How to Debate William Lane Craig

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 22, 2009 in Debates,William Lane Craig

williamlanecraig

Andrew at Evaluating Christianity has put up some excellent posts of advice on how to debate William Lane Craig (one, two, three, four, five). The reason Craig wins all his debates with atheists is not because his arguments are sound, but because he is a masterful debater. Craig has been honing his debate skills literally since high school. Not only that, but he is a Ph.D. philosopher and encyclopedic historian: an expert on the two subjects he debates, the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus.

Let me repeat. Craig has done 20+ years of Ph.D+ level research in the two fields he debates, has published hundreds of academic books and papers on both subjects, and has been debating since high school.

So yeah, that’s right. You are not qualified to debate William Lane Craig. Richard Carrier? Austin Dacey? Quentin Smith? Bart Ehrman? You are not qualified to debate William Lane Craig. Louise Antony? Christopher Hitchens? Eddie Tabash? You are not qualified to debate William Lane Craig. Frank Zindler? Gerd Ludermann? Hector Avalos? You are not qualified to debate William Lane Craig.

“What about some people who would like to debate Craig?”

Mark Smith? John Loftus? You are not qualified to debate William Lane Craig.

“Okay, well, is anyone qualified to debate William Lane Craig?”

Nobody comes to mind…

The atheist’s only hope in debating William Lane Craig is to offer better arguments. Remember, Craig is defending the theory that an ancient Semitic sky god created the universe with his magical powers, let it evolve in violence and meaninglessness for billions of years, then intervened quite recently by sending a man-god to earth, who rose from the dead into a new body with superpowers and now talks to you and grants you wishes as your invisible friend. That is literally what he has to defend, so one would think that even without equal debating skills an atheist would stand a chance to defeat that theory.

But here’s the thrust of what Andrew and I are trying to say: You can’t just know the arguments to win a debate (though many atheists fail at even this, anyway). You must also know how to debate. It’s a skill. If you haven’t specifically studied and practiced debating for several years, then you suck at debates. You might think you can debate because you “win” little arguments with uber-ignorant Christian fundamentalists, but trust me: you suck at debates. Your suckage will be especially obvious if you debate a master like William Lane Craig.

How to win

So, how should the atheist debate William Lane Craig?

  1. Know the arguments. Craig always uses the same 5 arguments, so it’s not too hard. In fact, you should map these arguments. Know what every supporting argument is, what the best rebuttals are, which rebuttals lead to dead ends, etc. I’ll be doing much of this for you, if you’re patient. I’ve started mapping Craig’s most famous argument, the Kalam Cosmological argument, here.
  2. Know how logic and argument work. If possible, get a Ph.D. in philosophy. Be able to call out logical fallacies and explain them in a few words. Know how to rip apart a poor analogy. Understand entailment, set theory, propositional logic, and probability theory. I’ll be covering all these topics – in plain talk – in my Intro to Logic series.
  3. Practice writing. Know how to make a point as forcefully, memorably, and quickly as possible. Know how to organize and repeat your thoughts in the most effective ways. Master your rhetorical skills. Train yourself to use simple words and short sentences.
  4. Practice speaking. Be comfortable speaking to large groups of people. Master your body language, vocal tonality, and speaking pace. Project confidence and comfort. Be loud. Join Toastmasters and go from zero to hero.
  5. Practice debating. Debating is a difficult skill, and requires years of willful practice. If you don’t enjoy it, you probably won’t master it. Read the Ultimate LD Debate Handbook. After that, take debate classes, judge Lincoln-Douglas style debates, and get a few debating coaches.

Now that’s a lot to ask. Nearly impossible, you say. And I agree. But in that case, you are not qualified to debate William Lane Craig. You may not like that it takes long years of hard work to be qualified to design a nuclear power plant, but guess what? If you don’t make the cut then you are not qualified to design a nuclear power plant. The same goes for debating a Jedi Master like William Lane Craig.

But if everybody took my advice, then there might just be nobody debating William Lane Craig. Is that what I want?

No.

Debating Craig brings the atheist viewpoint to lots of people who would otherwise never listen to atheistic arguments in their entire life. Especially in the USA. In a Christianity-saturated culture, presenting Christianity does very little, but presenting atheism does a lot.

So, my advice to Mark Smith, John Loftus, and others who want to debate Craig? Go for it! But first, spend as much time as possible on the 5 steps above. Especially the last two steps, since those are the ones usually neglected.

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{ 157 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Nelson April 23, 2009 at 2:47 am

It looks like Yudkowsky is considering being the next one to challenge Craig.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/c3/the_sin_of_underconfidence/

I recently read of a certain theist that he had defeated Christopher Hitchens in a debate (severely so; this was said by atheists).  And so I wrote at once to the Bloggingheads folks and asked if they could arrange a debate. 

and also

Actually, the main thing that moved me was the comment about Richard Carrier also losing. I was thinking mostly that Hitchens had just had a bad day.

And whom have Hitchens and Carrier both recently debated? The Lanecraigmeister.

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John W. Loftus April 23, 2009 at 4:23 am

I find it offensive that you place me in the same category as Mark Smith.

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John W. Loftus April 23, 2009 at 4:47 am

I’m wondering what is mean when you or Andrew say that someone is ”not qualified to debate William Lane Craig.” Is that statement a matter of fact that potential debaters should consider for themselves? Then why name people? And who made you the judge anyway, when you name people? Do you know me and what I am capable of doing? 

If the statement is a rhetorical device telling someone he or she should first bone up on debate tactics and on the issues, then fine. But then, why name people?

Are you trying to issue an imperative that would prohibit non-qualified people from debating him? What reason do you have for issuing such an imperative? Is it because you think non-qualified people who lose to Craig somehow do your position less than justice? If so, what reason should a potential debater have for obeying your imperative? Would YOU obey your own imperative if Craig emailed you and invited you to debate him? What obligations does a potential debator have toward you if he wants to debate Craig, since it’s an honor to do so?

Besides, I do indeed think I have what it takes. Don’t try to tell me otherwise. But then why should I give a damn what you think anymore when you place me in the category of Mark Smith?

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Damion April 23, 2009 at 5:23 am

I’d be interested in hearing who was least unqualified to debate the Jedi master (Sith Lord?) WLC… I was most impressed with Louise Antony, of all Craig’s victims she seemed to display the skills which you praised in this post.

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Alden April 23, 2009 at 6:10 am

“Pride goeth before a fall.”

Besides, I do think that Craig’s arguments are sound.  A master debater can resort to rhetoric to cover up bad logic and technically win a debate, but in the analysis the logic still failed.  I think giving Craig all the credit (although I agree, he is a top-notch debater) could be simply a diversion away from the strength of the arguments.  

If debating ability is the key issue, then the plan of attack should be directed to the arguments themselves, on paper, rather than in a debate setting.

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Andrew @ EC April 23, 2009 at 6:12 am

John:

I’ll repeat what I said earlier on your blog as well as mine.  When I say that someone is “unqualified” to debate Craig, I mean it in exactly the same sense that the very best high school baseball player is unqualified to play in the majors.

That prep star may have all the “tools” necessary to be a star in the major leagues; he might have a great batting eye, power, speed, you name it.  But the one thing he’s missing is <i>experience</i> standing in against major-leaguers.  That’s why even Hall of Famers start off in the minors and generally struggle for at least a little bit when called up to the Show.

Let me be clear:  John, I love your book, and I think you’re exactly like that prep star.  I think you’ve got all the tools to be one of the great ones.  What you’re missing is experience, and I find it odd that you don’t seem to want to take the necessary steps to get that experience.

cheers,
-Andrew

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 7:24 am

John W. Loftus: I find it offensive that you place me in the same category as Mark Smith.

You are both in the category of “people who want to debate William Lane Craig” and also the category of people who “do not match the academic credentials and debate experience to compete with William Lane Craig in a debate about the existence of God.” There are also many categories to which you belong but Mark Smith does not, and vice versa.

John W. Loftus: Are you trying to issue an imperative that would prohibit non-qualified people from debating him?

No, as should be clear from my last paragraphs.

John W. Loftus: Would YOU obey your own imperative if Craig emailed you and invited you to debate him?

As I said in my article, I encourage you and others to debate Craig. I said: Go for it! Just please bone up on debate skills and technique.

If Craig invited me, I would decline, or else I would say, “May I get back to you on that in 10 years?”

John W. Loftus: What obligations does a potential debator have toward you if he wants to debate Craig

None, obviously!

John W. Loftus: Besides, I do indeed think I have what it takes. Don’t try to tell me otherwise. But then why should I give a damn what you think anymore when you place me in the category of Mark Smith?

Did you read my article at all, John? I specifically said TO YOU, JOHN LOFTUS: Go for it! Just please pay attention to your debate skills. Atheists have been studying up the arguments but not paying attention to their debate skills.

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Aurelien April 23, 2009 at 7:25 am

Thanks for your post Luke, it is useful even for the next generation of WLCs. Maybe, we can add Schopenhauer’s book : <a href=”http://coolhaus.de/art-of-controversy/”>The Art of Controversy</a>. What do you think ? 

I really enjoy your thoughtful posts ! Keep bloggin’ !

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 7:26 am

Damion: I’d be interested in hearing who was least unqualified to debate the Jedi master (Sith Lord?) WLC…I was most impressed with Louise Antony, of all Craig’s victims she seemed to display the skills which you praised in this post.

Sith Lord William Lane Craig… lol!

If memory serves, in a debate about moral ontology, Louise Antony never once mentioned moral ontology.

Surprisingly, young Austin Dacey is a decent debater.

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 7:28 am

Alden: If debating ability is the key issue, then the plan of attack should be directed to the arguments themselves, on paper, rather than in a debate setting.

Yup, and that’s what I’m attempting to do on this blog!

I’m not trying to distract from the merits of Craig’s argument. I suspect both you and I are tired of atheists rambling about irrelevant issues during debates with Craig, instead of engaging Craig’s arguments and giving him a chance to defend them against strong attacks.

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 7:30 am

Aurelien: Thanks for your post Luke, it is useful even for the next generation of WLCs.

Indeed. Posts like this and my mapping of the Kalam and other arguments will be of equal use to theists and atheists and a benefit to the audience. Hopefully it will mean less rambling, dead-end debates and more focused debates over the substantive issues of each argument. Thanks for the encouragement.

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Reginald Selkirk April 23, 2009 at 10:24 am

It seems to me that the effectiveness of a debate performance depends on the audience, and that what impressed people like you and Andrew, who are knowledgeable about LD debates might not impress the general public. For example, Andrew linked to an example of a high school LD debate, and a commenter notes how fast the debaters talk. Covering a lot of points might impress the debate judge, and people who appreciate the format, but I think overly fast speech might turn off a non-debate fan.

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John W. Loftus April 23, 2009 at 10:55 am

I think skeptics are in “scared mode” after watching Hitchens and Carrier both lose to Craig such that they are unwilling to recommend a better more knowledgable debater to debate Craig, me. I commented further on Andrew’s most recent post <a href=”http://evaluatingchristianity.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/advice-for-debating-william-lane-craig-part-4-answering-loftus/#comment-482″>right here</a>.

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Reginald Selkirk April 23, 2009 at 11:36 am

RE the photo you chose for this post: that tie Craig is wearing is evidence against the existence of God.

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

I would have written the exact same post before the Hitchens and Carrier post. In fact, I was planning to, but Andrew’s post gave me the opportunity to integrate it with what he wrote.

John, I say once again: Go for it! I look forward to seeing you debate Craig. I hope it will happen some day.

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 11:46 am

Reginald Selkirk: It seems to me that the effectiveness of a debate performance depends on the audience, and that what impressed people like you and Andrew, who are knowledgeable about LD debates might not impress the general public. For example, Andrew linked to an example of a high school LD debate, and a commenter notes how fast the debaters talk.

Talking super-fast like in that video is not what I recommend. What I do recommend – and what works on audiences, too – is stuff like (1) summarizing your opponent’s arguments and how you have defeated them, (2) responding to each of your opponent’s points in a brief and persuasive way, (3) always reminding the audience of the relevant threads of argument, and pointing out why some of the opponent’s points are irrelevant, and more. Craig does all this very well. His opponents do not.

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Dan Nelson,

Thanks for the Yudkowsky link. I kinda bet Yudkowsky is even referring to my review of the Hitchens debate.

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Reginald Selkirk: that tie Craig is wearing is evidence against the existence of God.

I know! He always wears the worst ties!

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MacGuy April 24, 2009 at 12:30 am

This article has some good points. However, I’d disagree with the author’s ridicule of Christian theism. Debate skill is incomplete without a serious proposal. The number one error an atheist can do is to underestimate their opponent’s position with mockery. After critical refutation of theistic arguments, Christianity might amount to “magical” nonsense which is clever rhetoric since it has the negative connotation (in this context) of being nothing more than tricks that aren’t realistically possible. 

The point I wish to make here is that Craig has a rational case for Christianity that one would be epistemically warranted in believing to be true. It is perhaps not the most rational position, for it could be rather rationally short-sighted but nevertheless deserves our serious attention and consideration. When atheists reduce Christianity to mere some mere sky-daddy or delusion, you severely underestimate the rationality of the position which causes one to take their opponent less seriously. In other words, I believe such rhetoric encourages atheists to be arrogant about their position.

This is clearly not always the case! I am sure someone like yourself does see Christianity to have merit worth consideration while also believing that ultimately, it isn’t realistically proven (just like magic) but you seem open enough to be corrected. This might not be a irrelevant point, but I just thought I’d share my thoughts. Thanks for making some interesting posts! 

We do know that “magic” has the negative connotation of being nothing more than deceptive tricks that aren’t realistically possible. 

In the end, I suppose Christianity is nothing more than a God who has “magical powers”. Such rhetoric bleeds with connotations of our society that magic is nothing more than deceptive tricks. 

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Richard April 24, 2009 at 1:43 am

I know next to nothing about formal debating, but an idea occurs to me.
Perhaps it would be best to concentrate on refuting just one of Craig’s arguments. That might not win the debate in a formal sense. But if you can undermine some listeners’ confidence in just one of his arguments, that might get them to think more critically about his entire case, and isn’t that what matters? It seems reasonable to me for a debater to say “There isn’t time to address all my opponent’s arguments with the thoroughness they require, so I’m just going to concentrate on one.” But for all I know that could be an old idea and maybe it’s considered bad form.

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lukeprog April 24, 2009 at 2:13 am

Richard,

I think it’s better if the debaters just agree that the scope of the debate is a single argument. I’d like to see more debates like that.

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Reginald Selkirk April 24, 2009 at 4:50 am

<i>The point I wish to make here is that Craig has a rational case for Christianity that one would be epistemically warranted in believing to be true.</i>

Do you have similar respect for non-Christian religion, or do you ask special treatment for Christianity? Why would you consider Christianity to be more rational than every other religion? And which brand of Christianity?

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MacGuy April 24, 2009 at 8:13 am

Do you have similar respect for non-Christian religion, or do you ask special treatment for Christianity? Why would you consider Christianity to be more rational than every other religion? And which brand of Christianity?

I have the same respect toward atheism. In regards to other religions, however, I do not think they have taken up the modern challenge of rational justification like Christianity has done (which Lukeprog pointed out in his latest post). You could always counter this with some evidence in favor of another religion (e.g, Islam claims that it’s “elegant” writings are proof of divinity) but they’re quite weak. Brand? Mere Christianity. 

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lukeprog April 24, 2009 at 9:35 am

MacGuy: In regards to other religions, however, I do not think they have taken up the modern challenge of rational justification like Christianity has done (which Lukeprog pointed out in his latest post). You could always counter this with some evidence in favor of another religion (e.g, Islam claims that it’s “elegant” writings are proof of divinity) but they’re quite weak.

It’s true that other religions have not really even made an attempt at modern intellectual defense, but I don’t think this is because they are necessarily intellectually less plausible than Christianity. For example, nearly all the arguments for the Christian God are equally good arguments for any monotheism. Also, I think that certain religions’ conception of a pantheon of limited creator gods better explains the mix of pleasure, suffering, and chaos found in our world than the postulation of a single, all-powerful, all-good God.

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Damion April 24, 2009 at 7:25 pm

lukeprog: If memory serves, in a debate about moral ontology, Louise Antony never once mentioned moral ontology. 

I don’t think you are being quite fair to Antony.  The subject question of that debate “Is God Necessary for Morality?” could quite easily be taken as bringing up questions of moral motivation or epistemology rather than ontology.  Craig certainly tried to cast the debate in terms of ontology (and deontology)  because he evidently believes that grounding moral values in an immaterial, ineffable, invisible friend is somehow vastly preferable to considering the desires and needs of mere earthly creatures.

That aside who is current top tier of freethinkers who have debated, other than Dacey?  Who would you pull from the bench if you were assembling a dream team?  Also, which particular set of naturalistic arguments would you use against Craig, in addition to those fielded by either Dacey or Stenger?  

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Damion April 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm

lukeprog: Richard,I think it’s better if the debaters just agree that the scope of the debate is a single argument. I’d like to see more debates like that.

Me too, but I’d bet the subject heading “Does God Exist” packs a room far better than “Is the Kalam Cosmological Argument Valid and Sound” or “Are Moral Absolutes Ontologically Necessary” or, well, anything that sounds more like the title of a scholarly article on a well-specified topic.

Personally, I think we should rename all WLC debates to “Godless Smackdown Part XVI” or something similarly sensational, just for the sake of the draw.  

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lukeprog April 25, 2009 at 6:15 am

Damion,

I’m not sure which atheistic dream team I would assemble for Godless Smackdown XVII. The problem is that atheists aren’t usually on a “mission” like Christian apologists are, so they aren’t very interested in doing tons of public debates. I would assemble heavyweights in philosophy of religion like Graham Oppy, Michael Martin, etc., but they don’t do debates and so they would get smacked down hardcore.

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corn April 25, 2009 at 10:46 am

Clearly it’s possible for some atheistic philosophers to debate WLC and score a convincing win. Indeed, listening to this debate is instructive in exactly how to defeat WLC – that is, you must go on the attack and when he fails to refute your point you need to remind him (and the audience) of that. It’s exactly the same strategy he employs and it’s quite effective.

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 11:05 am

Alden: Besides, I do think that Craig’s arguments are sound. A master debater can resort to rhetoric to cover up bad logic and technically win a debate, but in the analysis the logic still failed. I think giving Craig all the credit (although I agree, he is a top-notch debater) could be simply a diversion away from the strength of the arguments.

I have to agree.  WLC is not just a skilled debater using sophistry and illogic.  He is using classic logic, attacking atheism at the level of assumptions, and following classic arguments from them.  Most atheists are skilled at banter and polemic, Hitchens and Dawkins esp., and they do suck in debates.  Carrier is no better, though perhsaps to some he is more credible, since he, like Ehrman, were once evangelicals of a sort.  But of course, that does not validate or invalidate their arguments.

I have a little more respect for Sam Harris’ logical skills, but I’m not sure he would be good enough for debate. 

The only atheist that I thought has ever given WLC a run is John R. Shook (mp3).  I don’t know what his reputation is in the atheist world, but as a Christian, I found him to be the only one so far that has seemed a good challenger to WLC.

However, I think that among up and coming theist debaters, Dinesh D’Souza is quite impressive.  After hearing him fairly trounce Hitchens (hotair), I bought the audiobook of What’s So Great About Christianity and found it quite impressive.   He also pretty much trounced Dan Barker at Harvard recently.

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 11:22 am

lukeprog: It’s true that other religions have not really even made an attempt at modern intellectual defense, but I don’t think this is because they are necessarily intellectually less plausible than Christianity.

Actually, I was reading Sir Norman Anderson in The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 1, and he discusses why the eastern religions fail in this regard.  With respect to Hinduism, he says that they have on interest in rationally or historically validating their claims, but rather, don’t think that intellectualism and history really apply to spiritual stories.  I’m not doing it justice, but I can transcribe it if anyone is interested.

With respect to Buddhism, no one disagrees that the Buddha existed, but his claims were entirely experiential, so there is no historical validation of such.

Also, Anderson was an expert in Islam, but I didn’t get to the part where he discussed that.

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 11:25 am

Damion: because he evidently believes that grounding moral values in an immaterial, ineffable, invisible friend is somehow vastly preferable to considering the desires and needs of mere earthly creatures.

I may misunderstand, but he is not arguing the merits of an invisible God v. man’s intellect, but rather, an objective, outside source of objective truth v. the subjective opinions of man.  Correct?

Further, I think that he is positing that, as per the ontological argument, if we can conceive of an ultimate objective good, it must exist.  But I am still coming up to speed on all of these arguments.

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lukeprog April 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

danielg,

Dinesh is… well, I want to call him a moron but that would be too harsh. He says the most ridiculous things, like that Christianity invented the idea of compassion. Most of his arguments are irrelevant to the topic at hand, like the worst atheist debaters.

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm

He is not the only one to argue that compassion was not a huge cultural value UNTIL the teachings of Jesus, esp. in the west.  I think that the argument has merit – not that xianity INVENTED it, but if you will, popularized it by providing a world view that valued it, and in a world view that extended it to general society and public policy, not just within the private or religious community sphere (as the affront of the parable of the good Samaritan accomplished, since Jews hated Samaritans – putting a Samaritan as the hero conflicted with most superficial views of compassion). 

I think that we take for granted that this view is now common, and think it was always so.  It may not have been, as D’souza argues.

In Rome, it was considered a weakness.  In many of the eastern religions, suffering was considered a karmic thing, not something to invoke compassion.  Even today, in India, while many people help after disasters, there is a lingering cultural saying/value of ‘if it’s not your family, don’t worry about it.’

I would like to know more about why you are so dismissive, if not irritated with D’Souza.  His educational credentials and his elocution show that he is not a ‘moron’ as you claim.  Is it his sometimes mocking tone?  His audacious claims, or his actual argumentation that you find ridiculous?  Your reply doesn’t seem like a serious one to me.

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lukeprog April 27, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Oh my god. Don’t get me started. D’Souza is a waste of my time.

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Can you at least point me to some good discussions/evaluations of WHY he is a waste?  Thanks.  I understand if you don’t want to aggravate yourself discussing it ;)

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lukeprog April 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Sorry, no. D’souza is best ignored. Just pretend I’ve never heard of him and am very busy responding to the apologists I find most compelling. :)

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 2:59 pm

OK, I understand, but I think that this approach was used towards Craig initially, which is what this thread is all about in the first place.  He was ridiculed and ignored until he made significant inroads.  Seeing as D’Souza is already challenging, and many say beating, many of the same atheist ‘debaters’ like Barker and Hitchens, and is already on that ‘high level’ playing field, I’m not sure it is wise to poo poo him like you did Craig.  That’s all.

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lukeprog April 27, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I don’t think he beat Barker and D’Souza at all, and I had never poo poo-ed Craig. Anyway, I have nothing more to say about D’Souza. :)

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Lorkas April 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I’m gonna go with Luke on this one. Craig is at least intelligent–Dinesh D’Souza is really not a good thinker, nor debater. If you want to see the difference, take notes on the threads of argument in a Craig debate and in a D’Souza debate. You will find that Craig follows what is happening in the debate fairly well, while D’Souza frankly loses track of the argument and utilizes strawman responses to his opponent’s claims (like, as Luke said, the worst debaters of any ideology do).

Also, I’m puzzled as to why you find his education impressive. He hasn’t really done much.

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm

OK, I’ll do that.  Please suffer one more question.  Are there any other theist or christian apologists that you find challenging besides Craig?  I don’t know them all, but I am thinking guys like

Alvin Plantinga
Michael Licona
Douglas Wilson

Kyle Butt
James White
Phil Fernandes

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danielg April 27, 2009 at 3:48 pm

I screwed up the Douglas Wilson link

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lukeprog April 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

There are a great many theists who offer serious arguments. Many of them are listed on my page of philosophers of religion.

Wilson, Butt, White, Fernandes only barely familiar with. I am more interested in the apologists who, for example, are published in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

Licona is going to be sorry that he denies using Bayes for history. He is going to be left behind, like those who have hitched their wagon to intelligent design or anti-gay doctrines. He’s going to become rapidly irrelevant if he does not acknowledge the power of probabilistic logic in doing history and everything else. Even Craig, a stalwart defender of “argument to the best explanation”, is beginning to admit this. I heard him defend a point in a debate with an atheist by saying, “but that assumes a frequentist view of probability, which isn’t the dominant view of probability” – unfortunately, the atheist had no idea what he was talking about. Also, the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (which Craig edited) contains a huge chapter defending the resurrection with a thoroughly Bayesian account.

Plantinga is the top defender of theism in the last 50 years. I could spend years doing nothing but responding to Plantinga, one publication at a time.

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Silas April 27, 2009 at 11:33 pm

In the debate between Kagan and Craig, Craig was beaten pretty badly. It shocked me because, for a long time, I thought he was truly unbeatable.

Kagan is very confident, knowledgeable, and charismatic – a philisopher Dr. House! It was painful seeing Craig so stressed. Of course, it wasn’t a severe win, considering the debate’s lenght and topic. I’m sure Craig’s still unbeatable when it comes to the topic, “Does God Exist?”

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toweltowel April 28, 2009 at 12:53 am

I’ll go ahead and give an example of the sort of thing d’Souza does that really rubs me the wrong way. In a debate with Peter Singer over God’s existence, Singer defended the argument from evil. When d’Souza was pressed for a response, his main point was that atheists talk about the problem of evil like they invented it, even though it’s found in the Book of Job, and that Christians have thought harder about the issue than atheists have. This, of course, is not even the beginning of a response to the argument. Instead, it is mere rhetorical posturing, a way of boosting one’s own side and playing to the crowd and scoring meaningless points rather than carefully examining the issue with an eye towards the truth. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect from a lawyer or advertiser or snake-oil salesman or politician.

I remember several other examples of this kind of conduct from the debate with Singer. It made me want to take a shower and re-read the Gorgias.

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Lorkas April 28, 2009 at 5:28 am

Silas: In the debate between Kagan and Craig, Craig was beaten pretty badly.

I guess I’ll have to finish watching it. I stopped because I don’t really agree with Kagan’s views on the objectivity of morals (would rape really still be wrong if no one thought it was wrong? on what basis do we say that?), and he didn’t seem to be arguing for that position so much as assuming it.

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lukeprog April 28, 2009 at 6:33 am

People keep saying that Kagan beat Craig, but I don’t remember it that way.

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danielg April 28, 2009 at 9:30 am

Thank you Luke, there is a lot there for me to study, that was very helpful.

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danielg April 28, 2009 at 12:25 pm

toweltowel: I’ll go ahead and give an example of the sort of thing d’Souza does that really rubs me the wrong way. In a debate with Peter Singer over God’s existence, Singer defended the argument from evil. When d’Souza was pressed for a response, his main point was that atheists talk about the problem of evil like they invented it, even though it’s found in the Book of Job, and that Christians have thought harder about the issue than atheists have.

First, let me say that I am not trying to be argumentative, or off-topic.  If I am, please smack me down gently.  But I am interested in discussing this in line with ‘how should we debate such questions.’

I think that in your example (good one, btw), D’Souza is not trying to be disingenuous or sophistic, per se (let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for the sake of argument ;).  Rather, I think he is taking a different approach or viewpoint. 

That is, rather than discussing the simple (if not water tight ;) logic of the traditional argument (god can’t be all good, powerful, and knowing and let suffering exist), DD is arguing that, at the very least:

1. Xianity does not IGNORE suffering as if it is some affront to the nature of God, but actually faces it as Job wrestles with the reality of suffering,.  Because he feels that he is ‘innocent,’ he is tempted to blame God with injustice, which is essentially what this argument does.  It is useful to see that Christianity recognizes this difficulty, and presumably has an answer to it.

2. Further, he is arguing that Xianity gives an answer to this problem which, though unsatisfying to the rational mind, is nevertheless authoritative and unequivocal - that is, God is OMNI-x even though ‘unjust’ suffering exists.  No explanation, no apologies from God – it is one of the few places that scripture says “you can’t understand entirely, I am God, and you are not, get used to mystery.”  Or as the man in black said, “Get used to disappointment.”

The conclusion in Job is shown when he actually ‘sees’ God face to face, and says in Job 42:1-6 :

“When I only knew ABOUT you, I thought I had a case against you. But now that I SEE you, I realize I didn’t know what I was talking about, and fall down in repentance.” (my paraphrase).

3. I think that DD is also taking an offensive tack by also saying that atheism itself doesn’t have good answers to these questions, perhaps even worse ones.  And of course, he brings up the corresponding ‘problem of good’ for atheism, which is an interesting turn.

Anyway, I am not saying that he is the best.  Yes, he may be a little irritating with his attitude, sloppy handling of classic arguments, and with respect to the problem of evil, his counter-intellectual, but biblical answer (‘God is omni AND lets suffering exist, and even though that doesn’t compute in your ‘simple’ logic, it is true, deal with it’).

A Related Principle to Discuss / Reject ;)
But just as a related note, I would like to express this thought, which I have found both profound and helpful, though it might be a tad distasteful to the materialist approach.  I have found that many profound truths appear in paradoxical pairs (free will / determinism, love/truth,  justice/mercy,), and they can’t seem to logically co-exist, yet experience tells us that they do, and that reason sometimes breaks down at the cusp of these ‘mysteries,’ kind of like Newtonian physics breaks down where relativity takes over.

Some of these topics are not fully explainable using ‘classic’ logical reasoning, but do we have the ‘Einsteinian’ or ‘quantum’ logic to go the next step?  It may include non-traditional forms of epistemology (intuition, anyone?). 

Just a thought.  You guys may have already considered this.   But back to the subject at hand.  I wanted to close with some ‘support’ for DD’s appeal to mystery as an anaswer to the problem of evil.

Paul the Apostle answered similarly in xxx when pressed about the predestination/free will enigma.  When it gets to the point of blaming God with injustice, he responds in Romans 9:18-21:

Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Basically, similar answer to DD’s approach to the problem of evil. I know that this may seem superficial or avoiding the question, but there is a point to be made that the biblical answer to this problem is indirect, and basically says ‘your approach of pure, simple logic is insufficient to answer this question,’ just as Newtonian physics was insufficient in some ways. So in defending DD, I am merely saying that I don’t think he is such a boob, though he may be sloppy and irritating ;).

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danielg April 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

lukeprog: There are a great many theists who offer serious arguments. Many of them are listed on my page of philosophers of religion.

Very nice list. I just so happened to come upon these related lists today. Enjoy.

Scientists Worth Knowing
Philosophers Worth Knowing
Historians Worth Knowing
Apologists Worth Knowing

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lukeprog April 28, 2009 at 1:22 pm

danielg, I appreciate your contributions here, and your gracious acceptance of my very personal policy on Dinesh D’Souza. toweltowel or anyone else may want to take you up on that discussion. :)

The scientists link is pretty bad. Only Polkinghorne has any respect among scientists. And why not include Francis Collins if they’re looking for apologetic scientists? Actually, all of these lists are really for apologists, not for the most important Christian philosophers or scientists. For example, an easy choice for one of the most important Christian philosophers is Inwagen, but they’re not going to list him because he’s also a materialist.

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danielg April 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I agree, the lists are short, and most are apologists.  They probably excluded Collins b/c he is a theistic evolutionist (which I think is less logical than either creationism or Darwinism).

I didn’t say that they were high quality lists, only that I happened to stumble upon them today.  Anyway, I’ll keep my eyes open.  Your list is still impressive.

And I am more interested, not just in apologists for various ideologies, but for those who do public debate – I know of some xians, atheists, and muslims, but that’s it.  I think ideological debate is invigorating and interesting, and I would love to do it someday, but right now, gotta raise the kids ;)

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Lorkas April 28, 2009 at 3:14 pm

lukeprog: The scientists link is pretty bad. Only Polkinghorne has any respect among scientists. And why not include Francis Collins if they’re looking for apologetic scientists?

I notice that, with the exception of Polkinghorne, the scientists are all creationists. I wonder if that has anything to do with it–perhaps Collins, who is a bit less friendly to the creationist position than is Polkinghorne, is too much of an evolutionist.

Ken Miller deserves to be on the list as well. Michael Behe is Catholic, so it can’t be that they are only including people from protestant denominations.

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lukeprog April 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm

danielg,

You may want to consider this.

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danielg April 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Lorkas:Michael Behe is Catholic, so it can’t be that they are only including people from protestant denominations.

Evangelicals, while they reject many RCC doctrines, have no problem including or quoting Catholics when they agree with their theology ;), and they pretty much do consider that many Catholics are Christian, even if the Catholic preaching creates fewer true believers than it could, do to their poor communication of the gospel, which is lost in tradition, works-salvation, and marianism.  But that’s another discussion.

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danielg April 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

lukeprog: danielg,You may want to consider this.

I did ;)  See my comment there (reproduced below)

That is a great quote, and I would love to open it up. I would also follow it with a quote from someone like Francis Bacon, father of the scientific method, or one of these others:

Atheism is rather in the lip than in the heart of man. Francis Bacon

A little philosophy inclineth a man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.
Francis Bacon

Or one of the other quotes from 101 Christian Quotes on Faith, Reason, Unbelief, and Atheism

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Lorkas April 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Francis Bacon: A little philosophy inclineth a man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.

Hopefully we can agree Bacon is just wrong here–there are plenty of deep philosophers (and shallow philosophers) on both sides of the debate. Francis Bacon’s opinion is still just one person’s opinion.

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Lorkas April 28, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Furthermore, take a look at any study that compares education level to religiosity to see that the quote is flat wrong. The more educated you are, the more likely it is that you will reject religion–especially fundamentalist religion.

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lukeprog April 28, 2009 at 6:49 pm

danielg,

Oh yeah. That was you. Sorry. :)

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Damion May 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm

lukeprog: People keep saying that Kagan beat Craig, but I don’t remember it that way.

I agree, but Kagan did about as well as anyone I can think of right now, except maybe Tabash who came out with a barrage of affirmative arguments, rebutted point-by-point, and called out drops.  

The only guy who comes to mind as a match for Craig is Jeff Lowder, but I’ve not heard even rumors about a possible matchup for a couple years now.

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Crazy Religious Nut June 4, 2009 at 3:29 pm

You do realize you’ve pretty much annihilated the meaning of debates, right? What’s the point of having a debate if the end result won’t be an understanding of the quality of the arguments involved? You MUST understand how pathetic this blog entry looks from the Christian’s perspective, right?

I’m sorry, I just don’t believe that anybody could win as many debates as Craig has won with crappy arguments that are plainly wrong. “Any given Sunday” is one thing, but EVERY given Sunday? There must come a point when the reasonable man stops and considers the possibility that “hey, this guy JUST MIGHT be on to something.” If you’ve already stopped and considered that, then fine. If not, then PLEASE shut up and consider it already. You don’t have to convert. Just consider it.

And if Craig ever DOES lose a debate, it’s wont be because his arguments were bad but because his opponent was just better at debating. That’s pretty much the only way he could lose.
(Do you see how that sounds? Do you?)

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rhys June 10, 2009 at 4:03 am

Craig has lost a debate, look up his debate with Shelley Kagan, he got freaking spanked, it was a really good debate actually, Kagan laid out the premises of objective morality without God, and Craig was not really able to rebut it.

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MikeB July 6, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Crazy Religious Nut: And if Craig ever DOES lose a debate, it’s wont be because his arguments were bad but because his opponent was just better at debating. That’s pretty much the only way he could lose. (Do you see how that sounds? Do you?)

I can say the same thing about Craig’s opponents.  They didn’t lose because their arguments were bad but because Craig is simply better at debating.  Do YOU see how that sounds?
I largely credit Craig debates for my atheism.  After listening to him regurgitate the same arguments over and over again, I couldn’t help but see how ridiculous the whole concept of Christian faith was.  So thank-you Dr. Craig for pointing the way!
I’m with Luke.  The more debates the better.  It gets the message out that there is an alternative to belief.  Anyone who has an ounce of doubt is going to come away from a debate with far more questions than answers.
 

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WNight August 3, 2009 at 3:39 am

If Craig wins anything it’s because of the structure of debates that scores points by making good-sounding statements in rounds, rather than making a sound argument.

Everything in his pet Kalam argument hinges on assuming that the universe can’t come from nothing, but god could.

W. T. F?

Anything based on these arguments is just obviously bunk. Only the tired ivory-tower debate structure protects him. He’s scored so many good-sounding ‘points’ about frequentist this, A-Theory time that, and Lorentzian special-relativity that the judges forget his whole point is “We don’t know, so god MUST have done it!”

Debating him in ‘his’ turf is pointless. Even if you could win, and it’d be more like prepping for Bill O’Reilly on Fox News – more like hostile speech-making than really debating an issue, you’d just have proved you could play the game.

I’d do it, if debates worked with chess clocks and any argument depending on a fallacy automatically lost.

The a-theist viewpoint is tremendously simple. All theisms are horrible failures with circular proofs, fallacious arguments, inconsistent and meaningless visions, etc, and no predictive power. Once you reject one the rest are more obvious. Once all are gone, you have no theisms.

WN vs WLC (or anyone else) – “Is (strong) atheism the only logical theistic viewpoint (with our evidence)?” In 5000 characters, or 5m on a chess clock.

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IntelligentDasein August 20, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Crazy Religious Nut: You do realize you’ve pretty much annihilated the meaning of debates, right? What’s the point of having a debate if the end result won’t be an understanding of the quality of the arguments involved? You MUST understand how pathetic this blog entry looks from the Christian’s perspective, right?I’m sorry, I just don’t believe that anybody could win as many debates as Craig has won with crappy arguments that are plainly wrong. “Any given Sunday” is one thing, but EVERY given Sunday? There must come a point when the reasonable man stops and considers the possibility that “hey, this guy JUST MIGHT be on to something.” If you’ve already stopped and considered that, then fine. If not, then PLEASE shut up and consider it already. You don’t have to convert. Just consider it.And if Craig ever DOES lose a debate, it’s wont be because his arguments were bad but because his opponent was just better at debating. That’s pretty much the only way he could lose. (Do you see how that sounds? Do you?)

You have no idea how narrow minded and arrogant this sounds. If anyone takes Dr. Craigs claims seriously, it is because of his great debating skills (although I think he probably lost to Tabash and Kagan) and seems to be a kind and charismatic person. His arguments all have large amounts of objections and powerful refutations. This is because THEY ARE NOT NEW and atheists have had centuries to develop strong counter arguments.  Being a great sophist has nothing to do with truth, it just makes you a better public speaker, this means Craig and his opponents are neither right or wrong from winning or losing a debate.

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Victor October 29, 2009 at 10:00 pm

“You have no idea how narrow minded and arrogant this sounds. If anyone takes Dr. Craigs claims seriously, it is because of his great debating skills (although I think he probably lost to Tabash and Kagan) and seems to be a kind and charismatic person. His arguments all have large amounts of objections and powerful refutations. This is because THEY ARE NOT NEW and atheists have had centuries to develop strong counter arguments. Being a great sophist has nothing to do with truth, it just makes you a better public speaker, this means Craig and his opponents are neither right or wrong from winning or losing a debate.”
—–

Craig’s arguments are both simple and deep. There is no hocus pocus. He makes his arguments as easy and simple to follow, his assumptions clear, and his objections are clear and to the point. Those are not the characteristics of a sophist.

From what you can tell, you are appealing to a distorted view of the history of philosophy of religion in order to dismiss the mere possibility that there must be something to Craig’s case. If you take a philosophy of religion class, you’ll find that the debate concerning God’s existence continues to this very day. Sure, there are atheists today publishing reasons and objections to why they don’t believe in the existence of God, but that is because they are in conversation (via the philosophical literature) with philosophers who do believe in the existence of God. In fact, the existence of God has once again become one of the hottest topics in the Philosophy of Religion.

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Mark Smith November 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm

WHAT the heck does John Loftus have against me? Damn, did I spill coffee on him or something? I do admit to buying his book, and trying to read it; however, having gone thru 30 or 40 pages, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I have not bad mouthed it to anyone, but were someone to ask, no, I do not recommend it. Too verbose and drawn out for my taste.

As for debating Craig, I have a whole section on my website regarding that topic JCnot4me.com and it pretty much agrees with what Common Sense Atheism has stated here.

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lukeprog November 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Mark,

I had to skip the opening part of John’s book, which you’re right is very verbose, but the rest is quite good.

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Will November 13, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Actually I think Craig is a waste of time in a debate. He relies on his dumping strategy too much, where he crams more points then is even possible to rebut, let alone remember…I was glad that Richard Carrier called him out on that. Once I noticed that, his debates became much less interesting. And in his Resurrection debates,he also cannot be aloud to appeal to majority opinion to establish historical “facts” about Jesus, then deduce from those fallaciously established “facts” the probability of a supernatural explanation. It is just absurd, but too many of his opponents let him get by with it by failing to call attention to it. Anyway, just an observation.

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Thoedore Skandelon November 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm

lukeprog: Damion,I’m not sure which atheistic dream team I would assemble for Godless Smackdown XVII. The problem is that atheists aren’t usually on a “mission” like Christian apologists are, so they aren’t very interested in doing tons of public debates. I would assemble heavyweights in philosophy of religion like Graham Oppy, Michael Martin, etc., but they don’t do debates and so they would get smacked down hardcore.  

Judging by all of the books being sold, I think that there is a lot at stake, particularly for atheists. Aside from the Internet, few if any would have any interest in freethought knowledge if not for the books published and promoted largely though debates and talkshows.

Unfortunately, when trained Christian apologists wipe the floor with these authors, they quickly loose their appeal and are reduced to atheistic caricatures rather than legitimate thinkers in the global arena of ideas.

Is ‘truth’ rising to the surface or is skill over-riding “truth”?

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josef johann December 5, 2009 at 3:43 am

I just watched the Kagan-Craig debate. And I’m surprised that two of you (by my count) think it was a tie. Really? Maybe Craig’s opening was stronger than Kagans (though I think Kagan’s was quite good), and perhapds you don’t feel that Kagan’s positive account of moral objectivity was compelling.

But Kagan not only answered every one of Craig’s challenges, he clearly had the upper hand through the whole question and answer period. He scored several hits against Craig that were never adequately answered. These included (1) Craigs question-begging argument that only meaning at a cosmological level was real meaning (2) that Christians, contrary to Craig’s claim, don’t act against self interest in the grand scheme of things given that they ultimately have a motive to get into heaven (3) the lack of accountability implicit in being able to ask for forgiveness after a life of sinning, and (4) the devastating point about the limited responsibility toward animals that Craig’s view advances, compared to what Kagan was able to say about taking care of them.

Where did Craig counter-balance this? His point about people not agreeing to the social contract maybe? I thought that might have been going somewhere, but even that one was answered by Kagan, and petered out. I don’t think Kagan’s account was completely satisfactory, but for the purposes of the debate itself, Craig just couldn’t puncture the social contract theory, he could only say “It’s hard to see why…” and criticize naturalism in general.

As a side note, the moderator didn’t seem really good. Asking Kagan about methods for preventing people from going against the social contract was off topic. And the question about differences in culture between societies wasn’t a point of disagreement between them. And while Craig was listing countries he felt that had a morally deficient character, why on earth interrupt to ask specifically about Saudi Arabia? And Craig didn’t prepare a closing statement, which suggests to me that it was an impromptu suggestion on the part of the moderator.

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Paul Thacker December 19, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I would debate Craig in a heartbeat. I would need 4 weeks of prep time, no more. Assuming maximized publicity (unrealistic) and excellent exposure after the fact (realistic), Craig’s debating career would be over.

The reason Craig wins debates is not, as the author states, that he is so knowledgeable and such a skillful debater. As far as information is concerned, he repeats the exact same ‘facts’ in every debate I have seen…details that anyone could gather by reading apologetic resources for 60 minutes or less. Or by watching one of his debates.

And he does not ‘win’ because he is a skillful debater, he wins because is a skillful bullshitter. A skilled debater and a bullshitter are very similar, but different in that the debater’s arguments are at least respectable and reasonable on some level and so require serious consideration and engagement. The bullshitter’s arguments are inane and incoherent and capitalize on nothing more than semantics and misdirection. Craig is a bullshitter, and there is only one way to deal with a bullshitter: mock the stupidity of their arguments in a way the audience can appreciate. Craig’s opponents take him too seriously, and continually fail point out the stupidity of his semantic arguments and the pettiness of his misdirection games. He must be dealt with like a know-it-all seventh grader, and the audience needs to be prepared for his silly games via a pointed opening argument that tells them exactly what nonsense to look for when he speaks.

To put an end to Craig’s games, the prepared opponent should assemble as an opening argument: (a) a mockumentary alerting the audience what obvious fallacies to look for hidden in Craig’s arguments and rebuttals and (b) a five-minute address of Craig’s 5 (sometimes 6) central arguments, with each one concisely and utterly destroyed in such a way that Craig’s future rebuttals violate clearly/are unable to overcome the initial rebuttal. Future rounds should consist of only minimal, concise positive argumentation and rely heavily upon prepared, forceful rebuttals to Craig’s standard whining and wolf-cries about ‘logic’.

To humiliate a bullshitter, you cannot take them seriously. You must call them on their bullshit and demonstrate to everyone else that they are, in fact, a bullshitter with no real regard for the ‘rules’ they attempt to capitalize upon in their arguments and rebuttals. As odd as it sounds, your goal must be to expose their disingenuousness – not to actually engage them.

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DoAtheistsExist? February 19, 2010 at 10:07 am

Good post.
You guys, as atheists, always argue (correctly in my opinion) that just because WLC wins almost all of his debates certainly does not mean he is right.
All it proves is that he is a good debater.

Yet why are you so concerned about someone fulfilling all your criterion in order to beat WLC in a debate??
Surely when you, Luke, beat WLC in a debate in <15 years (which I'm pretty sure is what will ultimately happen) all you'll have proved is that you are a good debater.

So it seems to me that there are only really two options.
Firstly, to say that debates are actually very superficial and not at all good indicators of real truth, which followed to the right conclusion would also mean that you wouldn't be concerned with engaging in debates since they serve no purpose. Or, secondly, that debates are useful tools and can often be good guides for truth seekers and so should be embraced and good debating skills be prioritized.

Rather you seem to have chosen a hybrid whereby you say that when WLC wins all his debates it doesn't mean his belies are true, yet still atheists should try hard to beat him in a debate and devote a lot of time and energy on honing debating skills, even though debates are not at all virtuous with regards to finding truth.

Also, when you ultimately do beat WLC in a debate, you're begging the reponse by theists of "Yeah but no but yeah but just cos you won doesn't mean your stupid beliefs are true, so HA!". Which of course I do not advocate, but I'm just saying that you invite that reponse by the current line that you're taking.

If and when atheists do start trouncing all the top Christian apologists in the world in debates, will you still hold the line that just because you won the debate doesn't mean you're right?

Also, I'm sure I'm completely wrong on this, but is it not disturbingly dishonest and fustratingly close minded to dismiss any scientific/mathematical/philosophical argument/piece of evidence with "Nah it's not true, you're just very good at presenting it/really clever."?

I know this isn't essentially what you're saying but you are kind of heading down that line in my opinion.

I'm sure you'll rip my point apart in seconds but I thought I'd give it a go. :P

Your thoughts?

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lukeprog February 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm

However poor they are for getting at truth, debates are great at getting people to think about issues they haven’t considered before. And it makes the atheist position look bad when WLC is more skilled at debate than almost all his atheist opponents. That’s why I encourage atheists to start bothering with debate training if they want to make a difference.

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Fordi February 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I agree here; Craig is almost always unconvincing but persuasive, and that’s a dichotomy that only ever comes with being damned good at arguing a wrong point.

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Fordi February 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm

DoAtheistsExist?: Good post.
You guys, as atheists, always argue (correctly in my opinion) that just because WLC wins almost all of his debates certainly does not mean he is right.
All it proves is that he is a good debater.Yet why are you so concerned about someone fulfilling all your criterion in order to beat WLC in a debate??

Because winning a debate wins hearts, while having the more accurate argument wins minds. We’ve got minds, but to really wake everyone up, we need their hearts as well.

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Steven March 27, 2010 at 8:58 am

I have Shelly Kagen did well against him.

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DoAtheistsExist? April 10, 2010 at 8:38 am

Oh dear, John Loftus comes across as very insecure and defensive in this comments section. *cringe*

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Anonymous May 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Quentin Smith apparently is qualified to debate WLC because when he debated him he eviscerated Craig.

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jesus July 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I dont know why you say that know one is worthy to debate with Mr. Craig. Mr Craig says the same things in every single one of his debates, actually I memorized most of his intro by now. Mr Craig always plays safe by never debating “inerrancy of the bible” it seems as if his message is as long as you can not prove what you are saying with fact then I think that my argument is stronger. Mr. Craig is amazing at what he does, when going against people such as Bart Ehrman, Arif Ahmed and Shelly Kagen you can see how Mr. Craig struggles and fails to prove his point. I think the biggest loss for Mr. Craig was when debating Shelly Kagen. Mr Craig is amazing at speeches but has a very hard time in the Q&A portion of his debates.

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Rhys Wilkins July 3, 2010 at 6:37 pm

There is one person qualified to debate Big Bad Bill, and that is Jeff Lowder. I am actually really suprised you hasven’t mentioned him at all Luke. He has tons of L.D. debating exp, knows the arguments like the back of his hand, and he has the same smooth speaking style that B.B.B. does.

I am still wondering why Jeff hasn’t had a crack at hime yet, he would do better than anyone has done so far.

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Doug Groothuis December 1, 2010 at 11:40 pm

How about this? Craig wins because he has the better arguments. You cannot just say he is a better debater and leave aside the actual arguments. That is that he trades on, the bread and butter. He is a philosopher who marshals arguments in a rhetorically effective manner, but it is not “mere rhetoric” as some may put it.

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Luke Muehlhauser December 2, 2010 at 7:09 am

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Ramses January 6, 2011 at 4:55 am

Great website here Luke, I hope you know the value of this archive.

Anyway, I have to agree with the sentiment that Kagan beat Craig. Especially when Kagan said (quoting from memory, not exact):

“If you want, I could play this game. I could ask you ‘How does God saying we are special make us special?’ and you say ‘well, we have a soul! ‘How does having a soul make us special?’ until eventually we just have to say ‘You know, to me, this makes us special.’ I have told you exactly what makes us different: our ability for poetry, mathematics, astrophysics, etc. If that doesn’t satisfy you, I don’t know what will.”

Craig is certainly very competent and cunning, but he is not literally unbeatable. Even Napoleon lost eventually.

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thom waters January 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Luke,

Stumbled upon this site yesterday. Pretty interesting stuff.

Have listened to Craig, Habermas, and others with regard to the Resurrection debates and defenses that they offer. While it appears that many of your visitors are interested in the Existence of God debate, my interest is the Resurrection. I have studied, researched and debated this topic for some 35 years now, and I would add two things to your outstanding list of things to arm yourself with when debating the likes of Craig and others.

1–This might hurt some, but look the part. Craig understands that much of the presentation in a debate depends on something as shallow as appearance. He always “looks” scholarly, which he is. He gives the appearance of not only one who has done his homework, but someone who is respectful of the setting, organized, and focused. Too often his opponents give the appearance of “being above it all” and come dressed very casual and informal. Then they come across as arrogant, aloof, and somewhat scattered. Look the part. It counts for more than you might think.

2–Know his argument as well, if not better, than he knows it. By this I necessarily mean that you must know and be able to recognize the weaknesses in his argument. Believe me, he doesn’t want these weaknesses to be brought up, but he knows they exist. Part of your job is to make sure that these weaknesses are exposed. Too often his opponent is only concerned with making his or her own view or opinion known. You cannot simply focus on what you want to discuss relevant to your own argument but you must be able to bring to light the weaknesses of his argument that he wants to avoid. This is a matter of focus for you, but can only be done if you have done the necessary research that takes many hours of preparation.

I doubt that Craig, Habermas, or others would entertain the notion of debating someone like myself who is unknown to them. They depend on having a “known” opponent whose argument they can already examine and know where to attack. This allows them to very “offensive” in their debates and when they can put their opponent on the “defensive” the debate for them is almost surely won. It would be outside their “debating circle” to engage anyone who was an unknown even if prior to the debate we agreed on the scope or rules to be followed. Too much to risk.

Anyway, thought I would drop you a comment. Good luck.

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Mark Smith January 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm

John Loftus, ex-student of Craig, will be in Orange County, California, on Tuesday, 7 pm, Feb 8, at a meeting of Backyard Skeptics. Email me for details. JCnot4me@aol.com

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Luke Muehlhauser January 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm

thom waters,

Yup, good points.

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Maz January 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Good grief ! Dumping strategy , LD debates annd what not .. seriously these sound silly and rather condescending to the theists.Formulating some sound arguments for your side would be a good start.

Get people who can offer sharp concise rebuttals.Kagan is one guy who had pulled ahead slightly.Arif Ahmed had his moments too before WLC reined him in.

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veritas January 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Im afraid that WLC cannot lose a debate against atheist simply because he is telling the truth and that is why his arguments are so solid. By now every atheist that is going to debate WLC knows all of his arguments but yet again fails to disprove them. Why? Because that is the truth. Anyway we will never prove the existence or non-existence of God, you must choose to belive or not to belive and that is your own personal choice. Good luck winning WLC in debate!

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thom waters January 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Another matter would be whether Dr. Craig might lose a debate with a theist over his Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection. To challenge him specifically on this approach suggesting that the Resurrection is the best explanation for the “facts” as we have them would be a debate worth watching. He has never, to my knowledge, been taken to task on this position. At least it has not been attempted, to my knowledge, by anyone who might offer a reasonable challenge. Everyone seems to go along with his suppositions instead of challenging them at their core. It can, of course, be done. It’s only a question of whether such a debate would ever happen. Not even Bart Ehrman seems willing or able to confront this approach head-on. Anyway, just a thought.

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William Battle January 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

A quick question to the blogger….

Why do you just debate William Lane Craig yourself? I mean… if you know what you are doing and what it takes to win then by all means, you should be able to defeat him…

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William Battle January 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm

A quick question to the blogger….
Why dont you just debate William Lane Craig yourself? I mean… if you know what you are doing and what it takes to win then by all means, you should be able to defeat him…  

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Dobbie February 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm

The way I see it, W.L. Craig often uses non secuitur. One of the ways he does it is to evoke the name of a “reputable” scholar. And says he agrees with that man. After he’s done that, he pretty much declares that he has established a fact in accordance with that scholar. Eventually you’ll hear him say something such as “I think I have made it clear that ….” But all he has done really is to say that he finds himself in accord with the scholar in question. It cannot establish a fact or make a fact “clear.”

As for the statement itself of the scholar in question, whatever it is, it’s often controversial in nature. Despite that, W.L. Craig says he established this or that fact, but in fact he has never done so. In this way, non secuitur is one of his M.O.s.

Dobbie

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believeordoubt February 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I’m a theist, but I’ve been thinking about debating Craig — not that I’m qualified to do so. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy and studied at Talbot School of Theology (home of J.P. Moreland, Craig’s good friend and colleague), so I know the arguments both he and J.P. make. But I’m no debater.

Make no mistake, they are very smart and know their stuff. That’s why I’d fear such a confrontation. I am a Christian. I agree with his conclusions. But I don’t think his arguments work. Or at least, they could only work if a good case for dualism and or agent-causation can be made in a non-question-begging way.

I’ve seen a good number of his debates, and I have to admit some pleasure at seeing arrogant atheists bumble around before him. I just wish the arguments on the Jesus side were better.

The only atheist I saw that really hit what I take the main weakness of some of Craig’s arguments was Daniel Dennett. Dennett was, of course, bumbling too (it sounded like he was totally unprepared for the encounter), but toward the end of his bumble he touched upon Craig’s controversial yet rarely challenged distinction between personal and scientific causation. The vast majority of philosophers don’t believe there is a distinction, but Craig uses this distinction as a premise — he can’t just help himself to it in an argument, given how controversial it is. I know that Moreland will definitely have arguments for personal causation; I’m sure Craig would follow suit (the two are in agreement on most philosophical matters, as far as I can tell). But I think they can be challenged.

But I have to agree with Luke, atheists aren’t taking their debates with Craig seriously enough. It’s a bitter sweet victory every time I watch Craig in action. I feel like Glaucon in the Republic watching Socrates bash Thrasymachus. When’s Book II coming?!

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Dobbie March 2, 2011 at 3:37 pm

believeordoubt wrote:

I am a Christian. I agree with his conclusions. But I don’t think his arguments work.

I’m agnostic-atheist and have come to the same conclusion–Craig’s arguments don’t work. He begins with a “plausibility” (his word), which simply means a possibility. But then no matter what else he brings up he ends with the same degree of “plausibility.” So his argument really doesn’t advance itself. It really only comes full circle.

I’ve listened to 10 segments of his “Existence of God” classroom audio lecture. Each segment goes for about 20 minutes; so it goes on for quite a bit of time altogether.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=podcasting_main

But he always ends up pretty much back where he started from at the end of each one.

One of the reasons the overall argument doesn’t get much of anywhere is that WL Craig wants it both ways. For example he wants “infinity” to be a number (which it isn’t) while he explains that “infinity” isn’t a number.

He wants the Big Bang to have come out of absolute nothing according to physicists while he explains that according to physicists the Big Bang came out of nothing known.

In the end he’s a “God of the gaps” philosopher. That is, if science doesn’t know it and may never know it, then “God did it.” But WL Craig doesn’t know whether “God did it” or how God did it. For the latter, he just claims in general Well, by definition God is all powerful. And it’s what I mean by his going in a circle.

Dobbie

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Tom April 6, 2011 at 9:20 am

I just came upon this forum after listening to the WLC-Krauss debate. Although I haven’t read all the posts, can I just ask a question for anyone familiar with most of WLC’s debates…Has anyone who ever debated WLC after his 5 point argument in his opener, then simply (for sake of argument) allowed for the existence of a god, and then tried to take the debate off of WLC’s preferred course and presented different flaws in Christianity (the god of the OT, for example), and force Craig to defend these problems. If so, were they successful?

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com April 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I’m agnostic atheist, and as you might expect, I say that WL Craig’s arguments don’t work.

He tells us that his arguments are possibly true. Of course he likely uses the words “more plausible.”

But no matter how plausible his argument may sound, the existence of his particular God may not be for real, anyway. That is, in spite of the form of argument, either the Bible God is real or isn’t.

In the end he doesn’t ask whether is argument is plausible; he just tells us it is.

I could start off with the way he starts off. He chooses the Kalam argument for the existence of a God, but he frames it in opposition to the atheist view that the cosmos came from nothing.

Well, in the first place the origination of the cosmos isn’t an atheist view, it’s a scientific model (and naturally the model is open for revision).

But WL Craig will say as much as the “atheist view” is pat, fixed. And that particular statement of his serves as his springboard for the rest of his argument.

The catch is, physicists explain that the model they talk about, hypothesizes that the cosmos came from a quantum sea. Though the quantum realm they speak of may be different from time and space as we know it, it’s nevertheless still something. In other words, the hypothetical quantum-sea cause of the so-called Big Bang was mostly nothing that we know about. Physicists are fond to abbreviated it and call it nothing for short. I think they are crazy for talking like that, because the standard impression of nothing is nothing whatsoever and no potential.

Anyway, WL Craig knows it, that physicists mean a quantum sea and really not nothing whatsoever. But then WL Craig executes an about-face, anyway, and argues against the “atheist view” that the cosmos came from nothing at all.

Thus WL Craig uses equivocation of words. The above equivocation is just one example within his arguments.

The rest of his Kalam argument is a ramification on that particular but incorrect premise of his. As it seems, his listeners aren’t suppose to see where he palmed a card by using his equivocation of words.

Thus his Kalam argument with respect to the “atheist view” does little or nothing at all.

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Mitch April 7, 2011 at 2:32 am

You’re my favourite atheist…

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Scote April 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm

“Let me repeat. Craig has done 20+ years of Ph.D+ level research in the two fields he debates

Well there is a Red Herring.

Yes, many people are unqualified to debate WLC. But it isn’t because WLC has a Ph.D or because of his 20 years of “research.” His arguments are just as vacuous as those of any other apologist, perhaps more so. The reason so many people are unqualified to debate WLC is because he is a very practiced, glib and polished debater, one expert in formal debate tricks and meretricious arguments. Please don’t confuse that with academic qualifications.

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Ray April 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I know this is a 2 year old thread but I am dying to know how you all think Sam Harris did the other day?

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Rosita April 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm

It seems that debators of WLC have not yet challenged him on the basis of his Kalam argument for the existence of a god who is merely defined into existence.

Is WLC’s version of god “something” or “nothing”? If it is “something” then why is it/he the only something that is eternal?

What about the other inhabitants of “heaven” and “hell”? Are they also examples of some things that came from nothing and/or are eternal? Or did they have a beginning? If they had a beginning, then why must the chief god be the only exception?

What about Jesus, the man? Did he have a beginning? Did he grow and change?

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Roberto Aguirre Maturana May 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Rocky is not qualified to defeat Apollo Creed, anf Po is not Qualified to defeat Tai Long. And I cannot think of someone better than Matt Dillahunty to debate William Lane Craig.

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Katarinuccia May 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

What depresses and terrifies me is how you guys seem to fear this “respected theologican” because he has a PHD and is good at rethorics. How can a person “win” any discussion about morality with “apologetics like this`?

” So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.”

This is WLC defendend the wholesale murder of Canaaite men, women . children and babies.The guy you admire so mich for his PHD and debating skills probably is psychopath so entirely devoid of all compassion and empathy he seems to begin his theroteical reasoning about how “evil” ALL of the Canaaites were,especially since they were pracitsing child sacrifice.So the best solution for this was killing ALL the babies so they didn’t risk getting saxcrificed on a later occasion. His concern is not for the terrifed women and children (has he got a wife and children of his own, I wonder, Can he strech his compassionate imagination to picture them in a similar situation)? His concern is for the pshycological damage that might occur for the poor woman and baby slashing soldiers.
Having a “morality” like that disqualifies this person from any discussion with any person with a mininmal moral sense and abilithy to empathise.

A morality like this is based on “might makes right”, nothing else, and this does not take any sophisticated debate skills to argue for. It’s enough to be a fundamentalist, creationist something and language itself looses it’s meaning and we cannot use words like “love” or “good” or “evil” anymore, or say anything else for that matter. The mind and language breaks down ,if we really belived this we would all go crazy like Ingersoll said. There has even been a number of murders by insane mother’so fundamentalist creed of their children as to save their souls following something similar to WLC’s logical theolgical reasoning. They thought God demanded this of them. They would sacrifice their own souls to save those of their children . No need to wait for the for the PHD , can’t you see how naked this puffed up emperor is? A child would.

I can’t understand how you can see this as an amusing game.
It’s only sad and depressiong and a total waste of the effort of that PHD you are aspiring at. Don’t waste in on theology if you have any real moral sense and want to make the world a better place more enlightened place at least. You can do better for sure.

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Brian Dalton June 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm

The reason WLC “wins” so many of these debates is that the very act of “debating” reinforces the fallacy from which Craig begins. A “debate” (almost by definition) presumes that mere argument is sufficient to answer questions such as, “Does God Exist?”

When Carl Sagan said that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, I’m sure he was not asking whether one can make a good argument for the existence of x. We need actual evidence because one of the things that we’ve learned in developing the modern scientific method is that humans are awful at (merely) thinking through such questions. So much of what we thought we knew via reason and rationality proved to be utter nonsense. There is a great deal of life that is entirely counterintuitive and cannot be presumed settled solely on the basis of argument. For Craig, a good argument is the end of things. For a scientist, a good argument is the beginning — the point at which we take that “hypothesis” (and that is all Craig ever offers) and begin testing it to see if it can survive our observations.

Anyone who begins a debate with WLC without first and foremost challenging the premise and value of pure argument (and the debate itself) will appear to lose. Without forcing Craig into the real world and requiring actual evidence (as opposed to mere argument), his opponents hand him a victory merely by showing up. In the real world, science has succeeded where philosophy and theology failed for millennia. The debate between pure reason and observation was decided long ago as Bacon’s ideas prevailed over Descartes’. Unfortunately, very few of Craig’s opponents seem to be aware of that fact, or are at least unwilling to point it out.

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Katarinuccia June 11, 2011 at 4:03 am

It still beats me WLC seem so revered and respected, The man in lying on his site, going into advanced contortoins trying to explain away blatant bible atrocities, absurd cruelty. His defense for the smiting of the Amalakeite were that they had a vicious culture demanding child sacrifice so best off killed. But in the case of child sacrifice demanded by YWE, there is a different tune. The bible states cleary, thT Jepht was to make a burnt offering of his only daughter, Craig tries to explain tis away as if she was only becoming a temple servant or someting like that.While it says BURNT OFFERING. This is the child that unlike Isaac didn’t get away. We don’t hear
so much about this incident , maybe because the child was a girl.
I don’t understand the finer mechanism of philosophical debate, but I regoqnise a description of barabarous cruelty, even more cruel since parent’s and children are involved. These are relaltionships that in the real world tends to mean the most to us. We can even say the holiest.Many if not most parents prepared to die for their child. I wonder if Craig would be prepared to hand his own daughter over as burnt offerings if he was pursuaded God wanted this.?Craig has himself admitted to that no amount of evidence would ever sway him or change his mind. Did he ever stop to think about the personal implications for having believs like this? What if a child of his falls away? Would he think it ok to stone it (luckily not demanded under present legislation) but would he THINK it still would be “reasonable”?
Why give a mind frame like this a platform? But if you must why fear debating him (unless he comes to the debate carrying a knife and a torch). Forget the philosophical chess game.Talk about real consequenses!
He is also a creationist. How hard are that “science” to refute? why the fear and trembling and bowing. Maybe a woman might debate him better. An intelligent, wellinformed even sans PHD like the humanist Granny Daisy,96 I know. She’d most likely put him on her knee and paddle him with the backside of her hairbrush a bit for having such nasty fantasies.

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DeepThinker June 14, 2011 at 4:03 am

I must admit I haven’t read all the posts here but I’ll offer my take on this anyway. What I see Craig doing is 1. He always goes first. 2. He sets up the argument in a way that cannot be rationally defeat (using his philosophy training – I’ll explain below). 3. He hangs in there focussing only on whether you have defeated his argument – ignoring yours except to ridicule it where he can. 4. He then claims that you have not defeated his argument so he wins not matter what your argument said.
Now let me give an example. “God exists unless you can prove otherwise. To prove otherwise you have to defeat my argument. To do that you have to either show me what premise is incorrect or what logic is incorrect (and what he doesn’t actually state is that the scientific method and normal reasoning doesn’t count – instead you have to use theological reasoning (which we all know is very wishy-washy)”. Now because you can’t falsify his logic theologically, then he wins.
My advice on how to beat him is to
1. refuse to debate him unless it is done using the scientific method
or 2. debate him but tell the audience that a fundamental principle of the scientific method (which came from philosopy (after rejecting god) is that nothing exists until there is sufficient evidence to rationally believe that it does. Therefore you dont have to prove anything, its Craig that has to prove that God exists. BUT if you do this you need to know this argument thoroughly and have practised it. It might be useful to point out that at least the Cosmological argument is used by Muslims when “proving” that Allah exists as well (and find out what other arguments they use as well – they probably use all of them except the Jesus argument). Point out that the universe may have been made by a group of gods instead (afterall most complex things in the modern world are not designed by a single person). Also there is no need for God to be male, good, perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc… to create the universe. Also point out that the god that supposedly raised Jesus from the dead may have been a different god – no reason to suppose it was the same one. Point out the errors in the bible. Point out that perfectly moral god had a child out of wedlock with a member of a different species (so contradicting his own moral code). Have plenty of other ways to ridicule his argument for the sake of the audience so that they might see how rediculous theology is.
or 3. Refuse to debate whether god exists or not and instead attack the question by saying that Theologians are simply religious spin-doctors. They manipulate the truth, misuse logic, rely on ignorance and blind faith etc… to justify a position they have already decided is true. Appeal to the audience to consider the case that religion is man-made and that the “truth” is whatever the theologian tell you. Point out that religion is all about politics, power and money and state your case accordingly. The more followers they have, the more thay get in donations, the more they can do “gods work”. God is just the smokescreen to get you to sign up. The reward you get when you die is just a lie (think of how easily we laugh at the 72 virgin a muslim-suicide-bomber is promised). Provoke the audience enough and you will no-doubt get some people thinking.

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bob June 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Ray Bradley and Victor Stenger did really good against Craig as well as Austin Dacey…I think you are exaggerating to make a point which is fine for a blog post. Its not simply tactic is acting confident and delivery style that you seem impressed with.

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com June 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm

by DeepThinker:

Point out that the universe may have been made by a group of gods instead (afterall most complex things in the modern world are not designed by a single person).

In his loooong class lecture series, WL Craig addresses the question of plural gods making the universe. To defend the doctrine of one God making the cosmos, Craig calls on Occam’s Razor (which states that the fewer of anything, the better). Believe it or not, he responds with Occam’s Razor. In case anybody wishes to give a listen to WL Craig’s Occam’s Razor response, it’s at ReasonableFaith.org “The Existence of God” part 13.

26:00 minute mark
http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/Defenders2_ExistenceofGod13.mp3

I like to say that, in that case Occam’s Razor necessarily also does away with the Christian Trinity. And also with the existence of angels.

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Steve July 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I’m wondering what is mean when you or Andrew say that someone is ”not qualified to debate William Lane Craig.” Is that statement a matter of fact that potential debaters should consider for themselves? Then why name people? And who made you the judge anyway, when you name people? Do you know me and what I am capable of doing?


If the statement is a rhetorical device telling someone he or she should first bone up on debate tactics and on the issues, then fine. But then, why name people?

Are you trying to issue an imperative that would prohibit non-qualified people from debating him? What reason do you have for issuing such an imperative? Is it because you think non-qualified people who lose to Craig somehow do your position less than justice? If so, what reason should a potential debater have for obeying your imperative? Would YOU obey your own imperative if Craig emailed you and invited you to debate him? What obligations does a potential debator have toward you if he wants to debate Craig, since it’s an honor to do so?

Besides, I do indeed think I have what it takes. Don’t try to tell me otherwise. But then why should I give a damn what you think anymore when you place me in the category of Mark Smith?

You’re not qualified to debate William Lane Craig.

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Hitch July 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm

This is fair advice for your average numb skull web forum atheist – i.e. all atheists on the web.
Atheist fundamentalists are the most inane dimwits on earth not to mention rampallian scomm.

ROTFLMAO is the only reasoned response to the average atheists codswallop.
Get a working brain dear atheist dupe, before your mommy discovers you’re playing with dangerous things like computers retard.

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Brian Dalton July 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Dearest Hitch, I think you proved yourself king of the inane dimwits with this post. Perhaps next time, you can give us something of actual substance as opposed to the 3rd-grade name-calling drivel you’ve offered here (or does that require a working brain?). Also, it might be helpful to learn about punctuation before you return (“…computers, retard.”). And please, let us all know when the feeling returns to your skull — you’ll know when it happens, as the feeling of foolish certainty will fade dramatically.

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J Farrell July 21, 2011 at 6:12 am

I think one of the reasons that Craig consistently beats his opponents is because they underestimate his arguments. They don’t take them seriously as you demonstrated by your absurd caricature of Craig’s position.
You’re saying that after a lifetime of study and research a brilliant guy like Craig has come to believe in an old codger who lives in the clouds, who strokes his long white beard as he stares down at humankind. Is that what you really think his position is?
Until you take seriously the proposition that he’s arguing for an intelligent volitional mind as the Being from which all causes have their beginning, you won’t have a chance at beating him.
Furthermore, Craig argues that this same Being condescended to His creation, Man, to communicate with him and to help solve his dilemma that he is not the way he ought to be and deserves judgement. Craig bases this on the historicity of well-attested facts from writings in the 1st and early 2nd century, and especially the genesis of the disciples belief in the Resurrection. Those who would argue this must come up with a good explanation for these facts that Craig asserts without violating Occam’s Razor.

Now Craig always uses the same arguments. It’s no mystery. So how is it then that nobody seems to be able to beat him if all he argues for is an almighty Semitic sky god and a magic superbeing that came back to life and flew up into the sky 2,000 years ago?
Is it possible that this inaccurate caricature that his opponents have going into the debate is what costs them the debate?
If Craig’s position is not true then it will be good arguments and not caricatures that will defeat that position.

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Katarinuccia July 21, 2011 at 6:48 am

Farrell

So is arguing that the genocice , rape and murders in Ot are defendable using pretzel theology is sound argument.? Jefthas dauughter was no burnt offering inspite of thats the exact wordng of the text (nomistranslation there) but served aome sort of virgin cult. virgin or something like that.

Why aren’t those argument not adressed in debates with WLC? I think they are the heart of the matter. Abraham child sacrifice was no real sacrifice , just a cruel “test”.
But Jeftas daughter was the real thing.A BURNT offering because of her fathers mistake. She is forgotten by most because she was an insignificant woman it seems.

How can nayone defend absurd cruleties likethis and be considered a deep thinking, respected theologican.
It beats me , a philosophically and theologically uneducated woman who just see it from the simple empathic emotional and MORAL point of ciew, I just wouldnot offer my daughter up as a burnt offering no matter what. Any sane person with a tiny speck of empathy and moral sense will find these stories in the OT revolting and a person who defends them is slandering the God he claims to defend , if any God exits IT might not be on Craigs side at all. It might be for us rather than against us.

To me the emperor isvery naked indeed in my eyes. He has his tactics to avoid discussing these simple question b ut hiding in theological rethoric. Why just not have a normal discussion with him, like Shelly Kagan did , and very well to. Craig din’t come out so razor sharp then.

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Dobbe@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com July 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm

>by Katarinuccia: How can nayone [WL Craig] defend absurd [biblical] cruleties likethis and be considered a deep thinking, respected theologican.

Just for your personal information, WL Craig has defended biblical cruelties in the past. His reasons have been as follows:

1) Whatever the Bible God does, it’s for the greater good in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, the Bible God can do anything, and it will be a good thing in the long run.

2) A story of a biblical cruelty is worded to relate to people. That is, like allegory, it’s language that people can understand. Therefore, the Bible describes cruelties that the Bible God didn’t do, and would never do, literally.

I’ve heard WL Craig explain away biblical cruelties in this way, in YouTube debates between him and athesists. Also he does it in his super-long classroom series, “The Existence of God,” his Reasonable Faith.org website podcast.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=podcasting_main

His opponents, of course, find his defense in this case to be unsatisfactory. I like to say that WL Craig often gets into trouble when he gets specific. And that’s why he mostly uses generalities.

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J Farrell July 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Katarinuccia-
I feel much the same way that you do, believe me. There are plenty of things in the Bible that disturb me and cause me to wonder. I would cite Romans 9, for instance, where it says that God has made some for destruction and others for mercy. I’m really uncomfortable with that as well as a host of other things.
I should ask you though if we should believe something to be true only because we like it? To me that is not a good measuring stick of truth.
Perhaps there is a God who acts in the ways described in the Bible (the pleasant and unpleasant). The fact that we don’t like what He does would have no bearing on whether or not He exists.

As far as WLC is concerned, you mentioned that he has not been challenged on that point. However, I have heard him challenged many times on that point. His debate with Bill Cooke is one example.
I would recommend listening to his answer from his own lips, but I think I could sum up his answer somewhat.

He says that if it’s even possible that God has a morally permissible reason for the things He does, how can we affirm that a good God does not exist? All God would need is one reason, possibly beyond our understanding, for permitting something evil in order to attain a greater good. Like God says, “My ways are not your ways, nor My thoughts your thoughts. For as high as the heavens so are my ways higher than your ways.”
WLC goes on to talk about how morality is not some standard that exists before God by which He is judged, it is a standard that issues forth from Him. In other words, God’s decrees as a product of His own being determine what morality is. He (or It or She) is the basis of morality.

With respect to the OT examples you cited, I would offer the following.

1. God’s command to slaughter the inhabitants of Canaan (which I think it what you’re referring to) was a decree of judgement on a people who (in God’s eyes) were wicked. I don’t like the killing of any person yet the Bible seems to indicate that this was punishment that fit the crime (from God’s perspective).

2. The cruel test of Abraham, as you put it, was used to justify a particular method of salvation.
God had promised Abraham that Isaac would be the son through which he would become a “father of many nations”. It says in Hebrews (NT) that Abraham believed that if he did kill Isaac that God would raise Isaac to life again to fulfill His promise. God wanted to see if Abraham truly had faith in Him or not.
Because Abraham trusted God, God used it as a justification for salvation in that human beings, who cannot attain God’s moral standards, can instead be justified by faith (trust in God for delilverance). God later sacrificed His own Son and subsequently raised Him from the dead as the basis for this justification by faith.

3. The story of Jeptha is one that has always troubled me. It’s unsettling.
It should be noted, however, that God didn’t compel Jeptha to make the vow that he did. Jeptha made a rash vow to God and any vow to God Jeptha felt needed to be kept, no matter how terrible. This was Jeptha’s understanding anyway.
It should also be noted that this is the recording of an event in history and shouldn’t be taken as “God wanted to have Jeptha’s daughter as some kind of virgin sacrifice”. The Bible records that Cain killed Abel, for instance, but that doesn’t mean God wanted him to do it.
Others have offered an interesting and plausible scenario to this as well; that the wording of Jeptha’s vow allows for “..shall surely be the Lord’s OR I will offer it as a burnt offering” (Judges 11). In other words Jeptha promised to do one of two things: to dedicate the thing to the Lord OR to offer it as a burnt sacrifice. So potentially the wording allows for the daughter to simply have been dedicated to God for life (she would never marry but serve God). I’m not sure how much I accept this translation (I’m not a Hebrew scholar) but it’s worth consideration.

Anyhow, my main point is that I do not base truth on whether I happen to like something or not. There are many things I would like to believe, but that doesn’t mean they are true.
With respect to the existence of God I look to the cold hard logic of it based on the evidence to see what stands and what does not. If something stands that makes me uncomfortable then so be it. I want to know the truth.

(Thanks for the Shelly Kagan tip. I’ll have to check that one out.)

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Katarinuccia July 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Farrell

“Cold hard logic” tells me that there is something deeply wrong with humankind. But not caused by “original sinis forcing a perfect God to punish his imperfect creation. warm,soft logic tells me in Robert M Price’s , “If you have a highter morality that your source then that is probably not your source”. So no matter how I brood over these things, full aware of that I am not in a position to decide or demand what is the truth or not I still can find no other explana tion to this specific way of humans to scare themselves into beliveing such horrible things about a possible God.

Thisis not about being “umcomfortable”. Nomatter how you turn that “God’s ways are not our ways” it only warrants us to shut the fuck up about God or goodness or moral or love or righteousness. Language loses it’s meaning. The only argument is “might makes right”. Only it doesn’t and guess what . If there is a God at least i thing we can count with is it being a lot smarter than us and it would know this as well.

When I despair over the horrors of this worldand especially this form of cold , sadistic theology my consolation is this that maybe yes, this existance is a test, but not about who can endure to the end worshipping an idol in the form of a dictator. Maybe the real God is a bigger God, who will reward the ones who shuns cruelty, the ones who will not succumb to worshipping cruelty, the people who think love wins because they KNOW HOW TO LOVE, in the face of hate and fear and bigotry.

I really haven’t a clue. And guess what , neither do you or Craig or anyone else for that matter. I don’t know what to believe about these metaphysical things. And I don’t think there is much we can ever possibly know. We can find out about facts, we can have feelings.

I think it takes brainwashing and very hard social conditioning to make an emotionally healthy person belived this universe is a rigged game , a set up to make the large majority of people ever existed or will exist fail horribly. Somebody had a lot to gain from this , and still has. There are other spiritualities with far more balanced wievs of themeaning of our journey and our suffering. I don’t thing anybody has the truth even if the truth is out there.

I cannot HELP feeling revolted by people who think they hold a thruth where they claim we can love under threat. Not without brainwashing ,our chemistry can sure play tricks on us. It has been a usefule tool for the survival of the specieces but now it seems to be more of a threat to this survival more than anything else.
Well what do I know? I am not getting good answers from theologists.

What I see is more a result of “the accident of birth” . Each sect or greater religion using the same hard cold logic of argument. Succumb to our version of the absolute truth.

So, is your God a liar , having fun tricking us? Making riddles, placing dinosaur bones in geological layers to fool us becuase he doesn’t want all of us to get saved. The bible says so. Reverend Phelps thins only his congreation of a hundered person are the chosen ones that will make it to heaven. well, we can’t be sure of that either with your cold hard logic. I really don’t want to get into discussions with people who are fundamentalists, since it only scares and depresses me.

I am sure you are a good and kind person, but something has happened to your ability of feeling empathy i think. I don’t know about your life and your background and don’t want to jump to conclusions. Is it fear? I can hardly be logic. We don’t know shit about “God’s perspective”.
How can anybody who has a child, who has anybody they love, belive such horrible doctrine? When cold hard logical doctrine of the Calvinist kind says even fetuses might go straight to hell, because God has preordained it. Shall I send youthe link to the website defending this theology?

Craig belives in evil babies whose heads it’s ok to smash as a precaution, this other pastor takes it only one step further by sending fetuses to hell. I have to admit Craig is a kinder man. I will give him that. Probably he doesn’t worry too much about the destination of his own children and grandchildrens eternal destiny. He belives smashing the babies heads sent them straight to heaven.

But how can he be sure about that when there are rival theologicians who use their logic to prove babies go straight to hell instead. Along with wicked fetuses… sorry for ranting and typing badly , this sort of discussion makes me sick to my heart , I rest my case.

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Katarinuccia July 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Farrell

Just have to add , I don’t intend to pin any fundamentalism or Calvinism etc on you, since you don’t state any particular faith but maybe is more stating something general about the nature of thruth. I get a bit worked up thinking about these things. So i apologize if I jumped to conclusions. I am not cut out for philosopichal or theological debate really. Not cold or hard enough I guess. :P Or clever for that matter. And please excuse spelling and/or grammar mistakes. Not a native speaker.

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J Farrell July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

Katarinuccia –
I think you might have misunderstood what I meant by referring to “cold hard logic”. I wasn’t insinuating that I or anyone else could “prove” with cold hard logic that the Bible is correct in all that it says. I wasn’t saying that cold hard logic proves Christianity or atheism or what-have-you. I don’t know that it ever will. What I meant is that “cold hard logic” and not “sentiment” should be the tool we use to chip away at truth to bring it into sharper focus.
You had written about how you didn’t like this kind of God or certain things in the Bible and then made the leap…therefore it isn’t true. I would be no more logically justified in using “I don’t like the idea that there is no afterlife” as logical proof that there is one.

We can all choose to believe what we want to believe, but I was pointing out the logical fallacy that truth is not dependent upon our wishes and desires. We get closer to the truth through observation and logical inferences based on those observations. Unfortunately, even scientific theories are themselves fluid things as new discoveries are made. We do our best to assess truth based on the information we can verify but we are all ultimately at the mercy of faith to some degree for what we cannot verify.

With regard to your observation about, “If you have a higher morality than your source then that is probably not your source”, I would ask: How do you determine a higher morality without an objective basis by which to judge it? In other words, if there is no Arbiter of morality higher than you or I then how can you determine which morality is higher or better? By what standard are you saying that your morality is higher? If there is no moral arbiter between us it seems that you cannot make judgements about whose morality is better, even in the case of the God of the Bible.

On an atheistic or naturalistic worldview, while you can understand the societal implications of your choices, you cannot say that your morality is better than another unless you are in turn measuring it by an obligatory transcendent standard that exists in reality.
Really all that you are saying is that you prefer your morality to the morality of God as described in the Bible. Again, this does nothing to prove that the God of the Bible does not exist. [As a matter of fact you are confirming the existence of a moral lawgiver by acknowledging that you believe in an obligatory transcendent standard by which everyone can be judged. I’m not saying that it is therefore the God of the Bible. Perhaps it’s not. But you are confirming your acknowledgement of a God, it seems to me. (I’m just affirming this for the sake of argument….I don’t know where you stand as to the existence of God.)]

There are many things in the Bible that I am uncomfortable with as I said before. I am not a Vulcan devoid of feeling or empathy. Certain things I read in the Bible about the actions or purposes of God take me by surprise and make me angry at times. I just don’t understand it. And yet, a God who conforms to how I’d want Him to behave would be a very small god indeed – more like a genie, really, rather than the almighty creator of the universe. If there is a God, I imagine He would do things that would take me by surprise, perhaps even shock me. So I feel that I can’t simply dismiss the possibility that the God of the Bible is, in fact, God.

With respect to my own position, I find that I’m searching in many ways. I tend to believe in a Creator of the universe and life on earth to whom humankind is morally obligated. I also tend to believe in the Resurrection, that Jesus was seen alive by His disciples after He was crucified. I find various arguments convincing on those points. Neither can be proved, of course, but like I said above – there’s not much that can. We take what we can verify and slide toward belief in one direction or another even if it’s just a hairs-breadth.

It’s the resurrection of Jesus that makes me consider more carefully the other claims of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Although it’s difficult for me to accept the possibility of someone coming back from the grave, if there is a God, I think He would have the sufficient power to perform the action.
(Naturalism appeals to my scientific side, but I have a hard time going all the way with it for a variety of reasons. )
As to the claims of the Bible/Religion or Science or Philosophy I try to keep an open mind and let evidence and logic guide me along the way. Who knows? Perhaps someday I will believe something completely different. I guess that’s exciting and scary at the same time.
At any rate I’m open to debate although I’m sure the generator of this post would like to keep this on the subject of WLC. I guess I’ve already deviated from my original intention which was to point out why I think Craig is hard to beat.

Anyhow, I appreciate your giving me the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully with all this “cold hard logic” talk you don’t think I don’t care about others. I care very much about others – perhaps too much at times. Like Brian May of Queen sang – “Too much love will kill you every time”. By that I mean that it can be exhausting to be a loving relative and friend.
I’m convinced that you are a very empathetic person yourself and care deeply about others as well (as is evidenced by your posts). I hope you will keep in mind, however, that to only focus on the unpleasant things about God in the Bible is to create a skewed picture of what the Bible says about God in totality. If this God of the Bible exists then He has also created much beauty in the world, been very patient with the imperfect creatures that we are, and reportedly came to His creation to save it at a dear cost to Himself.

Like you, I wrestle with it all (although perhaps in a slightly different way) so I say that only if it’s helpful – not as a criticism. We as fellow human beings are all on this journey together it seems to me, so we should help each other as we can.

*By the way, if English is not your second language then my sincerest compliments to you. I only wish that I could speak or write in a second language half as well. :)

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Katarinuccia July 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Farrell
Thank you for your kind reply. I hit the wrong button and my loooong reply go wasted.

So I will let this bible based piece of “theology” speak for itself for now.

http://home.earthlink.net/~thogmi/abort/abort.html

I am unable to be “objective about this. Monday I am attending a funeral, my cousins son, 25 years old, killed his best friend and then hung himself. It was drug induced, the young man has suffered from depression and severe anxiety since childhood that went untreated and he selfmedicated instead, depressionand anxiety runs in our family I think. I have been diagnosed with GAD myself.

I wonder how this pastor would console the mother.

I am an agnostic since I think we can’t know or find about God. I don’t think I have a “higher morality” I just don’t think any God worth its salt would want hypocritical worship. It’s what I honestly feel and belive deep down inside.

Cruel,insensitive people are able to worship cruel Gods. Kind, sensitive people can’t. Many people still can’t let go out of fear due to early conditioning mostly i think and do their best “interpreting, cherry picking, gerrymandering and seeing biblical atrocities in “context” to be able to have some sympathy for their God. Where kindness and reason are cultivated the cruel Gods shrink with time- At least this is what I HOPE.

You are not such a horrble calvinist as I first suspected you of Farrell. More open minded in spite of your cultural conditioning.

And if you didn’t read Mark Twain’s “Letters to earth” yet please do. In my own home made”theology”, God created Mark Twain so It has got to have a sense of humour wich indicates we might be allright in the end in spite of the likes of WLC.

I wouldn’t bet on it though.

I love the title of Bishop Spong’s book, “Honest to God”!
At least i try to be that.

Is anybody doing anything about WLC, by the way? I read a lot of refutaions on the net that according to my feeble emotional mind seems pretty good. Does anybody ever get a word in with this guy?

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Katarinuccia July 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Ps: I am not even sure the page I linked to isn’t a joke made by somebody from “Landower baptist church”- I am not a very sophisticated person. I can’t figure out how a person with this type of mind set can live with himself or anybody else.

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com July 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Here I go again sounding off about Craig.

The following is WL Craig’s way in debate. That is, through ambiguity, he leaves out the middle ground.

Is God Necessary for Morality? (Kagan vs Craig) 3/10
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO1d2cX99bI&feature=related

[03:15] Craig proposes that if there is absolute good and evil for humans, then a God is responsible for it.

Well, I say that it’s a pretty big “if” in the above proposal on an absolute. And so I say that, in the first place there is no such thing as a set of absolute moral values, good and evil, for humans.

But, just to play along with his proposal awhile, we would probably agree that he means that if there is absolute good and evil for humans, it’s somehow intrinsic to humans. He’s asking, what’s responsible for the intrinsic moral values for good and evil? I say that the answer to it could be one of three things:

1) A God is responsible for it

2) It’s an unknown as to what is responsible for it

3) Evolution is responsible for it

WL Craig jumps right to the theological answer as if it’s the one and only answer.

One of the viable answers is of course, “could be that a God is responsible.” But a different viable response is “it could be just an unknown, and nobody will ever figure it out,” and a third view is “could be that evolution did it.”

As I said earlier, I don’t care much for his initial proposition to begin with, since I fail to see where humans share a set of absolute moral values (intrinsic ones).

He also states that anything less than a God-given morality has no basis for “objective morality.” But I fail to see why “objective morality” is essential to us puny mortals. Thus, WL Craig introduces a non-reality (objective morality), but then tries to make it an indispensable thing. He proposes that a theologically based “objective morality” is absolutely essential to humans. (Even though later he will say that humans beings cannot know what it is! Ambiguity becomes the name of the game. Whew!)

I’ll grant, however, that he has expressed his relative point of view (I call it relative) in an orderly fashion.

Actually, Craig concedes the point that …
[04:00] “God isn’t necessary in order for human beings to exhibit certain patterns of social behavior which they call acting morally.”

It sounds to me like the debate was over at that juncture.

[05:15] But then he turns around and argues that God is necessary for morality! And he proceeds to make a point out of no point: “If God does not exist, no objective moral values exist.”

I don’t see where objective moral values–”If God does not exist, no objective moral values exist”–has significance down here on earth.

As mentioned earlier, he claims, too, that “objective moral good and evil is independent of whether anybody believes it to be true.” As I said before, it’s like saying that human beings cannot know what it is for sure. They can hear about it, like from the Bible, but they cannot know whether it’s true, unless they take it on faith. In other words, he wants to say, “The Bible says so.”

So … it’s all really just his way of saying, “Do what the Bible God tells you to do, period.” It’s WL Craig’s roundabout way of leading to the statement: “The Bible says so, and I believe it on faith.”

Perhaps he should have expressed himself in that way in the first place, because it really is the basis for what he argues.

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com July 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm

byKatarinuccia:

Is anybody doing anything about WLC, by the way? I read a lot of refutaions on the net that according to my feeble emotional mind seems pretty good. Does anybody ever get a word in with this guy?

Yes, they do get in a word with him on Craig’s website
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8869

The opponent puts up a strange argument in this particular thread, which the above link jumps to; and so I had to agree with Criag that the opponent’s “rebuttal” was weird.

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ July 23, 2011 at 12:11 am

Craig writes:
“[T]he scientific evidence supports the conclusion that the origin of the universe was absolute in the sense that all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being a finite time ago. So we have really good grounds for affirming the immateriality of the First Cause.”

Source:
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8869

My comments: Uh, nuh-uh. As to the cause of our cosmos, the scientific evidence stops at a certain point and cannot yet investigate beyond that point. In other words, it cannot yet determine what caused the so-called Big Bang.

Meanwhile there are scientific models postulating an exotic energy field which might have been responsible for the Big Bang. And also mathematics tends to support the M Theory, which is on another kind of exotic energy which might have been responsible for the Big Bang.

Scientific theory doesn’t postulate that our cosmos sprang out of nothing whatsoever, yet Craig states that scientific theory does postulate that our cosmos sprang from nothing whatsoever. That’s Craig for you; namely, he so often starts out okay but then winds up misrepresenting the scientific model.

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Katarinuccia July 23, 2011 at 2:54 am

Dobbie

Thank you for helpful post about “objective” versus “relative” morality . It made a lot of sense to me. Iwork teaching many varities of newly arrived immigrants to my country Sweden. The majority right now are muslims from Somalia. They too claim to have access to the source of “objective morality”. And insist on a lot of rules, big and small, such as women wearing a LOT of clothing plus covering their heads, praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan etc, some ofthem think it’s even against objective morality to shae hands with a memebr of the opposite sex.

Like most people they are nice and kind and tend to forget that people they interact with here are dirty kaffirs and evil infidels mostly, Usually people seem to act on some relative basis for their REAL morality in REAL life.

I would like to hear WLC argue against the “objective morality” of another faith group. Did he? And does he whip them too as he almost always does according to Luke?

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com July 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm

byKatarinuccia

I would like to hear WLC argue against the “objective morality” of another faith group. Did he?

If memory serves me right, the agnostic-atheist Sam Harris brought the question to WL Craig. I paraphrase, but S. Harris asked Craig what about Islam and its morality or objective morality.

And WL Craig responded briefly by saying that he would argue, or debate, with the Muslims that they have the wrong God.

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J Farrell July 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

The Significance of Objective Moral Values

Let’s forget for a minute that anyone has the inside scoop on what the specific objective moral duties are. Forget the claim of Christians or Muslims or Hindus, etc., and let me just address why objective moral values matter here on earth.

If you say that ethnic cleansing is right and I say it’s wrong we are only stating what our preferences are unless there exists a transcendent standard that we can use to judge between us. For instance, two people cannot play Monopoly unless there are rules to which both parties are subject. If there are no objective rules then it’s ok for me to move my piece however I want and ok for you to move your piece however you want. It does no good for me to say, “I win because my rule is that if I land on Free Parking first I win.” You’d just say, “To hell with your rules. I say that if I land on Boardwalk first then I win.” Yet there does exist a rulebook by which we can determine who made an illegal move or who wins.

So there are only two ways to look at Morality.
1. Everybody’s rules are equally good
2. There exists a standard above us all by which we can judge whose rules are good.

If everybody’s rules are equally good then we have no business calling anybody’s morality good or bad, not even the morality of suicide bombers.
If there exists an objective standard then there is a basis by which we can judge which morality is good. I’m not arguing that anybody has the inside scoop on what those standards are. I’m just saying that unless this transcendent standard exists it’s meaningless to say ,”You ought not to commit ethnic cleansing”. If we say that without an objective standard then we mean no more than some social taboo like, “You ought not to pick your nose”. Otherwise, that person could justify ethnic cleansing by reasoning that it’s in the best interest of humanity to wipe out inferior DNA so that it’s not passed on. You can use Reason to justify almost any moral course of action.
The reason this argument matters is because we as human beings want to say, “Ethnic cleansing really is wrong!” We want to mean more than, “We prefer that ethnic cleansing not be practiced”. We think that the people who practice ethnic cleansing ought to know better.
But why do we think they ought to know better? That’s the big question.
If nothing exists but purposeless Nature then this sense within us that others “ought to know better” is simply an illusion and we have to come to terms with that. But if we believe that there is a standard to which all men are obligated, then we are saying that some Moral Authority exists above and beyond purposeless Nature. If such a Moral Authority exists then this hints strongly at what we traditionally refer to as “God”. That’s why this argument matters to us on earth.

WLC argues that anyone can know morality because we have this sense within us. But if there is no God then this sense of morality in us is only the product of culture and not a response to a transcendent standard that exists in reality.

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J Farrell July 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Katarinuccia
I just wanted to say how sorry I am to read about this tragedy in your family. This world certainly makes no sense at times. I wish comfort and peace to you and your family.
I myself have struggled for a while with anxiety and depression, having been in the hospital many times because of it. So I empathize with your own personal struggle.

You asked what answers a pastor might give in the face of tragedy. I think the answer is to simply come alongside that person in love and say, “I know you’re hurting and this doesn’t make sense, but I’m here for you.” Love, in short, is the best answer.
I think one of the lessons we’re supposed to take from the story of Job, for instance, is that we should not be like Job’s friends. At first they mourned in silence with their friend Job, but then they opened their big idiotic mouths. They started making bold assertions as to why God was allowing these things to happen to Job. Essentially, they were acting like they knew the mind of God when they had no business doing that. I share your distaste for those who claim to know why anything happens moment to moment.
Ultimately, if there is a good God then I think our best thoughts with regard to His involvement must be either anger or humble trust that He’ll turn this into something good somehow someway.
I don’t know if you ever saw the movie, “Pay It Forward”, but that’s what this line of thinking reminds me of. I hate to see anyone in pain – but my desire is that if something tragic does happen then, “Please God, at least let something meaningful and good come out of this!” This is the way I felt when I watched my best friend’s 2 year old daughter contract eastern equine encephalitis. She almost died, but while she did ultimately survive, she now she lives with permanent and severe brain damage.
My friend’s own trust that God will bring some greater good out of this has inspired me to hope, when I might otherwise despair and remain angry over this. I might be justified in my anger, but the bitterness wouldn’t help me ultimately.
Anyhow I just wanted to just sincerely reach out to you with that and send my wishes that you find comfort and hope. Take care.
(BTW- I have some of Twain’s writings in my own personal library and find him very witty and insightful. I’ll check out those writings of his that you mentioned. Thanks.)

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ July 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm

byFarrell

If you say that ethnic cleansing is right and I say it’s wrong we are only stating what our preferences are unless there exists a transcendent standard that we can use to judge between us.

Comment: How can anybody determine an objective standard, a transcendent standard?

If everybody’s rules are equally good then we have no business calling anybody’s morality good or bad, not even the morality of suicide bombers.

Yes, but in actuality most people don’t declare that anybody’s rules are equaly good. People make judgments about such rules. Me, too.

I’m not arguing that anybody has the inside scoop on what those standards are.

Comment: Exactly. Nobody knows (has the inside scoop on) what the objective (transcendent) standard can be.

I’m just saying that unless this transcendent standard exists it’s meaningless to say ,”You ought not to commit ethnic cleansing”.

Well, at risk of getting too technical, it’s hardly “meaningless” to say it. It’s meaningful when a group seriously declares what the (relative) moral standard is.

If nothing exists but purposeless Nature then this sense within us that others “ought to know better” is simply an illusion and we have to come to terms with that.

Actually, it seems to me that people have already come to terms with it: namely, it’s a relativity thing, and depends upon group solidarity.

WLC argues that anyone can know morality because we have this sense within us.

Yes, but we already know that a morality sense is within us. That is, whenever two or more people gather, morality within them is there, too, in the way they behave towards one another. For hypothetical examples, grabbing most of the dinner table food for oneself is a moral level, and so is sharing the food a moral level.

But if there is no God then this sense of morality in us is only the product of culture and not a response to a transcendent standard that exists in reality.

Final comment: Well, that’s not only correct, but if I may so say, we already knew it. WLC has a way of making it look almost as if he has new ideas about life, when actually his stuff is the same ole thing.

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J Farrell July 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm

by Dobbie-
“Yes, but in actuality most people don’t declare that anybody’s rules are equally good. People make judgments about such rules. Me, too.”
That’s my point though. Most people make these moral judgments “as if there were a transcendent moral standard”. Yet if there is no such objective standard then a moral judgment is only meaningful to the person making it. I’m not saying that a moral judgment can’t be meaningful to the individual. I simply mean that your moral judgment is not meaningful to the person being judged (unless you’re demanding their conformity at gunpoint, I suppose. :p)
The reason I say that our making moral judgments as if there were a transcendent moral standard matters is because this is what we would expect to find if such an objective standard existed. For instance, who would be comfortable looking at a society that tortures babies for fun and saying, “Well, that’s just their culture. I really can’t judge them”? If there is no objective moral standard though that is what you would expect humanity to be comfortable saying. Yet if there is an objective moral standard to which all humans are obligated then you would expect most people to conclude that something is really wrong with such a culture. Their moral compass is faulty or else they are evil. That is what we’d conclude if there were such an objective standard.
Interestingly enough, that is what we do find. We do find a vast majority of people speaking out against such things which leads me to believe that there is some transcendent standard that we’re all aware of.
Relative morality cannot make a universally meaningful appeal about torturing babies for fun because there would be no basis for it other than the morality of their own culture. The rules of Monopoly can say nothing about the rules of Bridge. Someone playing their own moral game can justify their own rules by any means they wish.
I was merely pointing out the logical end of the two moral alternatives, ie, relative morality and morality based on an objective standard.
How one comes to know an objective moral standard is an entirely separate issue.

I mean this not as a personal attack in any way, only as an observation, that many atheists get so hung up on “Yeah, well you religious people can’t know what objective standard is!” that they glaze entirely over the question “Does objective morality exist or not?” Do we have a reason for believing that all humans are under the same rules?

You are apparently comfortable with the atheistic moral position of relative morality. Yet you pointed out in the quote that you yourself make judgments about other people’s moral systems. I suppose though you are only making those judgments based on your personal preference and not on a standard which you think they ought to know?
Anyhow the aim of this particular argument is simply to point out the logical end of an atheistic moral position…”If you believe A then B”. However, if you do believe then there exists a standard that you think all humans should know then you are affirming the existence of a transcendent moral authority. That’s all I wanted to point out.
How we know what the objective standard is is an entirely separate argument as I mentioned.

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ July 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm

You are apparently comfortable with the atheistic moral position of relative morality. Yet you pointed out in the quote that you yourself make judgments about other people’s moral systems. I suppose though you are only making those judgments based on your personal preference and not on a standard which you think they ought to know?

I didn’t know that there was an “atheistic moral position of relative morality.” Atheism is a position on whether the God that you name really exists. Apart from that, atheists might individually even believe that there is an objective moral standard … such as one that evolution programs in humans; the agnostic-atheist Sam Harris believes in that hypothesis. Yes, I myself often make moral judgments (not legal judgments) based on my personal preferences. What else is there?

That is, what other moral standard “which you think they should know” is there?

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J Farrell July 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

Dobbie-
I recognize that there are many different atheistic positions out there – sorry. It wasn’t my intention to lot them all into one, ie, moral relativity. It seems to me, however, to be the only consistent atheistic position on morality. Dawkins suggests this as well.

I’m not claiming to be a moral authority so I won’t argue specific moral judgments as such. My particular argument is to only point out the moral position that atheism logically leads to.

Let’s definitively establish that there is no God. What then determines which actions are universally right and which are universally wrong? I’ll consider three candidates: evolution, rationality, and metaphysical principle.

1. Evolution
Let’s say evolution governs it.
If evolution has programmed us humans in a particular way that we recognize that torturing other creatures for fun is wrong, could we have evolved in some other way where we might think it’s right? Certainly. We could have evolved like cats, for instance, who torture their food before they kill it and eat it or like a Black Widow spider who kills her mate after mating. We could have just as easily evolved to have those sets of values. I could give a number of examples of other creatures that have obviously evolved with a different morality than ourselves. So I’m not sure then that evolution is a good candidate for objective moral values to which all human beings are subject because it does not appear to evolve all creatures with the same moral code.

2. Rationality
Now perhaps you might say that human beings are the most intelligent forms of life that have evolved so we can therefore recognize morality better than other creatures. Not only is that specieism (a bias toward one’s own species) but you would have to demonstrate that intelligence and morality are directly proportional, which I don’t think you can do. Therefore rationality is not a good candidate for objective morality.

3. Metaphysical Principle
Let’s consider another candidate for an objective moral standard. How about a mathematical principle in the universe like Physics? Perhaps it’s something like that which we evolved creatures of high intelligence have come to recognize more than other creatures that roam our planet.
Let’s consider that perhaps our intelligence and rationality are subject to a mathematical principle such as Harmony.
Yet, if there is only some principle out there called Harmony to which Reason is subject, then it seems that we could achieve this any number of ways through Reason. If the anchor to which our Reason is tethered is some impersonal force called Harmony then whatever logical path we take to get there is coherent with a principle of Harmony. Again, this only states that Moral Relativism is true. This is because a person would use his or her Reason to get to Harmony, but there are no set of values prescribed by anything to achieve it in a particular way.

For instance, if I had a scale in front of me I could use any weights I wanted to balance out the two sides. I could balance that scale in a million different ways. Yet something inside me tells me to use a certain set of weights rather than just any I choose.

Now perhaps this prescribed set of weights that I feel impelled to use are merely those that society tells me I should use. Again this would be moral relativism. For on what basis does a society tell another which weights they ought to use to balance out that scale?

Yet I think we feel something deeper inside of us. We feel that regardless of what one society or another says, there is some arbiter of the standard of weights that all of humanity should use. This is perhaps just an illusion that we have put upon ourselves or it is real.

The arbiter, if there is one, must be more than a pricinciple in the universe or else as I have demonstrated it is only a guiding principle that we can get to in a million ways by our Reason. Yet if there is an Arbiter of morality then we are saying that there is a prescribed weight system in the universe that determines which logical paths we are allowed to take. The Arbiter acts more like an authority rather than a principle that our Reason must somehow find its way to.

Now the weights of the scale have either been determined beyond our own determination or else we get to balance that scale with whatever weights we choose. Those are the two options.
If the weights have been predetermined for us then we ways are subject to its ways. It is an Authority that has established what weights humanity can use.

[As an example of this, Hitler (sorry - a Hitler example) could by Reason justify that the Jews were bad for the human race and thereby satisfy some principle of Harmony in the Universe (albeit wrongly in my opinion). But something inside us says, not that his reasoning is wrong based on his own presuppositions, but the values he's balancing the scale with are wrong. It seems that we know instinctively which are the right reasons and which are the wrong ones. Now this could just be a product of our own social conditioning, but again, for most people this seems to disagree with what they want to say which is, "No matter what any society says - that's just wrong". Yet we have no basis for this universal statement unless there exists a Moral Authority above mankind that determines what the proper values are. There must exist an Arbiter of Morality not just a principle of Morality if all mankind is absolutely subject to certain rules.]

Lastly on the Metaphysical Principle, I do not feel any guilt for getting 2+2=4 wrong, but I feel guilt for violating moral principles. Physics and Morality appear to be in two different classes in that regard.

To sum up…
Unless there is a Supreme Authority of Morality, anybody’s morality is justifiable by Reason. There is no basis outside of one’s self for the existence of a standard of good and evil. It is entirely subjective.

My question to you would be: Do you truly believe that “torturing babies for fun”, for instance, is only a matter of your personal distaste and not something that is flat-out universally wrong?

(To be fair I’ll answer the question you posed to me, which essentially is, “How do I know what those objective standards are?” The short answer is that I don’t fully know. Some things like “torturing babies for fun” seem to me wrong no matter who you are. Other things are more subtle and gray.
I see our God-given conscience as a guide to moral truth but God himself would be the final judge. When I read something (in a religious writing or even a journalistic article) that rings harmoniously with my own conscience I tend to think I might be onto something.
Just remember though, that this topic of “how I know what is right” has different implications than “does Right objectively exist?” I think those two issues get muddled all too often in debates, yet there is an important distinction between them, each with their own ramifications.)

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ July 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

byFarrel:

Let’s consider that perhaps our intelligence and rationality are subject to a mathematical principle such as Harmony.

I’m sure I don’t know what that is–Harmony. Was it something you made up for the sake of discussion?

By the way, apologies to everybody if they feel that a new conversation on the source for morality has hijacked this WL Craig thread . But what the heck, let’s keep it going awhile. Meanwhile, sorry WL Craig, although I’m wont to complain about your debate tactics, I won’t do it this time. Ha.

Do you truly believe that “torturing babies for fun”, for instance, is only a matter of your personal distaste and not something that is flat-out universally wrong?

Well, I didn’t bring up the “torturing babies for fun” example. But to answer it, I would choose the middle ground, which isn’t actually offered in the question. And the middle ground is that while I would find it personally distasteful, I wouldn’t know whether it was “something that is universally wrong.” I could say that it should be univerally wrong. But at the same time, I can’t say it’s universally wrong, since I don’t know what universal rights and wrongs are.

WL Craig (I can get him in, after all) might complain that my position is “ignorance.” I’ve heard him talk like that before when an opponent didn’t know an answer and said so. But such “ignorance” isn’t an indictment, despite Craig. It’s an honest enough answer, and at the same time, I think that WL Craig should trying saying “I don’t know” sometime–since the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t know this or that thing. The closest he comes to saying “I don’t know” is to say “I think” in a parethetical way.

There, I talked about Craig on this thread. So I didn’t hijack the thread after all. Now I feel better, in a moral relativity way. Ha.

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J Farrell July 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Dobbie -

“Harmony” –
Yes, I introduced this just as a plausible alternative – something we could call an objective moral standard in the universe if God does not exist. It seems to me though that all alternatives to God lead to moral relativism.

“Torturing Babies for Fun” example –
I had heard this as an example of something ridiculously and obviously wrong before, so I decided to use it.
I thought your answer was interesting though. You essentially said at first that you didn’t “know” if it was objectively wrong, but then you added “but it should be”.
I agree that it should be wrong, I just wonder why we have this idea of “should” in our heads to begin with if moral perfection does not exist. Per Naturalism, as purposeless matter floating around in space, we are just evolving/changing and not necessarily progressing toward any standard that actually exists.

As far as ignorance is concerned, I don’t claim to have the inside scoop on truth myself so I hope you don’t hold my ignorance against me either. I personally find that all we can do in this world is to chip away at truth with the arguments and see what stands. We then can bend toward one theory or another (even if it’s just a little bit, I think) as truth comes into a clearer focus.

Anyhow – good discussion. I had no intention of getting off topic with the WLC thing. The counter arguments popped up and before I knew it I was engaged in a full-fledged debate. Not that I mind. I enjoy the discussion.
I’ll end my posting on this blog here unless I have something relevant to say to the topic.

Can I say ten William Lane Craig’s as penance for my sins? ;)
William Lane Craig, William Lane Craig, William Lane Craig…

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ July 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm

byFarrel:

You essentially said at first that you didn’t “know” if it was objectively wrong, but then you added “but it should be”.
I agree that it should be wrong, I just wonder why we have this idea of “should” in our heads to begin with if moral perfection does not exist.

Of course, when I stated that such and such “should” be a universal wrong, it was my personal preference of what “should” be so. Personal preference is in our heads to begin with; and so my personal preference was that everybody should do such and such. Meaning that it would be nice if everybody were to universally do such and such. But, of course, the real picture says that everybody doesn’t universally do such and such morally.

Per Naturalism, as purposeless matter floating around in space, we are just evolving/changing and not necessarily progressing toward any standard that actually exists.

Well, 1) and is that concept of naturalism a bad thing? And 2) one who is atheistic is also invidually free to see purpose or progress in nature even without physical evidence for it; it’s a “slippery slope” to pin “atheism” down to this or that worldview. Thus an atheist isn’t ever obliged to believe in a tenet of naturalism. As far as I know, the athesist might believe in the existence of ghosts, out-of-body experiences, or an afterlife. The atheist might even use passages from the Bible, such as the Book of Proverbs, for useful moral guidelines.

Unless I misunderstood something, there’s also a moral position that religion leads to, and it, too, is one of moral relativity. Thus, Christians, Jews, and Muslims (to name three major religions) have differing moral positions, despite what the Bible, Talmud, or Quran might say. It’s, of course, mostly due to their interpretation of their literature.

For the record, I have no pesonal objection to the concept of a universal “objective moral standard” for human beings. My question always is that if there’s one, what is it, and where is it. As I’ve said before, no matter what WL Craig argues about a “Universal Lawgiver,” it comes down to the Bible. In fact all of his arguments are forms of his stating, “The Bible says so and so, and I believe it on faith.”

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J Farrell July 26, 2011 at 6:23 am

Dobbie-

If William Lane Craig were replying to your comments (I’m just speculating here ;) I think he might say something like this…
I’m fine with your answer about “should” as long as you acknowledge that there is no right way for all human beings to behave. Hitler, Manson, or Khmer Rouge did not then violate some objective standard of goodness. They simply acted in a way that our culture finds distasteful at the present time. If you believe that then more power to ya.

William Lane Craig probably also might reply about Naturalism that people are free to believe whatever they choose. A Naturalist can believe in ghosts, afterlife, or what-have-you. They will not believe it because of Naturalism though, they will believe it as an addition to Naturalism. In the same way a Theist could believe in unicorns or the Frosted Lucky Charms cartoon character, but they will not be believing this as the outworking of Theism.
I was addressing the normative outworking of Naturalism that’s defended by its champions such as Dawkins (who I consider to be very consistent). He would rebuke his fellow Naturalists for their inconsistency in believing in supernatural phenomena such as ghosts, afterlife, etc., without empirical evidence.

William Lane Craig would probably also say, “Mr. Farrell, please stop speaking on my behalf”. So with that imaginary rebuke, I’ll end my reply.

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ July 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

byFallell:

If William Lane Craig were replying to your comments (I’m just speculating here ;) I think he might say something like this…
I’m fine with your answer about “should” as long as you acknowledge that there is no right way for all human beings to behave.

I think you’re actually right, in that WL Craig might very well respond in that one-sided way. The deal is, he would have made a rule that nobody else shares, where it say “as long as you acknowledge that there is no right way for all human being to behave.”

But along those lines, anyway …
1) I have already opined (how many times now?) that moral values (right ways to behave) are actually “relative” from group to group.
2) If the “a la Criag” statement says that there is basically no right or wrong at all, I suppose that’s true in a philosophical sense. But in the real world, we have our personal preferences, and like-minded groups (sub-cultures) have their preferences, too. There’s “right and wrong” in that sense.
3) Does it say (by proxy) that WL Craig believes that there is no right way for human beings to behave?

Hitler, Manson, or Khmer Rouge did not then violate some objective standard of goodness.

Well, who said otherwise about their violating some objective standard.

A Naturalist can believe in ghosts, afterlife, or what-have-you. They will not believe it because of Naturalism though, they will believe it as an addition to Naturalism.

Yes, but I didn’t say otherwise about naturalism. A previous comment tied atheism with naturalism; and so I explained that it didn’t really work well to pin down atheism in that way. The atheist isn’t automatically a strict naturalist, and might individually believe in UFOs, astrology or tarots.

I was addressing the normative outworking of Naturalism that’s defended by its champions such as Dawkins (who I consider to be very consistent). He would rebuke his fellow Naturalists for their inconsistency in believing in supernatural phenomena such as ghosts, afterlife, etc., without empirical evidence.

R. Dawkins (I like him) is not a “high priest” for atheists, and there are no “Dawkins tenets” for them to follow. For example, I say that his endorsement of the term “brights” in place of the word “atheists” is silly. In “God is not Great,” C. Hitchens (also an atheist) wrote a rejection of the label “brights,” opining that it simply exhibited conceit. In sum, Dawkins isn’t exactly an atheist leader in values or in what atheists should believe in (but I like the guy, anyway).

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ July 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm

WL Craig writes: Here’s the moral argument for God that I defended:
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
The argument is logically valid; so if you want to deny the conclusion, you must reject one of the two premisses.
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8642

My comment: Sure, why not reject one of the two premises? In fact I’ll reject premise 1. and premise 2.

Craig’s Premise one: “If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.”
My comment: WL Craig must mean that “If God does not exist, ‘God-given’ objective moral values and duties do not exist.” He seems to have reached the conclusion that objective moral values (assuming they exist) can only come from a God. If, however, there’s a different source for them (assuming that they’re esoteric to the point that humanity is rarely in tune with them), it blows premise one out of the water. Craig names God as the sole source for so-called objective moral values. It absents other speculations for the source of supposed objective moral values (for examples, ET programmed humanity and did a poor job of it; evolution is progressively programming humanity, and thus people think similarly thanks to evolution) .

Craig’s Premise two: “Objective moral values and duties do exist.”
My comment: Well, now that he has said that they do exist, where are they and what exactly are they?

Craig: “I never appealed to biblical revelation as a justification for affirming (2).”
Me: Then, same question, where are they and what are they?

Craig: “As I put it in my opening speech, ‘In moral experience we apprehend a realm of moral values and duties that impose themselves upon us. There’s no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world.’”
Me: Yes, the subjective (conventional) ones, which can vary from group to group. And many of these moral values aren’t capricious or whimsical. There are always moral values and duties, often lasting ones, when human beings interact with one another. It’s part of how they are able to interact. (Of course I shouldn’t leave unmentioned that not just group (sub-culture) preferences, but personal preferences have something to do with moral values.) If convention is what Craig means by “objective moral values,” I haven’t no objection to his stating that “moral values do exist.”

Craig appeals to God as the sole source for them. On the whole, Craig’s above-given syllogism sounds strongly to me like a “God of the gaps” argument.

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J Farrell August 1, 2011 at 8:09 am

Dobbie-
What does it mean to say that the existence of the sun is a fact? It means that regardless of the opinion of any human, the sun actually exists.
So what does it mean to say that there are objective moral facts? It means that regardless of the opinion of any human, objective moral facts (right and wrong) exist.

Objective moral facts, if they exist, must therefore have a source that transcends the opinion of any human being (otherwise there is no point in calling them objective facts). Furthermore, to say that human beings have a duty to conform to these objective moral facts is to recognize that there is a moral authority above humankind.

So if there is a source of objective moral facts that humans are obligated to conform to, what else would you call that source? Call it whatever name you like, but this would fit within the traditional definition of God.

[Dictionary.com: God - noun - the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe]

I think you keep confusing something. The Moral Argument is not intended to prove that objective moral values exist. It is an “if A then B” proposition. It is up to the individual to decide whether or not he or she believes there are objective moral facts – right and wrong – and that humans are obliged to conform to them. If it is true though, that objective moral facts exist and that humans have a duty to conform to them, then God exists as a logical necessity.
To deny the connection would be like saying you believe in three-sided objects but not triangles.

In your case, it seems that you do not believe in an objective right and wrong. You believe that no human behavior conforms to a standard of objective goodness more than another. It’s all relative. That’s fine.

The purpose of the moral argument is to demonstrate the logical and necessary connection between objective moral duties and the existence of God. How to determine what those moral duties are is a separate argument.

Really, like I said before, I don’t think we can know 100% what those moral duties are. I see conscience as a guide to knowing what they are but that’s all. If a book existed that provided us with the objective moral facts for every conceivable situation, I’m not sure that I would want it anyway. It would be overwhelming to even consider the prospect of evaluating my every move with a physical reference guide. Conscience is a more convenient and expedient tool, it seems to me.

As far as whether or not you believe in moral duties – that is only an appeal to your intuition. Nobody can empirically prove that objective moral values exist. Yet, if you believe that objective right and wrong do exist, then as I said before, God logically and necessarily exists (“if A then B”). You do not believe in objective right and wrong, so the argument if of no meaningful use to you.

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Katarinuccia August 1, 2011 at 9:33 am

The worst massmurderer in modern Scandinavian history recently offed over eighty young innocent people , plus like wise innocent employees in goverement office buildings of Oslo, Norway in the name of defending his own delusional form of right wing “Christendom”. You said it your self, conscience trumps religion, since religious ideas and rules are often aribtrary (relative morality) while conscience(absolute morality) is based on REAL morality wich stems from our evolutionary development sense of empathy and compassion.
It takes a whole lot of brainwashing and desentization to make people go against their natural consciense and morality and commit atrocities in the name of relative religious morality! The forms of religions are many but empathy universal. People who are given the chance of develope kindness , empathy and love will make kind and loving interpretains of religion, people who don’t the opposite.

Excellent article here by Jerry Coyne!

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-07-31-atheism-morality-evolution-religion_n.htm

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ August 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm

byFarrell

Dobbie-
What does it mean to say that the existence of the sun is a fact? It means that regardless of the opinion of any human, the sun actually exists.
So what does it mean to say that there are objective moral facts? It means that regardless of the opinion of any human, objective moral facts (right and wrong) exist.

Uh, it’s the same argument again, and who has said anything otherwise to it? If they exist, they exist. But where are they and what are they?

Objective moral facts, if they exist, must therefore have a source that transcends the opinion of any human being (otherwise there is no point in calling them objective facts). Furthermore, to say that human beings have a duty to conform to these objective moral facts is to recognize that there is a moral authority above humankind.

Again I ask who has said anything otherwise? And I also ask where are they and what are they?

So if there is a source of objective moral facts that humans are obligated to conform to, what else would you call that source? Call it whatever name you like, but this would fit within the traditional definition of God.

If I wanted to call it something, I might call it nature. As for the traditional definition of God, the question might be who’s traditional definition of God? There are the ancient Egyptian one of Ra, Isis, and Greek one of Prometheus. In addition, the traditional definition is pure a priori. Apart from word definition, there’s no way to verify anything empirically.

Even if I call the source nature, it’s a “nature of the gaps argument.” By the same token, if I call the source the Bible God, for example, it’s a “Bible God of the gaps argument.” Either way, I fill in the blank more conceptually and less empirically. Do you agree?

The Moral Argument is not intended to prove that objective moral values exist.

Well, I don’t agree with the logic of the WLC argument, because it excludes other answers, or it refuses to state “I don’t know the answer” as a viable answer. And the way I see it, the latter is the most truthful answer of them all so far.

It is up to the individual to decide whether or not he or she believes there are objective moral facts – right and wrong – and that humans are obliged to conform to them. If it is true though, that objective moral facts exist and that humans have a duty to conform to them, then God exists as a logical necessity.

Well, I have stated the same thing: it’s up to individual and group preferences. Thus it’s up to the individual.

You believe that no human behavior conforms to a standard of objective goodness more than another. It’s all relative.

Unless I misunderstood the words, or I risk getting too technical about it, I haven’t taken the position that “no human behavior conforms to a standard of objective goodness more than another,” not when there appears to be no universal objective standard to which humanity might conform in the first place. So, morality has always come down to a relatively thing.

I see conscience as a guide to knowing what they are but that’s all.

The above comment agrees with what I have stated?

As far as whether or not you believe in moral duties – that is only an appeal to your intuition.

And so, what else is there?

You do not believe in objective right and wrong, so the argument if of no meaningful use to you.

Well, that’s also correct: the WLC argument is of little or no meaning to me. That is, WLC’s objective morality argument doesn’t carry us (or him) very far. I’ve expressed the opinion that his argument doesn’t work.

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Stiggie August 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I just watched a debate with Craig, and I came here because I google “William Lane Craig is insane”. I googled it because I had never heard such a horrible debater, his arguments (if you can call them that) had nothing to do with anything. His entire case can be summed up as “OEH look how complicated morals are, if there is a god it’s easy, BOEIA!”

Wow Craig, so you are saying that the brain, empathy and human emotions aren’t simple? Fucking genius….

His entire argument fails when you respond:
1: If there is a god, then why AREN’T moral issues easy? Why DOESN’T everyone have the same ones?
2: If there is a god, why would that give a moral foundation? If god told me to do something I find Immoral, I would tell him he is immoral.
3: If there is any god, he is automatically immoral since he either didn’t give us the best possible universe (it’s a horrible death trap) or he thinks he has the authority to decide what is best for us, a horrible being either way.

If you need a foundation for morality, then god is the worst possible place to start.

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J Farrell August 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Dobbie-
“Uh, it’s the same argument again, and who has said anything otherwise to it?”
You did. You said that you rejected the premise that “if Objective Moral Values exist, God therefore exists”. You apparently denied the connection, so I was connecting the dots. If a morality exists which is truly objective (it transcends human opinion) and humans have a duty to conform to it, then an authority outside of humankind must necessarily exist.
From what I can tell you seem to agree with this connection. However, now you’re saying you might call this authority “Nature”. I’m wondering though in what sense we can say that human beings are obligated by impersonal Nature to obey its objective moral duties?
For instance, you might say that I have an obligation of Nature to nurture my child, yet there are creatures on this planet that do not nurture their offspring, so can I really say that Nature has objectively obligated me to nurture my child? (Don’t get me wrong, I think I should – but that’s a different point) Nature doesn’t appear to qualify as an objective source.
Now I keep hearing and reading from many people who keep stating how there are so many different definitions of God. I agree that specific qualities of God are diversely defined by various religions. Yet don’t those who generally debate the existence of God, define God with more or less the same primary attributes? Are there any debaters out there contending with atheists who don’t define God as a Supreme Being who is the creative source of Nature and Morality? As far as other attributes, yeah, they differ among various religions – but among Jews, Islamists, Christians, and some Hindus – isn’t there a fairly consistent definition ascribed to God? I get the sense that debaters are throwing this out there as a red herring.

Stiggie-
Do you consider Chris Hitchens, Bart Ehrman, Arif Ahmed, Dan Barker, and Anthony Flew to be intelligent and skilled debaters? I’m just going to assume that the answer is yes here (if I’m wrong, let me know). Then why on earth would these intelligent and skilled atheists waste their time debating WLC if he was such a horrible debater? Why is his picture posted on the 500+ audio debates page of this website? You can say you disagree with the arguments or perhaps that your arguments are more sound, but your depiction of the guy as “insane” or making arguments that “have nothing to do with anything” is unfounded. Richard Dawkins wouldn’t even debate the guy because he said he wouldn’t debate “a professional debater”. They obviously think WLC’s a heavy hitter.
Now I barely even knew the guy’s name a few months ago so I’m no follower of his, but I can recognize intelligence when I hear it. This is why I love many of the atheist debaters too (like the ones I named). They’re brilliant and offer good arguments. They’ve studied and refined their arguments over years of testing them against other bright minds.
I would challenge you to think through the arguments a bit more before saying that these people are all idiots. Is it possible that there’s something you missed? I know I would say that about myself. There are many arguments that didn’t make sense at first to me – but after considering them a bit more I realized that I just misunderstood, I think, because the arguments were expressed in a simplified way for the sake of brevity (debates are very short). Anyhow, just a thought. I’m no better than anyone else, but I thought your comments were not well-justified.

Katarinuccia-
I read the article. Something stands out loud and clear in this argument though. By what standard does he condemn the actions of the God in the Bible? (I’m not saying here that the actions are right or wrong – but what is the measuring stick he’s using?) If, like Dobbie says, morality is relative then I would think that the writer is only saying he doesn’t prefer that kind of morality. The God of the Bible might very well say that he prefers his morality. Who’s to say who’s right? One primate morality is not actually “better” than another in this arbitrary impersonal universe. There’s no actual transcendent standard to compare one action over another. So why should the writer care? It’s just a lifestyle choice.
I’m being an ass to just make a point. Sorry.

As a side point there are some sweeping generalizations the writer makes that I think are incorrect. “(M)orality…simply cannot come from the will of a God…recognized by philosophers”….I think Nietzsche would disagree. The argument from theists is usually that God’s nature is the basis of objective moral duties. Nietzsche understood this and considered that without the existence of a God we all become gods of our own moral universe. The saint and the serial killer stand on the same moral high-ground from their own perspective. And who has the right to judge either of them?
I agree that you can be good without acknowledging the existence of a God, but there is no objective basis for calling one action truly good and another truly evil.

(As another side point, aren’t there other ways of passing on your genes without being kind and altruistic? Why is one way of passing on your genes more advantageous than another – if that is going to become our basis of morality?)

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Dobbie@ http://skepticvsbible.blogspot.com/ August 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Here’s what was said before:

byFarrell: So what does it mean to say that there are objective moral facts? It means that regardless of the opinion of any human, objective moral facts (right and wrong) exist.
byDobbie: Uh, it’s the same argument again, and who has said anything otherwise to it? If they exist, they exist. But where are they and what are they?

Here’s what was said later.
byFarrell:

Dobbie-
“Uh, it’s the same argument again, and who has said anything otherwise to it?”
You did. You said that you rejected the premise that “if Objective Moral Values exist, God therefore exists”. You apparently denied the connection, so I was connecting the dots.

It’s the wrong connection. That is, from the above quoted paragraph, you can see there was no mention of whether God exists. I have maintained:
1) I have no objection to the concept of universal objective moral standards. But I don’t see any.
2) I’ve rejected WLC’s argument that God must exist since objective moral values exist. What objective moral values? Where are they and what are they? Therefore there is no sound WLC argument stating that God exists since objective moral values do. His premises don’t work.

Just to jump in a moment on the question of Who is to say who’s morals are right or wrong. The answer is Tom, Dick, and Harry are to say, according to their judgments. Lucy and Desi are to say, according to their sensibilities. They get together with other Lucys and Desi’s, and thus like-minded groups exist. And then bigger like-minded groups exist, which of course become cultures and countries. That’s the way it has worked for thousands of years now.

Meanwhile, somebody can always argue, philosophically, that there’s no such thing as the same rights or wrongs for everybody. Naturally it is so, and such relativity is already apparent.

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Csaba August 3, 2011 at 3:11 am

A long, long post of mine has just disappeared into thin air. I think that is probably for the best.

A simple point I wanted to make was the Bradley vs Craig debate. Craig wanted to define “is there evidence for God?” as “are there facts out there that make God’s probability larger than it would be were those facts untrue?”. By that very feeble standard, let me ask the question “is there evidence for an extraterrestrial sock-eating monster?” I would say there is evidence for that monster, because every day, millions of people suffer from seemingly inexplicable disappearances of their socks, in particular one sock out of a pair. You could say that scientific inquiries should be made, for example looking under the bed, or the waste bin, etc. However, as of today, these scientific inquiries have not been made and the fact is a lot of socks seem to disappear and my monster is more probable in this world than in a world where all socks would be paired all the time. So his standard for “evidence” was simply too modest. Bradley was obviously confused by this ridiculously low standard.

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Csaba August 3, 2011 at 3:29 am

A short problem about this concept of “objective moral values and duties”. WLC seems to begin this argument (or his premise number 2) by saying “we all feel, *deep down*, that there are objective moral values and duties” and then just jumps to “there are objective moral values or duties”. It looks like basing objective values on what “we all feel, deep down” is rather silly. The whole point of objective values is that they exist regardless of what we all feel, deep or shallow!

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J Farrell August 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Csaba said-
“It looks like basing objective values on what “we all feel, deep down” is rather silly. The whole point of objective values is that they exist regardless of what we all feel, deep or shallow!”

Again, here’s this confusion with “the implications of an objective moral authority’s existence if objective moral values exist” and “how we come to know if objective moral values exist”. One is ontological and the other is epistemological.

The appeal to “feeling deep down” is the epistemological- what do you make of your own moral experience? Is it as some suggest simply a socio-biological construct of the mind or rather an innate acknowledgement of an objective standard that exists?

If nature is all that exists (the material universe) then morality is an illusion and amounts to nothing more than one person’s or society’s preference over another’s.
If objective moral values do exist then a real standard of morality exists to which all humans are subject regardless of their opinion.

When we say “that’s not right” are we saying to someone that the action would go against a normal person’s biology and dominant social opinion? What if that person is evolving beyond the morality of everyone else and decides that everyone but he and every blue-eyed blonde-haired person should be exterminated for propogation of better DNA? Nobody can say they’re wrong (if no objective moral standard exists).

Yet if you have a sense that it is actually wrong regardless of their opinion then you have two options:
1. You’re giving into a moral illusion.
2. You’re feeling some innate conflict with an objective transcendent moral standard.

Dobbie is totally correct that nobody can prove that any such objective moral standard actually exists. It is only an appeal to your innate sense of what you believe your moral sense to be. Yet there are implications for the second option that relate to the existence of God.

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Martin Freedman August 11, 2011 at 4:09 am

“Yet if you have a sense that it is actually wrong regardless of their opinion then you have two options:
1. You’re giving into a moral illusion.
2. You’re feeling some innate conflict with an objective transcendent moral standard.

Dobbie is totally correct that nobody can prove that any such objective moral standard actually exists. It is only an appeal to your innate sense of what you believe your moral sense to be. Yet there are implications for the second option that relate to the existence of God.”
Surely the only implication for the existence of a Craig-type of God, is, if morality is in any plausible sense objective – chose any of the many secular approaches to objective morality – that a Craig-type God cannot exist, since, whilst those approaches would might disagree amongst themselves, they all agree (as would those who reject an objective morality too) that his theistic-based morality is subjective.

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Dobbie@ http://biblevsbibleblog.blogspot.com August 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm
Vince Watkins August 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I find it laughable that anyone would be so impressed by William Lane Craig. Watching him debate is like watching a parent trying to convince their 5 year old that there really is a Santa Claus after the child just caught him toting presents from the attic. The rationalizations are so stupid and transparent that one must wonder if Craig believes in his own argument or if he’s just grown so accustomed to making it that there’s no stopping now. Either way, he depends entirely on the child’s polite refusal to call “bullshit” on the premises.

Craig dresses up his babble with a nice vocabulary and tends to avoid dragging scripture into his whackado rationalizations, preferring pseudo-scientific terms. But it’s still just babble. You can call it an “ontological argument” but it really just means you have no evidence whatsoever for your babble. You can call it the “Kalam Cosmological Argument,” but all you’re really saying is that since you don’t understand the origins of the universe, God must have done it and you decline to explain why God does not require an origin when you assume that the universe does.

That Craig’s babble contains more syllables than the usual religious nonsense does not make him intelligent nor his arguments worth more than the 30 seconds it takes to shoot them down with the merest assertion of logic. I give him an A for comportment, but an F in debate. And I give an F- to anyone who confuses the two.

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goat August 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Man, I opened this page expecting a massive article from the size of the page-scroller, and it is actually a pretty short article! Then you have just got people “practicing their debating skills” in the comments. Actually, I just google searched “How to win a debate high school” and this was one of the results, and me being a theist and a big fan of Craig’s, I was interested to see what the article said. Oh well, back to research…

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Csaba August 25, 2011 at 5:12 am

I’ve been reading up on the supposed fine-tuning of physical constants. WLC says the gravitational constant G and the fine-structure constant \alpha are fine-tuned up to 100 decimal places, any larger change in either of them would make the universe inhospitable etc. Leaving aside the prosecutor’s fallacy that he commits and the lack of imagination (for example, maybe with a different set of constants we would have Thomson atoms and a completely different chemistry, etc), I just wanted to check out how well these constants are actually fine tuned. First of all, our knowledge of G is not so accurate, we only know it with a precision of 8 decimal places! Similarly \alpha only 13 decimal places. How could anyone say anything of a universe where G is changed by 10^-100 when we don’t even know its value by 10 decimal places? I read Hawking’s book and he wrote of fine-tunings of various constants at the order of 10-50% (I didn’t particularly like the book and gave it away, but I remember that his numbers were around this range). Not so impressive now is it?

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Csaba August 25, 2011 at 5:15 am

Just to clarify, I was referring to The Grand Design above.

@J Farrell, I am glad that you accept that nobody can prove that these objective moral values and duties exist. And if WLC can’t prove it, his premise is not valid, so his argument fails.

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Adam September 21, 2011 at 1:22 am

He loses to Ray Bradley.

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David October 3, 2011 at 12:03 am
Steve Skeete December 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I have been following Dr. Craig for many years and with all due respects, I would like to suggest that you add at least another three steps to your suggestions as to how to debate him. Step #6 Make sure you know what the debate is about before you turn up. Many who have debated Dr. Craig, particular those well known in some field of science, seem to want to destroy Christianity in one fell swoop regardless of the topic at hand. Step #7 Leave the wise cracks, innuendos and snide remarks for the after dinner Award speech. This is a debate and no points are scored that way. Finally, step #8 Don’t be cocky! No one has all the answers, especially those I have seen debate Dr. Craig. So show some civility and moreso some humility. After all, you don’t believe in gods, right?

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Dobbie December 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm

bySteve Skeete

So show some civility and moreso some humility.

I agree with the other things you suggested for debating WLC. But as to the quotation, what form does “show some humility” take?

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JDK December 15, 2011 at 2:16 am

You guys just don’t get it do you? Nobody. I mean nobody will ever win a formal, canned debate with WLC. The reason? Formal debates have Baysean structure, a yea or nay question to be debated, of which Lame Craig is all too familiar with. This is not to say that Craig definitively wins either (I suspect he knows this deep down but would never admit it; his starry-eyed groupies are another matter- all convinced he wins no matter what) . What this means is that at best, you can argue him to a draw. From what I have seen, Hitch, Harris, Wolpert have done this very effectively (I disagree with the analysis of Luke & Andrew that these opponents were decimated). The best way to toy with Craig is by playing to his lust for prominence and using that as leverage to modify the debate format or messing with him outside of the debate. He is pretty effective at this as well but I have noticed some chinks in his armor. Harris, for example, took him out of his comfort zone (his favorite is the existence of god) by debating him on morality, and forced him into esoteric loss of audience with his too abstract technical and defeating-the-rest-of-his case “knock down argument” (although admittedly Harris failed to exploit this). Even Dawk forced him out of his usual debate style with that silly boxing debate in Mexico, andthen, interestingly enoug, NOT debating him in Oxford. Has anyone seen this “empty chair” debate? Craig makes a better logician’s case for himself than I have ever seen him make in any debate. EVER. The problem? Far too technical and Dawk’s quip about refusing to debate him on his justification of genocide forced him to actually double down on the retarded thing! Not only that, but I can’t think of a more applicable use of Hitch’s Christian book expo slaughtering ( of4 Xian apologists including Lame Craig himself + xian audience) as rebuttal to this ill-advised doubling down (Craig made it apparent that this was the Jews rendering god’s judgment and that, get this, “all will be made well with the innocents in the end”). Did anyone not see Hitch’s expo performance, while Lame Craig sat there, getting heartburn, impotent as a eunuch? (again, not his forum). The more Lame Craig goes on in the absence of a worthy opponent or a formal debate format or the topic of choice, the better; he loses the DEBATE AT LARGE. 2011 has been a tough year for him. Back in early 2010, I went to his own website and destroyed his KCA in about 5 or 6 different ways and I think the reality is beginning to set in (notice how he has moved away from it more recently?). Earlier this year, I bitchslapped one of his groupies on his exact formulation of the FTA through a series of protracted email exchanges. The news still hasn’t caught up with him on that yet.

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Duane Ruth January 11, 2012 at 11:26 pm

What are you all talking about “Hitchens” and “Carrier” “losing debates” to this clown????? When did that ever happen!!!!???? This guy is one of the worst Christian apologists out there!! Clueless and illogical! he makes no sense and fights, desperately to box in issues in ways that mean nothing. He’s a real buffoon if you ask me, and I have watched countless videos of him on YouTube and he has never won even one single debate that I have seen! In fact, he annoys me to death with his rambling nonsense! Really, what on earth are you all referring to???? This guy is really dumb! Are you talking about some kind of debate for sport- as in the debate team in college? Or are you talking about convincing an audience that your points are rights. Because, this guy hasn’t won, not ever in the latter regard! He makes no sense, not ever!

I think skeptics are in “scared mode” after watching Hitchens and Carrier both lose to Craig such that they are unwilling to recommend a better more knowledgable debater to debate Craig, me. I commented further on Andrew’s most recent post <a href=”http://evaluatingchristianity.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/advice-for-debating-william-lane-craig-part-4-answering-loftus/#comment-482″>right here</a>.

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