An Example of “Begging the Question”

In a discussion where the person refused to focus on the topic — but wanted instead to move to William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA), he [Tim C.] challenged me with the following syllogism, expecting it to be sound.

Here is the challenge:

1.) Every material thing that begins to exist has a material cause.
2.) If theism is true, the universe does not have a material cause.
3.) The universe is material.
4.) The universe began to exist.
5.) Therefore, theism is false.

This is better than my own formulation. Borrowed from Cale N.

Premise one is simply “begging the question,” so if that is enough for you, fine. But here is the conversation that got nowhere because of the presuppositions of Tim.

One commentator did rewrite Tim’s first premise to encapsualte what is in it:

  • “The material cannot be caused by the immaterial” ~ Thomas B.

Yep, that about sums it up.

FYI, I am Calvin of Calvin and Hobbs, Tim is Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons.


Premise 1 is embedded with philosophical naturalism. In other words, you just took a metaphysical position to disprove metaphysics.

The responses to me are shameful, but I dredge on hoping my point restated will sink in:

Try and challenge P1, why don’t you?

This is the only time I really delve into #’s 2 and 3, I try to stay focused on #1

The jump from Premise 2 and premise 3 are unconnected. They are a non-sequitur, making the syllogism false. A material universe has no bearing on whether its cause was immaterial or material.

What premise don’t you accept? The syllogism is valid, if you are questioning its soundness, challenge a premise.

So far, premise 1 is metaphysical (embedded with philosophical naturalism/assumption). Premise 2 and 3 are unrelated, and 5 does not come naturally from your metaphysical stance in #1 [it is demanded]…

How is P1 of the KCA not “metaphysical” then?

No, Craig’s is not metaphysical, because it merely states: “whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.”

(It does not posit a metaphysical claim, which is why Dawkins agrees with Intelligent Design but in the end of the documentary [Expelled] says that the best explanation is space aliens.)

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.

2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite.

2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.12 An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition.

2.21 A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
2.22 The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

(Reasonable Faith)

Scientism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe. D’Souza points this a priori commitment out:

Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin:

  • “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment — a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Dinesh D’Souza points to this in his recent book, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).

Sorry. You skipped right by Craig’s support for P1.

  1. Your premise #1 says “whatever begins to exist has a material cause.”
  2. Craig does not say in his premise #1 that “whatever begins to exist has an immaterial cause.”

Which would be the exact opposite of your premise… BOTH, then, would start with a metaphysical point in that case.

Do you see Tim C. where you premise #1 went astray?

There was some cross-talk about what Dr. Craig appealed to in his premise number one, I said the law of cause and effect, Tim C. said intuition. I merely excerpted a portion from Dr. Craig’s book, On Guard. (In other words, I let Dr. Craig define his own position.) Back to the main premise of why I am rejecting his premise number one.

After repeating myself on Premise #1 and Tim C. rejecting my refutation of his first premise, I simply state [again]:  “In premise one… you assume the conclusion.”

No I don’t. What have you ever seen just pop into existence in our experience without a material cause? Nothing! Any sincere seeker of the truth would acknowledge this. It is the SAME EXACT support Craig gives for his defense of P1. EXACT. SAME.

If you reject my formulation you must reject Craig’s defense of his P1. Sorry, can’t go both ways on this!!

No, Craig does not assume a metaphysical position like you did.

[….]

Your Premise:

  • Every material thing that begins to exist has a M-A-T-E-R-I-A-L cause.

Craig’s Premise

  • Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

REWRITING Craig’s like yours

  • Whatever begins to exist has an I-M-M-A-T-E-R-R-I-A-L cause of its existence.

No I don’t. What have you ever seen just pop into existence in our experience without a material cause? Nothing! Any sincere seeker of the truth would acknowledge this. It is the SAME EXACT support Craig gives for his defense of P1. EXACT. SAME.

Tim still is not getting it so I reword it a bit:

No, Craig does not assume a metaphysical position like you did.

He didn’t assume his conclusion. You essentially said:

  • Since there is no God,
  • all theistic proofs are invalid.
  • Since the theistic proofs are invalid,
  • there is no God.

Robert A. Morey, The New Atheism: And the Erosion of Freedom (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R 1986), p. 57.

He still does not get it, so I state that this isn’t Rocket science, it is philosophy 101:

… you cannot assume your conclusion in the first premise. You exclude God in Premise 1, Craig doesn’t exclude God or exclude naturalism in his first premise.

Again, what support do you have to deny P1? You need support, bucko.

Try and address the issue, and not fallaciously claim I’m begging the question.

I am done… if you don’t get that your syllogism is as bad as this:

(1) Fido is Joe’s dog.
(2) Fido is a mother.
(3) Therefore, Fido is Joe’s mother.

Then you need to rush out and get Philosophy for Dummies.

Tim C. responds:

Haha!!! You are so transparent I think you may be a ghost! You clearly can’t defeat P1 and are disingenuously slinking away under the cover of a bogus accusation.

Your syllogism isn’t valid. Good grief!!! Jesus weeps for his modern day “apologists”!!

No, you are defining God out of the picture in Premise #1… if you cannot see that you are on some heavy pain pills. When you say “Every material thing that begins to exist has a material cause,” you are already giving an answer” [your conclusion].

You assumed PHILOSOPHICAL MATERIALISM in your premise #1 — you are assuming — then — a metaphysical position [which you reject in your conclusion].

Atheist philosopher Dr. Monton points this out:

If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism – the philosophical position that restricts all explanations in science to naturalistic explanations – it follows that the aim of science is not generating true theories. Instead, the aim of science would be something like: generating the best theories that can be formulated subject to the restriction that the theories are naturalistic. More and more evidence could come in suggesting that a supernatural being exists, but scientific theories wouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that possibility.

Bradley Monton, author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design ~ Apologetics315 h/t

And the aim of a proper syllogism is not to exclude in your first statement what your conclusion should.

Again, Craig did not exclude anything in his premise #1

Again, please attempt to offer evidence against my P1. Apparently you can’t. Your only possible claim is the universe, which just goes to show that the KCA itself is pretty much question begging. Hey if you’ll admit that, we’re cool.

No, the KCA is not begging the question, it is allowing the 2nd (and subsequently 2.1 and 2.2) to help reach a conclusion.

You premise #1 excludes theism. Craig’s does not exclude atheism.

+++++
Again
+++++

Your Premise:

Every material thing that begins to exist has a M-A-T-E-R-I-A-L cause.

[Your cause can only be material]

Craig’s Premise:

Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

[Craig’s cause could be material, or, it could not be]

Tim C. still didn’t get it. Tim is the epitome of inserting his presuppositions into a premise, I can picture Francis Schaeffer smiling in heaven. I would merely rewrite the original horrible syllogism with this horrible one:

  1. Every material thing that begins to exist has a material cause.
  2. The universe is material.
  3. The universe began to exist.
  4. Since there is no material explanation for the beginning of the universe
  5. A theistic cause seems plausible.

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