William Lane Craig: 36 Years of Equivocation – Part 3

In comments on the previous post in this series, Scott Scheule pointed out that Wiliam Craig admits that KCA does NOT show that there is EXACTLY ONE first cause or creator (emphasis added by me):
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Craig:
Finally, we have objection
4. The argument doesn’t prove that monotheism is true.
I concede the point. I’ve never claimed that the argument proves that there is exactly one Personal Creator of the universe. But as you note, Ockham’s Razor enjoins that we not multiply causes beyond necessity. We are warranted in postulating only such causes as are necessary to explain the effect. All that is required in this case is one Personal Creator. To postulate more would be unwarranted.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-the-cause-of-the-universe-an-uncaused-personal-creator-of-the-universe
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In my discussion with Scott, I pointed out that a number of major critics of cosmological arguments have made the objection that some version of cosmological argument fails to establish that there is EXACTLY ONE first cause:
Paul Edwards (“The Cosmological Argument” in Critiques of God, p.46)
J.L. Mackie (The Miracle of Theism, p.87)
Michael Martin (Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, p.103)
Graham Oppy (Arguing About Gods, p.99)
William Rowe  (The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion, p.115)
Jordan Sobel (Logic and Theism, p.190-193)
Michael Martin and William Rowe raise the objection specifically against KCA.
J.L. Mackie is commenting on a popular form of the First Cause argument for God.
Paul Edwards, Graham Oppy, and Jordan Sobel are objecting to Aquinas’s 2nd Way.
Note that Sobel carefully analyzes the meaning of a key premise of the 2nd Way, points out ambiguity in that premise ( an ambiguity related to the quanity of first causes), and then argues that there is a “logical gap” in the 2nd Way because of the ambiguity in that key premise.  In other words, Sobel carefully argues that the 2nd Way commits the fallacy of equivocation. Although Sobel does not use the words “fallacy of equivocation” in his objection, it is clear that that is the point of his objection.
It is now time to get into the details concerning my claim that Craig committed the fallacy of equivocation in his presentation of KCA back in 1979.  In a future post, I will get into details concerning my claim that Craig has continued to commit this fallacy up to the present day.

The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (1979)

In this book, Craig lays out KCA for a general audience.  He provides two philosophical arguments and two scientific arguments for the claim that “the universe had a beginning.” (p.69).
Craig starts out his argumentation with a summary that already indicates that his argument will commit the fallacy of equivocation:
Why does something exist instead of nothing? Unless we are prepared to believe that the universe simply popped into existence uncaused out of nothing, then the answer must be: Something exists because there is an eternal, uncaused being for which no further explanation is possible.  But who or what is this eternal uncaused being? Leibniz identified it with God.  (p.37-38)
He speaks here of an intermediate conclusion that “there is an eternal, uncaused being…”.  This intermediate conclusion is ambiguous, because of the ambiguous phrase “an eternal uncaused being” which might mean either (a) AT LEAST ONE eternal uncaused being or (b) EXACTLY ONE eternal uncaused being.
But in the very next sentence, Craig shifts his terminology to speaking about “this eternal uncaused being” which assumes that there is ONLY ONE such being. In the sentence after that, Craig uses the pronoun “it”  referring back to “this eternal uncaused being” reinforcing the idea that he is talking about a SINGLE being.  Craig suggests that “it” could be “identified…with God”, and since “God” is understood to be the proper name of a particular being, this adds further reinforcement of the suggestiong that the expressions “it” and “this eternal uncaused being” refer to EXACTLY ONE uncaused being.
But the reason given in this summary argument is clearly incapable of supporting the claim that there is EXACTLY ONE eternal uncaused being.  The denial that the universe popped into existence uncaused out of nothing has no such implication.  The hypothesis that there were FIVE eternal uncaused beings (for example) would avoid the implication that the universe popped into existence uncaused out of nothing.
So, we see here Craig gives a reason in support of an ambiguous intermediate conclusion (just as Aquinas does in his cosmological arguments), and the reason given for the ambiguous conclusion only supports the WEAKER version of that conclusion: “there is AT LEAST ONE eternal uncaused being” (just as in Aquinas’s cosmological arguments).  Then Craig shifts his terminology so that it is no longer ambiguous but instead ASSUMES the truth of the STRONGER version of the intermediate conclusion: “there is EXACTLY ONE eternal uncaused being” (just as in Aquinas’s cosmological arguments).  Finally, Craig suggests that the SINGLE eternal uncaused being is to be identified as “God” (just as Aquinas does at the end of his cosmological arguments).
Since the above quotation of Craig is obviously a brief summary of his argument, this quotation is insufficient to convict Craig of the fallacy of equivocation, but it does strongly hint that Craig will use ambiguous language and commit the fallacy of equivocation by shifting his terminology as he gets closer to the conclusion of his argument.  For anyone familiar with issues of ambiguity, equivocation, and unclarity of quantification, this paragraph by Craig raises a big RED FLAG:   Warning – the following argument may contain unclear and misleading use of language that will lead to fallacious reasoning.
Craig wraps up his argument on pages 85-87, and it is there that we see him follow in the footsteps of Aquinas and commit the fallacy of equivocation.  First, Craig establishes an ambiguous intermediate conclusion (just like Aquinas did):
Paragraph 1 (starting about 2/3 down the page on page 85)
Any unprejudiced inquirer ought to agree with me, at this point, that the universe was caused to exist.  Now this is truly a remarkable conclusion.  It means that the universe was caused to exist by something beyond it and greater than it. (p.85)
Craig’s reasoning here can be summarized this way:
 1. The universe was caused to exist.
Therefore:
2. The universe was caused to exist by something beyond it and greater than it.
Premise (2) is an ambiguous intermediate conclusion. The expression “caused to exist by something” is ambiguous, making premise (2) ambiguous between the following two meanings:
2a.  The universe was caused to exist by AT LEAST ONE thing that is beyond the universe and greater than the universe.
2b. The universe was caused to exist by EXACTLY ONE thing that is beyond the universe and greater than the universe.
But,  the reason given in support of (2) only supports the WEAKER claim (2a), and does not support the stronger claim (2b).  This parallels the problem with Aquinas’s 2nd Way.
The reason given in support of (2) is (1), and (1) says nothing about HOW MANY things were involved in causing the universe to exist.  At best, the most that one could infer from (1), apart from additional argumentation,  is (2a) (and even that requires a significant bit of argument, which is missing from Craig’s presentation in this book).  Given the absence of additional arumentation, there is NO REASON at this point to conclude that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that caused the universe to exist. At most, we can conclude that there is AT LEAST ONE thing that caused the universe to exist, i.e. (2a) is the most that we can infer from (1).
Paragraph 2 (starting near the bottom of page 85)
But in the very next paragraph, Craig shifts his terminology, and the new terminology is no longer ambiguous concerning the quanity of things that are causes of the existence of the universe (emphasis added by me):
Now let’s turn to our third set of alternatives, and I will explain why I think THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE is personal rather than impersonal.  The first event in the series of past events was, as we have seen, the beginning of the universe.  We have agreed, reasonably, that that event was caused.  Now the question is: If  THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE is eternal, then why isn’t the universe also eternal, since it is the effect of THE CAUSE. (p.85-86)
So Craig moves from the ambiguous phrase “the universe was caused to exist by something”, which on one interpretation allows for the possibility that MANY things are causes of the existence of the universe, to the unambiguous phrase “the cause of the universe”, which assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that is the cause of the existence of the universe. At the end of Paragraph 2, Craig shortens this unambiguous phrase to “the cause”, which (in this context) is still unambiguous and still assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that caused the universe to exist.
Paragraph 3 (starting about 1/4 down the page on page 86)
In the next paragraph (which I’m calling “Paragraph 3”), Craig continues with tht unambigious phrase “the cause of the universe” (emphasis added by me):
…But this seems to imply that if THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE existed from eternity, the universe would also have existed from eternity. And this we know to be false. (p.86)
Paragraph 4 (starting about 2/3 down the page on page 86)
In Paragraph 4, Craig shortens the unambiguous phrase “the cause of the universe” down to just “the cause” which still assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that caused the universe to exist (emphasis added by me):
One might say that THE CAUSE came to exist just prior to the first event.  But then THE CAUSE’s beginning would be the first event, and we must ask all over for ITs cause.  And this cannot go on forever, for we know that a beginningless series of events cannot exist.  There must be an absolute first event, before which there was no change, no previous event.  We know that this first event must have been caused.  Our question now is: How can a first event come to exist if THE CAUSE of that event has always existed?  Why isn’t the effect as eternal as THE CAUSE? 
Although it is already clear that the phrase “the cause” implies that we are talking about EXACTLY ONE thing that is the ONLY cause of the universe, Craig adds further confirmation of this by using the singular possessive pronoun “its” to refer to “the cause”.  Craig uses the unambiguous phrase “the cause” four times in Paragraph 4.
 Paragraph 5 (starting near the bottom of page 86)
In Paragraph 5, Craig returns to the longer unambiguous phrase “the cause of the universe” and then follows this with the shorter unambiguous phrase “the cause”, and he finally brings in the word “God”, which is understood to be the proper name of ONE particular being (emphasis added by me):
It seems to me that there is only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to conclude that THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE is personal and chooses to create the universe in time.  This way, GOD could exist changelessly from eternity but choose to create the world in time.  By “choose” I do not mean GOD changes His mind, but that He intends to create a world with a beginning.  And, therefore, a world with a beginning comes to exist.  So, THE CAUSE is eternal, but the effect is not.  It seems to me that this is the only way the universe could have come to exist: through the will of a personal creator.  And I think we are justified in calling a personal creator of the universe by the name “God.”  (p.86-87)
Since, as Craig indicates, the word “God” functions as a name, it makes sense to call “a personal creator of the universe” by this name ONLY IF the phrase “a personal creator of the universe” refers to EXACTLY ONE being.  If there were MANY personal creators of the universe, then it would make no sense to assign the proper name “God” to that collection of personal creators.
Furthermore, in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the word “God” is understood to refer to EXACTLY ONE being.  From the point of view of these western religions, if there are MANY creators, then there is no such being as “God” because this concept requires that the being in question is the ONE and ONLY creator of the universe.  Craig is a traditional Christian believer, so he presumably is using the word “God” in accordance with traditional Christian theology.  Thus, in asserting that we are “justified in calling a personal creator of the universe by the name of ‘God’,”  Craig assumes that the phrase “a personal creator” is (in this context) a reference to EXACTLY ONE personal creator, not to MANY personal creators.
Summary
Let’s review what is going on in these five paragraphs, where Craig is wrapping up his presentation of KCA.  In Paragraph 1 Craig infers an ambiguous intermediate conclusion (similar to what Aquinas does in the 2nd Way):
2. The universe was caused to exist by something beyond it and greater than it.
The reason given in support of this ambiguous conclusion only supports the WEAK interpretation of (2):
2a.  The universe was caused to exist by AT LEAST ONE thing that is beyond the universe and greater than the universe.
But then in the next four paragraphs, Craig switches to using unambiguous language that assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE thing or being that caused the existence of the universe.
In Paragraph 2, Craig uses the phrase “the cause of the universe” two times, and then uses a shortened version of that phrase once: “the cause”.  In Paragraph 3, Craig again uses the phrase “the cause of the universe”, once.  In Paragraph 4, Craig uses the shortened version “the cause” four times, and uses the singular possessive pronoun “its” in reference to “the cause”.  Finally, in Paragraph 5, Craig uses both the longer unambiguous phrase “the cause of the universe” (once) and the shorter version “the cause” (once), and then he introduces the word “God” and asserts that “we are justified in calling a personal creator of the universe by the name ‘God'”, thus assuming that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that caused the universe to exist.
In other words, in Paragraph 1 we have an intermediate conclusion that is stated in ambiguous language, and in which the reason supporting that conclusion only supports the interpretation of that conclusion that makes the weaker claim that there is AT LEAST ONE thing that is a cause of the universe, but in the next four paragraphs, Craig consistently uses unambiguous language which assumes the truth of the interpretation of the intermediate conclusion that makes the stronger claim that there is EXACTLY ONE thing that is a cause of the universe.
Thus, in this 1979 presentation of KCA, William Craig commits the fallacy of equivocation.
 

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