A Classic Debate on the Existence of God

November 1994
University of Colorado at Boulder

Dr. William Lane Craig & Dr. Michael Tooley

Dr. Craig's Second Rebuttal

The contentions that I said I was going to defend were:

I. There's no good reason to think that atheism is true. I think to this point in the debate we have still not seen any persuasive reasons to think that atheism is more plausible than theism. You remember my refutations to his four arguments.

II. There are good reasons to think that theism is true. Let me review my arguments.

1. God is the best explanation for the existence of abstract objects. Dr. Tooley didn't say anything about this, but I think this is an important argument for God as an omniscient mind. The existence of propositions and other conceptual entities arenít lodged in human minds; they're lodged in a divine, omniscient mind.

2. God is the best explanation of why the universe exists rather than nothing. I was amazed here by Dr. Tooley's attack on the Big Bang model, which is the reigning paradigm in physical cosmology today, as well as some of his other points. Let me just review them.

First, he says that I don't answer the question why God exists. But the underlying premise of my argument is that whatever begins to exist has a cause, Since God doesn't begin to exist, He doesn't need a cause. That's not special pleading for God, since that's what the atheist has always said about the universe: it's eternal and uncaused--- it doesnít need to have any explanation. But now that's become untenable in light of Big Bang cosmology as well as my philosophical argument.

Secondly, can an actual infinite exist? I did give an argument against this, I said that self-contradiction s result if you have an actual infinite instantiated in reality-such as infinity minus infinity. I could give other specific examples if you would like. But he says, look, if you have a realist view of space, and space is continuous, then there is an actual infinite. Well, I deny the second assumption. I deny that space is continuous in the sense of being composed of an actually infinite number of points. That's just an assumption on his part, It's question begging. I would say that space as a whole or a geometrical line as a whole exists logically prior to any points that you might specify in it. And therefore, while space is continuous in the sense of being potentially infinitely divisible, it is not composed of an actual infinite number of points.

Similarly, he says space could be Euclidean. I don't see any reason to think that, I would deny that physical space could be Euclidean in the sense of being actually infinite because the notion of an actual infinite ultimately results in self -contradictions.

Then he begins to attack the Big Bang theory based on one article. And I think the arguments he gave are simply not enough to overthrow this paradigm. For example, the anomalous red-shifts; these have been around for a long time, and they continue to be cleared up as better and better measurements are made of the objects that have these shifts.

He says that it predicts the temperature incorrectly The temperature background for the microwave radiation is certainly within the margin of error that would normally be allowed for scientific theory prediction. I don't know of anybody who thinks that Hoyle's steady state model and the attempts to explain away the background radiation temperatures are superior to the expansion model.

He says it predicts huge amounts of dark matter which donít exist. That's just incorrect. He's talking about a particular type of inflationary model, But there are many, a wide family, of Big Bang models, In open universes there is no prediction of this kind of dark matter. In fact, I would say the universe is not dense enough to recontract.

He says the universe is dated with an age that is inconsistent with the age of the stars. That's true according to these recent measurements that were made. But what this calls into question is not the expansion of the universe itself, but our theory of galaxy formation, which is admittedly very much inchoate and very much in flux.

From what I understand, the notion of the expansion of the universe is going to be part of any future model of the universe that is developed, even if our theories of galaxy formation and so forth are changed. So unless he's willing to revise things like the expansion of the universe or the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems, he's going to be positing an origin of the universe.

He says, "But there can be a hyperspace beyond space in which our universe originated." That is a postulate of pure faith which is no more scientific and no more rational than belief in the existence of God. And it is especially questionable in view of the fact that there is no independent reason to think that such a metaphysical hyperspace exists, whereas there are independent arguments for the existence of God.

3. What about Godís being the best explanation of the complex order in the universe? He says the calculations are unsound. I don't think that's true. I've read widely in the literature on the Anthropic Principle, and every account says that the delicate balance of initial conditions in the universe is wildly improbable. I don't know of anybody who says that these conditions are probable.

He says you can explain them by a Many Worlds Interpretation. Again, notice that he's appealing to metaphysical entities which are no more scientific and no less metaphysical than theism. I don't see any reason to prefer these interpretations. Moreover, I think they are less simple because you're going to have to have an infinite number of these many worlds, and they're going to have to be random in the distribution' of physical laws in order to be able to explain this universe. And that's certainly less simple than the hypothesis of theism, which has as well independent reasons for adopting it.

4. What about God's being the best explanation of objective moral values? I certainly did give an argument for this. I said that in the absence of God there is no reason to think that human beings are special. There's no reason to think they have these non-natural properties that Dr, Tooley seems to posit. It's much more plausible on the atheistic view that man is just an animal, just a primate, and moral values don't exist.

He attacks the divine command theory of ethics; but notice that a defensible view of the divine command theory is available so long as you say that God's commands are not arbitrary, but are rooted in His own moral nature. So His commands flow, necessarily out of His own nature, and thus you donít get into the dilemma Dr. Tooley referred to.

5. As for Godís being the best explanation of the resurrection of Jesus, the evidence that I gave already takes into account the hypothesis of legendary development. And as I say, the majority of the critics today hold that you cannot explain away the empty tomb as a late legend akin to St. Francis' miracles. Nor can you explain away the appearances on that basis. So he's got to deal with the evidence for the empty tomb, for the appearances, and for the origin of the Christian faith.

The gospels were written down within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses in the same geographical locale where these stories occurred. There's no comparable lace in history for this kind of rapid legendary development.

6. The last point, that God can be immediately known and experienced, hasn't been dealt with. I'm out of time. I can just say that in my own life God has certainly been an immediate reality, and in the absence of any defeaters for that claim I don't see any reason that I should deny the reality of His existence.


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