News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on May 28, 2011 in News

Chris Hallquist on my ‘endorsement‘ of William Lane Craig.

New Less Wrong post: Inferring Our Desires.

From Twitter:

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Waldheri May 28, 2011 at 5:54 am

I always wonder, if that woman had had true beliefs, she wouldn’t have tried to kill her children. I tend to think the problems underlying these actions are more deeply rooted than the way in which they manifest (religiously or otherwise).


Chris Hallquist May 28, 2011 at 9:07 am

Thanks for the link, Luke.

BTW, I apologize if you don’t feel the word “endorsement” is accurate. I struggled a bit with what word to use there, and that’s the best I could come up with.


Kevin May 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm

“BTW, I apologize if you don’t feel the word “endorsement” is accurate. I struggled a bit with what word to use there, and that’s the best I could come up with.”


Kevin May 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm


How about the word accolades?


soupsayer May 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

BTW, I apologize if you don’t feel the word “endorsement” is accurate. I struggled a bit with what word to use there, and that’s the best I could come up with.


If there’s one thing that the current version of Luke won’t do, it’s argue about definitions.

So, you should instead replace “endorsement” with some other, longer string of words (what Luke calls the “substance”). Keep adding more words (substance) until the original idea is carved up enough such that it bares little to no resemblance to the whole, and you’ll need scratch paper to compute the instances of composition/division fallacies. But at least there’ll be nothing semantic left to argue over, since what should we care about semantics?


Luke Muehlhauser May 28, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Why does Akismet not get the fact that Russian text is spam? I’ve marked every single Russian text comment as ‘spam.’ Grrrr…. :)


Garren May 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Добрый вечер. Since hard determinism is true, not knowing our own desires keeps our choices interesting to ourselves.


Luke Muehlhauser May 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm

You are not helping. :)


Marlboro May 29, 2011 at 9:10 am

I read Chris’ post over at Loftus’ website and I skimmed through it again just now.

My conclusion:

Luke: 1
Chris: 0

Chris has some good comments in there but nowhere does he come close to refuting Luke’s arguments.


Jay May 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

Chris your whole post basically boils down to not likeing the fact that Craig is good at debating. It would also seem that you can’t really handle the fact that Craig disagrees with you in how he sees his arguments. You therefore conclude that Craig is dishonest (while taking a few cheap shots at him). If you ask me, that sounds more dishonest than anything you accuse Craig of. Your post made me realize even more just how much I admire Luke for his own honesty in assessing Craig’s superior debating skills and arguments compared with those of his opponent, despite the fact that he thinks his arguments are shit.

Luke 1
Chris 0


antiplastic May 29, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Soupsayer, do not rest this evening thinking your observations went unappreciated by the internet. The process has been painful for many of us to watch.


Chris Hallquist May 30, 2011 at 1:45 am

@Jay: Short answer: no.

To be more specific, you say: “It would also seem that you can’t really handle the fact that Craig disagrees with you in how he sees his arguments. You therefore conclude that Craig is dishonest (while taking a few cheap shots at him).”

But criticizing Craig for dishonesty wasn’t the main point of the post. The main point was that Luke seems to think Craig is generally right when he accuses his opponents of being totally confused, off-topic, etc., while I think these accusations Craig makes are mostly absurd.

The dishonesty is a further issue. Obviously, we can’t directly know what’s going on in Craig’s head, so in the past I’ve hesitated before calling Craig dishonest. But when Craig says patently absurd things, he rarely comes off as blundering about. Instead, the things he says almost always seem calculated for maximum rhetorical effect. So I think he has to understand what he’s doing on some level.

Now, maybe Craig doesn’t consciously think to himself “I’m going to be dishonest today.” Perhaps the more likely explanation is that he’s simply doing what he was taught to do in his debate team days, and it never occurs to him that someone posing as a serious scholar needs to hold himself to a higher standard of honesty.

To elaborate just a bit more: I’ve never done debate team myself, but I understand that it’s considered normal there to say whatever you think you can get away with saying, even if you yourself don’t believe it. People who’ve coached debate team have told me that debaters will do things like claim their opponents’ policy proposal to help old people will lead to a nuclear war. If you enjoy doing that sort of thing as part of a game, I guess that’s fine, but when Craig does that as part of allegedly serious discussions, that’s dishonest.


Garren May 30, 2011 at 9:06 am

Mostly I’m disappointed that people who debate Craig come off as looking confused and unable to answer simple questions, even when they aren’t confused and might have given a respectable answer in there somewhere.

I’ve quoted this here once before, but it really illuminates Craig’s style:

“If you have no argument ad rem, and none either ad hominem, you can make one ad auditores; that is to say, you can start some invalid objection, which, however, only an expert sees to be invalid. Now your opponent is an expert, but those who form your audience are not, and accordingly in their eyes he is defeated; particularly if the objection which you make places him in any ridiculous light.” — Schopenhauer, The Art of Controversy XXVIII


..”I think the deep problem is that Craig’s moral “argument” is less an argument than a hodgepodge of good-sounding lines. This means that no matter how good an atheists’ response to one of these lines, Craig can always toss out another line and say that’s the one the atheist must respond to. Honestly, I’m not sure what it would be to understand Craig’s moral argument.”

Nail on the head.


Andrew EC May 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Chris: the stuff you’re criticizing is what debate is. Essentially, your criticisms amount to: “I don’t like debate.” Now, that’s a perfectly reasonable position to take — indeed, almost all of the arguments you make with respect to William Lane Craig date back to Aristophanes (and almost certainly earlier).

So why not say that? Why go through the verbal and mental gymnastics of trying to argue that WLC is not good at debate when you could instead argue that debate itself is a bad idea for complex philosophical topics? It’s more honest than trying to pretend that (say) Christopher Hitchens or Lawrence Krauss did a good job debating William Lane Craig.

(Side note: I love Lawrence Krauss. I think he’s probably the single best voice out there for atheism right now. His lecture on “A Universe From Nothing” should be required viewing for everyone. But his debate with WLC was terrible, and I think we ought to acknowledge that instead of trying to re-write the rules as to what debate is in order to pretend that it wasn’t.)


Chris Hallquist June 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Simple issue first: I’ve never so much as suggested that Hitchens or Krauss did a good job of debating Craig. I actually haven’t seen those debates, but I definitely have seen debates where I thought Craig’s opponent did a terrible job (see, for example, my extremely frustrated review of Craig’s debate with Carrier.)

The question of whether Craig is a “good” debater wasn’t at all the point of the post Luke linked above. Rather, my point was that Craig’s gives terrible arguments, that even the limited credit Luke gives him in that area is too much, and that Craig relies on dishonest tactics to create impressions to the contrary.

Now, if you what you mean by a “good” debater is a rhetorically effective one, then it’s possible to give terrible, dishonest arguments and still be a “good” debater. In that sense, I’d give a mixed assessment of Craig as a debater: I think his tactics are often rhetorically effective, but often they come off as lame or obnoxious instead.

As for your claim that “that’s just what debate is,” I’m really not sure what you even mean by it. Explanation please? Though I think the insinuation that I’m trying to “re-write the rules” is obviously false. In a the kind of debates Craig does, unlike debate team events, there are no rules beyond the time limits and speaking order that the debaters agree to. I don’t know why you’d suggest otherwise, given that you’ve previously admitted that there are important differences between the two kinds of events.


Leave a Comment