Bill Craig on ‘Devil’s Advocate’

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 26, 2010 in William Lane Craig

In the latest episode of his Reasonable Faith podcast, Bill Craig said:

When my colleague… at Westmont college… got into trouble… because the students were complaining that he was teaching heresy… and he responded that [he] was just playing ‘devil’s advocate’ to challenge the student’s faith, the literal sense of that terms just hit me in the face: “Playing the devil’s advocate” …this is something I would never want to be, an advocate for Satan. I want to be an advocate for Christ.

…There’s something wrong with challenging their faith. I don’t want to challenge their faith! I want to challenge their thinking, but I want to build up their faith.

Later, Craig describes “playing the devil’s advocate” as pretending to believe what you don’t actually believe. That’s not my understanding of what it means to play devil’s advocate, and so there may be a semantic confusion between our views, but let me clarify one difference between Craig and I, anyway.

I do want to challenge people’s faith. I want to challenge their faith in Christianity, in Islam, in atheism, in naturalism. I want to challenge my faith in naturalism, in atheism, in moral realism, in evidentialism, in everything. It is only by regularly challenging current views that we can make progress toward the truth. Views that survive these challenges may be worth keeping. Those that cannot should be discarded.  Faith is a kind of anti-epistemology that glorifies assurance, stagnation, and dogmatism. It has no place in the mind of a genuine truth-seeker. In fact, I like to challenge my faith that faith is a kind of anti-epistemology.

Craig doesn’t want Christians exposed to “devil’s advocates.” Does this mean he only wants them exposed to Yes-men? That’s what it sounds like to me.

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Hanson August 26, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Just another example that underneath all his pretenses Craig isn’t a philosopher, his mind is boxed in by his religion.

  (Quote)

Rob August 26, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Craig is not a truth-seeker because he already has certainty, due to the self-authenticating inner witness of a ghost.

He is such a clown.

  (Quote)

Ahab August 26, 2010 at 7:24 pm

People like that have so much of an emotional investment in their faith that they shun anything that could threaten it, such as critical thought. It’s a pity, because this approach locks them into a very narrow world indeed.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 26, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I love how Craig has a dichotomy between “thinking” and “faith.” Just shows what a huge joke he is. Of course, this is Mr. “Holy Ghost > arguments and evidence” we’re talking about, so I’m not surprised.

  (Quote)

Hermes August 26, 2010 at 8:11 pm

His phrasing is strange. Reminds me of Pinocchio^ without the sophistication; as if he’s missing the story to go along with the moralizing.

-

^. The story, mainly, but the movie as well.

  (Quote)

Kaelik August 26, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Also of note. Craig believes that what we call things is indicative of what they are.

I assume he also startlingly realizes that he doesn’t want performers to break legs whenever the show starts too.

  (Quote)

MC August 26, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Craig is a sophist. Period.

  (Quote)

mojo.rhythm August 26, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Stripped of his intellectual pretensions, Craig is a very bizarre human being. I would study the shit out of him if I was a practicing psychiatrist.

  (Quote)

Ajay August 27, 2010 at 2:01 am

Yes, this is quite disturbing indeed, as everyone has noted.

But I have a question: I remember a Youtube clip of William Lane Craig and Richard Carrier from a few years ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMxTghJQxEc). In it, Craig is asked what would happen if the bones of Jesus were found and conclusively identified in Israel. He answered that it would “falsify” Christianity.

That seems to be in tension with the idea espoused here that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit trumps all, no?

  (Quote)

mojo.rhythm August 27, 2010 at 2:15 am

Ajay,

Craig did answer this on his website. The answer he gave was just horseshit though

He said that due to his self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit, he just knows; knows that it will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever happen, ever.

  (Quote)

Tim August 27, 2010 at 2:44 am

Ajay, thanks for sharing that YouTube clip. Some surprising moments in there: Carrier comes over very strongly, Craig seems to be on the ropes a number of times, and Strobel actually behaves like an unbiased moderator. Whodathunkit?

(And is it just me or does studio lighting/makeup not flatter Craig’s face? He looks like a painted ventriloquist dummy.)

As for the bones of Jesus falsifying Christianity bit, Craig indeed seems to concede this in this discussion, although who knows what else was said in that context before it was so choppily edited. (Eg, Carrier’s rejoinder about Christians revising their faith position if bones were found seems slightly odd given Craig’s stark admission of defeat.) Furthermore, when does this broadcast date from? Before or after Craig’s infamous statements about the inner witness trumping even material evidence of a non-resurrected Jesus? We all know the Craig confidently believes that such remains will never be found – the Holy Spirit tells him so! – so conceding it for the sake of argument need not undermine his faith position.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 6:45 am

Craig is just embracing reformed epistemology. He said that as Christian teacher he doesn´t want to question the faith and trust in God of his Christian students, but just give them a fair hearing of the arguments from the other side, also. Just how one can jump from this to something like “He is such a clown” (Rob) or “Just another example that underneath all his pretenses Craig isn’t a philosopher, his mind is boxed in by his religion” (Jon Hanson) or “Craig is a very bizarre human being…I would study the shit out of him if I was a practicing psychiatrist” (mojo.rhythm) is totally beyond me.

Reformed epistemology of Plantinga, Wolterstorff, Alston, etc. is a highly sophisticated and complicated topic. But the basic idea is this: If something like Christain theism is true, then something like the Extended Aquinas/Calvin Model of Plantinga´s WCB probably is true. In other words, if Christianity is true, then it probably has warrant even in the absence of evidentialist arguments. So the lesson to be learned is this: You cannot mock Christianity by saying it´s irrational or stupid without arguing that it´s false (that is, there is no de jure objections to Christianity without de facto objections).

Anyway, it´s a bit naive and ignorant to suggest that Craig needs therapy or that he is a clown just because he is embracing reformed epistemology.

  (Quote)

Muto August 27, 2010 at 8:03 am

Thomas,
As far as I can tell the discussion has nothing to do with reformed epistomology. I think the commenters disliked the statements by Craig because:

a, playing devils advocate is considered to be one of the most effective ways to teach students critical thought

b, critical thought is highly valuable to the commenters and is considered to one of the guiding principles of academia

c,Craig seems to object to the use of the ‘devils advocate method’ and to suggestion that students critically examine their beliefs.

  (Quote)

Ajay August 27, 2010 at 8:05 am

And Thomas – it’s worth noting that there have been many, many discussions on this website about Reformed Epistemology, so don’t assume no one knows anything about it.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 8:42 am

Muto and Ajay,

good points. My answer was mainly directed to some of the comments here, like this one from Rob: “Craig is not a truth-seeker because he already has certainty, due to the self-authenticating inner witness of a ghost.”

This inner witness of the holy spirit -stuff is just what Plantinga means by his ‘The Extended Aquinas/Calvin Model’. So I do think that reformed epistemology is relevant here.

And I´m sorry if it seemed to you that I was assuming that no one knows anything about it – I wasn´t. My comment was directed to these guys who think that embracing reformed epistemology is “stupid” or something like that.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 8:52 am

Muto said,

“Craig seems to object to the use of the ‘devils advocate method’ and to suggestion that students critically examine their beliefs.”

I don´t think that Craig “objects that students critically examine their beliefs”. He said that he always shares the atheological arguments from Hume, Sobel, Oppy, Ehrman, etc. fairly with his students and then evaluetes them. So he wants that students are critical, he just happens to think that the anti-Christian arguments aren´t too powerful, and therefore he presents these arguments and then tells what´s wrong with them. I still can´t see what´s wrong with that?

Btw, how many of you have in fact listened the podcast you´re commenting about?

  (Quote)

Rob August 27, 2010 at 9:25 am

Thomas,

I have read the latest edition of Reasonable Faith. Craig knows he has the truth because a ghost talks to him in his head.

He is a clown.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 10:34 am

Rob,

like I said more than one time, one who dismisses reformed epistemology just by saying that it´s stupid and their advocates are “clowns”, is a bit naive and ignorant. Read Plantinga´s Warranted Christian Belief. Is he a clown, too?

Still, it´s a bit ironic that Craig is critized in the internet because of his “Holy Spirit -epistemology”, given that he has given more arguments for Christian theism than almost any evidentialist. Having read Reasonable Faith, you know that Craig justifies his Christian belief by giving some pretty good arguments. Mere name-calling doesn´t undermine those arguments nor does it make reformed epistemology unsound.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk August 27, 2010 at 10:41 am

I have read what Plantinga has written on the topic of evolution, and I tend to classify him as a clown.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 27, 2010 at 10:45 am

Yes. Plantinga is a clown.

His argument from evolutionary naturalism is philosophical malpractice.

And “reformed epistemology” is “I know in my heart that its true, and atheists don’t know because they’ve closed their heart” repackaged for the modern world.

  (Quote)

Rob August 27, 2010 at 10:48 am

Thomas,

I have read Warranted Christian Belief. Reformed Epistemology is the dumbest idea of the 20th century.

  (Quote)

Muto August 27, 2010 at 10:54 am

Thomas,
at least what I have said about the devils advocate still stands.

Craig said:

“I don’t want to challenge their faith! I want to challenge their thinking, but I want to build up their faith.”

In stating that he does not want to challenge their faith, he says something that at, least to me, seems to imply that the students should not critically evaluate their faith. When he says he wants to challenge their thinking he can only mean he wants to challenge the way they think about their faith, else we would have a contradiction.

Furthermore just explaining arguments and then pointing out why they are suposed to be wrong is not nessecarily a method to teach critical thinking: It depends on a lot of factors most importantly how charitable you are and if you mention if some of the responses you give are in dispute and there are some occasions in debates where for example his opponents formulated some form of theological noncognitivism and he immediately accuses them of an evidentialist theory of meaning. Since I myself am a theological noncognitivist(I do not want to debate this right now) but not an evidentialist at least this behavior seems uncharitable.

Regarding what Rob said, proclaiming absolute certainty about something nessecrily stops one from seeking the truth about the subject. If I find a prove of a theorem I won’t seek the truth about its statement any more because I allready know it.

Best wishes, Muto

  (Quote)

Muto August 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

Edit:

“It depends on a lot of factors most importantly how charitable you are and if you mention if some of the responses you give are in dispute and there are some occasions in debates where for example his opponents formulated some form of theological noncognitivism and he immediately accuses them of an evidentialist theory of meaning.”

Should read:

It depends on a lot of factors most importantly how charitable you are and if you mention if some of the responses you give are in dispute.
There are some occasions in debates where for example his opponents formulated some form of theological noncognitivism and he immediately accuses them of an evidentialist theory of meaning.

And I meant proof not prove.

  (Quote)

Muto August 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

@Rob: No, it is still fighting an epic battle with quantum healing^^

  (Quote)

Márcio August 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

What i don’t uderstand is:

If a person believes that X is true, why challenge X? The only thing this person should be challenging is the best way to understand X, not X itself.

Other people, that doesn’t believe that X is true, are the ones that should be challenging it. That is why, in my opinion, WLC doesn’t challenge Christianity itself, only the best way to understand it.

Now, if a person believes that naturalism, atheism, moral realism and evidentialism are true, why challenge it? Why not challenge only the best way to understand it?

For me, the answer is that this person is not confident in his beliefs.

  (Quote)

Martin August 27, 2010 at 11:17 am

In this thread:

“Craig is a this…” and “Craig is a that…”

Obsession with the person giving the arguments, and little focus on the arguments themselves.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 11:26 am

I have read what Plantinga has written on the topic of evolution, and I tend to classify him as a clown.

– Reginald Selkirk

Yes. Plantinga is a clown…His argument from evolutionary naturalism is philosophical malpractice. And “reformed epistemology” is “I know in my heart that its true, and atheists don’t know because they’ve closed their heart” repackaged for the modern world.

– Patrick

I have read Warranted Christian Belief. Reformed Epistemology is the dumbest idea of the 20th century.

– Rob

I thought that this blog was about philosophy, thinking, intellectual honesty and embracing the “the golden rule”.

Apparently I was wrong.

  (Quote)

MichaelPJ August 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

@Marcio

I believe many things. I also believe that I am a fallible human being, and that many things people (including myself) believed in the past have turned out to be false. So I might still be wrong about some of my beliefs.

That is, I can believe X and also believe that I might be wrong about X. Indeed, the possibility that I am wrong is of great interest to me, as my behaviour is based on my beliefs, and I am much less likely to be successful if my beliefs are false.

To give a concrete example regarding faith; if I believe that visiting faith healers will cure my cancer, then it is vital that I challenge my faith. After all, my life depends on me being right!

As you say, to a certain extent a lot of people who self-identify as skeptics/rationalists etc. lack confidence in their beliefs, but only insofar as they are not certain of them. They may still have a great deal of confidence in them. However, the more important the issue, the more confidence you require before you can leave the issue be. My previous paragraph had an example of high stakes, but if the question is just whether the grocery store will be open, I can be satisfied with just checking their website.

I have a very high degree of confidence in philosophical naturalism, for example. However, if it were false, that would be very important; not least for science, and hence indirectly for my life. Similarly with atheism. So I keep reading websites like this just to make sure that the theists haven’t come up with any good arguments yet :P

Regarding Reformed Epistemology, I’m with Keith DeRose in that Plantinga never really addressed the Great Pumpkin Objection (see http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/voodoo.htm). In general, I tend to agree with the previous commenters: he’s a clown. His evolutionary argument against naturalism is particularly painful. However, I have some sympathy with his difficulties, as it is of course very hard to produce a sound argument to show something which is in fact false.

  (Quote)

Kaelik August 27, 2010 at 11:35 am

Thomas, sometimes thinking, philosophy and the golden rule tell you that an idea is terrible.

Mostly when ideas are terrible.

And “reformed epistemology” is retarded, and it takes like six seconds to twist it to justify believing anything at all without evidence.

That’s why believing things without evidence is stupid, because anyone can do it, and it’s more likely to produce untrue answers than true ones.

  (Quote)

Rob August 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

Thomas and Martin,

So let me see if I understand you:

Claiming that you know X is true because a ghost murmurs in your head that X is true is a philosophically robust position.

My assertion is that such a position is clownish, and deserving of ridicule.

  (Quote)

Mastema August 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm

This is hilarious. Are the students’ faith at Biola on such shaky ground that the teachers don’t dare offer them a critical viewpoint? I will remember that quote every time I hear or see Craig from now on.

Thanks, Luke!

  (Quote)

lukeprog August 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Mastema,

BIOLA is one of the premiere institutions of Christian fundamentalism. I think one of its founders actually wrote The Fundamentals book that gave fundamentalism its name in the early 20th century, or something like that.

  (Quote)

Martin August 27, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Rob,

Claiming that you know X is true because a ghost murmurs in your head that X is true is a philosophically robust position.

Reductio ad absurdum, huh? Any position can be made to sound ridiculous.

The real argument of Craig/Plantinga is this:

It is false that we should only believe X if there is evidence of X or if X is self-evident.

Examples: belief that the external world is real, belief that the past really happened, belief that other people have conscious minds, etc.

Most of us probably believe these things but there is no evidence of them and they are not self-evident. The response is intended to show that belief in God is not irrational, otherwise you would have to mark all these other beliefs as irrational as well.

  (Quote)

Chris Hallquist August 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Thomas,

Calling refusal to follow the evidence “reformed epistemology” doesn’t make it any less stupid. Being interested in philosophy doesn’t mean worshiping everything famous philosophers say.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Plantinga makes a Bayesian argument in which he assigns a very high probability to us having reliable cognitive faculties if god exists, and a low probability to us having cognitive faculties if god does not exist, and concludes that because we have reliable cognitive faculties it is therefore likely that god exists.

Why he possibly needed Bayes for that I will not know, as far as I can tell as a lay person the only reason he used Bayes was in order to abuse him by assigning fabricated prior probabilities. This lets him turn an argument which would normally just say, “our cognitive faculties are evidence for god” into an argument that says “our cognitive faculties show that god is more likely than not.” This cynical little sleight of hand is probably the most common way that Bayes is abused.

But the bigger problem is that our cognitive faculties are not reliable. They’re good at some things and bad at others. And the ways that our cognitive faculties are bad tends to involve a bias towards magical thinking and false beliefs created as a result of magical thinking.

So… given his original framework, he should have reached the opposite conclusion that he did. After all, he did say that the probability that our faculties are reliable would be extremely high under theism, and plugging that back into his Bayesian equation reverses its output.

So he buried our knowledge about cognitive science.

So, yeah. Plantinga. Another philosopher who offers lousy arguments hidden behind a Bayesian framework to ensure that its both trendy and difficult for other people to understand.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 27, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Martin- Yes, you’ve phrased reformed epistemology nicely.

But the Solipsism Defense is still an intellectual black hole from which nothing of value ever emerges. It proves anything- and that means it proves nothing.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm

And “reformed epistemology” is retarded, and it takes like six seconds to twist it to justify believing anything at all without evidence.

Reformed epistemology does not mean that Christianity an unwarranted belief, but that it is a warranted basic belief.

Again, reformed epistemology is a highly sophisticated topic that is discussed in top philosophy journals all the time. If all that you guys have to say against it is that it´s “retarded” or “stupid”, then I really don´t have anything to say to you. The quality of comments like those who are calling one of the most influental philosophers of the 20th century “stupid” or “clown” or “retarded” is akin to richarddawkins.net.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm

@ Chris Hallquist

Being interested in philosophy doesn’t mean worshiping everything famous philosophers say.

Of course, but I think that it means that one should try to understand what these famous philosophers say. You don´t have to “worship” Plantinga to understand his philosophy.

Calling refusal to follow the evidence “reformed epistemology” doesn’t make it any less stupid.

Plantinga doesn´t think that “evidence” is anyway against Christianity. That´s why he puts so much weight on defeaters. If there were some defeater for Christian belief, then its warrant would be defeated – Plantinga just happens to think that there isn´t any defeaters for Christianity.

The goal of reformed epistemology (I think) is to argue that a christian doesn´t need an argument on order to fulfill her intellectual obligations. Mother Theresa, for example, maybe didn´t have an argument, but that doesn´t mean that she would have deserved some punishment for failing to fulfill her intellectual obligations. But, even if one doesn´t need an argument, it doesn´t mean that one cannot have an argument. So Plantinga isn´t saying that christians should “refuse to follow the evidence” – his saying that in order to have a warranted belief in the great truths of the gospel, one doesn´t necessarily need an argument. If christianity is true, then it probably has warrant.

It´s ok to disagree with “famous philosophers” and argue against their view. But calling them “stupid” is another thing.

  (Quote)

MichaelPJ August 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm

@Thomas

Plantinga is one of the “most influential philosophers of the 20th century”? In philosophy of religion, maybe. But that’s a self-selecting group: those who think the whole area is bogus have tended not to bother engaging with established philosophy of religion. The recent surge in interest in religion from the atheistic side is an exception.

Plus, the fact that an idea is debated in top journals doesn’t really tell us much. Philosophical behaviourism was much discussed in it’s time, but I think it is pretty much universally agreed to be a silly idea now (of course we might be wrong… but in this case I doubt it). Particularly in philosophy of religion, which is conducted by a self-selected group of people who tend to be theists, and so have a particularly strong vested interest in the arguments being correct. Of course, that’s just an ad hominem attack, but your point was equally ad hominem support!

Reformed epistemology does not mean that Christianity an unwarranted belief, but that it is a warranted basic belief.

Actually, he said that it leads to believing anything without evidence. Plantinga’s whole argument is based around the idea that you can have warrant without evidence. However, the problems arise when he tries to explain why belief in God fulfils the criteria for being warranted without evidence (i.e. properly basic), while no other (irrational) belief does so.

  (Quote)

Rob August 27, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Thomas,

Do you or do you not think that claiming that you know X is true because a ghost murmurs in your head that X is true is a philosophically robust position?

That is Craig’s claim as to how he knows Christianity is true.

Craig says nothing about proper basicality. His claim is far more simple. A ghost tells him what is true. Just read the book.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Rob,

don´t beat the strawman. Craig differentiates between “knowing” that Christianity is true and “showing” that Christianity is true. One can know that it´s true via the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. But one can also show that it´s true via arguments.

Now, if Christianity really happened to true, then some people probably would know that via the witness of the Holy Spirit. In other words, if it´s true, then it has warrant (in a basic way). This is the point of reformed epistemology. You guys do not seem to get that. You are begging the question by implicitly assuming that Christianity is false and then wondering how anyone could believe that “a ghost murmurs in your head”. But if Christian belief happened to be true, then something like the Holy Spirit could give you the knowledge that the great things of the gospel were true. In fact a huge number of people claim to have knowledge about the truth of the Christian belief just by this kind of a basic way. So, if Christianity is true, then Craig is probably right. So in order for you to show that Craig is wrong, you need to argue that Christianity itself is false.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 27, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Thomas- You don’t understand this at all.

Lets begin from the perspective of not knowing whether Christianity is true.

We observe the world, and note that many people believe that voices in their head tell them things. Sometimes they say the voices speak, other times they say the voices are really just feelings, but there are a lot of them out there. And the voices and feelings can be remarkably specific. In fact, according to those who hear them, the voices and feelings can endorse remarkably specific points of doctrine within whatever religion they happen to operate. Some voices and feelings, though not all, even endorse concepts or claims that can be categorically proven to be false. Moreover, some people who do not hear voices can learn to do so, and some people who do hear voices can stop, and conclude that the voices weren’t real. Meanwhile those who hear voices seem to have a strong emotional attachment to the voices and to the often mutually exclusive doctrines and claims that the voices endorse, and have a strong tradition of believing factual claims that are consistent with the voices but which can be categorically shown to be false (faith healing, certain historical miracles, certain present day miracles). Meanwhile absolutely none of the supernatural claims made by the voices have ever been proven to be true, while some have been shown to be false, and others by their nature can never be proven.

IF NOTHING ELSE, would you PLEASE concede that listening to voices in your head, no matter what you call it and no matter whether you believe in an internally consistent theology that explains your voices, is not a reliable means of knowing things about the world?

Can you please, please understand why we find frightening the idea of important decisions being made by someone who takes these mutually exclusive, contradictory, often wrong voices seriously?

If nothing else, the nature of the voices people hear is such that the vast majority of them must by definition be wrong, and there seems to be no way to distinguish between them. So the chances are poor no matter which voices you endorse.

I recognize that convincing someone who’s actually hearing voices to believe that the voices aren’t real is a difficult proposition. But can you at least acknowledge these facts as they apply to other people’s voices (say, muslims, pentacostals, etc), and see by analogy how this looks to a complete outsider to the voice-hearing community?

  (Quote)

mojo.rhythm August 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Thomas,

I have a challenge for you.

If you think that epistemological systems like foundationalism or coherentism et al. cannot provide an adequate set of rules for discriminating justified and non-justified beliefs; can you tell me exactly how Reformed Epistemology meets up to this task better?

In other words, can you give a detailed description of what exact rules and procedures Reformed Epistemology uses to demarcate justified/unjustified and warranted/unwarranted beliefs?

Until and unless an apologist for Reformed Epistemology does this, it really does not deserve to be taken seriously as a school of thought and I will not relinquish my right to laugh and mock the living s%$* out of it.

  (Quote)

Kaelik August 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Thomas. If Frank Discordian Syemetery is true (no not Symmetry, Syemetery) then we could expect some people to know that it is true because of how false it seems.

So clearly Frank Discordian Syemetery is warranted if it is true, and you have to argue that it’s false to demonstrate that it’s not warranted.

Keep in mind, all evidence that it’s not true is refuted by the fact that it seems to be false.

Also: “Craig differentiates between “knowing” that Christianity is true and “showing” that Christianity is true.”

Right. And he knows it’s true because a ghost whispered to him. And that’s insane. Literally insane. People who believe things because it was whispered to them by a ghost belong in mental hospitals, because they act on random stimuli that could at any minute tell them to start murdering people.

  (Quote)

Lee A.P. August 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm

The devil was God’s advocate, whom he sent to test Job, in the Hebrew Bible.

For such a smart guy, Craig is often fucking stupid.

  (Quote)

Márcio August 27, 2010 at 5:33 pm

“People who believe things because it was whispered to them by a ghost belong in mental hospitals…”

Send all christians to mental hospitals then. You will need a lot of hospitals.

  (Quote)

Reidish August 27, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Hi Patrick,
You wrote:

Plantinga makes a Bayesian argument in which he assigns a very high probability to us having reliable cognitive faculties if god exists, and a low probability to us having cognitive faculties if god does not exist, and concludes that because we have reliable cognitive faculties it is therefore likely that god exists.

Can you provide a reference for where Plantinga makes this argument specifically?

  (Quote)

Muto August 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Marcio,
I doubt that all or even more than half of all people who claim to be christians think they experience god directly.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 28, 2010 at 1:33 am

mojo.rhythm said:

If you think that epistemological systems like foundationalism or coherentism et al. cannot provide an adequate set of rules for discriminating justified and non-justified beliefs; can you tell me exactly how Reformed Epistemology meets up to this task better? In other words, can you give a detailed description of what exact rules and procedures Reformed Epistemology uses to demarcate justified/unjustified and warranted/unwarranted beliefs?

It´s clear that you do not know the topic, although you have the confidence to say things like “I will not relinquish my right to laugh and mock the living s%$* out of it”.

Plantinga goes trough and critiques almost every epistemology in his Warrant: The Current Debate and then gives his own account in Warrant and Proper Function and later in Warranted Christian Belief. This Warrant-trilogy is an awesome piece of philosophy, like those who disagree with Plantinga but have read the books would happily concede. You on the other hand, you just do not know what you´re talking about.

Plantinga´s epistemology is a version of weak foundationalism. We have some properly basic beliefs, which we are warranted to hold in the absence of defeaters (this is why it´s weak foundationalism).

Plantinga´s account of what diffetentiates a mere true belief from knowledge is a bit complicated. ‘Warrant’ is the answer, but a warranted belief is something like this: It´s produced by cognitive facualties working properly according to the design-plan aimed at truth in a suitable mini or maxi environment. When you apply this to Christian belief, the outcome is that Christian belief can be a warranted properly basic belief, whereas naturalism cannot.

I´m not here to defend this; it´s too complicated and sophisticated. You need to read Plantinga in order to understand his work.

  (Quote)

Richard Wein August 28, 2010 at 1:45 am

@Thomas

Now, if Christianity really happened to true, then some people probably would know that via the witness of the Holy Spirit. In other words, if it´s true, then it has warrant (in a basic way). This is the point of reformed epistemology. You guys do not seem to get that. You are begging the question by implicitly assuming that Christianity is false and then wondering how anyone could believe that “a ghost murmurs in your head”. But if Christian belief happened to be true, then something like the Holy Spirit could give you the knowledge that the great things of the gospel were true. In fact a huge number of people claim to have knowledge about the truth of the Christian belief just by this kind of a basic way. So, if Christianity is true, then Craig is probably right. So in order for you to show that Craig is wrong, you need to argue that Christianity itself is false.

This is a misleading sense of the word “warrant”. (Perhaps it’s an established sense used by philopsophers, but it doesn’t correspond to the usual sense of the word.) A belief may be “warranted” in this special sense but still be irrational. Rationality is a matter of how we arrive at our beliefs and the sort of scrutiny to which they’ve been subjected. Our standard for rationality is based on what sort of reasoning has worked in the past. And accepting extraordinary (unparsimonious) claims without correspondingly strong evidence has proved a bad epistemological strategy in the past. An irrational belief might later turn out to be true after all (and even to have been caused by the state of affairs that made it true, such as the existence of God), but that doesn’t mean it was rational to believe it at the time.

  (Quote)

Thomas August 28, 2010 at 1:52 am

Patrick,

let me be clear on this once more: My interest (and the interest of reformed epistemology as I understand it) is purely theoretical: The aim is to argue that Christian belief can be rational, not contrary to intellectual obligations, even if one doesn´t have an argument. From this it follows that there are no de jure objections to Christianity without de facto objections. So this is an attempt to defend the rationality of Christian belief – that´s it.

Now, I´m not sure how you can get from here to a discussion of “hearing voices”. I am not for a moment defending voice-hearing. What Aquinas, Calvin, Edwards, Plantinga and co. mean by “the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit” is not hearing voices inside your head. It means that one can be rationally warranted in holding a belief that Christianity is true just by reading the gospels and being convinced that this is true. There is no “voice-hearing” going on.

So yes, I concede that listening voices inside your head is not a reliable means of knowing things about the world. I also happen to think that Christian theism is true, and that there is evidence and arguments in favour of that. But I also think that one doesn´t have to be aware of those arguments in order to be a rational and intellectually respectable Christian. Just like one doesn´t have to have an argument in order to rationally hold a belief in other minds.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 28, 2010 at 6:01 am

Reidish: Its in “Warrant and Proper Function.” I can’t find anything online to show you his work, but I can link you to someone answering it.

http://fitelson.org/plant.pdf

Sorry I don’t know better online resources.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 28, 2010 at 6:03 am

Fine, Thomas. Reword my argument for “just knowing” stuff. All available evidence either disconfirms or fails to confirm the “just knowing stuff” epistemological position. The fact that “just knowing stuff” is undefeatable once you begin with the assumption of the truth of the stuff you “just know” is not a defense of the validity of the “just knowing stuff” paradigm.

  (Quote)

Kaelik August 28, 2010 at 6:36 am

@Marcio

Yeah, not all Christians hear voices and believe them. I would go so far as to say the vast majority of all Christians hear no voices at all, but merely take the word of people they trust on the issue of God’s existence.

  (Quote)

Reidish August 28, 2010 at 6:59 am

Patrick, have you read Warrant and Proper Function? In your argument I quoted above, it looks to me like you’ve accused Plantinga of affirming the consequent, and I can’t find that anywhere in WPF.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 28, 2010 at 8:13 am

I’ve… “read” it. I haven’t a ton of patience for philosopher speak, so it wasn’t as deep a read as it could have been. As for my specific argument,

Bayesian reasoning looks a LOT like affirming the consequent. But its not because its probabilistic. Many blatant fallacies are actually worthwhile inductive arguments that have been treated as if they were deductive. I don’t think that Plantinga affirms the consequent per se, but I do think that he’s edging his toe towards that line in the way that he uses Bayes.

Let X be a hypothesis.
Let Y be a particular experimental outcome.

If the probability of Y given X is greater than the probability of Y given ~X, then discovering that Y is true renders X more likely than it was prior to doing the experiment. This is typically stated as something like, “Y is evidence of X.”

In this way we can demonstrate lots of little details that provide some degree of evidence of various propositions. The problem is that if all you know is that the probability of Y given X is “greater than” the probability of Y given ~X, you CAN say that Y is evidence of X, but you CANNOT say HOW MUCH evidence it is, nor can you say how likely X actually is overall.

To do that you need prior probabilities that can actually be expressed numerically, and you need the probabilities of Y given X and Y given ~X to be expressed numerically.

That’s where the sleight of hand comes in during purportedly Bayesian reasoning. For instance, if you assign a 50/50 chance to X versus ~X, then demonstrate that Y is evidence of X, you’ve just demonstrated that X is more likely than not… but of course you’ve only demonstrated that with the same degree of strength that your initial assignment of 50/50 probability possessed, which is to say not a lot.

Watch as I use this reasoning to “prove” that naturalism is more likely than not: Let X be that naturalism is true, let ~X be that there is some form of supernaturalism. Let Y be that faith healing doesn’t work. Set the chance of X at 50%, since that’s a “fair” division of probability if we don’t know anything about the subject. We don’t know the chance of Y given X or ~X, but we can say that the chance of faith healing being false if naturalism is true is 100%, and the chance of faith healing being real if supernaturalism is true is less than 100%. The chance of faith healing being false independent of whether naturalism is true will therefore also be less than 100%, since that chance includes both world-states of naturalism and not-naturalism.

As it happens, faith healing doesn’t work. We tested it, it doesn’t, except for placebo effects which faith healers do not consider to be actual faith healing.

So, lets use Bayes.

P(X|Y) = P(Y|X)P(X)/(P(Y)

Lets rearrange algebraically,

P(X|Y)/P(X) = P(Y|X)/P(Y)

We know something about some of these points (from above), so lets put that knowledge in.

P(X|Y)/.5 = 1/P(Y)

Since P(Y) is less than 1, 1/P(Y) is greater than 1. So P(X|Y)/.5 must be greater than 1. So P(X|Y) must be greater than .5. Which in english means…

The probability of naturalism is greater than not. At least, if you accept my initial premises, which you shouldn’t.

Had I wanted to make this argument more reasonable, I would have started with P(X) as unknown. I would have then been able to prove that P(X|Y) is greater than P(X), but I would not have been able to show P(X|Y) to be greater than any actual degree of certainty (ie, P(X|Y) could still be arbitrarily small, just better than P(X)).

In this way a very “affirming the consequent”-like argument can be constructed using Bayes without actually affirming any consequents.

I’m pretty sure that both Plantinga and Spinoza do this.

  (Quote)

al friedlander August 28, 2010 at 10:54 am

“The devil was God’s advocate, whom he sent to test Job, in the Hebrew Bible. ”

In my opinion, he’s also God’s scapegoat/tool

  (Quote)

Rob August 28, 2010 at 11:16 am

Thomas,

What does Craig mean when he refers to “the inner witness of the holy spirit”? If it is not a voice, then what is it? A strong feeling of knowing? But why should a strong feeling of knowing be considered a reliable guide to the truth?

Somehow, according to Craig, the Holy Ghost is communicating with him. So you don’t like to refer to this communication as a voice. Fine. He still claims to be communicating with a ghost. Which makes him a clown, as he claims this is a reliable way to know stuff.

  (Quote)

Reidish August 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Patrick,
I think you stated this very well:

If the probability of Y given X is greater than the probability of Y given ~X, then discovering that Y is true renders X more likely than it was prior to doing the experiment. This is typically stated as something like, “Y is evidence of X.”

In this way we can demonstrate lots of little details that provide some degree of evidence of various propositions. The problem is that if all you know is that the probability of Y given X is “greater than” the probability of Y given ~X, you CAN say that Y is evidence of X, but you CANNOT say HOW MUCH evidence it is, nor can you say how likely X actually is overall.

I agree with what you said there, and also agree with your larger point about a typical Bayesian analysis as a test for evidence of a certain hypothesis.

Now concerning our question here, Plantinga does think his scheme of warrant and proper function fits well within theism and poorly within naturalism. Indeed, eventually it contributes heavily to his formulation of the EAAN.

So here is what he makes of his theory for the theist:

“From a theistic perspective there is no problem in applying these notions to natural organisms, for (from that perspective) natural organisms have indeed been designed by a conscious and intentional designer: God. (WPF, p. 197)

But, suppose you are a naturalist:

Therefore, if, as it looks, it is in fact impossible to give an account of proper function in naturalistic terms, then metaphysical naturalism and naturalistic epistemology are at best uneasy bedfellows. The right way to be a naturalist in epistemology is to be a supernaturalist in metaphysics. (WPF, p. 211)

So he does regard his account of warrant and proper function as evidence for theism. But that is a far cry from concluding that it is likely that God exists given just that we have reliable cognitive faculties – which is what you originally thought was his conclusion. As you just noted, that is a completely different argument – one Plantinga doesn’t make. For that would require the assumption that all else was equal, or more specifically, that it is equally likely that theism or naturalism is true given any and all other conditions. As near as I can tell, that topic isn’t even addressed in WPF. So I think you need to reconsider your charge and familiarize yourself with exactly the claims Plantinga is making here.

  (Quote)

Patrick August 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm

… I’m pretty sure I recall him crossing the line into claiming that theism was actually likely, instead of merely provided some non zero amount of evidential support by the existence of reliable cognitive faculties, but I’ll have to concede the point until I have a copy on hand again.

I’ll be honest, I’m better with the probability stuff than with the “defeater” stuff, and he certainly telegraphed a classical case of Bayesian Abuse before moving on into the defeater material. He set the probability of reliable cognitive faculties given god at unity, treated god as the negation of naturalism, assigned the probability of evolution + naturalism given reliable cognitive faculties as “very low,” and made a probabilistic argument… so I’m not sure how he’s NOT going to do what I accuse him of, given that lead in.

  (Quote)

mojo.rhythm August 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thomas,

I already know all of what you just typed.

Classical foundationalism will place a basic belief into the properly basic category if it is either a product of the senses, incorrigible or self-evident.

What qualities does a basic belief have to have in Reformed Epistemology to be considered properly basic?

(HINT: Plantinga still hasn’t answered this question to this day)

  (Quote)

Hermes August 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

MichaelPJ, did you mean this document?

http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/voodoo.htm

The other link 404ed for me.

  (Quote)

MichaelPJ August 30, 2010 at 6:19 am

Yeah, I meant that one. For some reason the post system thought that my trailing parenthesis was part of the hyperlink!

  (Quote)

MichaelPJ August 30, 2010 at 6:20 am

Also @mojo,

I agree with you, and if you haven’t read it, I think you’d be interested in the link Hermes just posted. DeRose advances a similar argument.

  (Quote)

mojo.rhythm@gmail.com August 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thanks, MichaelPJ

  (Quote)

Tom September 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

I thought atheists didn’t neeed faith to disbelieve??

  (Quote)

mojo.rhythm September 8, 2010 at 8:37 pm

They usually don’t. The contention that they do is a weird product of Reformed Epistemology.

But some atheists DO disbelieve in God for purely emotional reasons. They can be said to have faith in this circumstance.

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment