for God to have created, instead, a path consisting of n+1 flagstones at t, or n+2 flagstones at t, or n+3 flagstones at t, and so on.
To put it another way, to hold that God can only create potential infinites, but not actual infinites, is to hold that at any time t, God must create a finite number of things, and that if he wants more things, he can only add them later through successive addition. Although each successive addition to the collection is logically possible for God to add, he cannot add them all at t, but must wait and keep adding them later. But for any one of these additions, if God must wait until after t to create it, then he cannot have created it at t, in which case, by the foregoing principle, God is not omnipotent.

bookmark_border25 Lines of Evidence Against Theism

Refutation of Anna Marie Perez

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First Paragraph

Here is Perez’s first paragraph:

Atheism is a religion.  Atheists act like Dracula confronting a cross when faced with the fact that their beliefs rely solely on faith.  They hate the word faith, even though it’s all they’ve got.  They try to make the claim that their religion is based on science, although actual science doesn’t support their claims any more than science can prove the existence of God.  When they are called out for having faith, they’ll say something like, “An absence of belief isn’t faith,” yet their claim of an absence of a belief is a lie.

Atheism is a religion in the same sense that baldness is a hair color, which is to say that atheism isn’t a religion at all. Although atheism, by itself, is not a religion; there can be atheistic religions. or example, I think some versions of Buddhism are atheistic, but I would definitely count Buddhism, in all of its forms, as a religion.
But let’s move onto her third sentence. Her third sentence is false. If she’s defining the word “faith” the same way as the Biblical book of Hebrews does (“confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”), then she’s wrong to assume that “atheists,” without qualification, hope that no God or gods exist and that there is no afterlife. Yes, there are some atheists who hope for those things, but there are other atheists who hope for the opposite, and many more atheists who are indifferent. But if she’s defining the word “faith” to mean “belief without evidence” or even “belief against the (weight of the total) evidence,” then she’s mistaken.
Let’s start with some definitions:

naturalism (N) =df. The physical exists and, if the mental exists, the physical explains why the mental exists.
supernaturalism (S) =df. The mental exists and, if the physical exists, the mental explains why the physical exists.

Naturalism (N) and supernaturalism (S) are mutually exclusive: they cannot both be true. But they are not jointly exhaustive: they can both be false. To account for the possibility that both N and S are false, we can introduce a third, ‘catch-all’ option:

otherism (O) =df. Both N and S are false.

If N is true, then atheism is true by definition because N denies the existence of all supernatural beings, including God. So one way to defend atheism is to defend N. And one way to defend N is to present evidence which is more probable on the assumption that N is true than on the assumption that theism (T) is true. That is precisely what I am going to do here, by presenting twenty-five lines of evidence which are more probable on the assumption that N is true than on the assumption that T is true.
1. The Existence of the Universe
The universe–which may be defined as the sum total of all matter, energy, space, and time–exists. This fact is entailed by N: if N is true, then by definition the physical universe exists. But, although logically consistent with T, this fact is not entailed by T. If is true, God could create the universe, but God could also choose not to create the universe. Thus, contrary to the claims of both the Leibnizian and kalam versions of the cosmological argument, the existence of the physical universe is more probable on N than on T.[1]
In formal terms, the argument may be formulated as follows. If we let B be our background information; E be the existence of the universe; then the explanatory argument is as follows:
(1) E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
(2) T is not intrinsically much more probable than N, i.e., Pr(|T|) is not much greater than Pr(|N|).
(3) Pr(E | N & B) =1 > Pr(E | T & B).
(4) Other evidence held equal, T is probably false, i.e., Pr(T | B & E) < 1/2.
2. The “Anti-Creation Ex Nihilo Argument”
This argument may be summarized as follows:

(1) Everything that had a beginning comes from pre-existing material.
(2) The universe had a beginning.
(3) Therefore, the universe came from pre-existing material.

Now I think it is far from certain that (2) is true. Let’s make a distinction between:

(2a) The expansion/inflation of the universe had a beginning.

and:

(2b) The universe itself had a beginning, viz., the universe began to exist.

It appears that (2a) is accepted by the vast majority of cosmologists. So let’s assume not only that (2a) is true, but that we know (2a) is true with certainty. It doesn’t follow that (2b) is true. In fact, as far as I can tell, (2b) does not enjoy the same widespread consensus among cosmologists as (2a) does. So there is reasonable doubt about (2b). But (2), like its theistic counterpart in the kalam cosmological argument, requires that (2b) is true. Because there is reasonable doubt about (2b), there is also reasonable doubt about (2).
But what if both (1) and (2b) are true? In that case, it would follow that (3) is true. But (3) entails the universe was not created ex nihilo, viz., created from (absolute) nothing. The falsity of creation ex nihilo is entailed by N (and physical reality’s existence is factually necessary and uncreated), but extremely unlikely (if not impossible) on T (and physical reality was either created ex nihilo or created ex deo [out of the being of God]).
3. The Continuing Existence of Physical Reality
Some theists, most notably Aquinas, talk about God as the “sustaining cause” of the universe. The idea is that even if the universe were eternal, it would somehow still require God to “sustain” it in existence. If God did not exist or, if God did exist but chose not to continue sustaining the universe, the universe would somehow cease to exist. So T is not only compatible with God never creating the universe at all, but also with the possibility of God creating the universe and causing or allowing it to cease to exist.
In contrast, if N is true, then there exists no being or thing capable of knocking physical reality out of existence. (If a multiverse exists, maybe there is a physical process which can “knock” baby universes out of existence just as there might be a physical process which can bring baby universes into existence. But there would be no physical process capable of knocking the multiverse as a whole out of existence.)
Since physical reality’s continuing existence is entailed by N but not by S, this is additional evidence favoring N over T.
4. The Scale of the Universe
Humans do not enjoy a privileged position in the universe, either spatially or temporally.[2] This fact is just slightly more probable on the assumption that N is true than on the assumption that T is true. Why? Because it is slightly more likely on T than on N, though unlikely on both, that there would be a reason why we would have a spatially or temporally privileged position (e.g., God’s desire to relate to us immediately after His creation of the universe rather than waiting billions of years, God’s desire to emphasize our importance to Him, etc.).
Notice that this argument does not entail the claim that we would expect human beings to have a privileged position in the universe if T is true. I, for one, don’t think we have an antecedent reason on T to expect that humans would have a privileged position in the universe. For all we know, if God exists, God may have created embodied moral agents throughout the universe. Indeed, for all we know, if God exists, God may have created embodied moral agents in an infinite number of physical universes!
Just as it is easy to imagine antecedent reasons on T why humans would have a privileged position (e.g., God’s desire to relate to us immediately after His creation of the universe rather than waiting billions of years, God’s desire to emphasize our importance to Him, etc.), it is also easy to imagine antecedent reasons on T why humans would not have a privileged position (e.g., God’s desire that the non-human scale of the universe be an illustration of the vastness of God Himself, God’s desire to increase the maximize the beauty of the universe, etc.). Let’s call the former set of reasons “privilege-supporting reasons” and the latter “privilege-defeating reasons.” Based solely on the content of T, we have no reason to assign different probabilities to privilege-supporting reasons and privilege-defeating reasons.
While the last paragraph shows that we have no reason to give either set of reasons greater weight than the other, the privilege-defeating reasons are compatible with God giving many (to say the least) non-privileged positions to humans, while there are so few privileged positions.[3] Thus, the specific way in which humans have a non-privileged position in the universe is (slightly) more probable on N than on T, even if the non-privileged position of humans in the universe (generically speaking) is equally probable on both T and N.
5. Evidence from the Hostility of the Universe to Life
So much of the universe is highly hostile to life, such as containing vast amounts of empty space, temperatures near absolute zero, cosmic radiation, and so forth. This more probable on N than it is on T.
6. The Unimpressiveness of Human Beings Compared to the Abilities of God
The omnipotence of God is taken for granted in the context of theistic arguments like the cosmological argument, the cosmic design argument (aka the misnamed ‘fine-tuning argument’), and arguments about alleged miracles. But the relationship of God’s omnipotence to his alleged creation or design of human beings is neglected. As Draper explains:

Or consider the fact that the most intelligent and most virtuous life form we know to exist is merely 20 human. While we are no doubt wondrous simians in many respects, given theism one might have expected something more impressive, something more worthy of the creative capacities and concerns of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being.[4]

So the unimpressiveness of human beings, relative to the abilities of God, is much more probable on N than it is on T.
7. Complex Life Evolved from Simple Life
Intelligent life is the result of evolution. For a defense, see the Talk.Origins archive. See also my refutation of Perez’s third paragraph.
To be sure, biological evolution is logically compatible with theism; God could have used evolution to create life. But if T were true, God could have also used many other methods to create life, methods which are impossible if naturalism is true. Here are just two examples. First, God could have created living things according to a literal interpretation of the Genesis chronology. Second, God could have created all things simultaneously, i.e., on the same “day,” in contradiction to a literal interpretation of the Genesis chronology. Both of these examples show that God, as an omnipotent being, was not required to use evolution in order to create life.
In contrast, if N is true, evolution pretty much has to be true. Furthermore, since T implies a metaphysical dualism, it is antecedently likely on T that minds are fundamentally nonphysical entities and therefore that conscious life is fundamentally different from nonconscious life. But this in turn makes it likely that conscious life was created independently of nonconscious life–that evolution is false. Thus, the scientific fact of biological evolution is more likely on the assumption that N is true than on the assumption that T is true.[5]
8. The Biological Role (and Moral Randomness) of Pain and Pleasure
Physical pain and pleasure plays the same biological role as other biological systems, i.e., physical pain and pleasure aid survival and reproduction. But from a moral point of view, the distribution of pain and pleasure appears random.[6]
For example, consider the horrific suffering endured by someone who slowly burns to death while trapped at the top of a burning building, or the pain endured by someone dying from a terminal illness. Feeling pain while burning is generally useful because it alerts and motivates the organism to a direct threat to their survival. But such pain serves no biological use whatsoever in situations where the organism is unable to avoid death. And from a moral point of view, it is intrinsically bad that they have to experience such horrific suffering. In such cases, it would be better if they could “flip a switch” and turn off the biological structure(s) which make pain possible.
Likewise, consider the orgasmic pleasure experienced by male rapists. It’s generally useful for men to derive pleasure from orgasm because of the role it plays in reproduction. But if anything is morally bad, surely rape is. Once again, it appears that pain and pleasure play a biological role but are morally random. It’s as if certain gratuitous experiences of pain and pleasure occur only because the biological system isn’t ‘fine-tuned’ enough to prevent such experiences.
This is precisely what we would expect if N is true (and blind nature is indifferent to the moral value of pain and pleasure), but very, very much surprising if T is true (and there exists a God who would have both the means and the motive to have the morality and biology of pain and pleasure better aligned). If N is true, then all living things are the product of unguided evolution by natural selection; there seems to be no way for creatures to have evolved so that they only feel pain when it will aid survival. In contrast, if T were true, God could “fine tune” humans so that they experience pain only when it is necessary for some greater good. If God did exist, what possible reason could He have for allowing people trapped in burning buildings or people with terminal illnesses to endure such agonizing pain until they finally die? The chances that such a reason would intersect with the biological goal of survival is pretty slim. Thus, the biological role of pain and pleasure is much more likely on N than on T.
9. Intelligibility of the Universe without the Supernatural
If there is a single theme unifying the history of science, it is that naturalistic (i.e., non-supernatural) explanations work. The history of science contains numerous examples of naturalistic explanations replacing supernatural ones and no examples of supernatural explanations replacing naturalistic ones. Indeed, naturalistic explanations have been so successful that even most scientific theists concede that supernatural explanations are, in general, implausible, even on the assumption that theism is true. Such explanatory success is antecedently more likely on N–which entails that all supernaturalistic explanations are false–than it is on T. Thus the history of science is some evidence for N and against T.
10. Human Mental Dependence upon the Physical
Scientific evidence shows that human consciousness and personality are highly dependent upon the brain. In this context, nothing mental happens without something physical happening. That strongly implies that the mind cannot exist independently of physical arrangements of matter. In other words, we do not have a soul. And this is exactly what we would expect if N is true. But T predicts the opposite. First, if T is true, then God is a disembodied mind; God’s mind is not in any sense dependent on physical arrangements of matter. Second, if T is true, then souls or, more generally, minds that do not depend on physical brains, are a real possibility. It is no coincidence that theists have traditionally believed in the existence of other supernatural persons, besides God, who also have disembodied minds, e.g., angels and demons. For these reasons, then, it is hardly surprising that until neuroscience discovered the dependence of the mind upon the brain, all or virtually all theists were dualists. It was not until after these discoveries were made, were theists forced to reexamine their dualism and consider ad hoc hypotheses like dualist-interactionism instead. But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that is evidence against both the existence of souls and the existence of any being who is supposed to have a unembodied mind, including God. Therefore, the physical nature of minds is unlikely if T is true, but what we would expect if N is true.
11. Neurological Basis for Moral Handicaps
In many cases, our ability to choose do morally good actions depends upon our having properly functional emotional capacities, especially empathy, i.e., our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion.[7]  We now know, thanks to the relatively new discipline of neuroscience, that certain brain abnormalities cause people to experience less or even no empathy.[8] For example, violent psychopaths may know in some abstract sense that their behavior is morally wrong, but utterly lack the affective capacity for empathy which enables them to understand the impact of their actions on others’ feelings.[9]
While T is compatible with a neurological basis for moral handicaps, the fact that at least some moral handicaps can be explained neurologically is much more probable on N than on T. If T is true, then that means both

(a) God creates some human beings with moral handicaps that are not the result of the freely chosen actions of any human being;

and

(b) These moral handicaps make it more likely that they will harm others.

What moral justification would God have for allowing both (a) and (b) to obtain? This seems utterly surprising and completely random from a theistic, moral point of view, but precisely what we would expect on N (and blind nature is indifferent to the moral consequences of brain abnormalities).[10]
12. Flourishing and Languishing of Sentient Beings
Only a fraction of living things, including the majority of sentient beings, thrive. In other words, very few living things have an adequate supply of food and water, are able to reproduce, avoid predators, and remain healthy. An even smaller fraction of organisms thrive for most of their lives, and almost no organisms thrive for all of their lives. If naturalistic evolution is true, this is what we would expect. If all living things are in competition for limited resources, then the majority of those organisms will not survive long enough to thrive. Moreover, even those organisms that do thrive for much of their lives will, if they live long enough, deteriorate. However, if T is true, why would God create a world in which all sentient beings savagely compete with one another for survival? Does anyone really believe that this could be morally justified? The fact that so few sentient beings ever flourish is more likely on N than on T.[11]
13. Self-Centeredness and Limited Altruism of Human Beings
Humans are effectively self-centered; our tendency to behave in self-centered ways is usually much stronger than any tendency to behave in selfless ways. These selfless or altruistic behaviors can be divided into two types: kin altruism and non-kin altruism.
As Purdue University philosopher Paul Draper has argued, the mixture of moral goodness and moral badness we find in Homo sapiens is easy to explain on Darwinian naturalism.[12]  The Darwinian naturalist explanation for our overwhelming tendency towards self-centered behavior is obvious. Kin altruism is also easy to explain: behaviors that promote the survival and reproduction of my kin make it more probable that my genes will be inherited by future generations. Non-kin altruism is weaker than kin altruism and also absent more often than kin altruism. Given that kin altruism exists, this pattern or distribution is exactly what we would expect on Darwinian naturalism.
On T, either God created humans directly (special creation) or indirectly (Darwinian theism or theistic evolution).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, He could create humans without making them inherently self-centered. Since God is morally perfect, He would have good moral reasons for creating altruistic humans. Furthermore, He would not create inherently self-centered humans unless He had a morally sufficient reason for doing so. So given that humans are inherently self-centered, T entails both that God is not constrained by biological goals like survival and reproduction (and hence does not need to create human beings who are inherently self-centered) and that He had a morally sufficient reason for doing so. And that’s a really big coincidence that Darwinian naturalism doesn’t need.[13]
14. Triumph and Tragedy
There are three additional facts about good and evil which favor N over T.
First, to paraphrase Paul Draper, our world contains much horrific suffering and relatively little glorious pleasure. As he puts it, “Indeed, triumph is the exception and tragedy the rule on our planet, where the deepest and the best aspirations of human beings are routinely crushed by a variety of circumstances beyond their control.”[14]
Second, horrific suffering often destroys a person, at least psychologically, and prevents them from growing morally, spiritually, and intellectually.[15]
Third, many people do not seem to feel God’s comforting presence during tragedies.[16] Just as loving parents would, say, comfort a child undergoing chemotherapy, we would expect a loving God to comfort human beings who suffer as the result of tragedies. If T is true, then God loves his creatures and wants all of his creatures to love Him in return. However, many people find it hard to love God when they do not understand the reasons for their suffering and God seems so far away. In other words, even if God has a reason for allowing tragedies, He could still comfort victims of suffering so that they know He loves them. Yet there are many victims of tragedies who report not feeling God’s comforting presence. This is not at all what we would expect if T were true. However, if N is true, we would expect victims of tragedies not to experience God’s comforting presence for the simple reason that there is no God. Thus, God’s silence in the face of tragedies is much more probable on N than on T.
Now, ask yourself: if God exists, why is there so much horrific suffering and so little glorious pleasure? Even after thousands of years of theological reflection, theistic philosophers still have no idea. They just assume that there must be a reason for God allowing evil. For example, Alvin Plantinga, one of the most influential theistic philosophers of our time, admitted, “Many of the attempts to explain why God permits evil … seem to me shallow, tepid, and ultimately frivolous.”[17] Naturalists, on the other hand, have a plausible explanation: there is no all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing being to intervene. Therefore, facts about triumph and tragedy are much more likely on N than on T.
Of course, it’s logically possible that God has a reason for allowing tragedies, a reason we humans do not understand. But it’s also logically possible–and no less likely–that God has extra reasons for preventing tragedies, reasons we also do not understand.
15. Ethical Disagreement
The philosophical discipline of ethics is notorious for its controversy. Not only do philosophers disagree over general ethical theory (such as utilitarianism vs. deontological ethics), they also genuinely disagree about the morality of specific acts, like war, abortion, the death penalty, gun control, and sexual behavior.
The problem is not just that people disagree about morality. The problem is also that theists, including Christians, disagree about morality. Now this tends to be very awkward for the Christian. A Christian, at least if he admits there is genuine ethical disagreement, has to believe both that God wants humans to behave morally and that He has left them in the dark about whether specific kinds of behavior are morally acceptable.
On B, however, there is no God, just impersonal nature. And impersonal nature gives us even less reason to expect moral agreement than T does. So ethical disagreement is more probable on N than on T.
16. Moral Progress and the Lack of Moral Prophets
Not only is there ethical disagreement in modern times, but there is ethical disagreement across different time periods throughout human history. To cite just one example: slavery was once widely considered moral, whereas it is now widely considered massively immoral. Ethical relativists will cite this phenomenon as evidence that morality is relative to culture, while moral objectivists interpret this same fact as evidence of moral progress.
If T is true, why aren’t there “moral prophets” in the sense that they clearly perceive objective moral truths which are ahead of their time, such as someone 2,000 years ago declaring that slavery, misogyny, and homophobia are wrong? Why do we instead observe moral progress? For example, why did much of humanity, for most of human history, believe that slavery was morally acceptable? What possible moral justification could God have for allowing people, on such a massive scale, to have mistaken moral beliefs about so many things?
If we make an analogy between God and human parents, believing in T and moral progress is analogous to a human parent letting children believe that it’s okay to, say, hit other people, until the children grow up to become teenagers, at which point the children “discover” that assault is not so morally acceptable after all. Since a good human parent would never do this, why would a good God do this?
In contrast, if N is true, blind nature is indifferent to whether people have correct moral beliefs.[18] Thus, moral progress and the lack of moral prophets is more likely on N than on T.
17. Nonresistant Nonbelievers
There are people who do not believe that God exists.[19] At least some of those people are “nonresistant” nonbelievers—that is, their nonbelief is “not in any way the result of their own emotional or behavioral opposition towards God or relationship with God or any of the apparent implications of such a relationship.”[20] Such nonbelievers are open to having a relationship with God—in fact, they may even desire it—but are unable to have such a relationship.
Given that human beings exist, the fact that some of them are nonresistant nonbelievers is much more probable on the assumption that N is true (and blind nature is indifferent to religious belief) than on the assumption that T is true (and there exists a perfectly loving God who would ensure that a meaningful relationship was always available to those He loves).
18. Former Believers
As Schellenberg points out, such individuals, “from the perspective of theism, were on the right path when they lost belief. If theism is true, indeed, then these individuals already were in relationship with God and the loss of belief has terminated that relationship.” [21]
19. Lifelong Seekers
Schellenberg defines lifelong seekers are ”individuals who don’t start out in what they consider to be a relationship with God and may not even be explicitly searching for God, but who are trying to find out where they belong and, in their wanderings, are open to finding and being found by a Divine Parent–all without ever achieving their goal. These are individuals who seek but do not find.”[22]
20. Converts to Nontheistic Religions
As Schellenberg puts it, there are individuals who investigate other serious conceptions of the Ultimate and who turn up evidence that produces religious belief in the context of nontheistic religious communities and/or on account of nontheistic religious experiences–and the truth of atheistic claims may be seen to follow by implication.[23]
21. Isolated Nontheists
Here is Schellenberg again: “those who have never been in a position to resist God because they have never so much as had the idea of an all-knowing and all-powerful spiritual being who is separate from a created universe but related to it in love squarely before their minds–individuals who are entirely formed by, and unavoidably live their whole lives within, what must, if God exists, be a fundamentally misleading meaning system.”[24]
22. The Geographical Distribution of Theistic Belief
The distribution of theistic belief is uneven around the world. Why does the epistemic or moral defectiveness of non-believers vary dramatically with cultural and national boundaries? For example, why is more than 95% of Saudi Arabia Muslim, while Thailand is 95% Buddhist and only 5% theist? Given the widely held assumption that, generically speaking, epistemic and moral defects are evenly distributed among the world’s peoples, it is hard to see how that question could be answered.[25]
23. The Temporal Distribution of Theistic Belief
Maitzen argues that especially compared to naturalistic explanations, none of the theistic explanations of blameworthy or blameless non-belief accounts for how the global incidence of theistic belief has varied dramatically during the existence of the human species.[26]
24. God’s Silence About His Purpose(s) for Creating Humans
If humankind was created for a purpose by God and had a role to play in carrying out this purpose, then God would want us to have a possibility of achieving our role so that he would have a possibility of achieving His goal. For us to have a possibility of achieving the purpose for which we were created, we would need to understand our role in carrying out this purpose. The purpose for which humanity was created is unclear in the Bible and elsewhere. Despite the lack of clarity regarding the purpose of life, God has not provided any clarification about his purpose or our role. God would not have chosen to remain silent about our role in carrying out his purpose because, following from the first premise, this would be self-defeating. Therefore, humankind was not given a role to play in carrying out a purpose of God.[27]
This may also be categorized as another, more specific fact about divine hiddenness. Why? Despite the lack of clarity regarding the purpose of life, it is antecedently more probable on T than on N that God not only created humans for a purpose, but that humankind would be given a role to play in carrying out that purpose. For the same reason, the lack of any role for humankind to play in carrying out God’s purposes is evidence favoring N over T.
25. The Distribution, Types, and Effects of Religious Experience
Theists will often appeal to religious experience as evidence favoring over N. But the fact that people have religious experiences hardly exhausts what we know about the distribution, types, and effects of those experiences.[28]
First, not everyone has theistic experiences. Given that some people have religious experiences, the fact that not everyone does have such experiences is more likely on N than on T.
Second, those who do have religious experiences almost always have either a prior belief in God or extensive exposure to theistic religion. The distribution of theistic experiences we find is antecedently more likely given N than given T.
Third, the subjects of religious experiences pursue a variety of radically different religious paths, none of which bears abundantly more moral fruit than all of the others. Theism gives us reason to expect that worshiping God is a source of moral strength, a source not available to those who do not worship God, and so T gives us some reason to ‘predict’ that theists would live significantly more moral lives than atheists. The fact, if it is a fact, that no one religious path has produced significantly more moral fruit than another would be more likely if all of these experiences are delusory (which follows from N) than if some or all are genuine revelations from God (and T is true).[29]
So once the evidence about religious experience is fully stated, it’s far from obvious that that it favors T over N.

Notes

[1] Indeed, when properly understood, it becomes clear that neither the Leibnizian nor the kalam versions of the cosmological argument are arguments from the existence of the universe. Rather, the former is an argument from the contingency of the universe and the latter is an argument from the beginning of the universe.
[2] This is based on a brief sketch of an AS in Paul Draper, “Seeking But Not Believing: Confessions of a Practicing Agnostic,” in Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, eds., Divine Hiddenness: New Essays (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 199-200.
[3] I owe this point to Paul Draper.
[4] Paul Draper, “God and Evil: A Philosophical Inquiry,” 19-20.
[5] Paul Draper, “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), pp. 219-230; cf. Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion (Mayfield, 2001), chapter 6.
[6] Paul Draper, “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists” Nous 23 (3): 331-350 (1989).
[7] Simon Baron-Cohen, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (New York: Basic Books, 2012), 16.
[8] Baron-Cohen 2012, 39.
[9] As Baron-Cohen points out, the neurological basis for moral handicaps challenges traditional views about moral responsibility. “If zero degrees of empathy is really a form of neurological disability, to what extent can such an individual who commits a crime be held responsible for what they have done? This gets tangled up with the free will debate, for if zero degrees of empathy leaves an individual to some extent “blind” to the impact of their actions on others’ feelings, then surely they deserve our sympathy rather than punishment.” See Baron-Cohen 2012, 160.
[10] Some theists have pointed out that moral evil, such as fallen angels or demons choosing to do evil, might explain so-called “natural evils.” This argument makes the inverse point: certain natural evils explain at least some moral evil.
[11] Paul Draper, “Darwin’s Argument from Evil” in Scientific Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion (ed. Yujin Nagasawa, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 49-70 at 61.
[12] Draper 2012.

[13] Draper 2012.
[14] Draper 2013, 73.
[15] Paul Draper, “Evil and Evolution,” unpublished paper. Cf. J.L. Schellenberg, The Wisdom to Doubt: A Justification of Religious Skepticism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), 243-69. Cf. Marilyn McCord Adams, “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God” in The Problem of Evil (ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 209-221.
[16] William Rowe, “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look,” in The Evidential Argument from Evil (ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder, Indiana University Press, 1996), 276.
[17] Alvin Plantinga, “Epistemic Probability and Evil” in The Evidential Argument from Evil (ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 70.
[18] For the sake of simplicity, I am using “moral beliefs” as a catch-all phrase to include beliefs about both ethical and non-ethical propositions, and so “moral progress” over time  includes correcting past, mistaken beliefs of both types.
[19] This sentence, of course, assumes that at least some (if not most) professions of atheism are genuine. Those familiar with intra-Christian debates on apologetic methodologies will notice that I have just ruled out the claim of some (or all?) presuppositionalists, namely, that there are no atheists and instead there are only professed atheists. I agree with  John Schellenberg: “it would take something like willful blindness to fail to affirm that not all nonbelief is the product of willful blindness (even if some of it is).” See J.L. Schellenberg, “What Divine Hiddenness Reveals, or How Weak Theistic Evidence is Strong Atheistic Proof” God or Blind Nature? Philosophers Debate the Evidence (http://infidels.org/library/modern/john_schellenberg/hidden.html), 2008.
[20] Schellenberg 2008.
[21] Schellenberg 2007, 229.
[22] Schellenberg 2007, 233.
[23] Schellenberg 2007, 236.
[24] Schellenberg 2007, 238.
[25] Stephen Maitzen, “Divine Hiddenness and the Demographics of Theism” Religious Studies 42 (2006): 177-91.
[26] Maitzen 2006.
[27] Brook Alan Trisel, “God’s Silence as an Epistemological Concern” The Philosophical Forum, 43 (2012): 383–393.
[28] Paul Draper, “God and Perceptual Evidence” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 32 (1992): 149-65.
[29] Paul Draper used this argument in a debate with William Lane Craig on the existence of God, but he now believes that there is insufficient sociological evidence to prove that theists do not live more moral lives than atheists. I have chosen to follow Draper’s lead, so I have presented this point tentatively.

bookmark_borderDecisive Refutation of the Kalam Argument

(redating post originally published on 4 February 2006)
Faith and Philosophy somewhat recently (2002) published a critique of the kalam cosmological argument that I think is decisive. The paper is written by Christian philosopher Wes Morriston and is entitled, “Must the Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal Cause?“, by Wes Morriston.
Morriston grants that the universe had a beginning in time. However, he scrutinizes in detail the claim that the First Cause is timeless and that it timelessly creates time. Along the way, he clearly, methodically, and forcefully develops two main objections to the kalam argument: (1) there is no reason to believe that the universe had a cause, and (2) even if the universe did have a cause, there is no reason to believe that cause is a person. I especially liked Morriston’s paper because he deflated Craig’s slogans (e.g., “out of nothing, nothing comes”) and he showed that nontheists who reject a caused universe are not violating any widely shared metaphysical intuition.
Overall, I would have to say that Morriston’s refutation of the kalam argument is one of the best, if not the best, I have ever read. Craig wrote a reply, which was then followed by Morriston’s counter-reply. From now on, whenever someone advances the kalam argument, I intend to simply refer them to Morriston’s excellent paper. (An added plus of Morriston’s paper is that I think it could be accessible to almost anyone, even laymen, with a little effort.) Anyone who is interested in the kalam argument but who has not read Morriston’s paper should do so quickly!

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig Admits His Debate Quotations of Anthony Kenny Are Misleading

In his popular debates on God’s existence, William Lane Craig is fond of quoting philosopher of Anthony Kenny regarding the combination of atheism and Big Bang cosmology.

Now this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. For as Anthony Kenny of Oxford University urges, “A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that … the universe came from nothing and by nothing.” (See, for example, here)

In my 1999 debate with Phil Fernandes, I responded roughly as follows:

I conducted a non-scientific poll of atheist philosophers in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. I’m here to tell you that unanimously all of the philosophers I asked said that an atheist does not have to believe that the universe popped into existence out of nothing to accept the Big Bang theory. In other words, all of the atheist philosophers I contacted, including kalam experts Quentin Smith and Graham Oppy, unanimously rejected Anthony Kenny’s claim.

My rebuttal to the Kalam cosmological argument was apparently so devastating that people began to write into Craig’s ministry website, ReasonableFaith.org, to ask him for a response. Almost ten years after my debate with Fernandes, Craig responded to me in his October 8, 2009 podcast. Here is the beginning of Craig’s response.

Certainly the naturalist is able to say the universe with a beginning simply is without coming into being out of nothing, if he is willing to adopt a certain theory of time that permits that.

In other words, Craig admits Kenny is wrong. Contrary to what Craig claims in his popular presentations on the kalam cosmological argument, the atheist proponent of the Big Bang theory does not have to believe that ‘the universe came from nothing and by nothing.’ Rather, if someone is an atheist, a proponent of the Big Bang theory, and a proponent of the ‘A-theory’ of time, then (and only then) would they have to believe ‘the universe came from nothing and by nothing.’ But notice what this means. Craig can no longer use the Kenny quotation as an appeal to authority. Furthermore, if Craig uses the revised statement I provided two sentences ago, then it no longer packs the rhetorical punch of the Kenny quotation.
Craig continues:

I’ve said this explicitly in my work. Behind the kalam cosmological argument lies a view of time which is variously called the ‘tensed’ theory of time or a ‘dynamic’ theory of time or, to borrow the convenient terminology of J.M.E. McTaggart, the ‘A theory of time.’ 

Craig may indeed have said this explicitly in his scholarly work on the kalam cosmological argument, but he doesn’t say anything about this in the opening statements of his popular debates on God’s existence.
The point is not that I think my original objection was some ‘great insight,’ as Craig dismissively puts it. Rather, the point is that the Kenny quotation misrepresents the logical implications of atheism and Big Bang cosmology.
Craig goes on to explain that he has argued at length for the A-theory of time and against the B-theory of time. That’s correct. He has. He then tries to saddle me with the Herculean task of refuting his prolific writings which defend A-theory and criticize B-theory, as if that were necessary for my 1999 objection to stand. But it really doesn’t matter one way or the other how well he has defended the A-theory or criticized the B-theory. Even if his defense of A-theory is successful, his quotation of Anthony Kenny is fallacious, viz., a logically incorrect or inductively weak appeal to authority. As Wesley Salmon explained in a textbook on logic Craig is familiar with, appeals to authority are weak if equally qualified authorities disagree. As we’ve seen, all of the atheist philosophers I’ve contacted–including experts Quentin Smith and Graham Oppy–as well as Craig himself disagree with Kenny.
Since the Kenny quotation paints a misleading picture to a lay audience, Craig should stop using it.
See Also:

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument? – Part 5

In this post I will examine the presentation of the kalam cosmological argument (KCA) found in Chapter 23 of  Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (hereafter: PFCW) to see whether it supports my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, as opposed to the less specific conclusion: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.

Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview (by William Craig and J.P. Moreland, InterVarsity Press, 2003)

Chapter Title

KCA is the primary argument presented in Chapter 23, which is titled “The Existence of God I” (PFCW, p.463).  Because of the title of the chapter, one would expect that philosophical arguments presented in this chapter would be arguments for the existence of God, not arguments for the conclusion that the universe has a cause.  So, the title of Chapter 23 implies that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.

Chapter Introduction

In the final sentence of the Introduction to Chapter 23, Craig & Moreland confirm what the focus of the chapter will be (emphasis added by me):

Specifically, in this and the succeeding chapter we shall explore the question of the existence of God. (PFCW, p.464)

Once again, since KCA is the primary argument presented in Chapter 23, this remark implies that KCA is understood by Craig and Moreland to be an argument for the existence of God, which means that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.

Section Title
The presentation of KCA occurs in a section of Chapter 23 that is called “2 The Existence of God” (PFCW, p.464).   This is the third indication (in the first two pages of Chapter 23) that KCA is considered by Craig and Moreland to be an argument for the existence of God.
Opening Paragraph of Section
In the final sentence of the opening paragraph of the section “2 The Existence of God”, in which KCA is presented, Craig and Moreland describe the contents of Chapters 23 and 24 (emphasis added by me):
Alvin Plantinga…has defended what he calls “Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God’s Existence.”  In the space of these chapters [Chapter 23 & 24] we shall examine four of the most important. (PFCW, p.465)
So, at just three pages into Chapter 23, we already have a fourth and very clear indication that the content of Chapter 23 will be a presentation of one or more “Arguments for God’s Existence”.  Since KCA is the primary argument presented in Chapter 23, and in the chapter section called “2 The Existence of God”, it is clear that Craig and Moreland believe that KCA is an argument for the existence of God, and thus that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
Subsection Title

The title of the subsection of Chapter 23 in which KCA is presented is: “2.1 The Cosmological Argument”.  Obviously, since “cosmological argument” is part of the name of KCA, and since KCA is presented in a subsection that is called “2.1 The Cosmological Argument”,  Craig and Moreland believe that KCA is a “cosmological argument”.  Do Craig and Moreland think that the “The Cosmological Argument” is an argument for the existence of God?  If so, then this would be a further confirmation that they view KCA as an argument for the existence of God.
In Chapter 24, Craig and Moreland present three arguments for the existence of God:  (1) the teleological argument (p.482-490),  (2) the axiological argument (p.490-496), and (3) the ontological argument (p.496-499).  As we saw earlier, Craig and Moreland state that they will cover FOUR arguments for the existence of God in Chapters 23 and 24 (see p.465).  Since they cover THREE arguments for the existence of God in Chapter 24, that means that they cover ONE argument for the existence of God in Chapter 23.  Based on the outline of Chapter 23, it is clear that the ONE argument for the existence of God covered in Chapter 23 is “The Cosmological Argument” (see outline on p.xvii):
23  THE EXISTENCE OF GOD (I)
1  Introduction
2 The Existence of God
…..2.1 The Cosmological Argument
……….2.1.1 Exposition of the Arguments
……….2.1.2 Evaluation of the Arguments
Chapter Summary
Checklist of Basic Terms and Concepts
Based on this outline of Chapter 23, it is clear that the focus of Chapter 23 is on “The Cosmological Argument”, and since the content of Chapter 23 consists of the presentation of ONE out of FOUR arguments for the existence of God, it is clear that Craig and Moreland take “The Cosmological Argument” to be an argument for the existence of God.   
Therefore, since Craig and Moreland take the cosmological argument to be an argument for the existence of God, and since the primary argument discussed in the subsection called “The Cosmological Argument” is KCA, this shows that KCA is viewed as a version of the cosmological argument, and thus is viewed by Craig and Moreland to be an argument for the existence of God.  This means that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
Initial Summary of KCA
When Craig and Moreland give an initial summary of KCA, it is possible to interpret the summary in such a way that they assert that the conclusion of KCA is something less than that GOD EXISTS (emphasis added by me):
It [KCA] aims to show that the universe had a beginning at some moment in the finite past and , since something cannot come from out of nothing, [the universe] must therefore have a transcendent cause, which brought the universe into being.    (PFCW, p.465)
The conclusion suggested in this initial summary is that the universe had a transcendent cause (or a transcendent cause brought the universe into being).  But note that this conclusion is more specific and more relevant than the conclusion THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  If the cause of the universe is inferred to be transcendent, then the cause of the universe is something rather unusual and beyond ordinary things and experiences, something like God.  So, although the explicitly stated conclusion here falls short of the conclusion GOD EXIST, it also goes beyond the very simple and general conclusion that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, and clearly leans in the direction of the conclusion GOD EXISTS.  Therefore, this brief summary statement rules out the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, but it leaves open the possiblity that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
Given that there have already been five indications that KCA is viewed by Craig and Moreland as an argument for the existence of God, the failure to explicitly state that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS does NOT rule out this interpretation of KCA.  Given a choice between the alternative conclusions THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE and GOD EXISTS, the latter is clearly the more likely interpretation, based on the evidence we have reviewed so far.
The Thomist Cosmological Argument
Craig and Moreland discuss three versions of the cosmological argument:  (1) the Thomist version, (2) the Leibnizian verion, and (3) the kalam version.  They devote only one page to the Thomist version.  There is no standard-form argument (with numbered premises) for the Thomist version, but it is fairly clear that the ulimate conclusion of the Thomist version of the cosmological argument is that GOD EXISTS.  Consider the very last sentence of the short explication of this argument:
Thomas identifies this being [“the Ground of Being”] with the God whose name was revealed to Moses as “I am” (Ex. 3:14).  (PFCW, p.466)
In other words, IF the Ground of Being exists, THEN God exists, and the Ground of Being does exist, thus: God exists.  So,  although Craig and Moreland fail to explicitly state the conclusion of the Thomist cosmological argument, they clearly imply that the conclusion is: GOD EXISTS.  This supports my view, which is that although they also fail to explicitly state the conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument, they also clearly imply that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.  This also supports the previous point that in the view of Craig and Moreland, the cosmological argument (i.e. each version of the cosmological argument) is an argument for the existence of God.
The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
We see the same pattern in the presentation of the Leibnizian cosmological argument.  Craig and Moreland write only two pages on this version of the cosmological argument.  This time they do summarize it in a standard-form argument:
1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe is an existing thing.
4. Therefore the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.  (PFCW, p.466)
The conclusion does not explicitly state that GOD EXISTS, but the argument clearly implies that GOD EXISTS, since in order for God to explain the existence of the universe, God must actually exist.  Furthermore, in the exposition of this argument on the following page, Craig and Moreland do state the conclusion explicitly (emphasis added by me):
Since, as premise (3) [of the Leibnizian cosmological argument] states, the universe is obviously an existing thing…, it follows that God exists.  (PFCW, p.467)
So, although the ultimate conclusion of the Leibnizian cosmological argument is clearly that GOD EXISTS, the conclusion of the standard-form summary of this argument does NOT explicitly state the conclusion to be that GOD EXISTS.  This supports my view of their understanding of the kalam cosmological argument.  First, this provides additional confirmation that Craig and Moreland view the cosmological argument (i.e. each version of cosmological argument) as being an argument for the existence of God.  
Second, although the standard-form argument summarizing the Leibnizian cosmological argument does not explicitly state the conlusion to be that GOD EXISTS, it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of this cosmological argument is that GOD EXISTS.  Thus, this provides support for my view that although Craig and Moreland do not provide a standard-form summary argument for KCA in which the conclusion explicitly states that GOD EXISTS, it might still be the case that they believe that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.
Both the Thomist and Leibnizian versions of cosmological argument are clearly arguments for the existence of God, even though Craig and Moreland fail to explicitly state the ultimate conclusion that GOD EXISTS in summaries of these arguments.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
Craig and Moreland devote a dozen pages to their discussion of KCA. Clearly, they believe this to be the best and most important version of the cosmological argument, and thus the best cosmological argument for the existence of God, since that is the whole point of discussion the cosmological argument as one of four of the most important types of argument for the existence of God (PFCW, p.465).
In the very first paragraph of this twelve-page exposition on KCA, Craig and Moreland describe the argument this way:
Thus the kalam argument…constitutes an independent argument for a transcendent Creator…   (PFCW, p.468)
Craig and Moreland clearly view the conclusion of KCA to be something more specific than just the general claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  They believe that KCA shows the existence of “a transcendent Creator”.  “Transcendent” suggests or implies supernatural, and “Creator” implies an intelligent person.  Clearly, the concept of  “a transcendent Creator” is getting very close to the idea of “God”.   So, we can see that if KCA can show that “a transcendent Creator” exists, then KCA might well be used as an argument for the conclusion that GOD EXISTS.
Craig and Moreland provide a standard-form summary argument for KCA:
1.  Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.  (PFCW, p. 468)
One could point to this summary of KCA, and argue that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, since that is the explicitly-stated conclusion of this standard-form summary argument.  However, we have already seen a great deal of evidence indicating that the ultimate conclusion of the cosmological argument (i.e. of each version of cosmological argument) is that GOD EXISTS.
Furthermore, we have seen that Craig and Moreland do in fact view the ultimate conclusion of the Thomist and Leibnizian versions of the cosmological argument to be that GOD EXISTS, even though they fail to explicitly state this conclusion in summaries of those two versions of the cosmological argument.  Thus, we have good reason to doubt that the conclusion (3) is the ultimate conclusion of KCA.
Furthermore, the sentence that immediately follows the above summary argument, implies that there is more to KCA than what is contained in the summary argument (emphasis added by me):
Conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe then aims to establish some of the theologically significant properties of this being. (PFCW, p.468)
In other words, additional reasoning is required to get from the general sub-conclusion stated in (3) to the ultimate conclusion: GOD EXISTS.
 Closing Two Paragraphs on KCA
If the ultimate conclusion of KCA was that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, then we would expect the discussion of KCA to come to an end once that conclusion had been reached.  But the discussion of KCA in Chapter 23 continues for two paragraphs after reaching that conclusion, and the second paragraph is a long one, taking up about one half of a page (and the pages are of substantial length in this book).  Recall that the entire discussion of the Thomist cosmological argument took up only one single page.  The combination of the final two paragraphs on KCA is about 3/4 of a page, so this additional discussion after the conclusion is reached that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, is clearly of significance.
In the first of the two closing paragraphs on KCA, several characteristics of “the cause” of the universe are inferred:
Conceptual analysis enables us to recover a number of striking properties that must be possessed by such an ultramundane being.  For as the cause of space and time, this entity must transcend space and time and therefore exist atemporally and nonspatially, at least without the universe.  This transcendent cause must therefore be changlesss and immaterial, since timelessness entails changelessness, and changlessness implies immateriality.  Such a cause must be beginningless and uncaused,  at least in the sense of lacking any antecedent causal conditions.  Ockham’s razor will shave away  further causes, since we should not multiply causes beyond necessity.  This entity must be unimaginably powerful, since it created the universe without any material cause.  (PFCW, p.479)
All of this reasoning is based on the prior conclusion that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  Clearly, this reasoning gets us much closer to the view that God created the universe, and thus to the conclusion that GOD EXISTS.
The second and final paragraph on KCA continues with further reasoning about “the cause” of the universe (emphasis added by me):
Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent cause is plausibly taken to be personal.  Three reasons can be given for this conclusion. … (PFCW, p.479)
Near the end of the final paragraph on KCA we read the following statement:
Thus we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its Personal Creator.  (PFCW, p.480)
So, clearly the conclusion of KCA is at least that THERE EXISTS A TRANSCENDENT PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE,  which is much more specific than the simple conclusion that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  Furthermore, it is easy to see how the conclusion that there is a TRANSCENDENT (i.e. timeless, changeless, immaterial, and unimaginably powerful) PERSONAL (i.e. an intelligent person) CREATOR (i.e. who designed and created the universe), would be the basis for a further inference to the conclusion that GOD EXISTS.  Thus, it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is NOT that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, but rather that GOD EXISTS.
In summary, the Chapter title, the section title, and the subsection title all support my view that the conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.  Furthermore, the introduction of the chapter, the opening paragraph of the section “2 The Existence of God”, and the expositions of both the Thomist and Leibnizian versions of the cosmological argument, support my view that the conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.  Finally, the lengthy discussion of KCA, including the opening paragraph, the initial description of KCA, and the final closing paragraphs about KCA, all support my view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS.

If Chapter 23 of  Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview was our ONLY source of information about KCA, then we would quite reasonably infer that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is only an intermediate conclusion on the path towards the ultimate conclusion of KCA.

 
 

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument? – Part4

In the Cambridge Companion to Atheism, there is an article by William Craig in which he presents some arguments for the existence of God.
One of the arguments Craig presents is the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA).  In this post I will examine that article to see whether it supports my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, as opposed to the less specific conclusion: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.

The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (edited by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Title
Craig’s article in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (hereafter: CCA) is titled “Theistic Critiques of Atheism”.  One obvious way to criticize atheism is to present arguments that support theism, arguments for the conclusion: GOD EXISTS.
Introduction
Craig talks about the “collapse of verificationism” in Anglo-American philosophy and a resulting “resurgence of metaphysics” as well as a “renaissance in Christian philosophy.” (CCA, p.69)  Then Craig quotes a comment by the atheist philosopher Quentin Smith about this change.  Here is a portion of that quote (emphasis added by me):
 …[I]n philosophy it became, almost overnight, “academically respectable” to ARGUE for THEISM…   (CCA, p.69)
Since “theism” is the view that GOD EXISTS, Smith is talking about philosophers returning to the effort to give arguments for the conclusion: GOD EXISTS.  The placement of this comment from Smith in the Introduction indicates that Craig will be presenting one or more arguments for the existence of God later in this article. KCA is one of the arguments that Craig will go on to present.
In the final paragraph of the Introduction Craig makes it clear that a significant portion of this article will disucuss arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
As vanguards of a new philosophical paradigm, theistic philosophers have freely issued various critiques of atheism. In so short a space as this chapter it is impossible to do little more than sketch a few of them.  These critiques could be grouped under two basic heads:  (1) There are no cogent arguments for atheism, and (2) There are cogent ARGUMENTS for THEISM.  (CCA, p.70)
The body of the article is indeed divided into two parts titled “NO COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR ATHEISM” (p.70-75) and “COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM” (p.75-84).  So the title of the second section further indicates that Craig will present multiple “ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM”, that is, more than one argument for the conclusion that: GOD EXISTS.
The Section: COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM
The opening of the section of the article called COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM is a single sentence, that further confirms that Craig will be presenting arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
The renaissance of Christian philosophy over the last half-century has been accompanied by a new appreciation of the traditional ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  Space permits mention of only four. (CCA, p.75)
Presumably, Craig will present at leat four traditional arguments for the existence of God, in this section titled COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM.  It is no surprise, then, that this section is further divided into four subsections: Contingency Argument, Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, and Moral Argument.
Given the statement at the opening of this section, it is clear that Craig considers these four arguments, including the cosmological argument, to be “traditional ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”.  Thus Craig believes that the cosmological argument is such an argument, and thus Craig believes that the conclusion of the cosmological argument is: GOD EXISTS.  Furthermore, since the kalam cosmological argument is, obviously, a cosmological argument, Craig believes the conclusion of KCA to be: GOD EXISTS.
Furthermore, the subsection called “Cosmological Argument” (p.76-79) presents only ONE version of cosmological argument, namely the kalam cosmological argument, so it is crystal clear that Craig believes that KCA is a traditional ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, and thus that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
While it is true that the bulk of the subsection on the cosmological argument is devoted to establishing that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, the final paragraph of Craig’s presentation of KCA goes beyond that simple claim (emphasis added by me):
It follows logically that the universe has a cause.  Conceptual analysis of which properties must be possessed by such an ultramundane cause enables us to recover a striking number of the TRADITIONAL DIVINE ATTRIBUTES, revealing that IF THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, THEN AN UNCAUSED PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful. (CCA, p.79)
Craig does not here explicitly draw the conclusion that GOD EXISTS, but he clearly goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, and draws the more specific conclusion that AN UNCAUSED PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS.  Furthermore, Craig claims that by means of “conceptual analysis” we can infer that this PERSONAL CREATOR has “a striking number of the traditional divine attributes”.  So, Craig is strongly suggesting that this PERSONAL CREATOR can reasonably be identified as GOD.  Since Craig has concluded that A PERSONAL CREATOR with several traditional divine attributes exists, he is just one small step away from the drawing the ultimate conclusion that: GOD EXISTS.
Given that Craig has clearly implied that the cosmological argument is a traditional ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, and given that at the end of the section where Craig presents KCA he draws a conclusion that is much more specific than the simple claim that: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE, and given that the much more specific conclusion is clearly just one small step away from the claim that: GOD EXISTS, it is very likely that Craig believes that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is that GOD EXISTS, even though he does not explicitly state this conclusion at the end of the section on KCA.
In any case, the view that the conclusion of KCA is merely that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is very improbable, given that Craig clearly draws the much more specific conclusion that AN UNCAUSED PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS who has several traditional divine attributes.
The Title and Introduction of this article provide evidence for my view of KCA.  The title of the section COGENT ARGUMENTS FOR THEISM also supports my view (since KCA is one of four arguments presented in that section).  The opening of that section supports my view of KCA. Finally, the subsection on Cosmological Argument supports my view, in part because Craig implies that the cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of God, and in part because KCA is the only argument discussed in the subsection called “Cosmological Argument”.  The concluding paragraph of the subsection called “Cosmological Argument” also provides significant support for my view of KCA.
If William Craig’s article “Theistic Critiques of Atheism” was our ONLY source of information about KCA, then we would quite reasonably infer that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is only an intermediate conclusion on the path towards the ultimate conclusion of KCA.
 
 

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument? – Part 2

In the previous post on this topic, I argued that William Craig’s book The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (Here’s Life Publishers, 1979) provides a good deal of evidence supporting my view that the ultimate conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) is: GOD EXISTS, and that book also provides evidence AGAINST the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Now I will examine Craig’s book Apologetics to see whether it also supports my view about the conclusion of KCA.
Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984)
In the Preface of Apologetics, Craig points to two central issues of apologetics (emphasis in CAPS added by me):
…I recommend that the student read my two books, The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe…and The Son Rises…as background for the sections on THE EXISTENCE OF GOD and the resurrection of Jesus respectively…
The course [embodied in this book Apologetics] is designed to provide background and critical discussion pertaining to the basic issues of A POSITIVE CASE FOR Christianity.  I consider the two “hinge” issues to be THE EXISTENCE OF GOD and the resurrection of Jesus.  (Apologetics,  p.x)
Thus, Craig believes that a central issue of apologetics is “Does God Exist?”.   Note that Craig suggests students read his book on the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) called The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe as background for the section in Apologetics concerning THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  This is further confirmation that KCA is an argument for the existence of God, and thus that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is NOT the claim: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
The opening sentences of the Introduction (of  Apologetics), tell us the focus or purpose of the discipline of apologetics (emphasis added by me):
Apologetics is primarily a theoretical discipline, though it has practical application.  That is to say, apologetics is that branch of theology that seeks to provide A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION for the TRUTH CLAIMS of the Christian faith. (Apologetics, p. xi)
Since the purpose of apologetics is to “provide  A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” for Christian truth claims, and since Craig believes that one of the most important issues in apologetics is “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD” (i.e. Does God exist?), one would expect that this book would include one or more attempts to “provide A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” for the Christian claim that GOD EXISTS.  Looking over the “Analytic Outline” of  Apologetics (presented immediately after the Introduction), we see that there is an entire section of the book that appears to be devoted to this topic:
3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Given what Craig says in the Preface and Introduction, one would expect to find one or more arguments for the existence of God in this section of the book.  In one of the subsections of 3.1, it appears that Craig will discuss different versions of some traditional arguments for the existence of God:
3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
3.121 ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
3.1211 Anselm of Canterbury
3.122 COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
3.1221 Al-Ghazali
3.1222 Thomas Aquinas
3.1223 G.W. F. Leibniz
3.123 TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
3.1231 Plato and Aristotle
3.1232 Thomas Aquinas
3.1233 William Paley
3.124 MORAL ARGUMENT
3.1241 Thomas Aquinas
3.1242 William R. Sorley
Thus it appears that the contents of this book, and especially the content of section 3.1 on THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, will indeed line up with the expectations that Craig creates in the Preface and Introduction to Apologetics.  Specifically, it appears that Craig will present and discuss arguments for the Christian claim that GOD EXISTS in section 3.1 of Apologetics.
In the opening paragraphs of section 3.1 on THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, Craig indicates that this section will indeed cover arguments for God’s existence (emphasis added by me):
I think there are GOOD REASONS for believing that GOD EXISTS.  Accordingly we shall in this locus [i.e. in section 3.1] examine various ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Apologetics, p.58)
At the end of this opening for section 3.1, Craig also gives and indication that he will cover some traditional arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
…not long ago Time carried a lengthy article on the renewed interest among philosophers in all the TRADITIONAL ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE.  That is an ecouraging sign that the question of GOD’S EXISTENCE will not be abandoned to the fideists and the atheists.  (Apologetics, p.58)
As we saw in the Analytical Outline of section 3.1, Craig plans to discuss the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and the moral argument. To those familiar with the philosophy of religion, these are all recognizable names or categories of “TRADITIONAL ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE.”  So, this confirms my view that when Craig discusses versions of the cosmological argument (in 3.122), he takes himself to be discussing various arguments “for GOD’S EXISTENCE”.
The view that Craig takes the various arguments discussed in section 3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGOUND to be “ARGUMENTS for GOD’S EXISTENCE” is further confirmed by comments Craig makes at the beginning of the sections on ontological, teleological, and moral arguments (emphasis added by me):
The ontological argument ATTEMPTS TO PROVE from the very concept of God that GOD EXISTS: if God is conceivable, then He must actually exist. (Apologetics, p.61)
Perhaps the oldest and most popular of all the ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD is the teleological argument. (Apologetics, p.66)
The moral ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD argues for the existence of a Being that is the embodiment of the ultimate Good, which is the source of the objective moral values we experience in the world.  (Apologetics, p.70)
Given that the Preface and Introduction create the expectation that Craig will discuss arguments for the existence of God, and given that the Analytic Outline and the opening paragraphs of section 3.1 indicate that Craig will discuss arguments for the existence of God in section 3.1, and given that three out of the four categories of arguments discussed in section 3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND are explicitly stated to be “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and given that in the field of philosophy of religion “Cosmological Arguments” are generally considered to be arguments for the existence of God, it is more than reasonable to infer that the section 3.122 COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT is also concerned with various versions of “ARGUMENTS for the EXISTENCE OF GOD” in Craig’s view.  Since one of the cosmological arguments covered by Craig in section 3.122 is the kalam cosmological argument (i.e. the cosmological argument by Al-Ghazali is KCA), it is reasonable to conclude that Craig is representing KCA as an “ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”.
Furthermore, Craig explicitly characterizes KCA as being such an argument (emphasis added by me):
The KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT originated in the attempts of Christian thinkers to rebut Aristotle’s doctrine of the eternity of the universe and was developed by medieval Islamic theologians into an ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Apologetics, p. 62)
For my part, however, I find the KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for a temporal first cause of the universe to be the most plausible ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE.  I have defended THIS ARGUMENT in two books, The Kalam Cosmological Argument and The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe.  (Apologetics, p.73)
Note that Craig here states that his book The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe was a presentation of KCA, and in the previous discussion about that book, we saw that the conclusion of the argument presented in that book is: GOD EXISTS.
Because Craig believes KCA to be “the most plausible ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE” this is the only argument that he discusses in 3.13 ASSESSMENT, a subsection of 3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.  At the end of this subsection, Craig works his way toward the ultimate conclusion of the argument (emphasis in CAPS added by me):
From what we have already said this cause [of the universe] would have to be uncaused, eternal, changeless, timeless, and immaterial.  Moreover, I would argue, IT MUST ALSO BE PERSONAL. …a temporal effect may be caused by AN ETERNALLY EXISTING AGENT.  In fact, the agent may have purposed eternally to do some act in time.  Thus the Bible speaks of the eternal plan, hidden for ages in GOD WHO CREATED ALL THINGS, which GOD has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:11).  THEREFORE, we are brought, not merely to a First Cause of the universe, but to THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE.  (Apologetics, p.93)
The explicit conclusion here is that there exists a being who is “THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE” (who is also uncaused, eternal, and immaterial).  Clearly, Craig believes that such a being is a close match with the concept of “God” as this concept is understood in the Christian faith, and he believes it is reasonable to draw the ultimate conclusion that: GOD EXISTS.
While it is true that Craig does not explicitly state the conclusion that GOD EXISTS here in the final paragraph about KCA, given the clear context that he is discussing “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD” and that Craig considers KCA to be  “the most plausible ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE”, it is very reasonable to infer that Craig sees the ultimate conclusion of KCA to be: GOD EXISTS. Furthermore, the explicit conclusion that there is a being who is “THE PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE” clearly goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
This iterpretation of the final paragraph of the subsection about KCA is confirmed by comments that Craig makes in the very next section 3.14 PRACTICAL APPLICATION, which is the final subsection of 3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
In this final subsection, Craig relates some stories about using arguments for the existence of God in evangelism.  The first story clearly implies that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.   The story is about an occasion when Craig’s wife used KCA to persuade someone to believe in God (emphasis added by me):
For example, my wife Jan, was once talking to a girl in the student union and this girl said that she did not BELIEVE IN GOD.  Jan replied, “Well, what do you think of the argument for a first cause?”  “What’s that?” said the girl.  My wife explained, “Everything we see has a cause, and those causes have causes, and so on. But this can’t go back forever.  There had to be a beginning and a first cause which started the whole thing.  THIS IS GOD.”  Now that was obviously a very simple statement of THE ARGUMENT WE HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING.  The girl responded, “I guess GOD EXISTS after all.”  She was not ready to receive Christ at that point, but at least she had moved one step closer, AWAY FROM her ATHEISM. (Apologetics, p.94)
Clearly, Jan was presenting a simple version of KCA to this girl, and clearly when Jan asserted “THIS IS GOD” at the end of her brief statement of KCA, she implied the conclusion of her argument to be: GOD EXISTS.  Craig does not correct his wife here.  For example, he does not say, “Jan was ignorant of the fact that the kalam cosmological argument only shows that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE not that GOD EXISTS.”  Craig sees it as completely appropriate for the girl to give up her atheism and to instead “BELIEVE IN GOD” on the basis of Jan’s presentation of KCA.
Craig tells another story about his wife’s evangelism, involving the use of KCA to persuade a physicist to believe in God (emphasis added by me):
 …in West Germany we met a physicist from behind the Iron Curtain.  As we chatted, he mentioned that physics had destroyed his BELIEF IN GOD and that life had become meaningless to him. …at that point, my wife popped, “Oh, you should read Bill’s doctoral dissertation!  He uses physics to PROVE GOD EXISTS.” So we lent him my dissertation on THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT to read. (Apologetics, p.94)
After reading Craig’s dissertation on KCA, the physicist comes to believe in God and he converts to Christianity.  Again, Craig makes no comment correcting his wife. So, we are left with the impression that Craig agrees that the presentation of KCA in his dissertation leads to the conclusion that: “GOD EXISTS”.
The very last sentence in section 3.1 THE EXISTENCE OF GOD provides additional confirmation that this section was concerned with providing one or more good arguments for the existence of God (emphasis added by me):
In an age of increasing atheism and agnosticism, we cannot afford to forgo AN APOLOGETIC FOR this most basic of all Christian beliefs: THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. (Apologetics, p. 95)
Since Craig has focused primarily on KCA in section 3.1, and only briefly touched on other arguments, and since the purpose of apologetics is to “provide A RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION for the TRUTH CLAIMS of the Christian faith” (Apologetics, p.xi), this final comment strongly suggests that KCA provides such a “RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION” for the claim that: GOD EXISTS.
Craig’s book Apologetics provides significant evidence for the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and it provides significant evidence AGAINST the view that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
There is evidence in the Preface for my view, and in the Introduction, and in the Analytic Outline of Apologetics.  There is evidence for my view in the title of section 3.1 : “THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and more evidence in the opening paragraphs of section 3.1 that describe the purpose of that section.
There is evidence for my view in the fact that Craig describes three of the categories of arguments discussed in 3.12 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND as being “ARGUMENTS for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD”, and there is further evidence for my view in the fact that Craig specifically characterizes KCA as being an “ARGUMENT for THE EXISTENCE OF GOD” (Apologetics, p. 62) and an “ARGUMENT for GOD’S EXISTENCE” (Apologetics, p.73).
There is evidence for my view at the end of section 3.13 ASSESSMENT, where Craig wraps up his presentation of KCA. There is also some evidence for my view in section 3.14 PRACTICAL APPLICATION, where Craig tells stories about how KCA can be used to convince people to “BELIEVE IN GOD”.  And there is a bit more evidence for my view in the final sentence of section 3.1.
If the book Apologetics was our ONLY source for information about KCA, we would quite reasonably infer from this book that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
 

bookmark_borderWhat is the Conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

In order to understand an argument, one must FIRST understand what the CONCLUSION of the argument asserts.
Since Jeff Lowder and I disagree about what the conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) asserts, we also disagree about the specific content of KCA.  I’m going to present my reasons for believing that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, as well as my reasons for rejecting Jeff Lowder’s view that the conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
It is amazing that two people with significant knowledge and background in the philosophy of religion would have such divergent views as to what the conclusion of a well-known argument in the philosophy of religion asserts.  This in itself is an argument for the view that Craig’s presentations of KCA are less than ideal in terms of clarity, which is the main point I wish to make, anyway.
It is also amazing that Jeff Lowder holds the view that Craig has mischaracterized the conclusion of his own argument on more than one occassion.  This is certainly a real possibility, but to entertain this possibility seriously is to doubt the clarity of Craig’s understanding of his own argument, which again supports my basic point about there being a problem of clarity with Craig’s presentation of KCA.  If Craig is himself confused about what the conclusion of KCA asserts, then it should be no surprise that others would also be confused and disagree about what the conclusion of KCA asserts.
If it turns out that my position that the conclusion of KCA is GOD EXISTS is a plausible one (and I have plenty of evidence to back up my view), and if Jeff Lowder’s position that the conclusion of KCA is THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is also a plausible one (I suspect that Jeff Lowder will be able to provide evidence to support his view), then that means that Craig has done a poor job of presenting KCA in a way that makes the content of this argument clear.
I’m going to present evidence for my view of KCA in chronological order, based on publication dates of the books or articles that I examine. I plan to examine at least eight different publications/articles/lectures by Craig between 1979 and 2015.
The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (Here’s Life Publishers, 1979)
In Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984), William Craig tells us that:
I have defended this argument [the kalam cosmological argument] in two books, the Kalam Cosmological Argument and The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe. (Apologetics, p.73)
So, one important source for understanding the contents and conclusion of KCA is The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (hereafter: EOG&BOU).  The title alone provides significant support for my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.  One of Craig’s first books about KCA contains the phrase “The Existence of God” in its title!
The Preface of EOG&BOU confirms my view that this book is a presentation of KCA for a general audience:
Those who wish to pursue more deeply some of the issues I discuss [here in EOG&BOU] should consult my technical study, The Kalam Cosmological Argument (London: Macmillan, 1979; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979).
Assuming, then that EOG&BOU is a presentation of KCA for a general audience, the preface provides evidence for my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.  Here are the opening sentences of EOG&BOU (emphasis added by me):
This is a book for those who DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD.  It is my hope that this work will be the means by which some person seeking to know the truth about the universe will COME TO KNOW ITS CREATOR.
Several years of philosophical and scientific research have convinced me that BELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD is the most intellectually respectable position available to a person today.  In this work I have tried to marshal briefly and convincingly some of the evidence IN SUPPORT OF THE THESIS THAT GOD EXISTS.  (EOG&BOU, p.9)
So, based on the Preface of EOG&BOU, one would reasonably infer that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
The content of EOG&BOU also goes against Jeff Lowder’s view that the conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  There are three chapters in EOG&BOU that present a unified line of reasoning: II, III, and IV.  Just the titles of these chapters alone provides significant evidence for my view of KCA and against Jeff Lowder’s view (from the table of contents, emphasis added by me):
 II. An Argument FOR GOD’s EXISTENCE (1): 
Philosophical Proof of the Beginning of the Universe
III. An Argument FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE (2):
Scientific Confirmation of the Beginning of the Universe
IV. An Argument FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE (3):
The Personal Creator of the Universe 
First, note that the titles of these chapters provide support for my view of KCA, because each chapter title begins “An Argument for God’s Existence…” So, the titles of three key chapters of a book that lays out KCA speak of an argument for God’s existence, implying that KCA is an argument for God’s existence. If KCA is an argument for God’s existence, then it follows that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the claim that “The universe has a cause” is NOT the ultimate conclusion of KCA.
Second, note that these three chapters do NOT present three separate arguments for the existence of God. The first two chapters present arguments for the claim that the universe began to exist. Chapter IV is the third of the three chapters, and in that chapter, Craig argues that IF the universe began to exist, THEN God exists (my summary). Thus, all three chapters work together to form an argument for the claim: GOD EXISTS.
Third, note the claim implied by the title of Chapter IV: “The personal Creator of the Universe”; this suggests that KCA supports the conclusion that there exists exactly one personal Creator of the Universe; such a claim clearly goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  So, if Chapter IV represents part of KCA, then the conclusion of KCA goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Assuming that the content of EOG&BOU represents the content of KCA, then KCA can be summarized this way:
1. The universe began to exist. (Chapters II & III)
2. If the universe began to exist, then God exists. (Chapter IV)
Therefore:
3. God exists. (end of Chapter IV)
Another indication that these three chapters of EOG&BOU work together to form a single argument is that in the opening pages of Chapter II, we find a diagram that summarizes the logic of these three chapters and how they work together  (EOG&BOU, p.38):
Diagram from EOG&BOU
If we assume that contents of these three chapters of EOG&BOU represent the contents of KCA, then it would be reasonable to interpret the diagram on page 38 as a representation of the logic of KCA.  But in that case it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of KCA goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  The ultimate conclusion of KCA must (at least) be something like the conclusion mentioned immediately following the diagram (emphasis added by me):
By proceeding through these alternatives, I think I can demonstrate how reasonable it is to believe that the universe is not eternal but had a beginning and was caused by a personal being; therefore A PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS.   (EOG&BOU, p.38)
Such a conclusion clearly goes beyond the claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Chapter IV can be divided into two main sections corresponding to the last two sets of alternatives in the above diagram. Pages 83-85 correspond to the choice between the alternatives of “caused” or “not caused”.   About 2/3 down the page on page 85 Craig concludes the discussion of those alternatives:
Any unprejudiced inquirer ought to agree with me, at this point, that the universe was caused to exist. (EOG&BOU, p.85)
At the bottom of that same page, Craig begins his discussion of the choice between the third set of alternatives:
Now let’s turn to our third set of alternatives, and I will explain why I think the cause of the universe is personal rather than impersonal. (EOG&BOU, p.85-86)
So, the discussion of the third set of alternatives occurs for the remainder of Chapter IV, on pages 85-89.
If we look at the very last paragraph of Chapter IV, we find further confirmation of my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS (emphasis added by me):
Thus we reach our conclusion: A PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS, changeless and timeless prior to creation and in time subsequent to creation.  This is the central idea of what theists mean by “GOD.” (EOG&BOU, p.89)
Craig is here spelling out the final step in this argument for the existence of God.  Although he does not use the words “God exists,” it is clear that what Craig has in mind is the following inference:
A personal creator of the universe exists.
Therefore:
God exists.
Furthermore, even if I’m wrong that “God exists” is the ultimate conclusion of the argument in EOG&BOU, it is clear that the explicit conclusion that “a personal creator of the universe exists” (EOG&BOU, p.89) goes beyond the simple conclusion that “the universe was caused to exist.”(EOG&BOU, p.85).
Assuming that the content of EOG&BOU represents the content of the kalam cosmological argument, and there is no reason to suspect otherwise just from reading this book, then it seem abundantly clear to me that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the  ultimate conclusion of KCA is NOT the simple claim that: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
This view of KCA is supported by (a) the title of the book, (b) the statement of the purpose of the book in the Preface, (c) the titles of the chapters, (d) the logical structure of the argument presented in Chapters II, III, and IV, (e) the structure of the diagram of logical alternatives given on page 38, (f) the correspondence between the apparent logical structure of the overall argument with the logical structure represented in the diagram of logical alternatives on page 38 and (g) the explicit statement of the conclusion at the end of Chapter IV.
NOTE:
In Debating Christian Theism (Oxford University Press, 2013), Craig has an article titled “The Kalam Argument”.  In that article Craig lays out a systematic argument that follows the exact same structure (the three sets of logical alternatives) that we have seen above in EOG&BOU.  So, some 34 years after the publication of EOG&BOU, Craig is still presenting KCA in a form that closely matches the logical structure of the argument found in EOG&BOU.  I will go into the details of this more recent article when I work my way up to the year 2013 for publications by Craig about KCA.
===============================
Next, I will take a look at:
Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984)

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig: 36 Years of Equivocation – Part 4

Craig’s presentation of KCA in 1979 (in The Existence of God and The Beginning of the Universe) has the following structure:
I. The intermediate conclusion (the conclusion of his syllogistic argument) is stated in ambiguous language, ambiguous concerning whether there is AT LEAST ONE thing that caused the existence of the universe or EXACTLY ONE thing that caused the existence of the universe.
II. Only the WEAK interpretation of this intermediate conclusion can be validly inferred from the premises (i.e. the premises only imply that there is AT LEAST ONE thing that caused the existence of the universe).
III. Craig then shifts to using unambiguous language which assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that caused the existence of the universe.
IV. Finally, Craig urges the identification of the ONE UNCAUSED CAUSE of the universe with God.
We find this same structure in Craig’s presentation of KCA in 1994 (in Reasonable Faith, the revised edition), and the  same structure occurs in Craig’s most recent presentation of KCA in 2015 (in Craig’s 2015  lecture on KCA at the University of Birmingham).  Thus, Craig has been commiting the fallacy of equivocation for nearly four decades (for 36 years to be precise).

Reasonable Faith (revised edition, 1994)

 I. The Intermediate conclusion is stated in ambiguous language.
In Reasonable Faith, Craig continues to state the conclusion of the syllogistic argument in ambiguous language:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2.The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(Reasonable Faith, p.92)
The intermediate conclusion (3) has at least two possible meanings:
3a. The universe has AT LEAST ONE cause.
3b. The universe has EXACTLY ONE cause.
Craig runs through the second phase of the argument in six paragraphs later in the book (p.116-117).  He initially re-iterates his ambiguous intermediate conclusion, and then infers another equally amgiguous intermediate conclusion (emphasis in CAPS added by me):
From the first premiss–that whatever begins to exist has a cause–and the second premiss–that the universe began to exist–it follows logically that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.  This conclusion ought to stagger us, to fill us with awe, for it means that THE UNIVERSE WAS BROUGHT INTO EXISTENCE BY SOMETHING which is greater than and beyond it.
(Reasonable Faith, p.116)
II. Only the WEAK interpretation of this intermediate conclusion can be validly inferred from the premises (i.e. the premises only imply that there is AT LEAST ONE thing that caused the existence of the universe).
Nothing has changed in the 1994 version of KCA that would make Craig’s syllogism a valid argument for the intermediate conclusion that there is EXACTLY ONE cause of the universe.  It is clear that only the weaker conclusion follows validly (i.e that there is AT LEAST ONE cause of the universe).
III. Craig then shifts to using unambiguous language which assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that caused the existence of the universe.
In the second paragraph of Craig’s wrap up of KCA, he immediately slides into unambiguous language about the quantity of causes of the universe (emphasis added by me):
But what is the nature of THIS FIRST CAUSE? It seems to me quite plausible that IT is a personal being WHO created the universe.   (Reasonable Faith, p.116)
Paragraph 3 starts off with an ambiguous statement of the intermediate conclusion, but then slides into unambigious language assuming that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that is the cause of the universe (emphasis added by me):
Consider the following puzzle: we’ve concluded that the beginning of the universe was the effect of A FIRST CAUSE.  By the nature of the case THAT COSMIC CAUSE cannot have any beginning of ITS existence nor any prior cause.  Nor can there have been any changes in THIS CAUSE, either in ITS nature or operations, prior to the beginning of the universe.  IT just exists changelessly without any beginning, and a finite time ago IT brought the universe into existence.  Now this is exceedingly odd.  THE CAUSE is in some sense eternal and yet the effect which is produced is not eternal… How can THE CAUSE exist without the effect?
(Reasonable Faith, p.116-117)
Craig continues to use the unambigious expression “the cause” in Paragraph 4 (emphasis added by me):
But this seems to imply that if THE CAUSE of the universe existed eternally, the universe would also have existed eternally.  And this we know to be false. (Reasonable Faith, p. 117)
Craig continues to use the unambigious expression “the cause” in Paragraph 5 (emphasis added by me):
One might say that THE CAUSE came to exist or changed in some way just prior to the first event.  But then THE CAUSE’S beginning or changing would be the first event, and we must ask all over again for ITS cause. … The question is: How can a first event come to exist if THE CAUSE of that event exists changelessly and eternally?  Why isn’t the effect as co-eternal as THE CAUSE?  (Reasonable Faith, p. 117)
At the beginning of Paragraph 6, Craig re-iterates the unambigious expression “the cause” (emphasis added by me):
It seems that there is only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to infer that THE CAUSE of the universe is a personal agent WHO chooses to create a universe in time. (Reasonable Faith, p.117)
IV. Finally, Craig urges the identification of the ONE UNCAUSED CAUSE of the universe with God.
In the middle of Paragraph 6, Craig introduces the terms “Creator” and “God” and relates them to the phrase “the cause” (emphasis added by me):
…a finite time ago A CREATOR endowed with free will could have willed to bring the world into being at that moment.  In this way, GOD could exist changelessly and eternally but choose to create the world in time.  By “choose” one need not mean that THE CREATOR changes HIS mind about the decision to create, but that HE freely and eternally intends to create a world with a beginning.  By exercising HIS causal power, HE therefore brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist.  So THE CAUSE is eternal, but the effect is not.  (p.117)
In Paragraph 6, Craig starts out claiming that THE CAUSE of the universe is a personal agent.  He then talks about A CREATOR, then slides into speaking of THE CREATOR, and he refers to THE CREATOR with the singular masculine pronoun HE, and masculine possessive HIS.  Craig also drops the word GOD along the way, but does not explicitly claim that THE CREATOR or THE CAUSE of the universe ought to be identified with GOD.
However, when Craig initially introduces KCA, he implies that the conclusion of KCA is that God exists:
…I find the kalam cosmological argument for a temporal cause of the universe to be one of the most plausible arguments for God’s existence.  (p.92)
So, the reader already knows what the ultimate conclusion of KCA is supposed to be: God exists.
In the next section of Reasonable Faith, Craig goes on to discuss the Fine Tuning argument, but in the very first sentence of that section, Craig refers back to what was supposedly shown by KCA:
The purely philosophical argument for the personhood of THE CAUSE of the origin of the universe receives powerful scientific confirmation from the observed fine-tuning of the universe, which bespeaks intelligent design.
(Reasonable Faith, p.118)
This is very similar to the wording of a conclusion Craig states on p. 117:  “the cause of the universe is a personal agent…”. And it is clear that Craig is suggesting that this ONE cause, this ONE personal agent,  be identified as THE CREATOR of the universe and as GOD.
Thus we see that in 1994, Craig was still commiting the fallacy of equivocation in his presentation of KCA, just as he did in his 1979 presentation of KCA, just as Aquinas did in his presentation of cosmological arguments for God nearly 800 years ago.

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig: 36 Years of Equivocation – Part 2

One reason why it should be OBVIOUS that Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument (hereafter: KCA) involves the fallacy of equivocation, is that Aquinas commits a very similar fallacy of equivocation in his cosmological arguments for God.
Every (or almost every) introduction to philosophy of religion course includes at least a brief examination of Aquinas’s Five Ways or Five Arguments for God.  So,  almost every philosophy student who has taken an introduction to philosophy of religion course has been exposed to the sort of fallacy of equivocation that occurs in KCA.
Let’s look at Aquinas’s first argument for God.  Here are a couple of key premises:
1. In the world some things are in motion.
2. Whatever is moved is moved by another.
To be “moved by another” is ambiguous.   This might mean either (a) “moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing” or it could mean (b)  “moved by EXACTLY ONE other thing”.   The premise is plausible on interpretation (a), but is clearly false on interpretation (b):
2a. Whatever is moved is moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing.
2b. Whatever is moved is moved by EXACTLY ONE other thing.
Premise (2b) is clearly FALSE, because it is possible for two moving objects to cause a third object to move, as when two moving billiard balls simultaneously bump up against a third stationary billiard ball and cause the third billiard ball to start moving.  So, for premise (2) of Aquinas’s first argument for God to have a chance of being true, we must interpret the ambiguous claim in (2) as meaning (2a).
But as the argument proceeds, Aquinas shifts into talking about a SINGLE first mover:
If that by which it is moved be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another, and that by another again.  But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; …Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; an this everyone understands to be God.
(Religious Belief and Philosophical Thought: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, by William Alston, p.29 – excerpt from Summa Theologica).
Aquinas speaks of “the first mover” implying that there must only be ONE thing that initiates movement.  But even if there was just ONE SINGLE chain of one object moving another object moving another object, no matter how far back we go, we cannot infer that the prior cause of movement was a SINGLE object or thing; it might well be TWO or THREE or a THOUSAND things, because premise (2b) only supports an inference to there being AT LEAST ONE prior object or thing that causes the movement.
Aquinas then concludes that “this” first mover is understood to be God.  But to speak of “this” first mover, clearly implies that there was EXACTLY ONE such mover, and to identify the ultimate cause of motion as God, who is by definition,  ONE BEING, is also to assume that there is EXACTLY ONE such mover.  So, we see in Aquinas’s first argument for God, a clear shift between an ambiguous initial premise (2), which might refer to either (a) “moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing”   or to (b) “moved by EXACTLY ONE other thing”, to a conclusion that assumes that there must be EXACTLY ONE thing that is “the first mover”.  But premise (2) is plausible only if we give it interpretation (a) “moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing”, in which case the conclusion that there is EXACTLY ONE first mover does NOT logically follow.
Aquinas thus commits the fallacy of equivocation in his first argument for the existence of God, which is generally considered to be a cosmological argument.  
A similar equivocation fallacy occurs in Aquinas’s third argument for God. The third way is also considered to be a cosmological argument.  Here are some key premises [this is not the complete argument]:
1. If at one time [in the past] nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist.
 2.  If it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist [after some particular point in time in the past], then even now nothing would be in existence.
3. But it is absurd [i.e. false] that nothing is in existence now.
4. Therefore…there must exist something the existence of which is necessary.
I realize that (4) does not follow from premises (1), (2) and (3), but that is because I have left out some other premises of this argument.  My point here is that the meaning of “there must exist something” in premise (4) is nailed down by the logic of the argument supporting (4).  There could NOT have been a past time when nothing existed, so we can conclude that in every point in time in the past SOMETHING has existed, and this clearly means that AT LEAST ONE thing exists in any given point in time in the past (allowing that different things could exist at different points in time in the past).
So, when interpreted properly, (4) means this:
4a.  There must exist AT LEAST ONE thing the existence of which is necessary. 
But the conclusion that Aquinas draws requires that we assume the truth of a different premise:
4b.  There must exist EXACTLY ONE thing the existence of which is necessary.
Notice how the language of Aquinas shifts to talk about a SINGLE being or thing:
Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity.  This all men speak of as God.
(Religious Belief and Philosophical Thought, p.30)
The phrase “some being” is ambiguous between “EXACTLY ONE being” and “AT LEAST ONE being”, but in the very next sentence, Aquinas shifts to speaking about “This” which assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE being which has the sort of “necessity” in question.  And, of course, “God” by definition refers to a SINGLE being.  But the key premise that Aquinas is basing his conclusion on only talks about there being AT LEAST ONE being that has this sort of necessity.  So, once again, Aquinas commits the fallacy of equivocation.  The argument for premise (4) is logically valid only if we interpret (4) to mean (4a).  But Aquinas’s conclusion follows validly from premise (4) only if we interpret it to mean (4b).
In conclusion, IF I am correct that William Craig has committed a similar fallacy of equivocation in his cosmological argument (KCA), THEN the fallacy that Craig commits has about an 800 year history, and occurred in the most studied and examined versions of the cosmological argument, found in Aquinas’s Five Ways of arguing for the existence of God.