Inconceivable!

You keep using that word...The first item in “The Uncredible Hallq’s” response to William Lane Craig is the Leibnitzian Cosmological Argument. I’ve already defended the argument in the past. So I’ll simply be responding to Hallquist’s challenge here.

He correctly summarizes it as follows:

1. Anything that exists has an explanation for its existence, either in the necessity of its 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 and 3).

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is God (from 2 and 4).

To this, Hallquist skips any discussion of the first premise, saying only that he’s “not sure if (1) is true”. Personally, I think it is rather obvious that “There must be an explanation for this” is always more rational than “This thing exists for literally no reason whatsoever”. But I’ll return to this in a moment.

In the mean time, he claims that Craig’s defense of (2) is dishonest. (Actually, that’s not what he claimed; that’s the cleaned up version.) Craig makes the point that atheists often claim that, from their perspective, the universe exists without an explanation. He then points out that this is logically equivalent with claiming that an explanation of the universe requires theism.

I don’t know what Hallquist’s problem with this, and he doesn’t tell us. He doesn’t even attempt to offer a non-theistic explanation of the universe, but simply insists that Craig is lying.

That being the case, I feel compelled to point out that I’ve personally read Bertrand Russell, Steven Hawking, J.L. Makie, and countless less known atheists claim that the universe has no explanation.

Really, if Hallquist is going to flatly accuse Craig of lying, he really ought to give us some reason to think so. Or, more to the point, he ought to give us some reason to think that what Craig has said isn’t true. But he hasn’t even tried to do this. He seems to think that the mere accusation of dishonesty is enough to prove that atheists have never claimed exactly what many of them have put in print.

More simply, the fact that Hallquist isn’t well read enough to know that what Craig said happens to be true does not make Craig a liar. In order to refute the premise, Hallquist should offer us an explanation for the universe other than God. But he doesn’t even attempt to do this.

To his credit, he does feel compelled to offer a reason why the argument fails. He claims that one could just as easily turn it around to argue that all non-physical things require a physical explanation.

His support for this, so he says, is that he’s never been given any reason why God doesn’t also need an external cause. But the answer to this is the first premise of the argument, which allows for God (as a necessary being) to be explained without an external cause. He simply dismissed this with an “I’m not sure if (1) is true”. He can’t suddenly act as if he’s refuted the idea that a thing could be necessary, when he simply dismissed it.

He isn’t quite rejecting it, however. Rather, he seems to be claiming that God can’t be the necessary being because he thinks it is “conceivable that God does not exist”. But, here, he completely misunderstands what it is to be conceivable. He simply says that he, personally, can conceive of the idea that God doesn’t exist. But the fact that Hallquist can personally hold that opinion says nothing about whether or not God is a necessary being.

Rather, a thing’s being conceivable (in a philosophical sense) is its being logically consistent. Leibnitz has given an argument that it is logically consistent to believe in theism, but inconsistent to think that there is no such thing as a necessary being. One can’t simply say that the atheism is conceivable simply because one thinks one can imagine it. Like Inigo Mantoya, we’ll be forced to reply “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

As such, this is all based on a very poor grasp of the argument itself. Anyone willing to take an open-minded look at the situation can see that the universe is contingent, and (therefore) needs an explanation. But it doesn’t seem to bother Hallquist at all that he hasn’t done a thing to refute the idea that there must be a necessary being that explains the universe.

Perhaps he thinks he’s refuted it by telling us that he can imagine the necessary being not existing–as if that makes a thing contingent. And this is simply a case study in sloppy thinking; it does nothing to counter anything Craig has said.

Thus, Hallquist has given us no serious challenge to Leibnitz.

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