Philosopher William Lane Craig (who thereafter shall be referred to as WLC) is an infamous philosopher known for making bad arguments and for badly arguing for Christianity. I’ve never paid attention to him because there are infinitely more interesting philosophers to pay attention to than him, but an argument of his came to my attention earlier today and after hearing it I knew I needed to respond to it. The argument is the Applicability of Mathematics argument (this is actually the first complete argument of his I’ve ever looked into because I know that others have thoroughly debunked his work and thus I found it unnecessary to look into him, after this though I may change my mind), which another Patheos blogger Bob Seidensticker made responses to here and here as well but I wanted to make another one since I had never heard this argument before.
WLC’s AoM Argument:
I’ll let WLC explain his argument for us and even expand upon it in the following videos:
The only thing I’m going to respond to in this section of my response is the little thing WLC said about “explanatory power”. It is not true that having “more” explanatory power makes a worldview superior to other worldviews or at least more truthful than other worldviews. There is an important thing missing in that idea: it’s evidence. Tons of worldviews have explanations for things, that alone doesn’t make them superior to worldviews with fewer explanations. Evidence matters when we’re making sense of the world and when we care about making sense of things truthfully, as in making sense of things in ways that reflect reality, we need to care more about the quality of the explanations than the quantity of the explanations. WLC doesn’t appear to care about the quality of the explanations or at least he appears to care more about the quantities of explanations provided than their individual quality. Naturalism to him might have “less” explanatory power than Christianity does but it’s explanations thus far appear to have greater evidence backing them than any other worldview’s multitudes of explanations do. As a truth-seeker, I don’t care about things as superficial as quantity, I care about the quality of arguments and the evidence for arguments. And so should he if he actually values arriving at conclusions that reflect reality.
My Response To The AoM Argument:
The biggest problem with this argument is that it has a very strange understanding of mathematics. If you ask me, it misunderstands (probably intentionally, but possibly not) or at least uses a very different point of view on what mathematics is. Mathematics is, in my eyes and in the eyes of many (but not all) nonbelievers I’ve met and more than a few believers as well, a manmade logical tool or device created to help humanity make sense of the world and the universe by focusing on quantities and creating ways to communicate about amounts of things. In fact in Bob’s response to this argument a comment left by Disqus user Smrnda said this:
As a mathematical formalist, I find this absolutely absurd.
Mathematics is the exploration of formal axiomatic systems invented by humans. Not surprisingly, observations from the physical world influence them (take Euclid’s axioms.) No shit they are applicable, it’s like being amazed that a lever or a wheel has function.
The applicability of mathematics is not nor has it ever been a “happy coincidence”. In my understanding of mathematics which appears to be a decently common understanding, it appears that the intended consequence of mathematics is for it to be applicable to the world and the universe. Mathematics in my view is the name given to a logical process that humanity has developed over the history of our existence to better help us make sense of the world and survive in it. It is a thing we created, and it has improved our lives for thousands of years and since we’ve seen it improve our lives we’ve worked on it improving it and refining it much like we do with phones, computers, cameras, and more. That’s part of why it is applicable to reality. The other part of why it is applicable to reality is because it was created to help us make sense of reality in the first place.
I don’t understand the appeal of this argument. I don’t get why people want to share it or why it’s something that WLC is so confident about. Each of its premises has a flaw.
Premise 1: Why God specifically? Could this apply to any deity or just God? Also, does it even have to be a deity? Could this not apply to any possible intelligent designer? What processes did WLC undertake to eliminate other possibilities until he arrived at God being the sole possibility?
Premise 2: This is asserted but not demonstrated in any way at all, which is very problematic given the view that humanity designed and improved mathematics over the course of thousands of years, as well as the philosophical possibility of Platonism (which WLC has argued against so he claims to not be a Platonist), the viewpoint that mathematical entities exist in some sort of abstract way and thus that mathematics and numbers exist independent of mankind. This premise which is truthfully the crucial premise needs evidence to back it up, not just assertions.
Premise 3: The flaws in premise 1 & 2 suggest this conclusion isn’t likely based off of this argument alone.
What do you think? Is this an argument you’re familiar with? Is there something critical I missed here? Also, I originally wrote out a longer version of this post focused in part on Platonism. I found out that WLC wasn’t a Platonist and argued against Platonism and so I had to rewrite a good portion of this article. In it I talked about why I thought he might have been one and I explained that as far as I can tell his argument makes more sense if either he or in his mind naturalists are Platonists. It was neat to write but I scrapped it after a quick round of fact-checking.