XFiles Weekend: Shiny balls and taxicabs

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 3: “Why does anything at all exist?”)

I will say this for Dr. Craig: his book is well-organized. Chapter 3 is laid out around a five step syllogism.

  1. Whatever exists has an explanation.
  2. If the universe has an explanation, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. Therefore the universe has an explanation.
  5. Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.

Mind you, there are significant problems with each of those steps except the third—but it’s well-organized! He has laid out his five main points, and now he’s going through each one, answering objections and offering supporting arguments. It’s a fisker’s paradise, not the least because Dr. Craig is such a good debater. If anybody can make a good case for Christianity, it’s Dr. C. As we look at his last 3 points for Premise #1, though, it’s clear that the material he has to work with isn’t enough to prove what he wants to prove.

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Explanation versus superstition

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 3: “Why does anything at all exist?”)

We’ve made it to chapter 3 (finally), and things are going to get just a bit meatier. Dr. Craig starts us off with Leibniz.

G. W. Leibniz, codiscoverer of calculus and a towering intellect of eighteenth-century Europe, wrote: “The first question which should rightly be asked is: Why is there something rather than nothing?

In other words, why does anything exist at all? This, for Leibniz, is the most basic question that anyone can ask. Like me, Leibniz came to the conclusion that the answer is to be found, not in the universe of created things, but in God. God exists necessarily and is the explanation why anything else exists.

Dr. Craig breaks Leibniz’ argument down into a simple, easily-understood syllogism.

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.
  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.
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is God.

Dr. Craig assures us that “this is a logically airtight argument,” but I daresay he’s being overly optimistic. There is an obvious fallacy in point 2 (which he is going to try and address later in the chapter). Before we get to that, though, we need to look at the somewhat less obvious fallacy in point 1.

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XFiles Weekend: The social network

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 2: “What difference does it make if God exists?”)

We’re almost done with Chapter 2, and it will be a relief to dispense with the irrational and vacuous emotionalism that Dr. Craig has been offering up in place of substantive reasons for his conclusions. He ends the chapter on a personal note, with the story of his own conversion. Ironically for one of the church’s leading apologists, he himself was not convinced by any evidence. Rather, like most converts, he converted for purely psychosocial reasons that had nothing to do with whether or not God actually exists.

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Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Theory)

One of the cool things about truth being consistent with itself is that this explains why Occam’s Razor works. Whenever you propose an explanation that is not true, you’re necessarily going to introduce inconsistencies with the truth, which means your explanation is necessarily going to become more convoluted in order to deal with them. The explanation without the inconsistencies does not need the extra convolutions, and will therefore be simpler.

This in turn suggests one of the most common indicators of a false explanation: because it introduces inconsistencies with the truth, it multiplies the number of explanations required. These extra explanations, however, are also false, since they are trying to justify a false explanation, so they in turn introduce further inconsistencies, requiring further explanations (which will also be false), and so on.

A good example of this is the Satisfaction Theory of Atonement, mentioned recently in a comment on my post about Substitutionary Atonement. The commenter acknowledged that there were problems with substitutionary atonement, but suggested that the Satisfaction Theory might resolve some of the inconsistencies of the classic Biblical doctrine. A closer look at this theory shows that this is not the case, however, and that trying to resolve the first set of inconsistencies only introduces more inconsistencies.

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XFiles Weekend: The “Practical Impossibility” of Atheism

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 2: “What difference does it make if God exists?”)

We’re in the middle of William Lane Craig’s attempt to prove that life without God has no meaning, value, or purpose. He’s basing this argument on a fundamental misconception: by isolating meaning, value, and purpose from their natural context, he turns them into essentially meaningless concepts. Real life is full of all three, but these are immanent¬†qualities of the material universe: our finite, material nature is what creates the distinction between helpful outcomes and harmful ones, and this fundamental material distinction is what drives our perception of meaning, value, and purpose. Even Dr. Craig himself cannot describe them except by reference to this material spectrum of “bad” to “good.”

Despite this, he persists in denying that life has any intrinsic significant meaning, value, and purpose—and he wants to blame atheism for their alleged absence.

Nietzsche predicted that someday modern man would realize the implications of atheism, and this realization would usher in an age of nihilism—the destruction of all meaning and value in life.

According to Dr. Craig, this leads to “the practical impossibility of atheism.”

About the only solution the atheist can offer is that we face the absurdity of life and live bravely…

The fundamental problem with this solution, however, is that it’s impossible to live consistently and happily within the framework of such a worldview. If you live consistently, you will not be happy; if you live happily, it is only because you are not consistent.

Dr. Craig is a Christian who is not actively seeking martyrdom, so I suppose he’s a good authority on having a worldview you can’t be consistent with. Nevertheless, I think he is seriously off-base when he makes his allegations regarding atheism.

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