Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kalam Cosmological Argument video

The YouTube channel 'drcraigvideos' presents most of the arguments made by William Lane Craig. I do not know if he personally endorses or approves these videos, but I think that at the very least it's not his own personal YouTube channel.

Anyway, I thought of looking at this video and see how many argumentative fallacies I could spot.

Ironically, the fallacies start even before the actual argument is presented:

"Does God exist, or is the material universe all that is, or ever was, or ever will be?"
We start with a false dichotomy. Those are not the only options, you know.

Another subtler fallacy here is begging the question: It already assumes many things about the "God" option without giving any reasoning for them.
"Is the first premise true? Let's consider: Believing that something can pop into existence without a cause is more of a stretch than believing in magic. At least with magic you've got a hat and a magician."
Actually no, because now you have two things (the universe and the magician) whose existence require explanation rather than just one (the universe.)

This also falls into a false dichotomy because no third option is even presented as an alternative. Also because "I don't know" isn't considered a valid alternative (the video implies that one has to either believe that something or someone created the universe, or it popped into existence from nothing; the option of "I don't know" isn't presented as a valid position at all.)
"And if something can come from nothing, then why don't we see this happening all the time?"
Completely inconsequential argument. The rarity of the event is no indication of its existence of non-existence. (Also, us not "seeing" said event doesn't mean it's not happening all the time either. It may be happening all the time somewhere outside of our reach.) One would have to somehow demonstrate that it cannot happen before one can conclusively say it cannot happen. "We don't see it" is not enough to jump to this conclusion. (After all, we don't see God either, yet no apologist would accept this as a valid argument for God's non-existence.)

Incidentally, so-called virtual particle pairs may be appearing from nothing (and then disappearing) all the time. Craig rejects the validity of this based solely on principle (rather than science.)
"Everyday experience and scientific evidence confirm our first premise."
No, they don't. The first premise is that everything that begins to exist has a cause. We have exactly zero experience about things that begin to exist (in other words, first there is nothing, and then something begins to exist there.) The narrator herself said exactly this in her previous sentence. This is an outright contradiction and a completely false deduction.

(Craig himself responds to this counter-argument by resorting to a blatant fallacy of equivocation. The first premise of the Kalam argument is that if something was non-existent and then begins to exist, it must have a cause. When responding to this counter-argument, however, Craig switches to a different meaning of "begin to exist". He doesn't use the meaning of "first there's nothing, then something appear", but the meaning of "matter and energy transforms from one form to another". He tries to defend the former meaning by arguing using the latter meaning. He is extremely deceptive with this, because then he goes on to defend the second premise, which is that first there was no universe, and then it began to exist.)
"Did the Universe begin, or has it always existed?"
Here the narrator is pushing against an open door, so to speak. Most scientists, skeptics and atheists have no problem in accepting the notion that our universe, as it is now, had a beginning. The narrator goes on to argue why we should accept that. We already do, so it's rather irrelevant.

However, the narrator succumbs to more deceptive tactics by making it sound like skeptics and atheists are arguing that the Universe has always existed. In other words, she makes it sound like this is the only counter-argument that skeptics have. This is a straw-man.

(The actual correct answer is: "We don't know." It's accepted that the universe, in its current form, started from a singularity. Where that singularity came from or what it properties were before it expanded, or whether it appeared or something else, is an unknown. We cannot deduce anything from an unknown.)
"It's quite plausible, then, that both premises of the argument are true. This means that the conclusion is also true."
This is just outright faulty logic. You cannot jump from "the premises are plausible" to "the conclusion is true." Even if we accepted the premises as plausible, the proper deduction would be that the conclusion is also plausible, not that it's true.
"And since the Universe cannot cause itself, its cause must be beyond the space-time Universe. It must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused and unimaginably powerful."
Says who? This is just full of faulty logic.

Even if we accepted the entire argument, those things do certainly not necessarily follow. Even if the existence of this universe had a cause, we do not know what that cause was or what its characteristics were. For all we know it could have been another universe, which would have certainly not been "spaceless, timeless, immaterial or uncaused." This hypothetical cause could have had any combination of those listed properties, or none at all.

The counter-argument to this is that this would only shift the need for the origin to that other thing, because that other thing would also had had a finite lifespan. However, the argument, as presented, is speaking about the cause of this universe in which we live. It argues that the cause for this universe of ours is "spaceless, timeless" and so on.

There's absolutely nothing in the argument (even if we accepted it as valid) or anything else that would forbid the cause for this universe to be itself finite and caused.
"Much like God."
This commits a bunch of fallacies in one, and is extremely typical

Fallacy of the undistributed middle: "The cause is timeless, spaceless, etc. God is timeless, spaceless, etc. Therefore God is the cause." Even if there was a cause, and even if the cause had those properties, and even if God existed and had those same properties, it still doesn't follow that God is the cause.

Begging the question: The argument simply makes the presupposition that God exists, and that he has these properties. It doesn't even attempt to justify those claims. Even if there was a cause (which in itself has not been established), it may have absolutely nothing to do with this hypothetical god.

Fallacy of the single cause: It assumes a single cause, or single source, for the existence of the Universe. The argument doesn't even try to make this conclusion. There's absolutely nothing that would rule out multiple causes, chains of causes, or any combination thereof.

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