Jan 24

The Clueless Argument for God’s Existence

Last time I told you that we could all be living on a giant sneeze. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s in pretty good standing among other creation myth arguments. What is it that allows for so many different arguments with so much variation concerning our origin? Well, it’s because no one has a freaking clue. Almost every popular argument for God implicitly benefits from areas of ignorance. I don’t care if they are given by a professional philosopher, a respected theologian, or Oprah. They must rely on this due to the very nature of what they wish to prove. They must reach a point where you just have to start making stuff up–just like the sneeze.

Let’s examine the current bulldog of theism and Christian apologetics, William Lane Craig. He presents these very polished, professional arguments that sound great during his debates to the people who already believe him. Since Craig is the best out there on the Christian side, in my opinion, I’m going to focus on one of his arguments. Though, the things we notice will be widely applicable.


Is God the best explanation for our existence?

In a debate with philosopher Austin Dacey, Craig presents the Argument from Existence (which is also very similar to his Kalam Cosmological Argument). It goes as follows:

P1. Any thing that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in its own nature or an external cause.

P2. The universe exists.

P3. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is an external, transcendent, personal cause.

C. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal cause.

Thus, he concludes that God is the best explanation why something exists rather than nothing.

I’d like to focus on P3, in which Craig states this explanation must be external, transcendent, and personal. That is quite a lofty claim and your baloney detectors should be at least at “yellow.” So, why does he conclude this? Craig says,

The cause, in this case, must be greater than the universe. Think of the universe–all of space and time. So the cause of our universe must be beyond space and time. Therefore, it cannot be physical and material. Now there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either abstract objects, like numbers, or else an intelligent mind. But abstract objects can’t cause anything.

Just look at all the suspect assumptions going on here that take advantage of what we do not know. There is the assumption that the cause must be greater, cannot be physical (even though this violates everything we know so far), and also that an intelligent mind can exist without physicality. I have seen no reason to concede any of these points, and one could reasonably continue on this thread to severely undercut Craig’s argument.

Furthermore, Craig is simply inventing his own creation myth. Notice what he does in such arguments; he does not simply take a series of propositions and follow them to their conclusion. I realize he presents it this way, but you should realize that he is working as an apologist. He is taking the assumption that God exists, comparing it to philosophical problems, and creating a home for God that can possibly avoid objections. He has made his own God and his own creation story in his mind, as many do. You won’t find too many theists still holding to a literal interpretation of the Genesis myths. No, they often say things like “maybe a day to God isn’t the same as it is for us” or “maybe God worked through the Big Bang.” These are not pre-existing ideas, they are created anew in the person’s mind to try and reconcile scientific knowledge with their belief.

That is a minor point, though. Let’s return to the argument itself. I contend that Craig implicitly benefits from ignorance, and it is subtle and well-disguised by presenting a deductive case. Just look at what he is claiming. Craig says that God is the “best explanation” for why we exist and why the universe exists. He takes a subject on which no one can reasonably comment and asserts he has the best explanation. How does he get away with this? Quite simply because we don’t know how we got here in the grand scheme of things. It is because of this ignorance that his arguments flourish in the minds of believers. I can imagine the same type of arguments for Zeus being the cause of lightning among the Greeks. The fact is, there are other possible explanations, even ones currently known but also currently untestable, like the multiverse hypothesis. Or perhaps gravity, which according to Hawking is all we would need to jump-start the universe, exists necessarily. Where would Craig’s argument stand then? It would fail, but we can’t rightly assert these possible explanations because we just don’t know. This is the real dishonesty of the apologist’s approach; rather than admit ignorance, Craig asserts an explanation. Craig is polished enough to avoid committing a simple fallacy, but this should really be seen as a close cousin.

Just because science does not currently, and may not ever, have an answer to this question does not mean we can rightly conclude that we have a best explanation in God. In fact, it means we can’t really conclude that anything is the best explanation.

About such things, we are all clueless.

[Later Edit: I’ve added some further thoughts on this type of argument in my post The Sherlock Holmes Defense]

Similar Posts:


2 pings

  1. Mike

    *EDIT* I’ve removed a short discussion on Craig’s debate with Ehrman on the resurrection from this post. I think a discussion of the resurrection will fit better with my ongoing series on the reliability of the gospels.

  2. James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    What were you expecting? A rational, coherent argument from a theist? How could that happen with someone who long ago rejected obvious fact, rational thinking, and ordinary rules of evidence?

    I long ago learned that you cannot reason with someone whose beliefs are not based upon reason but brainwashing and wishful thinking.

  3. Rod

    我不太清楚你所謂的歷史描述跟生物學律則的差別我的理解是p1:這是達爾文的theoretical statement of biaocgioll evolution,至於他的evidence則是自然環境中經過天擇的過程,個體變異慢慢累積成物種的之間的差異,這是適用於生物全體的法則p2在我看來是天擇的theoretical statementp3則是general statement of opinion就跟 上帝是萬能的 一樣我的看法是達爾文演化論是if p2 is true, then p1 is truep2的證據來自於天擇跟人擇對生物特徵變異的操弄,神創論抓住這一點一直在攻擊失落的化石環節,但演化中間型化石後來可是一直出土 近代分子生物學甚至提供了實驗室中觀察到的物種演化證據 OK, for me, the narrative of evolution is also historically prove because the theory has presented enough evidences as well as a convincing interpretation of the history of species. No historical narrative can pretend to be totally inclusive of any event that has ever happened and therefore interpretation is indispensable. Interpretation of evolutionary history has a rather solid ground. The problem of scientific creationism (or ID) is that the proponents never once set their Pseudoscience to the same scientific test.

  1. Tweets that mention The Clueless Argument for God's Existence | Foxhole Atheism -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Foxhole Atheism, Michael Gage. Michael Gage said: New Blog Post: Many arguments for God commit a hidden fallacy http://fb.me/Oxf0B36I […]

  2. Dangerous Talk » The Argument by Popularity

    […] The Clueless Argument for God’s Existence (foxholeatheism.com) […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.