1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.On Premise 1: the Principle of Sufficient Reason
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).
AA starts by going after premise 1, which is pretty much just the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). He says,
According to modern physics, however things can seemingly happen without cause. There are several things we observe that appear to have no cause. For example, "[w]hen an atom in an excited energy level drops to a lower level and emits a photon, a particle of light, we find no cause of that event. Similarly, no cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus."Actually, according to modern physics, there may (emphasis on MAY, see my comment here) be some indeterministic events at the quantum level, but there is certainly an explanation for why those events can happen, namely because the necessary framework needed for the events already exists. In this example (taken from retired cosmologist, Victor Stenger) the atom exists to emit a particle of light. But let's examine the example further. Stenger says that when an atom that is in an excited state drops to a lower level, it emits a photon, and that is an example of a causeless event. Um, really? Seems to me that the cause of the atom emitting a photon is the drop to a lower energy level. We may not know exactly why it happens, but it seems to me in just examining the quote that we don't have an uncaused event.
But even if there are events that seemingly are inexplicable, should we then jettison the PSR? I don't think so. In fact, this seems to amount to nothing but an appeal to ignorance. We don't know the cause, therefore there isn't one. I think, based on our common experience and the strong intuition we have that all things have a sufficient reason for their existing, we should reject the conclusion that there are uncaused events. Can you imagine if scientists started settling for this answer, as the Arizona Atheist has, and saying, "well at first glance we can't figure out the cause, therefore there most likely isn't one"? That would destroy all avenues of science. Just think of the ramifications in criminal forensics!
Not to mention that the scientific data really doesn't support his claim. Another example that has been cited by some atheists is radioactive decay. But, as a friend pointed out, we see that the environment affects how these isotopes decay, suggesting that there is a correlation in nature, which would suggest a cause.
Also consider that if the PSR weren't the case, then it is inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn't simply exist for no reason, or why events don't simply happen uncaused. We always always always look for causes in association with events and existing things.
Premise 1 is also much more plausible than it's negation, which is another property of a strong premise. Consider Richard Taylor's story of finding a translucent ball in the forest. It is ridiculous to state that the translucent ball just exists there without a reason, and increasing the size of the ball up to the size of the universe wouldn't allay the need for an explanation of its existence.1
AA then goes after Craig's statement on the logical validity of this argument. It is true that this argument is logically airtight. It is a deductive argument by which the conclusion follows necessarily if the premises are true. AA says, "logic by itself [and by extension, philosophy] while extremely helpful and right much of the time, can sometimes get you into trouble." Well yeah, and that's why Craig explains what constitutes a good or bad argument. If AA wants to discredit Craig's arguments, he either needs to point out a logically fallacious step in the argument (which none of Craig's arguments have) or dispute one or more of the premises. Simply saying that SCIENCE® defeats logic is ridiculous. Logic is at the base of almost every, if not every, discipline, including science. Science relies on, and wouldn't exist without, the rules of inference and deduction that logic presents us with. Empirical data is useless unless there is some means of interpreting it, which means logic must exist for science to exist. That also means that science must agree with logic if the conclusions are true.
Some of AA's fellow atheists apparently attempted to tell him this, by which he responded, "The fact that something is philosophically valid or "logical" doesn't make it true." Well yeah, nobody would argue with that. Recall that Craig said that the premises in a sound argument must be true.
AA continues, "Craig goes on to discuss his other premises, but given the fact that either they require no comment or they hinge upon the first premise, I don't think I need to go through the others. I've taken the very legs of this argument out from under Craig." AA is correct that the PSR is a necessary premise for this argument (which is the definition of a deductive argument, making the statement a little redundant, but I digress). But if he's correct, then AA has just postulated that the universe doesn't need an explanation for its existence. But AA's beloved SCIENCE® goes against that assertion, as does common intuition, but we'll flush that out in the next post on the Kalaam Cosmological Argument.
1 Richard Taylor, The Cosmological Argument: A Defense, http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/taylor.html