Saturday 8 January 2011

Purpose in Puebla — more on the Mexico debate

After listening to William Lane Craig's discussion with Justin Brierley on the latest Unbelievable? programme* on Premier Christian Radio (about the recent debate in Puebla, Mexico) I'm becoming more convinced that he's mired in a philosophical dead-end. It's all about purpose — the universe's purpose and your own personal purpose. Craig appears to think that if the universe doesn't have a purpose, then no-one can have a purpose, and therefore any purpose atheists might claim is merely illusory or "pretend". (Incidentally, I have been similarly accused.)

Craig makes a clearly false distinction between "pretend purposes" and "real purposes", as if only those purposes validated by a deity are "real". This is nonsense. A purpose is a purpose is a purpose. If someone has an intention (whoever they may be) then their purpose is no less "real" than any other purpose. The only pretend purposes are those "intended" by fictional characters — and a great many deities fall into that category.

The more I hear of this argument about purpose, the clearer it becomes that the theists cannot conceive of a universe without an overarching purpose — it's the foundation of their argument from design. They seem to assume that a universe without some purpose or other is a physical impossibility, and therefore simply take it as read: of course the universe has a purpose — how could it not?

Well, as Richard Dawkins pointed out in the debate, we accept that a mountain doesn't have a purpose. So why should we assume that the universe does have a purpose?

*The relevant Unbelievable? programme can be downloaded here: