Why don’t I find Kalam Cosmology compelling?


That was the question asked by a caller that took up most of the show discussing Kalam last week. And as anyone who watched the show saw—or more likely already knew—there are 1,001 ways to approach problems or issues with this argument. But my main point of contention with Kalam was one that caller failed to understand. And it may have been my fault for not doing the best job of communicating it. During a three-way conversation with one party on a phone over a loud speaker, communication efficiency may not be at its peak.

But let me say there are a few issues that are problematic with a majority of apologetic arguments, that, to me, undermine their efficacy, and result in a situation where the premises of the argument become red herrings. I was trying to point this out, and early in the call I actually leaned over to Russell to say “Wait…he’s answering his own question.”

By that, I meant that the caller, after walking through Kalam’s premises with Russell, ended by agreeing that Kalam does not end with “some god,” but with “some cause.” And then, the caller acknowledged, more work needs to be done, outside of Kalam, to demonstrate that cause is god. That, in a nutshell, is why Kalam is not compelling at convincing me a god exists.

I noted during the call, and the caller agreed: “Things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.” I borrow that quote from George H. Smith’s “Why Atheism?” And that statement is the more correct, far less problematic version of the very sloppy “something cannot come from nothing”—which nobody should ever utter.

In essence, then, what Kalam would get us to—on its best day—is “the universe has some cause.”

Since only things that exist can be the cause of other things, science generally has a “bias” toward things that exist when it seeks out a cause or explanation for events. What else could it do—examine things that do not exist to see if perhaps they might have caused the phenomenon? In essence, we are left with a reality that any cause put forward first has to be demonstrated to exist, in order to be considered as a reasonable cause—because it would be unreasonable to suggest a cause that cannot be said to exist, since “things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.”

So, Kalam, like most arguments and evidences for “the existence of god,” leaves us only with a phenomenon and a claim that it has “some cause.” To reasonably suggest that the cause could be a god, we then would be tasked with what? That’s right: Finding some method to demonstrate the existence of a god, so that it can be said to “exist,” and can then be examined as a reasonable, potential cause for the Cosmological event.

That means, where Kalam leaves off, is a point at which some other method must be employed to demonstrate the existence of a god—in order to come back to Kalam and plug in “god” as not just the cause, but as even so much as a reasonable, potential cause. And if we have to use some other argument or evidence to first show a god exists, before we can use god as the cause in the Kalam argument—then what use is the Kalam argument, if it is put forward as a demonstration of the existence of god?

If someone wants to know why I don’t find Kalam Cosmological argument a compelling argument for the existence of a god, my answer is “because it not only does not demonstrate a god exists, but also necessitates using some other method to make that demonstration—thereby rendering itself useless in demonstrating a god exists.”

And for the record, this can be plugged in for just about any argument or evidence for the existence of a god. Nature exists, and therefore lends itself to examination as a potential cause. God must first be demonstrated to exist in the same way, to be examined as a potential cause for anything. And if your argument for god’s existence ends with “and now we must move to this other argument/evidence to demonstrate a god exists,” it’s not a compelling argument for god’s existence.

I hope that helps to clarify my position on the call, and what I was trying to express, in case it was unclear.

Comments

  1. says

    William Lane Craig’s version of Kalam, which I’m pretty sure is what the caller was using, DOES feature an additional argument for the included cause to be a timeless, transcendent and intelligent entity. I think your caller just forgot to use it.

    It’s still a load of disingenuous, special pleading bullshit. But WLC at least recognises the problem.

  2. L. Dicker says

    Uhm… They seem to not notice that physics has demonstrated that I fact something can indeed come from nothing. I forget exactly what they’re called but there are particles that pop into and out of existence. This has been observed and verified multiple times. So this argument is a moot point at best.

  3. Shane says

    I think the best idea for preventing pointless discussion on a short show is the white card method that was used a while back on a show. The audience gets white cards, when the hosts see a lot of them in the air, the call is over. More time for serious discussions. Amazing how much energy gets expended to avoid being honest and saying “I like the idea of god because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.” Why can’t they just cut the crap and say that at the beginning?

  4. says

    Yes, virtual particles are likely what you’re looking for. At Wiki it notes “William Lane Craig argues that the first premise is strongly supported by intuition and experience.”

    The problem is, as you note, how physics actually turns out is not always intuitive or aligned with our perceptions (our experiences).

  5. says

    Thanks Lawrence. And yes, adding premises to reform the argument would be recognition that the Classic Kalam doesn’t do what it sets out to do. I agree. And the caller agreed as well, but didn’t see the problem with that–or didn’t seem to, at any rate. Again, it’s not always the most effective communication format on the air.

  6. says

    Well, one problem with it this past Sunday is that we had one other caller–the suicide question–that was also atheist. That call that took up most of our show was the only theist, and only one other call was in the queue.

  7. proxer says

    WLC’s “Timeless, Immaterial, Mind” argument always bothered me, because it sounds so reasonable. In reality, he’s just making things up: He has no idea what conditions are like “pre big-bang”, if such a concept even exists. “Immaterial Mind”? A mind is the product of a brain. “Immaterial mind” makes no sense.

    His bogus ‘attributes’ argument always reminds me of the Michelson Morley hypothesis for the Aether Wind: They knew light traveled, and since water and sound waves travel through a medium, they assumed that light must travel through some “Luminiferous aether”. In the same way that WLC “deduces/assumes” his properties for the cause, they “deduced/assumed” that the medium that light traveled in must have certain properties that produce an ‘aether wind’, causing light sourced from earth to travel at different speeds, depending on the motion of Earth through the aether.

    Of course, they made a testable claim, and tested it, and found no evidence of this “aether wind”.

  8. Shane says

    Thanks for the details, I guess in this case it would not have worked, then. Still seems like a good policy generally, though, don’t you think? I imagine the hosts don’t enjoy having the same discussion 1000 times any more than we like listening to it. But it is still not a widely known program, and I suppose the limited group of callers makes it inevitable.

  9. new_atheist says

    >So, Kalam, like most arguments and evidences for “the existence of god,” leaves us only with a phenomena and a claim that it has “some cause.”

    While it is true that the KCA ends with a claim that the universe had a cause, I wouldn’t even stipulate that this claim is true. Tracie, in this article, you don’t really say that you will accept that the KCA is valid, it just doesn’t mean the “cause” is God. I believe I’ve heard you say you don’t accept the KCA as valid. But, this post doesn’t really highlight that.

    I don’t think we should even let them get to the point that they assume we accept the KCA as valid. It isn’t. Namely, premise 1 rests on an equivocation fallacy of “begins to exist,” and premise 2, as far as I know, hasn’t been demonstrated to be true.

    Did the universe have a cause? We don’t know. But, the KCA certainly doesn’t sufficiently demonstrate that it did. So, why should even let them get that far?

    I don’t see it as a relevant point to argue about whether or not the KCA sufficiently demonstrates that a God exists if it hasn’t sufficiently demonstrated that “the universe had a cause” is even true. You seem to be implicitly giving up ground they haven’t earned.

  10. says

    >I don’t think we should even let them get to the point that they assume we accept the KCA as valid.

    My point is that if you are presented with evidence or argument that “even if it’s true” won’t do the job–then I think rather than argue premises, it’s efficient to simply note “even if everything you’re saying were true, it still fails.” I don’t even *have* to rebut their premises, look up anything, present counter evidence. I have zero work required if everything they present–even if true–doesn’t work.

  11. says

    Just as an example, I used the “rooster crowing makes the sun rise” demonstration to show the problem with “after this, therefore because of this,” as a fallacy. What you are saying is that I should do the work of explaining how it is that a rooster crowing cannot make the sun rise. And I’m saying–that’s a lot of work when I can simply assert “your argument is in the form of a fallacy, and therefore fails.” I don’t feel a need to explain to them the Earth’s rotation and rebut their claim’s specifics, if I already see the form of the argument cannot function to conclude what they’re claiming. “It’s a fallacy form” is far more efficient than “here is what makes the sun ‘rise'”–when it comes to sheer effort on my part.

  12. BradC says

    I would think that the immediate objection would be that the cause of the first “physical” thing would have to be “non-physical”, or super-natural (because if the cause was physical/natural, then we’re just pushing the question one more step back in the chain of causality). I guess that’s a bit of question-begging, though. (EDIT: Proxer mentioned WLC’s “timeless immaterial mind”, I think that is his version of this.)

    My usual approach has been to point out that even if I grant the argument in totality, it is perfectly consistent with wildly divergent ideas about that first supernatural cause, including a mother goddess who exploded herself to birth the universe into existence, and who no longer exists. All your real work is still ahead of you.

    But I think your’s is a worthwhile critique, and is a little bit stronger than the more common objection that Kalam only (at best) shows a deistic god and not a theistic one.

  13. L.Long says

    Cause….
    And the teenage boy that existed in a time/space dimension beyond ours scratch the zit sitting on his nose, and the puss of our space/time erupted from the pimple. Where you there? prove me wrong. You can think up any cause you wish but as proof of anything it aint!!!

    Cause…
    WHO says there has to be a cause??? their VERY limited experience says that all things we see has a cause but who proved that true for all space and all time????

    The Kalam is pure invented BS from all directions.

  14. says

    The thing I don’t get is why ending Kalam with an infinite regress is such an unreasonable conclusion, at least when compared to an ex nihilo, supernatural, über, anthropomorphic magic man that loves foreskins and the smell of burning flesh, but hates women and gheys.

  15. iplon says

    I think you’ve brought up a really key point here. It seems that the Kalam Cosmological argument doesn’t really give reason to believe that a god created the universe, but rather seems to be an attempt to say, “The universe has a cause”, and, with a few additions, extend it out to “and you are justified in thinking the god you already believe in was that cause”.

  16. says

    I’m fine with the idea that something “caused” the universe, but it could be just another natural mechanism. There’s such a gaping chasm between that “first cause” and a god that there’s virtually no connection.

    It reminds me of these Creationism arguments I’ve been sifting through that keep trying to prove Creationism by demonstrating that a global flood happened… where the only connection appears to be that it’s consistent with this magical entity, and it’s supposed history of tangential events, that they made up.

  17. Shane says

    As an organism that has developed in a very small and very finite environment, I find it very comforting to realize that as good as it is, the brain just can’t get a handle on really big or really small stuff. Makes me feel like less of an idiot, apparently many people find making stuff up a lot more compelling.

  18. BradC says

    Yep, especially since WLC’s argument that an infinite number of moments of time is somehow impossible is really pure bullshit, from a mathematical perspective.

    When he uses examples like Hilbert’s Hotel (with its infinite number of rooms), the correct mathematical conclusion is not “infinite sets are impossible”, it is “you need different rules to do mathematical operations with infinite sets”. The next chapter of your math textbook then goes on to actually describe the correct way to do math with infinite sets (setting up one-to-one correspondence). (My credentials: I have an undergraduate math degree, and taught college-level math courses for several years.)

    So Hilbert’s Hotel says absolutely nothing about whether “real” infinite sets can exist.

    Its not the “Kalam” formulation, but my preferred version of the cosmological argument is what I call the “cosmological dilemma” (originally from Brian Lynchehaun):

    Assumption 1: anything that exists requires a cause
    Assumption 2: that cause cannot be the thing itself
    Assumption 3: infinite regresses are bad

    This formulation makes it more obvious that you have to (somewhat arbitrarily) pick which of those three to violate, and provide a justification for why you picked that one:

    A) Violate assumption 1: Allow the first cause to be uncaused
    B) Violate assumption 2: Allow the first cause to be self-caused
    C) Violate assumption 3: Allow an infinite regress

    Craig dismisses B with little explanation, provides bad arguments for why C can’t be true, then declares not only that A is correct, but also that he knows what this first cause must have looked like (begging the question) so that he can include God and exclude anything else as that first cause.

    Not particularly convincing.

  19. chris lowe says

    If he is asserting in the realm of cosmology, then that is where he should stay. Injecting god as even a possible cause debauches the science, and only puts forth another argument for Creationism. It only differs from new earth Creationism in its scale.

  20. says

    As Lawrence said, Craig adds further *arguments* to his version of the Kalam argument. They’re not further premises. That’s an important difference.

    The ‘classic kalam’ argument as I understand it doesn’t set out to prove that theism is true. It’s only trying to show that it’s reasonable to believe that the universe had a cause of it’s existence. Theistic arguments aren’t and shouldn’t be immutable, nor do they each stand in a vacuum apart from other arguments. It’s no more a sign of weakness/defeat for a religious philosopher to reform their (world)view in the light of new considerations than it is for a scientist to do so.

  21. says

    If you read Craig and similar theistic philosophers they point to the science to show that this isn’t actually the case. Such particles don’t actually come into existence out of nothing/uncaused, but out of a quantum ‘sea’/foam of energy.

  22. says

    The ‘one-to-one correspondence’ approach was put in objection to Craig in J. L. Mackie’s well known book ‘The Miracle of Theism’. Craig responds to towards the end of his article ‘The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe’, available on his website. In the aforementioned article Craig is clear that he is not talking about mathematical infinite series but infinite series composed of actual physical objects, which have different metaphysical implications.

    Apologies if I’m wrong, but I thought you were implying that Craig was being inconsistent for violating those assumptions, but of course he wouldn’t be because he has never agreed to to their being assumptions.

  23. jacobfromlost says

    I always have trouble with the word “cause” in relation to the entire universe.

    A cause is something that leads directly to an effect in time. “Time” is actually “space-time”, and a necessary element of “cause and effect”. “Space-time” is also an integral PART of our universe.

    Given all of that, in a very real sense, saying that the universe was “caused” is to say that the very quality “cause and effect” was caused! Which seems to me to be a very clear category error.

    I like Matt’s term of “some explanation”, and I sometimes use “a consequence of”, but most words (in English, anyway) have a deep temporal connotation (if not denotation). But when we are talking about conditions that “allow” time to exist, we automatically use “cause” because that is the closest word even though it isn’t (at all) the same kind of “cause” we would use to say the cue ball hitting the 8 ball caused it to drop in the side pocket.

    I know I repeat the whole “North Poll” analogy often, but I think if it is understood correctly, the problem becomes clear. If you start with the assumption that all existence is the two dimensional surface of the earth, then the north poll MUST come from some unknown points north of it (points in which god lives in? Points in which god created? Points that are god?). We can see how absurd that is because we conceptualize a reality with more than two dimensions, and see that the north poll is just A CONSEQUENCE OF the fact that the two dimensional surface of the earth exists in a reality with more dimensions, and that a hypothetical two-dimensional being on that surface simply wasn’t imagining that reality could include such a thing.

    Kalam depends on our misconceptions and lack of imagination to work at all. (A demonstration of this is when theists say god is a being “outside of time” or “timeless”. I then like to ask, “How long has god been outside of time in the last 5 minutes?” Their knee-jerk answer is “five minutes”…but they suddenly realize the problem and say nothing. It’s the same problem with saying god is “outside of space”. How far outside? 10 feet? 10 miles? 100 miles?)

  24. Monocle Smile says

    *Pole

    But grammar whargarbl aside, you make an important point. Arguments like Kalam not only use improper language given the context, but they RELY on the inaccuracy of language to properly describe phenomena uncommon to frequent Earthly dealings. Our language evolved to describe crap (mostly superficial crap with little detail) that happens on Earth, and it’s thus no surprise that we have serious problems when trying to elaborate on cosmology.

  25. jacobfromlost says

    Damnit! I probably put “poll” all over my last three comments also, lol.

    Why do I never make the opposite mistake? I never put “pole” in any political discussions.

  26. says

    Talking of grammar wharblgarbl,

    “leaves us only with a phenomena”

    Sorry to be a terrible pedant, but it’s one phenomenon; several phenomena, just like it’s one criterion; several criteria. We don’t just steal the ancient Greeks’ words, we steal their weird pluralisations too :-)

  27. says

    >The ‘classic kalam’ argument as I understand it doesn’t set out to prove that theism is true. It’s only trying to show that it’s reasonable to believe that the universe had a cause of it’s existence.

    Thanks. And, again, the caller was asking why we don’t find it as compelling evidence for the existence of god. Whether it’s intended to do so or not, the idea that someone would be baffled as to why it is not compelling, was to me, quite baffling, since it does not justify theistic belief.

    I think it’s also important to note that when we asked the caller if his belief was based on this, he honestly replied it was not. I’d be surprised if anyone who believes in a god does so because of anything about Kalam. So, why it’s put forward–instead of their *real* reasons for their belief–is another point of bafflement. Are they saying that what convinced them isn’t really compelling? I interpret it that way.

  28. says

    During the call, I asked the caller if he agreed nonexistence could exist. He said that to agree to that would be nonsense. So, he seemed to have the view that existence is a necessary state (if nonexistence cannot exist–then only existence could ever be). At that point, the idea of “something coming out of nothing” in the sense most theists are attempting to use it, would be an irrelevancy, because that version of “nothing” is nonsensical. So, yes, science does use “nothing” in an unconventional way–but at the same time, it’s a definition that not only works, but aligns with the current demonstrated reality. Existence may be unavoidable. The fact that might be counter-intuitive to some would be an irrelevancy, because when my intuition does not align with what is demonstrated in reality, then my intuition is wrong. When confronted with a demonstration of reality, it is irrelevant whether or not I can understand what is being recorded and demonstrated.

  29. jacobfromlost says

    Sure, but the problem is that Craig thinks this means that QUANTUM FOAM must have been “caused” by god. This is why he points this out. He doesn’t realize these things are uncaused–or simply can’t imagine anything being uncaused except his god.

  30. says

    But just to reiterate, the main point is that until a god is confirmed to exist, it can’t ‘be reasonably discussed as an explanation of anything. We know nothing about it–being utterly unable to examine it. Anything we say about is would be speculation without any means of testing the validity of our guesses.

  31. says

    Well, while I’m sure there are interim steps, it must boil down to someone simply saying “I find this intuitive for these reasons.” There is not consensus among physicists in this field that their data = god. And their peer reviewed publications (the claims they would make that they believe are supported by the current state of evidence and observation)–do not hold this idea to be standard in their field. Regardless of their personal views, their professional opinion as the people most qualified to study this event, is not “god.”

    So, I have theists asserting they can demonstrate it’s a god by just thinking about origins. And I have actual researchers who devote their lives to the study of evidence in this field who are not putting forward “god” as their professional conclusion.

    This leaves me between two groups who seem to hold that the evidence is pointing in different directions. One group asserts that this evidence allows us to assert truths about the nature of a god that it’s true exists, the other group does not conclude this is justified by their findings and observations.

    So…we’re back to “things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.”

    If the god does not exist, then absolutely one group is 100% wrong. If someone says to me, then, that “we can see from this that god is intelligent,” the quandary I’m in is that the only way to confirm their claim is correct is to observe in some way, this god’s intelligence. But at the moment, I’m not even able to agree a god exists, let alone that any attributes assigned to it correspond to it accurately. The more attributes we assign it–without benefit of examining the god, we appear to simply be building and building on thin air. At the end of the arm-long list of “here is what we can derive about the nature of god…” I’m still wondering when we’re going to confirm a god exists. Because if that point is not correct, the rest of it then is invalid as well, and it all falls down.

  32. says

    The “classic” Kalaam sought to demonstrate that Allah was real and Mohammed was his prophet.

    Hence the “Kalaam” in the argument.

    Of course, no argument can prove the existence of god, because all arguments can be “argued”. (How’s that for absolutely correct circular logic? I got that from the good Catholics at aquinas.org).

    But of all the “arguments”, I find the Kalaam the most specious and especially in the hands of WLCraig. Because it’s nothing more and nothing less than an exercise to try to define your god into existence. As in:

    P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    A: No, it doesn’t. Virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time uncause.

    P1-Amended: Everything that is contingent on having a cause to exist has a cause to exist.

    A: Wow. Any tighter a circle and you’re talking to the Catholics at aquinas.org.

    And on and on, ad nauseum.

  33. jacobfromlost says

    Kevin,

    Aristotle was doing the Prime Mover Shuffle long before there were Christians or Muslims to dance to it, and Aquinas stole it from Aristotle (which is why they call Aquinas “the Christian Aristotle”).

    It does amaze me, though, that there is very little Aristotle wrote that we still use directly today. Even his methodology was flawed as he saw the “why?” question had to be answered above the “how?” question. He thought the “why?” question was for higher thinkers and philosophers like himself, and the “how?” question was just for the lowly, practical workers to either figure out themselves, or be told what to do by those who knew the answers to the “why?” questions. This kind of outlook really puts a damper on experimental findings, as no one is doing experiments to find out “how” things work while making up (or inferring the best they can from passive experience) ideas on why they work.

    Outside of Aristotle’s ideas on writing and rhetoric (which we do largely still use today), and his idea that if new observations were made later that his ideas would have to change (a hallmark of scientific thinking), there isn’t that much we take from Aristotle that looks the same now as it did then. Why we would accept a (specific) physics answer from Aristotle and not, say, a biological one is a question worth of those making Kalam arguments. Especially given that there are plenty of physics answers Aristotle espoused that no one would accept (such as the stars being made of an “aether”, since earth, air, fire, and water all seem mutable, while the stars never change and therefore must be made of a heavenly, unchangeable substance; not even apologists would use that argument today, even though it looks remarkably similar to arguments they DO make).

  34. says

    The biggest problem with Kalam, especially as used by people like Craig, is that it includes a lot of unwarranted assumptions on his part. Now that science has a decent understanding of the universe around us, we can point out the major fallacies in the cosmological argument.

    I think the biggest is the idea that universes outside of ours must operate exactly like this universe. We understand that the physical laws of our universe were generated in the Big Bang and are part and parcel with our universe. This does not mean that the physical laws we experience apply anywhere outside of our universe, but this is exactly what people like Craig insist must be true when they declare causality a required factor for Kalam. The fact is, we don’t know and can’t know, at least at the moment, what lies beyond our universe or anything about other universes that might be out there. To say that the have gravity or light or anything else is a massive leap of illogic, yet Kalam relies on it being so. It tries to apply what we know about our universe to all universes. In reality, it’s just another argument from personal incredulity, they can’t imagine it could be any other way so they assert that’s what it is.

  35. BradC says

    Well, I mentioned one-to-one correspondence in passing, more as an illustration that Mathematicians interpret Hilbert’s Hotel in a far different way than Craig does:

    Mathematicians: Hilbert’s Hotel shows that arithmetic with infinite sets is counter-intuitive, so let’s very carefully define the ways we can compare infinite sets (1-to-1 corr), and figure out exactly how that works, so we don’t make any mistakes when working with infinite sets.

    Craig: Hilbert’s Hotel shows arithmetic with infinite sets is counter-intuitive, so an actual infinite set can’t really exist.

    LOL, wut?

    That’s literally the totality of Craig’s argument in 2.11 (From the article you reference):

    Now (2.11) maintains, not that a potentially infinite number of things cannot exist, but that an actually infinite number of things cannot exist. For if an actually infinite number of things could exist, this would spawn all sorts of absurdities.

    Perhaps the best way to bring home the truth of (2.11) is by means of an illustration. Let me use one of my favorites, Hilbert’s Hotel…

    (snip explanation of Hilbert’s Hotel)

    Can anyone sincerely believe that such a hotel could exist in reality? These sorts of absurdities illustrate the impossibility of the existence of an actually infinite number of things.

    No, it doesn’t show that at all, this is a total non-sequitur. An illustration using a classic mathematical brainteaser doesn’t actually prove anything about whether infinite “sets of things” could exist in reality or not.

    And yet this is what Craig really things his argument shows:

    If an actually infinite number of things could exist, a Hilbert’s Hotel would be possible.

    Umm, no. You could never build a literal hotel like this, you’d need infinite lumber from an infinite number of trees, infinite construction workers to build it, infinite time to vacuum the floors, infinite water to wash sheets, infinite cable bill for HBO, and an infinite number of other practical considerations before you even start asking infinite residents to rearrange themselves.

    But those are practical limitations, and don’t prove anything about other kinds of infinite sets that could hypothetically exist.

    For example, what about Hydrogen atoms spaced 1cm apart across an infinite universe? Now scientists don’t currently believe that the universe is infinitely large, but this is based on empirical observation, not based on any supposed methodological contradiction.

    Or what if we find a particle that occupy the same space as another particle? What would prevent you from stacking an infinite number of them together?

    But then it gets worse in 2.12: Craig does a bait and switch between “infinite things” (which is vague, but to most readers clearly implies physical objects) and “an infinite regress of events”, which isn’t the same thing at all. The most obvious difference is that the Hilbert’s Hotel “absurdities” wouldn’t apply here anyway, since (as far as we know), time is linear, and you can’t go asking historical events to rearrange themselves like hotel room patrons.

    Anyway, there is tons more to criticize there, but suffice it to say that Craig’s arguments about the “impossibility of an actual infinite” are based solely on the idea that infinity hurts my brain and are seriously flawed.

  36. John Kruger says

    With an argument so fractaly wrong as Kalam, it is difficult to decide where to begin attacking it. The refutation on the show was completely adequate.

    Like Tracie I also like to attack the form of an argument first, since that way you can neglect the premises. Premises are far more difficult to demonstrate as correct or incorrect, as opposed to the form of an argument that can just be translated into everyday assertions to show why it does not work. We need not argue about the validity of a map when the course plotted on it does not take us where we want to go anyway. The other glaring problems like equivocating everyday causes and creation ex niliho, special pleading for the first cause that violates the earlier premise, the baseless assertion that an infinite regress is not possible, they are all valid objections, but the fact that the first cause it claims to illustrate does not lead to a god is the easiest problem to explain.

    The unstated end of the argument is really “we don’t know what the first cause might be, so it is god”. They can’t just come out and admit it is an argument from ignorance though, so they just fudge past that part and leave the conclusion off.

  37. Curt Cameron says

    Peter, the “quantum foam” that WLC is just a shorthand description of what happens in a world subject to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The HUP tells us that we can’t be sure that any little volume of space has exactly zero energy – therefore some will have some energy just by chance. This then means that there will be particles popping into and out of existence all the time, uncaused, and that low level of random particle formation is what we call quantum foam.

    So you can’t point to the foam to say that something exists already – it’s just a description of how things do pop in and out without case.

  38. Curt Cameron says

    My favorite way to show that Kalam’s first premise is bogus is to ask the person “OK, what begins to exist?” As far as I know, virtual particles, and the universe itself. Virtual particles begin to exist uncaused, and you use that to argue that therefore the universe had to have a cause?!?

  39. Paul Wright says

    Another point about WLC’s Kalam argument is that he goes a step further by not only stating that the cause for existence is God, but that it’s a Christian God. If you’ll excuse the pun, God only knows how he made that leap of faith ?!?!?

  40. jacobfromlost says

    Another thing that makes Craig’s formulation of Kalam unconvincing is (not only that no one believes in a god based on Kalam, but also…) that Craig has blatantly said that if evidence contradicts one’s belief in god, they evidence must be thrown out or ignored, not the belief.

    Kalam has not convinced even Craig to believe in a god. He already did before he made the argument, or knew what it was.

    Moreover, he admits that no evidence would ever change his mind. (He even said that hypothetically, if he were taken in a time machine and watched Jesus buried in his tomb and waited for weeks for a resurrection that never happened…he would STILL believe in the resurrection! Good grief.)

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=2931

  41. says

    This is Joshua “Michael” Hunsaker

    I appreciate your follow up on Sunday’s show. I would also like to apologize for taking up the majority of the time. The main reason that I wanted to discuss the Kalam was to see what your disagreements with the premises are. The argument itself is not fallacious at all. The argument follows the form of Modus Ponens, which is

    P implies Q
    P
    Therefore Q

    You commented and said that the argument (Kalam) was like a post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument.

    1. Every morning my rooster crows and the sun comes up
    therefore my rooster crowing caused the sun to come up.

    In what way does this resemble the Modus Ponens of the Kalam?

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause (P implies Q)
    2. The Universe began to exist (P)
    Therefore the Universe has a cause (Q)

    You also tried to make a comparison with an argument for gremlins.

    1. Gremlins exist
    2. Gremlins break machines
    3. I have seen machines break
    Therefore Gremlins exist

    Once again, how is this comparable to the form of the KCA

    P implies Q
    P Therefore
    Q ????!!!!!

    The problem with the gremlin argument is that it is circular. The first premise states that gremlins exist and the conclusion is that gremlins exist, which is question begging. How does the Kalam do this? With your post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument, the first premise could be true, and the conclusion still be false. So it doesn’t logically lead to the conclusion that the son comes up because of your rooster. Even your gremlin argument is a non sequitur because it doesn’t indicate that “all machines are broken by gremlins”. The Kalam, in no way, commits this kind of fallacy. So, I believe your attempt to refute the Kalam, by characterizing it in the same family as these other arguments, is demonstrably false. The only objection I heard to premises came from Russel. His two objections were …

    1. Premise 1 is something that we don’t know is true of all nature.

    2. There is a possibility that there is a meta-verse.

    On objection 1: I find it curious why he would not accept the causal premise, when it is key to science. No one is going to be able to do accurate science if there are no absolute causal relations. Also, SCIENCE, itself is a study that doesn’t have any knowledge of whether the Universe is uniform!! If it isn’t uniform, then science is meaningless. However, Russell believes in science, but NOT the causal premise, because he doesn’t know for a fact that it is true for everything?!

    On objection 2: The meta-verse is not even an objection, as Russell stated. He asked me to define what I meant by Universe, in which I said “All space time, matter and energy”. He then brings up the meta-verse as if it is supposed to counteract my definition of the Universe, but it doesn’t. If the Universe is connected with “another Universe” then it is the same Universe according to how I defined it! Your other objection seemed to be that there requires more work to get to the idea of God. I find that a little bit frustrating, because it doesn’t even seem like you are putting any effort into dealing with the premises themselves, and yet you are complaining about more work? The characteristics of the entity/god/cause flow naturally from the conclusion and premises of the Modus Ponens.

    I really enjoyed the conversation, for the most part, with the exception of why you and Russell found it necessary to relate the Kalam to my own personal testimony. I called in to talk about the Kalam, because I think it is a good and convincing argument, if understood correctly. However, for some reason, you guy’s seemed to make it out to be a big deal that the Kalam was not the reason I became a believer. WHY? Would that change any of the logical validity of the argument? What difference does that make? Are you suggesting that I shouldn’t find it convincing because I was unaware of it when I was a non believer? I’m also surprised that you were surprised that I believed in Duality of the mind and body! Why, since I am a theist, is that such a surprise? Not to mention, I really don’t think you understand the implication of your position as a materialist in relation to your mind. If there is nothing more than your physical body, then the only thing that is you is the physical parts that are doing what the laws of nature direct it to do. There is no free will. You are simply determined to do what nature determines. Lastly, I didn’t get to thank you guys for the opportunity to be on the show, because we were cut off. So thank you. You guys were gracious hosts to put up with me for as long as you did.

    Peace, Michael from Montana …..I mean Missouri

  42. Lord Narf says

    I would also like to apologize for taking up the majority of the time.

    Umm, dude, you’re a theist. The show is meant for interacting with theists and presenting the atheistic position to those outside of the atheist community. Don’t apologize for helping the show accomplish its goals. :D

  43. Lord Narf says

    I called in to talk about the Kalam, because I think it is a good and convincing argument, if understood correctly.

    How could it be? It’s neither logically valid nor sound, and there’s a whopping Argument from Ignorance at the end.

    However, for some reason, you guy’s seemed to make it out to be a big deal that the Kalam was not the reason I became a believer. WHY?

    It’s a vague form of dishonesty. That’s not why you believe in your god-concept, but you expect us to. Why would you expect that?

    I’ve been preached at by someone who had experiences with demons (strangely, while he was going through the DT’s from mild alcoholism and was prone to tactile hallucinations), as he was leaving behind his partying days and was rededicating himself to Christ.

    HE was convinced by first-hand experience (even though hallucinatory) with demons. HE was converted by the experience, not someone telling him about the experience, according to his testimony. Why should that convince me, if it’s not what convinced him?

    Clearly, what I should do is go out and find some demons.

    Not to mention, I really don’t think you understand the implication of your position as a materialist in relation to your mind. If there is nothing more than your physical body, then the only thing that is you is the physical parts that are doing what the laws of nature direct it to do. There is no free will. You are simply determined to do what nature determines.

    Why would you think that we haven’t thought of that? Almost all skeptical atheists I know reject free will as preposterous … at least the libertarian free will that you probably believe in. To the best we’re able to test it, we live in a deterministic universe. Why do you think we would have a problem with that?

    Go read some Sam Harris books. He’s written a few on the subject.

  44. says

    The only salient question to ask regarding free will is “Is it reasonable to hold people responsible for their decisions?” Since so much happens in our lives that are not the result of decisions we have made, the all-or-nothing characterization of the concept one usually hears from theists is indeed absurd.

  45. chris lowe says

    Mr. Hunsaker, You’re making it much more complicated than it need be. In terms of causality, at what point does a deity need be injected into the discussion. Ockham’s razor alone would eliminate any such premise from surfacing. Craig’s Christian anthropomorphic deity pretty well votes him right off the island in cosmological debate. Christian apologists would better serve their cause by sticking to Christian apologetics. There is a false equivalency in trying to elevate theology to the debating podium of physics and cosmology. Your evidential knowledge of the supernatural is exactly the same as mine, no matter what your “expertise” in this subject, or logic: NADA

  46. Elan Morin says


    Not to mention, I really don’t think you understand the implication of your position as a materialist in relation to your mind. If there is nothing more than your physical body, then the only thing that is you is the physical parts that are doing what the laws of nature direct it to do. There is no free will. You are simply determined to do what nature determines.

    I don’t see how the existence of a “soul” has anything to do with free will. Something (the mind, human behavior) can either be governed by laws, or it can be random. Or combination of the two, of course. There are no other options.
    For parts of the mind governed by laws there is no “free” in the free will. For the parts that are random there is no “will”. So free will (under this definition) cannot exist regardless of materialims or dualism.

  47. Monocle Smile says

    This is TheZooCrew from YouTube.

    No one is going to be able to do accurate science if there are no absolute causal relations.

    Firstly, this is a straw man, as no one’s saying either everything has a cause or NOTHING has a cause.
    Secondly, nuclear decay falls into the causeless category. Look up Schrodinger’s Cat. Yet we do accurate science with it because despite the causeless nature of each decay event, there is still reliable measurability. So your claim is rather laughable.

  48. Lord Narf says

    Or, to look at it another way, a given, deterministic, thought-processing machine is constructed in such a way that it’s likely to take certain actions. When it does things that our society finds socially unacceptable, we have to impose correction on that machine, so that it will change its reactions somewhat and have more socially-acceptable, future actions.

    And yes, our corrections system isn’t anything approaching a good system for achieving its intended goals. For one thing, it’s largely set up by a bunch of ultra-conservative nuts who rely on religious dogma and corporate favoritism over scientific studies. We’ve got so much wrong with this country, right now.

  49. Curt Cameron says

    I find it curious why he would not accept the causal premise, when it is key to science. No one is going to be able to do accurate science if there are no absolute causal relations.

    We know in physics that some things happen without a cause. Yet we still do science!

    Premise 1 fails. The argument is not valid. End of story.

  50. Lord Narf says

    Umm, wouldn’t that be soundness? An invalid argument is one with something wrong in the structure, right? The huge, unjustified leap at the end makes it invalid. The bad premises make it unsound.

    Or do I have those screwed up?

  51. Raymond says

    But you know that there are millions of children that will be presented WLC’s argument and never even be given the opportunity to research the actual implications. That’s what really irritates me. Millions of people who think WLC is charasmatic therefore knows everything about everything.

  52. says

    On objection 1: I find it curious why he would not accept the causal premise, when it is key to science. No one is going to be able to do accurate science if there are no absolute causal relations.

    You miss the point. He is not saying that there are no absolute causal relations. He is saying that there is no evidence that the universe has a causal relation. Science does not require one to acknowledge that at all.

  53. Raymond says

    If it’s any consolation, I’m pretty sure we all understood you were talking about a physical location and not a political process :)

  54. Raymond says

    Sorry to be argumentative, but don’t you think that correcting spelling and grammar in a blog is silly? If we were proofreading dissertations, fine. But this is a blog for entertainment purposes. Right?

  55. Raymond says

    I always try to avoid conversing too much about virtual particles. They are a (relatively) recent discovery. The fact that we haven’t found a cause for them doesn’t mean there isn’t a cause for them. This is a mistake we have made repeatedly throughout history. Let’s not repeat that mistake.

  56. Raymond says

    I’m not sure if this makes me happy or sad. A little of both, I guess. I am happy because as long as someone is willing to publicly deceive himself in order to avoid the truth, many people will see that and discount out of hand the ideas he proposes. On the other hand many people find him charismatic and will follow wherever he leads.

  57. Raymond says

    I would like to ask you a question. While I fully expect that anyone would answer the question “Can non-existence exist?” negatively, don’t you feel that you are inserting your expected answer into your question? Maybe a better question would be “Can a state of nothingness exist?” I think that, since this isn’t a leading question, it is much more valid. A state of nothingness can, of course, be conceptualized: but because of the nature of our universe, it can not be tested. But don’t you feel that denying it’s existence based on this premise is an argument from ignorance? “Because you don’t know how a state of nothingness can exist, it must not exist.” After all history is littered with examples of something held true due to inadequate tools, later proved true as tools became adequate.

    Just a little something Jacobfromlost and I were yapping about.

  58. Raymond says

    If you would like, I can call in next week and make up a really interesting reason god exists :P Hmm, makes me think. I wonder if I can make a better case for god than theists do?

  59. Raymond says

    I have been trying to make this point for the past several days in a previous thread. I would actually go one step further and say that, far from requiring that other universes that might exists have our rules, Kalam precludes the possibility of other universes. In the beginning there was god and only god. God exists but isn’t in existence. Therefore there was nothing but god (who exists but not in existence). God then made the universe, as we know it, happen. If there were other universes in which god existed, then he would be bound by existence. And we know that isn’t true ;) Besides, if other universes existed, they would have to contend with a beginning to our universe that was natural to the state of it’s parent universe.

  60. Raymond says

    That was good. I always love hearing how various people sum up the goofy christian ideologies. Oh and your argument for Thor was very convincing :)

  61. says

    Only until the word acquires a new meaning; and then when used in that sense, it follows standard English pluralisation rules, not those of the donor language.

    Which is why insects have antennae, but radios have antennas.

    Note that “English pluralisation in new sense” applies even if the “donor language” was English before a spelling reform; which is why some words ending -o can be pluralised as both -oes and -os, depending on the sense in which they are being used.

  62. Tyrant says

    I am baffled by the Kalam Argument. I mean I am baffled why anyone would seriously advance it.

    Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;

    That isn’t even true for things inside our universe. See the quantum discussion above. I go even further and say that the distinction of cause and effect is very much a thermodynamical/statistical thing (*)

    When you are trying to argue for our universe as a whole, you just don’t know at all. You won’t even be able to properly define the terms in this sentence for that case.

    The universe has a beginning of its existence;

    You don’t know that either. The Big bang might be an arbitrary point in time of an infinitely cyclical process. In any case, it would only mark the beginning of our corner of the universe. You don’t even know if it’s a beginning at all, because general relativity breaks down before we get to the singularity.

    Therefore:

    The universe has a cause of its existence.[14]

    The conclusion is DOA.

    Wikipeda also cites a “contemporary” version which is kind of sad, because all the years of progress have left us with the same crapola with some extra bells and whistles:

    Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite

    An actual infinite cannot exist.

    That is just an assertion, prejudice if you will. Space for example could well be infinite. Time could be infinite. Stop acting like you know what you are talking about.

    An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
    Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

    This is not necessarily true because the premise is made up.

    Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition

    A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.

    Too vague to make any sense.

    The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.

    Come on Craig, you don’t even know what you mean by that.

    Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

    Craig does not even begin to address the fact that if our time has a beginning, there is no sensible way to talk about “before” or “causes”, since those are all concepts relying on time, but, even worse, thermodynamical/statistical concepts.

    (*) Imagine you walk through the countryside and make a movie. You then show it to someone, but let it run backwards. In what instances will one notice that the film is reversed? It might take some time until the viewer notices, and it will be things like water flowing up a cascade, leaves rising from the ground and attaching themselves to a tree. These things will look backwards to you only because they are statistically unlikely given the initial configuration of atoms.

  63. Monocle Smile says

    Craig’s “contemporary” version just adds more problems. You touched on it, but Craig’s treatment of infinity and the way he attempts to describe it tells us only one thing…he’s never taken a calculus class or a calculus-based physics class before. And yet we’re supposed to take him seriously on cosmology.

  64. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’ve had the painful experience of watching one of WLC’s debates, I think with Sam Harris. In the debate, he explains that the first cause god argument makes the christan god hypothesis more plausible. Namely, once you accept that some god exists, the burden of evidence he needs to demonstrate the christian god hypothesis should be much less.

    The correct counter is to note that there a trillion, trillion, trillion different god hypotheses. I can name one god hypothesis for every star in the observable universe – such as the god who made the aliens of Rigel 7 in his appearance and are its favored creation – and one more god for the clockmaker deist god that doesn’t do anything after the start. Thus, merely demonstrating that one element of a set of that obscene size has a particular property in practice gets you no closer to demonstrating that the christian god also has that property. The number of other possible gods is just too immense.

    tl;dr showing there exists some god gets you no closer to showing that there is an afterlife, and certain behaviors are more likely to get you rewarded after braindeath.

    Thus, first cause god arguments are a colossal waste of time, except perhaps as enjoyment of the art form, or to hone your logic skills.

  65. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Peter Hardy

    Also have a bachelors in math. WLC is just talking out of his ass. I fail to see any real problem that results if we assume that time can be described with the real number line, and its is boundless in the past.

    For example, Hilbert’s Hotel is only a problem if you can travel infinite distance in finite time to arrange for an infinite number of people to move in finite time. Now, it has some mathematical implications that the poster addressed above, namely the usual math definition of the “size” of an infinite set, but that has nothing to do with whether something is “impossible” or not AFAIK.

    It really is no better than Zeno’s Paradoxes.

  66. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Not to mention, I really don’t think you understand the implication of your position as a materialist in relation to your mind. If there is nothing more than your physical body, then the only thing that is you is the physical parts that are doing what the laws of nature direct it to do. There is no free will. You are simply determined to do what nature determines.

    False dilemma.

    Imagine a scenario where all of your actions are determined randomly, ala “true random”, such as what quantum effects may be. Thus, your past experience, your personality, your preferences, all of who you are, do not affect your behavior in the slightest. This is not what I call free will. I also don’t want this.

    I want my personality, my preferences, my values, and so on, to causally affect my behavior. I want to be a good person, and thus I don’t want to lie, cheat, steal, murder, etc. I want my actions to be determined to some degree by my personality, my past experience, my preferences, my values, etc. I don’t see determinism as a problem. I think it’s a great benefit! To think, what horribleness would await if my actions were wholly undetermined.

    Your position is literally the homunculus problem.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus_argument
    Right now, I don’t care if there’s a soul or not. If there is a soul, it still has to obey the rules of logic. Either a sufficiently power Laplace Demon could create a computable model to predict my future behavior, or it couldn’t. That’s the iconic definition of determinism. And I do want there to be such a demon. If it couldn’t predict my behavior, then my behavior is unpredictable, and completely unconnected with my values, preferences, personality, and so on.

    I embrace that I am just a meat machine. There seems to be no alternative. Introducing a soul does not solve anything. The soul is still a machine, and I want that machine to be a rational agent that can be a good person, be true to himself, act for his interests and the interests of others, and so on.

    What you want does not exist, and you should not want it anyway. Be happy that you behavior is causally determined by your preferences and values.

  67. Paul Wright says

    I too have sat through several of WLC’s debates on YouTube. I understand his argument very well and so I also understand where it falls short. What annoys me about WLC and other apologists, is that if a layman like me can spot the fallacies in their arguments, surely they are smart enough to see them too. I often doubt if WLC actually believes the faith he so vehemently advocates. My suspicion is that he has made a nice living from being an apologist and that is his true motivation for doing what he does. Or maybe he’s just delusional, in which case, I hope he gets the help he needs !!!

  68. says

    Not to mention, virtual particles are really considered more of a tool in perturbative quantum theory than an actual thing that exists. To say “virtual particles pop in and out of existence” is to not understand what virtual particles are.

    Nuclear decay is a much more concrete and well-evidenced example of a causeless phenomenon.

  69. Tyrant says

    Yes, precisely! Conceptually, he’s basically stuck back with Zeno in good old 500BC.

  70. says

    On objection 1: I find it curious why he would not accept the causal premise, when it is key to science. No one is going to be able to do accurate science if there are no absolute causal relations.

    You’re right… and wrong.

    For a particular phenomenon we’re looking at, we do need causality in order to test/study it. Guess what? Those things we’ve identified has having no discernible cause…? We can’t effectively study them, and the “causes” remain unknown.

    … but science doesn’t require that everything everywhere always absolutely has cause, in order to do any science. My studying the cause/effect nature of a chemical reaction is not undone because apparent causeless virtual particles exist.

    This simply isn’t a problem.

    Also, SCIENCE, itself is a study that doesn’t have any knowledge of whether the Universe is uniform!!

    We have lots of evidence that it is uniform (which means knowledge), and when we find out we’re wrong, we update.

    If it isn’t uniform, then science is meaningless.

    Again, wrong. If we find out that something isn’t uniform, we update science to compensate. If our models assume a flat surface, and we find out the surface is bumpy, we update, and resume our high-efficacy investigative process.

    However, Russell believes in science, but NOT the causal premise, because he doesn’t know for a fact that it is true for everything?!

    I’ll take the liberty to speak for Russell – no, he doesn’t “believe in science”. He uses it because it demonstrably works, above all other epistemological frameworks.

    Secondly, yes, the scientific method/mindset should NOT assuming that everything has a cause, merely because our limited human experience hasn’t encountered causeless things yet. There’s no contradiction here.

    Scientific skepticism and critical thinking is core to science – which means questioning those things we just accepted as true – like the idea that everything has a cause.

    On objection 2: The meta-verse is not even an objection, as Russell stated. He asked me to define what I meant by Universe, in which I said “All space time, matter and energy”. He then brings up the meta-verse as if it is supposed to counteract my definition of the Universe, but it doesn’t.

    It depends on the definition. It could be there are other states of existence, outside of space, time, matter and energy, that we aren’t even remotely aware of yet, that comprise this “meta universe”.

    The point is, if the core of the argument is one massive Argument from Ignorance – using a process of elimination on possibilities on extreme contexts that are nothing but pure speculation, you must recognize that your sky wizard explanation, which is as well understood and as well evidenced as the meta universe (hint, not), is as speculative and equally plausible as a meta universe.

    Your vapid dismissal of this possibility only demonstrates that you’re unwilling to consider other possibilities with literally no reason, other than a semantic trick.

    The fact is, we’re talking about a context that we have no clue about, and our every-day common sense concepts fly out the window.

  71. says

    If you don’t believe the argument is valid, then please tell me what is wrong with the form

    P implies Q
    p
    Therefore Q

    I wasn’t being dishonest. I believe in the argument. Also, how is there an argument from ignorance at the end?

  72. Lord Narf says

    That’s not the part that’s invalid. It’s the part after that. Q is nothing approaching your god-concept. Every attempt I’ve heard to bridge the gap from Q to a god has been structurally invalid and fallacy-ridden.

    That’s on top of the unsoundness of the core argument.

    I didn’t say that you don’t believe in the argument. I said that the argument isn’t the reason that you believe in your god-concept. There’s an important distinction there. Yet, you present the argument to us as if we should believe in your god-concept, because of the argument.

    That’s dishonest, in a way, like the guy with the experience with demons. If you can’t reproduce the experience and ‘evidence’ that turned you into a believer, then we shouldn’t believe in your god-concept.

  73. says

    Science would be organized knowledge based on testable explanations. How does one test for “no cause?” How could science even come to the conclusion that something is causeless?

  74. says

    Let’s start with one. Don’t you see the reason for the entity/cause to be timeless?

    I am still not being dishonest. in any way. The argument is part of my belief, it just wasn’t the initial part.

  75. jacobfromlost says

    Joshua: In what way does this resemble the Modus Ponens of the Kalam?
    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause (P implies Q)
    2. The Universe began to exist (P)
    Therefore the Universe has a cause (Q)

    Me: The premises you assume to be true before 1 is that God exists, god doesn’t begin to exist, and god is the only thing that doesn’t begin to exist (and perhaps that he must be supernatural, lol). You also state in premise 2 that the universe “began” to exist, which is a category error as space-time in an inextricable part of the universe and required for “beginning”. If the universe can be said to have a “beginning” at all, it is a beginning of a different kind than things that begin IN TIME (ie, in the universe), and therefore “cause and effect” doesn’t even apply and the argument is useless.

    You: You also tried to make a comparison with an argument for gremlins.
    1. Gremlins exist
    2. Gremlins break machines
    3. I have seen machines break
    Therefore Gremlins exist

    Me: I think the form was:
    1. Gremlins break things.
    2. My toaster is broken.
    3. Gremlins broke my toaster

    You: Once again, how is this comparable to the form of the KCA

    Me: In Kalam, you assume your god us uncaused and the only thing uncaused, and then unsuccessfully try to show how the universe is caused to connect the two. With Gremlins, Tracie assumed that gremlins break things and are the only thing that break things, and then show how her toaster is broken.

    You: The problem with the gremlin argument is that it is circular. The first premise states that gremlins exist and the conclusion is that gremlins exist, which is question begging. How does the Kalam do this?

    Me: I don’t really think you are real, but I’ll bite anyway. You assume god is uncaused (doesn’t begin to exist) for the argument to work at all. If you are assuming “god is uncaused”, you are assuming his existence also.

    You: With your post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument, the first premise could be true, and the conclusion still be false.

    Me: Now show how god is the only thing that could possibly be an uncaused cause.

    You: So it doesn’t logically lead to the conclusion that the son comes up because of your rooster.

    Me: Just as it doesn’t logically follow that EVEN IF the universe was caused or “began to exist” that ANY god did it, much less your god or Craig’s god.

    You: Even your gremlin argument is a non sequitur because it doesn’t indicate that “all machines are broken by gremlins”.

    Me: It assumes it, just as you assume god is the only uncaused cause and the only thing without a beginning.

    You: The Kalam, in no way, commits this kind of fallacy.

    Me: Yes it does.

    You: The only objection I heard to premises came from Russel. His two objections were …

    1. Premise 1 is something that we don’t know is true of all nature.

    Me: We in fact know premise 1 to be false. But go on…

    You: 2. There is a possibility that there is a meta-verse.

    Me: Sure.

    You: On objection 1: I find it curious why he would not accept the causal premise, when it is key to science. No one is going to be able to do accurate science if there are no absolute causal relations.

    Me: There are no “absolute” causal relations as there is nothing “absolute” in science or its conclusions. Moreover, work being done on “retrocausality” indicate it isn’t even a rule always observed.

    You: Also, SCIENCE, itself is a study that doesn’t have any knowledge of whether the Universe is uniform!! If it isn’t uniform, then science is meaningless.

    Me: It’s not meaningless, it’s just not absolute. And since humans can’t be absolutely sure of anything, it’s all way have.

    You: However, Russell believes in science, but NOT the causal premise, because he doesn’t know for a fact that it is true for everything?!

    Me: You have so many bad ideas running around loose, it’s like herding feral, rabid cats.

    You: On objection 2: The meta-verse is not even an objection, as Russell stated. He asked me to define what I meant by Universe, in which I said “All space time, matter and energy”. He then brings up the meta-verse as if it is supposed to counteract my definition of the Universe, but it doesn’t. If the Universe is connected with “another Universe” then it is the same Universe according to how I defined it!

    Me: No, it isn’t. (Is god in existence? Is he made of space-time, matter, and energy? If not, then there are things that even you think exists that are not “in the universe”, and your argument collapses.)

    You: Your other objection seemed to be that there requires more work to get to the idea of God. I find that a little bit frustrating, because it doesn’t even seem like you are putting any effort into dealing with the premises themselves, and yet you are complaining about more work?

    Me: Things that don’t exist can’t cause other things. If you want to say X caused something, you have to first demonstrate that X exists. If X doesn’t exist, it ain’t causin’ nothin’.

    You: The characteristics of the entity/god/cause flow naturally from the conclusion and premises of the Modus Ponens.

    Me: Only if you assume it to be true ahead of time. Like the gremlins and the toasters.

    You: I really enjoyed the conversation, for the most part, with the exception of why you and Russell found it necessary to relate the Kalam to my own personal testimony.

    Me: Because no one believes in a god based on Kalam. It convinces no one, not even believers. They already believed before they ever heard of Kalam.

    You: I called in to talk about the Kalam, because I think it is a good and convincing argument, if understood correctly.

    Me: And yet it didn’t convince you. You were already convinced.

    You: However, for some reason, you guy’s seemed to make it out to be a big deal that the Kalam was not the reason I became a believer. WHY? Would that change any of the logical validity of the argument?

    Me: The argument isn’t valid, and the fact that it isn’t why anyone is convinced of a god demonstrates that. You can’t even take it’s form and apply it to other things to convince people of other things. Because it is not logical.

    You: I’m also surprised that you were surprised that I believed in Duality of the mind and body! Why, since I am a theist, is that such a surprise? Not to mention, I really don’t think you understand the implication of your position as a materialist in relation to your mind.

    Me: No one without a brain has ever demonstrated their mind to anyone. (Ask Sarah Palin! *rim-shot*)

    You: If there is nothing more than your physical body, then the only thing that is you is the physical parts that are doing what the laws of nature direct it to do. There is no free will. You are simply determined to do what nature determines.

    Me: Kindergarten philosophy. Free will isn’t some absolute quality whereby one gets to do anything. I don’t have the free will to fly into a tree and save my neighbor’s cat, or grow three feet and add 200 pounds of muscle to become a pro-football player. Moreover, most people don’t understand what “random” means in nature. “Random” is rather stable. You flip a coin 100 times, it is very unlikely you will get 100 heads and no tails. It’s much more likely you will get something very close to 50/50…no matter how many times you flip the 100 coins (even though each flip is random).

    You: Lastly, I didn’t get to thank you guys for the opportunity to be on the show, because we were cut off. So thank you. You guys were gracious hosts to put up with me for as long as you did.

    Me: Call again but with better arguments–ones that don’t go back 2500 years.

  76. says

    If you don’t believe the argument is valid, then please tell me what is wrong with the form

    Uh what? If I think it’s invalid, why would I comment on its form? We’re talking about the validity, not the soundness.

    When we say that P implies Q, it’s an assessment of how we think reality works… at the same time we’re talking about a context (“pre”-Big Bang) that defies our understanding of reality. When our scientific laws break down at this event, one would think that’d throw up a fed red flags, in terms of trying to take a “common sense” approach to evaluating it.

    In this case, P implies Q (every effect has a cause, in this case), is a tentative understanding within the current state of the universe that we’re increasingly finding out is not always the case.

    At best, we can only say that, probably, based on our current understanding, the universe might have had a cause… but we’re still looking into it.

    But that’s a far far far cry from establishing that an invisible bearded sky man can create universes.

  77. Lord Narf says

    I find the claim that the cause is timeless to be incoherent. Causation is dependent upon time. You need to explain your way around that incoherency.

    WLC’s other points are no less problematic. “The cause has to be personal, because otherwise it couldn’t decide to create the universe.”
    Decide? How did we get to decide? Now, that’s another thing he has to justify.

    I am still not being dishonest. in any way. The argument is part of my belief, it just wasn’t the initial part.

    Then, Kalam isn’t why you believe, because it’s not what brought you to your beliefs. You just said as much. It’s a post-hoc justification. If you finally managed to see the problems with it that we can see, and you abandoned the argument, would it have any impact on your beliefs?

    If it’s not the initial thing that lead you to your beliefs, then why don’t you present us with the evidence that initially lead you to your beliefs?

    I think that part of the problem is that once you latch onto a belief for irrational reasons, that irrationality colors your analysis and your post-hoc acceptance of the logical arguments that you also hold as part of your belief. Your belief fills in the gaping holes that the rest of us can immediately see in the logical arguments. Most theists do god-of-the-gaps, but I don’t even think they see that they’re doing it, most of the time.

  78. jacobfromlost says

    Virtual particles and radioactive decay alone are testable (and causeless), as well as much work being done at the Supercolliders to illuminate other possible causeless phenomenon (such as the BB).

    I think you are confused by the definition of “cause”, as you seem to be conflating two different kinds of “causes” (attaching the traction of the “cause and effect” cause to the simple description “cause” of something independent of cause and effect).

    If a state of natural existence independent of space-time and “cause and effect” could be demonstrated to exist, would describing that existence (from your point of view) entail causes? I would say, “By definition, no”, but you seem to suggest those are causes also. If everything is a cause, then nothing is–and Kalam is just one huge assertion.

  79. Lord Narf says

    Uh what? If I think it’s invalid, why would I comment on it’s form? We’re talking about the validity, not the soundness.

    The form of the argument leads to validity and invalidity, man. Soundness refers to the truth of the premises.

  80. says

    Every one of the so-called logical proofs of God’s existence has these same problems:

    1. They can, without any meaningful change to their structure, be used as proofs for any other imaginary being you could care to name, because the conclusion of the argument always just takes a leap to “and we call this timeless entity/transcendent intellect/whatever ‘God’,” without any justification for why this should be. TAG, for instance, can simply have the single word “God” in its conclusion altered to “Great Pumpkin,” with no other changes, and the argument immediately becomes TAGP and works just as well (which is to say, just as poorly).

    2. As Narf points out, no actual practicing Christian that I know of claims to have been converted to the religion via these proofs, even the apologists who use the proofs. These proofs, while they do at least represent an attempt to tackle religion intellectually rather than emotionally, were invented solely to persuade atheists who aren’t generally moved by the usual guilt appeals and fire-and-brimstone sermons. A Christian may come to an atheist blog or a website prepared to wield these proofs as arguments, but the proofs were not what converted him, and are thus a distraction and not very helpful to discussion.

    So I’d like to ask Joshua to set Kalam aside for a while, and just tell why he came to believe in God.

  81. jacobfromlost says

    You: “Can a state of nothingness exist?”

    Me: What kind of nothingness? If you mean absolute nothingness (the opposite of “something” in any form), then no. If it did, it would be something and negate its own nonexistence.

    We humans are very temporal thinkers because we evolved in time–our lives, seasons, wars, countries, families, and stories all have beginnings, middles, and ends. We therefore naturally imagine that existence as existence must have began also, and thus the only way that is possible is if there was nothing (absolute nothing) “before” existence existed.

    Theists get around that by saying god started it all (and god “always existed”).

    Raymond says, “A state of nothingness can, of course, be conceptualized”, but I don’t think it can. What I conceptualize as “absolute nothingness” is a concept, and the concept is flawed as the concept is of “something that is a concept”. It isn’t a concept that points to anything demonstrable or even definable. Real things have certain attributes, and one of them is that they exist. Can a state of absolute nothingness exist? No. If it did exist, it wouldn’t be nothingness. If it did exist, it would be real, and real things can’t “not exist”, and absolute nothingness would by definition be a state of “not existence” (in any form). You can’t have “exist”=”not exist”, and posing a real, existent “absolute nothingness” is equal to saying “exist” equals “not exist”.

    That’s the problem. When we say, “Santa doesn’t exist”, we are saying it ONLY in relation to things that do. On our planet with our South POLE, that includes you and me and everything in existence, there isn’t another being within that existence that is defined by the attributes of the concept of Santa Claus.

    However, the concept of “absolute nothingness” cannot be said to “exist” in relation to other existing things, as the very concept negates the existence of anything. If “absolute nothingness” were existent, how could you possibly know, recognize, observe, conceptualize, or hypothesize it? Your very existence negates it, and even if it didn’t, you would have nothing to compare “absolute nothingness” to in order to say it WAS “absolute nothingness”.

    The concept is inherently self-contradictory no matter how you phrase it, and thus impossible in reality.

  82. Lord Narf says

    Heh, yeah. Someone else was also doing it, either somewhere in this comment thread or in the associated main one for the related episode. It’s easy to get the two reversed, until you get it beaten into your head a few times.

  83. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    On objection 1: I find it curious why he would not accept the causal premise, when it is key to science. No one is going to be able to do accurate science if there are no absolute causal relations. Also, SCIENCE, itself is a study that doesn’t have any knowledge of whether the Universe is uniform!! If it isn’t uniform, then science is meaningless. However, Russell believes in science, but NOT the causal premise, because he doesn’t know for a fact that it is true for everything?!

    Suppose some elements of our shared reality defied scientific analysis, but other parts did not. I can do science just fine on the parts that are susceptible to scientific analysis. Suppose some elements of our universe are uncaused and true-random, and other parts of our universe are caused. I can still do science on the parts that have causes just fine.

    What you said is a common misunderstanding of the scientific method, of skepticism, and of the rational world view. You are displaying a uniquely religious way of looking at the world, which we rational people simply do not have. This false idea is that we need absolutes. I think Aronra says it best: “Science doesn’t know everything. Religion doesn’t know anything.” I will take incomplete but mostly true reliable knowledge over made-up stuff every day of the week.

  84. smill says

    What a great blog and tv show you guys have. I’m so glad I found it. I’m not going to even suggest I’m in the same ballpark as most of the commenters here in terms of knowledge of this subject matter, but it seems to me this argument has the same basic problem with it’s premise that most arguments of this type have: The use of the term God to cover the lack of answers and open ended questions that are left unexplained. No matter what argument a Theist makes, it involves jumping from the unknown or unexplainable to attributing the credit to a God. I have yet to read any dissertation, essay or book that unequivocally explains a rationalization for believing in a God and this one is no exception. I actually find the premise of a God to be lazy and willful ignorance.

    In this case, the caller was offering a rebuttal before even explaining why he believed in God which usually means the individual knows the argument is weak and is on the defensive before the other opinion has even been given. That seems to be the prevailing trend in these discussions. Keep up the great work it’s very much appreciated!

  85. gshelley says

    One point that was at most alluded to, comes from the caller’s claim that “God is timeless?
    How can this be reconciled with “God decided…anything?” If God decided to create the universe, doesn’t that mean at one point in time he was not going to create the universe and then at the next point, in time, was going to create the universe? If he is making decisions, and changing, then how is he timeless?

  86. Lord Narf says

    What a great blog and tv show you guys have. I’m so glad I found it.

    Heh, I read that first line and immediately thought, “How did such obvious spam get through moderation?” My spam-detection trigger has gotten a bit jumpy, from all of the spam activity on blogs, lately.

    I’m not going to even suggest I’m in the same ballpark as most of the commenters here in terms of knowledge of this subject matter, but it seems to me this argument has the same basic problem with it’s premise that most arguments of this type have:

    Heck, just watch the older episodes of AETV, particularly anything from 2009 and earlier, back when they had a higher percentage of theistic callers. It’s a good crash course in logical fallacies.

    If we’re discussing something you’re not familiar with, just drop in a comment asking about books relating to the subject, and I’m sure some of us will have good suggestions. There was a post a week or two ago, specifically about good starter atheism books.

    The use of the term God to cover the lack of answers and open ended questions that are left unexplained. No matter what argument a Theist makes, it involves jumping from the unknown or unexplainable to attributing the credit to a God.

    It’s generally either a god-of-the-gaps argument, or an Argument from Ignorance, depending upon the usage. Often, it’s both.

  87. Lord Narf says

    The whole string of characteristics that WLC spits out have several contradictory pairs, yeah. Also, I want chapter and verse, where it says that Yahweh is “beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful” (pulled from http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-the-cause-of-the-universe-an-uncaused-personal-creator-of-the-universe; I like how he altered omnipotent).

    I’ve read the Bible, and God changes his mind many times. Moses talks him out of destroying the Jews, among other things.

  88. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Just want to point out that an actor outside of time only compounds the problem of infinite regress not solve it.

    If we understand the way things work as “Thought->will->action” in order for a mind to effect something, how the hell does something without chronological causality make any decisions to act?

  89. jacobfromlost says

    God is “surprised” by a lot of things in the bible as well, and sometimes seems to need people to explain to him what had happened. He also gets angry a lot about how things turn out, as if he didn’t know that’s how they were going to turn out, lol.

  90. Lord Narf says

    I think this is when the Catholics pull out the [singsong voice] mysssssstery of God.

  91. Kiwiheathen says

    @Joshua Hunsaker

    “1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause (P implies Q)
    2. The Universe began to exist (P)
    Therefore the Universe has a cause (Q)”

    Assuming of course that the cause for the universe’s existence (Q) precedes the beginning of the universe (P) in the causal chain the KCA seems to be a case of:
    1. Q → P
    2. P
    Conclusion: Therefore Q.

    ..Which IS actually a post hoc ergo propter hoc. So yeah, Tracie’s rebuttal still stands Michael. Thoughts?

  92. smill says

    Lol after reading it back it does have a “Please help me get my Fortune out of (insert name here)” vibe at the beginning. No spam from me other than opinions you may view as such if you don’t agree with them.

    I appreciate the feedback and am currently wading through a number of different books that aren’t Dawkins or Hitchens related. I’ve already them and need to broaden my horizons. Any suggestions are always welcome.

  93. Corwyn says

    I can never get by the flaw the structure.

    “Everything that begins to exist has a cause.”

    My immediate reaction is to say, that’s false, I have a counter example. The universe.

    The form of the argument (as stated) slightly formalized is as follows:

    There exists a set S with defining characteristic C.
    A is a member of set S.
    Therefore: A has characteristic C.

    This is the proper form is:

    There exists a set S with defining characteristic C.
    A has characteristic C.
    Therefore: A is a member of set S.

    The only way to state that A belongs in set S is to PROVE that it has characteristic C. Only THEN will we be able to say that A is a member of set S.

  94. James Willmott says

    ” “Thought->will->action” in order for a mind to effect something ”

    Somethings I could never get my head around are as follows.

    Let’s accept for argument’s sake that God is uncaused AND is the cause of everything else. Before he created anything, there was just him. Nothing else at all. He decides to create the universe according to doctrine. My first issue is, what changed in that precise moment that made him decide to act, versus all the other infinite moments when he had not decided to act. Since there was just him and nothing else, there would be nothing to change his state and prompt the decision to create… like a computer with no input, how does this unchanging mind suddenly go from not acting to acting?

    This problem is further compounded, and maybe there is an answer but I have none, *how* did God know how to do anything? Oh, he’s omniscient the apologist says. Ok, lets say that before anything else was created, God *was* everything, and I don’t think there is a theistic complaint with that. In that case, I grant that it would be possible for God to know everything about everything, since everything would be *only* himself.

    Therefore, before God creates anything, he would know only about himself, so where do the ideas for what people should look like, about how many legs a mammal should have, how quantum behaviours should work, gravity etc. come from? Are they intrinsic to God, in which case he didn’t really have a choice in what creation was going to be like? Did he learn how to create by looking into the future and seeing what he did maybe? ( Which is an odd concept for a timeless being, and creates a paradox as to where the information originally came from )

    If his only knowledge was apriori, and no new knowledge could possibly be gained from reality since there was nothing else outside himself to gain knowledge from, how could he know how to do anything?

  95. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, spam posts are always something like … well hell, let me go grab one from Aron’s blog. They’ve been a bit out of control over there, lately. He really needs to turn on first-post moderation.

    “My wife and i ended up being absolutely fortunate when Jordan could do his web research by way of the ideas he acquired from your very own site. It is now and again perplexing to simply find yourself giving out things which often people today might have been trying to sell. We really acknowledge we have got the website owner to appreciate for this. The most important explanations you’ve made, the simple blog navigation, the relationships you can give support to promote – it’s got mostly sensational, and it’s really helping our son and us know that that content is exciting, which is very fundamental. Many thanks for everything!”

    Then, they just use a name (‘best baby monitors’, in this instance) with a link to the spammer’s webpage. I just don’t get how they could be profiting in any way. Would you do business with a company that engaged in this sort of behavior?

    Your first two sentences read sort of like that. You got specific after the first line, though, which made it clear that you were a person.

  96. says

    In order to get to your post hoc, ergo propter hoc, you straw man the original argument. The only thing you have done is ignored the logically valid form, conjured a completely different argument and concluded that Tracie’s rebuttal stands. Even though it doesn’t really matter, the argument you came up with IS NOT a post hoc, ergo propter hoc. The argument you gave is petitio principii (begging the question). Tracie needs to do more than try to make the Kalam fit into fallacious arguments, like forcing squares into round holes. If she wants to give a rebuttal, I recommend she start with a premise.

  97. says

    I really don’t think you or Proxer understand the argument. He is not making things up. If you would actually take the time to look at the argument, instead of complain about the conclusion or the form of the argument, then you just might see how the characteristics follow deductively from the truth of the premises.

  98. says

    Tracie, the form of the argument is Modus Ponens, not post hoc, ergo propter hoc. I find it really bizarre that you insist that the form of the KCA is a fallacy. I also just flat out disagree that pointing out a fallacy is the most efficient way to handle arguments. No, because even if the argument commits a fallacy, in no way does that make the conclusion false! The best way to handle it, if at all possible, is to point out the fallacy and then offer an argument in support of the opposite position. So, yes, “here is what makes the sun ‘rise” is far more efficient.

  99. Tyrant says

    My first issue is, what changed in that precise moment that made him decide to act, versus all the other infinite moments when he had not decided to act

    Genesis 1 (Extended Director’s Cut)

    God was busy throwing out all the Boltzmann brains which were clogging up the driveway again, when He thought to Himself: “This is so dull. What was the last time I’ve done something nice, something… creative? It’s been like literally forever! What am I waiting for anyway?” And He created the heaven and the earth. And He saw what He had done, and said unto Himself: “How quaint, why didn’t I think of that earlier!” And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. But still, it was a huge improvement over eternal nothingness, so God was nevertheless reasonably satisfied. Especially considering that it was the best thing ever (remember, sliced bread was not going to be invented for at least several days, just to keep things in perspective). And God said, “Let there be light”: and there was light. And God thought, “oh well, this looked much nicer in the dark.”

  100. says

    Joshua, you’ve had it pointed out by multiple commenters here exactly how and why Kalam fails right from P1. Why not address this instead of ignoring it? Also, why waste our time with Kalam at all? Instead just describe to us honestly what it was that converted you to Christianity, and why you found it convincing.

  101. Monocle Smile says

    If after all the dissection of both premises that various users have posted on this thread alone you STILL think both are sound and convincing, there is little chance of waking you from the stupor you are in.

  102. says

    Yes, this has been carefully explained to him several times. And now he’s trying to shift the burden of proof. This argument contains several logical fallacies and invalid premises. Our work is done – the argument is a non-starter.

    It reeks of trying to retroactively justify a belief that was arrived at through non-rational reasons.

  103. John Kruger says

    I just don’t get how they could be profiting in any way. Would you do business with a company that engaged in this sort of behavior?

    I suspect the money comes from companies paying for advertising hits. The traffic registers just the same even if the sources are illegitimate (caused by deception with no chance of increasing sales). The advertisers are the scammers more than the companies selling the product. Although, there are a lot of PUA or sites otherwise promising sex in some way that seem to be more in on it, just trying to take advantage of gullible young people with active sex drives.

    I think they are also depending on mass exposure. If you can get a million people fooled on to a website, odds are one or two might do what you want.

  104. says

    Correct. That is why I noted above that intuition is not evidence. I can’t simply assert that I think it has characteristic C, and therefore, it must be in set S…and leave it there. I have to find a way to confirm the suspicion. Otherwise, I have an undemonstrated hypothesis. And that is not a justification that something is “true,” it is only an explanation for why I personally would think it could be plausible. And acceptance of it, or the resulting god as “true,” would not be justified by *only* the explanation of why I think it might be true. Even if X is possible, that’s a leap from X is true. And in this case, I’m not sure X is even possible so much as X can’t be said to be impossible with the current data. So, it’s steps and steps from a justification for “true.”

  105. says

    For the record, “after this, therefore because of this” was never offered by me as a *rebuttal* to Kalam.

    I offered it merely as an example of how we can use one set of inputs that might help someone understand a fallacious form. I randomly chose “after this, therefore because of this” and the rooster example.

    The inputs I then replaced for Kalam were “germlins” for the cause and “broken toaster” for the event–if I’m recalling correctly.

  106. says

    I just want to add here (as I did below in other threads), that I didn’t put “after this, therefore because of this” forward as a claim this is the form of Kalam. I used it just to show the caller that using inputs can help clarify what is wrong with a fallacious argument. Then I moved to Kalam’s form, and put in gremlins as the cause and broken toaster as the event.

    But I also added “things that do not exist, cannot be the cause of other things.” And this can’t be left out. Unless a god exists, then any claims about what it does, or what nature it might possess, are 100% wrong. If a god does exist, then any claims about what it does or it’s nature could be between 100% wrong up to 0% wrong. But we can’t know if we have it the mark until we have a god, to which we can compare the claims. Is it true god is uncaused? If we can’t determine if the god exists, how do we even begin to answer that? Any answer would be simply another intuitive assertion, that would then, ALSO have to be followed up by “If we can’t determine this god even exists, how do we begin to assess the truth value of that claim about that god?”

    It’s Big Foot–in essence. Big Foot searchers will tell you that the evidence they have could ONLY be the product of a Big Foot–and yet, without ever having examined a Big Foot, how do they begin to assess that a Big Foot would leave “this type of track,” or “this type of next” or “this sort of damage to a tree/car”? Even if what we’re looking at defies the type of thing any other animal would leave behind–without a Big Foot–how can we say a Big Foot is responsible for this? The only real statement would be “I have no idea what made this impression in the ground,” or “I have no clue what left this seeming nesting site,” or “whatever damaged this tree, I have no clue what it was.”

    In the end, if a Big Foot does not exist, then all these assertions that a Big Foot is responsible are wrong. Asserting more and more things are the result of Big Foot as a cause is not evidence. And claiming that it has to be a Big Foot, because we don’t know what other animal could leave behind such evidence, also is not a demonstration of a Big Foot. Claims are not evidence. It would only be when we have a Big Foot available to examine, that we could assess these intuitive claims about then nature and actions of a Big Foot.

    Theism would be akin to taking all these claims and saying they demonstrate “Big Foot exists” is true. They don’t. They may explain why someone thinks a Big Foot could be possible, but that would be as far as we could get without some way to see if the claims correspond to the reality of a Big Foot. Without that Big Foot, “true” is dead in the water.

  107. says

    Jacob, I’ll go one farther:

    >Me: Kindergarten philosophy. Free will isn’t some absolute quality whereby one gets to do anything. I don’t have the free will to fly into a tree and save my neighbor’s cat, or grow three feet and add 200 pounds of muscle to become a pro-football player…

    I don’t have the free will to find a child sexy. So, a person who is sexually attracted to kids, is not exercising free will, but subject to an impulse that is not at all “willed freely.” I certainly don’t “will” what I find sexy. And I can’t see assuming the pedophile is just “choosing” to be attracted to a six-year-old. The idea that will is “free” in the sense of “I control what I want,” is pretty ridiculous.

  108. says

    >Maybe a better question would be “Can a state of nothingness exist?”

    That’s not a better question, it’s a worse one, because you then have to define nothing. And if it can exist, then it’s existent and existence. I don’t know what it is, but it exists, so is it nothing? What type of nothing exists? And in what way are you using “exist”? If it exists in some way–it’s an existent thing–something.

    It’s like arguing for a married bachelor.

  109. says

    In response to the question of “why” I asked if Kalam was what convinced the caller, I want to note that the reason was to call out that theists rarely consider their *true* reasons for accepting “god exists” as convincing. This is because, when you are indoctrinated, it doesn’t take much convincing. So, you can’t really put forward your reasons for belief, because even you know they are uncompelling. So, you have to attempt to find *better* arguments to convince others–because what convinced you is shit…because you believe due to indoctrination, not because of any convincing or compelling reasons.

    And in fact, most often, when you strip the reasons away that are given, you end up at a core of “faith”–basically, “I just believe it…no reason.”

  110. says

    Joshua:

    To clarify–I’m not saying the form of Kalam is “after this, therefore because of this.” I used that merely as an example of how altering inputs can help people recognize what is wrong with an argument they are making–they often fail to see the problem if they have a bias with the inputs. I think a person who already believes a god exists, and that this god has the attributes Kalam suggests, will have trouble seeing the problem with Kalam. But it’s very much like Big Foot hunters:

    Some tree is scraped up
    No other animal could scratch a tree this way
    It had to be scraped by something

    That something has to be just like a Big Foot…which I just happen to already believe exists.

    When others try to demonstrate that Big Foot may not be the cause–the Big Foot hunter simply cannot see why they don’t recognize that ONLY a Big Foot could be responsible for this type of tree scraping.

    The fact is–even if it were very unique scraping. And even if we had no clue what scraped the tree–and the scrape did not conform to what we observe from other animals, any claims about a Big Foot having done it would only be compelling if Big Foot could be demonstrated to exist *first*.

    Telling me why he thinks it has to be a Big Foot may help me grok why he is suggesting a Big Foot, but even if he convinced me it WAS a Big Foot, we would have done nothing in the way of demonstrating such an animal actually exists. Existence is not determined by popular vote. So, why is this argument compelling–if w have no way of comparing an actual god to the claims, to see if they stand or fall?

    How could it ever be compelling without a demonstration that gods exist, possess the assumed attributes, and do what we’re claiming they do? It seems we’ve gotten very far into the weeds without taking that first obligatory step of demonstrating there really ARE gods….?

  111. says

    Just to note I didn’t put forward “after this, therefore because of this” as the form of Kalam. I used it to just give an example of how, when you have a fallacious form, putting other inputs in can help a person who might have bias tied to the original inputs. I did not mean to confuse people with that, but apparently I did.

    I also, added some commentary to Jacob’s rebuttal further below, at comment 24. But wanted to add this here as well:

    In response to the question of “why” I asked if Kalam was what convinced you, I want to note that the reason was to call out that theists rarely consider their *true* reasons for accepting “god exists” as convincing as other reasons that seem to convince *no one* a god exists. I can honestly say I have never met a theist who was converted due to Kalam. That’s how not compelling it is. This is because, when you are indoctrinated, it doesn’t take much convincing–because you begin with a biased perspective of reality as containing things like “gods.” So, you can’t really put forward your honest reasons for belief, because even you know they are uncompelling. So, you have to attempt to find *better* arguments to convince others–because what convinced you is shit…because you believe due to indoctrination, not because of any convincing or compelling reasons.

    And in fact, most often, when you strip the reasons away that are given, you end up at a core of “faith”–basically, “I just believe it…no reason.”

    So, Kalam may work as “convincing” to someone who already has been damaged with bias and indoctrination–to keep them in the belief, but it does nothing to a nonbeliever. It’s like the threat of hell: “What if you’re wrong?” That is VERY compelling to those for whom gods and hells are “real.” But to those who think they’re fantasies, it’s about as compelling as saying I’ll be attacked by werewolves if I don’t agree with proposition-X.

    These things are compelling only if you already believe, because you’ve accepted “god exists,” and can’t really perceive what it would be like to *not* have that ingrained in your head. You can’t view the argument from a non-theist position–so to you it’s baffling why an atheist finds it uncompelling. But I assure you–those who believe in hell are just as baffled at why atheists aren’t scared of that prospect. If you already believe it–is is quite compelling.

  112. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Is a mind without a brain possible? Or, rather, is it demonstrable?

  113. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    To be honest, the best thing the WLC could do to forward the Christian position to unbelievers is just to shut up… He may have some success in back-filling belief for believers but as an evangelist he really sucks.

  114. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Well, the “timeless god is a changeless god is a completely inactive god” has come up a whole bunch of times!

  115. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Validity is of no help if the premises are complete bollocks. Technical term, that is!

  116. jacobfromlost says

    And even worse, we have many examples of people faking “evidence” either because they are pranksters, or have become so obsessed with whatever the unproven phenomenon is (and believe it is so very, very true) that they decide they will just fake some evidence so other people will see the truth also.

    So the kind of evidence we would need for such claims is evidence that indicates ONE thing, not a variety of things (pranksters, obsessive evidence fakers, some unknown natural explanation, etc).

  117. jacobfromlost says

    Joshua: I also just flat out disagree that pointing out a fallacy is the most efficient way to handle arguments. No, because even if the argument commits a fallacy, in no way does that make the conclusion false!

    Me: The problem is that it doesn’t make it true, and thus makes your “argument” totally pointless. It’s only a baseless assertion. So why try to disguise it as a sound and valid argument? What’s the point of that if not blatant deception?

  118. jacobfromlost says

    Another reformulation of Kalam that may illuminate its problems goes something like this:

    Everything that begins to exist begins to exist in time.
    Time began to exist.
    Time began to exist in time.

    To me, this illustrates that if time (space-time) had a “beginning” at the BB, it isn’t a beginning like those we are used to. We are used to the kind of beginnings IN TIME, and the kind that are subject to cause and effect. Clearly that isn’t the kind of beginning TIME ITSELF had, as it inescapably leads to the category error of “time began in time”.

  119. jacobfromlost says

    Or,

    Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    Cause and effect began to exist.
    Cause and effect has a cause (that didn’t begin to exist somehow). lol

  120. Lord Narf says

    But who would click on the link to pull up their site, anyway? Seems like a good way to acquire a virus, clicking on that sort of thing.

    And I know how you saturate like crazy, in hopes of catching 0.1% of those who see your spams. I’m aware there are stupid people out there who might do that. I just have difficulty conceptualizing the thought processes that would actually lead to a click, in that 0.1%

  121. jacobfromlost says

    God made a lot of things in the beginning and “saw that they were good.”

    I’m not a bible scholar, but I’ve never heard anything mentioned about when/how god created the angels. Did he create Satan, look at him, and say, “That is bad, but whatever. I’ve made him already and I don’t feel like unmaking him.”

    I wish atheists would point out the perfection problem a little more often (to me, it is far more compelling than the problem of evil). If “in the beginning, god created the heaven and the earth”, I think it is safe to say that believers of that particular line think this means ONLY god existed, and then he created everything else. A perfect being cannot create things that are imperfect, things that choose imperfection, or things that IN ANY WAY lead to imperfection. If he does, he’s imperfect by definition because he created things that ARE imperfect (it doesn’t matter HOW they got to imperfection if they sprang from a PERFECT creator, so the whole “free will” objection is moot; if he “gave us free will”, and that led to evil, god created evil and is not perfect).

    It’s like a “perfect” car mechanic who “fixes” my car, and afterward my car still doesn’t start. If that counts as “perfect”, then the word has no meaning at all.

  122. says

    What bugs me the most about these types of arguments, such as the cosmological arguments, is that their proponents seem to think they can just sit back in their armchairs, and solve the mysteries of the universe by coming up with syllogisms… without any actual empirical investigation of reality.

    At best, logic is a guide for investigation, when applied to reality, but it takes the empirical confirmation before we can establish that our limited and faulty understandings of reality (which apologists are first to point out is true), are actually true.

    But no, when it comes to these purely logical syllogisms, all of a sudden, the human application of logic is perfect and infallible… which would be a requirement for the arguments to actually work on their own.

    That’s why these “proofs by logic” are never compelling to me.

  123. Lord Narf says

    And even worse, we have many examples of people faking “evidence” either because they are pranksters, or have become so obsessed with whatever the unproven phenomenon is (and believe it is so very, very true) that they decide they will just fake some evidence so other people will see the truth also.

    Fortunately, we’ve never had people doing that in support of the claims of the bible and other supernatural events.

  124. Lord Narf says

    Well, it depends upon what you consider evangelism. A lot of evangelism is that of fundamentalist Christians trying to drag liberal Christians a bit deeper into fundamentalism. Thoughtful, considered atheists and agnostics are unlikely to ever convert to a religion.

    Even in the cases where something does work, it’s not the sort of evangelism that WLC does. Patrick Greene’s brief dip into Christianity was for purely irrational, emotional reasons. No surprise there; he was never particularly rational, to begin with. I suspect his atheist position isn’t held on rational grounds, either.

    In Leah Libresco’s case, I suspect that extreme social pressure was being brought to bear, by her spouse and others. Her given reason was the question of the origin of morality … and then she turned around and said that the most difficult problem she’s having with her new faith is the restrictive, conservative moral system of her new faith. That’s ludicrous. I suspect her stated reasons are similar to this guy’s presentation of Kalam.

    I’d have thought that all of the problems with the altar boys would have bothered her, too, but maybe that’s just my thing, as an ex altar boy.

  125. Lord Narf says

    There’s a narrative, but it was made up long after the fact. Paradise Lost is most people’s current concept of what went on in heaven, with Satan and his followers. Milton got his ideas from non-canonical scriptures.

  126. jacobfromlost says

    Jasper: is that their proponents seem to think they can just sit back in their armchairs, and solve the mysteries of the universe by coming up with syllogisms… without any actual empirical investigation of reality.

    Me: It’s not all that surprising since the Prime Mover thing originates from Aristotle, and Aristotle thought exactly that–namely, that philosophers could sit back and find out the answers to the “why?” question with passive experience and thinking the problems through. The idea of “experiments” is related, but Aristotle tended to think of that kind of active, practical work with “how” things work to be at a much lower level then the “why” they work.

    So we got earth, air, fire, and water (and aether) as the elements. *shrug*

  127. Lord Narf says

    You don’t get e-mail notifications? I’m subscribed to the blog as a whole, so I get notifications of new posts, in my mailbox. Then, the first thing I do when a new post is submitted is go down to the link at the bottom. At the bottom of the text-entry box is a message above two check-boxes.

    It says something like “You can also subscribe without posting a comment,” and there’s a link in the line. I can’t see it right now, because I’m already subscribed to this post, so I can’t give you the exact wording.

    If you click on that link, it takes you to a management page that will allow you to subscribe to the post. After doing that, you’ll receive an e-mail for each new comment, as it’s made.

  128. Lord Narf says

    What bugs me the most about these types of arguments, such as the cosmological arguments, is that their proponents seem to think they can just sit back in their armchairs, and solve the mysteries of the universe by coming up with syllogisms… without any actual empirical investigation of reality.

    Funny how these are the same sorts who will then point out that physicists are just using math to make up things like quantum physics (and then some of them turn around and use quantum physics in their arguments). Of course, then the physicists take those mathematical hypotheses and make predictions about how the universe should react, when we poke it … and build huge particle-colliders to poke the universe.

  129. Lord Narf says

    Check your spam folder, maybe? I’ve had to mark blog notices as NOT SPAM, a few times, before the system got the hint. Which e-mail provider are you with? I have no problems with GMail, after the first few markings.

  130. chris lowe says

    To put a Darwinian perspective on the whole Abrahamic “causality” narrative ( of which Kalaam is a dressed up version), it seems to me to be a product of its lowly origin. The vast and deep well of ignorance from which it is drawn is reflected by its assumptions and presumptions. To lend this argument any weight seems a waste of time, as would the educational requirements be to bring its proponents up to speed.

    To me, reading through Paradise Lost evokes comparison to JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Both are brightly painted fantasy epics written by talented story tellers reflecting their fertile imaginations

  131. Wayne says

    Even a state of null is a state of existence since in order to have a null state there has to be something to become null and an existence in which it can become null. That, I suspect, is the real meaning of something from nothing.
    But that may be me creating an argument only to create a solution or creating a solution needing a problem.

  132. Wayne says

    Almost any ‘because I said so” argument might work. It seems to be the most popular. Just make sure you use a lot of big words and a commanding voice. I understand that effect has more influence than fact.

  133. chris lowe says

    As Christopher Hitchens used to say: (paraphrase) As far as free will is concerned you have no choice.

  134. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Jacob, that is exactly their “uncaused cause” argument…

  135. Corwyn says

    *”The only real statement would be “I have no idea what made this impression in the ground,” or “I have no clue what left this seeming nesting site,” or “whatever damaged this tree, I have no clue what it was.”*

    Not so. You can determine a lot from an impression in the ground. Weight, locomotion pattern, etc. Paleontologists do this sort of thing all the time. They can then match those characteristics to any creatures they know about. If no creatures _do_ match, then they would say “we don’t know what creature it was that made these tracks, but it should have the following characteristics” In other words one MUST have a clue about what left the tracks in order to even make it a mystery.

    The real statements would be “The characteristics of this impression in the ground don’t match the characteristics of impressions left by anything who know of.”

  136. smill says

    Part of the problem seems to be how someone defines existence. Is existence the same in an unconscious state as a conscious state? Meaning because you weren’t there or conscious to it does it mean it didn’t exist? The whole tree in the woods idea I guess. It comes down to whether you think something can exist outside our perception of what existence is and I personally believe it can and does. What we see as a beginning may just be another stage in the Universe’s existence that happened an infinite number of times before. In any case, from what I’ve garnered in reading and listening to Theists, they stop trying to determine the answer outside of what they have been taught and/or believe and attribute the unknown to God.

  137. Lord Narf says

    I don’t think anyone takes that old bit of nonsense particularly seriously … or at least anyone besides a solipsist, perhaps.

    Besides, there’s always someone around. There’s the bear who was trying to relieve it’s hemorrhoids against the side of the tree, who made an error in his force/shear-strength calculations. There’s also the family of squirrels who are perplexed by the sudden horizontal motion of the whole world outside of their house. The Buddhists were such speciesists. :P

  138. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I happen to use the language of a concrete real material reality which exists even when I’m not looking, and even when no one is looking. I do so because of the utility that language offers. Anyone sufficiently trained in philosophy will recognize this as a necessary impreciseness if you want to be productive and not stuck in something like analysis-paralysis, or some weird nihilistic state.

    Now, is it true that there is a concrete real material reality which exists even when no one is looking? I don’t know. Worse, I don’t think that sentence is well formed semantically. By construction, it is positing “material” facts that are wholly untestable. Because it is wholly untestable, it is also unexperiencable, and cannot have any impact on my life at all. And thus it is irrelevant.

    For example, it does not matter to me if I live in The Matrix. I will still be hungry tomorrow, and I will still want virtual food. It does not change my morality or my course of actions at all.

    Only when I am offered a red pill, a way to distinguish The Matrix from conventional notions of reality, does it start mattering, and only when I am shown a testable difference will I start caring.

    All I need to do is axiomatically refute Last Thursdayism, and axiomatically assert that I am not special which leads to the conclusion that other humans have minds just like mine. The rest follows whether I’m in The Matrix, or someone’s dream, or whatever.

  139. jacobfromlost says

    Smill: The whole tree in the woods idea I guess. It comes down to whether you think something can exist outside our perception of what existence is and I personally believe it can and does.

    Me: I had this discussion with someone once, and I pointed out how sound existed first before ears evolved to sense it (that’s why the ears evolved–because there was something there to sense that was beneficial to survival). Therefore, since sound existed before ears ever were there to sense it…I’d say the tree makes a sound, and must make a sound, even if no one is there to hear it.

    EnlightenmentLiberal: For example, it does not matter to me if I live in The Matrix. I will still be hungry tomorrow, and I will still want virtual food. It does not change my morality or my course of actions at all.

    Me: I’ve never really understood that “Matrix” scenario. Let’s say I wake up tomorrow in stasis tube and discover a new reality all around me of machines, etc. Do I then know that my previous life was not real, and that this new one IS real? No! I don’t know anything more than I knew before! lol This “Matrix” could just be a dream imposed on me from my previous presumed reality, or both could be unreal and I’m really a brain in a vat on Stephen King’s writing desk, etc. It doesn’t matter that some SEEMING revelation has been made to me (recently) because that revelation still has the potential to be unreal. We generally don’t consider that because it makes the story (“myth”) less interesting, and we humans love our myths to be interesting to us–we therefore just ASSUME that Neo didn’t wake up after the story we saw was over, discover he had a really weird drunken nightmare, and go back to work digging ditches.

  140. says

    Yes! I had exactly the same thought watching a ‘debate’ that featured Hitchens, vs WLC. It’s particularly hard to believe that this guy can’t see the flaws in his arguments when they’re being pointed out in semi-real time. To be fair though the line between intentional dishonesty and truly impressive self-delusion is hard to draw.

  141. says

    Well put jacobfromlost. I think the same thing could be said of an afterlife and heaven/hell. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, including god, so sayeth the solipsist.

  142. jacobfromlost says

    ProphetSHSU

    You remind me of something. If you are referring to the Hitchens debate I’m thinking of, Craig seemed totally unaware of the definition of “atheist”. Hitchens kept setting him straight over and over again, and he still didn’t seem to get it.

    Then I found a debate from the ’80s or ’90s where Craig did EXACTLY the same thing, and the atheist set him straight over and over and over again!

    By this time, Craig KNOWS what he’s doing–he knows he’s being dishonest, or he’s just so delusional that he actually believes things like, “When a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God.”

    Deadpan Sarcasm: Yes. We are all atheists because we love darkness rather than light. (eye rolls)

  143. says

    It’s very easy to decide what you want to believe and then cherry-pick “evidence” to support the conclusion you’ve already made. Most of us have done it at some point. In fact it’s what passes for rational thinking most of the time. I don’t have any reason to believe that WLC or most of the others like him don’t believe what they claim to believe. I would agree, though, that they don’t believe it for reasons like Kallaam or whatever else they are selling.

  144. says

    Great post, Tracie. I’m reminded of a related post I wrote on my own blog a couple years back called “The map is not the territory” about how, essentially, all that apologetic arguments can ever do is build a model of a thing. The entire business of demonstrating that the thing actually exists is irrelevant to them, which is another reason they’re useless to nonbelievers.

    It’s right here, if you’d like to read it.

  145. says

    Another couple of major unwarranted assumptions

    1. That since all things we observe in the universe have a cause, the universe itself must have a cause.

    2. That although all things we observe to begin existing in the universe are actually just rearrangements of existing matter and energy (i.e., creatio ex materia), it is possible for a thing to begin existing out of nothing (i.e., creatio ex nihilo).

  146. says

    Not to mention that the entire snippet you quoted is an argument from consequences against materialism. It’s irrelevant to whether or not it’s true.

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