Monday, March 09, 2009

Why Does Anything at All Exist? MP3 by William Lane Craig

Philosopher William Lane Craig discusses Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason and the question: Why Does Anything at All Exist? This includes a very good Q&A session.

Full MP3 Audio here.
Video can be found at here from Reasonable Faith.

Enjoy.


14 Comments

  1. Lee March 11, 2009

    “Why Does Anything at All Exist?”

    Is it possible for the universe not to exist and for me to know it?

    Why should God exist, and why would He want to create an imperfect universe?

    Basically, I do not think the question is valid.

    Lee

  2. Brian March 11, 2009

    Did you have a chance to listen to the audio then?

  3. Lee March 11, 2009

    Hi Brian,

    You got me 🙂 This was just my initial thoughts before hearing the talk.

    It is on my list of downloads to listen to – at the moment I am half way through the ‘debate’ “William Lane Craig and Bill Cooke Debate MP3 Audio: Is God a Delusion?”

    I quote debate because Bill Cooke doesn’t, at the moment, seem to want a debate.

    Lee

  4. Brian March 11, 2009

    I hope you enjoy the debates.

    As for this audio, I would actually recommend the video. I usually just like audio myself, but on this one I decided to watch the video. I am glad I did because it shows the powerpoint slides and it helps in keeping the concepts straight.

    As for the question, it could be phrased, “Why does something exist rather than nothing?” – which has been called one of the most fundamental philosophical questions one can ask.

    Let me know what you think of the other audios and such. I appreciate your feedback and hope you find the resources helpful.

  5. Lee March 12, 2009

    Hi Brian,

    I am enjoying the debates I’ve downloaded so far thanks. (I prefer them to just a one sided lecture.)

    I thought I had this mp3 on my ipod this morning, but I didn’t, adding it now for my train trip tomorrow.

    As for the video, it isn’t working for me for some reason – it will have to be audio for now.

    I have to admit though, listening to William Lane Craig in a one-sided discussion (as can be found on his website) is normally a little frustrating. I find he asserts too much, uses special pleading at will, and makes several logical fallacies along the way – all going unchallenged.

    Worst of all, I know he has been corrected on such errors many times in debates, but still he makes the same mistakes.

    On an aside, have you heard of the podcast “Reasonable Doubt”? I remember many months ago listening to an episode that had a few comments on WLC logic/reasoning.

    http://doubtreligion.blogspot.com
    /2008/03/episode-11-bizarro-world.html

    Lee

  6. Lee March 12, 2009

    Oh, I forgot to address your point…

    As for the question, it could be phrased, “Why does something exist rather than nothing?” – which has been called one of the most fundamental philosophical questions one can ask.

    ‘because’ 🙂

    I’m not much of a philosopher, and so my reply can still be the same as before.

    “Is it possible for the universe not to exist and for me to know it?”

    My point was this, if the universe didn’t exist and/or allow for beings to think about their existence – would the question be asked? Erm… no (by definition)

    However, let’s tackle the question ‘head on’ for the moment.

    Firstly, the ‘God solution’ given by the theist doesn’t work since the question remains – “Why God rather than nothing?”

    God is just asserted using special pleading from the theist who insists God is outside the original question.

    Why add to the problem by inserting God rather than the original problem of ‘something’ since a god will be far more complex and thus require more explanation. (Ockham’s razor solves this little philosophical debate for me)

    Personally, to finally address your question – I rather like the idea I read from Victor Stinger some time ago, simply put “Nothing is unstable”

    A simple idea that I rather like.

    A quick google search found me this:-

    http://www.csicop.org/sb/
    2006-06/reality-check.html

    Lee

  7. Brian March 12, 2009

    Lee,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    First, I would recommend having a listen to the audio before laying out your critique based on the title. Craig is exploring the premises of Leibniz’s classic principle of sufficient reason. It would seem to me that you would want to critique the premises of the argument, rather than the title of the talk, unless you can show how you know what Craig has argued before you have listened to it. Ockham’s razor is also discussed in the talk, by the way.

    I agree that your first question “Is it possible for the universe not to exist and for me to know it?” is not relevant, because there would be no one to ask it if it were the case. I don’t know why you have asked it, as I am not sure how it applies here.

    As for your other comment: “Firstly, the ‘God solution’ given by the theist doesn’t work since the question remains – ‘Why God rather than nothing?'”… this is discussed in the talk itself. In this case, Stenger’s statement “Nothing is unstable” (although pithy) is empty. By definition, nothing is nothing, nothing causes nothing, and from nothing nothing comes. Nothing is empty, so to ascribe causal powers to nothing is like multiplying zero by zero. Could you explain to me how “nothing” can produce anything if nothing has no causal power?

  8. Lee March 14, 2009

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for taking time to reply

    ” First, I would recommend having a listen to the audio before laying out your critique based on the title.”

    Yes and no… if I have never heard WLC talk on the subject – you would be right, and I would be a fool to critique something I have never heard (it would be an awful strawman on my part)

    However, I have listened to many debates by WLC and the arguments have remained unchanged. So in this respect, I was talking a guess at what was to be said in this talk.

    And now having listened too much of it… I do not think I was wide of the mark.

    WLC still comes down to special pleading and an argument from ignorance. He is really just talking about the ‘first cause argument’ and for me it is a ‘dead one’.

    Even IF you grant the argument for a moment, you cannot go from the deistic god argued for to a ‘personal god’ WLC tries to slip in.

    I didn’t get as far as WLC’s discussion on Ockham’s razor, I will have to continue listening on Monday (as I said, I much rather the debate then a lecture, I switched to the debate WLC vs Peter Slezak instead – very good)

    The problem I see is that the ‘God solution’ always increases the complexity and the level of unknowns – Ockham’s razors says that this option should be the last resort.

    I wonder what WLC’s says against that?

    ” I agree that your first question “Is it possible for the universe not to exist and for me to know it?” is not relevant, because there would be no one to ask it if it were the case. I don’t know why you have asked it, as I am not sure how it applies here.”

    The reason why I asked it was because no matter how crazy the odds are against something happening, the fact (a brute fact perhaps) that we are here asking the questions means that the odds actually came down to a certainty of 1:1 that the universe we live in could produce intelligent life.

    Now, if we were to ask what are the odds of this universe AGAIN coming into existence by chance (or uncaused, or whatever) that is a different question and doesn’t help anyone with regards to THIS universe.

    It was really than a response against the fine tunning argument that WLC uses too much.

    As for your other comment: “Firstly, the ‘God solution’ given by the theist doesn’t work since the question remains – ‘Why God rather than nothing?'”… this is discussed in the talk itself.

    And was ignored by using the special pleading and the argument from ignorance.

    i.e. “It has to be this way because I cannot think of anything else – and besides, my common sense tells me so”

    (Not a quote from WLC, but I hope I have taken the spirit of his argument)

    In this case, Stenger’s statement “Nothing is unstable” (although pithy) is empty. By definition, nothing is nothing, nothing causes nothing, and from nothing nothing comes. Nothing is empty, so to ascribe causal powers to nothing is like multiplying zero by zero. Could you explain to me how “nothing” can produce anything if nothing has no causal power?

    Firstly, did you read the link I provided? I thought Stenger explained this rather well.

    The first problem here seems to be ‘words’ – they have been created and evolved to described the everyday world around us. In that respect they are great. However talk about something ‘unusual’ – then worlds fail.

    i.e. Can you describe in words an electron, or a photon? Are they particles or waves, or both, or something else? Words fail…

    Or moving away from physics, how about telling me what is north of the North Pole?

    My point is we have to be careful using statements like “from nothing nothing comes” – just because I can say something doesn’t make it so.

    And still we are left with the innocent question – If ‘nothing comes from nothing’, where did God come from?

    If you say God was always present or caused Himself, then why not the universe? I admit to not understanding WLC’s response to this question.

    OK – have to go.

    Once again, thanks for your time – both in responding to my questions and to placing these debates/lectures up in the one place.

    I think we disagree on God (and the value of the first cause argument), but it is fun talking about it.

    Lee
    PS
    I have blogged about the first cause arguments before – take a read if you have time (or interest)

    It is just a personal view from a nobody

    http://strawmen-cometh.blogspot.com/search/label/first%20cause

  9. Brian March 14, 2009

    Lee,

    Thanks again for taking the time. Here are my responses to some of your statements and such… yours in italics.

    Even IF you grant the argument for a moment, you cannot go from the deistic god argued for to a ‘personal god’ WLC tries to slip in.

    Craig addresses this briefly, but I am not sure if you have gotten to that part yet or not. But one thing should be noted (which Craig also notes), when he says ‘personal’ he is not meaning it in the sense of personal “theistic” vs. non-personal “deistic.” This argument does not claim to point to how God relates to man. When he says “personal” he means a mind – or an conscious agent. This is a smaller point that I will not argue about here – I don’t want to bunny trail on that because that’s not the focus of the argument presented.

    The problem I see is that the ‘God solution’ always increases the complexity and the level of unknowns – Ockham’s razors says that this option should be the last resort.
    I wonder what WLC’s says against that?

    In this case, to posit a single entity (God) does not increase the complexity of the solution. To posit many gods would violate Ockham’s razor. In this argument, it is saying that the universe needs a cause. One cause is posited: God. That is as far as the argument goes – it says nothing about the character, plan, or “theology” that make up God.

    The reason why I asked it was because no matter how crazy the odds are against something happening, the fact (a brute fact perhaps) that we are here asking the questions means that the odds actually came down to a certainty of 1:1 that the universe we live in could produce intelligent life.

    Consider an analogy. A person is lying dead on the floor having been shot in the head with a gun which lies next to them. In this case the investigators know that it was either a murder or an accident. After examining the crime scene, the investigators come to the conclusion that the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of it being a murder – with virtually no possibility of an accident. (finger prints, signs of struggle, DNA, etc.) The issue is not whether there is a dead person. The question is how likely it is that it was by design or by accident. The evidence is in favor of design.

    But someone could say, “no matter how crazy the odds that it was by chance, the brute fact is that this person is dead… therefore, the odds actually came down to a certainty of 1:1.” Doesn’t that strike you as absurd? Isn’t that begging the question?

    Or to say that because someone actually won the lottery, the fact that they actually won it makes the odds 1:1. The certainty is 100% that we won the lotto — but the odds of that happening is very much a different percentage all together. We should not confuse or combine the two. Yet in the question of the universe, from all the evidence we have, it seems to me more likely that the reason we are here is by design rather than by “nothing.”

    So when you point to the fact that we are actually here in the universe asking these questions, it says nothing about HOW we got here. What we have is the fact that we are here and we are trying to determine if there is more evidence in favor of an actual first cause (God), or popping out of nothingness. (Chance and nothingness are not entities with causal power, by the way. They are merely descriptive terms.)

    Firstly, did you read the link I provided? I thought Stenger explained this rather well.
    Yes, I read it before responding to you so I wouldn’t be straw-manning. ; )

    My point is we have to be careful using statements like “from nothing nothing comes” – just because I can say something doesn’t make it so.

    I agree that saying something doesn’t make it so. That is why when I read Stenger’s article it seemed to me that he was trying to do that very thing. As if he was trying to re-define the word “nothing” so that it had actual substance and was a “thing” rather than “nothing.”

    When we say the word “nothing,” we mean no-thing. Not some thing. Contemporary big bang cosmology acknowledges that “before” the big bang singularity, there literally was nothing — no time, no space, no laws of physics, no “things,” no potentialities. Therefore, to posit a cause that is a substance denies that there was nothing before the big bang. That is why Craig concludes that the cause must be time-less, space-less, non-substance.

    

And still we are left with the innocent question – If ‘nothing comes from nothing’, where did God come from?

    If God is time-less, space-less, and non-substance, then he did not come from anywhere. As Craig is talking about, all things in the universe are contingent (could have not existed) and therefore must eventually have their ultimate cause from something non-contingent (necessary being), otherwise there would be an infinite regress of causes – which is absurd. God is posited as the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover; the necessary being. I am not betting that you agree with me here — but I would say that just because you don’t agree with the conclusion does not mean that it is incoherent. 



    If you say God was always present or caused Himself, then why not the universe? I admit to not understanding WLC’s response to this question.

    Why not the universe? Because the evidence from modern science says the universe did not always exist. Atheists agree with this point and agree that the universe has not existed from eternity past. The question is, what caused it?

    Lee, thanks also for the links to your posts on first cause arguments and such. It took the opportunity to read them and appreciate the time you have taken to engage the topic.

    With that in mind, I want to say up front that I don’t plan on having a long, drawn-out discussion or debate about Craig’s talk or the first cause argument. (I intend for the blog to be more of a resource and not a debate forum) I saw the “50-page” debate you had with someone else and I simply don’t have the time to engage the topic on that level. Not only because of the time-sapping nature of these things, but also because I get the impression from reading your blog that your “beef” with God or Christianity is not the first cause argument anyway.

    Perhaps that is a question we can explore some more in the future. At any rate, I look forward to your response and I will get back to you on them perhaps later in the week as time permits.

    Thanks again, Lee. Happy listening on the train!

  10. Brian March 14, 2009

    Another similar link here.

  11. Lee March 16, 2009

    Hi Brian,

    This is turning into a nice little discussion – wish we both had more time since I enjoy these little chats.

    I will have to be brief.

    I listened again to the WLC lecture this morning – and got through the Q&A this time.

    I still think his argument is based on special pleading, the argument from ignorance and plenty of strawmen with his attacks on so-called atheist positions

    That said, as I have mentioned before, I like to listen to his debates.

    Now, on second hearing I still say stand by my claim that WLC just inserted ‘personal God’ without justification in rounding up his lecture.

    When asked in the Q&A about this he merely restates the claim by saying “this is what I meant by mind” (or something like that – I cannot take notes on the train)

    This is the main problem with the first cause argument (even if you grant the premises) – it doesn’t take you to the Christian God that WLC believes in. It is a dead argument for the Christian.

    As for ockham's razor – WLC only used this to comment on the question of many supreme gods. I think it can also be used on all gods 🙂

    My reason in thinking this is that any god will, by definition, be more complex than the problem we are trying to answer.

    The next argument (the fine tuning argument) isn’t much better than the first cause – it always seems to beg the question to me why an all-powerful God would make a universe that is on the ‘knife edge’ of creation (again, this is IF I accepted premises)

    I think this leaves only the argument for absolute morals?

    WLC only asserts that such morals exist, where what I observe is merely relative morals. I can agree with WLC that torturing babies and the holocaust are wrong – but I cannot do so in any absolute sense.

    Does this make WLC the winner on this point?

    I don’t think so – I’ve never understood how (again if I accepted the WLC version of God) it can be said we get our morals from an all-good God, since if every action done by such a being is by definition ‘good’. We have then no measure of what is bad. Does WLC believe that every moral action is good? Of course not, but using WLC’s god where do we get an understanding of ‘bad’, how can this come from an all-good God?

    OK – that is all I have time for (and none of us want to start another 50 page discussion. I agree with you on that point at least, besides I don't have the time myself)

    Oh, and for the record – I will just say that I don't have any 'beef' with any gods (that I know of). Though you are right, the first cause isn't the only reason why I don't believe in God.

    Take care, keep up the good work – and thanks again for your time.

    I will now take a look at the link you gave me.

    Lee

  12. Brian March 16, 2009

    By the way, the previous link is more of a “popular” primer for those unfamiliar with the argument.

    However, for a further representation of Craig’s thought on the subject, read his own article elaborating on it here. It is a more scholarly in-depth look at it – and may answer some of your questions because of its detail.

    I will get back to you later on with any further thoughts. Thanks for taking the time!

  13. Brian March 16, 2009

    Hey Lee,
    I was just thinking that if you like hearing both sides of the issues a good podcast would be “Unbelievable?” – which you can find in my latest post. I think you would enjoy hearing the interaction.

  14. Lee March 17, 2009

    Thanks Brian,

    Hitting the download now…

    Premier Christian radio – is that the one???

    I’ve already tried the number 1 postcast in your list… I thought the UFO show by WLC rather funny 🙂

    Have you ever tried thebiblegeek.org? It is also a podcast on itunes somewhere. A show by Dr Robert M. Price

    Sometimes the quality of sound isn’t great – but this seems to be fixed now.

    Rather interesting stuff

    Lee