The Craig-Hitchens Debate

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 4, 2009 in Debates,Reviews,William Lane Craig

hitchens-craig

I just returned from the debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens at Biola University. It was a bigger deal than I realized. Over 3,000 people were there, and groups from dozens of countries – including Sri Lanka, apparently – had purchased a live feed.

Of three recent Craig debates, I was most looking forward to his matchup with Morriston, which has yet to be posted online. I was somewhat excited for his debate with Carrier, which was disappointing. I was least excited for this debate with Hitchens, but it was the only one in my area, so I went.

The debate went exactly as I expected. Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child. Perhaps Hitchens realized how bad things were for him after Craig’s opening speech, as even Hitchens’ rhetorical flourishes were not as confident as usual. Hitchens wasted his cross-examination time with questions like, “If a baby was born in Palestine, would you rather it be a Muslim baby or an atheist baby?” He did not even bother to give his concluding remarks, ceding the time instead to Q&A.

This always seemed like a pointless matchup to me. One is a loudmouthed journalist and the other is a major analytic philosopher. You might as well put on a debate between Michael Martin and Bill O’Reilly.

For some reason it occurred to me that it’s too bad the contenders were not more physically appealing. Hitchens is a sweating, unkempt, bulbous louch. Craig has better presentation, but he is withering away to nothing. I swear at one point I could see through the flesh between the thumb and pointer finger of his right hand.

Craig’s physical deterioration makes me especially sad. He is absolute perfection in debate performance. It’s a good thing we have him on video because debaters on any topic should study him like actors study Brando. Anyway, we could use some sexier debaters. Let’s see Austin Dacey vs. Kevin Harris!

I had come prepared with a question to ask, but unfortunately only Biola students were allowed to ask questions. But here’s the question I wanted to ask Craig:

Dr. Craig,

Tonight you’ve argued that objective moral values cannot exist apart from grounding them in the traits and opinions of a particular person. Your choice is Yahweh. That seems like an odd way to get objective moral values, but nevertheless, you’ve elsewhere argued just the opposite: that objective moral values do exist apart from Yahweh.

For example, in your answer to question #61 on your website, you write that abortion is wrong because life has intrinsic moral value – that is, moral value within itself, apart from anything outside it, including the opinions of Yahweh. Is this a discrepancy, or have I misunderstood you?

There were very few atheists in the crowd. Being at Biola reminded me that there are dozens of universities with entire programs devoted to teaching students how to argue for the existence of God. Hundreds of bright young students are being trained like Craig. Many will probably become pastors or theologians, but many of them will be writing books and getting professorships in philosophy and the sciences. In contrast, I don’t know of any programs that teach arguments against the existence of God (except philosophy of religion programs, which teach both sides). And there is certainly nobody who believes it is their divine and cosmic purpose to devote their life to defending the truth of atheism. It’s a wonder atheism is so vastly over-represented in American academies.

I have little to say about the points of the debate itself because Craig gave the same case he always gives, and Hitchens never managed to put up a coherent rebuttal or argument. I will bring up one point that I liked, though. After Hitchens finished elaborating a list of religious atrocities, moderator Hugh Hewitt jumped in and asked Craig to explain how atheists had committed atrocities in the 20th century, too. Craig responded admirably:

Well, this is a debate, Hugh, that I don’t want to get into because I think it’s irrelevant… I’m interested in the truth of these worldviews more than I’m interested in their social impact, and you cannot judge the truth of a worldview by its social impact – it’s irrelevant.

Hitchens jumped in and said, “I completely concur,” and explained that he mentioned religious atrocities as an example of how bad people use God to justify any and all wicked actions.

So that was good. Otherwise, it was what I expected. One person was conducting an academic debate, the other thought he was hosting a polemical talk show, and there was little connecting the two performances.

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{ 197 comments… read them below or add one }

LatinAgnostic April 5, 2009 at 9:26 am

and you cannot judge the truth of a worldview by its social impact – it’s irrelevant

But is Atheism a worldview? I mean, I don't believe in Santa Claus and I dont need a special "worldview" (an anti-Santa ideology) for that… I think Hitchens made a mistake in concurring with Craig's point.
I guess I will have to wait until YouTube post the debate videos.

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toweltowel April 5, 2009 at 11:06 am

I think your question is on exactly the right track when it comes to Craig on morality. In order to defend his moral argument, Craig has to abandon the idea that some things are intrinsically wrong. Instead, he has to say that nothing, no matter how heartbreakingly cruel, could be wrong in a world without God. So he's really flying in the face of common sense—a serious problem, given that his moral argument is so unsupported in the first place.

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Thanks for your summary and assessment of the debate. I was anxious to hear how it went.

Allow me to answer your question for Craig.

William of Ockham embraced a radical form of divine command morality, and he actually maintained that moral properties are relational rather than inherent. He claimed that acts such as adultery have their evil qualities "annexed" to them, depending upon how they stand in relation to an actual divine command.

Bill rejects that sort of view and adheres to something more along the lines of Robert Adams' position in Finite and Infinite Goods. There is also a splendid paper by Alston that, so far as I know, only appears in Craig's edited philosophy of religion text on Routledge. The paper is titled "What Euthyphro Should Have Said."
Here, it is God's nature that is the ultimate ground of moral value. In effect, as Adams has it, God is the Good. There is no more a problem in reconciling this with the claim that moral properties are intrinsic than there would be on straight Platonism.

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Craig and Hitchens are both correct: the truth claims of a worldview cannot be assessed by considering the behavior, good or bad, of its proponents–unless, of course, there is something essential about the worldview that entails the bad behavior. (Consider, for instance, human sacrifice in the worship of Kali.)

G.K. Chesterton exposed the absurdity of thinking otherwise with this great line: "A Confucian has stolen my hairbrush! Down with Confucianism!"

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I would say even the violent worshipers of Kali are not proven incorrect, for it is quite possible that a god exists and he is simply evil (and commands evil).

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 4:00 pm

You should read indeed Alston's paper. I got hold of it when it was circulating as an unpublished ms back in the mid-80s and wound up writing an M.A. thesis and several publications as a result of its influence.

I think your question is a good one, and it occurred to me in something I wrote recently. I'll share a bit of the text and a relevant footnote. I hope this is enough to make sense.

On a Judeo-Christian worldview, human personal dignity, though intrinsic, is derivative. The value of human persons is found in the fact that, as bearers of the imago dei, they bear a significant resemblance to God in their very personhood.[21] God and human persons share an overlap of kind membership in personhood itself, and human dignity is found precisely in membership in that kind.
____________________
[21]Resemblance is, of course, a relation between two or more things. And so an initial puzzle may seem to arise. Have we not said that if a property is intrinsic it is not also relational? How, then, can the intrinsic value of persons be found in their resemblance to God? But a moment’s reflection will clear this up. Consider Plato’s scheme in which a horse is what it is in virtue of its participation in, or exemplification of, the Form of equinity or “horseyness.” Horses are intrinsically what they are even if being such involves such a relation to the Form. Indeed, twins bear a mutual resemblance in virtue of their respective intrinsic properties.

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Ha! Well, then, here I would invoke the early Russell in "A Free Man's Worship" (when he was still a moral realist). If the gods are wicked, then we should condemn them rather than worship them.

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 4:10 pm

By the way, have you interacted at all with John Loftus over at Debunking Christianity? John and I are friends, and we were students together under Bill Craig in the mid-80s. John went from his M.A. to a Ph.D. program in theology (but decided not to finish). I went for the same in philosophy (UW-Madison). John ultimately lost his faith. I blame it on those damned theologians! ;-)

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vision April 5, 2009 at 4:28 pm

What is this? I don't understand what is so great about Craig, he hasn't presented any serious argument for God's existence ever. Lot of his arguments sound incredibly convincing and eloquent , but at closer examination they are nothing but mambo-jumbo. He would make absolutely brilliant lawyer , that's for sure, but someone who cares for truth??? wtf? He only cares for winning the debates – which he is very good at! … The most stupid argument is the one about 'the cause'. It's nothing but fancy sounding words, nothing more, it doesn't prove absolutely anything. I am shocked that you as an atheist, who should value critical thinking and search for truth above all, are talking about how appearances would make their points more convincing. But i guess it's because you have seen/read/heard over 400 of this kind of debates. You must be quite burnt out by them, so you're trying to find things that would make them more original, but how does the originality or looks bring us closer to truth of things?… This is how the search for truth should be approached: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmZqT6pONXc

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I\\'ve read John\\'s book and follow his blog. Good stuff. Of course there is no atheist I agree with all the time – and that it partly because I am simply wrong about lots of stuff and I just don\\'t know it yet because people haven\\'t explained it to me in just the right way (whether in books or blog comments or conversations).

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 4:34 pm

vision,

I did not say that sexier debaters would be more convincing.

I agree that Craig\\'s arguments fail, but at least he presents valid (but unsound) arguments and argues according to the rules of philosophical logic. Hitchens, it appears, has never read a logic textbook.

Of course Shermer makes some great points in that video, but if someone wants to attack Craig\\'s cosmological argument they must realize it is a logically valid argument and then attack the premises, or else attack logic itself.

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Salt April 5, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Atheism is not a worldview? Why should I believe you when I have had admitted atheists claim otherwise?

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Write your comment here…

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Indeed. If the Biblical Yahweh existed I would condemn him a thousand times as an insane, evil tyrant for his evil acts, bumbling incompetence, and horrific doctrines.

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm

What the heck is up with those slashes appearing before my apostrophe's? Stupid IntenseDebate. Is there no comments system that works?

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 4:45 pm

What I like about John is that he remains friendly even while disagreeing. There is none of the "smarter-than-thou" tone, nor the bitter hostility that so often characterizes atheists.

If you read the Prometheus version of John's book, then I have a blurb there recommending it.

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I think that, in general, you're not going to find great material among the so-called "new atheists."

The best "atheistic work" is done not by people who are reacting to religious belief (the Dan Barker types), but simply philosophers and other scholars who are naturalists and who are thinking through the implications of their naturalism. Most of these folks are not likely to engage in debate, but they are certainly publishing significant stuff. I naturally think of Elliot Sober, who teaches at my alma mater and has written splendid stuff on the philosophy of biology, not to mention critiques of some of the best theistic work (e.g., Plantinga). Elliott is simply a gifted analytic philosopher who is a naturalist, and he is the sort of person most likely to give people like me a serious run for the money.

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 5:02 pm

I have put two of my papers up on a wordpress blog that has been all but ignored.

The site is adventuresinelfland (which stems from my admiration for G.K. Chesterton–my favorite essayist).

There are two papers there. One, a 30k+ word essay, appears in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited by Moreland and Craig, next month. The other, shorter one, will appear in a volume that Craig and Copan are editing.

The bit of text/footnote that I offered before is from the long piece.

I've probably offered sufficient info for figuring out my ID now. ;-)

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Agreed! And I often lament that none of these fine atheistic philosophers have also been mastering debating skills their entire lives like Craig has, so there really is no atheistic counterpart to Craig. He is in a class by himself.

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Anselm April 5, 2009 at 10:27 am

lukeprog: Agreed! And I often lament that none of these fine atheistic philosophers have also been mastering debating skills their entire lives like Craig has, so there really is no atheistic counterpart to Craig. He is in a class by himself.

That being said, I think Doug Geivett makes an excellent point in his review of this debate (see http://tinyurl.com/caps7v) when he notes the shocking lack of preparation by Hitchens (and I would say the same for Carrier and others who have debated Craig).  Craig’s work has been out there for years, as well as recordings of his debates.  There should be no surprises for his atheist opponents.  And yet they still appear clueless as to how to rebut him.  I think atheists have been dominant so long in the academy and the “bi-coastal” and European elite that they have become sloppy and complacent.  They tend to just assume their view is obvious, since they rarely interact with orthodox Christians.

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Wintery Knight April 5, 2009 at 10:44 am

I posted a detailed summary on my blog here.

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kevinbbg April 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

“I’m interested in the truth of these worldviews more than I’m interested in their social impact, and you cannot judge the truth of a worldview by its social impact – it’s irrelevant.”

I have to disagree with that. Christianity makes very clear claims about god, morality, truth, etc.  These things should be reflected in at least a
Christian organization, such as a church, no matter how big or small.  Yet, we continually find that those people considered the most “holy” are really no better than the general population, and are sometimes worse.

If morality comes from God then it seems that believing in God does not improve anybody’s morality in how they act in life.  Which makes it hard to accept the original premise at all, and if that original premise is true it is completely irrelevant.

If the Christian god was true then I would expect his followers to be better than average in some ways, at the very least in moral living.  I live a far more moral life by Christian standards than most Christians do, nor do I find doing so the least bit difficult.  How can that be possible if atheists have no morality and Christians do?

The same cannot be said of atheism because it means only one thing; not having a belief in god(s), and is not a world view.

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 12:55 pm

muddle: By the way, have you interacted at all with John Loftus over at Debunking Christianity?John and I are friends, and we were students together under Bill Craig in the mid-80s.John went from his M.A. to a Ph.D. program in theology (but decided not to finish).I went for the same in philosophy (UW-Madison).John ultimately lost his faith.I blame it on those damned theologians!;-)

Indeed! Theologians need to quit the biz and give their job to philosophers or “philosophical theologians.”

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Dawkinsism is Risible April 5, 2009 at 1:20 pm

It wasn’t merely the debating skills that were at issue.  Hitchens has been a long time and practiced debater himself.

The fact that Dawkins tropes are being brought out chapter and verse  (e.g., anti-Santa Claus, the Unicorn argument, etc.) is a reflection of the thoughtlessness Craig was, ultimately, contending with.

Recall, the jargon of “the new atheists” is designed not merely to show, from an intellectual perspective, that atheism can contend with theism, but that it can, for most practical intents and purposes, effectively refute it.

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Eric April 5, 2009 at 2:26 pm

“It\\’s just a word confusion. Look up \\”atheism\\” in a dictionary. It just means \\”no God belief,\\” like a-unicornism would mean \\”no unicorn belief.\\” A-unicornism is not a worldview either; it\\’s a belief about a single thing.”

<a href=”http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/atheism-and-theism/”>Here</a>  are some great posts (though you’ll have to scroll down find them) by Bill Vallicella concerning the serious problems with attempting to define atheism as the absence of theistic belief.

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Yes, I've always wanted to read the Alston paper. But how is this view compatible with human life having intrinsic moral value? If human life has intrinsic moral value, then it has objective moral value apart from anything outside it – including the nature of God, or any value imparted on human life by God. And yet Craig claims that without God, there are no objective moral values in the universe. These claims seem incompatible to me.

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

No, atheism isn't a worldview, but I think Hitchens only concurred with the statement "you cannot judge the truth of a worldview by its social impact."

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auggybendoggy April 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Hitches was on a leash because the social impact of morality was off limits.  The point of the debate was the existence  of God and Craig failed at that.  for if he did then NBC, CBS, and ABC are failing at the most important news break of all time…the proof of God’s existence.  Hitchens does not have to prove God does not exist any more than santa clause.  He points it out once and gets frustrated becasue of the same ol theoloogical arguments. 

Craig was structured but had was not persuasive on many points.  The moral point is a double edge sword and when Hitchens usually moves on the point of “will you kill if God commands” he did not touch it because it moves into social impact of people killing in the name of God. 

So when people viewed hitches as needing 5 points to prove God does not exist they simply don’t get it he does not need nore can he provide that since it’s no different than going to debate to prove santa clause does not exist.

My opinion is Craig lost on the  thesis of “Does God exist” but won in being organized.  However if he had to PROVE the existence of God I failed to get it and Hitchens only needs to show there are holes in Craigs reason and from his (athiest) point of view he did just that. 

Name a moral action that a non-believer CANNOT do and Craig answers TITHING!  Loving God!
LOL
He’s clueless and Hitchens is wasting his time with Craig.  Craig was as weak as he was againt Thomas Talbott on Eternal damnation.  Talbott smoked him like a cigar and once again he did not do much to prove with facts but rather gave theories why it’s more rational to believe there is a God. 

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Revyloution April 5, 2009 at 3:46 pm

On the cosmology issue, I wonder why no one has ever tried bringing Craig to task on his lack of understanding.

He keeps repeating the line of “something coming from nothing” and the silly fine tuning argument.

If this were a compelling argument, then cosmologists would be overwhelming theists. We find the exact opposite. Most cosmologists and astronomers are atheists or deists.

When someone quotes an astronomer saying ‘something came from nothing’ its just a summary, and not very detailed speech. The true ‘big bang’ theory is much more complex, and never states that something came from nothing.

Indeed, our current physics models only can show what happened to one Planck second into the expansion of the universe. We have no testable theories to describe any length of time smaller than a Planck second. Trying to talk about before that, and using it as proof of a Grand Motivator, is just a pointless god of the gaps argument. And a long way to the Empty Tomb.

I also don’t understand why no one has taken the moral argument any further. I can find examples of ALL acts that we call immoral that are treated as moral and just acts in other societies.

If we can find entire societies that behave in opposite ways to our morality, that is good evidence that there is no absolute ingrained human morality. It also lends great weight that all human morals are learned values from society.

On the debate, sounds like I didn’t miss much. Hitchens main deal is to say that religion is so ridiculous that it doesn’t deserve to be treated with any respect. With that attitude, he never takes the time to fully immerse himself in the strengths of the arguments for faith. That puts him at a great disadvantage to Craig who obviously reads as much as he can of the secular scientific world.

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John W. Loftus April 5, 2009 at 4:24 pm

muddle:
I have put two of my papers up on a wordpress blog that has been all but ignored.
The site is adventuresinelfland (which stems from my admiration for G.K. Chesterton–my favorite essayist).
There are two papers there. One, a 30k+ word essay, appears in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited by Moreland and Craig, next month. The other, shorter one, will appear in a volume that Craig and Copan are editing.
The bit of text/footnote that I offered before is from the long piece.
I’ve probably offered sufficient info for figuring out my ID now.

Yes you have. You interest me, and I’m curious how you’re doing now.  Email me if you have questions.

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John W. Loftus April 5, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Muddle, I know who you are and I wish you well. I may be wrong but I think you are doubting. Shame that someone like you might join our side before too long. I would welcome your keen intellect on these matters.

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 4:38 pm

That sounds fishy to me, but I'd like to read more. Care to give your name or link to your work, muddle?

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muddle April 5, 2009 at 4:57 pm

John W. Loftus: Muddle, I know who you are and I wish you well. I may be wrong but I think you are doubting. Shame that someone like you might join our side before too long. I would welcome your keen intellect on these matters.

Hi, John.

Thanks for the good wishes.

But, nope.  I’m a Jedi and always will be a Jedi.  ;-)

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm

It’s just a word confusion. Look up “atheism” in a dictionary. It just means “no God belief” like a-unicornism would mean “no unicorn belief.” A-unicornism is not a worldview either; it’s a belief about a single thing.

There are many atheistic worldviews, of course – worldviews which include no god belief. Secular humanism, deep ecology, metaphysical naturalism, extropianism, etc.

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Found it! I've added that link to my earlier preview of the BCNT.

I haven't read your work yet but I\'ve read summaries of your arguments against evolutionary morality and I thought, "Yup, I agree with all that!"

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toweltowel April 5, 2009 at 5:58 pm

muddle: You should read indeed Alston’s paper.I got hold of it when it was circulating as an unpublished ms back in the mid-80s and wound up writing an M.A. thesis and several publications as a result of its influence. I think your question is a good one, and it occurred to me in something I wrote recently.I’ll share a bit of the text and a relevant footnote.I hope this is enough to make sense. On a Judeo-Christian worldview, human personal dignity, though intrinsic, is derivative.The value of human persons is found in the fact that, as bearers of the imago dei, they bear a significant resemblance to God in their very personhood.[21] God and human persons share an overlap of kind membership in personhood itself, and human dignity is found precisely in membership in that kind. ____________________ [21]Resemblance is, of course, a relation between two or more things.And so an initial puzzle may seem to arise.Have we not said that if a property is intrinsic it is not also relational?How, then, can the intrinsic value of persons be found in their resemblance to God?But a moment’s reflection will clear this up.Consider Plato’s scheme in which a horse is what it is in virtue of its participation in, or exemplification of, the Form ofequinity or “horseyness.”Horses are intrinsically what they are even if being such involves such a relation to the Form.Indeed, twins bear a mutual resemblance in virtue of their respective intrinsic properties.

I think Alston’s paper will provide no comfort for Craig’s moral argument. For when Alston is pressed on why God counts as good in the first place, he settles for saying it’s an ultimate fact for which no further explanation can be given, and that this is a problem every realist metaethic will have to accept. But then, obviously, an atheist can follow suit, saying that the wrongness of torture or the value of pleasure (or whatever) is an ultimate fact for which no further explanation can be given.

And about intrinsicness: even if an Alston/Adams view can rescue <i>some</i> sense in which torture is intrinsically wrong, Craig still needs to say that torture is not wrong in a world without God. So he still needs to deny the intrinsic wrongness of things in a sense that runs contrary to rock-solid moral intuitions. (Indeed, I believe Adams faces this problem as well, since he thinks morality just goes on holiday in worlds without God)

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Bobmo April 5, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Atheism can indeed be a worldview.  And lukeprog, I think you provided support for that position with your description of “A-unicornism,” which you said is “a belief about a single thing.” 

Although both Atheism and A-unicornism are similar in that they are non-beliefs in a particular entity, Atheism goes beyond non-belief in God, since it implies  a set of facts for which positive arguments can be made. 

In other words, if there is no God, then x must be true (e.g. matter is eternal, or a multiverse exists; there is no absolute morality, etc.)  The same cannot be said for A-unicornism, since the non-existence of unicorns carries no serious implications. 

If God exists, there are a host of implications.  Atheism denies not only God’s existence, but those implications as well.

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toweltowel April 5, 2009 at 6:15 pm

lukeprog: Yes, I’ve always wanted to read the Alston paper. But how is this view compatible with human life having intrinsic moral value? If human life has intrinsic moral value, then it has objective moral value apart from anything outside it – including the nature of God, or any value imparted on human life by God. And yet Craig claims that without God, there are no objective moral values in the universe. These claims seem incompatible to me.

You can probably manage to read the entire article online through Google Books: here is Craig’s anthology.

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toweltowel April 5, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Bobmo: Atheism can indeed be a worldview.  And lukeprog, I think you provided support for that position with your description of “A-unicornism,” which you said is “a belief about a single thing.”  Although both Atheism and A-unicornism are similar in that they are non-beliefs in a particular entity, Atheism goes beyond non-belief in God, since it implies  a set of facts for which positive arguments can be made.  In other words, if there is no God, then x must be true (e.g. matter is eternal, or a multiverse exists; there is no absolute morality, etc.)  The same cannot be said for A-unicornism, since the non-existence of unicorns carries no serious implications.  If God exists, there are a host of implications.  Atheism denies not only God’s existence, but those implications as well.

First, atheism does not have those implications. Atheism does not imply that matter is eternal—indeed, an atheist could deny the reality of matter. Atheism does not imply that there is no absolute morality—indeed, the most prominent defenses of absolute morality make no reference to supernatural beings.

Second, I think you are committing a basic fallacy. Supposing that theism implies p, and that atheism is the denial of theism, it obviously does not follow that atheism implies ~p. Atheism is compatible with the truth or falsehood of theism’s implications, just so long as those implications don’t themselves imply theism.

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Bombo, I don’t see what you mean. Atheism does not entail the existence of a multiverse, the eternality of matter, or moral nihilism. All it entails are propositions like “If morality exists, in cannot be derived from gods” in the same way that a-unicornism entails “If morality exists, it cannot be derived from unicorns.”

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lukeprog April 5, 2009 at 7:02 pm

toweltowel: You can probably manage to read the entire article online through Google Books: here is Craig’s anthology.

Yup, I’ve got it.

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Rich Bordner April 5, 2009 at 7:24 pm

ummm, dang, that did not go well now, did it!  I apologize about all the gibberish that appeared above, I seriously don’t know what  happened.  I’ll just copy and paste the links rather than try to be all fancy (feel free to delete the above):

http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/04/05/craighitchens-debate-an-atheists-thoughts/

http://pugnaciousirishman.com/2009/04/05/craighitchens-post-debate-analysis/

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Grady April 5, 2009 at 8:01 pm

John Loftus is always saying “I know who you are.”.

So fucking what, John?

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Brandon April 6, 2009 at 12:39 am

Concerning muddle’s response to Luke’s intended question for Craig:

I think the problem with grounding morality in god’s nature is that you cannot guarantee what kind of nature god would have.  If god chooses his nature (and moral characteristics), then morality would be separate from god.  But if god doesn’t choose his nature, then his nature (and the morality grounded in it) is arbitrary.  How can you guarantee that god’s nature would be what we call good rather than what we call bad?

Appealing to god’s inherent nature does not seem to me to be able to truly escape either horn of Euthyphro’s dilemma.

Am I going wrong somewhere here?

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John W. Loftus April 6, 2009 at 1:22 am

Saying I know who you are is better than blurting out the guys name when he himself doesn’t do it, isn’t it, Grady? I don’t know who you are, but I have a guess that you are banned at DC, and if that’s the case then maybe I do after all. So what?

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John W. Loftus April 6, 2009 at 1:25 am

muddle  said: I’m a Jedi and always will be a Jedi. 

Never say never, and never say always. ;-)

Join the dark side,  Luke Skywalker.

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 3:12 am

Brandon: Concerning muddle’s response to Luke’s intended question for Craig:I think the problem with grounding morality in god’s nature is that you cannot guarantee what kind of nature god would have.  If god chooses his nature (and moral characteristics), then morality would be separate from god.  But if god doesn’t choose his nature, then his nature (and the morality grounded in it) is arbitrary.  How can you guarantee that god’s nature would be what we call good rather than what we call bad?Appealing to god’s inherent nature does not seem to me to be able to truly escape either horn of Euthyphro’s dilemma.Am I going wrong somewhere here?

I don’t think this quite works (though you might be on the right track).

If God chooses his nature, then either God chooses his nature so as to conform to an independent moral standard (your option), or else God’s choice is what makes the nature he chooses good (a radical voluntarist option). In any case, I don’t think anyone would say God chooses his nature, so I think this option is moot.

So suppose God doesn’t choose his nature. Now I’m not sure why you think his nature would then be ‘arbitrary’; I would think the opposite is true, since it doesn’t result from any act of the will. But there is a big question in the vicinity: why does God’s nature count as good? It obviously can’t be simply because God arbitrarily deemed his own nature to be good, since that’s just radical voluntarism all over again. Any other explanation of God’s goodness would presumably say that God counts as good because God’s nature has certain properties (e.g., lovingness, power).

But that raises a Euthyphro-style dilemma: do those properties count as good-making properties due to some independent standard, or simply because they belong to God? Now, the latter option courts vicious circularity, for how could a property’s status as good-making be due to its belonging to God unless God were already good? And the former option posits an evaluative standard independent of God, which is what we were trying to avoid.

So I think the only option is to swat down the question and say there is no further explanation for why God counts as good. But then an atheist can say the same thing about the natural facts that moral facts depend on: namely, that there is no further explanation for why (e.g.) pleasure has value. So this last option dispels any advantage theism might have had over atheism in the moral foundations department.

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Madeleine April 6, 2009 at 3:12 am

Anselm:
That being said, I think Doug Geivett makes an excellent point in his review of this debate (see http://tinyurl.com/caps7v) when he notes the shocking lack of preparation by Hitchens (and I would say the same for Carrier and others who have debated Craig).  Craig’s work has been out there for years, as well as recordings of his debates.  There should be no surprises for his atheist opponents.  And yet they still appear clueless as to how to rebut him.  I think atheists have been dominant so long in the academy and the “bi-coastal” and European elite that they have become sloppy and complacent.  They tend to just assume their view is obvious, since they rarely interact with orthodox Christians.

I couldn’t agree more. I helped organise William Lane Craig’s debate in Auckland , New Zealand last year. We had a tech malfunction with the powerpoint so I ended up clicking through Dr Craig’s power points for him during his opening address (you can see me doing this in the video at the link above). To do this accurately I had to follow a written transcript with notes as to when to click and I recall thinking as I followed the talk that what was written in front of me and unfolding before the audience was nothing new, this was textbook Craig, the same opening address you find in most of his debates – brilliant – but what I, a lay person whose undergrad degree in progress is not even in the field, was expecting.

What stunned me was that Dr Bill Cooke, Craig’s debate opponent in Auckland, seemed to not have had a clue what was coming and seemed unfamiliar with the arguments – hadn’t he heard of google? Hadn’t Hitchens and Carrier et al?

Still one shouldn’t be surprised in the face of zoologists and journalists being touted as devastatingly gifted atheist scholars by the atheist communities and secular media.

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Anselm April 6, 2009 at 4:48 am

toweltowel: I don’t think this quite works (though you might be on the right track). If God chooses his nature, then either God chooses his nature so as to conform to an independent moral standard (your option), or else God’s choice is what makes the nature he chooses good (a radical voluntarist option). In any case, I don’t think anyone would say God chooses his nature, so I think this option is moot.So suppose God doesn’t choose his nature. Now I’m not sure why you think his nature would then be ‘arbitrary’; I would think the opposite is true, since it doesn’t result from any act of the will. But there is a big question in the vicinity: why does God’s nature count as good? It obviously can’t be simply because God arbitrarily deemed his own nature to be good, since that’s just radical voluntarism all over again. Any other explanation of God’s goodness would presumably say that God counts as good because God’s nature has certain properties (e.g., lovingness, power).But that raises a Euthyphro-style dilemma: do those properties count as good-making properties due to some independent standard, or simply because they belong to God? Now, the latter option courts vicious circularity, for how could a property’s status as good-making be due to its belonging to God unless God were already good? And the former option posits an evaluative standard independent of God, which is what we were trying to avoid.So I think the only option is to swat down the question and say there is no further explanation for why God counts as good. But then an atheist can say the same thing about the natural facts that moral facts depend on: namely, that there is no further explanation for why (e.g.) pleasure has value. So this last option dispels any advantage theism might have had over atheism in the moral foundations department.

It seems that you are arguing that we can posit objective moral values as “properly basic,” i.e., they can be known noninferentially.  I believe you will be challenged on this both by those atheists who assert that moral values are only subjective and relative, and by Luke, the author of this blog, who believes that moral values must be justified based on evidence and argument (analogous to a scientific investigation).  (Of course he will correct me if I am wrong :)

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muddle April 6, 2009 at 4:55 am

Bobmo: Atheism can indeed be a worldview.  And lukeprog, I think you provided support for that position with your description of “A-unicornism,” which you said is “a belief about a single thing.”  Although both Atheism and A-unicornism are similar in that they are non-beliefs in a particular entity, Atheism goes beyond non-belief in God, since it implies  a set of facts for which positive arguments can be made.  In other words, if there is no God, then x must be true (e.g. matter is eternal, or a multiverse exists; there is no absolute morality, etc.)  The same cannot be said for A-unicornism, since the non-existence of unicorns carries no serious implications.  If God exists, there are a host of implications.  Atheism denies not only God’s existence, but those implications as well.

I think you are exactly right.   There is an important disanalogy between the claim that God exists and that of just about anything else.   Belief in Santa, unicorns, or the Loch Ness Monster does not constitute a worldview.  That is why, as someone here observed, the denial of Santa does not require an “A-Santa ideology”–a worldview.  Whether the Loch Ness Monster exists is a question of what kinds of things there are in the world.  Whether God exists is a question of what kind of world this is.  That is, the question of God’s existence is not merely a question of whether one more object should be included on the inventory.  (I believe this is what Chesterton had in mind when he said of the gods of mythology that they provided people with a calendar but not a creed.  Whether Olympus is inhabited is more like the question of whether Loch Ness is inhabited, as neither Nessie nor Zeus is conceived as metaphysically and axiologically ultimate.)

So, as you observe, unlike the denial of unicorns, the denial of God calls for alternative explanations.  In effect, garden-variety Western atheism carries naturalism in its trunk.   Atheists who are intellectually honest (and not intellectually lazy) should be doing the work of defending the positive worldview that is naturalism.   They most assuredly have a dog in that fight. 

I see no reason whatsoever why atheism should be viewed as the default setting in the absence of compelling theistic arguments. 

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muddle April 6, 2009 at 5:20 am

are correct in observing that any moral criterion conceived as ultimate cannot be given a direct moral justification.  That, of course, is simply a function of the ultimacy of the criterion.  Justification will likely be sought through something like reflective equilibrium–an appeal to pre-theoretical moral beliefs.

So how does this put Alston in any better shape than the atheist who embraces some variety of moral realism?  Note, first, that Alston is not here out to offer a positive argument for accepting a theistic conception of morality.  It is a defensive move in response to the challenge of the Euthyphro.  So it may be good enough to conclude from such work that the theist faces no more of a problem than does the theorist who embraces some other view.

I’m in the middle of writing a paper that is, I think, relevant to your comments.  So I’ll reply in an oblique way, through a consideration of the subject matter.

Santayana criticized Russell for holding to  moral realism (he was basically a G.E. Moore clone) despite his naturalism.  As he put it, Russell’s view was “monoscopic,” as he looked only ahead to putative ethical truths, and appealed to the shared intuitions of his readers to rest his case.  Santayana suggests that a “stereoscopic” vision, which involves “looking back over one’s shoulder,” will convince one that those shared intuitions have their origin in our animal nature.   In other words, Santayana thought that Russell’s (and his) naturalism provided him with an undercutting defeater for his moral beliefs.  He goes on to note that, had Russell been a theist, then, like Plato, he might have had the metaphysical underpinnings for suggesting that the Good is not merely an isolated “value” removed to the empyrean, but that it is also a cause, responsible for its instantiations in the actual world.
Interestingly, his arguments found their target, as Russell abandoned his moral realism and credits Santayana’s arguments for his conversion.

I think that Santayana is just right about this.  Whether we are in a position to trust anything like moral “intuitions” depends upon deeper metaphysical and epistemological  commitments.  As Norman Daniels puts it in his discussion of reflective equilibrium (and the more foundationalist appeal to “intuition”), what is required is some “little story” that justifies confidence in the reliability of those pre-theoretical beliefs with which moral reasoning begins.  Adams offers a bit of the theistic story here:

If we suppose that God directly or indirectly causes human beings to regard as excellent approximately those things that are Godlike in the relevant way, it follows that there is a causal and explanatory connection between facts of excellence and beliefs that we may regard as justified about excellence, and hence it is in general no accident that such beliefs are correct when they are.

Finally, if God has necessary existence, then, when you ask me to imagine morality in worlds in which God does not exist, you are asking me to consider a subjecntive conditional with a necessarily false antecedent.  Those worlds that include square circles are also, presumably, filled with all sorts of surprises. 

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 5:32 am

Anselm: It seems that you are arguing that we can posit objective moral values as “properly basic,” i.e., they can be known noninferentially.  I believe you will be challenged on this both by those atheists who assert that moral values are only subjective and relative, and by Luke, the author of this blog, who believes that moral values must be justified based on evidence and argument (analogous to a scientific investigation).  (Of course he will correct me if I am wrong

Oh, no, my comment was only about metaphysics, not epistemology. And I wasn’t defending any view of my own, just examining views that are worth discussing.

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 5:37 am

muddle: So, as you observe, unlike the denial of unicorns, the denial of God calls for alternative explanations. In effect, garden-variety Western atheism carries naturalism in its trunk. Atheists who are intellectually honest (and not intellectually lazy) should be doing the work of defending the positive worldview that is naturalism. They most assuredly have a dog in that fight.

But what about atheists who are non-naturalists (e.g., Thomas Nagel, Michael Huemer)? I still don’t see why the denial of theism would carry with it any further implications.

muddle: I see no reason whatsoever why atheism should be viewed as the default setting in the absence of compelling theistic arguments.

Do you mean that agnosticism should be the default setting?

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Anselm April 6, 2009 at 5:47 am

toweltowel: Oh, no, my comment was only about metaphysics, not epistemology. And I wasn’t defending any view of my own, just examining views that are worth discussing.

Ok, thanks for clarifying

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 5:57 am

muddle: are correct in observing that any moral criterion conceived as ultimate cannot be given a direct moral justification. That, of course, is simply a function of the ultimacy of the criterion. Justification will likely be sought through something like reflective equilibrium–an appeal to pre-theoretical moral beliefs.

As I said to Anselm, my comment was about metaphysics, not epistemology.

muddle: Note, first, that Alston is not here out to offer a positive argument for accepting a theistic conception of morality. It is a defensive move in response to the challenge of the Euthyphro.

Yes, but I wasn’t criticizing Alston himself, I was criticizing the use of Alston by Craig in defending his moral argument. If I’m right that the only way to avoid the Euthyphro dilemma involves abandoning any advantage over atheism, then the Euthyphro dilemma damages his argument, just as Craig’s opponents have always maintained.

muddle: I think that Santayana is just right about this. Whether we are in a position to trust anything like moral “intuitions” depends upon deeper metaphysical and epistemological commitments.

I agree that this might pose a serious challenge to secular non-naturalist views (though naturalist realism would obviously be exempt). However, as a first kind of response, note that it is no new challenge to rationalist intutionists about math and logic (who already think we can grasp necessary truths concerning abstract objects by exercising our intellect) and that it might be vulnerable to a Moorean commonsense refutation (for, a non-naturalist might ask, what premises are strong enough to cast doubt on the wrongness of torture?).

Also, those who rely on God to provide them with veridical moral intuitions will have to a walk a fine line when it comes to the problem of evil: for God might have morally sufficient reasons for allowing people to suffer from non-veridical moral intuitions, and how could we rule out that possibility as unlikely without thereby providing ammunition for Rowe, Draper, et al.?

muddle:Finally, if God has necessary existence, then, when you ask me to imagine morality in worlds in which God does not exist, you are asking me to consider a subjecntive conditional with a necessarily false antecedent. Those worlds that include square circles are also, presumably, filled with all sorts of surprises.

I think this is not a problem for me, but for those who claim that nothing is wrong in a world without God. Craig had better be able to distinguish between the truth value of “If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist” and “If God does not exist, objective moral values do exist”, for otherwise the former, which he asserts as an important truth, is reduced to a trivial artifact of possible worlds semantics for counterfactuals.

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WATYF April 6, 2009 at 8:29 am

toweltowel… I had a few questions about your views. They relate to the following statements that you made:

“In order to defend his moral argument, Craig has to abandon the idea that some things are intrinsically wrong. Instead, he has to say that nothing, no matter how heartbreakingly cruel, could be wrong in a world without God. So he’s really flying in the face of common sense—a serious problem, given that his moral argument is so unsupported in the first place.”

“Craig still needs to say that torture is not wrong in a world without God. So he still needs to deny the intrinsic wrongness of things in a sense that runs contrary to rock-solid moral intuitions.”

My first question is… how does one qualify and scientifically prove the following concepts in relation to any particular act (for example, “torture”) ?

“heartbreakingly cruel”
“common sense”
“rock solid moral intuitions”

Are these not simply human constructs that can vastly change from one era to the next, or one society to the next, or even one person to the next? How can these be anything other than what the person saying them “feels” that they mean? Is it not true that when I say “rock solid moral intuitions” it can mean something entirely different than when you say “rock solid moral intuitions”?

I agree with your assertion that Craig must abandon the concept of something being “intrinsically wrong” in order to make his argument logically consistent. But I do not see anything logically consistent about your follow-up points about any particular act being inherently “cruel” or against a “rock solid moral intuition”. You’re simply attributing meaning to these acts ex nihilo. What makes it “rock solid” and how has that been proven?

For example… you bring up torture. Are there not huge swaths of societies (or even entire societies themselves) that believe that torture is not only “OK” or “right”, but even “necessary”? What scientific evidence do we have that there is an “objective moral”, and that it is opposed to torture? This evidence must be something outside of human opinion or “feelings”, which are nothing more than chemical reactions. Even if every single society on earth believed that torture was “immoral” (and had done so since the beginning of recorded history), we would still have nothing more than an argument ad populum. We have not found a gene that dictates that torture is wrong, and even if we did, there’s nothing to say that we couldn’t subvert that gene (much like we subvert the genes that tell us that we should have a big nose, or that we will likely be an alcoholic, or that we will probably get cancer).

This, of course, is not to say that without a deity, moral concepts would disappear from human behavior. It is only to say that without a creator to impose a moral code by way of authority, any moral code is simply a fairy tale that we tell ourselves… no different than believing in any random god.

WATYF

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WATYF April 6, 2009 at 8:31 am

wow… sorry about all the gibberish at the beginning of the post. That wasn’t there when I hit “Submit”.

WATYF

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lukeprog April 6, 2009 at 9:08 am

I’ve seen that happen a few times. I fixed yours. I’ve had SO many problems with comments on this site! Sheesh!

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WATYF April 6, 2009 at 9:11 am

cool… thanks man.

WATYF

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JeffreyM April 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm

kevinbbg:
“I’m interested in the truth of these worldviews more than I’m interested in their social impact, and you cannot judge the truth of a worldview by its social impact – it’s irrelevant.”
I have to disagree with that. Christianity makes very clear claims about god, morality, truth, etc.  These things should be reflected in at least a
Christian organization, such as a church, no matter how big or small.  Yet, we continually find that those people considered the most “holy” are really no better than the general population, and are sometimes worse.
If morality comes from God then it seems that believing in God does not improve anybody’s morality in how they act in life.  Which makes it hard to accept the original premise at all, and if that original premise is true it is completely irrelevant.
If the Christian god was true then I would expect his followers to be better than average in some ways, at the very least in moral living.  I live a far more moral life by Christian standards than most Christians do, nor do I find doing so the least bit difficult.  How can that be possible if atheists have no morality and Christians do?

The same cannot be said of atheism because it means only one thing; not having a belief in god(s), and is not a world view.

This is a confused response. 

First: Yes, beliefs have outcomes.  But it’s difficult to ascertain how the belief of any set of individuals within a group will affect behavior in all circumstances because the framework for neither theism nor atheism demand a specific worldview>belief>value>action sequence for every moral contingency.

Second: This is a broad brush response does not appreciate the complexity of the “religious to a-religous” landscape.  For instance, there are very few within the religious community who are deemed “holy” in and of their own works, and only a fraction of religious believers would consider them such.  With rare exception, only God is viewed as fully actualizing holiness (a term with multiple meanings, the primary meaning being “set apart” from others) as the rest of us are tainted by our own admitted moral failings.  Certainly, followers of Christ are called to be holy, and many live lives that reflect more kindness, fairness, gentleness, self-control, etc than they would otherwise.  Unfortunately, such lives don’t generate headlines, and  thus the general media representation of religious believers and leaders will be heavily weighted toward those demonstrating highly misguided conduct.  Since we tend to “know” other groups primarily through the media, this unfortunate reality negatively affects the accuracy of one’s perception of others.  I believe this to be very true for minority groups as well.

Third: There is a misunderstanding of the premise in this response.  The premise is that ALL people DO have a comprehension of objective moral values, not that you have to believe in God to comprehend objective moral values.   The question for Hitchens and any athiest to address is where the locus of this objectivity resides.   I agree that Christians (if that’s to be the antithetical group) bear many of the same foibles as the non-Christian counterparts, and I see first-hand the struggle that many Christians have over that reality.  While all believers are called to live lives that reflect the goodness, charity, kindness, self-control, love, etc they can and will struggle to achieve them of their own strength (which is how most go about it.)  The key here is to understand that you are not required to reflect these attributes perfectly before being accepted into God’s “kingdom.”  Perfection of these attributes is a life-long endeavor.

Anyway… I’ve nearly written a book here so I better stop.

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JeffreyM April 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Eric:
“It\\’s just a word confusion. Look up atheismin a dictionary. It just means no God belief, like a-unicornism would mean no unicorn belief.  A-unicornism is not a worldview either; it’s a belief about a single thing.”
<a href=”http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/atheism-and-theism/”>Here</a>  are some great posts (though you’ll have to scroll down find them) by Bill Vallicella concerning the serious problems with attempting to define atheism as the absence of theistic belief.

 Atheism has the distinction of being a lack of belief in something that most human beings recognize to exist.  Personally, to me it’s like a belief that gravitons or neutrinos don’t exist because we can’t see them directly, even though the effect of them are quite obvious.  It’s this distinction that gives the term a-theism vastly more substance as a “belief” than a-unicornism.

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JeffreyM April 6, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Strangely, this application doesn’t automatically segment the quoted text away from the following comments, and there is no “edit” function once posted.  Sorry for the confusion on the above two posts.

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JeffreyM April 6, 2009 at 2:40 pm

WATYF:
toweltowel… I had a few questions about your views. They relate to the following statements that you made:
“In order to defend his moral argument, Craig has to abandon the idea that some things are intrinsically wrong. Instead, he has to say that nothing, no matter how heartbreakingly cruel, could be wrong in a world without God. So he’s really flying in the face of common sense—a serious problem, given that his moral argument is so unsupported in the first place.”
“Craig still needs to say that torture is not wrong in a world without God. So he still needs to deny the intrinsic wrongness of things in a sense that runs contrary to rock-solid moral intuitions.”
My first question is… how does one qualify and scientifically prove the following concepts in relation to any particular act (for example, “torture”) ?
“heartbreakingly cruel”
“common sense”
“rock solid moral intuitions”
Are these not simply human constructs that can vastly change from one era to the next, or one society to the next, or even one person to the next? How can these be anything other than what the person saying them “feels” that they mean? Is it not true that when I say “rock solid moral intuitions” it can mean something entirely different than when you say “rock solid moral intuitions”?
I agree with your assertion that Craig must abandon the concept of something being “intrinsically wrong” in order to make his argument logically consistent. But I do not see anything logically consistent about your follow-up points about any particular act being inherently “cruel” or against a “rock solid moral intuition”. You’re simply attributing meaning to these acts ex nihilo. What makes it “rock solid” and how has that been proven?
For example… you bring up torture. Are there not huge swaths of societies (or even entire societies themselves) that believe that torture is not only “OK” or “right”, but even “necessary”? What scientific evidence do we have that there is an “objective moral”, and that it is opposed to torture? This evidence must be something outside of human opinion or “feelings”, which are nothing more than chemical reactions. Even if every single society on earth believed that torture was “immoral” (and had done so since the beginning of recorded history), we would still have nothing more than an argument ad populum. We have not found a gene that dictates that torture is wrong, and even if we did, there’s nothing to say that we couldn’t subvert that gene (much like we subvert the genes that tell us that we should have a big nose, or that we will likely be an alcoholic, or that we will probably get cancer).
This, of course, is not to say that without a deity, moral concepts would disappear from human behavior. It is only to say that without a creator to impose a moral code by way of authority, any moral code is simply a fairy tale that we tell ourselves… no different than believing in any random god.
WATYF

I like this post because it actually answers and doesn’t skirt the moral argument by denying premise two : Object moral values exist.

Of course, I don’t believe WATYF because I have come to see that it is one thing to sit on the sidelines and postulate naturalistic-sociobiological resolutions to the argument, and quite another to existentially agree with them.  Anyone can do the former, but I have never met anyone who could attain full acceptance of the latter.  It mitigates against our clear existential apprehension of objective moral truth.

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Rob April 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Hey Luke, thought I would let you know that the Evangelical Phislosophical Socitey thinks you gave the best Athiest response to the debate. Congrats!
Go here to see: http://www.epsociety.org/blog/2009/04/william-lane-craig-vs-christopher.asp

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Josh April 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm

About you question to Craig, he did NOT, absolutely NOT say morality was grounded in “the traits and opinions of a particular person.” You have misunderstood his position. Craig maintains that morality is grounded in God’s very nature. The difference is fundamental. When you apply his view, your objections fail. Study up some more on his position at his website, you’ll find it’s not that easily refuted.

: )

-Josh

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JeffreyM April 6, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Regarding discussion about Craig abandoning his position on the Euthryphro dilemma for the sake of intrinsic human value, this is simply an inadequate assessment of Craig’s position.

His position is clear from his writings:

1. Without God objective moral values would not exist.
2. Objective moral values exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Then… moving along…
Objective moral values have their locus in the nature of God ( i.e. God is the Good.)  So God is therefore the ultimate source of the intrinsic moral value we apprehend in other human beings.   A rough analogy would be that Picasso is the source of the intrinsic value we apprehend in the painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”   The painting has value in and of itself now, but that value is founded in the person of Pablo Picasso.  I think the misunderstanding regarding Craig’s position on this issue stems from taking the concept of intrinsic value beyond its stated meaning in the article.

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lukeprog April 6, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Lol, I didn’t even say much about the debate! They probably just liked that I said how Hitchens so thoroughly lost. But they got the title of my blog wrong. :)

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lukeprog April 6, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Josh: About you question to Craig, he did NOT, absolutely NOT say morality was grounded in “the traits and opinions of a particular person.” You have misunderstood his position. Craig maintains that morality is grounded in God’s very nature. The difference is fundamental.

Is there a difference between “God’s character” or “God’s traits” and “God’s nature”?

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lukeprog April 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Jeffrey,

If Picasso is the source of intrinsic value of “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, then that is by definition not intrinsic value. Intrinsic value is the value something has within itself.

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JeffreyM April 6, 2009 at 4:22 pm

lukprog-
It seems to me you are confusing the term. “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” indeed has intrinsic value, by strict definition.  But oddly, a quailty of the painting which provides most of that intrinsic value is the fact that it was painted by Pablo Picasso and not lukprog.

Again, this is just a rough analogy to illuminate the fact that anything which has “value” of any kind and is contingent in being must depend on (or get it’s ultimate value from) something which is necessary in being…. namely God.

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lukeprog April 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Jeffrey,

Yup, sounds like we’re using two different meanings of “intrinsic value.” I’d like to know which one was meant by Craig.

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 4:56 pm

WATYF,

I think there is no escape from plausibility judgments in philosophy. Thus any argument against a position you find plausible is required to have even more plausible premises. And since it is hard to find anything more plausible than the judgment that torture is intrinsically wrong, any arguments against this judgment are fighting an almost vertical uphill battle.

You mainly seem to be arguing that we shouldn’t hold any moral views, because moral views cannot be established by science. But this reasoning rests on the premise that we shouldn’t hold views which cannot be established by science, and why accept that premise? Which is more plausible, that premise or the view that torture is intrinsically wrong? And if we did accept this premise, it seems to follow that we shouldn’t believe in an external world, or that our private memories are reliable, or that the past really happened, or even that 2+2=4. A premise like that seems to be abysmally implausible.

You also seem to be asserting that morality is a mere human construct, where ‘mere’ carries the implication that nothing is right or wrong. The only argument you give for this view is based on moral disagreement. But from the fact that people disagree about morality, it simply doesn’t follow that nothing is right or wrong. So, if I’m not misunderstanding you, this argument is just a non sequitur.

In any case, Craig is in no position to object to moral intuition, since he relies exclusively on moral intuition to motivate his premise that there are objective moral values. Also notice that, in thinking that torture is intrinsically wrong, one is not necessarily committed to any particular metaethical view. Even error-theorists go on to make moral judgments, they just have some explaining to do (perhaps giving a fictionalist account of moral judgment).

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm

JeffreyM: It seems to me you are confusing the term. “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” indeed has intrinsic value, by strict definition.

I believe you’re simply mistaken about the term ‘intrinsic value’.

Philosophers follow Moore in defining ‘intrinsic value’ as value that depends solely on (i.e., supervenes upon) a thing”s intrinsic properties. Even Korsgaard and Kagan, who want to make room for something like intrinsic value (sometimes called ‘final value’) that can depend on extrinsic properties, acknowledge this as the primary and dominant account of intrinsic value. So a painting’s intrinsic value cannot be due to its extrinsic causal history—that would be non-intrinsic value by definition.

By contrast, there is no “strict definition” of intrinsic value which says all paintings have intrinsic value (as you suggest), or (more to the point) which says all paintings have intrinsic value partly due to their extrinsic causal history.

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 5:23 pm

JeffreyM: Regarding discussion about Craig abandoning his position on the Euthryphro dilemma for the sake of intrinsic human value, this is simply an inadequate assessment of Craig’s position.

Also, if I’m not mistaken, Craig’s position is that there is nothing at all wrong with anything in a world without God. Child abuse, torture, genocide—anything goes. Correct me if I’m wrong.

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Anselm April 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm

toweltowel: Also, if I’m not mistaken, Craig’s position is that there is nothing at all wrong with anything in a world without God. Child abuse, torture, genocide—anything goes. Correct me if I’m wrong.

You are correct in the sense that (I believe) his view is that on atheism, we are simply highly evolved animals and nothing more–just as violence among animals cannot be called “immoral” (a lion does not “murder” an antelope, it just kills it) so violence among humans on atheism has no objective moral significance.

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philo April 6, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Anselm: You are correct in the sense that (I believe) his view is that on atheism, we are simply highly evolved animals and nothing more–just as violence among animals cannot be called “immoral” (a lion does not “murder” an antelope, it just kills it) so violence among humans on atheism has no objective moral significance.

Hmm. I guess I’m not seeing the connection between atheism and a very strict physicalism of the sort implied here. Perhaps Craig has an argument for this?

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 7:29 pm

philo: Hmm. I guess I’m not seeing the connection between atheism and a very strict physicalism of the sort implied here. Perhaps Craig has an argument for this?

Even strict physicalism needn’t accept this nihilistic conclusion. After all, moral facts might be nothing more than physical facts.

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toweltowel April 6, 2009 at 7:32 pm

WATYF: It is only to say that without a creator to impose a moral code by way of authority, any moral code is simply a fairy tale that we tell ourselves

I meant to address this.

You intimate that theism has an advantage over atheism when it comes to moral foundations. But the theistic foundation you propose does not look very promising. To “impose a moral code by way of authority” looks like a sort of Hobbesian view that reduces God’s authority to raw “irresistible power”. But then morality is nothing but despotism.

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Taranu April 6, 2009 at 9:41 pm

You said that “unfortunately only Christians were allowed to ask questions”, but on the blogspot http://doesgodexistdebate.blogspot.com/ there is the summary of the debate and during the Q & A there was an atheist asking this question:

To Craig: I am an atheist and I have meaning in life. You have stated that life is meaningless for the atheist. How can this be?

Craig: My statement is that life is objectively meaningless for the atheist. There is no ultimate purpose – we are all heading toward emptiness and death. You may hold to atheism and feel you have meaning in life, but you cannot point to some ultimate good that you accomplish, since all of reality will eventually die a heat death and there will be nothing more.

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Naumadd April 7, 2009 at 12:09 am

I would submit to Craig that, if life is in fact objectively meaningless for the so-called “atheist”, it is objectively meaningless for ALL life – atheist or not. I concur there is no inherent meaning to either nature, the universe or to life in general, but I would also say that, although there is no pre-established meaning, a life need not remain meaningless. I would further submit that, to any life conscious enough to form even rudimentary values, life not only has meaning – it necessarily has meaning. A consciousness is continuously forming, abandoning and reforming values. If it is not, I would suggest it isn’t an active consciousness and thus “meaning” isn’t an issue.

“No inherent meaning” in no way implies life cannot have meaning – it merely states that there is no built-in meaning to let an active consciousness “off the hook” from the responsibility of finding it for themselves.

Craig also mentions that, in the mind of the “atheist” – “we are all heading toward emptiness and death”. I can assure you, as a so-called “atheist”, I am neither empty now nor will the last moments of my life be empty. As for “emptiness after my death” – though my consciousness is likely at an end, the elements and energies that were once my body and its consciousness will continue to have meaning, it simply won’t be the meaning I once gave to it. Other life will find use of those elements and they will again have meaning to other life.

Just as personally-formed meaning isn’t the only human meaning possible, so too human-formed meaning isn’t the only meaning possible to all of life here on Earth and certainly not the only meaning possible to life elsewhere in the universe.

The end of individual consciousness isn’t the end of all HUMAN consciousness and the end of human consciousness isn’t the end of ALL consciousness.

I, for one, dismiss the idea of “universal meaning” and therefore of “objective meaning”. All “meaning” is necessarily individual which is all it ever can be.

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lukeprog April 7, 2009 at 12:46 am

Taranu, I stand corrected! I didn’t recall that moment.

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Anselm April 7, 2009 at 3:56 am

Naumadd: The end of individual consciousness isn’t the end of all HUMAN consciousness and the end of human consciousness isn’t the end of ALL consciousness.

Yes, but the heat death of the universe IS the end of all human consciousness, all consciousness, and indeed of the universe itself–it will be no different than if you, or humanity as a whole, never existed.  That is why on atheism life is objectively meaningless.

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Moondougie April 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

I’m confused over the discussion about whether atheism is or isn’t a worldview.

Isn’t a really simple definition of “worldview”: the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world?

If so, then wouldn’t “atheism” be a good name for the worldview of those who don’t believe in a God?

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Chris April 7, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Moondougie: I’m confused over the discussion about whether atheism is or isn’t a worldview.Isn’t a really simple definition of “worldview”: the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world?If so, then wouldn’t “atheism” be a good name for the worldview of those who don’t believe in a God?

Well atheism does not tell you what someone actually believe. It only tells you that the person does not believe in a god. Secular Humanism, Skepticism, Metaphysical Naturalism, Buddhism, etc are all more appropriate description of non-theistic worldviews.

It is precisely that reason why the so-called 20th century atheist atrocities really fail to demonstrate culpability. One must actually demonstrate a casual connection, rather than a mere correlation. Furthermore, even if one did demonstrate such a connection, it wouldn’t really matter unless it was shown that atheism was sufficient and necessary (like we can do with certain legitimate and/or plausible readings of scripture), in addition, it wouldn’t really be a problem for the atheist since it would not be their worldview (e.g. secular humanism) which was shown to lead to such consequences. (e.g. see Hitchen’s excellent point that the critic would have to show how his values/worldview, that of Voltaire, Jefferson, Pain, Lucretius, Einstein, etc, lead to the criticisms being made, before the criticism was valid.)

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frank keefe April 9, 2009 at 6:13 am

As for “emptiness after my death” – though my consciousness is likely at an end, the elements and energies that were once my body and its consciousness will continue to have meaning, it simply won’t be the meaning I once gave to it. Other life will find use of those elements and they will again have meaning to other life.
Can you provide any evidence that this will happen after your death?

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Reginald Selkirk April 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Anselm: Yes, but the heat death of the universe IS the end of all human consciousness, all consciousness, and indeed of the universe itself–it will be no different than if you, or humanity as a whole, never existed.  That is why on atheism life is objectively meaningless.

I see, so something doesn’t have meaning unless it is eternal.

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Anselm April 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Reginald Selkirk: I see, so something doesn’t have meaning unless it is eternal.

There must be some ultimate difference in whether the “something” you speak of ever existed if it is to have objective, as opposed to subjective, meaning.  If the universe pops into existence for no reason, exists for a time, and then ceases to exist, it is objectively meaningless because it is ultimately no different than if it never existed at all; the same applies to all the lives within such a universe.  This view has been endorsed by atheists like Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus and Bertrand Russell.  There was a lengthy discussion of this topic in the comment thread to the March 18 post–you might check that out.

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Adiel Corchado April 10, 2009 at 6:38 pm

lukeprog: No, atheism isn’t a worldview, but I think Hitchens only concurred with the statement “you cannot judge the truth of a worldview by its social impact.”

The difference between atheism and a-unicornianism (sp?) is that unicorns provide no answers to why the world exists, why we exist, whether morality is objective or subjective, what happens after you die, etc.  If unicorns don’t exist (and they do -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rhinoceros) that changes nothing. If unicorns do exist that changes nothing. God’s existence or non-existence on the other hand changes everything. If God doesn’t exist then Dawkins was right! Believers in God are delusional! But the fact being that God does exist, Jesus’ word stands sure as ever, “If you do not believe that I am He you will die in your sins”.

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Richard April 11, 2009 at 3:04 am

Anselm:
There must be some ultimate difference in whether the “something” you speak of ever existed if it is to have objective, as opposed to subjective, meaning.  If the universe pops into existence for no reason, exists for a time, and then ceases to exist, it is objectively meaningless because it is ultimately no different than if it never existed at all; the same applies to all the lives within such a universe. 

This use of the term ”objective meaning” makes no sense.

Objects don’t have any meaning unless they record a meaning given by a mind, e.g. in the form of a message. The universe is not a message or any other sort of meaning-carrier. You might claim that it has messages put into it by its creator, but that’s another question. What we’re really talking about here is purpose.

If God created the universe for some purpose, then that is his subjective purpose, and it is not our purpose unless we choose to make it so. Perhaps God made the universe to provide amusement for himself. That wouldn’t mean we must devote our lives to amusing him. We would find our own purposes in life. Similarly, if parents have children for a particular purpose, such as providing organs for themselves, that does not become the children’s purpose unless the children choose to make it so.

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Reginald Selkirk April 11, 2009 at 5:43 am

Anselm: There must be some ultimate difference in whether the “something” you speak of ever existed if it is to have objective, as opposed to subjective, meaning.  If the universe pops into existence for no reason, exists for a time, and then ceases to exist, it is objectively meaningless because it is ultimately no different than if it never existed at all; the same applies to all the lives within such a universe.

Strange use of the term “objective.”

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Anselm April 11, 2009 at 8:04 am

Richard: This use of the term ”objective meaning” makes no sense.Objects don’t have any meaning unless they record a meaning given by a mind, e.g. in the form of a message. The universe is not a message or any other sort of meaning-carrier. You might claim that it has messages put into it by its creator, but that’s another question. What we’re really talking about here is purpose. If God created the universe for some purpose, then that is his subjective purpose, and it is not our purpose unless we choose to make it so. Perhaps God made the universe to provide amusement for himself. That wouldn’t mean we must devote our lives to amusing him. We would find our own purposes in life. Similarly, if parents have children for a particular purpose, such as providing organs for themselves, that does not become the children’s purpose unless the children choose to make it so.

“Meaning” here refers to existential meaning (as used by Camus and Sartre), so you are right that it is tied to purpose.  “Objective” here means that meaning does not exist solely within the confines of contingent human minds, all of which need not have existed and, on atheism, will cease to exist, as will all the little projects created by those minds.  If the meaning is supplied by God, a necessary being, then it is anchored outside of our minds in an objective, eternal source and our lives have eternal consequences–our actions in this life are not ultimately meaningless because they make an ultimate difference.

God’s purposes are those flowing from a being that is necessarily omnibenevolent and the source of all goodness (see Plantinga’s updated ontological argument, discussed in the comment section of an earlier post).  Thus his purpose is not “personal amusement” (as our subjective purposes often are). 

I agree with you, however, they we are free to ignore the fact that our lives have ultimate consequence and pretend that their only meaning is that which we invent subjectively; but then that is the whole point behind free will–that choice is left up to us.  And one of the main appeals of atheism, as Christopher Hitchens has said, is the sense of liberation from a God who will hold us accountable for our lives (which he likens to a metaphysical North Korea).  The price you pay for that view, however–as the existentialists realized–is that life is ultimately absurd (if that view is correct).

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Marc April 11, 2009 at 6:22 pm

If Atheism were merely a statement that God did not exist, then in a sense it isn’t a worldview. However, atheism always HAS to provide an alternative explanation to why there is something i.e. life, rather than non-life. Neo-Darwinian evolution is that alternative total explanation. As such, atheism IS a worldview because it says that an Intelligent Creator programming matter with biological information is not necessary and is superfluous. Atheism say that matter and time and chance did it all. That is a worldview on anyone’s definition because it offers a total explanation for reality.

Craig’s insistence that God used evolution is an egregious capitulation to the atheist worldview.

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Marc April 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Kevin, in a moment of humility, said: “I live a far more moral life by Christian standards than most Christians do”

Oh, do you?!

As my Irish friend loves to remind me, self-praise is no praise.

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Richard April 12, 2009 at 12:37 am

Anselm, you’re using the word “objective” to mean something completely different from its normal sense. If you mean “coming from an eternally existing being” then say “coming from an eternally existing being”. Don’t say “objective”. In conflating two different meanings you are committing a fallacy of equivocation.

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Marc April 12, 2009 at 5:14 am

Naumadd: As for “emptiness after my death” – though my consciousness is likely at an end, the elements and energies that were once my body and its consciousness will continue to have meaning, it simply won’t be the meaning I once gave to it.

You words betray a belief that there exists a “you” separate from the “YOU” OF your body and its chemical makeup. Why would you expect that in an atheist universe?

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Anselm April 12, 2009 at 8:26 am

Richard: Anselm, you’re using the word “objective” to mean something completely different from its normal sense. If you mean “coming from an eternally existing being” then say “coming from an eternally existing being”. Don’t say “objective”. In conflating two different meanings you are committing a fallacy of equivocation.

The dictionary definition of “subjective” is shown below.  “Subjective” meaning would “exist only in the mind.”  Any meaning originating outside the mind–i.e., to exist without regard to the mental perceptions or opinions of human beings (“objective meaning”)–would need to flow from an external source, either from (1) the material universe or (2) God.  This is the definition I am intending.  If you prefer the word “nonsubjective” I could go with that, too.

sub·jec·tive
play_w2(“S0841800″)

(sb-jktv)adj.
1.
a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
b. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.

2. Moodily introspective.
3. Existing only in the mind; illusory.

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GreldigVedish April 12, 2009 at 11:59 am

<i>Anyway, we could use some sexier debaters. Let’s see Austin Dacey vs. Kevin Harris!</i>
So that is your reason for being an atheist? You want to justify your perversion, or at least quiet your conscience about it? Doesn’t seem very “common sense” to me.

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lukeprog April 12, 2009 at 1:34 pm

GreldigVedish,

Huh? What are you talking about?

I am not gay, if that’s how you read that passage. And I certainly did not become an atheist to “justify” my “perversions.”

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GreldigVedish April 12, 2009 at 1:54 pm

sorry. But this culture still sexualizes everything. I think this causes people to not want there to be a God. btw, Craig has debated Dacey. I’d always assumed Dacey was gay (he made remarks about Clay Aiken in one of his debates).

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Anselm April 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

lukeprog: GreldigVedish,Huh? What are you talking about?I am not gay, if that’s how you read that passage. And I certainly did not become an atheist to “justify” my “perversions.”

I wonder if GreldigVedish may be related to marcion? :)

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lukeprog April 12, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Anselm: I wonder if GreldigVedish may be related to marcion?

Lol, that was my first thought! His comment was so random and irrelevant!

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GreldigVedish April 12, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I am not a Paul only gnostic :) anyway sorry again for misunderstanding.

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lukeprog April 12, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Fair enough, GreldigVedish. Despite the rough introduction, I welcome you to the conversation.

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Richard April 13, 2009 at 12:38 am

Anselm:
The dictionary definition of “subjective” is shown below.  “Subjective” meaning would “exist only in the mind.”  Any meaning originating outside the mind–i.e., to exist without regard to the mental perceptions or opinions of human beings (”objective meaning”)–would need to flow from an external source, either from (1) the material universe or (2) God.  This is the definition I am intending.  If you prefer the word “nonsubjective” I could go with that, too.
sub·jec·tive
play_w2(”S0841800″)
(sb-jktv)adj.
1.
a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
b. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.
2. Moodily introspective.
3. Existing only in the mind; illusory.

Exactly. If it exists only in the mind, then it is subjective. It doesn’t matter whether the mind is human or God’s, and it doesn’t matter whether God is eternal, “necessary”, or whatever other attributes you choose to give him.

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Anselm April 13, 2009 at 4:49 am

Richard: Exactly. If it exists only in the mind, then it is subjective. It doesn’t matter whether the mind is human or God’s, and it doesn’t matter whether God is eternal, “necessary”, or whatever other attributes you choose to give him.

I placed the below comment under the post on Linville, but it is applicable here, too:

“Grounding moral value in the traits or opinions of a particular person makes an ethical theory subjective by definition, not objective.”
If that value is grounded in the person of God, whose nature is by definition unchanging and synonymous with the good, then it is grounded objectively–i.e., those moral values are anchored outside our minds and cannot change.  (Just as the truths of logic and mathematics are grounded in the way God’s mind essentially thinks–that does not render them “subjective,” since God cannot think what is not true (i.e., 2+2 = 5).  Such grounding is different in kind, not degree, from thoughts held in a contingent, limited human mind).

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Anselm April 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Regarding the remarks about Craig’s physical appearance in the original post, he recently discussed his neuromuscular disease on his web site (registration may be required to view):

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=q_and_a

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Richard April 13, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Anselm:
I placed the below comment under the post on Linville, but it is applicable here, too:
“Grounding moral value in the traits or opinions of a particular person makes an ethical theory subjective by definition, not objective.”
If that value is grounded in the person of God, whose nature is by definition unchanging and synonymous with the good, then it is grounded objectively–i.e., those moral values are anchored outside our minds and cannot change.  (Just as the truths of logic and mathematics are grounded in the way God’s mind essentially thinks–that does not render them “subjective,” since God cannot think what is not true (i.e., 2+2 = 5).  Such grounding is different in kind, not degree, from thoughts held in a contingent, limited human mind).

So, the normal meanings of words don’t apply to God. Back to the fallacy of equivocation.

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Richard April 13, 2009 at 11:38 pm

I think my last post needs some clarification.

Anselm, you haven’t kept to the definition of “subjective” (which also implies the definition of its complement, “objective”) that you gave above. There was nothing in that definition about “changing” or “unchanging”,  nor any limitation to humans or exception for God.

If  you’re claiming that the purpose of life exists independently of God, in the way that mathematical truths do, then that’s another argument, which we can move on to once you stop equivocating about the meaning of “objective” and accept that God’s nature does not make his purposes objective rather than subjective.

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 5:04 am

Richard: I think my last post needs some clarification.Anselm, you haven’t kept to the definition of “subjective” (which also implies the definition of its complement, “objective”) that you gave above. There was nothing in that definition about “changing” or “unchanging”,  nor any limitation to humans or exception for God.If  you’re claiming that the purpose of life exists independently of God, in the way that mathematical truths do, then that’s another argument, which we can move on to once you stop equivocating about the meaning of “objective” and accept that God’s nature does not make his purposes objective rather than subjective.

Ok, perhaps you can provide your definition of “objective” for purposes of clarifying our disagreement?

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Reginald Selkirk April 14, 2009 at 5:20 am

You might find this amusing. Doug TenNapel at Big Hollywood comes to almost opposite conclusions from yours about the Hitchens vs. Craig debate:
Does God Exist? Hitchens vs. Craig

by Doug TenNapel

But in my opinion, though Dr. Craig won the argument (he was the only one who even presented a formal argument), Hitchens won the debate. It’s not the argument of the debaters, it’s the condition of the audience that wins the day. While few of Dr. Craig’s arguments are dispersed through culture, even religious culture, I’ve been raised on most of Hitchens’ arguments. Dr. Craig’s arguments are true and well-reasoned by difficult to comprehend on a first hearing. Hitchens’ arguments are what we’ll find spoken against God on prime time television, at the water-cooler, I’ve even heard some of them on Animal Planet. Culture generally makes Hitchens’ argument by default. And it’s easier to claim the skeptic’s nothing than affirm the something of God…even when I think the most robust argument is self evident to all of us…we’re here.

Craig’s arguments are “true and well-reasoned,” and yet somehow all of them are not doing well in serious philosophical circles.

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 5:54 am

Reginald Selkirk: You might find this amusing. Doug TenNapel at Big Hollywood comes to almost opposite conclusions from yours about the Hitchens vs. Craig debate: Does God Exist? Hitchens vs. Craig Craig’s arguments are “true and well-reasoned,” and yet somehow all of them are not doing well in serious philosophical circles.

The author works in Hollywood; I don’t think he was judging how Craig’s arguments are received in “serious philosophical circles,” but in the culture-producing industries (media, movies, etc) and among the populace that aborbs the cultural output of those industries.  It is certaintly true that Hollywood and the media are overwhelmingly secularized and this has more of an impact on people than Craig’s debates.  But in philosophical circles, it is generally acknowledged that there is something of a Christian renaissance taking place (as Luke pointed out in this post:  http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=538).

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Richard April 14, 2009 at 6:06 am

Anselm:
Ok, perhaps you can provide your definition of “objective” for purposes of clarifying our disagreement?

I accept the dictionary definition of “subjective” which you gave above, and “objective” is the complement of that, i.e. not existing only in the mind. If a purpose exists only in God’s mind (and/or human minds) then it’s not objective.  It’s that simple.

My point is that you are not keeping to the definition which you yourself gave.

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Rich April 14, 2009 at 6:27 am

Hi folks, my first post…

Anselm,

As Richard has pointed out, you’ve pulled a bait and switch with your definition, and even cursory examination reveals it is self refuting.  You first point out that:

“Grounding moral value in the traits or opinions of a particular person makes an ethical theory subjective by definition, not objective.”

And then go on to say try and sell us that morality grounded in the traits of a particular person – God – is objective.  It should be obvious that a concept which is intrinsically tied to a particular person – as you claim for morality – cannot be objective, even from the definition you provided.

But you asked Richard for a definition of “objective” and I’d like to
answer:  Fundamentally, an “objective fact” is one that is “true” independent of anyone’s belief on the matter.  “Canada is above the equator” is true whether you, or anyone, happens to believe it is below the equator or not.  A mind-independent fact is what it means to be “objective.”

Therefore is there are objective facts about morality, they exist, or are “true” no matter what any mind believes, including God.

You are trying to say that tying morality to a person – God – can become objective on the basis they are “unchanging.”  But this makes no sense.

First, it should be pointed out that objectivity is not tied to eternity or “unchanging.”  The statements “I am taller than my son” and “I am 45” are objective facts – right now.  They are true whether someone believes they are false or not.  But in all likelihood the first statement will not be true in 10 years, and the second statement will definitely not be true next year.  So there is no requirement for an objective fact that it be unchanging to be objective.

Conversely, a false belief does not become “Objectively true” simply by the believer being “unchanging.”  If I believed that
I was born before (U.S president) George Washington that would be objectively false.  That would never be a true objective fact at any time.  Now, if you could magically freeze me so that I was unchanging, for eternity, and I still held this belief, that would do NOTHING to either add objectivity to my belief or make it true.  And if it were my nature that I were unchanging it still would not make an unchanging false belief true. 

Thus, arguing that someone’s unchanging nature somehow gives
objective truth is false.

So you’ve failed to produce any relevant trait to God that would make God’s beliefs about morality any more objective than our own.

And if you are going to, as you say, simply insert in your argument that God is synonymous with the good, then you’ve just begged the question.  No more than me stating I’m synonymous with the good. 

Most theists are at least on the right track when they start out searching for the basis of morality.  It is the case that one needs a person that has desires and can act for moral “oughts” to make any sense.  So there would be no possibility of morality existing without a person (of some sort) existing.  But once you examine what it is specifically about a person that makes sense of morality – how oughts derive from a person, especially relationships between persons – then you see that fundamental logic arises WHEREVER you have persons.  It is not founded on “eternity” or “unchangingness” but on how minds/desires and actions work.  Thus all you need are beings like us for morality – no Super Duper version needed.

Cheers,

Rich

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lukeprog April 14, 2009 at 6:53 am

Rich,

Thanks for your substantive comment! I should point out that it was I who said that “Grounding moral value in the traits or opinions of a particular person makes an ethical theory subjective by definition, not objective.” Anselm was only quoting me and responding to that statement; he never agreed with it.

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Rich April 14, 2009 at 7:01 am

I see lukeprog.   My apologies to Anselm. Of course most of what I wrote applies
to Anselm’s position nonetheless, insofar as he may be trying to ground “objective” morality in God’s nature.

Rich

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 7:53 am

Richard: But you asked Richard for a definition of “objective” and I’d like to answer: Fundamentally, an “objective fact” is one that is “true” independent of anyone’s belief on the matter.

I would be happy to endorse Rich’s definition of “objective” (shown below):

“But you asked Richard for a definition of “objective” and I’d like to
answer:  Fundamentally, an “objective fact” is one that is “true” independent of anyone’s belief on the matter.”

Since God’s mind by definition knows only truth regarding moral facts (and not varying beliefs, as do human minds–see the ontological argument:  God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”) those facts can inhere in God’s mind and remain “objective” to us.  So I take the dictionary definition I provided to be referring to human minds when it refers to “the mind” (of course, if the dictionary editors were considering the mind of God when they wrote it–which I sincerely doubt–then I am glad to say that I disagree with them on that point).

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 8:01 am

Rich: And if you are going to, as you say, simply insert in your argument that God is synonymous with the good, then you’ve just begged the question. No more than me stating I’m synonymous with the good.

It is not begging the question, because God is by definition (as stated by my namesake Anselm) “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” (having maximal knowledge, maximal goodness, etc.).  You, on the other hand, are not “than than which nothing greater can be conceived”  (and neither am I–something I think we could both agree on :)

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lukeprog April 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

Anselm,

I hereby define “Mrignoc” as a giant monster made of bacterial excrement, hiding in the core of Venus, who is maximally good. Therefore, his nature is synonymous with The Good. Hurrah! My moral theory is more coherent than utilitarianism and Kantianism and virtue ethics!

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 8:52 am

lukeprog: Anselm,I hereby define “Mrignoc” as a giant monster made of bacterial excrement, hiding in the core of Venus, who is maximally good. Therefore, his nature is synonymous with The Good. Hurrah! My moral theory is more coherent than utilitarianism and Kantianism and virtue ethics!

If you define Mrignoc as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”, then you are just referring to “God” by a different name.  If it makes you feel better to refer to him as “Mrignoc” (since you have issues with the term “God”), more power to you.

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Rich April 14, 2009 at 10:04 am

Anselm: Since God’s mind by definition knows only truth regarding moral facts (and not varying beliefs, as do human minds–see the ontological argument: God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”) those facts can inhere in God’s mind and remain “objective” to us.

But then those moral facts are objective independent of God.  If there are moral facts to be known, then they exist whether God knows them or not.  If they are “objective” to us they are “objective” to God in exactly the same way.  The fact God knows the moral facts doesn’t change this.

You’ve jumped on to one horn of the euthyphro dilemma, wherein God is merely a reporter of facts (because God is all knowing enough to know the moral facts).  Yet you had apparently tried to avoid this horn of the dilemma by attempting to ground moral facts in “God’s nature.”

Now what?

(Does God have reasons that make his commands moral?  If so, it’s the reasons that make something moral, not God, and hence God himself must meet an outside standard in order to be moral.  Morality does not derive from God.

If God’s “moral” commands are not based on reason, then they are arbitrary and
there is no reason to follow them.  The attempt to move this all a step back to grounding them on God’s “nature” is, as we are seeing in this thread, no escape to this dilemma).

Cheers,

Rich

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Rich April 14, 2009 at 10:24 am

Anselm: It is not begging the question, because God is by definition (as stated by my namesake Anselm) “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” (having maximal knowledge, maximal goodness, etc.).  You, on the other hand, are not “than than which nothing greater can be conceived”  (and neither am I–something I think we could both agree on

It is begging the question.

Because the question under discussion is “why ought one accept the proposition that morality derives from God?”

If you simply say:  “But part of my DEFINITION of God is that He is the Greatest Good”….you’ve simply begged the question – assuming within your premises what you are supposed to be arguing.

Classic question begging.

I could argue that my intuitions act as the foundations for morality.  If you ask why anyone ought to accept that premise, and I present an argument that contains the premise that “Rich’s moral intuitions = the foundations for morality” then I’ve begged the question, just like you.  If you can beg the question, then I can say I’m the foundation of morality.

Rich

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 11:24 am

Rich: It is begging the question. Because the question under discussion is “why ought one accept the proposition that morality derives from God?” If you simply say: “But part of my DEFINITION of God is that He is the Greatest Good”….you’ve simply begged the question – assuming within your premises what you are supposed to be arguing.

No, because you are free the answer the question “why ought one accept the proposition that morality derives from God?” with the answer:  “we ought not accept that proposition, since God does not exist.”  The point is, IF a being greater than which nothing can be conceived” exists, then that being is by definition maximally good , the ontological anchor point for our standard of morality, vouchsafes our ability to know moral facts.  Of course, it could be that he does not exist.  In which case, what is atheism’s ontological anchor point for our standard of morality, and what vouchsafes our ability to know moral facts on atheism?

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 11:36 am

Rich: But then those moral facts are objective independent of God.  If there are moral facts to be known, then they exist whether God knows them or not.  If they are “objective” to us they are “objective” to God in exactly the same way.  The fact God knows the moral facts doesn’t change this.You’ve jumped on to one horn of the euthyphro dilemma, wherein God is merely a reporter of facts (because God is all knowing enough to know the moral facts).  Yet you had apparently tried to avoid this horn of the dilemma by attempting to ground moral facts in “God’s nature.”Now what?(Does God have reasons that make his commands moral?  If so, it’s the reasons that make something moral, not God, and hence God himself must meet an outside standard in order to be moral.  Morality does not derive from God.If God’s “moral” commands are not based on reason, then they are arbitrary and there is no reason to follow them.  The attempt to move this all a step back to grounding them on God’s “nature” is, as we are seeing in this thread, no escape to this dilemma).Cheers,Rich

The problem with the Euthyphro Dilemma is that it is a false dilemma (or as President Obama likes to say, “a false choice”). God knows the moral facts that flow from God’s own holy and perfectly good nature, which supplies the absolute standard against which all actions and decisions are measured.  God’s moral nature is what Plato called the “Good.”  He is the locus and source of moral value.  His moral nature is expressed to us in form of divine commands which constitute our moral obligations and duties.
So the theist has an entirely consistent account of the ontological anchor point for our standard of morality and an explanation for how our ability to know moral truths is vouchsafed.  What is the atheist’s account for how moral standards are ontologically grounded, and how we can attain knowledge of those standards?

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lukeprog April 14, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Anselm,

No, Mrignoc is only maximally good, not maximal in other properties. He is very different than your god in other properties, for example being made of bacterial shit and living inside Venus. And yet Mrignoc is just as coherent a ground of morals as your God.

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 4:37 pm

lukeprog: Anselm,No, Mrignoc is only maximally good, not maximal in other properties. He is very different than your god in other properties, for example being made of bacterial shit and living inside Venus. And yet Mrignoc is just as coherent a ground of morals as your God.

I disagree.  All of God’s maximal qualities cohere together in Anselm’s definition: “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”  But you are on the right track in seeing the need for an ontological basis for your moral standard outside of our contingent human minds.  The more serious version of this would be Platonic Forms, in which the Good, Justice, Love, etc. exist sui generis as the ground for our moral standards.  Of course, the problem with this view is conceiving of how we could possibly receive moral obligations and duties from an abstract Form.  God, as simultaneously our Creator and the source of objective moral values, makes sense of our moral duties and obligations, sense they are expressed to us as divine commands.

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Anselm April 14, 2009 at 5:46 pm

BTW, interesting development of the ontological argument going on over at “the prosblogion” which illuminates the above discussion: 

http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2009/04/an-irrefutable.html

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lukeprog April 14, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Anselm,

I understand that “a maximally great being” can be made to be logically consistent. What I am saying is that my definition of Mrignoc is also logically consistent, and has just as much claim to being the source of moral value as your God does. Neither of us has any evidence that our superbeing is the ground of all morality – we’ve just each defined him that way.

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Richard April 15, 2009 at 12:47 am

Anselm:
I would be happy to endorse Rich’s definition of “objective” (shown below):
“But you asked Richard for a definition of “objective” and I’d like to
answer:  Fundamentally, an “objective fact” is one that is “true” independent of anyone’s belief on the matter.”
Since God’s mind by definition knows only truth regarding moral facts (and not varying beliefs, as do human minds–see the ontological argument:  God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”) those facts can inhere in God’s mind and remain “objective” to us.  So I take the dictionary definition I provided to be referring to human minds when it refers to “the mind” (of course, if the dictionary editors were considering the mind of God when they wrote it–which I sincerely doubt–then I am glad to say that I disagree with them on that point).

Anselm, you are continuing with your fallacy of equivocation. You say you accept the dictionary definition, you say you endorse Rich’s definition, but you then go off and create a new definition of your own which (conveniently for your own argument) excludes God, thereby begging the question. This is my last post on the subject, since clearly nothing will move you from this fallacy.
Rich and Lukeprog, your contributions are very welcome, though clearly no argument is ever going to persuade Anselm on this subject.

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Anselm April 15, 2009 at 4:43 am

Richard: Anselm, you are continuing with your fallacy of equivocation. You say you accept the dictionary definition, you say you endorse Rich’s definition, but you then go off and create a new definition of your own which (conveniently for your own argument) excludes God, thereby begging the question. This is my last post on the subject, since clearly nothing will move you from this fallacy. Rich and Lukeprog, your contributions are very welcome, though clearly no argument is ever going to persuade Anselm on this subject.

Hmm, you would think you would appreciate the fact that I actually consider your responses and take them into account as I formulate the definition.  After all, isn’t that basically what the Socratic dialogues were all about?  But I guess on your view, in every dialogue (as he attempted to define, e.g., “Justice”) Socrates was engaged in one long fallacy of equivocation!

But I agree that your desire to end our discussion is probably for the best; the idea of atheist-Christian dialogue sounds good, but unfortunately the worldviews are so incompatible that each side is happier in its own echo chamber.  There was a chance that this site would not devolve in to such an echo chamber, but perhaps there is no way to avoid that.

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Anselm April 15, 2009 at 4:49 am

lukeprog: Anselm,I understand that “a maximally great being” can be made to be logically consistent. What I am saying is that my definition of Mrignoc is also logically consistent, and has just as much claim to being the source of moral value as your God does. Neither of us has any evidence that our superbeing is the ground of all morality – we’ve just each defined him that way.

Your (admittedly goofy) proposal appears no different in substance from Plato’s idea of the eternal form of the Good, which I agree is logically consistent, and which makes better sense of moral facts than do purely naturalistic accounts of morality (but not as much sense as does God as defined by Anselm, as I noted in my comment above).  And that is the point here–what view makes the most sense of morality?  The question of the existence of the Forms, God, etc. is entirely separate–but if they or something like them don’t exist, then we can’t make sense of morality and moral nihilism is our best option.  And to be consistent, atheists should follow Rorty, Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche and just admit that we invent our morality as we go.

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lukeprog April 15, 2009 at 9:40 am

Anselm,

And my point is that even if naturalistic moral realism fails, your account of objective moral facts is not any more evidentially grounded or logically consistent that my proposal of Mrignoc. And that’s a serious problem for your conception of ethics, wholly apart from whether or not arguments for naturalistic moral realism succeed or fail.

Even if you and Richard feel further progress on your discussion has hit the “echo chamber” stage, I think we are still making progress in our discussion, and I welcome it.

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Cari April 30, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist is the one to stand up to the smooth talkin’ Christian. But, he generally refuses to debate them.

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Jesus Apologist May 8, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Many atheists out here have insisted that Hitchens did a bad job. I assume by this that there are far more compelling and rational arguments that Hitchens did not avail himself to. Could some of the atheists out here list for me the top two arguments for the atheist position. And, by this, I mean not the top two arguments why theism is wrong, but the top two reasons that atheism is true. By atheist, I mean the positive statement that There is no god.

Jesus Apologist (disciple of Bill Craig)

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lukeprog May 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Jesus Apologist,

I actually didn’t deconvert for the positive arguments of atheism at all. I lost my faith because the positive arguments for theism failed so badly, like the positive arguments for fairies and psychic powers. There are thousands of them, and they are defended by many loyal believers, but they are all bad.

But if you want two decent positive arguments for atheism, try Paul Draper’s pain-and-pleasure argument (1989) and, oh, Quentin Smith’s atheistic cosmological argument (<a href=”http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/self-caused.html”>here</a>). But there are dozens. I actually haven’t looked into them as much because, again, that’s not why I’m an atheist.

You’re not an a-fairy-ist because of the positive arguments for a-fairy-ism, are you?

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Jesus Apologist May 9, 2009 at 4:08 am

Lukeprog

Well, of course I make the positive assertion that there are no fairies. Or, if you prefer, “Fairies do not exist.” This assertion is based on philosophical reasoning. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “fairy” as: A tiny imaginary being in human form, depicted as clever, mischievous, and possessing magical powers.

Even the definition* is a positive assertion, since it defines these diminutive beings as “imaginary.”

Anyway, I appreciate sites like this, but what I am currently looking for is  an Atheistic web site that has Atheistic Apologists or Philosophers that I could interact with?

BTW, the rational move for you to have made, based on your testimony above, was to deny (or become agnostic about) the form of Theism you held and lost faith in. Such a denial does not ipso facto mean “Atheism is true.” Once you can intuitively and positively assert that “No god/God/gods exist since the following is true…” then you can affirm Atheism. I find many people claiming that the denial of a form of Theism automatically means Atheism is true. They are two separate categories, each must stand on its own merits, not the lack of merits of an opposing position. There are many other positions within Theism (deism, etc.). You would first move from Theism to Agnosticism to Atheism. Anyway, I’m beginning to ramble. Forgive me this wrong. To summarize: don’t accept Theism unless it can provide rationally inescapable arguments for Theism, and don’t accept Atheism unless it can do the same.

I wish you all the best…

Jesus Apologist

* I think Ludwig Wittgenstein is very helpful here. He would say about our exchanges so far, “There are no disagreements, just vague and undefined terms.” It’s like asking me “Who is the greatest basketball player ever to have played the game.” Once we decide on “How do we define the term ‘greatest basketball player’ only then are we able to answer the question.” If the “greatest basketball player” is defined as the one who has the most points ever scored in his/her career as well as has the most blocked shots, then our answer can now be answered with rational certainty.

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lukeprog May 9, 2009 at 6:06 am

Jesus Apologist,

I don’t believe in any gods because I’ve never been given any good reason to believe in any of them. Likewise, I don’t believe in any jinn, because I’ve never been given reason to believe in any of them. Neither of us can PROVE the non-existence of jinn (even if we could disprove the existence of one of them because of how it was defined), and yet both of us are a-jinn-ists.

If you’re looking for atheist philosophers to interact with, the freeratio.org forum often has some highly educated people to engage with. I will be covering positive arguments for atheism, here, but I’m only one man and I have hundreds of topics to cover.

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Nathan May 10, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I have a question and was wondering if you could set me straight. If Craig set forth valid arguments that one of the world’s leading atheists could not rebuttal why do you continue to reject the existence of God?

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lukeprog May 10, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Nathan,

Craig did set forth valid arguments, but they were not sound arguments. Also, I wouldn’t expect a single atheist to be able to rebut all the hundreds of arguments for the existence of God that have been proposed. And anyway, I would never look for rebuttals from Christopher Hitchens, who has no training in philosophy. Finally, even if there were some good arguments for theism, these would have to be weighed against all the strong arguments for atheism.

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Nathan May 16, 2009 at 7:07 pm

If Craig’s arguments were not sound then how could he have won the debate? Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous to credit Criag with the win if he provided unsound arguments?

How were his arguments not sound? Do you disagree with his premises? If so, which ones?

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lukeprog May 16, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Nathan,

A 1.5 hours debate is not going to settle anything. Atheists often win debates, too, and often NOT because their arguments are sound, but because they gave the best performance in 1.5 hours.

It is the purpose of this blog to spend not 1.5 hours but the required HUNDREDS of hours to fully analyze arguments such as those given by Craig. But that requires patience.

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Bobmo May 18, 2009 at 9:48 am

Lukprog,

My apologies if you’ve already answered this, but based on the analysis  you’ve done to this point, could you give us the top two or three examples of “unsoundness” in Craig’s arguments?

If you have already done the analysis, you should have the arguments at hand.  If you haven’t already done the analysis, isn’t a bit premature to conclude that they are unsound?

By the way, comparing a-theism with a-fairyism is not a very clean comparison.  If one lacks a belief in God, he or she  must choose among the remaining explanations for all the things that the existence of God explains.  There is no such parallel for a-fairyism.

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Lorkas May 18, 2009 at 10:23 am

Bobmo: If one lacks a belief in God, he or she must choose among the remaining explanations for all the things that the existence of God explains. There is no such parallel for a-fairyism.

Not so–I have to ask myself every day how I can explain the existence of flowers if it isn’t because fairies like to dance on them.

But seriously, the comparison is about the kinds of evidence that are necessary to accept a proposition (like “Fairies exist”) as true. In that sense, atheism and afairyism are very similar, in that rational people disbelieve in fairies (or bigfoot, or vampires, etc.) in the absence of evidence. By analogy, rational people should also disbelieve in gods in the absence of evidence.

He’s not saying that people who believe in God are as delusional as people who believe in fairies–only that if our standards of evidence were consistent, then we shouldn’t make the “faith” exception for questions about God.

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Bobmo May 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

Lorkas,

There are no rational arguments that necessarily appeal to the existence of fairies to explain the existence of flowers, but there are plenty for the existence of God.

I would hardly put this argument….

  Fairies like to dance on plants
  Plants exist
  Therefore, Fairies exist

In the same class as this one….

  Anything that begins to exist must have a cause
  The universe began to exist
  Therefore, the universe must have had a cause

Notice that Craig’s argument does not appeal to “faith.”  And I don’t recall him doing so during his debate with Hitchens either.

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Nathan May 26, 2009 at 10:36 am

Ok i am a little bit confused. Lukeprog, are you saying that someone can win a debate not by sound arguments, but by mere performance? If so then it hardly seems that it is a debate but rather a contest to see who has the best rhetorical skills.

Like Bobmo, i am anxious to hear you explain how Craig’s arguments are unsound.

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lukeprog May 26, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Nathan,

Yes. A debate is a performance, not a fair evaluation of the arguments presented.

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Bobmo May 26, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Lukprog,

Have you been able to come up with two or three examples of unsound arguments that Craig used in his debate with Hitchens, or are you just bluffing? ;-)

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Ranzo June 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

is this debate to be found on the net. i couldn’t

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Ranzo June 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm

I would love to see craig debate sam harris..he is the most calm and organized of the new atheists. .. also “is there a god” is the wrong question to ask i think.. that makes the christians think that only their creator can exist. what about asking: is there a Vishnu.

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Ranzo June 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

had to post this link..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKh9pI4GC04

sorry for writing 3 times..the father, the son and the holy spirit..

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lukeprog June 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I haven’t seen it yet, no.

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Bobmo June 8, 2009 at 9:28 am

If you haven’t seen the debate, how do you know Craig used unsound arguments?  (If you’re assuming he used the same arguments you’ve heard him use before, which ones of those are unsound?)

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Carl June 18, 2009 at 2:29 am

It really strikes me as hilarious that you find Craig’s arguments to be so sound and factual. It’s not up to Hitchens or anyone else to prove that something doesn’t exist. Yet, Craig continually attempted to make that the argument or test for Hitch.
No one can prove ANY of the thousands of God’s that have ever been believed in are not true. That does not mean that they are true. Yet Christian fundies latch on to this argument. Oh see you can’t prove he doesn’t exist so he must then exist.
Secondly, Craig kept stating that he had all these “facts”. Like the tomb being empty, or the resurection of Jesus. This is a fact for the divinity of Jesus and truth behind your religion? It is utterly ridiculous that people fall for this garbage.  The Bible you so lovingly cling to was written decades after the supposed crucifiction and you hold this book to be inerrant -use some logic people.

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Bobmo June 18, 2009 at 9:10 am

Carl,
 
So, which one of Craig’s arguments do you think is logically unsound?


Carl: Oh see you can’t prove he doesn’t exist so he must then exist.

 

Can you show me one instance of Craig arguing that the inability of disproving God’s existence is itself proof for God’s existence?  I think you have made the logical error (i.e.  ”Straw Man”).
 
By the way, do you believe that it is never possible to prove that something does not exist?

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edthemanicstreetpreacher June 21, 2009 at 3:04 am

After all the flak Hitchens got on the blogs from believers and atheists, I was dreading watching this debate. I finally saw it yesterday after downloading it from a torrents website.

Whilst Hitchens wasn’t on top form and didn’t massacre his opponent as he usually does I thought he acquitted himself well with an understated dignity that I have not seen in him before.

Craig on the other hand showed his true colours as a fundamentalist and a demagogue. I used to hate him, but now I feel quite sorry for him. I’ve written a piece for my blog and will now leave this sad old man to his fairy tales:

http://edthemanicstreetpreacher.wordpress.com/2009/06/21/william-lane-craig/

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Bobmo June 29, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Ed,
Can you give us one or two examples of ”fairy tales” given by Craig in his debate with Hitchens?  While you’re at it, do you have any examples of unsound arguments used by Craig in this debate?  (Lukprog has evidently found some, but I haven’t seen them yet.)  Or, do you take issue with Craig’s debating style rather than with the substance of his arguments?

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lukeprog June 29, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Bobmo,

I will eventually have many posts explaining why Craig’s arguments are unsound. I’m currently working on the series on the Kalam argument, as you probably know.

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lukeprog July 6, 2009 at 8:52 am

Lol, Christians love my review of the debate.

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Paul MacGillivray July 9, 2009 at 6:34 am

Bobmo: Ed, Can you give us one or two examples of ”fairy tales” given by Craig in his debate with Hitchens?  While you’re at it, do you have any examples of unsound arguments used by Craig in this debate?  (Lukprog has evidently found some, but I haven’t seen them yet.)  Or, do you take issue with Craig’s debating style rather than with the substance of his arguments?

Well fairy tales is definitely a strong description and I would not use it, but I think I know where the poster is headed. As far as unsound goes I have two things to say:

1) A great deal of weight seems to be placed on soundness but I feel that it is misleading in certain cases. I realize the value of deductive reasoning but I fail to see the significance of a sound argument in a question that ultimately strays beyond the limits of human knowledge.

In other words, I feel it is a pointless exercise to speak of soundness when the veracity of certain premises cannot be ascertained.

For example, Craig makes extensive use of the teleological argument. As I understand him:

A) The universe functions on a set of constants which if altered even slightly would destroy the balance we observe and therefore not permit the appearance of intelligent life.

B) This delicate balance is evidence of a designer since physical necessity and chance are invalid options.

C) That designer must be God (which I assume he means to be the Christian god although I am never really sure when he is making a deistic or theistic argument).
The argument is regarded as sound by many, but there are several glaring problems with it. These are:

A) The observable universe does seem to function on a set of constants and there is little doubt that even slight variations in them would produce a universe different from our own. There is some debate on the issue among cosmologists as to the degree of acceptable variation but I am willing to concede the point. However, there is no reason to believe that universes operating on different rules would not arrive at a different sort of equilibrium and no reason to believe that intelligent life, while probably vastly different from ourselves, would not appear in those conditions. Stephen Hawkings, among others, has put it rather simply by saying that it would be very interesting to see what kind of universes would evolve from initial conditions different from those we believe were present in the Big Bang. He, like the vast majority of modern cosmologists, does not make the assumption that our universe is the only possible configuration of initial values.

B) I know of no other way to voice my objection than to say that I do not follow the logic. Even if we grant the first premise I do not see how one can make the leap of faith required to arrive at deism. At best the deist is simply guessing as to why the universe is arranged as we observe it to be.

C) On this point I must also admit a certain amount of confusion because I am unclear if Craig wishes to extend his argument to theism. If he does I reject his conclusion for two reasons. First, he makes no argument to show how the teleological argument would validate theism, let alone Christianity, and second, the argument itself is not a theistic argument and should never be used as such. If he does not wish to extend the argument to theism I would have expected further argumentation showing a clear connection to Christian theism otherwise I cannot imagine to what end he would even raise the point.

So, yes the argument is sound if by sound one means that its premises cannot be disproven by evidence and it is limited to an argument for a deistic view of the universe.

2) All of Craig’s arguments result in nothing more than guesses. In other words, even if we accept them as sound the end result is invariably an untested, and at least for the moment untestable, hypothesis. I am sorry but I do not see the value in this kind of argument as sound as it may be.

I do not wish to insult anyone’s chosen discipline but I feel it necessary to suggest that philosophy is simply inadequate in these questions. Or perhaps better said, without further evidence we are spinning our wheels in a lot of mud.

For example, the cosmological argument is an argument against infinity which Craig and others extend to deism and, if I am not mistaken, indirectly to theism. For the purpose of this point I will only discuss the argument in its original form. With that in mind, I see the argument as sound up to the point of concluding that existence had a beginning or sound in the sense that if true it would mean that finite existence appears to be a valid hypothesis.

Scientifically, the argument is a moot point because it offers no testable predictions. Philosophically it appears to hold some water because, if I have understood Craig correctly, it is at least possible and is reasonable to accept as an hypothesis. In fact, Craig argues that the theistic view is the most reasonable explanation for the origin of the observable universe. I’m not sure if he understands how much he has upped the ante by doing so but nevertheless it did appear to be his view.

I would agree with him that the cosmological argument is at least possible if and only if it is not extended to deism but I would have to dispute his claim that it is the most reasonable explanation we currently have. In fact, by his own argumentation I would assert that virtually any hypothesis would be equally reasonable.
I’m sorry but if the best a sound argument can do on these questions is produce a debatably reasonable hypothesis then I respectfully suggest the soundness of an argument can just as easily lead us down the wrong path as it can lead us to something productive.

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Paul MacGillivray July 9, 2009 at 6:37 am

lol well when I submitted the previous comment it had spaces between paragraphs and points. It looks like hell without them. Is there any way to edit comments?

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lukeprog July 9, 2009 at 7:33 am

Paul,

Edited.

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Paul MacGillivray July 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm

lukeprog: Paul,Edited.

=) Thanks Luke. Much appreciated.

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Rokkaku August 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

I finally got around to watching this last night. Craig ‘won’ the debate by being tight, eloquent and confident, by fraudulently pressing a burden of proof onto atheists, and attempting to manufacture a definition controversy over the term. It’s true that Hitchens dealt badly with all of these points, but Craig’s ‘victory’, such as it is, rests on the burden of proof fallacy and the same old tired cosmological argument that’s been demolished a million times before.

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Supernova November 30, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Hello all.

First, I want to thank lukeprog for taking the time and editing a grammar problem I had just the other day in a reply over in one of his blog posts called, “Is It Okay to Mock Religion?”

Back to the subject at hand:

I asked over at Reasonable Faith (for those that don’t know, it’s William Lane Craig’s website) a question you, lukeprog, posed in this review.

I was curious about William Lane Craig’s take on the question. So, I asked the question you posed over at his website. It is Archive Question #137, Question #6. He called it the ‘lightning round’ of questioning and answering.

Well, here’s the question and answer:

Question 6:

After your debate with Hitchens… this question was posed.

To give credit this question came from lukeprog over at common sense atheism.

“Dr. Craig,

Tonight you’ve argued that objective moral values cannot exist apart from grounding them in the traits and opinions of a particular person. Your choice is Yahweh. That seems like an odd way to get objective moral values, but nevertheless, you’ve elsewhere argued just the opposite: that objective moral values do exist apart from Yahweh.

For example, in your answer to question #61 on your website, you write that abortion is wrong because life has intrinsic moral value that is, moral value within itself, apart from anything outside it, including the opinions of Yahweh. Is this a discrepancy, or have I misunderstood you?”

I am wondering about your thoughts on this matter.

Thank you.

James

Dr. Craig responds:

Good question! My view is that objective moral values are grounded in God’s character. Love is virtuous because God is loving. This is not incompatible with distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic goods. Something has extrinsic value because it can be used for a purpose. For example, a hammer has extrinsic value because of its utility for human agents. By contrast, persons have intrinsic value in that they are not merely means to be used for some end but are to be treated as ends in themselves. So we might well ask, “But why are human persons intrinsically valuable?” and the answer will be because God is personal.

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lukeprog November 30, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Cool, James, I will write a reply to Craig’s reply.

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MauricXe December 26, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I love your blog.

I just have a comment here in reference to Hitchens:

“He did not even bother to give his concluding remarks, ceding the time instead to Q&A.”

I am not sure if you were implying that Hitchens didn’t have a closing statement because he felt like he lost but this is a typical move by Hitchens.

Something that bothers me in the debate:

One thing I seen from Craig, and some others, is his attempt to define Atheism for Atheist. He did this in the opening of his cross examination. His basic idea is to bait the Atheist into claiming that God does not exist so that he can shift the burden of proof on the Atheist. I find this argument worthless because the debate should be on Craig’s arguments for God and the associated counter arguments.

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lukeprog December 26, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Yeah, that bothers me too, MauricXe.

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Bobmo December 28, 2009 at 10:27 am

Imagine that. Baiting an Atheist into claiming that God does not exist. Outrageous!

Now, before you respond with, “But Atheism does not claim that God does not exist; it is simply the lack of belief in God,” I understand that is probably your definition of Atheism. MauricXe’s comment just struck me as funny.

Not only that, but holding firmly to this lack of belief and encouraging others to similarly hold such a lack of belief seems a bit closer to the traditional definition of “there is no God” than the current definition of “no belief in God.”

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zugu January 1, 2010 at 12:00 am

Mr. Hitchens is overrated. Seriously.

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lukeprog January 1, 2010 at 8:33 am

zugu,

Yeah, Hitchens is a rhetorician, not much of a debater.

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AbyssGazer January 9, 2010 at 2:06 am

I think had the debate been on whether religion is good or not, Hitchens would have mopped up Craig with little effort. If you read his book that seems to be his area of expertise. Craig’s points were mostly silly, but Hitchens seemed to think he was still debating someone like Dinesh D’Souza or one of the other people he’s trounced and didn’t really counter Craig’s points. Such as the “moral argument” which is not only untenable, but a hopeless non sequitur. One would think a brief read through a history book would inform one that morality is subjective and, as Einstein once phrased it, an entirely human concern. Only two centuries ago slavery was considered moral , and was not (for all intents and purposes) universally considered immoral until even later. Nor would it prove god’s existence even if it were true, as there are very valid naturalistic and materialistic reasons why murder, theft, and lies are “wrong”. It might be personally beneficial to steal or lie, but if it were the norm a cohesive society would not long survive.

The most bizarre of Craig’s claims is that the universe is caused and requires a cause. Leave aside his false premise, there isn’t proof that the universe was ever non-extant, there was the ludicrous straw man of implying that atheists believe the universe came from “nothing”. Surely he can’t be that ignorant of scientific theory, either he is being dishonest here or willfully obtuse. Then he, out of thin air, assumes that his deity of choice does not require a cause or explanation in this chain of logic. This makes for a nice sounding airy freshman philosophy “if x is true then…” style remark, but he doesn’t really do much in the way of defending this breach of his own logic. Another fallacy within these arguments is his putting his cart before the horse. Unless you subscribe to a literal biblical creation, it is an accepted fact that life adapts to suit, and formed around, its environment. Life as we know it would not be possible if the laws which that life evolved to suit were somehow altered. All Craig seems to be saying with this is that if things were different they wouldn’t be the same. He couches this in appealing language but the pointlessness of the claim is still readily visible.

All in all it was an unimpressive debate. Virtually all of what Hitchens said was true, but much of it was not relevant to this debate. Craig had little to say that was impressive, but it was all relevant to the debate. Craig’s points were logically faulty but well delivered, enough said. Hitchens seemed to be tilting at windmills at numerous points, and Craig pointed it out, but in others exposed Craig’s image as a serious logician as the ruse that it is. After all nobody with any serious interest in the idea of logic asks their opponent to provide evidence of a negative or makes as many of the hamfisted textbook logical errors as he did. On the whole, reluctant as i am to praise the sale of snake oil, i think Craig did better in the sense of “debating” even if i find his position to be positively heaped with faulty logic. It seems Hitch has become almost lazy and complacent over time, and thought he could deal with Craig the same way as he had previously. I was disappointed in Hitchens’ performance, Victor Stenger did an immeasurably superior job of steamrollering this nonsense.

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tain January 9, 2010 at 2:48 am

Hitchens really gave a poor performance. Some of Craig’s points were easily refutable and he never bothered.I think he was drunk, he did mention the bar as far as I remember. He certainly looked that way and that would explain his slow reactions and detachment.

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AbyssGazer January 9, 2010 at 3:05 am

I agree, he seemed to sort of blow the whole thing off. Some of the tripe that Craig trots out can be casually dismissed, but Hitchens didn’t bother. Say what you will about Craig, he is agile minded enough to slip fairly transparent nonsense past people. It is to atheism’s detriment that he is so often underestimated or not taken seriously.

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MauricXe January 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm

AbyssGazer: Only two centuries ago slavery was considered moral , and was not (for all intents and purposes) universally considered immoral until even later.

You would be surprised that some Christians believe owning slaves isn’t wrong. Hurting a slave is immoral, according to those Christians, but not owning another person.

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MauricXe January 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Bobmo: Imagine that.Baiting an Atheist into claiming that God does not exist.Outrageous!Now, before you respond with, “But Atheism does not claim that God does not exist; it is simply the lack of belief in God,” I understand that is probably your definition of Atheism. MauricXe’s comment just struck me as funny.Not only that, but holding firmly to this lack of belief and encouraging others to similarly hold such a lack of belief seems a bit closer to the traditional definition of “there is no God” than the current definition of “no belief in God.”  

There are such things as weak and strong Atheism. It would behoove Craig to respect both of these positions.

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Como January 11, 2010 at 9:59 am

Only 2% of humans were born before the year 1 ce?

This claim by Craig sounded dubious to me so I looked it up. Here is the link to the website of the Population Reference Bureau he’s referring to:

http://www.unc.edu/~pnc/pop/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLived.pdf

It actually shows that at least 47 billion out of the estimated 106 billion people that have ever lived were born before 1 ce. That’s about 43%, not 2%.

He may have gotten this reference from an article by Dinesh D’Souza (http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0258.htm) “For my first argument I’m indebted to Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. An adept numbers guy, Kreps notes that it is not the number of years but the levels of human population that are the issue here. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever been born is approximately 105 billion. Of this number, about 2 percent were born before Christ came to earth.”

Either he misread the chart thinking the 1,137,789,769 number represents the people born before 1 ce or just divided 106 billion by 47 billion and thought the 2.25 meant 2.25%.

If this has already been identified please forgive the reduncancy. It brings up a good point though. In the debate Craig said that it’s not the number of years that matter but the number of people (thinking that the numbers were on his side). I wonder how he would respond with the right data?

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lukeprog January 11, 2010 at 10:06 am

Nice work, Como.

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AbyssGazer January 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Lol MauricXe it just goes to show you that morals are subjective not objective. The truth of this is as easily grasped as a ping pong paddle but if it is sufficiently wrapped in philosophy jargon people will seriously believe that morals are set in stone. I think it has to do with what sociologists and historians refer to as “presentism”, people assume the standards of today applied in times of the past. Most of the things prescribed in the old testament would earn one hard time today, but in the bleak epoch in which those texts were written they were perfectly acceptable.

On your other point atheism is just an absence of belief in god or if you want to play the “half full half empty” game with it, a belief that god does not exist. I personally liked Dawkins’ method of a sort of PH scale of religious belief. Most atheists that i know or have met do not assert that they know there is no deity, simply that they do not believe there is one. Anyone who claims to “know” there is no deity or vice versa is either lying, unaware of what they are talking about, or have sources the rest of us do not.

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Bobmo January 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

MauricXe:
There are such things as weak and strong Atheism.It would behoove Craig to respect both of these positions.  

So are you saying that Hitchens’ position is weak Atheism? If so, you have a point. If not, Craig has a point.

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Steve Maitzen March 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm

If it’s not too late to post to this interesting, long-running thread, I’d like to ask about the Alston article that’s been cited favorably here: “What Euthyphro Should Have Said,” Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, ed. William Lane Craig (Rutgers, 2002), pp. 283-298. Contributors here seem knowledgeable about it.

1. Alston defends his “valuational particularism” against the charge that it’s arbitrary to take a particular individual (even God) as the standard of goodness:

One may as well ask: ‘How can it be an answer to the question “Why is this table a meter long?” to cite its coincidence with the standard meter stick?’ There are just some concepts that work that way. My suggestion is that goodness is one of those concepts… (Alston, p. 293).

I’ve never liked that analogy, although Alston relies on it at length in this part of his article. The way standards of measure work, the choice of a particular stick to serve as the standard meter was inherently and unavoidably arbitrary: any one of indefinitely many sticks satisfying a loose collection of predicates would have served (none of those predicates being, of course, ‘is one meter long’). Does Alston really want to say the same thing about goodness — i.e., that the choice of standard is inherently and unavoidably arbitrary?

2. In fact, on Alston’s view I think the choice of God as the standard of goodness is even more arbitrary than the choice of a standard meter stick. For there were some reasons why the particular stick was chosen (it was dimensionally stable, it wasn’t fragile, it wasn’t liable to melt in a heat wave, it wasn’t too big to house, etc.), whereas on Alston’s view there’s literally no reason that God is the standard of goodness (otherwise, the regress he hopes to end continues).

Do others find Alston’s analogy as unpersuasive as I do, or have I missed his point?

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lukeprog March 5, 2010 at 12:02 am

Maitzen,

I look forward to re-reading Alston’s article and then coming back here and reading your comment.

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Telamnar May 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm

All this argument and debate and discussion about Craig’s arguments…
Why hasn’t anyone pointed out (unless I’ve missed it) that Craig’s 5th-favourite argument is that the immediate experience of god makes the existence of god ‘properly basic’?
This is the old argument from personal experience. I’ve read so many of lukeprog’s articles where he expresses admiration and awe for WLC, but this man actually brings up personal experience as being one of the 5 most important arguments for god in existence!
It’s trivial to debunk this one (other people ahve different experiences; internal experience is not reliable) and yet he continually trots it out like it’s an irrefutable win for his side.
Why has no debater (that I’ve ever seen) pounced on this?
Why hasn’t lukeprog written something really, really intelligent about this?
Am I missing something?
If anyone here can help me explain what there is that supports Craig’s argument from personal experience (is his version somehow different?) I’d be grateful.

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lukeprog May 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Telamnar,

Craig’s “5th argument” is not an argument. See: Reformed Epistemology.

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j mac June 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

thank you – interesting article, but i can’t believe you made fun of Craig’s hands! its common knowledge that he has a musculor-skeletal disorder. leave people’s disabilities out of this please

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C.S. McKinney July 16, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Glad to see someone else unimpressed by Christopher Hitchens.

He came to my school years ago and bombed against a second rate apologist after putting no preparation into this debate. It was the first debate for this unknown apologist and he beat the experienced debater Hitchens mostly because Hitch was uninterested in responding to his points and apathetic. Hitch’s obvious ignorance concerning Christianity doesn’t help matters either though.

Is it unreasonable for us to expect an Atheist horseman to perform better in a debate lasting 2 or 3 hours against an rookie when getting paid $9,000 much?

My atheistic mentor and professor friend was appalled. Our Dean was so appalled at Hitch’s behavior at our University that he told us Hitch was never allowed back! One of my best friends that co-founded the secular group sponsoring Hitchens wined and dined him the entire day spending $200 of his own money on him. Hitch showed his appreciation for our hospitality by making a drunken ass out of himself and took $9,000 from the University and student groups to run off like a bandit without taking the debate seriously.

When you are getting your $9,000 regardless of whether you win or lose then who cares? Right Hitch?

To make matters worse, Hitch didn’t even have the decency to smile while taking pictures next to socially awkard students but smiled ear to ear next to the attractive young ladies. Is it unreasonable to expect one of our Atheist horsemen getting paid $9,000 to atleast smile next to the socially awkward students during a picture?
Would a true soldier of our cause try to make a good statement about who atheists are atleast smile next to all his supporters and not just the attractive female ones?

It’s shocking to see one of the top 100 intellectuals in our country have nothing but logical fallacies come out of his mouth in his debates. Not even sure what all the hype is about and why so many atheists are in awe of Christopher Hitchens. He is not a soldier of honor rather a soldier of fortune. If he can publically take our money and support then it’s only right for him to publically be held accountable for his actions. Everyone has a right to know about somebody claiming to represent them especially when he’s so critical of Mother Teresa and so many TV preachers trying to take their money. It seems that Hitch is guilty of the same hypocrisy as the TV preachers while pontificating to us about how appalling it is.

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AgeOfReasonXXI August 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm

“Craig was flawless and unstoppable”
“Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child”

my friend, CSA, you’re an IDIOT. I never thought I’d see a proffessed atheist like yourself relish in Craig’s ignorance, dishonesty, constant distortions of science (when it suits him, of course) and his blatant hypocrisy! I’m not sure what’s with your total bias toward Craig’s sorry apologetics, but I’m getting the feeling that you’re as much of an atheist as Kirk Cameron claims he used to be!

as for Craig spanking Hitchens–I think Hitchens handled himslef well, wasn’t at his best though.
and it was Craig who got SPANKED like a silly child by Shelly Kagan in his debate on morality, who did quite a good job calling on Craig’s repeated pathetic whinning about the heath-death of the Universe, etc. and yet you assessed the debate as a tie. shite! go back to church

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AgeOfReasonXXI August 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

all Hitchens had to do is to expose Craig for what he is–a Presuppositionalist masquarading as an Evidentialist– as Hitch did by quoting from Craig’s book.
and you don’t argue with the likes of Craig– you either denouce them as nut-cases or intellectually dishonest (Craig seems to be both). that’s what Hitch should have done, screw the arguments, I mean Craig doesn’t consider them relevant anyway– “the Witness of the Holly Spirit trumps all arguments and evidence”… and the heart rejoices…

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John Grove September 11, 2010 at 7:27 am

I find it humorous that people even consider Craig as intelligent. If you listen to his arguments, he uses the “same” arguments that he has been using since the beginning. Theism doesn’t advance much. To top that off his arguments have been refuted by many atheists.

Hence the need to re-state:
“Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once”.

Also, since the majority that come to these debates lack any formal training in science or philosophy, the logical fallacies that Craig brings to the table are not caught by these novice audience members such as yourself. The same “God of the gaps” argument for his cosmological argument. The same argument from morality. Nothing has changed in his presentation nor has he got any new material. He can’t nor will he. Theism doesn’t advance much.

It plays to the uneducated, and since Christians are not “deep thinkers” they will always be satisfied with less thinking if it “sounds reasonable”

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bundle February 17, 2011 at 12:06 am

Craig seems fine, but it was incredible that he couldn’t understand that he was proposing an impossible task, one which Hitchens did not hesitate to highlight. Craig has no need to make arguments to prove that the tooth fairy can’t possibly be real and anybody who claimed a point against Craig for this fact would be making the same mistake that Craig himself committed.

But this is certainly true: The existence of the Tooth Fairy can be argued- and must be- with the same exact “proofs” that Craig used to argue for God’s existence.

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Aaryan February 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Luke, thanks a lot for a phenomenal website, I’ve spent more hours on your writings and reviews, and especially on the debates you have posted here in the last few weeks than with my girlfriend over the last year! (And does she like to remind me of that!)

Regarding Hitchens, I believe you are right and wrong. If you look at it from a philosophical point of view, then I completely agree that Hitchens lost, but, Hitchens never attends to use such form of rhetoric, but more, for lack of better word, undisguised realism. The way Hitchens attacks the arguments are from almost a pragmatist POV, refuting them by pointing out how each would be if we really convince ourselves that these would occur in the realm of the real world. It is an interesting tactic, and Hitchens might be the greatest debater of all time when it comes to politics (where such rhetoric really come in to place), but in the question of God, I believe a more philosophical approach is preferred.

Also, I noticed that you didn’t have the second debate between Massimo Pigliucci and WLC, where I personally think that Pigliucci destroyed WLC! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, however, and a review. You can find it here:

http://www.bringyou.to/CraigPigliucciDebate2001.mp3

Again, extremely grateful to you for your writing and hard work!

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Strattford March 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm

“I’m going to approach tonight’s question philosophically, from the standpoint of reason and argument”. Ok, so why he changed the main question (“Does God exist?”) and stipulate the rules for that?

“First, that there’s no good argument that atheism is true”

How a “good argument” results in a “truth”? If you really believe, in your guts, you make it happen? It’s supposed to be an opinion, an axiom, preaching, etc? Giving the definition of “atheism”, how it can be “true”? It makes no sense…

“…and secondly that there are good arguments that theism is true.”

Well, maybe it makes sense. I mean, if there are theists and atheists in the World, so it’s true. And obvious. Now, as definition, theism is belief and not a truth. Dr. Craig basically expressed his personal faith borrowing Kant’s propositions and turning into a messy set of “5 arguments for existence of God” that is so weak that sometimes he refute himself during his description. In terms of using reason and logic, there are no argument/evidence against or in favor of God (whatever it means to you). And I don’t think there are anything that can happen to change that (ex: a phenomena that can be linked to God, since we don’t know anything about to link to, nor anything that “is not about” to exclude alternative explanations).

Know, what’s really disappointing is that they never go too deep in the subject. You wrote “(…) Craig gave the same case he always gives, and Hitchens never managed to put up a coherent rebuttal or argument (…) Perhaps Hitchens realized how bad things were for him after Craig’s opening speech…” I had the same impression, but I think it’s because of something else (in that movie, “Collision”, the last sentence Hitcken’s said is what I’m talking about)

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Alex Hogendoorn October 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I’m a Christian (even a pastor) and have enjoyed your site so far. Excellent thoughts. I came specifically as I was following up the Craig vs. Hitchens debate for reviews. Your picture up top almost made me fall off my chair. Very funny.

Regarding your question for Dr. Craig, I think he would have enjoyed it. Have you had a chance to get a response from him? I’d be curious to know if you asked him the question anyways via email. He strikes me as a man genuinely interested in a well-reasoned discussion–I’ve heard him say that this is the raison d’etre of his site. If he has responded to you, would you please share with me his response? I think your question does apply new pressure to his position on objective morality.

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bob November 12, 2011 at 10:10 am

1. You comment about Craig: “you write that abortion is wrong because life has intrinsic moral value” You think abortion is ok because life does not have intrinsic moral value???

2. Craig’s point about judging the truth of a worldview by its social impact referenced Bertrand Russell as being the mirror image of Hitchens, thus eviscerating Hitchens entire schtick.

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Permafrost November 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I watched the Hitchens-Craig debate recently on YT. I didn’t see Craig at all as an academic debater. His whole stance was exactly as if he were running for mayor and were debating his opponent on a public square: he aggrandized his achievements and denied that the opponent had made any valid point. Hitchens knew he’d get nowhere by reponding to Craig’s vacuous points one by one because (1) intelligent people can see through Craig and (2) it would be like swatting flies in an abattoir. So instead he attacked Craig’s behind-the-scenes reasons for spousing a religion.

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Robert November 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Craig is a masterful debater who delivers his points succinctly and yields very little ground even when confronted with hostile jabs from opponents. One of Craig’s most powerful devices during his debates is that he refuses to allow his opposition to perform a “sleight of hand” also known in philosophy as a “red herring” which is an informal fallacy by which a debater attempts to shift the focus away from the true issue at hand. As long as his opposition retreat to this common yet largely ineffective “safe-haven,” Craig will continue, as you put it, spank them like foolish children.

As to the question that you wished to pose regarding Craig’s supposed inconsistency due to the intrinsic moral value of life. Despite the fact that you recieved an answer I would like to add to it. You define intrinsic moral value as moral value within itself, apart from any outer influence, including the opinions of Yahweh. However, many apologists such as McGrath and Copan would argue that human life (in and of itself) is intrinsically valuable, BECAUSE humans, born or aborted, are crafted in the image of God,and thus possess moral value. Our very being, by design, is one to be valued. I hope that this somewhat answers your charge. I am sure my presentation and reasoning pales in comparison to someone of Craig’s caliber, however, I hope this was useful. I have thought long and hard about this and similar subjects so if you have other questions or comments feel free to contact me by email: historywhiz@gmail.com

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John Malone December 16, 2011 at 4:04 am

Author of this ‘piece’ is a tosser of epic proportions.

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Igakusei January 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I just finished reading the transcript of this debate. Why didn’t Hitchens bother to point out that Craig’s cosmological argument was self-defeating? The way he phrased it in this debate made it patently obvious: Infinity doesn’t exist in reality, therefore the universe must have had a cause and that cause is God.

Hitchens later made a side comment about the infinite regression you can get trapped in with that, but it wasn’t clearly pointed out and would have been easily missed by anyone not looking for it. I guess maybe I just don’t know enough about debate, or haven’t watched enough of these to understand.

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kenntin January 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I agree with your view of who won the debate. I would pose that Craig is an expert in the argument on the table. Hitchens has debated literature, politics, history and in the view of many including myself quite successfully. If a decathlete went up against a pure sprinter, one would not expect the decathlete to “win”.
By defending his book against Craig he got the discussion in the minds of the masses as best he could. Which ought be considered if one is in favor of people focusing more on cogent questions instead of “who got voted off the island”.
The more “sheeplike” of the faith based community seem to revel in NOT questioning
and many in admin. dept. of the churches seem to want t keep it that way.
Not an admirable attitude in my view….

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