Tuesday, May 25, 2010

William Lane Craig's Arguments for God Refuted

Considered one of the most famous and respected Christian apologists, William Lane Craig is often in atheists' cross-hairs and his arguments are often scrutinized both on the internet and in popular books, two examples being The Secular Web and Victor J. Stenger's 2008 book titled God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.

Even though these arguments have been refuted by many others, and by those who have much more knowledge than I, I am always up for a challenge and so will do my best to show the illogical and unscientific nature of Craig's arguments. The source for the set of arguments I will tackle can be found in an article by Craig titled Five Arguments for God, currently hosted at The Gospel Coalition.

I've covered several of these arguments in the past but I'd like to take this opportunity to tackle these same arguments from such a respected philosopher as Craig, though for anyone who is familiar with my views, I do not think philosophy is the best method of getting at the truth.

With that, let's begin.

Craig begins his discussion by saying, "[L]et’s get clear what makes for a 'good' argument. An argument is a series of statements (called premises) leading to a conclusion. A sound argument must meet two conditions: (1) it is logically valid (i.e., its conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic), and (2) its premises are true. If an argument is sound, then the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. But to be a good argument, it’s not enough that an argument be sound. We also need to have some reason to think that the premises are true. A logically valid argument that has, wholly unbeknownst to us, true premises isn’t a good argument for the conclusion. The premises have to have some degree of justification or warrant for us in order for a sound argument to be a good one. But how much warrant? The premises surely don’t need to be known to be true with certainty (we know almost nothing to be true with certainty!). Perhaps we should say that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence."

And this is precisely part of Craig's problem. As I argued in my post Against the Gods, just because an argument is valid philosophically, and follows from it's premises, does not make it true. As even Craig says, the premise must have some solid evidence for it, and it naturally follows that if it doesn't, it should be discarded. Even Craig himself says,

But to be a good argument, it’s not enough that an argument be sound. We also need to have some reason to think that the premises are true.

These are the very means by which I will demolish William Lane Craig's arguments.

1. The Cosmological Argument from Contingency

Craig begins this argument by saying:

The cosmological argument comes in a variety of forms. Here’s a simple version of the famous version from contingency:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).

Now this is a logically airtight argument. That is to say, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like the conclusion. It doesn’t matter if we have other objections to God’s existence. So long as we grant the three premises, we have to accept the conclusion. So the question is this: Which is more plausible—that those premises are true or that they are false?

He then attempts to justify the first premise, which is where things fall apart for Craig:

Consider first premise 1. According to premise 1, there are two kinds of things: things which exist necessarily and things which are produced by some external cause. Let me explain.

Things that exist necessarily exist by a necessity of their own nature. It’s impossible for them not to exist. Many mathematicians think that numbers, sets, and other mathematical entities exist in this way. They’re not caused to exist by something else; they just exist necessarily.

By contrast, things that are caused to exist by something else don’t exist necessarily. They exist contingently. They exist because something else has produced them. Familiar physical objects like people, planets, and galaxies belong in this category.

So premise 1 asserts that everything that exists can be explained in one of these two ways. This claim, when you reflect on it, seems very plausibly true. Imagine that you’re hiking through the woods and come across a translucent ball lying on the forest floor. You’d naturally wonder how it came to be there. If one of your hiking partners said to you, “Don’t worry about it! There isn’t any explanation of its existence!”, you’d either think he was crazy or figure that he just wanted you to keep moving. No one would take seriously the suggestion that the ball existed there with literally no explanation.

According to modern physics, however things can seemingly happen without cause. There are several things we observe that appear to have no cause. For example, "[w]hen an atom in an excited energy level drops to a lower level and emits a photon, a particle of light, we find no cause of that event. Similarly, no cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus." [1]

Craig goes on to discuss his other premises, but given the fact that either they require no comment or they hinge upon the first premise, I don't think I need to go through the others. I've taken the very legs of this argument out from under Craig.

I will, however, point out something he said in his conclusion:

From these three premises it follows that God exists. Now if God exists, the explanation of God’s existence lies in the necessity of his own nature, since, as even the atheist recognizes, it’s impossible for God to have a cause. So if this argument is successful, it proves the existence of a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universe. This is truly astonishing! [emphasis mine]

Note the part of the quote I placed in italics. Craig, I feel, erects a strawman by arguing that atheists recognize "it’s impossible for God to have a cause." When have any atheists ever said such a thing? I certainly don't think this. And further more, I feel this statement about god not needing a cause is hypocritical because, as I noted in Against the Gods: "[Theologians] contradict themselves and claim their god is infinite and has always existed, though they can never articulate 'where' their god was or 'what' he was doing the eternity before he just happened to create this universe." How can their god not need a cause, but the universe must?!

2. The Kalam Cosmological Argument Based on the Beginning of the Universe

Craig presents this argument as follows:

Here’s a different version of the cosmological argument, which I have called the kalam cosmological argument in honor of its medieval Muslim proponents (kalam is the Arabic word for theology):

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Once we reach the conclusion that the universe has a cause, we can then analyze what properties such a cause must have and assess its theological significance.

Now again the argument is logically ironclad. So the only question is whether the two premises are more plausibly true than their denials.

As I will prove below, his premises are not true. I also must point out how slyly he sets up the argument. After he argues for his conclusion (that the universe has a cause) he wants to convince the reader that the cause must have the attributes of his christian god. How convenient. As I'll show later, even if the universe did have a cause there are plausible naturalistic scenarios that explain how it may have happened.

Craig attempts to justify his first premise:

Premise 1 seems obviously true—at the least, more so than its negation. First, it’s rooted in the necessary truth that something cannot come into being uncaused from nothing. To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic. Second, if things really could come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it’s inexplicable why just anything and everything do not come into existence uncaused from nothing. Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes.

Craig argued, "Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes."

As I noted in Craig's first argument, despite what we think happens is not always accurate. As I said, ideas must be tested, and things can seem to happen without cause.

Craig next explains his second premise:

Premise 2 can be supported both by philosophical argument and by scientific evidence. The philosophical arguments aim to show that there cannot have been an infinite regress of past events. In other words, the series of past events must be finite and have had a beginning. Some of these arguments try to show that it is impossible for an actually infinite number of things to exist; therefore, an infinite number of past events cannot exist. Others try to show that an actually infinite series of past events could never elapse; since the series of past events has obviously elapsed, the number of past events must be finite.

The scientific evidence for premise 2 is based on the expansion of the universe and the thermodynamic properties of the universe. According to the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe, physical space and time, along with all the matter and energy in the universe, came into being at a point in the past about 13.7 billion years ago (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Geometrical Representation of Standard Model Space-Time. Space and time begin at the initial cosmological singularity, before which literally nothing exists.

What makes the Big Bang so amazing is that it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. As the physicist P. C. W. Davies explains, “the coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing.”

Of course, cosmologists have proposed alternative theories over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning, but none of these theories has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang theory. In fact, in 2003 Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin proved that any universe that is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. Their proof holds regardless of the physical description of the very early universe, which still eludes scientists, and applies even to any wider multiverse of which our universe might be thought to be a part. Vilenkin pulls no punches:

"It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning."

Moreover, in addition to the evidence based on the expansion of the universe, we have thermodynamic evidence for the beginning of the universe. The Second Law of Thermodynamics predicts that in a finite amount of time, the universe will grind down to a cold, dark, dilute, and lifeless state. But if it has already existed for infinite time, the universe should now be in such a desolate condition. Scientists have therefore concluded that the universe must have begun to exist a finite time ago and is now in the process of winding down.

Again, as I've said already, just because Craig can't imagine an infinite universe doesn't mean it's impossible. Simply arguing that it's impossible without any proof is no argument. Second, Craig quotes Alexander Vilenkin from his 2006 book Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes and argues that because the universe cannot allegedly be past-eternal it implies a god, however, Vilenkin himself denies this interpretation just a few paragraphs after the statement quoted by Craig:

Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God […] So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist. As evidenced by Jinasena’s remarks earlier in this chapter, religion is not immune to the paradoxes of Creation. [2]

Furthermore, via email I contacted Victor Stenger and asked him about the quote. He then contacted Alexander Vilenkin and others about this claim by Craig. I feel very privileged to have had a very small part in the correspondence with these scientists. During the discussions Mr. Vilenkin explains how, yes, the theorem does prove that the universe had a beginning, however, this conclusion is not written in stone. Given various "subtleties" the theorem could be negated.

Mr. Stenger asked Mr. Vilenkin the following question,

Does your theorem prove that the universe must have had a beginning?

Vilenkin replied,

No. But it proves that the expansion of the universe must have had a beginning. You can evade the theorem by postulating that the universe was contracting prior to some time.

Vilenkin added,

This sounds as if there is nothing wrong with having contraction prior to expansion. But the problem is that a contracting universe is highly unstable. Small perturbations would cause it to develop all sorts of messy singularities, so it would never make it to the expanding phase. That is why Aguirre & Gratton and Carroll & Chen had to assume that the arrow of time changes at t = 0. This makes the moment t = 0 rather special. I would say no less special than a true beginning of the universe. [3]

In a follow up email to me Mr. Vilenkin made his position clearer,

[I]f someone asks me whether or not the theorem I proved with Borde and Guth implies that the universe had a beginning, I would say that the short answer is "yes". If you are willing to get into subtleties, then the answer is "No, but..." So, there are ways to get around having a beginning, but then you are forced to have something nearly as special as a beginning.

I further learned that the cyclic model of the universe (that I often propose by Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, authors of Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang), according to Vilenkin, "cannot be a complete description of the universe" because "[i]n the model of Steinhardt and Turok, there are some particles whose histories can be extended to the infinite past. Such particles go through an infinite succession of expansion and contraction cycles. But, as our theorem requires, histories of most particles cannot be so extended and should reach the boundary beyond which the cyclic picture no longer applies." [3]

Despite this flaw in the theory I've often proposed, there are other scientists who posit that an eternal universe is possible, such as Anthony Aguirre whose theories seem compatible with Vilenkin's theorem. [4]

There are even perfectly natural scenarios for the creation of the universe. One such hypothesis is by Victor Stenger who proposes our universe came about by a process called quantum tunneling, which also takes into account an eternal past and future. [5]

After this failed attempt at disproving a possible eternal universe, Craig proposes that the Second Law of Thermodynamics prevents an eternal universe. He says,

Moreover, in addition to the evidence based on the expansion of the universe, we have thermodynamic evidence for the beginning of the universe. The Second Law of Thermodynamics predicts that in a finite amount of time, the universe will grind down to a cold, dark, dilute, and lifeless state. But if it has already existed for infinite time, the universe should now be in such a desolate condition.

It's odd that Craig would cite the second law of thermodynamics to prove his point, but at the same time ignore the first law, which states that "energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created or destroyed." [6] Given the first law, it would appear to demolish Craig's entire Kalam argument about the universe needing a "cause." Not that the above arguments I've presented thus far haven't done this already.

I asked Mr. Vilenkin about the second law of thermodynamics and whether or not it would prevent an eternal universe, and the short answer is no but here was his full answer to me:

It follows from the second law that the total entropy (which is the total amount of disorder) in the universe grows with time. This seems to imply that ordered systems, like living organisms, should gradually get extinct. However, the theory of inflation, which is now the leading cosmological paradigm, offers a way out of this conclusion.

This theory suggests that much of the universe is filled with peculiar high-energy stuff called "false vacuum", which causes the universe to expand at an extremely fast rate. Here and there, "normal" regions like ours are formed, where the false vacuum decays and its energy goes to produce a hot expanding fireball of matter and radiation. This explosive end of inflation is what we call the big bang. In this scenario, inflation is eternal, and big bangs will forever continue creating "pocket universes" like ours.

Now, how does this help with the second law argument? The amount of disorder in each pocket universe grows, and in any given region the stars die and all life forms get extinct, but new pocket universes are constantly being formed. So, at any time there are some new pocket universes which still have relatively low entropy. Their existence does not contradict the second law, since the number of high-entropy pockets grows with time. [7]

In his conclusion Craig states the following:

There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that’s to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions that were not previously present. Thus, a finite time ago a Creator could have freely brought the world into being at that moment. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but choose to create the world in time. (By “choose” one need not mean that the Creator changes his mind about the decision to create, but that he freely and eternally intends to create a world with a beginning.) By exercising his causal power, he therefore brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist. So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.

As I've shown, his god is clearly not the only way out of this "dilemma." Even the scientist and science he cites disagree with him about this. Instead of the solution having to be his god, as I noted above, even if created there are natural scenarios that are plausible and due to the lack of evidence for the supernatural, the naturalistic scenario is incredibly more likely. [8]

3. The Moral Argument Based upon Moral Values and Duties

Craig sums up this argument thusly:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

As I've argued elsewhere, I do not see much of an objective morality in our world, but mostly a relative one. Relative to one's socialization, culture, time in which we live, etc. At one time, it was moral to own slaves; even christians justified it by citing the fall of man. Thomas Aquinas accepted slavery because we live in a fallen world, and because of this we must accept this injustice. [9]

This is a perfect example of my claim in my paper Against the Gods that just because all of your premises are true, it doesn't mean your conclusion is true, ie. god exists. This moral argument does nothing to prove god because there clearly is not any objective moral standard that we can call upon. I agree that most believe in doing the right thing and this is nearly universal, but this hardly points to a god. The argument fails because there has yet to be any evidence of a god, therefore, we can conclude that it was nature, ie. evolution and natural selection, that crafted our innate moral capacities in order to better survive in the world and in our formed communities.

Craig tackles the well-known Euthyphro Dilemma, but his argument is very weak; in my view completely unconvincing. In my opinion, Plato demolished the moral argument for god thousands of years ago and judging by one of the most skilled christian apologist's weak response to it, it seems that the Euthyphro Dilemma has yet to be solved.

Craig simply says,

The weakness of the Euthyphro Dilemma is that the dilemma it presents is a false one because there’s a third alternative: namely, God wills something because he is good. God’s own nature is the standard of goodness, and his commandments to us are expressions of his nature. In short, our moral duties are determined by the commands of a just and loving God. [emphasis in original]

Craig continues,

So moral values are not independent of God because God’s own character defines what is good. God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and so on. His nature is the moral standard determining good and bad. His commands necessarily reflect in turn his moral nature. Therefore, they are not arbitrary. The morally good/bad is determined by God’s nature, and the morally right/wrong is determined by his will. God wills something because he is good, and something is right because God wills it.

God is simply "good" by nature, and therefore he wouldn't command anything immoral? Right. Is that why many people have claimed to hear god speak to them, and they then commit horrible atrocities? One example is Dena Schlosser, who chopped her baby's arms off because god supposedly told her to. [10]

Other than peoples' supposed experiences with god (which can said to be either good or bad, depending on who you ask. According to one person, god told them to help the poor, with another, god told someone to kill another, or chop their baby's arms off), where can we attempt to determine god's nature? Well, nature itself, and as even Darwin saw, was oftentimes cruel with animals killing other animals for food. Even though Darwin never actually used this phrase, nature truly is "red in tooth and claw."

Another source is the bible. Unfortunately, this source doesn't seem to help Craig either because throughout the bible god is reported to have ordered the killing of multitudes of people. Examples include Leviticus 10:1-3; Numbers 31: 1-35, where god orders the murder of thousands of Midianites; 1 Samuel 6:19, the murder of seventy people simply for looking at a chest (the Ark of the Lord); Deuteronomy13: 5, among other verses, speak of killing those who do not believe or try to turn others away from god. There are many other examples besides these in the Old Testament. Even in the New Testament, while god greatly mellows out during this time period, his earthly incarnation in Jesus (if you believe in the Trinity as Craig does) does not always put forth some moral or righteous teachings. For example, Matthew 10:34-36, Luke 14:26, and Luke 12:51-53 all speak of dividing family and friends and how "a man will find his enemies under his own roof." . In Matthew 10:24-25 and Luke 12:47 Jesus apparently has no problem with slavery, and in these two passages, Jesus not only thinks that slaves are never above their master, but in a parable Jesus recommended that a slave be "flogged severely" if they don't follow their master's wishes. So much for family values and equality!

So far we've looked at all the sources we can find in order to determine god's true nature, and in both cases - in nature and the bible - we've seen that god is not always good, and sometimes commands people to do things that are clearly immoral, such as murder. Furthermore, Craig simply states that god is good without any proof whatsoever. He simply proclaims this as a fact, but this obviously isn't a fact. Therefore, it is wholly illogical to offer the argument that god's nature is good against the Euthyphro Dilemma.

Even though morality is relative, it does not mean we can do whatever we wish. We still have a responsibility to our friends and family and there are various secular moral systems that have been developed throughout history that can guide us through this morally relative world.

After all, even religion's morality is relative. It's dependent upon god's commands (there's the Euthyphro Dilemma again), and even differing and the same religions (through it's various sects) are conflicted and disagree when it comes to moral choices, so it's obvious that religion does not solve the problem of morality or prove god exists since god has yet to be proven, and there are much more plausible naturalistic reasons for our relativistic morality: evolution. There is a growing body of research that points in this direction. [11]

However, some argue that this is proof of a moral sense installed by god, but again, where is the proof? There is proof that evolution and natural selection has acted upon species and there is evidence of a moral sense. There is no evidence of a god, therefore, I'd go with the explanation that has evidence for it every time.

Furthermore, ala Craig's supposed rebuttal to the Euthyphro Dilemma, if god's nature is all good, then why does our moral sense contain both compassionate and selfish behavior? If god is all good, then that stands to reason that god wouldn't have placed a selfish morality inside his creations; only one of total compassion for everyone and everything. Therefore, the most logical conclusion is that natural selection crafted our innate moral sense and empathy, which isn't perfect and is combined with our less desirable traits.

In conclusion, judging by the evidence at hand, and logic, the moral argument for god does not stand up.

4. The Teleological Argument from Fine-tuning

Craig begins his discussion of the "fine-tuning" of the universe with the following:

We now come to the teleological argument, or the argument for design. Although advocates of the so-called Intelligent Design movement have continued the tradition of focusing on examples of design in biological systems, the cutting edge of the contemporary discussion concerns the remarkable fine-tuning of the cosmos for life.

Before we discuss this argument, it’s important to understand that by “fine-tuning” one does not mean “designed” (otherwise the argument would be obviously circular). Rather during the last forty years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. This is known as the fine-tuning of the universe.

This fine-tuning is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the constant that represents the force of gravity. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants. Second, in addition to these constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are put in just as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by less than a hair’s breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed, and no living organisms of any kind could exist.23

For example, a change in the strength of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120. Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the Big Bang’s low entropy condition existing by chance are on the order of one out of 1010(123). Penrose comments, “I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010(123).”24 And it’s not just each constant or quantity that must be exquisitely finely-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.

So when scientists say that the universe is fine-tuned for life, they don’t mean “designed”; rather they mean that small deviations from the actual values of the fundamental constants and quantities of nature would render the universe life-prohibiting or, alternatively, that the range of life-permitting values is incomprehensibly narrow in comparison with the range of assumable values. Dawkins himself, citing the work of the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, acknowledges that the universe does exhibit this extraordinary fine-tuning.

Craig is obviously talking about intelligent design here, but in the last paragraph quoted he seems to me to be trying to distance the intelligent design argument from its religious connotations by saying that fine-tuning doesn't mean "designed," even though that's exactly what he's doing.

He further said in the beginning of his discussion:

Before we discuss this argument, it’s important to understand that by “fine-tuning” one does not mean “designed” (otherwise the argument would be obviously circular).

So what is Craig trying to do here? Even in his "proof" below he argues that this "fine-tuning" is the result of "design" so is Craig contradicting himself? It seems that way to me.

If Craig is trying to distance this obviously religiously motivated argument (intelligent design) from religion it is futile since even one of the famed advocates of intelligent design, William Dembski, has stated the following making the intelligent design movement's true motives clear:

Where is the work on design heading? [...] [S]pecified complexity is starting to have an effect on the special sciences. [...]

[D]espite it's [...]implications for science, I regard the ultimate significance of this work to lie in metaphysics. [...]

The primary challenge, once the broader implications [...] for science have been worked out, is [...] to develop a relational ontology in which the problem of being resolves thus: to be is to be in communion, and to be in communion is to transmit and receive information. Such an ontology will [...] safeguard science and leave adequate breathing space for design, but [...] also make sense of the world as sacrament.

The world is a mirror representing the divine life. The mechanical philosophy was ever blind to this fact. Intelligent design [...] readily embraces the sacramental nature of physical reality. Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory. (emphasis added) [12]

Craig lays out his argument:

Here, then, is a simple formulation of a teleological argument based on fine-tuning:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.

As Craig has said many times now, in order for an argument to be valid, it's premises must all be shown to be true and the second premise has not been proven. How does Craig know it cannot be due to chance? Has he cited any evidence to that effect? Of course not.

The fact is, if one varies many of these numbers a universe still is possible:

"Physicist Anthony Aguire has independently examined the universes that result when six cosmological parameters are simultaneously varied by orders of magnitude, and found he could construct cosmologies in which 'stars, planets, and intelligent life can plausibly arise.' Physicist Craig Hogan has done another independent analysis that leads to similar conclusions. And, theoretical physicists at Kyoto University in Japan have shown that heavy elements needed for life will be present in even the earliest stars independent of what the exact parameters for star formation may have been." [13]

According to Gordon L. Kane, and associates, "In string theories all of the parameters of the theory - in particular all quark and lepton masses, and all coupling strength - are calculable, so there are parameters left to allow anthropic arguments" [...] [14]

Even Stephen Hawking's more recent studies seem to cast doubt upon the fine-tuning argument. "He proposed that our universe is much less 'special' than the proponents of the Anthropic Principle claim it is. According to Hawking, there is a 98 percent chance that a universe of a type as our own will come from the Big Bang. Further, using the basic wave function of the universe as a basis, Hawking's equations indicate that such a universe can come into existence without relation to anything prior to it, meaning that it could come out of nothing." [emphasis in original] [15]

Let's look at one of the examples of "design" that Craig cites:

The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120.

However, according to Victor J. Stenger, it seems that the cosmological constant isn't "fine-tuned" at all:

For most of the twentieth century it was assumed that the cosmological constant was identically zero, although no known laws of physics specified this. At least no astronomical observations indicated otherwise. Then, in 1998, two independent groups studying supernovas in distant galaxies discovered, to their great surprise since they were looking for the opposite, that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. This result was soon confirmed by other observations, including those made with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The component of the universe responsible for the acceleration was dubbed dark energy. It constitutes 73 percent of the total mass of the universe. The natural assumption is to attribute the acceleration to the cosmological constant, and the data, so far, seem to support that interpretation.

Theorists had earlier attempted to calculate the cosmological constant from basic quantum physics. The result they obtained was 120 orders of magnitude larger than the maximum value obtained from astronomical observations.

Now this is indeed a problem. But it certainly does not imply that the cosmological constant has been fine-tuned by 120 orders of magnitude. What it implies is that physicists have made a stupid, dumb-ass, wrong calculation that has to be the worst calculation in physics history.

Clearly the cosmological constant is small, possibly even zero. This can happen any number of ways. If the early universe possessed, as many propose, a property called supersymmetry, then the cosmological constant would have been exactly zero at that time. It can be shown that if negative energy states, already present in the calculation for the cosmological constant, are not simply ignored but counted in the energy balance, then the cosmological constant will also be identically zero.

Other sources of cosmic acceleration have been proposed, such as a field of neutral material particles pervading the universe that has been dubbed quintessence. This field would have to have a negative pressure, but if it is sufficiently negative it will be gravitationally repulsive. [16]

Judging from this evidence, many parameters can be varied and a universe is still possible. Even if some of these universes did not result in our form of life, it is possible that another forms of intelligent life could flourish. After all, if the parameters were not as they were we wouldn't be here to discuss them anyhow! This hardly implies any sort of design.

Regardless, Craig attempts to back up his premises:

Premise 1 simply lists the three possibilities for explaining the presence of this amazing fine-tuning of the universe: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first alternative holds that there’s some unknown Theory of Everything (TOE) that would explain the way the universe is. It had to be that way, and there was really no chance or little chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting. By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance. It’s just an accident that the universe is life-permitting, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative rejects both of these accounts in favor of an intelligent Mind behind the cosmos, who designed the universe to permit life. The question is this: Which of these alternatives is the best explanation?

Craig continues:

Premise 2 of the argument addresses that question. Consider the three alternatives. The first alternative, physical necessity, is extraordinarily implausible because, as we’ve seen, the constants and quantities are independent of the laws of nature. So, for example, the most promising candidate for a TOE to date, super-string theory or M-Theory, fails to predict uniquely our universe. String theory allows a “cosmic landscape” of around 10500 different possible universes governed by the present laws of nature, so it does nothing to render the observed values of the constants and quantities physically necessary. With respect to this first alternative, Dawkins notes that Sir Martin Rees rejects this explanation, and Dawkins says, “I think I agree.”

So what about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance? The problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe’s being life-permitting are so incomprehensibly great that they can’t be reasonably faced. Even though there will be a huge number of life-permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the number of life-permitting worlds will be unfathomably tiny compared to the entire landscape, so that the existence of a life-permitting universe is fantastically improbable. Students or laymen who blithely assert, “It could have happened by chance!” simply have no conception of the fantastic precision of the fine-tuning requisite for life. They would never embrace such a hypothesis in any other area of their lives—for example, in order to explain how there came to be overnight a car in their driveway.

Again, just because something seems improbable doesn't make it so. After all, Craig is simply postulating an entity (god) that has no evidence going for it. Most of the "fine-tuning" has been shown to be false, or are misunderstandings. Due to my lack of knowledge of physics I will point the reader to other sources of information about more of these arguments. [17]

It seems that, according to the work by Victor Stenger, most of the fine-tuning is not that 'precise', unlike what Craig asserts.

After all, as Mr. Stenger noted in God: The Failed Hypothesis:

The anthropic argument for the existence of God can be turned on its head to provide an argument against the existence of God. If God created a universe with at least one major purpose being the development of human life, then it is reasonable to expect that the universe should be congenial to human life. Now, you might say that God may have had other purposes besides humanity. [...] [A]pologists can always invent a god for whom humanity is not very high on the agenda and who put us off in a minuscule, obscure corner of the universe. However, this is not the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, who places great value on the human being and supposedly created us in his image. Why would God send his only son to die an agonizing death to redeem an insignificant bit of carbon?

If the universe were congenial to human life, then you would expect it to be easy for humanlife life to develop and survive throughout the universe. [18]

The rest of this section critiques arguments by Richard Dawkins (this article was originally a critique of some of Richard Dawkins' arguments in his 2006 book The God Delusion) and various other theories of the universe, such as the oscillating model of the universe and Lee Smolin’s evolutionary cosmology.

Again, due to my lack of in-depth knowledge of these theories I won't attempt to address Craig's claims, however, he does make an obvious mistake when critiquing the oscillating model of the universe.

Craig says,

Dawkins is apparently unaware of the many difficulties of oscillatory models of the universe that have made contemporary cosmologists skeptical of them. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, some theorists proposed oscillating models of the universe in an attempt to avert the initial singularity predicted by the Standard Model. The prospects of such models were severely dimmed in 1970, however, by Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking’s formulation of the singularity theorems that bear their names. The theorems disclosed that under very generalized conditions an initial cosmological singularity is inevitable. Since it’s impossible to extend space-time through a singularity to a prior state, the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems implied the absolute beginning of the universe. Reflecting on the impact of this discovery, Hawking notes that the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems “led to the abandonment of attempts (mainly by the Russians) to argue that there was a previous contracting phase and a non-singular bounce into expansion. Instead almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang.”

As Victor Stenger has pointed out more than once, this is a classic mistake that has been made by Craig for quite some time. Hawking and Penrose's theory did not prove that there was a beginning or singularity when quantum mechanics is taken into account:

Hawking has repudiated his own earlier proof. In his best seller A Brief History of Time, he avers, "There was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe." This revised conclusion, concurred by Penrose, follows from quantum mechanics, the theory of atomic processes that was developed in the years following the introduction of Einstein's theories of relativity. Quantum mechanics, which also is now confirmed to great precision, tells us that general relativity, at least as currently formulated, must break down at times less than the Planck time and at distances smaller than the Planck length [...] It follows that general relativity cannot be used to imply that a singularity occurred prior to the Planck time and that Craig's use of the singularity theorem for a beginning of time is invalid. [19]

In his book The New Atheism Victor Stenger says:

Although the [argument from intelligent design by way of the biological sciences] has received greater public attention, more science-savvy theologians agree with most scientists that intelligent design, at least as it has been formulated so far, is a failure. Theologians are far more impressed by the fine-tuning argument [...] [20]

I firmly believe that as time goes on, just as with the science of evolution, these fine-tuning arguments will be seen as just as absurd as most claims of biological design are now as we gain more and more knowledge about our universe.

5. The Ontological Argument from the Possibility of God’s Existence to His Actuality

As I noted in my paper Against the Gods, I feel that the Ontological arguments do absolutely nothing to prove god, or even show through some form of logic that god exists but I will do my best to show that this argument, too, is illogical.

Craig makes use of Alvin Plantinga's version of the Ontological argument:

1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

Later on Craig argues,

The concept of a married bachelor is not a strictly self-contradictory concept (as is the concept of a married unmarried man), and yet it is obvious, once one understands the meaning of the words “married” and “bachelor,” that nothing corresponding to that concept can exist. By contrast, the concept of a maximally great being doesn’t seem even remotely incoherent. This provides some prima facie warrant for thinking that it is possible that a maximally great being exists.

I agree that the argument itself is sound if you accept that a great being exists, however, is the conclusion true? Is the premise even true? I'd say the premise, that it's possible that a maximally great being exists, could be true however what evidence is there for one? Plantinga seems to be begging the question here because he uses the term "possible" in his premise, but then assumes god's reality as a fact in his conclusion! Also, doesn't a premise have to be shown to be true before the conclusion can be shown to be true?!

Even earlier Craig himself stated,

But to be a good argument, it’s not enough that an argument be sound. We also need to have some reason to think that the premises are true. A logically valid argument that has, wholly unbeknownst to us, true premises isn’t a good argument for the conclusion. The premises have to have some degree of justification or warrant for us in order for a sound argument to be a good one.

There are also more in depth rebuttals to this argument, such as one by Darrin at Debunking Christianity [21]

So far, Craig's other arguments have been found to be flawed so what are the chances that this form of mental gymnastics is even remotely true, and describes the real world? Slim to none.

In Craig's conclusion he says,

We’ve examined five traditional arguments for the existence of God in light of modern philosophy, science, and mathematics:

1. the cosmological argument from contingency
2. the kalam cosmological argument based on the beginning of the universe
3. the moral argument based upon objective moral values and duties
4. the teleological argument from fine-tuning
5. the ontological argument from the possibility of God’s existence to his actuality

These are, I believe, good arguments for God’s existence. That is to say, they are logically valid; their premises are true; and their premises are more plausible in light of the evidence than their negations. Therefore, insofar as we are rational people, we should embrace their conclusions. Much more remains to be said and has been said. I refer you to the works cited in the footnotes and bibliography, should you wish to explore further. But I trust that enough has been said here to show that the traditional theistic arguments remain unscathed by the objections raised by the likes of New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins.

I agree that Richard Dawkins did not do the best when critiquing all of the arguments for god, however, I don't think he did as bad as Craig asserts. After all, as I've shown, Craig himself made many logical and factual errors and since "we are rational people" then it follows that Craig's arguments for god are wrong and we should embrace the conclusion that these arguments do nothing to prove god exists.


I fully believe that I've (for the most part) thoroughly refuted William Lane Craig's arguments for god. The only set of arguments I feel I did not do the best on were the Teleological and Ontological arguments, which I admit are a bit out of my range of expertise, though I referred the reader to other, more reliable, sources on the problems with these particular arguments.

As I said at the end of the last section, due to Craig's many factual and logical errors it is incumbent upon any rational person to embrace the conclusion that if these arguments are seen to be faulty then it stands to reason that there is no evidence of god's existence. Given this fact, it shouldn't take much for a rational individual to further conclude that god is most likely non-existent.

Note: A christian who is obviously a fanboy of Craig’s seems to have taken offense at the fact that I demolished his idol’s arguments and tried his hand at refuting my counter-arguments. Though, as I show here and here, his attempts failed miserably, and he ended up putting his foot in his mouth several times, and completely misread and ignored much of what I had said throughout our discussions. This shows me that instead of wishing to deal with many of my arguments outright his true motive was to defend his idol William Lane Craig at all costs. Even if it means ignoring facts and arguments and completely misrepresenting what someone says.


1. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Books, 2007; 124

2. Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes, by Alexander Vilenkin, Hill & Wang, 2006; 176-177

3. These email exchanges (at least the ones I was privy to) took place between 5-20-10 and 5-24-10 and are used with permission.

4. Two papers by Aguire that present his theories are:

Eternal Inflation, past and future, by Anthony Aguirre

Inflation without a beginning: a null boundary proposal, by Anthony Aguirre - A huge thanks goes to Victor Stenger for emailing these two papers to me.

5. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Book, 2009; 171

6. First law of thermodynamics - accessed 5-23-10

7. Personal communication via email with Mr. Vilenkin, dated 5-23-10

8. Please read my two posts, Evidence Against the Supernatural, Parts One and Two

9. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World, by David Brion Davis, Oxford University Press, 2006; 55

10. Dena Schlosser on Wikipedia.org - accessed 5-24-10

11. Babies Provide More Evidence of Humans' Innate Morality

12. Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, by Barbara Forrest & Paul A. Gross, Oxford University Press, 2004; 260-261

The following post also exposes the dishonesty and religious motivations of those who advocate intelligent design: Creationism's Trojan Horse with Barbara Forrest

Here is another good post: NCSE Video Exposes Intelligent Design

13. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J. Stenger. Prometheus Books, 2007; 148-149

14. Did Man Create God? Is Your Spiritual Brain at Peace with Your Thinking Brain?, by David E. Comings, M.D., Hope Press, 2008; 272

15. Ibid.; 272

16. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Books, 2009; 95-96

17. Two books by Victor J. Stenger that address several of the fine-tuning arguments are : The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason and God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. I should note, too, that currently Mr. Stenger is working on a book as of this writing solely addressing the fine-tuning arguments. Keep an eye out for it.

18. God: The Failed Hypothesis; 154

19. Ibid.; 122

20. The New Atheism; 88

21. On Plantinga's Ontological Argument - accessed 5-25-10