Two more revealingly bad cosmological arguments from Craig’s debates

These aren’t in Reasonable Faith, but there are two lines Craig uses constantly in his debates that are worth noting. Both are generally used as part of the Kalam argument, but have nothing to do with it logically. The first is his frequent use of the rhetorical question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” (see, for example, his debate with Massimo Pigliucci).

Craig may as well be saying, “There’s something rather than nothing. You can’t explain that.” (By the way, is there an easy way to post quickmeme pictures on my blog? Or do I just have to download and reupload?) And it’s a particularly stupid (implied) argument for the existence of God, because God is a rather significant something.

The other line (also found in the debate with Pigliucci) is “Isn’t it incredible that the Big Bang theory thus fits in with what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe?” Well no it isn’t.

Modern science contradicts a literal reading of Genesis, contradicts what Christians long believed before geology and Darwin, contradicts what many Christians still believe. There’s nothing “incredible” about finding one superficial similarity in spite of otherwise massive disconfirmation, because if you look hard enough you can find superficial similarities between anything.

I think Craig’s other arguments are in an important sense no better than O’Reilly’s, but these arguments are obviously no better than O’Reilly’s. It think this is telling, because the fact that he makes such obvious blunders makes it less surprising that even his most respected argument (Kalam) contains similar blunders, just better concealed.

  • MNb0

    Victor Stenger actually can explain why there is something instead of nothing. It’s called quantum fluctuation. Nothingness, void, or whatever you call it, is an unstable state.

    Which Big Bang Theory is supposed to fit in with what the christian theist always has believed? The only one I can think of is the one derived from the General Theory of Relativity and that one can be demonstrated to be wrong.

    Isn’t it incredible that about every single scientific theory that deals with the subjects of the Bible prove a literal interpreration of the Bible wrong? Doesn’t this imply that the whole thing, including the christian god, is nothing but a metaphor – or rather a whole string of metaphors?

    • Brian

      Victor Stenger can’t explain why there’s something rather than nothing any more than Laurence Krauss can if they’re using science. It’s not the nothing of space-time that is something, because it has the property of allowing quantum vacuum particles to pop into and out of existence. I’d say a-causally, thus blowing the Kalam argument out of the water again, but that’s a digression. What nothing in this sense means, is nothing at all. No space or time for quantum vacuum fluctations. Nothing.
      Which means there’s no God either, but that’s another story…..
      I like Richard Carrier’s post on nothing….I think the title roughtly translates from nothing shit comes (I’m going on memory here).

      • eric

        It would be nice if Krauss’ critics really meant ‘nothing at all’ when they say nothing, but they don’t. They mean a system very similar to Krauss’. Where Krauss starts with [void + QM rules], they start with [void + outdated and imprecise conservation rule "something can't come from nothnig"]

        If you REALLY want to start with ‘nothing at all,’ you have to start with a void not governed by that or any other conservation rule. Then something can come from nothing because no rule prevents it from doing so.

        • silomowbray

          “If you REALLY want to start with ‘nothing at all,’ you have to start with a void not governed by that or any other conservation rule. Then something can come from nothing because no rule prevents it from doing so.”

          Thanks for that, eric. (But of course being human I want to know why, preferably without a “therefore Jesus” sort of answer. I’ll be having some late nights staring at the ceiling.)

          • eric

            I can only answer that within the framework of QM, not whatever was prior to it (if anything). But in QM, when you have two identical solutions to a state (like nothing vs. equal and opposite particles), reality switches between them quickly and readily because it is highly improbable that it wouldn’t. Staying in the “nothing” state when the “equal and opposite particles” state is another solution would be like flipping a coin once a millisecond for eternity and never getting heads.

            This answer, however, assumes as sort of equi-probability or at least a calculable probability of what can happen based on the rules that govern your nothing. As far as I know, philosophy’s nothing is not precise enough to do either (calculate a probability of certain allowed events or even claim all allowed events are equally probable).

    • Brian

      Doesn’t this imply that the whole thing, including the christian god, is nothing but a metaphor – or rather a whole string of metaphors?
      I’m no logician, Chris can correct this, but it doen’t deductively imply that. It would be a non-sequitur to say that because everything in the bible that touches on science is a metaphor (which is a recent historical interpretation due to the success of science), it follows that the xtian god is a metaphor. That would be the genetic fallacy, that because the genesis or origin of something is bogus, the reallity of that something itself is bogus. Imagine if there were unicorns, and coincidently some guy made up a story, pulled fresh from his nether end, in which the guy decided that unicorns lived where they actually lived. The fact that the guys was litterally writing shit, wouldn’t change the reality of the existence of unicorns.
      However, if you’re using probablistic reasoning, as science does, then the argument to the best explanation (abductive reasoning?) would be, yes, this shit is made up, and without other evidence for god, – say something that cannot be explained without the xtian god or a high probability of said entity – then so is that god.

    • eric

      Which Big Bang Theory is supposed to fit in with what the christian theist always has believed?

      Great observation. Presumably, the original theory fit. Then the inflationary model fit. And every other tweak cosmologists have made fits too.

      One could make an amusing pseudo-Genesis dialog out of this. “On the first day, the scientists said big bang! And lo, theologists said the bible said that all along. On the second day the scientists said inflation! And lo, theologists said the bible said that all along…”

  • Ataraxic

    This is another example of the faithful using god/s as a distancing layer between themselves and difficult philosophical questions about the nature of reality. Having shuffled the issue beyond the divine veil beyond which they are forbidden to enquire, they smugly assert they have the answer.
    We only need frame the question “why is there a god” to demonstrate that their philosophy is as powerless as any other to tackle the question , with god added as an unnecessary layer obfuscation.

    That leaves aside whether “nothingness” is even a logically sound concept as far as existence goes. That would make it a false dichotomy in the first instance.

  • pneumo

    I misread “worth noting” as “worth nothing” , but then again both are true.

  • slc1

    Re Brian @ #1.1

    Excuse me, the quantum vacuum existed before space and time existed. Space and time came into existence after the discontinuity in the quantum vacuum resulted in the creation of the universe. The slight excess of particles over anti-particles was due to CP violation.

    The title of Krauss’s book is somewhat misleading because the definition of nothing is different today then it was in the 19th century, before quantum mechanics was discovered. The quantum vacuum is both something and nothing at the same time, yet another conundrum of quantum mechanics.

    As the late Richard Feynman and Lawrence Krauss put it, nobody understands quantum mechanics. Or as Steven Weingerb is reputed to have said, “quantum mechanics is a totally preposterous theory which, unfortunately, appears to be correct”.

    Re Chris Hallquist

    It is interesting to note that the man who predicted the big bang, Fr. Georges Lemaitre, wrote a letter to the pope after the latter claimed that the big bang theory was predicted in Genesis 1. The point of the letter was to inform the pope that it did nothing of the sort.

    • Brian

      It didn’t exist before space-time. If it did it wouldn’t have been a fluctuation in something. A fluctuation is a space-time notion. It needs a before and after. I will accept that we have no access to those space-time dimensions, but they had to exist.

  • Raging Bee

    Fucking existence of stuff, how does it even work?

  • Brian
  • David Evans

    For an infuriatingly smug version of his second argument, here is Robert Jastrow (via Wikipedia)

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    • @blamer

      …lowered down from their skyhooks.

      We’ll give no kudos to the prophet who’s merely humanity’s best guesser.

      Note, theology schisms so christendom is always having a bet each way; Genesis 1:1-3 interpretations range from “pulled together from chaos” (eternal) to “pulled out of nowhere” (magicked).

      Unscientific teachings about the world and humanity can always be re-imagined so as to cohere with the science of the day.

      Religious leaders would do well to update their teachings about goodness to remain in line with academia. Except they imagine themselves in a battle between good and evil universities full of liberal infidels.

  • Kevin

    It’s all about the infinite regress problem.

    The concept of “before the Big Bang” might not make sense; but that doesn’t absolve us from causality.

    How did the universe arise? Something happened. Whether you’re talking about quantum fluctuations or negative gravity or branes or inflation within a multiverse or superstrings or whatever else the smart people come up with — well, something happened.

    What happened exactly is unknown. The answer to the question remains “we don’t know and neither do you.”

    The problem lies with the argument from ignorance that follows. Religion rushes in to fill every gap that science doesn’t know.

    However, I’m pretty careful in dealing with theists to avoid the concept of causality, because they almost always make a leap to intentional causality by a super-being of some sort. The other thing they’ll do is argue for that super-being having one form at the inception of the universe, and another form today. They support the deist god of Spinoza in one breath, and then declare their love for Yahweh/Jesus/Casper in the next.

    • Randomfactor

      “Something happened” to cause the Big Bang because it fits a human being’s experience of How Things Work.

      Which does not apply here, as much as theists would love it to do so.

  • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    The first question should be bounced right back at them: “Why is there god rather than nothing?” And then hold them to an answer, don’t let them define god into existence. Not really helpful but should illustrate why it’s such a stupid question…

    And the 2nd question. FFS, if this was anyone other then WLC I’d ask if they were being stupid/obtuse on purpose.

  • Peter Hurford

    Saying the Big Bang is a special confirmation of Christianity is kinda silly. Lots of religions said that in the beginning, a god or gods created the universe from nothing. I assume Craig just hasn’t bothered to check.

    • eNeMeE

      I imagine he’s been told several times, but refuses to listen.

    • Jon Hanson

      It’s hard to even say Christianity says God made the world from nothing, in Genesis 1:2 it clearly says before the act of creation “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” suggesting the earliest Jes probably didn’t believe in creation ex nihilo.

  • eNeMeE

    If you feel like looking at the source code for the page, you can find a direct link to the image (

    …I wonder if direct linking in a post is allowed

    • eNeMeE

      …and it should be fairly easy to find – it was the last .jpg on the page, and close to text that replicates the caption.

  • Lord Griggs[ Ignostic Morgan, Inquiring Lynn, Skeptic Griggsy, Carneades of Ga., Fr.or Rabbi Griggs]

    Edward Feser rightly states that the something is the query,not the nothing. So, that the nothing is unstable is an ignoratio elenchi. But to query why the something entails the argument from personal incredulity in that Leibniz’s query overlooks that the Metaverse, being eternal due to the quantum fluctuations in accordance with the descriptions -laws – of conservation. He follows Thomas Aquinas in that the why refers to a series of hierarchical, efficient causes-explanations,culminating in the Primary Cause.
    No! He states that should one take away that cause, then all the intermediate ones also go away, but no, as Howard Jordan Soble notes in ” Logic and Theism,” that begs the question. And, I add that cause reflects superstition! It illicitly replaces the real primary cause, ultimate explanation and sufficient reason- the natural causes and explanations themselves! It is more theistic obfuscation, impelled by the superstitious ” mustabatory ” need to have Sky Pappy!
    This superfluity- God did it- explains nothing. Thomas, Feser, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, Keith Ward, haughty John Haught, Alister Earl McGrath -all reify that obscurantism so as to assuage their sheep!
    Lamberth’s non genetic argument argues that theists themselves with their unsubstantiated arguments from happiness-purpose and from angst unwittingly acknowledge thereby naturalist arguments for why they believe and thereby illuminate that those arguments then rest on no genetic fallacy!
    Lamberth’s reduced animism argument argues that theism is just reduced animism in that it introduces illicitly divine intent just as full animism and polytheism introduce intent by spirits and gods. That intent supposedly lies behind Nature and natural causes, but since science finds no intent, then theists illicitly use intent to complement science when in reality it contradicts science,which finds no intent whatsoever as the Coyne-Mayr-Lamberth teleonomic [ causalism, mechanism] observes.
    Therefore, the supernatural – religion- is no more than another superstition and no more true than its twin superstition the paranormal, that together Dr. Paul Kurtz calls ” The Transcendental Temptation,” a must read book!
    Chris, these explicit arguments reflect what implicitly resides in the literature, and which I combine and permute.
    Feel free to use them and do vet them!
    Feser can be our foil to strengthen naturalism. Graham Robert Opie-mailed me that Bishop Spong is our Trojan horse in that he helps eviscerate bibliolatry, and I add John Hick helps us by noting how the ways to God only suggest His very existence, and unwittingly, his rationalizations eviscerate theism as I illuminate at my blogs and other sites, even Christian ones- Christian Board, Christian Forums, Theology Web and Theology OnLine. I tangle with Jason Dulle of Theo-sophical Ruminations and W.T. Wartick of Always Have a Reason. I urge other readers here to check out those sites and perhaps help me and other naturalists there!

  • Skepticali

    I’ve attempted to dissect Dr. Craig’s Cosmological argument myself. I’m not a philosopher, but I am interested in how he gets away with “winning” his debates. I’d be interested in your criticisms.

    • mnb0

      I don’t think a good article. You give Craig too much credit. Like him you don’t specify which Big Bang Theory you’re talking about. You don’t contradict his lie that “Atheists have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God.” Even Dawkins has made clear that he can’t. Finally Craig doesn’t “use current science”. “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” Ehhh, why? That’s exactly what current science suggests.

      • Skepticali

        Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I go too easy on WLC. Up until the time I read through his first rebuttal, I was really impressed with his performances – the ones that I’ve seen on YouTube. After seeing (now) how he purposely misrepresents the opponents – and others – views, what Chris says here really hits home. He can manage a debate, he can keep a straight face, but his arguments are hot air, crafted to cheer believers on. And keep the money rolling in.

    • mnb0

      As for Craig “winning debates”, that has everything to do with his rhetorical skills and his theist audiences willing to buy everything he says.

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