Imagine someone presents you the following argument:
- All cars used for transportation have some force enabling them to drive.
- Uri Geller’s car is used for transportation.
- Therefore Uri Geller’s car has some force enabling it to drive.
On a straightforward reading that conclusion seems harmless. You probably understand car propulsion has something to do with engines and fuel so concluding Geller’s car has some force is no stretch. Now what if I told you the person making this argument was arguing that Geller’s car was not enabled by the typical internal combustion engines you vaguely grasp and indeed not by any understood process at all. Instead they claim Geller’s car is moved by telekinesis and that this argument demonstrates that fact. You see telekinesis is “some force” that could in theory enable a car to drive.
Now ignoring for the sake of argument that we could actually test this claim, what’s wrong with this argument? The contention is clearly over the term “some force” as what leads you to accept the first premise is that there is abundant evidence of cars running because of physical causes. In fact all of the evidence for working cars is tied to fuel, engines, gas pedals, etc. and there is no evidence at all that cars can function due to telekinesis or that telekinesis of any kind is possible. This clearly is a case of using a term that has multiple possible meanings and switching between those two meanings, a classic fallacy of equivocation.
This scenario is strongly analogous to the Kalam cosmological argument which argues that the universe was created out of nothing and goes:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Where the Geller telekinesis argument equivocates between known physical forces and telekinesis for usable cars, Kalam equivocates between creation out of something (meaning a rearrangement of physical materials), and creation out of nothing (literally meaning something coming from nothing), in the use of “begin to exist.” In both cases all of the evidence for the acceptance of the first premise is in one meaning of a term which is then abandoned the rest of the argument. We have plenty of reason to believe things “begin to exist” if you mean the rearrangement of preexisting materials. However just as we have no evidence for telekinesis we have no evidence that things begin to exist out of nothing and yet this is what the proponents are arguing for. Ultimately simply because you can bundle two different meanings under the same label doesn’t mean we must accept one meaning which has no evidence supporting it.
I’ve previously addressed Kalam at length but I think this is a handy way to see one major issue with the argument that most people can understand.