Home » Library » Modern Library » Richard Carrier Carrier Wanchick Wanchick1

Richard Carrier Carrier Wanchick Wanchick1

Wanchick’s Opening Statement (2006)


Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

It seems reasonable to believe that every substance[1] has an explanation for its existence: it was either caused by something else, or exists necessarily (it cannot not exist). This premise is evidently more plausible than its denial, for if confronted with a new substance, everyone would assume it has an explanation before they assumed it didn’t. Absurdly, if the latter presumption were equally plausible, we could justifiably pronounce everything to be a brute given, making science, philosophy, etc. frivolous. Indeed, the general assumption that objects have explanations has been successfully confirmed so often that those wishing to reject it must provide good reason for doing so.

Additionally, if we have an adequate explanation for an object, it would clearly be unreasonable to conclude instead that that object was unexplained. Again, explanation is prima facie more reasonable than nonexplanation. Thus, Quentin Smith, the foremost atheist expert on cosmological arguments, admits that if naturalism cannot explain the universe like theism can, that is evidence for theism over naturalism.[2]

Now, interestingly, the universe itself is a substance having properties: density, temperature, etc. Therefore, like all substances, it has an explanation. Indeed, scientists have long assumed this in cosmological studies, as they’ve developed myriad theories as to how the universe exists.

Thus, we construct this argument:

1. Every substance has an explanation of its existence either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature.

2. The universe is a substance.

3. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature.

4. The universe does not exist necessarily.

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is an external cause.

This conclusion follows from the premises. I’ve justified 1 and 2 above. Premise 4 requires little argument, since the universe appears obviously contingent. Scientists even tell us that it had a beginning and will end somewhere in the future. Being non-necessary, then, it finds its explanation in an outside cause.

This cause can exist timelessly and spacelessly, since it can cause the space-time universe. Moreover, it must be immaterial, since it is nonspatial. And it must also be a mind, since only minds and abstract objects can exist timelessly and immaterially, and only the former can cause anything. Furthermore, the only two types of explanation are natural/mechanistic and personal; and since there was no nature prior to the universe, its cause is personal.

Moreover, the ultimate cause cannot itself be a contingent reality. As Charles Taliaferro notes, “If contingent object A is explained by B which is explained by C and so on into infinity, we will never get a complete or fully satisfactory explanation of A.”[3] Thus, the explanation of the universe must be a metaphysically necessary, uncaused being.

My first argument therefore proves the reality of a transcendent, timeless, and spaceless mind that exists necessarily and has the ability and know-how to cause and sustain the universe.

Kalam Cosmological Argument

Like the universe’s existence, its origin too needs explaining.[4] Leading philosophers and scientists confirm that the universe came into existence from nothing. Currently, the big bang model leads the pack among cosmological theories and entails a definite beginning of space-time. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking admits, “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.”[5] Carrier concurs.[6]

An eternal universe is disconfirmed philosophically, too, for it implies that there are infinite past events. But it would be impossible to reach the last event in this seriesi.e., the present. We could literally never reach the end of infinity; no matter how many events we traversed, there’d always be infinite to go. But since we have reached the end, the set of past events must be finite.

Moreover, an infinite set of things entails metaphysically impossibility. If we have infinite things numbered 1 through infinity and subtract all even ones, we would have an infinite number remaining. But if we subtract only those marked over #5, we would be left with 5. Since it is metaphysically impossible to subtract equal quantities and get contradictory answers, it must be impossible for an infinite to exist. Thus, the number of past events in the universe is finite. The universe had a beginning.

This is significant, since, as we all know, objects cannot just pop into being from nothing, uncaused. Imagine finding a whale or a stadium simply appearing willy-nilly on your doorstep! David Hume even announced, “But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.”[7]

Inductively, of course, no one in all of history has witnessed an object leap into reality this way. If this is possible, it’s strikingly curious that it’s never occurred.

Indeed, the inductive evidence simply accords with sound metaphysics, for if nothing existed without the universe, then not even the potentiality for it existed. But how can something come into existence if there was no potential for it? Carrier’s own view is that “things exist potentially wherever the elements necessary to form them exist.”[8] But since nothing existed without the universe given naturalism, neither did its potential, thereby ruling out its actuality on that view.


6. Every substance that begins to exist has a cause.

7. The universe began to exist.

8. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Premise 6 and 7 are more reasonable than their negations, as argued above. And since the argument is valid, the conclusion follows unavoidably.

As noted in the prior argument, the cause of the universe will be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, and nonphysical mind. However, other significant qualities come through here: its incomprehensible power and knowledge. This creator has the awe-inspiring power and knowledge to create whole universes from nothing. It’s hard to see, then, what power or knowledge he lacks.[9]

Design of/in the Universe

In the past 30 years, science has revealed the razor thin conditions that make life in our universe possible. The universe is “fine-tuned” for life.[10] Indeed, there are dozens of factors that must be set precisely in order for life to exist here. With their slightest alteration, life would be impossible. Thus, while there are millions of ways the universe could physically be, very few of them are life-permitting. Robin Collins sums up the scientific consensus:

Scientists have increasingly come to realize how the initial conditions of the universe and the basic constants of physics must be balanced on a razor’s edge for intelligent life to evolve…. Calculations show that if the constants of physicssuch as the physical constant governing the strength of gravitywere slightly different, the evolution of complex, embodied life forms of comparable intelligence to ourselves would be seriously inhibited, if not rendered impossible.[11]

But the unimaginably precise fine-tuning appears more epistemically probable[12] given theism than it does given naturalism. For because conscious life is good, it’s not surprising that God would make a world containing it. But why would we ever expect the world to have life-permitting conditions if naturalism were true? Indeed, this appears wholly improbable, since the possible universes that disallow life incomprehensibly outnumber those that allow it. It’s like picking the prize-winning white marble out of a barrel of black ones. Thus:

 9. Fine-tuning is not improbable given theism.

10. Fine-tuning is improbable given naturalism.

11. Thus, fine-tuning is more probable on theism than naturalism.

In other words, fine-tuning provides evidence that theism is more probable than naturalism.

Knowability and Discoverability

Additionally, many things within the universe indicate a God-like designer. Scholars have documented that our universe is not only fine-tuned for sentient life, but also for scientific discovery and knowability.[13] The universe is structured in just the right way to allow the study of natural laws and phenomena, greatly adding to our scientific knowledge. Such features make sense if God wants us to discover and enjoy creation; but why would these features exist on naturalism?


Collins notes that “beauty is widely recognized by physicists as being an important characteristic of the laws of nature, one which has served as a highly selective guide to discovering the fundamental laws of nature in the twentieth century.”[14] Moreover, the laws of nature (and many things in nature) exhibit simplicity, harmony, and elegance. It wouldn’t be surprising for a creator to make such a universe, but, again, why would this be so if naturalism is true?


Typically, if an object is undesigned or serves a purpose only accidentally (e.g., a hillside serving as a stage), we conclude that it cannot be used correctly or incorrectly. Design or intention appears to be a necessary condition for proper function. A bike can be used properly; a fallen meteor cannot.

It’s interesting to apply this insight to sentient beings. Can they be misused? The obvious answer is ‘yes.’ Humans shouldn’t be used as slaves, for instance; doing so is evil. Indeed, the misuse of beings seems to be a necessary and sufficient condition for evil. Evil events involve a patient out of its proper state.

So evil is a departure from the way things ought to exist.[15] But this contradicts naturalism, wherein every living thing is like the hillside: accidental byproducts having no design plan, no proper state.

Objectors might hold that if we used the hillside as a stage long enough, this would become its conventional function, and to stop doing so would seem a misuse. Thus, objects can acquire proper function accidentally over time. But this seems false for at least sentient beings, for no matter how long humans are enslaved, they should never be used as such. Their function is inherent rather than conventional.

Evil obviously exists; think of child pornography or rape. And since evil entails that the universe and its inhabitants have a specific function or purpose, it follows that they were designed by an intelligent being having the knowledge, ability, and intention to build a world with purposeful and moral dimensions.

Moral Argument

But what makes us obliged not to mistreat humans? After all, if naturalism is true, “a human being is a biological animal,”[16] as naturalist Julian Baggini admits. But unless humans have unique moral worth not had by beasts, it seems objective moral truth wouldn’t exist. It wouldn’t, for instance, be immoral to rape or kill, for animals do so to each other regularly with no moral significance.[17]

Paul Draper pinpoints the problem such properties would cause for naturalism: “every human being has a special sort of inherent value that no animal has, and every human has an equal amount of this value. Such equality is possible despite the great differences among humans, because the value in question does not supervene on any natural properties. It is a nonnatural property that all (and only) humans possess.”[18] The great naturalist philosopher J.L. Mackie, and myriad others, agree.

Unfortunately, to defend naturalism, Draper and Mackie (like Carrier) have to absurdly deny that humans have such unique inherent worth.[19] Carrier even says some animals are more morally valuable than certain humans in virtue of their superior intellect, rationality, etc.[20] But such positions are obviously false. Humans have moral worth not found in animals, regardless of their comparative capabilities, and the failure to recognize this is simply a lack of moral insight.

But since these moral properties obviously do exist in human beings and aren’t natural, they must have a supernatural source. And since moral properties exist only in persons, the source of moral properties must be a supernatural person.

The moral order, then, is evidence of a supernatural person who grounds moral truth. Additionally, at least some moral truths are necessary, and thus their foundation must be a necessary being grounding moral facts in all possible worlds.[21]

Ontological Argument

Philosophically, to say something can possibly exist is to say it could exist in at least one ‘possible world’ (PW). PWs (including our own) are simply possible total states of affairs. (These are not necessarily possible universese.g., God existing alone is a PW excluding any universe.)

By definition, a necessary being is one existing in all PWs. Obviously, if such a being were found in our (actual) world we would know that it exists in all PWs. The reverse also holds. Label our world X and another PW Y. Assume Y holds a necessary being. Inhabitants of Y would know that that being would exist in X too, since it would exist in all PWs. Thus, if any PW holds a necessary being (i.e., if that necessary being is possible), then that being must exist in the actual world, too.

Some theists have seen God as a necessary being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good. He is maximally great (MG). But then if God is possible, He is actual. Theists have developed this ontological argument[22]:

12. It is possible that an MG being exists.

13. If it is possible that an MG being exists, then an MG being exists in some PW.

14. If an MG being exists in some PW, then it exists in all PWs.

15. If an MG being exists in all PWs, then it exists in the actual world.

The argument is valid. The question is, why think an MG metaphysically possible?

First, nothing about this being seems impossible: He appears compatible with our modal intuitions. Much of mankind has indeed thought He exists. In the absence of a defeater, there seems no reason to reject our intuitions.

Moreover, my prior arguments establish 12. The Leibnizian argument proves a necessary mind who caused the universe. This being is seemingly omnipotent and omniscient given the kalam and design arguments. And He is the necessary source of moral goodness and truth, as shown in the moral argument. So my case reveals the reality and thus the possibility of an MG being. Indeed, even if the arguments aren’t sound, their conclusions appear at least metaphysically possible. One doesn’t simply look at the conclusion and see its obvious falsity; quite the opposite. The beings entailed appears possible, and thus the argument must be evaluated. But if the beings in those arguments are possible, then why is it impossible for one being with all those properties to exist? Since this surely does seem possible, then that person must actually exist. The MG God is a reality.

Resurrection of Jesus

Despite media rumors, there is wide agreement among New Testament specialists regarding the events surrounding Jesus’ death. Even a minimal list of almost universally affirmed facts among liberal and conservative scholars provides sufficient evidence that Jesus really was resurrected.[23]

(a) Jesus died by crucifixion around 30 AD. Even radically liberal Crossan confesses, “That [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”[24]

(b) The tomb where Jesus was buried was empty days after His death. There are almost two dozen arguments for this: (i) If the tomb weren’t empty, Christianity would’ve been defeated in Jerusalem by Jewish authorities revealing so. (ii) Women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb. However, women’s testimony in Jesus’ culture was considered generally unreliable and far inferior to that of men. If the empty tomb story were fabricated, why insert women as the primary witnesses? (iii) The empty tomb is noted by Paul in the 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 creed originating within three years of Jesus’ death, far too early to be legend. (iv) The Jewish denial of the empty tomb implies its reality. Why concoct stories accounting for a tomb that’s full? (v) The story is benignly straightforward, unlike legendary stories of Jesus’ era.

(c) Jesus appeared visually to various people days after His death, as independently attested in early creeds, Paul, the Gospels, and nonbiblical sources. Paul tells of his and the other disciples’ appearances in 1 Corinthians 15, explaining his personal verification of their accounts. Lüdemann concludes, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”[25]

(d) James and Paul both believed Jesus was resurrected after seeing Him postcrucifixion. These appearances must have vividly occurred for such dedicated opponents of Christ to convert. Paul went from the main persecutor of Christianity to its main apostle! And James turned from confirmed skeptic to an early church pillar.

If the Resurrection occurred, this series of facts can be explained plausibly and coherently. But what coherent natural explanation can be offered?

Moreover, without the Resurrection, how does one account for Christianity’s origin? A lone resurrection of an executed Messiah was utterly foreign to pre-Christian Jews and blatantly contradicted their Messianic expectations. It seems impossible that any would’ve conceived of, let alone invented, the resurrection account.

There were various other Messianic movements before and after Jesus, but they uniformly died with their founders. Only Jesus was claimed to have risen. Only His followers, who saw Him afterwards, turned from a failed group to a vibrant movement proclaiming resurrection unto death. Something remarkable must’ve occurred to motivate the transformation. Only the Resurrection seems sufficient.

Again, these facts are affirmed among virtually all scholars, Christian or liberal. As Craig notes, in denying any of them or that resurrection is their best explanation, Carrier will have to “believe that the majority of the world’s historians who have studied the life of Jesus are mistaken about the historicity of his empty tomb, postmortem appearances, and the origin of the Christian Way, or else embrace some naturalistic explanation of these facts which has been overwhelmingly rejected by historical scholars.”[26]

But since men cannot rise from death naturally, the Resurrection must’ve had a supernatural cause. And since Jesus claimed allegiance with the Old Testament God, the most plausible cause of Jesus’ rising is precisely He.

Collectively, then, I’ve demonstrated the reality of a transcendent, immaterial, uncaused, metaphysically necessary, and morally perfect mind of unsurpassable power and knowledge who has revealed Himself in Jesus. My arguments, in effect, demonstrate the reality of not only God, but, alas, the God of Christianity.[27]

[1] This argument, finding its roots in 17th-century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, has recently been ably articulated by Stephen T. Davis, “The Cosmological Argument and the Epistemic Status of Belief in God,” Philosophia Christi, NS1 (1999), pp. 5-15. See also William Lane Craig, “The Ontological Argument,” in To Everyone an Answer, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, J.P. Moreland, and William Lane Craig (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).

[2] Quentin Smith, “Time Was Created by a Timeless Point,” in God and Time, ed. David Woodruff (New York: Oxford University Press: 2002), p. 95.

[3] Charles Taliaferro, Does the Idea of God Make Sense? (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries: 2002).

[4] See William Lane Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1979). See also Craig’s many article-length defenses of this powerful argument at his website reasonablefaith.org.

[5] Stephen Hawking, The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 20.

[6] Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness Without God (Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2005), p. 74.

[7] David Hume to John Stewart, Feb. 1754, in The Letters of David Hume, ed. J. Y. T. Greig, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), Vol. 1: p. 187.

[8] Richard Carrier and Tom Wanchick, “Joint Statement: What We Are Debating,” </library/modern/richard_carrier/carrier-wanchick/jointstatement.html>.

[9] Douglas Groothuis makes this point in his chapter, “Metaphysical Implications of Cosmological Arguments: Exorcising the Ghost of Hume,” in In Defense of Natural Theology: A Post-Humean Assessment, ed. Douglas Groothuis and James Sennet (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), pp. 112-119.

[10] The literature on fine-tuning has exploded in recent years. Important works include: John Leslie, Universes (New York: Routledge, 1989); Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth (New York: Copernicus, 2000); Robin Collins, “The Teleological Argument,” in The Rationality of Theism, ed. Paul K. Moser and Paul Copan (New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 132-148; cf., “A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God,” in Reason for the Hope Within, ed. Michael J. Murray (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 47-75; cf. “The Evidence for Fine-Tuning,” in God and Design, ed. Neil Manson (New York: Routledge, 2003) and “The Argument from Design and the Many-Worlds Hypothesis,” in Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, ed. William Lane Craig (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002). See also Collins’s website at www.fine-tuning.org. William Lane Craig has a fine defense of the argument in his “A Reply to Objections” in Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate, ed. Stan Wallace (London: Ashgate, 2003), pp. 163-168.

[11] Collins, “The Teleological Argument,” p. 133.

[12] On epistemic probability see Collins, “Hume, Fine-Tuning, and the ‘Who Designed God Objection,’ in In Defense of Natural Theology, ed. Groothuis and Sennett, p. 192.

[13] Collins discusses this in “The Design Argument and the Many Worlds Hypothesis,” pp. 137-143. For a very important book on this theme, see Jay Wesley Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez, The Privileged Planet (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004).

[14] Collins, “The Design Argument and the Many Worlds Hypothesis,” p. 137.

[15] I borrow this argument from R. Douglas Geivett, “A Theistic Argument from Evil,” unpublished.

[16] Julian Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 17.

[17] Good resources on the moral argument include: Paul Copan, “The Moral Argument,” in The Rationality of Theism, ed. Moser and Copan; Copan, “Can Michael Martin Be A Moral Realist?: Sic et Non,” Philosophia Christi, Series 2, 1/2 (1999): pp. 45-72. cf. “Atheistic Goodness Revisited: A Personal Reply to Michael Martin,” Philosophia Christi NS 2/1 (2000): pp. 91-104 and “Hume and the Moral Argument,” in In Defense of Natural Theology, ed. Groothuis and Sennet, pp. 200-225. See also William Lane Craig’s insightful defense in “A Reply to Objections,” pp. 168-173.

[18] Paul Draper, “Craig’s Case for God’s Existence,” in Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate, p. 147.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Carrier, Sense and Goodness, p. 330.

[21] On the necessity of at least some moral truths see, for instance, the comments of even the atheist contributors (Rowe, Draper, et al.) in Does God Exist, ed. Stan Wallace.

[22] Excellent defenses of the ontological argument can be found in contemporary philosophers such as: Stephen T. Davis, “The Ontological Argument,” in The Rationality of Theism, ed. Moser and Copan; William Lane Craig, “The Ontological Argument,” in To Everyone an Answer, ed. Beckwith, et al.; Stephen E. Parrish, God and Necessity (Lanham, MD: American University Press, 1997).

[23] Philosopher and resurrection scholar Gary Habermas is credited with formulating this “minimal facts” approach to the evidence for the Resurrection. Habermas documents his extensive research and the widespread agreement on these facts in “Resurrection Research from 1975 to the Present: What are Critical Scholars Saying?,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, Vol. 3, No. 2 (June 2005). Habermas takes this approach in most of his writings. See, for example: Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2004); Habermas, The Historical Jesus (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996); cf. The Risen Jesus and Future Hope (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004); “Evidential Apologetics,” in Five Views on Apologetics, ed. Steven Cowan (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 91-147.

[24] John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 145.

[25] Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus? A Historical Approach to the Resurrection, ed. John Bowden, trans. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995), p. 80.

[26] William Lane Craig, “Has Science Found God? (Book Review),” Journal of Church and State, January 1, 2005.

[27] Readers should note that with these six arguments, I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. The arguments for theism are varied and very numerous. Theistic arguments not mentioned in my case include: arguments from reason, the argument from mind, the argument from consciousness, other versions of the cosmological and design arguments, other versions of the moral argument, the argument from religious experience, the conceptualist argument, the argument from desire, the trilemma argument (for Christ’s deity), the transcendental argument, and so on.

Many of these arguments are nicely discussed in: Alvin Plantinga, “Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments,” <http://www.homestead.com/philofreligion/files/Theisticarguments.html>; The Rationality of Theism, ed. Moser and Copan; Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate, ed. Wallace (see especially Craig’s last chapter); To Everyone an Answer, ed. Beckwith, et al.; William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); In Defense of Natural Theology, ed. Groothuis and Sennet; Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, ed. Craig; William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003). On arguments from reason I recommend Victor Reppert, C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003) and Naturalism Defeated?, ed. James K. Beilby (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).

Continue the Debate

all rights reserved