Home > Cosmic Origins, Quote Mining > WLC Quotes Anthony Kenny

WLC Quotes Anthony Kenny

I’ve already made a video on the dishonest use of Anthony Kenny by William Lane Craig (and posted this on his forums + submitted it as a question), but it is worth restating here.

If you’ve ever watched one of Dr. Craig’s debates, he almost always uses a quote by Anthony Kenny (“of Oxford University”) while defending his Kalam Cosmological Argument. Craig quotes Anthony Kenny as follows:

A proponent of the Big Bang Theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the universe came from nothing and by nothing.
– Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways (P. 66)

The following is the list of reasons I object to Dr. Craig’s use of this quote:

1. Craig cuts out an important part of the quote. Kenny actually writes that an atheist must believe “the matter of the universe comes from nothing” not just “the universe comes from nothing” (as Craig quotes it).  So, unless Dr. Craig wants to argue that the matter in the universe is synonymous with the universe as a whole, then it seems a bit dishonest to just leave that bit out. What other reasons would there be to alter the quote in this way?

Edit: For the sake of completeness, here is the unedited Anthony Kenny quote from page 66 of The Five Ways . . .

A proponent of such a theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the matter of the universe came from nothing and by nothing.

2. Anthony Kenny provides no sources or explanation of the claim. He just asserts it, and since he is not an expert in the field (he’s not a scientist at all), then why should we take his views on physics seriously?

Furthermore, I object to the fact that Dr. Craig very rarely mentions Kenny’s profession, but instead refers to him only as being “of Oxford University.”  Why does it matter what university he is from if he’s not an expert in physics? This seems like Craig is trying to trump of Kenny’s credentials in order to make a fallacious appeal to authority.

3. Kenny wrote the book in 1969 and the cosmology is outdated because of it. None of the current theories regarding the origin of the universe (or, at least, none that are seriously considered by theoretical physicists) were around 40 years ago.  So, on what physical basis are we to take Kenny’s claim seriously?

Until these three objections are answered, this common quote of Dr. Craig’s should be outright dismissed.

Update: A volunteer at Craig’s Reasonable Faith Ministry has responded to these points (and I responded those responses) here.

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  1. mojo.rhythm
    11/14/2010 at 4:50 AM

    Urgh. This is another example of Craig’s sophistry.

    Even if the quote was accurate and in context, Anthony Kenny is not an authority on the Big Bang Theory and hence should not be cited as a specialist in a serious discussion about astrophysics.

    I expect this kind of sophistry from a telemarketer, not a professional philosopher.

  2. above
    09/02/2011 at 9:16 AM

    You’re an idiot. The majority of scientists have acknowledged what the Big Bang entails, which is of coursem the creation of all physical reality – desperate attempts by materialist fools to avoid it not withstanding. Paul Davies even states it explicitly in one of his books – that everything came into existence. This is just a poor attempt at sophistry and your blog is nothing more than a parasite. I made the mistake of clicking on it in hope to find something valuable. I will never make such mistake.

  3. Zed Zee
    01/19/2013 at 11:09 AM

    Whether Craig refers to the material of the universe, the material in the universe or the universe itself, it all had to come from somewhere; nothing or something. If nothing can be created from nothing – no one’s proved otherwise, then we have to (at least) theorise that it must of come from something. Some cause started it all. And since you cannot have infinite regress of the cause and the cause cannot be within that which is created (ie. cause is outside of it), Craig is reasonably arguing his point. Someone setting up a blog and talking about it, without any recognised/revered qualifications, doesn’t disprove, argue against it or prove otherwise, in opposition.

  4. 04/24/2014 at 12:48 AM

    Even the original (mis)quote is very deeply flawed:

    “A proponent of the Big Bang Theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the universe came from nothing and by nothing.”

    … Or that it came from a Big Crunch in a “previous” iteration, or that it formed in some kind of multiverse, or that it is a locally stabilized part of an infinite expansion, or that it’s a singularity now causally disconnected from a “parent” universe, or that it’s the result of a brane collision, or that it’s just a quantum fluctuation, or that the notion of it “coming from” anywhere is inherently meaningless as time-and-therefore-causality arose with the initial expansion, or that a space wizard did it. Space wizards, you see, are less improbable that deities–any evidence for the latter applies also the former, but many objections, such as the “problem of evil”, apply to the latter but not the former.

    Or we could simply turn it on its head: “A proponent of the Big God Theory must believe that the God came from nothing and by nothing.” Then when they protest, ask them which of their protestations fail to apply to the universe and/or multiverse.

  1. 06/29/2010 at 6:05 PM
  2. 07/09/2010 at 3:40 PM
  3. 07/14/2010 at 2:39 AM
  4. 07/17/2010 at 6:59 PM
  5. 09/07/2010 at 7:55 AM
  6. 10/18/2010 at 7:05 PM
  7. 05/01/2012 at 2:17 PM

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