The Leibnizian cosmological argument (as told by William Lane Craig)

Here is the first argument Craig gives in Reasonable Faith, which he calls the “Leibnizian cosmological argument” (pp. 106-111):

  1. Anything 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 existence of the universe is God. (fromis t 2, 4)

I’m not sure (1) is true, but Craig’s arguments for (2) is especially weak. First, Craig claims that atheists already agree with him about (2), a claim which, I’m sorry, is bullshit. Actually, I’m not sorry to say that, because it needs to be said. I’ve never heard an atheist say what Craig claims, nor does he give a single example of an atheist who has said that.

And this is a typical example of how Craig misrepresents the views of atheists. It’s not the worst example, though; alone I might let it slide. But as this post series goes on, it will quickly become part of a pattern.

The other argument Craig gives for (2) is that the universe is by definition all of physical reality, so its cause must be non-physical, and therefore would have to be mental. But it would make just as much sense to “disprove” God in the following way:

  1. Define “the pan-immaterion” as all of non-physical reality
  2. Because the pan-immaterion is all of non-physical reality, it must have a physical cause.
  3. Since God is non-physical, He is part of the pan-immaterion
  4. Therefore, God’s existence must ultimately be traceable to a physical cause.
  5. But God having a physical cause is totally incompatible with the concept of God.
  6. Since God both must, and cannot, have a physical cause, He cannot exist.

I do not think  this argument against the existence of God is any good, but I think it is as good as Craig’s argument for the existence of God.

Craig would probably object that the explanation for God’s existence is “in the necessity of his own nature,” whereas the universe cannot be explained in that way, because we can (so Craig would argue) conceive of the universe being otherwise. But to me, it seems equally conceivable for God to not exist. (In fact, it seems to me that God does not exist.) Craig may disagree, but does he have an argument for treating God and the universe differently? Not that I can tell.

The main problem here is that Craig doesn’t have any decent reason for preferring “God created the universe, but God wasn’t caused by anything else” over “the universe wasn’t caused by anything else.” This is an example of a “sophisticated” argument for the existence of God that isn’t actually any better than Bill O’Reilly’s argument.