Everything That Begins to Exist Has a Cause

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Below is the kalam cosmological argument, popularized by William Lane Craig, evangelical Christian apologist:

     1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

     2. The universe began to exist.

     3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

William Lane Craig:  “First and foremost, it’s rooted in the metaphysical intuition that something cannot come into being from nothing.  To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and to resort to magic.  Second, if things really could come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything and everything do not come into existence uncaused from nothing.  Finally, the first premise is constantly confirmed in our experience.”  (Craig, RF, 111-112)

“Critics of this argument often respond to the first premise by asking, “What caused God?”

But this misconstrues the argument.   The first premise does not say that everything needs a cause, but whatever begins to exist has a cause. Since God did not begin to exist, he does not need a cause.  This criticism also commits the category fallacy, in which things from one category are incorrectly applied to another.  For instance, it would be a category mistake to ask, “What does the color red smell like?” or “How much does the musical note “C” weigh?  Colors and smells, as well as musical notes and weight, are different categories.  Similarly, it is a mistake to ask, “What caused God?” because, by definition, God is uncaused.  God could not be caused and still be God.  Asking what caused God is essentially asking a nonsense question, namely, “What caused the uncaused Creator of the universe?”

Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. lxiv-lxv

 

Gary:  Wow!  That is a good one!  Anyone see a problem in this argument?

Here is the problem I see:  It is a circular argument!

“I am going to prove that the Creator God did not have a beginning by assuming that everyone agrees that God exists and that the only definition of ‘God’ includes the fact that he had no beginning.”

The real purpose of the kalam cosmological argument is to prove that a Creator God exists; a God who created the universe.  However, what is a “God“???  Who says that a “God”, if he/she/they/it exists, must be eternal with no beginning, otherwise it is not a God?  Answer:  Christians, Jews, and Muslims!  Monotheists.  But is that how every person on the planet defines that word?  No.

We have failed to agree on our terms, Mr. Craig!!!

I reject the entire argument because it is an argument based on an assumption:  That all gods, of if there is only one god, God, must be eternal, without a beginning.  That is the Christian/monotheist definition of that word but it is not the universally agreed upon definition of that word therefore this argument is only valid when debating another monotheist!!!

Mr. Craig has attempted to stack the deck (argument) so that he cannot lose.

If anyone is “resorting to magic”, it is Mr. Craig!

 

42 thoughts on “Everything That Begins to Exist Has a Cause

  1. Neither is the problem solved by claiming God is Uncaused, for the reason he too would have had to have create something from nothing.

    ‘God’ had nothing to go on: no raw materials with which to create the universe, and no raw materials from which to make the raw materials. There was only him and nothing. It is not unreasonable to ask, therefore, where the material from which he made the universe came from. The necessary ingredients for a universe – gravity, black holes, dark matter, dark energy, vast quantities of chemicals and what-have-you – are all physical phenomena, none of which existed before god allegedly made them. So, from what did he make them?

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    1. As the argument attempts to show – He created the material universe ex nihilo! This is astounding, I grant you, but if we’re going to take the evidence of cosmology seriously, we have to confront that the material universe is not eternal in the past, but did, in fact, have a beginning.

      Therefore, you really have only two options: (1) The cause of the universe is an immaterial agent, or (2) the cause of the universe is nothing. If you are going to accept (2) with any vigor, I would suggest you’re no longer attempting to do serious philosophy.

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  2. Your reject the entire argument that the universe had a cause because of your definition of “god”?

    That’s a non-sequiter. Your conclusion does not follow from the premise.

    But neither does atheism from the facts.

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    1. I don’t draw a ‘conclusion’, Liam. I pose a series of questions which you avoid addressing in any way.

      Not only do you not know what is meant by a ‘non-sequitur’, you don’t know how the term is spelt. My point follows from William Lane Craig’s premise that something cannot come from nothing and therefore needs a creator. I merely ask with what did that creator create ‘something’. From nothing? You will find that is not a non-sequitur but rather relates to the original assertion.

      There, all explained for you. Might I suggest you’re out of your depth here, Liam?

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      1. It seems to me, Neil, that Liam is responding to the author’s claim that Dr. Craig’s definition of “God” invalidates the use of the cosmological argument against atheism. That is indeed a non-sequitur as I have argued below.

        There, all explained for you. Might I suggest that you owe Liam an apology? 😛

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  3. I see the whole Kalam argument here as just using word games to try to define a god into existence. They define a god as ‘something that didn’t begin to exist” and then let him off the hook of needing a cause because of their arbitrary definition. No amount of playing around with a definition in your head will produce any information about the real world, not until you check your ideas against the actual real world. They’re committing the “reification fallacy”. (I wrote about this fallacy at some length here: https://boldquestions.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/use-mention-errors-or-my-close-personal-relationship-with-pinkie-pie/)

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    1. This won’t do, Ubi. The Kalam argument is a syllogism. It’s a deductive argument wherein, if it is a valid argument and the premises are true, then the conclusion follows logically and inescapably.

      This is certainly distinct from wordplay and a lack of comprehension, or personal incredulity, is not a refutation of it.

      By order of logic then you must either show that it is not a valid argument, or that one of its premises are false.

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      1. The problem is that the syllogism is totally dependent on the premises being true, which means you need to be able to check them. And I’m not sure that it’s possible to do. It’s completely possible that both premises are wrong. I don’t need to show that they’re false, you need to demonstrate that they’re true, and you haven’t.

        And you’re still trying to define a god into existence as an “uncaused cause”, which also might not even be a possible thing. Any real god could be demonstrated to exist in a much more straightforward way, and wouldn’t need this kind of weak apologetic sophistry. The fact that apologists have to resort to unverifiable logical arguments is a strong piece of evidence for your god not being real.

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        1. Eeek, there are several problems here.

          (1) Every syllogism is dependent on the premises being true. I, and countless others, have offered several reasons why the premises of the KCA are true – https://neillology.com/2018/10/31/keep-kalam-and-carry-on-the-cosmological-argument-for-the-existence-of-god/.

          You can dismiss this without any real consideration, that’s your prerogative, but not grappling with the argument (even if you have grappled with it and are just incredulous) is poor grounds for saying that they are “weak apologetic sophistry”. This is an ad hominem, not an argument.

          (2) “you’re still trying to define a god into existence as an “uncaused cause”, which also might not even be a possible thing.” How so? Premise 1 is not that God exists! I don’t start with that conclusion and then work my way backwards into Kalam. And again, this seems to be a critique of the motives of the person(s) making the argument, not the argument itself… See ‘ad hominem’ above.

          (3) “Any real god could be demonstrated to exist in a much more straightforward way, and wouldn’t need this kind of weak apologetic sophistry.” Pray tell.

          (4) “The fact that apologists have to resort to unverifiable logical arguments is a strong piece of evidence for your god not being real.” This obviously doesn’t follow. It’s a non sequitur. Even if every apologist were completely inept and did not make any sound arguments, that would not affect the objective truth about God’s existence… And… this is also an ad hominem! That’s a rate of 1.5 ad hominems per paragraph – You’re killing me, man! 😛

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          1. An “ad hominem” would be if I dismissed this argument because of the character of the person making it. I dismiss this argument because it is a bad argument. I’ve heard many excuses why the premises of this argument should be accepted, but none of those reasons are “we can test this and have tested this”. There’s no possible way to test the statement “everything that begins to exist has a cause” because there’s no way to test everything. We can’t even test “the universe began to exist” because we have no way of investigating anything further back than the singularity. The fact that our knowledge is limited is not a good basis for constructing arguments. So far you just have assertions.

            Even if you managed to establish that the universe had a “cause” that doesn’t do anything to advance an argument for a god. The cause could as well be a cosmic unicorn that farts universes. It could be that “nothing” is an unstable condition that will always decay into “something”. I don’t see any real point to this syllogism.

            But apologetic arguments are ineffective against non-believers anyway. That’s not what they are for. Their purpose is to make believers think that there are good rational reasons for believing the stuff that they began to believe for non-rational reasons. They are to stop believers from thinking too hard about the real underlying issues with “faith”. Throwing apologetics at atheists is just a waste of time, it doesn’t work.

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    1. What is your argument for proving that invisible fairies do not exist?

      You see, Christopher, I am not the one making the extra-ordinary claim (that an invisible superhero-like being exists), therefore, as per the custom of our culture, the onus is not on me to disprove the extra-ordinary claim.

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      1. Hmm, I agree with you that the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. But we all have worldviews and the defining characteristic of an atheistic worldview is that God does not exist. So I don’t think it is unfair (or illogical) to ask why you believe it.

        That is, why do you hold the positive belief that no God exists? Of course, you’re not obliged to answer – you haven’t even made this claim, but if it is your view that God does not exist, then whence cometh the reluctance to argue for your position?

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        1. It is not my view that God does not exist.

          It is my view that it is possible that a Creator god or gods exist but the evidence to date is insufficient to say for sure. However, I do not believe in the existence of the Jewish god, the Muslim god, the Mormon god, the Hindu gods, or the Christian god/gods due to a lack of good evidence.

          Just as I cannot prove that unicorns and leprechauns do not exist, I cannot prove that the resurrected Jesus Christ does not exist. However, since the evidence for unicorns, leprechauns, and a resurrected first century corpse are all so poor, I do not believe in their existence. There is a difference between not believing something exists and knowing something does not exist.

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            1. A specific god or just a Creator?

              I will accept the claim that the universe was created by an intelligent designer/creator when the majority of scientists tell us that there is sufficient scientific evidence indicating as such. When it comes to the existence of the resurrected Jesus, I would probably require the same type of evidence you would require to believe in the existence of a flying horse.

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              1. Gary, a couple of things I want to note here.

                (1) Just a creator.

                (2) Be careful not to commit the “expert fallacy”. I wouldn’t think it wise to believe or disbelieve something just because a majority of scientists say so. Afterall, not all statements by scientists are statements of science (as John Lennox is fond of saying).

                This is most evident when some hard scientists talk philosophy. Stephen Hawking once infamously wrote that “Philosophy is dead!” – itself a philosophical statement! He was not alone among hard scientists showing themselves to be poor philosophers. Thus scientific credentials may not be so important when answering philosophical questions – though the scientific data, often is.

                I happen to think the scientific data is near conclusive that a supreme intellect is behind the universe. We all have access to the same data, so the difference must be in our interpretation; our philosophy. This is a very different discipline that the hard sciences.

                (3) I generally do not argue Christian particularism with someone who doesn’t believe in God at all – it just seems to be a distraction. But since you mentioned it, I am persuaded that the evidence for the Resurrection is so strong that it can be taken as a historical fact. Maybe we’ll get to tackle that one one day soon 😉

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                1. Hi Taylor,

                  “Be careful not to commit the “expert fallacy”. I wouldn’t think it wise to believe or disbelieve something just because a majority of scientists say so. Afterall, not all statements by scientists are statements of science (as John Lennox is fond of saying).”

                  Do you accept the factuality of the Law of Gravity based on expert opinion or on your own personal extensive investigation of this issue? And the same question regarding the claim that water has a set boiling point at sea level? Have you personally verified that claim? How about all the Laws of Physics? Have you personally performed experiments and performed the mathematical calculations necessary to confirm those claims? How about when your house has a major electrical issue? Do you personally become a “self-educated” electrician and do the work yourself or do you obtain estimates and opinions from several professionally trained and educated electricians—experts—(and let one of them do the job)?

                  You see, most people in western civilization rely on expert opinion for all issues in which they themselves are not experts. So why should I do any differently regarding the issue of the origin of the universe?

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                  1. Because it is a philosophical question. But even if it were strictly a scientific one, it would not be true or false just because an expert says so.

                    My point is not that you are unwise for having faith that the various experts mentioned above know more about a particular subject than you – I actually think that IS wise – I mean to caution you from making an argument that sounds like “because scientists say such and such, therefore, such and such is true”. This would not follow and commits the “expert fallacy”. I probably should have made that clearer.

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                    1. Because it is a philosophical question. But even if it were strictly a scientific one, it would not be true or false just because an expert says so.

                      True. It is entirely possible that the Law of Gravity is not true and that all the scientists on the face of the planet are wrong. But life is about probability. And the evidence suggests that the probability that the consensus opinion of experts on an issue being correct is far more likely than the opinion of one non-expert or even every non-expert on the planet! (Copernicus and Heliocentricity is one such example.)

                      Yes, experts have been wrong. But they are more often right than wrong and more frequently right than the general public.

                      My point is not that you are unwise for having faith that the various experts mentioned above know more about a particular subject than you – I actually think that IS wise – I mean to caution you from making an argument that sounds like “because scientists say such and such, therefore, such and such is true”. This would not follow and commits the “expert fallacy”. I probably should have made that clearer.

                      Good. We are on the same page. A claim is not true just because the consensus of experts believe it is. It is simply more probably true, in my worldview. By the way, please clarify your definition of “faith”. I do not have “faith” in science in the sense that some Christians, not all, “hope in what cannot be verified” about Jesus. I have “trust” in what can be verified.

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                    2. Haha, caught that did ya?! I was hoping you would say something about it. That was just a minor troll on my part.

                      By faith, I simply meant “trust”. That is how I describe my religious faith as well – and it’s evidence based.

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                    3. But my trust in expert opinion has enormous quantities of verifiable, often uncontested, evidence to back it up. Does your “faith” in Jesus?

                      Take for instance my trust in the reliability and safety of American-made and maintained aircraft. Can I be 100% certain that my American plane will not crash? No, but I can be very confident that it probably won’t crash based on mountains of evidence including airplane safety records, maintenance records, pilot safety records, etc.

                      Can you provide a similar quantity of evidence for your belief that a first century peasant is still alive and the omnipotent, omnipresent ruler of the universe?

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                    4. Gary, I don’t even think you have sufficient reason to trust your own cognitive faculties based on your worldview as you have espoused it.

                      I will explain what I mean later. I’m writing as I sit at a traffic light…

                      And yes the evidence for the resurrection is quite strong both philosophical and historical… okay, green light. Talk later. It’s been fun.

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                    5. I too enjoy our conversation, Taylor. People can disagree without being disagreeable.

                      You seem to insist that all questions be answered in order to select a worldview, even if much of that worldview is based on unverifiable supernatural claims. “A God did it” fills in all the missing information for you.

                      I, on the other hand, am very comfortable admitting that my worldview does not have all the answers. But, it does have reliability and predictability…and for me that is good enough.

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                2. He was not alone among hard scientists showing themselves to be poor philosophers. Thus scientific credentials may not be so important when answering philosophical questions – though the scientific data, often is.

                  I don’t get into philosophical discussions.

                  It’s not that I believe that philosophy is not important nor that it has not provided valuable contributions to western civilization. I do and it has. I however, wrongly or rightly, have chosen a world view based on the scientific method. I cannot prove that this worldview is the one, true reality, but I can demonstrate that it is the most reliable world view currently available.

                  Philosophy allows for the possible existence of the supernatural, which by definition cannot be examined by the scientific method, my worldview. Therefore, I choose to ignore the possible existence of the supernatural simply because it cannot be evaluated by the methods I believe should be used (the scientific method) to evaluate every universal truth claim (a claim that is true for all people, at all times, and in all places). My position does not mean that I believe that the supernatural does NOT exist, it simply means that I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to believe it does.

                  It is certainly possible that a supernatural creator created the universe many billions of years ago using supernatural powers, but I do not believe that a supernatural being operates today within our universe for the same reason I don’t believe in flying horses: Lack of good evidence.

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                  1. … We’re having a philosophical discussion right now. You just (very nicely) laid out your own philosophy. To deny philosophy is to use it – we all have a philosophy.

                    This reminds me very much of a debate I saw years ago between WLC and Peter Atkins. As I draw on that exchange, I have a couple of further observations:

                    (1) By your own standard, I would advise you (if you want to be consistent) to abandon science all together. Afterall, science itself can not be justified by the scientific method because it presupposes logic and mathematics. If we must presuppose logic and mathematics to do science, then we cannot prove logic and mathematics by science – that would be arguing in a circle.

                    (2) You must also commit your ethical beliefs to the fire because science cannot tell you what is morally good; it only describes what is – not what ought to be.

                    It gets worse.

                    (3) Metaphysical truths like “there are minds other than my own”, “the external world is real”, “the world was not created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age” are beliefs that strictly cannot be proven by science.

                    It’s no wonder that you don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to believe that God exists! Your worldview rules out this possibility a priori!

                    That is, by your own words, you are ruling out claims that are not accessible to the scientific method. We have already seen the self-refuting nature of this position, but that also means that NO evidence would EVER be sufficient for you, because the supernatural is beyond the scope of science!

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                    1. You are absolutely correct. I arrive at my worldview using unproven assumptions about reality. I’m guilty as charged! Yes, it is entirely possible that I only exist in a computer software program, or in the imagination of someone else… However, since my worldview is infinitely more reliable than your supernatural worldview, I plan to stick with it! 🙂

                      Next time both our cars won’t start in the morning, you pray to your invisible spirit friend for help; I’ll read the owner’s manual or contact an expert (a mechanic)!

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                    2. Oh, my… Gary, if you can live with the contradictions laid out above then I dare say you haven’t understood them.

                      And openness to going wherever the evidence leads (even if it goes in a supernatural direction), does not shut me off to any means of gaining knowledge. In other words, I would read the instruction manual as well… But I would have a basis for understanding why the laws of internal combustion are there in the first place. 😜

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                    3. But I do not need to have “faith” that the laws of internal combustion exist. I can believe it because the overwhelming majority of experts say it does, and, if I want to, I can conduct research to prove it. Can you do the same with your belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator?

                      Again, I do not deny the existence of a god…only the existence of your god, Yahweh/Jesus. 🙂

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                    4. “Again, I do not deny the existence of a god…only the existence of your god, Yahweh/Jesus.” is this a scientific position?

                      And yes, I can! BUT I would like to note now that the argument has shifted considerably.

                      We’re no longer debating about the existence of God in general, but about Christianity in particular. Does that mean that you’ve moved towards theism/deism?

                      As I say, I usually don’t argue Christian particularism unless the person already believes in God, but you have brought this up a couple of times now and I don’t want you to think I am dodging. Just know that this is HUGE topic and I am only going to hit some highlights here. Happy to provide resources for further reading, however.

                      *Before I get started, I think it is worth pointing out that if you accept that it is possible that God exists (as you concede), you must also accept that, if God exists, then the resurrection is at least possible.

                      Now then, the science of textual criticism is the same method that literary scholars would apply to any ancient text to determine its voracity. The New Testament stands remarkably well against this test.

                      It was taken down very early after the events it described (unusual in a verbal culture).
                      The historical and cultural context is absolutely correct. A forgery taken down much later will not correctly place historical/political figures, geographic landmarks, political climate, etc the way that the New Testament does. The congruence can be seen in the contemporaneous writings of Roman historians and the like.
                      There are several credible eye-witness accounts that vary on minor details, but are consistent on core claims of the gospels. Which, as any good detective will tell you, is a sign of authenticity.
                      This is because accounts that match on every detail are almost always the result of collusion. But if several people witness the same event, they will agree on the core facts, but differ on minor details.
                      The eyewitnesses refused to recant when doing so would have spared them torture and death via Roman crucifixion… And they would have KNOWN that what they were saying was false; it’s not like they could have been sincerely mistaken that Jesus had died and then risen from the grave.
                      More than 5000 people over a 3 to 4 month period claimed to have seen Christ after his death.
                      There are contemporaneous accounts from at least 3 historians and 11 authors (not including the New Testament authors) who confirm the basic timeline of events.
                      The empty tomb is a historical fact as certain as ANY fact from that time period. Roman and Jewish authorities offered several explanations of why the tomb was empty. Why would such authorities say that “the disciples stole the body”, and so on, if they could have simply produced the corpse of Jesus of Nazareth and squashed Christianity before it began?

                      This brings me to an argument that is sometimes called “the minimal facts approach”. The idea here is to argue only from the facts that are undisputed about the life and death of Christ. That is, the argument builds solely on the facts accepted universally by experts (so you should love this :)) both believing and non-believing. Those facts are as follows:

                      1) Jesus died by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. This is recorded in all 4 gospels as well as several non-christian sources. It is attested to by the Jewish historian, Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus to name a few.

                      2) Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. This can be taken as historically certain as the Jewish authorities accused the disciples of stealing the body! This presupposes, and therefore admits, that the tomb of Jesus was empty. If it wasn’t, they could have produced a corpse and ended the Christian religion before it even began… But they couldn’t. It is also extremely unlikely that early Christians would have invented the fact that the WOMEN discovered the empty tomb. This was a society where the testimony of women was not even admissible in the court of law. Embarrassing testimony (of which this is not the most) permeates the gospels and is another mark of authenticity.

                      3) Jesus’ disciples believed what they saw was the risen Jesus… Literally everyone agrees with this.

                      4) The skeptic and persecutor of Christians, Paul, was converted to Christianity. The man wrote 60% of the New Testament. Everyone agrees with this.

                      5) The skeptic James was converted to Christianity. 100% agreement.

                      6) The Resurrection was the catalyst for the explosive growth of Christianity. Within one lifetime, it spread from Israel all the way to Europe, Africa, and Asia.

                      So what are we to make of these “minimal facts”? Suffice it to say that there have been several theories offered to explain all of these facts and any theory proposed must address all 6, but none have been successful – save for one; that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

                      Ok – there’s LOTS more that could be said here, but this deserves a post, nay a book, of its own! I’ll leave it here for now.

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                3. I happen to think the scientific data is near conclusive that a supreme intellect is behind the universe.

                  Are you a cosmologist or other expert in the hard sciences? If not, you may be very intelligent, Taylor, but most educated people in western civilization would consider your opinion on the scientific data for the origin of the universe just as valuable and reliable as my opinion on the operation and repair of the electrical system in my house (diddly squat).

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                  1. Quite right! But I am not saying “I believe that the evidence is strong, therefore, the evidence is strong”.

                    Rather, I am saying that we all look at the same evidence but come to different conclusions – therefore, the difference must be in our interpretation; our philosophy. This is a very different discipline than the hard sciences.

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                    1. Imagine if every truth claim in western civilization was simply left to each person’s “informed” opinion. What chaos! Western cultures depend on expert opinion to function. I trust the experts. When the experts don’t know or are divided (such as the origin of the universe), I take a wait and see attitude. I will bet that you do the same except when it comes to the supernatural claims of your religion.

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                4. I am persuaded that the evidence for the Resurrection is so strong that it can be taken as a historical fact.

                  Are you a New Testament scholar? Can you read and understand the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic?

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  4. “I reject the entire argument because it is an argument based on an assumption: That all gods, of if there is only one god, God, must be eternal, without a beginning. That is the Christian/monotheist definition of that word but it is not the universally agreed upon definition of that word”

    I don’t understand this objection. Even if we accept that this is a confusion in terms, that would not refute that the cosmological argument establishes Dr. Craig’s version of “God”. Come to think of it, we can take the word “god” out of it completely since that seems to be such a loaded term for some atheists. What the argument actually attempts to show is that the universe had a cause that is, by definition, uncaused, timeless, spaceless and immaterial. Whether you call that cause “God” or not is irrelevant to the success of the argument, isn’t it?

    And on these grounds, this:

    “therefore this argument is only valid when debating another monotheist!!!”

    Is a non sequitur (my apologies to Neil :P).

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