William Lane Craig's five points refuted
Note: This is a very brief and simplistic refutation. I am analysing Craig's arguments, and those of Aquinas, Plantinga and Swinburne, in far greater detail, and of course in a much more scholarly manner (i.e. lots of big words), in my doctoral dissertation.
William Lane Craig is a fundamentalist Christian debater who has a reputation for 'defeating' some of the most educated and vocal atheists in debates, including the late Christopher Hitchens. His debates are useful to atheists, as they demonstrate some of believers' 'best arguments'. I disagree with most, having the opinion that WLC actually hasn't won a single debate with an atheist, on the existence of his god.
I have watched and listened to many of WLC's debates and have to disagree with my religious and non-religious brothers. In all of his debates, WLC ultimately fails to prove the existence of his god, and he also plays 'dirty'. He commits numerous logical fallacies (such as shifting the burden of proof) and makes unreasonable demands on his opponents - eating up their time.
When it comes to attempting to prove the existence of his god, the Judeo-Christian god Yahweh, he virtually always uses his '5 points'. The same 5 points used over and over and over. And they don't prove a thing. Here are his 5 points, refuted and shot down, with minimal fuss.
Point 1 - The Cosmological Argument
WLC asserts that as the universe has had a beginning, there must have been a first cause, and that first cause is his god.
Firstly, that's a mighty big leap to say that his proposed first cause HAD to be god.
Secondly, he is assuming the universe had a beginning in the first place... He claims that atheists are crazy for proposing that the universe came ex nihilo, out of nothing. Well, they don't! Many cosmologists (note: WLC is not a cosmologist) are not of the opinion at all that the universe had a beginning or came out of nothing. It is possible that the universe has always been. Interestingly, if he proposes that his god is eternal, why can't non-believers propose that the universe is eternal?
Thirdly, the most important point. So what? Even if he did manage to prove that there was indeed some sort of god, he has still failed in his mission. After all that hard work, this god could turn out to be Thor. Or Allah. Or Vishnu. Or the deistic god of Thomas Paine. Or the god of pantheism!
All WLC has achieved with point 1 is give some reasons why he would like there to be a god. These reasons are full of holes, do not prove the existence of some sort of god, and especially do not prove the existence of HIS god (Yahweh).
Point 2 - The Teleological Argument
WLC asserts that as there are certain physical constants (note: WLC is not a physicist) that just happen to have been "fine-tuned" to allow our existence, that this is so improbable, so god must have put them there.
Firstly, another point with more holes that Swiss cheese. The universe isn't 'perfect', at least not from the perspective of a fundamentalist (from the perspective of a pantheist or a Taoist, everything is perfect as is). If all this were designed for a specific purpose (as outlined in the Bible, Koran etc) we would expect to see a very different world. A world that was efficient and actually went to plan... If everything is a result of 'chance' we'd expect to see a whole lot of failed stars, solar systems, planets, and species. Guess what, we do... Most planets in the universe (perhaps all but one) lack life. And 99%+ of all Earth's species are extinct. When we look at our universe, we don't see this perfectly designed creation WLC speaks of. We see what we expect to see if it all 'just happened'.
Secondly, just because things are improbable, doesn't make them impossible. Improbable events happen every day! You're not likely to ever win the lottery for example, yet people win the lottery all the time. WLC's very existence is improbable. He was one of billions of his father's sperm that hit the egg first. Add to that probability, the chances that his two parents got together (2 out of billions of people), and their 'spermal' journey, and their grandparents, and their spermal journey, etc. Is WLC proposing that we dismiss his existence because it is so improbable? Then why dismiss the idea that all what we see 'just happened', no matter how improbable it might seem to him? To many biologists for example (note: WLC is not a biologist), evolution isn't improbable at all, natural selection is design by nature, not 'chance'. Just accept it. Stuff happens.
Thirdly. As with point 1, point 2 only gives some reasons why WLC would like there to be a god. It doesn't prove god, nor does it especially prove his god. It could have been Jupiter, the Celestial Teapot, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster!
You're 0 for 2 so far Dr Craig, we're still waiting for your evidence.
Point 3 - Objective Morality
WLC asserts that as objective morality exists (as opposed to subjective morality that has served our species well for millions of years), god must exist.
Firstly, WOW! Another WLC assumption. I'm sorry, I missed the bit where he, or anyone else in history PROVED that objective morality exists. All we have seen is the very subjective moralities of various cultures. His evidence of objective morality? "Deep down we ALL know this to be true." Gee, you convinced me! He also claims that because he and even atheists agree that rape and child torture is wrong, that suggests there is indeed an objective morality...
Secondly, it's interesting he brought up rape and child torture. His god Yahweh, in the Old Testament of his Bible, commits, commands and condones the following, among others: rape, sex slavery, slavery, child abuse, pedophilia, animal cruelty, racism, sexism, homophobia, the murder of relatives who stray from the faith, genocide and infanticide. WLC seems confused over what exactly constitutes his 'objective morality' yet so arrogantly assumes and asserts that there is one.
Thirdly, I'm not even convinced that objective morality and the existence of god go hand in hand. Murder is wrong, as the Bible says, but if god commands it, then suddenly it's good. For numerous examples, read Genesis, the first book of the Bible.
Fourthly, once again, this argument is not specific to WLC's religion, or his god.
Note: A controversial statement on my part but I contend that WLC is not a true philosopher - a philosopher is a lover of wisdom and is thus an honest-truth seeker. A fundamentalist clings to dogma and has no real interest in discovering the truth. They assume they already have it. And it was written down by a bunch of barbaric desert-dwelling peasants thousands of years ago... Which leads us to our next point.
Point 4 - The (alleged) Resurrection of Jesus
WLC asserts that there is PLENTY of evidence for the alleged resurrection (note: WLC is not a medical doctor) of Jesus. Where does this evidence come from? The Bible of course! I suppose he should then assume, even though he's Christian, that the Koran is evidence for the supposed acts of Islam's prophet?
Firstly, I would be inclined to refuse this point on the grounds that the very existence of Jesus has never been fully established. There is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus even existed, let alone whether all the Bible's claims about him are true. We have a handful of non-Christian, non-Biblical quotes from decades and centuries after the supposed events that believers tend to refer to. Half of them are forgeries, and the other half are ambiguous (such as use of the Greek name Chrestus, and references to the existence of Christians - does the existence of Hindus prove Ganesh exists?); and all of them exist in the form of medieval manuscripts. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that Jesus is entirely mythical. This is revealed by recent discoveries of Gnostic texts, and the rather old (and brilliant) studies of comparative religion.
Arguing over the details of the supposed Jesus' life would be like arguing over how many medals WLC earned for his valiant efforts in the Franco-Prussian war. There is no evidence he fought in the Franco-Prussian war, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest he didn't (for example, he was born long after the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian war, as well as the Great War, and it's inevitable follow-up, World War II). For more on William Lane Craig's exploits during the Franco-Prussian War, please see my critically-acclaimed book, The Bravery of William Lane Craig During the Franco-Prussian War, and His Assassination by the Coward Robert Ford. Available at no good bookstores...
Secondly, though WLC might well say that we're stepping onto irrelevant territory here (an oft-used tactic of his), we shall dispute the Bible's inerrancy. It is after all the source for his 'evidence'. The Bible is most definitely NOT inerrant. The proof? Well, pick a Bible. There are numerous variants, manuscripts, fragments of manuscripts, translations, ambiguous phrases, etc. There are hundreds of thousands of variant readings. The Bible contradicts itself, history, archeology, science, and just about everything else it can contradict. For a book that tells us how to live our lives, that asks us to kill and die in god's name, this simply isn't good enough.
Thirdly, when it comes to the books (such as the gospels) of the Bible, we have no confidence of what actually really constitutes the Biblical canon. The canon used today, isn't recognised by ALL of Christendom. The Ethiopians have their canon, and so do the Peshitta-loving Assyrians. Why this confusion? Because 'the Bible' was compiled from a few dozen books out of HUNDREDS of books. Why were the rest discarded? Read them to find out. Some (like the wonderful Gospel of Thomas - a whole bunch of Christ-wisdom without any of the Old Testamental type barbarity) don't have enough 'historical details' about Jesus' life, while others show the incredibly mythical nature of the Jesus story. Interestingly, the first Christian Bible canon was 'Gnostic' in nature, and purposely rejected and omitted the Old Testament.
Fourthly, WLC constantly appeals to authority. He often uses the term "most Bible scholars" whenever he makes a claim about Jesus. As Dr Stenger humorously asked WLC, "where do you take these polls, Bob Jones University?" In truth, the vast majority of Bible scholars recognize that the Bible is full of allegory, ambiguity, and outright MYTH. For more on the crises this academic field is facing (many Bible scholars find that their personal beliefs conflict heavily with the evidence - I among them), read up on Dr Hector Avalos. Note that a bible scholar who is influenced by their own theology, is very different from a historian, who is again different from a scientist. Note also that if we accept what believing Bible scholars say, should we give just as much attention to Koran scholars?
Fifthly, WLC uses 4 'facts' for the resurrection, ALL coming from the Bible. These 4 'facts' (burial, empty tomb, appearances, rise of Christianity) don't even logically result in the conclusion that 'Yahweh resurrected Jesus from the dead'. There are numerous other possible explanations for these 4 alleged facts, from the natural (some people stole the body, Jesus wasn't really dead, it wasn't Jesus in the tomb, believers hallucinated, or the whole thing was fabricated, etc) to the supernatural (Poseidon raised Jesus from the dead - all hail Poseidon).
Sixthly, WLC employs circular reasoning with this argument, so it can be thrown out. When challenged on the incredible improbability of someone being resurrected from the dead, he agrees. He then says that it is highly improbable, naturalistically. But from a supernatural perspective, it is highly probable. So he says, it is virtually certain that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, because god did it. Presumably, in order for god to do this, he must exist. WLC is therefore telling us that god's existence is proven by Jesus' resurrection. And WLC knows with certainty that Jesus was resurrected, because god did it... It's the Bible infallibility issue all over again! God exists because the Bible says so, and we know the Bible is truthful, because God wrote it...
Climax! Drum roll, please...
I am rather unimpressed with Dr. Craig's arguments so far. He is 0 and 4. His fifth point better be pretty darn convincing.
Point 5 - The Warm Fuzzy Feeling Inside
Expecting a bullet-proof bit of evidence all humans since the dawn of man had curiously overlooked, we got WLC's subjective feelings instead. He tends to end his argument with a piece that makes him look less like a serious academic, and more like a Jesus salesman.
He then invites us to open our hearts to Jesus and see how awesome our lives would become. I tried that. Failed miserably.
WLC asserts that at the end of the day, evidence doesn't matter (lucky for him!); it is the warm fuzzy feeling inside that tells him he is right. Note: WLC is clearly not a scientist.
Firstly, what are we even doing here? He basically admits (like most believers when they really do examine the evidence) that there really isn't any good reason to follow Christianity, and that it all comes down to faith and belief, completely nullifying his claims. After all, Muslims and Jews also have faith and belief. Incredibly, he also admits that even if he saw evidence to the contrary (which he is faced with daily) he would still believe. It's all a trick to test his faith. Just like dinosaur bones huh, Dr Craig?
Secondly, how incredibly arrogant. What makes your warm fuzzy feeling better than my warm fuzzy feeling (which tells me I'm right and you're wrong, ner ner ner ner ner)?
Thirdly, how incredibly dangerous! Life and death decisions based on his warm fuzzy feelings. No offence to victims of terrorism or to Muslims, but many Islamic terrorists also feel a warm fuzzy feeling inside, assuring them that their noble sacrifices will be rewarded with milk, honey, heaven and virgins. Lots and lots of virgins.
Fourthly, once again, this isn't specific to WLC's religion or god. This argument that could apply to people of all sorts of beliefs in all sorts of gods. Like the Invisible Pink Unicorn.
5 points, 4 of which are not specific to WLC's religion or his god (and are full of holes and false/unproven assumptions in any case), and one of which is a textbook example of circular reasoning (god exists because of ABC, and we know ABC because god exists).
This is it? Is this all you can conjure Bill? Indeed, fundamentalist religion pretty much comes down to point 5. An admission that there is no evidence, and that we must have faith. An admission that they really don't know what the heck they're talking about, and that evidence to the contrary wouldn't affect them. When it comes to convincing freethinkers and believers of other religions, that simply isn't good enough. Not for rational people anyway.
I don't want to sound too harsh, but let's be frank. This is pathetic. This is the best he can come up with after his many years of study and decades of debating? No wonder Europe is becoming more irreligious. No wonder America was founded by secularists. There just isn't any good evidence for any god, let alone Yahweh.
Post-script: A Message to Atheists
Please do not give this man more respect than he deserves and please do not criticize your free-thinking brothers and sisters who have the courage to debate him. I have just outlined his 'best evidence'. He is 0 and 5. He hasn't won a single debate against an atheist, on the existence of his god. If he finally becomes able to prove the existence of Yahweh (something that hasn't been done for thousands of years), then I will be the first to champion WLC and will gladly go back to being a fundamentalist Christian.
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