(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 3: “Why does anything at all exist?”)
Here’s a map of where we are in Dr. Craig’s rendition of Leibniz’s philosophical argument for God:
- Whatever exists has an explanation.
- If the universe has an explanation, that explanation is God. [ <== We are here]
- The universe exists.
- Therefore the universe has an explanation.
- Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.
As we’ve seen, Premise #1 fails because a genuine explanation needs to be more than just a vacuous paraphrase of the observation we’re trying to explain—it must, in addition, specify a cause that would reasonably produce the given results. Since cause and effect require the existence of time, and since the material universe has existed for literally all of time, there has never been a time when the material universe could have been caused. It is meaningless to speak of “explaining” it, and thus right off the bat, Dr. Craig (and Leibniz) are barking up the wrong tree.
[EDIT: tweaked from here through the break---wasn't quite happy with the original analysis]
Premise #2, remarkably, leads Dr. Craig even further astray. “If the universe has an explanation, that explanation is God.” OK, sure, provided we assume the following:
- God exists.
- God is capable of creating the universe.
- God is willing to create the universe.
- God had the opportunity to create the universe.
- Nothing else is capable of creating the universe.
- God actually did create the universe.
Take away any of those first four assumptions, and Premise #2 fails. If God does not exist, He obviously cannot create any universes. If He exists, but is incapable, then He still is not the explanation. If He can, but is not willing, likewise. If He is willing and able, but has no opportunity (e.g. if there has never been a time when the universe did not already exist), same thing. And even if He existed, and were willing and able, and had the opportunity, He still might not be the cause if there were something else that could have created it first. If, for example, some n-dimensional metaverse were about to bubble up a Big Bang just like what He wanted, He might just wait wait and let it happen instead of intervening personally. Or perhaps some other gods/fairies/unicorns/pasta dishes might beat Him to it. But the point is, He’s still not the explanation for the universe unless He actually created it.
Premise #2, in short, is simply Leibniz’s conclusion, phrased in the form of a premise. I find it simply astonishing that Dr. Craig’s religious beliefs have so fogged his philosophical perceptions that he would fail to recognize such a blatant tautology. He is clearly an accomplished scholar, but his faith is just as clearly an impediment to his reason. And it shows in his attempts to defend this conclusion-disguised-as-a-premise.
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