Wednesday night’s debate was yet another example of how the world’s most intelligent atheists cannot stand up to the rational arguments of theism. William Lane Craig has for a long time used the same basic arguments for theism, although to his credit he is very current with respect to the latest evidence and objections to these arguments. The debate failures of leading atheist intellectuals suggest that they simply don’t have good counter-arguments. Craig is certainly not winning by surprising his opponents but because he has better arguments. What most surprised me about this debate was that Krauss made several erroneous, inconsistent or misleading statements pertaining to physics, his area of expertise.
For example, Krauss claimed that “less than 1% of the universe is made up things which we can see.” However, other physicists put the percentage of visible matter-energy in the universe at about 4 or 5. While this mistake was not relevant to the debate, many other issues were. Krauss repeatedly made claims such as: “no scientist says that the universe is fine-tuned for human life.” Off the top of my head, I can think of numerous atheistic physicists who acknowledge fine-tuning even though they try to explain it away: Davies, Greenstein, Rees, Barrow, Hawking, Mlodinow, Hoyle, and Susskind. Most have devoted entire books to the topic. The name grows longer if you include ones who converted to supernatural belief by this evidence – such as Tipler and Flew (although Flew was not a physicist, he was a leading intellectual atheist for most of the latter half of the twentieth century.) Krauss kept repeating his skepticism towards fine-tuning but provided very minimal explanation or evidence for his claim. While of course no one is surprised that we find ourselves in a life-permitting universe, other atheists candidly admit their surprise that minuscule perturbations of different constants of nature would have been catastrophic to life. If the laws and constants of physics can vary as Krauss and most physicists believe, then it is vastly more probable that our universe would not have permitted life.
Krauss’s statements about the cosmological constant implied that it was fine-tuned only in one direction. While it is certainly true that a value of 0 would be quite supportive of life, the value of this constant is finely-tuned in both directions. One is left either with a rapidly recollapsed universe or one that expands so rapidly that no stars or planets form. No origin of life theories apply to universes which would either be too young or would lack a stable energy source. The cosmological constant, which represents the energy density of empty space, is based on contributions to the vacuum energy from different types of fields. The fine-tuning is so surprising because the fields we can measure contribute 120 orders of magnitude larger than the composite, finely-tuned value. This near but not exact cancellation requires a mind-boggling level of fine-tuning. Other atheist physicists like Susskind admit that such fine-tuning cannot be taken as merely coincidental – at least apart from a multiverse that could provide the necessary probabilistic resources to overcome the terrible odds. Krauss should have at least explained the issues and admitted that the multiverse is the only potential alternative to avoid the supernatural implications. A truly open and honest discussion of fine-tuning would have also admitted that a number of physicists (e.g. Dine, Smolin) are skeptical of this explanation because our universe doesn’t seem to be consistent with predictions of these multiverse models. Also, no one has yet been able to come up with a plausible multiverse theory that doesn’t itself require fine-tuning. Full disclosure by Krauss would have also admitted that scientists don’t yet even know what causes the inflaton field which is proposed as a mechanism for creating other universes. Prominent scientists have also pointed out how inflationary theory actually worsens fine-tuning problems. (Penrose, Dyson, Susskind, Kleban)
In a more egregious blunder, Krauss also asserted that “all quantum interpretations are deterministic.” One could easily point to numerous peer-reviewed articles that would contradict this claim. Even a lay level resource (Wikipedia) lists 13 different interpretations of quantum mechanics and identifies only 4 as being deterministic. None of Craig’s arguments were actually dependent upon whether or not physics is deterministic. However, Krauss’s deterministic claim and his admission that morality might be objective falls into Craig’s argument for the existence of God based on objective morality. Craig pointed out the flaw in Krauss’s determinism – there is no objective basis in a fully determined world for saying anything is wrong. How can someone be held accountable for something if they had no true “free will” to act otherwise? Krauss’s naturalistic worldview has a problem explaining the world we observe with regard to morality and free will. Under determinism, Krauss’s only rational way to deny theism was to deny objective morality. Most atheists are not willing to do so since most agree that some things are really wrong independent of human opinion (e.g. Holocaust, slavery, harming the environment etc.)
Consider some of Krauss’s other inconsistent statements. Krauss said that “we don’t claim that 90% evidence is good enough” and that “we never claim discovery based on that.” Krauss, however, contradicts himself by accepting the multiverse theory and varying laws of nature despite the lack of any empirical confirmation. Krauss kept appealing to these speculative theories as an attempt to explain away the fine-tuning and the creation of the universe. Some leading physicists even argue that the multiverse theory is “untestable in principle” and therefore unscientific. (e.g., Lee Smolin) Krauss even briefly mentioned that we cannot detect these other universes because they are moving away so rapidly. Is the multiverse theory any less metaphysical than the God hypothesis? It doesn’t seem to be so far anyway. It is even more astonishing and disingenuous for Krauss to claim that quantum physics can bring about space and time from absolutely nothing. If there was once no space, time, matter or energy (as the BVG theorem “proves”), what empirical evidence could Krauss ever point to that could demonstrate what quantum physics could do outside of space and time. It’s pretty hard to build a laboratory to run an experiment outside of space, time, matter and energy!
Although Krauss made unfounded assertions that Craig distorted the universe to match his own preconceptions, Krauss ironically seemed to be the one in denial. He refused to accept what the best scientific evidence really says about the beginning of the universe – namely that it has one! Krauss pointed out that Vilenkin and Guth do not discuss God in their scientific paper. Well, of course not since they are both atheists and they would not be allowed to discuss God in a scientific paper. However, Vilenkin does actually discuss the supernatural implications of the “proof that the beginning is unavoidable” in his Many Worlds in One book saying that “the universe looked too much like divine intervention.” While he tries to discredit this as a “proof of the existence of God,” Vilenkin offers no good reasons for rejecting the God-hypothesis – he only begs the question in saying that no one can explain who made God. The fact that leading atheist cosmologists stumbled across a “proof” for a beginning while trying to find ways to extend the multiverse into the infinite past only serves to more strongly substantiate Craig’s scientific claim. The supernatural implications of a universe coming into existence from nothing are unavoidable since the “who made God” objection is logically fallacious.
Krauss also erred in disparaging logic and philosophy – which must of necessity undergird science. The modern scientific understanding of quantum mechanics is certainly counter-intuitive but does not violate the laws of logic. It seemed a bit bizarre when Krauss stripped down to his “2+2=5” T-shirt. The atheist not the theist appealed to Orwell’s classic example of a false dogma! Imagine the response from atheists if a theist had made such claims.
Also, some of Krauss’s arguments are not at all scientific. For example, he argues that God would not have created a universe that relegated humans to such an isolated location. Not only is this argument non-scientific but it is also a poor theological argument. The Bible elevates God not humans. Who is to say that God would have not created a very large universe to demonstrate his power and to humble humanity? The Bible actually hints at a very large universe by mentioning that the number of stars is beyond what humans could even count. An expanding universe with an uncountable number of stars, and that began to exist out of nothing is exactly the universe described in Biblical writings thousands of years before science knew these 3 facts.
I don’t want to personally attack Krauss – he is obviously an intelligent and highly successful physicist and he knows more about the subject than I ever will. (I merely have a bachelor’s degree in physics). My point is that if an expert like Krauss can argue so poorly or even at times so inaccurately, then perhaps his commitment to philosophical naturalism is getting in the way of his reasoning. He defined evidence for God as consisting only in the detection of miracles and then appealed to Hume in arguing that miracles could never be detected in principle. So much for a “scientific,” open-minded search for truth! If you think that Craig was overstating the case when he claimed that the basis for Hume’s skepticism of miracles was “demonstrably false,” you should read atheist philosopher John Earman’s book aptly entitled Hume’s Abject Failure. Einstein was right – “the man of science is a poor philosopher.” Since philosophy is the foundation of science, starting from incorrect presuppositions can lead to invalid conclusions – even for an intelligent scientist. Bertrand Russell once proved that he was the pope starting from 2+2=5. Perhaps Krauss should admit that 2+2 is always equal to 4 and that the universe should be evaluated with a mind open to the possibility that God exists. After all, he admitted that Deism was plausible – which is equivalent to him admitting that there is evidence for God and therefore that he lost the debate.