Craig on the Cosmological Argument

by Ben Ryding

William Lane Craig, a prominent philosopher and Christian apologist, wrote a post outlining various tired arguments for the existence of God.  A comment he made struck me as so absurd I decided to end my blogging hiatus just to write about it.

First he outlines the familiar Cosmological Argument:

1. Everything 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 explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

He then sets out to defend premise (2) by saying this:

Besides, (2) is quite plausible in its own right. For an external cause of the universe must be beyond space and time and therefore cannot be physical or material. Now there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either abstract objects, like numbers, or else an intelligent mind. But abstract objects are causally impotent. The number 7, for example, can’t cause anything. Therefore, it follows that the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal mind that created the universe—which is what most people have traditionally meant by “God.”

In the quoted passage we have a blatant use of a false dichotomy.  He claims that there can only be two explanations for the causation of the universe: (1) an abstract concept or (2) an intelligent mind.  The force behind this claim is supposed to be that whatever it is that caused the universe must be outside space and time and the only two categories of things that can exist outside of time are abstract concepts or intelligent minds.  But why on earth does Craig think this?  The only intelligent minds we know about are made of matter, so it’s not clear how one can make the leap to say that intelligent minds are of a certain kind of thing that can exist outside of space time.  It is perhaps logically possible that something that functions as a ‘mind’ could exist outside of space time, but it would be fundamentally different than any mind we have ever come across and we have zero evidence about the existence of such minds (remember the Cosmological Argument is trying to prove the existence of such a mind, so it would be question begging to already say we know about minds in this way!).

Why does Craig think he can make any claims about what exists outside of space time?  What is the epistemic ground he is standing on to make such claims?  Shouldn’t we be purely agnostic on entities existing outside of space time?

This is where the Cosmological Argument fails on a fundamental level.  It actually succeeds, in my mind, up to the premise, “The Universe has a cause”. But the leap to, “that cause is God”, is so insanely large it’s hard to believe Aquinas wrote it in the first place. If we assume that the Universe is of a type of thing that is necessarily caused, then the type of thing that caused it would have to be a type of thing that itself does not require a cause, and would therefore be fundamentally different from our Universe.  There is no evidence to suggest the existence of anything of this sort.  At this point, as reasonable people, we must be humble in our epistemology and say, “I don’t know”, to the question of what exists beyond our universe, until a justified way of knowing about things outside of the universe comes to light.