Edmund Standing is a conservative blogger and retired anti-fascist activist who also wrote from an atheist perspective. After a few months of quiet, he has revived his blog because he has re-found God. In one post, he linked to some of William Lane Craig’s arguments or, as Lane Craig would put it, proofs of the existence of God. One of these contains five proofs that God exists.
Lane Craig is a formidable Christian apologist who has debated with most of the new atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and the others. In live debate he tends to throw out about five such arguments in a Gish Gallop, but here we have them on the page to think about at more leisure.
The first runs as follows:
- Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
- If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
- The universe exists.
- Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
- Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).
Obviously, the first thing an atheist can say, to the very first point, is “no it doesn’t”. An atheist could say “stuff pops in and out of existence in quantum foam – what causes that?”. An atheist could say “the idea of cause depends on the arrow of time, cause precedes effect, and the idea of the Big Bang is that time, as well as space, is curled up into a tiny point at the origin. There isn’t a ‘before’. It doesn’t even make sense”.
There’s quite a lot of following argument, but none addresses the simple: “no, it doesn’t”. The closest he comes is in response to a putative atheist argument that the universe is all there is so there couldn’t be anything to cause it. There’s nothing else. This is similar to something I said above about the Big Bang:
This line of reasoning is, however, obviously fallacious because it assumes that the universe is all there is, that if there were no universe there would be nothing. In other words, the objection assumes that atheism is true. The objector is thus begging the question in favor of atheism, arguing in a circle. The theist will agree that the explanation of the universe must be some (explanatorily) prior state of affairs in which the universe did not exist. But that state of affairs is God and his will, not nothingness.
What he misses is that both sides are begging the question, because of the way the question is phrased. Point 1 above might as well be re-worded to read “God exists”. Atheism plainly includes the idea that the universe might not have a cause.
And what of ‘the necessity of its own nature’? What does that mean?
Things that exist necessarily exist by a necessity of their own nature. It’s impossible for them not to exist. Many mathematicians think that numbers, sets, and other mathematical entities exist in this way. They’re not caused to exist by something else; they just exist necessarily.
God’s like that:
Now if God exists, the explanation of God’s existence lies in the necessity of his own nature, since, as even the atheist recognizes, it’s impossible for God to have a cause.
This is from someone who is supposed to be reading and understanding atheist arguments. Not only does the atheist not recognise that, the atheist actually asks how come, if everything has to have a cause, God doesn’t? Doesn’t the idea of God just displace the problem of origin?
But consider the argument. God is like numbers or sets. They all exist because their own natures make it necessary. That’s something that can just be declared, without any substantiation. Are numbers not just a by-product of our brains’ aptitude for categorisation? Perhaps we categorise things that are on their own as 1 and have built on that? Since complex numbers have no physical analogue, like three sheep for 3, yet work with practical things like engineering, maybe we’re just catching glimpses of a completely unimagined reality. We don’t know.
Lane Craig doesn’t grok “I don’t know”. The basic atheist view is “I don’t know, but it’s not something that’s been revealed to anyone. We have to tease it out by looking at nature herself.”
I wish Standing every happiness in his newly re-found faith but, really, this is drivel.