Saturday, October 19, 2019

Rationality Rules vs. Craig’s Causal Premise (p. 2)

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Rationality Rules vs. Craig’s Causal Premise
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Craig’s First Justification, Part 2: Denying Premise 1’



In one of Woodford’s clips William Lane Craig says:
To claim that something coming into being from nothing is worse than magic. When a magician pulls the rabbit out of a hat, at least you’ve got the magician, not to mention the hat. But if you deny premise 1’ you’ve got to think the whole universe just appeared at some point in the past for no reason whatsoever. But nobody sincerely believes that things, say, a horse or an Eskimo village can just pop into being without a cause.
At around 5:47 to 6:33 Woodford addresses the claim that denying premise 1’ means you’d have to believe the whole universe came into being sometime in the past for no reason at all (i.e. came into being uncaused), to which Woodford promptly replies, “Except no, we don’t.” Except logic says, “Yes, we do.” Seriously, one can rigorously prove this using symbolic logic. For those who are logic savvy (if you’re not, see parts 1 and 2 of my introductory logic series which contains all the information needed to follow the proof I will show; otherwise I will come back to plain English in a little bit), here are the propositional variables:
  • B = the universe began to exist.
  • C = the universe has cause of its beginning.
We can rigorously prove that believing the denial of premise 1’ (i.e. ¬(B → C)) means you logically have to believe that the universe began to exist without a cause (i.e. B ∧  ¬C).
  1. ¬(B → C)

  1. ¬(B ∧ ¬C) indirect proof assumption
    1. ¬B ∨ ¬¬C 2, De Morgan’s Law
    2. ¬B ∨ C 3, double negation
    3. B conditional proof assumption
      1. ¬¬B 5, double negation
      2. C 4, 6 disjunctive syllogism
    1. B → C 5-7 conditional proof
    2. ¬(B → C) ∧ (B → C) 1, 8 conjunction
  1. B ∧ ¬C 2-9 indirect proof
Formal logic aside, how does Woodford dispute Craig’s claim? Woodford attacks a straw man and accuses Craig of a black-and-white fallacy (also known as “false dichotomy”) he never made: the universe either has a cause or it popped into being from nothing, when a third option to this false dichotomy is that the universe did not begin to exist (it always existed) and had no cause. Craig never says “Either the universe popped into being uncaused or it had a cause” in any of Woodford’s clips, nor does premise 1’ (“If the universe began to exist, then the universe has cause of its beginning”) imply any such dichotomy. The actual dichotomy premise 1’ implies is that either (a) the universe did not begin to exist; or (b) it had a cause. (I could use symbolic logic to prove this, but if you think about it and remember that 1’ says “If the universe began to exist, then the universe has cause of its beginning” you might see why this would imply that either the universe had a cause or it had no beginning.) So saying the universe is both uncaused and never began to exist would not at all constitute denying that if the universe began to exist, then the universe has cause of its beginning. If one denied premise 1’ and justified that denial by saying the universe always existed and was never caused, that would be committing the red herring fallacy.

If you had trouble with the symbolic logic showing that denying the first premise meant you’d have to believe the universe began to exist uncaused, here’s one way to think about it: denying “Everything that begins to exist has a cause” commits you to believing there is something that began to exist that had no cause; denying “Every universe that began to exist had a cause” commits you to believing there’s a universe that began to exist without a cause, and if you narrow that claim to just this universe as 1’ does, denying 1’ commits you to believing our universe began to exist without a cause. Craig was absolutely right and Woodford just didn’t understand the logic of the situation.

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