Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate review (part 3)

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 17, 2011 in Debates,Reviews

I’ve been discussing the recent Harris-Craig debate on morality (videoaudio). I conclude by discussing the closing remarks, the Q&A and both debaters post-debate comments.

 

Craig’s closing remarks

Contra Harris, Craig says that he isn’t just defining God as good like Harris is defining conscious well-being as good. He instead says that God, if he exists, must be good because any being who is not good is not God. It won’t surprise you that I think this is gibberish.

He also says that accepting axioms is just “taking things on faith,” which is semantically manipulative baloney.

He also reviews all the positive and negative arguments he gave that Harris never replied to.

 

Harris’ closing remarks

Harris says that the logic for Craig’s view of divine command morality is the same as the logic for Islamic divine command morality. But of course Craig said this from the very beginning. Craig wasn’t making a case for Christianity is particular in this debate.

The rest of his closing remarks are rhetorically effective but also irrelevant to the topic of the debate – stuff about the cosmological knowledge of Biblical authors and so on.

There is this great bit, though:

Just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no such thing as Christian or Muslim morality. Whatever is true about our circumstance in moral terms… is discoverable now, and can be talked about in language that is not an outright affront to everything we’ve learned in the last 2,000 years.

What remains for us to discover are the facts in every domain of knowledge that will allow the greatest number of us to live lives truly worth living…

If faith is ever right about anything in this domain, it’s right by accident.

 

Q & A

The Q & A period is lively but not that interesting dialectically.

 

Post-debate remarks

In his post-debate remarks, Harris says he purposely ignored the frame that Craig set around the scope of the debate. But that doesn’t work. Craig stayed truer to the publicly stated scope of the debate, and in any case Harris should have confronted Craig’s framing instead of letting Craig’s opening dictate the frame of the debate.

Craig has some remarks on the debate in his website’s Q&A section, where he explains why he did not say that you can’t derive an ought from an is, since this would undermine theistic moral realism. He also goes over his ‘knock-down argument’ against Harris’ moral views in more detail.

 

Conclusion

As usual, Craig’s superior framing, scholarship and debate skills ‘won’ the debate for him. On the other hand, there is another sense in which atheists always have an advantage in such debates. Everybody knows standard Christian positions, but many have never heard even the New Atheist’s standard critiques of religion and theistic morality yet. So exposure to both perspectives is likely to benefit atheist’s intellectual cause more than the Christian’s.

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{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Hallquist April 17, 2011 at 4:30 am

>Craig stayed truer to the publicly stated scope of the debate, and in any case Harris should have confronted Craig’s framing instead of letting Craig’s opening dictate the frame of the debate.

This was my initial reaction too… but on reflection, I agree with Harris. Pace Craig, the official topic of the debate wasn’t a conditional claim. It was “Is Good from God?” On the face of it, questions like “Does God actually exist?” are relevant. Nor is it obvious that “God” must be referring to some very abstract god, rather than the Christian god.

Also, I don’t think Harris let Craig dictate the frame of the debate. He pretty clearly had his own way of framing things. In fact, had he approached the debate the way a lot a people would have had him do it–by giving a point-by-point response to every little thing Craig said–it would have resulted in Craig controlling the framing of the debate a lot more.

Harris’ presentation probably would have benefited from a *few* more explicit responses to Craig, but I found Harris very effective rhetorically, and his arguments were much better than Craig’s.

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Paul Baird April 17, 2011 at 4:34 am

I saw Sam Harris speaking last night at Wordfest in Cambridge UK. His talk was pretty much a carbon copy of his speeches at this debate ie same annecdotes and jokes.

My criticism of William Lane-Craigs line of argument was that he was dealing with an ought, and Sam was dealing with an is ie WLC was speaking about a God that I did not recognise, it was more of a hypothetical God rather than any specific God, and it was certainly nothing like the Christian God ie would the God as the source of good that WLC was describing really frame a Commandment that contained an admission of jealousy ?

I think Sam Harris did miss a couple of open goals from WLC inasmuch as he did not address how WLC would justify the ability of human morality to be manipulated such as in the Milgram experiment.

If the hypothetical God is the source of good then how can a human striving to be good be so easily manipulated to be bad ? Is God so weak or the reliance on that source so feeble that effectively it counts for nothing ?

That’s my tuppenceworth anyway.

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Shmuel April 17, 2011 at 6:06 am

I thought Sam won for sure. Each speaker was speaking about a different concept of “god”:

Craig’s definition of “god” for the debate was an Anselmian conception of God as “the greatest conceivable being” and nothing more.
Harris’ definition of “god” was largely the god of one of our monotheisms – a revealed god as enshrined in holy books.

So Luke, why are you so willing to settle for, and only for, Craig’s framing of the debate? Seeing that the title of the debate was just “Does Good Come From God” – notice not “a god”, “any god” or a “maximally great being” – it’s only too relevant to discuss the closest monotheism at hand. I mean, one’s a Christian apologist, the other has written a book called “Letter to a Christian Nation” and they’re at a Christian institution…

Harris addressed Craig’s definition of “god”, both in rebuttals and in the Q&A. Craig on the other hand, completely failed to address Harris’ points.

And that’s why I thought Sam resoundingly won.

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Michael O'Nuadhain April 17, 2011 at 6:38 am

Well Ive always regarded the social, culural and historical context within which these sorts of encounters take place to be incomparably the more important consideration than how they might be scored in a formal high school or collegiate debate team or league setting. There are no teams or leagues here and no judges that I’m aware of, and so all “scorecards” are imaginary. If points made are relevant to the lives, choices and world views of every single person sitting that venue and those who will watch it for years to come on the internet, then the points are important to make and I deduct nothing for them. On the contrary, the whole reason such encounters as these are important at all, is that they are opportunities to make points relevant to lives of those listening and watching, and the responsibility to use that opportunity outweighs all concerns by those who are especially anal and stickleristic about debate format and scoring.

Having said that, what Harris says here in his post debate remarks is important:

“Instead, I simply argued for a scientific conception of moral truth and against one based on the biblical God. This was, after all, the argument that the organizer’s at Notre Dame had invited me to make.”

Well if they did invite him to discuss and argue about the biblical god, thats a problem for all self-appointed debate judges and how to assign scores on their imaginary scorecards. Debate organizers and debaters are supposed to work out, well in advance, what specifically the proposition for the debate will be, as this affects the burden each one has and allows them some time to prepare their presentations accordingly. If he was invited to speak about the biblical god or was told in advance that he could speak about that if he wanted (which they should not have unless this was understood by both sides), this should cause the debate purists to put aside the score as it would be rendered pointless. That means he was not off topic in any of the remarks he was making about the biblical god.

For myself, even if it was off-topic to the debate, it was on topic to the real lives of real people in the audience and wider world, so therefore it was worth saying. But without some greater clarification from Harris or the organizers as to what was said about topic and presentations, I would be reluctant to enter any “score” on my imaginary card even if I was the sort that was anal about those considerations.

Although to be perfectly honest, even if no possible misuderstanding existed, the resulting presentations would probably be judged in Craigs favor anyhow, at least by those who imagine themselves to be unofficial judges of the non-existant debate league.

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Matt April 17, 2011 at 6:43 am

I haben’t posted here in a while, but a new wlc debate is always worth watching. Sam Harrris doesn’t deserve to write a term paper in one of Craig’s undergraduate seminars, let alone be taken seriously as an atheist ethicist. His moral scientism is considerably more vulgar than Craig’s fundamentalism, and that’s saying quite a lot. I just don’t get the appeal he has to anybody with even a smidgeon of a background in philosophical ethics. Luke, do you agree? I’d be interested in your opinion!

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PDH April 17, 2011 at 7:09 am

Chris Hallquist wrote,

This was my initial reaction too… but on reflection, I agree with Harris. Pace Craig, the official topic of the debate wasn’t a conditional claim. It was “Is Good from God?” On the face of it, questions like “Does God actually exist?” are relevant.

Yes, I think a lot of people are forgetting what the topic actually was. It would have been a perfectly legitimate strategy to show that God almost certainly does not exist. If God does not exist then good cannot come from God.

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Luke Muehlhauser April 17, 2011 at 7:40 am

Matt,

I don’t think moral reductionism is vulgar at all. In a recent detailed survey of meta-ethical positions, Miller’s An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics, moral reductionism comes out ahead of everything else, roughly, whereas theistic morality isn’t even mentioned as a possibility, as I recall. But if you want a serious version of what Harris is saying, you can read Peter Railton or Frank Jackson.

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MauricXe April 17, 2011 at 8:06 am

Was Harris actually arguing for the non-existence of God? I’m not so sure he was. It sounded more like: “This god is a d-bag, no way morals can come from him”

iirc, Craig is the only one that explicitly said Harris was arguing against God’s existence.

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snafu April 17, 2011 at 8:26 am

As usual, Craig’s superior framing, scholarship and debate skills ‘won’ the debate for him.

Aye, but it’s frustrating to see people not take your advice, Luke. Craig has been pushing the view that “this debate’s about moral ontology, not epistomology” for many years, and if you go into biblical atrocities you’re going to get spanked with it. And, you know, to people who’s philosophical knowledge extends to the bare definition of the long words in the previous sentence, this argument superficially sounds pretty good. It’s certainly a debate ‘winner’ and can be thrown out quickly letting the speaker move on to re-iterating their own points (another Craig speciality).

So whilst I have sympathy for the Hallquist line that related Phil of R topics are relevant, it’s tactically naive when you’re up against Craig.

The second frustration in my mind is that I still haven’t seen Craig get philosophical boulders thrown at him, instead of easily-swatted flies. Many philosophically-informed people know that there are significant issues with theistic metaethics. I’ve never seen Craig challenged beyond the response of “well, your simplistic caricature of divinely ordained genocide doesn’t apply to my sophisticated modified DCT” (approximate quote, can’t remember which debate).

Well, I know tons of criticisms of Adams-ian DCT. No atheist debater I’ve seen has even come up with the basics yet.

One piece of kudos to Harris: he caught Craig with his pants down playing semantic definitional games with the word “good”. Didn’t make enough of it though.

Phew, this comment was too long.

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Chris Hallquist April 17, 2011 at 8:45 am

Was Harris actually arguing for the non-existence of God?I’m not so sure he was.It sounded more like: “This god is a d-bag, no way morals can come from him”

iirc, Craig is the only one that explicitly said Harris was arguing against God’s existence.

This.

This actually crossed my mind after I posted my comment. But even if Craig were right that Harris was arguing against the existence of God, it would still be relevant.

Also, guys: when I saw the debate, I unthinkingly accepted most of what Craig said about the irrelevance of Harris’ comments. But once Harris’ blog post made me think about it, I realized how ridiculous it Craig’s claims were.

If I had to pick a single greatest strength of Craig’s, it would be that he knows that if he makes an assertion, and his opponent doesn’t directly challenge it, a good chunk of the audience will believe him. No matter how absurd or unsupported his assertion is. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve fallen for that very lame trick, and I think we all need to try harder not to fall for it.

So:

Just because Craig says the problem of evil is irrelevant, doesn’t mean it is.

Just because Craig says the Old Testament is irrelevant, doesn’t mean it is.

Just because Craig always tries to frame these debates in terms of “ontology” rather than “epistemology” doesn’t mean his opponents aren’t allowed to talk about epistemology.

Just because he’s gotten away with saying these things in the past doesn’t mean you have to get away with them out of some “tactical” consideration (what I think snafu is saying).

And finally, just because Craig relies on high school debating tricks does not make the question “what would a high school debate judge say about this debate?” a remotely interesting question.

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shmuel April 17, 2011 at 9:13 am

Chris Hallquist said:

Just because Craig says the problem of evil is irrelevant, doesn’t mean it is.

Just because Craig says the Old Testament is irrelevant, doesn’t mean it is.

Just because Craig always tries to frame these debates in terms of “ontology” rather than
“epistemology” doesn’t mean his opponents aren’t allowed to talk about epistemology.

Couldn’t agree more with Chris.

Just because Craig asserts he only needs to defend the concept of a “greatest conceivable being”, and not religious text, doesn’t make it so. In the same light, Harris could have framed the debate topic as having nothing to do with defending an atheistic system of morality – that his job was just to show that none of our gods are a justifiable source of morality – and then declare every sentence Craig sprouted off about atheism as being irrelevant. So why should we accept Craig’s framing of the debate and not Harris’? Again, at least Harris addressed the other side’s arguments.

Remember, the debate topic was simply “Does Good Come From God?”. Religious text and moral epistemology are therefore in no way necessarily excluded from the debate – in fact, they’re all too relevant. Luke, I think you’ve been mislead by Craig’s debate tactics. This commentor, and others, clearly see through it however.

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cl April 17, 2011 at 9:41 am

He also says that accepting axioms is just “taking things on faith,” which is semantically manipulative baloney.

Can somebody else ask Luke to elaborate on this? He’s in another one of his, “I’m not responding to cl” phases.

Luke,

In a recent detailed survey of meta-ethical positions, Miller’s An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics, moral reductionism comes out ahead of everything else, roughly, whereas theistic morality isn’t even mentioned as a possibility, as I recall.

As if that means anything. You should know better than to walk with open arms towards an argument from popularity!

Hallquist,

This actually crossed my mind after I posted my comment. But even if Craig were right that Harris was arguing against the existence of God, it would still be relevant.

Not when Craig’s argument hinges on a conditional. Harris meandered off-topic, plain and simple.

No matter how absurd or unsupported his assertion is. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve fallen for that very lame trick, and I think we all need to try harder not to fall for it.

Well, one way to offset this “trick” would be to actually engage your opponents instead of getting all huffy-puffy and declaring, “I’m not responding,” which doesn’t accomplish anything.

Matt,

Sam Harrris doesn’t deserve to write a term paper in one of Craig’s undergraduate seminars, let alone be taken seriously as an atheist ethicist.

I tend to agree. Sad thing is, the internet is rife with people who do take Sam seriously as an atheist ethicist, who do think that scientists can point their instruments at morality and walk away unscathed. This is part of the mindset that led to American eugenics. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Those people really thought they were doing the right thing, and they certainly had science on their side.

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snafu April 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

Oh yeah Chris, these topics are relevant in a sense and I totally see your point. I’m prepared to admit I might be being hoodwinked by the Sith Lord here.

I think the relevancy is due to the fact that they’re tangentially-related philosophical topics with implications for the debate title.

But are they ‘relevant’ in the sense of ‘winning*’ the debate? I do feel that if one was to score the debate like a boxing match (ie Craig answered these 5 points well, deflected these 2 adequately and ignored the rest) then Craig would come out on top.

Full disclosure that I’m not a debater (let alone a judge) so I don’t really know what’s involved in this claim. But my feeling is that plenty of theistic fence-sitters who don’t know these arguments backwards will come away with the impression that Craig’s position is the robust one based on an informal judgement like this.

(* nearly everyone has put scare quotes around this word now; I may as well continue)

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snafu April 17, 2011 at 10:26 am

does not make the question “what would a high school debate judge say about this debate?” a remotely interesting question.

Actually, I do think this is an interesting question…but I think I’ve said my piece now. FWIW, I’m still thinking carefully about what you and the others are saying.

Thanks for the interaction, it’s appreciated.

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The DownLow April 17, 2011 at 10:37 am

Well, one way to offset this “trick” would be to actually engage your opponents instead of getting all huffy-puffy and declaring, “I’m not responding,” which doesn’t accomplish anything.

Great. We get it. You are pouting over Luke not responding to you. The best way to resolve this, cl? Accept that fact and MOVE ON. Otherwise it makes you look like a scorned lover that wants his ex-girlfriend to acknowlege him and how much better his life is after the break up. (“I’m doing so much better without you. Not that I care if you notice or not. But I am just saying.”)

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Kevin April 17, 2011 at 11:48 am

“Was Harris actually arguing for the non-existence of God? I’m not so sure he was. It sounded more like: “This god is a d-bag, no way morals can come from him”

iirc, Craig is the only one that explicitly said Harris was arguing against God’s existence.”

He did bring up Epicurus, which would disprove the God Craig was using. God is either impotent or evil, either would disprove Anselm’s notion of God, which is the concept Craig was defending. I’m not sure how Craig would respond to this, mainly because he didn’t.

If he had conceded that his God doesn’t exist, since it wouldn’t effect the truth of his two contentions, would people say that he would have still won? That seems incorrect. How could someone argue that God grounds morality, concede that it is false, and then win? I think this points to the irrelevancy of his two contentions. Even if he satisfies the two contentions, it doesn’t show anything significant. This shows a large flaw in Craig’s game plan, even if he accomplished what he set out to do, it would still not show his side of the motion to be warranted, which is a major problem for anyone claiming that Craig won.

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NAL April 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm

He instead says that God, if he exists, must be good because any being who is not good is not God.

So, if he isn’t just defining God as good, then he’s defining good as God.

It’s an example of definitional morality either way.

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Michael April 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I tend to agree. Sad thing is, the internet is rife with people who do take Sam seriously as an atheist ethicist, who do think that scientists can point their instruments at morality and walk away unscathed. This is part of the mindset that led to American eugenics. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Those people really thought they were doing the right thing, and they certainly had science on their side.

Then again cl, we should also state quite openly that we shouldn’t take WLC too seriously as a theist ethicist either- cos that’s not really his forte. He hasn’t really published any articles in the literature when it comes to meta-ethics and his moral arguments usually aren’t particularly sophisticated. I do think he has a slightly better understanding than Harris, but I would still say Craig is much more of a populariser when it comes to ethics.

And Luke I would be interested if you could expand on the bit, “He also says that accepting axioms is just “taking things on faith,” which is semantically manipulative baloney.”
I’m pretty sure here WLC was talking about when Harris was simply saying about how you can only go so far with argumentation and that we just have to accept certain axioms to believe in his objective basis, ie assume that the well-being of conscious creatures is obviously the moral good.

I would have thought that you would have joined WLC in rejecting Harris’ appeal to what was essentially the intuitions , especially seeing as you are so against any use of the moral intuition/conscience in morality ;)

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Ein Sophistry April 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Note how in his post-debate written response Craig himself equivocates between moral semantics and moral ontology. In his answer to question 2, he says that his case is a claim about the ontology of moral goodness. This is important to Craig’s case because he also wishes to argue that the proposition “God is good” is meaningful, and it would be an uninformative tautology were his claim merely a semantic one about the definition of “good.” In contrast, he argues that Harris is merely trying to define “good” as conscious wellbeing and further accuses this definition of being arbitrary and idiosyncratic.

Yet, Craig’s “knock-down” argument (re-presented in his answer to question 3) proceeds on the assumption that Harris is making an ontological claim after all. Craig argues (seemingly on the basis of Kripke’s work) that identity is a necessary relation and that because he (and apparently even Harris) can imagine a possible world in which “good” and “conscious wellbeing” are not identical, then they are in fact not identical in any possible world, including this one. What Craig doesn’t deign to mention is that Kripke showed that identities were only necessary between rigid designators like proper names or natural kind terms that pick out the same thing in all possible worlds in which they exist. Even if Harris had truly admitted that goodness and wellbeing could possibly come apart (and he did not; see Sola Ratione’s review), it would not necessarily imply that they are not identical in this world, but only that at least one of the terms is not a rigid designator. This should not be a controversial conclusion to anyone who’s not a Platonist about things like “goodness” and “wellbeing”. Craig has projected Platonic presuppositions onto Harris, but Harris needn’t at all view either “goodness” or “wellbeing” as rigid designators, and may thus maintain their contingent identity.

This would also allow Harris to rebut Craig’s charge of arbitrary semantic tomfoolery. On Kripke’s view, at least, only necessary identities can fix meaning, so there would seem to be no problem with Harris arguing that goodness and conscious wellbeing are identical, even though we may not recognize them as having the same meaning. Mind you, Harris may not be philosophically savvy enough to recognize that this option is available to him, but Craig has no such excuse. His “knock-down” argument is nothing but a disingenuous assault on a straw-man.

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cl April 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm

TheDownLow,

Did you have anything to add to the ongoing discussion of morality? Or, were you just commenting to take a pot shot? I don’t mind either way, it’s just that the former are more interesting to me.

Great. We get it. You are pouting over Luke not responding to you.

Pouting is the wrong word there, smarty-pants. I actually find a bit of reassurance in the fact that Luke apparently doesn’t have what it takes to defend his claim. My point is that we’ve got all these atheists who fancy themselves oh-so-rational and talk a lot of trash on Craig, yet, when it comes down to it, there’s really not much to support it. Why wouldn’t I point that out? I mean, you guys all mock Craig, yet Luke actually makes the strawman argument he mistakenly attributes to Craig! Luke writes that if everyone desired to be surrounded by deafening noise all day, then it would be moral for everyone to carry a boombox. And nobody cares! Yet, when Luke mistakenly attributes this type of subjective morality to Craig, you guys get in an uproar about what a joke Craig’s morality is! It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so asinine.

The best way to resolve this, cl? Accept that fact and MOVE ON.

You mistakenly assume I haven’t accepted the fact. As for “moving on,” that’s not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in the debate.

Otherwise it makes you look like a scorned lover that wants his ex-girlfriend to acknowlege him and how much better his life is after the break up. (“I’m doing so much better without you. Not that I care if you notice or not. But I am just saying.”)

I’m doing about the same as I was doing before Luke and Hallquist pulled the, “we’re not responding to cl” card, so, I’m not really sure what you’re getting at there.

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Luke Muehlhauser April 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm

cl,

I didn’t give an argument from popularity. A sample size of one (Miller) is not popularity. What I’m doing is pointing you to a resource for investigating the reasons why moral reductionism is worth more serious consideration than theistic morality. I will not be surprised if you decline to take the opportunity.

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Luke Muehlhauser April 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm

> Luke writes that if everyone desired to be surrounded by deafening noise all day, then it would be moral for everyone to carry a boombox.

This is false.

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Landon Hedrick April 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

When I watched the debate I, too, thought that Harris’ excursion into the problem of evil was off-topic. But as I reflected more on it, I think it can be construed as part of an argument that is directly relevant to the topic of their debate:

(P1) There is objective morality.

(P2) If God does not exist, then if there is objective morality, it doesn’t come from God.

(P3) God does not exist. (argument from evil)

(P4) Therefore, if there is objective morality, it doesn’t come from God. (from P2 and P3)

(Conclusion) Therefore, objective morality doesn’t come from God. (from P1 and P4)

That conclusion is clearly relevant to the debate. The question we’d have to ask ourselves is whether or not Harris can successfully argue for the non-existence of God on the basis of evil against somebody like Craig, who is familiar with that argument and knows many of the responses to it. Nevertheless, it looks like the argument itself was on topic.

Regarding the arguments specifically against versions of Christian theism, those seem to be more off-topic. But I’ll try to be charitable to Harris and construe them in a way that was relevant to the debate:

First, Craig’s opening statement argued specifically against things that Harris committed himself to elsewhere (in his book). So, when it comes to Craig’s argument against the possibility of objective morality on an atheistic worldview, he treats Harris’ book as the one sustained argument that needs to be dealt with in order for him to make his case.

Second, Harris didn’t really have to defend the view he argued for in his book for that debate. He could have simply done what Shelly Kagan did in his debate with Craig. He could have defended some other view as a plausible case of objective morality that is independent of the existence of God. This would have been sufficient for the debate topic.

Third, since Craig nailed Harris on things from his book during his opening speech, he was dictating the structure of the debate by trying to force Harris to defend the views he’s committed himself to elsewhere.

Fourth, it is perfectly legitimate for Harris to do the same exact thing to Craig. If it is okay for Craig to argue specifically against Harris’ commitments from his book, it is okay for Harris to argue specifically against Craig’s commitments from his books.

Fifth, since Craig is committed to various views on the unevangelized, hell, etc., and since it is legitimate to discuss the morality of a being who sends people to hell, it is legitimate to therefore mount an argument that such a being as Craig believes in is a “moral monster.” Craig believes that morality comes from the Christian God, and Harris argued that such a God is a moral monster, and therefore cannot be the foundation for objective morality.

So, I conclude that if it’s okay for Craig to nail Harris on his specific views about morality that he’s committed himself to in print, it follows that it’s okay for Harris to nail Craig on his specific views about God and morality that he’s committed to as well. Craig could complain that just by showing that Craig’s version of the Christian God isn’t the foundation of morality, that doesn’t show that some other conception of God isn’t the foundation of morality. That’s a legitimate point. But then Harris could likewise complain that even if there are problems with his attempt to ground objective morality in an atheistic worldview, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other attempts out there in the literature. If Harris has to refute all attempts to ground morality in God, then Craig has to refute all attempts to ground morality without God.

What do you guys think? Am I being too charitable to Harris here?

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Chris Hallquist April 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Hmmm… I wrote both of my comments in a bout of insomnia, and after a 2-hour nap, I can see that two sentences came out garbled. Looks like a lot of people understood what I was saying anyway. But FWIW:

“ridiculous it Craig’s claims were” should be “ridiculous Craig’s claims were”

“you have to get away with” should be “you have to let him get away with”

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ayer April 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I’m pretty sure here WLC was talking about when Harris was simply saying about how you can only go so far with argumentation and that we just have to accept certain axioms to believe in his objective basis, ie assume that the well-being of conscious creatures is obviously the moral good.

Yes, here Harris seems to assert that well being of conscious creatures equaling the moral good is “properly basic,” a concept generally associated with theists (e.g., Plantinga on proper basically of belief in God, Copan on proper basicality of objective moral values, here: http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbgod.aspx?pageid=8589952712).

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cl April 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Michael,

He hasn’t really published any articles in the literature when it comes to meta-ethics and his moral arguments usually aren’t particularly sophisticated.

Granted, but published articles and sophisticated arguments aren’t my ultimate criteria. Surely, there are situations that call for nuance, but personally, I prefer simplicity to sophistication, and I could care less about one’s accomplishments within the intelligentsia. It all boils down to whether or not the man makes sense, and I think he does more often than not, any legitimate gripes notwithstanding.

And Luke I would be interested if you could expand on the bit, “He also says that accepting axioms is just “taking things on faith,” which is semantically manipulative baloney.”

Thanks. As I said, I’m interested in that, too.

Luke,

Oh! Looksie! He does have the time to grace cl with a response after all! Look, I couldn’t care less whether or not you concur with Miller. I want to know if you can defend the claims *YOU* made about Craig and God-based morality. Thus far, it seems you can’t.

Luke writes that if everyone desired to be surrounded by deafening noise all day, then it would be moral for everyone to carry a boombox. [cl]

This is false.

Oh really now? False as in, you don’t believe that amateur nonsense any more and you just forgot to tell us? Or, false as in, you never said that at all? If the latter, are you lying? Feeling a little forgetful, perhaps? After all, it’s still right there, on p. 27 of your “e-book” on morality:

And if everybody desired to be surrounded by deafening noise, then it would be morally right to carry a blasting boombox everywhere you went. [Luke Muehlhauser]

Can you clarify?

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cl April 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm

ayer,

Yes, here Harris seems to assert that well being of conscious creatures equaling the moral good is “properly basic,”

FWIW, so long as we’re careful to distinguish between well-being and hedonist pleasure, I think Harris is more or less correct there. I think would be at least a little problematic for Craig to challenge that claim. However, I raise my eyebrow when Harris starts off on the whole, “science can sufficiently answer this question for us” spiel.

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Reidish April 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Hi Landon Hendricks,

You wrote:

(P1) There is objective morality.

(P2) If God does not exist, then if there is objective morality, it doesn’t come from God.

(P3) God does not exist. (argument from evil)

(P4) Therefore, if there is objective morality, it doesn’t come from God. (from P2 and P3)

(Conclusion) Therefore, objective morality doesn’t come from God. (from P1 and P4)

Note that P2 is a trivial, necessary truth. For any X, if X does not exist and Y exists, then Y doesn’t come from X. Objective morality can’t possibly come from God if God does not exist.

But this gets the atheist not one iota closer to responding to the conditionals Craig posed in the debate. Craig defended the claim that if atheism is true, then there is no objective morality. The argument above merely asserts that the antecedent is true and the consequent is false. If that is what Harris had in mind, then it harms Craig’s proposal not one bit. It’s been said many times all over the interwebs already, but whatever, I’ll say it again: the argument from evil was at best a red herring.

Craig basically made the following claim:
(P5) If X, then ~Y

I’ll grant that Harris was doing what you had in mind (I confess it was very difficult to understand what Harris was doing). Then, in essence, he provided the following two claims:
(P6) X
(P7) Y

But the truth value of both (P6) and (P7) is completely irrelevant when determining whether (P5) is true or false. It just isn’t possible to determine if (P5) is true or false given (P6) and (P7).

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Landon Hedrick April 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Reidish,

Thanks for the response. I don’t see how Craig can wiggle out of the argument in the way you seem to be suggesting. Craig admits that there is objective morality (values and duties), and Harris concurs. So that’s a common datum for the two of them to use in their arguments. Craig couples that fact (and we can agree with them that it is a fact, for the sake of argument) with the conditional that if there is no God, then there is no objective morality. And he concludes that there is a God.

Harris can equally couple the fact with the additional claim that there is no God, and thereby conclude that Craig’s conditional is false–because he would have Craig’s admission that there is objective morality, and he would have demonstrated that God doesn’t exist. And clearly that entails that even on atheism, there can be a foundation for objective morality.

Perhaps you can clarify what you were trying to say for me. You offer these three premises:

(P5) If X, then ~Y
(P6) X
(P7) Y

Craig held (P5) during the debate. (It’s another question whether he’s got any sort of case for that premise.) But, suppose Harris demonstrates that (P6) and (P7) are both true. From (P6) Craig should be able to infer that (P7) is false, given his conditional. But since (P7) isn’t false, as even Craig admits in the debate (he admits that there is objective morality), then he can’t retain the conditional without giving up on either (P6) or (P7). Well clearly he would give up on (P6) because he doesn’t think the argument from evil disproves the existence of God. Fair enough. But that just goes to show you that the argument from evil *was* relevant to the debate, because if it is successful then Craig’s conditional claim must be abandoned unless he’s willing to change his mind about there being objective morality.

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billyboy April 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Luke’s conclusion on the debate is very telling: “As usual, Craig’s superior framing, scholarship and debate skills ‘won’ the debate for him”.
Why can’t it be admitted that it’s so much WLC winning debates, but it’s that the best arguments set forth by leading the atheists wither under the strength of theistic arguments.
I’m starting to wonder whether some atheists are as dogmatic as some theists.

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Reidish April 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Hi Landon Hedrick,

Craig held (P5) during the debate. (It’s another question whether he’s got any sort of case for that premise.)

Right, that’s the principal claim he defended.

But, suppose Harris demonstrates that (P6) and (P7) are both true. From (P6) Craig should be able to infer that (P7) is false, given his conditional. But since (P7) isn’t false, as even Craig admits in the debate (he admits that there is objective morality), then he can’t retain the conditional without giving up on either (P6) or (P7). Well clearly he would give up on (P6) because he doesn’t think the argument from evil disproves the existence of God. Fair enough. But that just goes to show you that the argument from evil *was* relevant to the debate, because if it is successful then Craig’s conditional claim must be abandoned unless he’s willing to change his mind about there being objective morality.

Yeah, now I see what you are getting at. Sorry, my previous contained a stupid goof. The truth of either (P6) or (P7) is irrelevant to determining the truth of the conditional (P5). But if Harris does succeed in proving both, and Craig can’t defeat either, then Craig has to toss his conditional.

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jakeley April 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I’m not much of a judge of debates, either, and I am finding both the debate and the commentary here quite interesting. There is one thing I wanted to observe about this debate. At one point Sam Harris asks us to imagine “the worst possible world,” that being one where people are in constant searing pain or something like that. He uses that as a point of departure for imagining a world where human well-being for the greatest number of people is any degree of existence away from that worst case. I find it interesting that his point of departure pretty much adeqautely describes Hell, or “The Lake of Fire” as it is imagined in the New Testament. Similarly, Craig imagines a God that is “all good,” which is a Neo-Platonic representation of God and has nothing to do with the God of Jesus or Moses, except possibly a shared vocabulary term.

Neither Harris nor Craig notices the degree to which their poetics overlap and switch registers, or that they are in a pitched battle for control of these images of dread and redemption. Harris engages in condemnation to advance some of his arguments. Craig launches an armada of tinny rationalisms to defend the case for the para-rational origin of “the good.”

I think that overall they were both full of hot air most of the time. Very smart hot air, but still not quite what I would have wanted to hear. Harris alone won my admiration because he acknowleded that a scientific system of determining “the good” could not consistently produce “the good” by virtue of the fact that it was human science and by definition had had to rely not on the certainty of an inviolable revelation, but on postulates and discovery. I think that if he had started there, he would have been able to develop a subtler argument that could ultimately have left Craig’s argument looking a lot shabbier.

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Luke Muehlhauser April 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm

cl,

That ebook does not represent my views anymore. It is obsolete, as it says on the page where you download the book from.

You can also find old blog posts of mine where I say that God exists. But it would be deliberately misleading to tell people that “Luke writes that God exists!”

Ignoring cl once again,

Luke Muehlhauser

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Citizen Ghost April 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I’m still amused by the sort of conclusion we see here from Luke and some of the other critics – that Craig’s arguments are bogus but that he nevertheless “won” the debate because of superior organization, better debating skills or some other vague reason.

Obviously, people can draw their own conclusions. Declaring someone the winner of a debate is an entirely subjective endeavor.

Still, it’s a bit strange. It’s like watching a boxing match and concluding that one of the fighters won the match on points even though the other fighter beat the hell out of him.

For me, the truly interesting phenomenon is why Craig is placed on such a lofty pedestal by people who actually have studied a bit of philosophy and really ought to know that the emperor is stark naked.

Even atheists who don’t accept Craig’s conclusion are frequently taken in by his schtick. I think there’s a few things going on:

1) Many atheists in cyberspace think they can do better than the ones who debate Craig (and maybe they can) and they are much harder on Craig’s opponents than they are on Craig. 2) They are bothered by the popularity, the crassness and tone of the “new atheists” who seem to have declared war not just on religion, but on philosophy 3) They imagine that Craig represents a noble philosophical tradition that they wish to defend even if they don’t agree with Craig’s actual conclusions 4) Even most atheists have been indoctrinated into a Christian culture. And while they have since become nonbelievers, they still take a particular theist “God” for granted – they don’t actually see that the “God” of Craig’s arguments is based entirely in biblical Scripture.

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J-M April 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm

What I saw in the debate was a whole lot of “ivory tower”, esoteric babbling from WLC and Harris didn’t make the mistake of acknowledging it. By talking about praise, blame, suffering and the well-being of conscious creatures, Harris shows that he’s really talking about morality.
WLC uses esoteric philosophical language to introduce ‘fake problems’ to the question, like the need for morality to have a grounding. I don’t know what you guys think, but it’s crazy how those types of intellectuals spin words into a web so tight you think that the only way you can get out of the trap is to burn it off, if you get what I mean.
Actually, the only thing that made any sense in that debate was when Harris was relating morality to empathy and well-being. I mean, objective vs subjective morality? Ontological grounding of morality? Moral epistemology? You have to be part of the WLC club to believe him.
“Atheism has NO GROUNDS FOR OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES!!!” – WLC
c’mon, that’s the best he can do?

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cl April 18, 2011 at 12:34 am

Luke,

You can also find old blog posts of mine where I say that God exists. But it would be deliberately misleading to tell people that “Luke writes that God exists!”

Yeah, because you’re an atheist now. It was *not* deliberately misleading to take you at your word on what you wrote less than two years ago. It’s actually your bad for leaving that up there, but now that you’ve clarified, at least we know. I’m glad you agree your former position was silly.

Ignoring cl once again,

Oh no! Luke won’t defend his arguments! OMG! What ever am I going to do? My whole world has come crashing down around me! Argghhh!

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lackofcheese April 18, 2011 at 1:03 am

cl,
At least some of us would probably be happy to discuss with you, but at this point you’ve been going on and on about Luke for so long that few of us are sure what your position is.

What is it you want to discuss?

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cl April 18, 2011 at 1:22 am

lackofcheese,

What is it you want to discuss?

I’m willing to discuss pretty much anything with pretty much anyone. I’ve got my own blog and you’re more than welcome to stop by. In the context of this particular situation, I want Luke to justify his claims about Craig and God-based morality, as opposed to drawing lines in the sand and playing games about who he won’t respond to. It seems to me that one of two things will happen: he’ll eventually grab the bull by the horns, or, I’ll keep occasionally repeating myself in vain. Personally, I’d much rather he just discuss these things head-on, but… that’s not up to me.

Anyways, hope to see you around.

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cl April 18, 2011 at 1:30 am

Luke,

Don’t be such a square! Repost the video of you drunk on the way back to Mérida! ;)

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Kaelik April 18, 2011 at 2:57 am

Luke’s conclusion on the debate is very telling: “As usual, Craig’s superior framing, scholarship and debate skills ‘won’ the debate for him”.
Why can’t it be admitted that it’s so much WLC winning debates, but it’s that the best arguments set forth by leading the atheists wither under the strength of theistic arguments.
I’m starting to wonder whether some atheists are as dogmatic as some theists.

Because, as I established in the other thread, the best arguments theists can present are easily defeated on internet forums or message boards, or anywhere else where the discussion is not timed, hyperlinks are available, and theists can be forced to respond to questions and defeaters, instead of ignoring them, like Craig does.

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drj April 18, 2011 at 5:36 am

lackofcheese,

I’m willing to discuss pretty much anything with pretty much anyone. I’ve got my own blog and you’re more than welcome to stop by. In the context of this particular situation, I want Luke to justify his claims about Craig and God-based morality, as opposed to drawing lines in the sand and playing games about who he won’t respond to. It seems to me that one of two things will happen: he’ll eventually grab the bull by the horns, or, I’ll keep occasionally repeating myself in vain. Personally, I’d much rather he just discuss these things head-on, but… that’s not up to me.
Anyways, hope to see you around.

And I think we have CL’s motive for comment trolling a blog with decent traffic.

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Ajay April 18, 2011 at 10:40 am

I am surprised to see cl here – last I saw, you were struggling mightily on the first post on Craig v. Harris to explain how an appeal to God’s nature grounds objective morality. Have you given that up? If so, bravo!

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anonymus 23 April 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

I think Sam Harris did the right thing the way he handled the debate for two reasons:

1) WLC has been debating the topic for 30 years and within the constraints of such a debate you won’t hear anything new anyway. I mean there is heaps of literature on the topic and even a couple of videos on youtube where WLC is debating the same topic in nearly the same format. So what is the value of repeating the exact same arguments?

2) On the one hand you have the God of the Old Testament which is a monster. And you have all the suffering in the world that is still caused by religion starting from the Taliban and ending with the Catholic Church. On the other hand you have WLC trying to sell us the existence of an all-loving God as a basis for morality which WLC believes to be the God of the bible. To expose this contradiction again and again is important and this is what Sam Harris did quite nicely. And I thought WLC was also a bit impressed. When he started the second rebuttal at least in the beginning his voice seemed to be trembling a bit.

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Marco April 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm

So, here we have the ironical side of debating morality and debating in general. A debate is not won by the one who is right, but by the one who puts forward the most persuasive arguments. Accidentally or contingently these two are often identical, dependent on how far the audience is in understanding the issue at hand, but they’re not necessary identical. In an debate about morality this distinction is even more pertinent. To tell the truth about morality in a debate can be counterproductive of persuading people to adopt the views necessary to believe and act upon these moral claims.
Craig can be more scholarly and right in his analysis of the philosophical meaning of morality but Harris ironically, is much more effective in this day of age of actually making people aware of his ‘objective’ moral values.
So whether or not you can appreciate this ironical dimension of the debate will determine I think your judgment on who won this debate.

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Chris Hallquist April 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm

It’s actually your bad for leaving that up there, but now that you’ve clarified, at least we know.

“now that you’ve clarified”? Bollocks. The “clarification” is clearly stated on the downloads page for the e-book. I’m guessing you were in too much of a rush to condemn Luke to read carefully.

You know, much of the time Luke and I are pretty generous about responding to critics. The latest post on my own blog is all about doing that. The reasons for not responding to you have to do with you specifically, and its in your interest to cool down for awhile and think about why that is.

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ayer April 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm
Luke Muehlhauser April 18, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Linked from part 1.

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Chris Hallquist April 18, 2011 at 9:25 pm

@Citizen Ghost–

I largely agree, with one caveat. While I don’t think things like rating the organization, debating skills, or debate-team style scoring are important in and of themselves, I do think rhetorical effectiveness is worth discussing.

For example: in his debate with Richard Carrier, Carrier’s opening statement had excellent criticisms of Craig. Craig, in his first rebuttal, largely ignored Carrier’s opening, and instead focused on painting Carrier as a “crackpot.” Carrier, in his rebuttals, tried to give a point-by-point response to as many of Craig’s attacks as possible, said “um” a lot, and generally didn’t sound very confident. He also made no effort to hammer home his own arguments, not after his opening. Carrier basically let Craig get away with changing the topic of the debate to “is Richard a crackpot?”

I found Carrier’s rebuttals painful to listen to. Worse, while I don’t know how the majority of the audience reacted, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone who didn’t know the issues well came away thinking Craig had presented the better case. It’s worth taking the time to figure out how to prevent crap like that from happening.

Ironically, a lot of Carrier’s problem was that he tried to apply standard debate-team advice to literally, whereas I think Harris was rhetorically effectively largely because he threw debate-team tactics out the window.

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Kevin April 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Chris,
Matt D. from the Atheist Experience recently said that the debate format is like a double press conference. Phrased like this, it seems like simply presenting your case would be the best option. Otherwise, you get caught into summarizing your opponents points from almost an hour ago, and they can use debate tricks and simply say that you misrepresented them, he meant something different, it’s not significant to his argument etc. and the audience is unable to tell who is correct (probably would go with whoever is deflecting the objection “since they would know what they originally meant”, or the more confident one) since it happened almost an hour ago (you’d have to let the audience settle it on youtube).

The way to mend this is to have the discussion format so points get responded to immediately and misunderstandings/fuzzy definitions get clarified immediately instead of having the entire night consist of people talking past each other. Also, since the points are being responded to in turn, this prevents one side from launching too many points that the other side is unable to respond to them in the time allotted. This also then prevents that side from claiming victory because his opponent didn’t respond to arguments 2, 3, etc.

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cl April 19, 2011 at 12:39 am

drj,

And I think we have CL’s motive for comment trolling a blog with decent traffic.

Right, dissent = trolling, just like a properly trained fundie would say. So freethinking! Think what you want. I couldn’t care less about traffic. I told lackofcheese to hit me up because it’s more of an annoyance to overrun a thread with some tangent. If lackofcheese wants to talk about some random topic, we should do it away from Luke’s site. It’s basic courtesy, so don’t be silly. As for traffic here, it’s down.

Ajay,

I am surprised to see cl here – last I saw, you were struggling mightily on the first post on Craig v. Harris to explain how an appeal to God’s nature grounds objective morality.

No, you mean last you saw, I had successfully responded to your objections, such that you had no recourse but to point me to some other guy’s arguments, and I simply haven’t had the motivation to pour through 216 comments again to find the link that you should have provided. Funny how your biases guide your thinking there.

Hallquist,

“now that you’ve clarified”? Bollocks. The “clarification” is clearly stated on the downloads page for the e-book. I’m guessing you were in too much of a rush to condemn Luke to read carefully.

Yeah, well guess what genius? You’d be guessing wrong. Look, elsewhere you pull the “too good to respond to cl” card, if all you’re going to do is fan flames why not stick with it? Seriously. I’d rather not hear from you unless it’s in earnest response to an argument. It’s not like Luke sends out messages to all his blog readers that he’s updated his “e-book,” and you seem pretty eager to condemn me here, kimosabe.

The reasons for not responding to you have to do with you specifically, and its in your interest to cool down for awhile and think about why that is.

You act as if I’m “heated up.” Either you can respond to the arguments or you can’t. Plain and simple. If you can, do it. If you can’t, don’t. If you’re more interested in fanning flames than responding to arguments, what does that say?

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mpg April 19, 2011 at 10:06 am

@Citizen Ghost–
…For example: in his debate with Richard Carrier, Carrier’s opening statement had excellent criticisms of Craig. Craig, in his first rebuttal, largely ignored Carrier’s opening, and instead focused on painting Carrier as a “crackpot.” Carrier, in his rebuttals, tried to give a point-by-point response to as many of Craig’s attacks as possible, said “um” a lot, and generally didn’t sound very confident. He also made no effort to hammer home his own arguments, not after his opening. Carrier basically let Craig get away with changing the topic of the debate to “is Richard a crackpot?”…

Chris, completely agree. And I consider myself exclusive of the anti-Craig crowd. But the more I dissect what’s happening in his debates, the more I am convinced that Craig’s real strength is in Round One Rebuttals. Assuming he has encountered a debater who does have a clue what Craig is on about and as such offers Craig a genuine challenge, Craig oftentimes pushes his opponent to have the debate on his terms, while ignoring counters to his own position. I’m not saying that this in and of itself, is the reason why Craig wins, (sometimes it’s because he simply has better arguments and better reasons for his worldview over his opponent). But I do see a recurrent trend in his more trickier debates and I hope people will start to acknowledge this more often.

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Chris Hallquist April 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm

cl,

You aren’t getting called a troll because you dissented. I’ve argued with Luke, and haven’t gotten called a troll. You’re getting called a troll because you’re acting like a jackass. I went back on my decision not to respond to you because I hoped I could slap some sense into you, and help you learn to not act like a jackass. But now the effort looks wasted.

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Martin Freedman April 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Hi Landon

You said “Second, Harris didn’t really have to defend the view he argued for in his book for that debate. He could have simply done what Shelly Kagan did in his debate with Craig. He could have defended some other view as a plausible case of objective morality that is independent of the existence of God. This would have been sufficient for the debate topic.”

Indeed. Shelley Kagan writes arguing for classical utilitarianism but, in his debate with Craig, defended a “sketch” of contractualism and Craig had nowhere to go!

He also refused the full LD debate format and after opening arguments, instead of round by round refutation and closing remarks, there was a one on one Q&A which Shelly soundly beat Craig – I have never seen Craig look so flustered. Get Craig out of the school debate framework which he persists in using as an adult and supposed academic, unlike other debates I have seen – let alone (UK) parliamentary debate – and that only appeals to students who don’t know better and he is easily shown up. I suspect that Craig will try to ensure that in future debates this does not happen again…

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Lorkas April 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Man, one of the regular commenters here (not pointing any fingers) is quite the whiny little bitch. It reeks of irony that our digraphed colleague wants to claim the intellectual highground while simultaneously whining like a 2 year old who had his candy taken away.

Seriously, I think I’ve seen the degeneration of this commenter from merely wrong to raving mad over the past few weeks.

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Ajay April 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Cl,

Haha. Yes, I simply pointed you to “some other guy’s” arguments. That “other guy” was philosopher Michael Martin. I suppose all of your ideas spring from the well of your own genius? You haven’t responded successfully (really, you haven’t responded at all) to those arguments, and therefore you have no reason to believe Divine Command Theory is true. You lost. But you are now, in your own words, simply repeating your way to truth. And embarrassing yourself in the process, I might add – I agree with Chris.

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Martin Freedman April 20, 2011 at 12:00 am

Lorkas

I came to your conclusion, after having long given him the benefit of the doubt, well over a year ago :-)

Ajay

He used to defend Natural Law not DCT or so he claimed. So he must have given up on Natural Law in debates I missed and yes, his DCT is faring no better.

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Ajay April 20, 2011 at 5:34 am

Cl, here is the article (again):

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/rape.html

It must be incredibly trying to hit CTRL + F and type in “Ajay” and go all the way down to the second response. Your tribulations!

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Tony Hoffman April 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

CL: “Oh no! Luke won’t defend his arguments! OMG! What ever am I going to do? My whole world has come crashing down around me! Argghhh!”

This appears to be psychological projection, again. CL, on another comment thread here more than two months ago:

Derrida: I’d like to see documented examples of veridical observations present in NDE accounts.

CL: No problem. Sit tight. It might not be today or even this week, but I will take the time to honor this request, so… keep an eye on this thread.

CL, on that thread, remains silent. He’s been super, super busy, I guess.

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Tony Hoffman April 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I think a similar phenomenon from the one with the Craig / Harris debate is the Scopes Monkey trial. Scopes lost that case for the technical reason that the jury ruled against him, but he won the debate of public opinion.

I am struck how Craig’s best opponents speak to the audience, ignore Craig’s spraying of the target, and introduce the most interesting and stimulating ideas despite the format. By huffing and puffing about the rules of debate and pointing out what the audience should be allowed to discern on their own, I think that Craig appears strident and intellectually unlikable.

Who cares who wins these debates based on points? Harris slaughtered Craig on the level of presenting ideas that will lead to years of questioning and intellectual growth. It’s like a college professor explained at the beginning of the year concerning the impossible volume of his syllabus (we couldn’t possibly read it all in one semester); these sources aren’t for the course, they’re for the rest of your life.

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ayer April 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Who cares who wins these debates based on points? Harris slaughtered Craig on the level of presenting ideas that will lead to years of questioning and intellectual growth.

Well, anyone who is actually interested in the truth should hope for debaters who present actual on-topic arguments instead of propaganda. But even assuming propaganda is the goal: Craig is being invited in to the most secularized domain in the world–academia–to present his arguments to students who are daily taught by the most secularized population in the world–academics (even those who teach at historically “catholic” universities like Notre Dame, which has long been secularized). Craig is the one getting the unparalleled opportunity to present “philosophically-incorrect” ideas to students. To have a similar impact, Harris would have to schedule all his debates in churches. So I say–bring on more on-campus debates. How about a second Craig vs. Harris debate on “Does God Exist?” at Harvard?

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Ajay April 20, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Ayer – is Notre Dame secularized? And wasn’t Craig’s debate with Hitchens at BIOLA?

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reticularimus April 21, 2011 at 2:49 am

Harris would have been doomed had he tried to conform fully to both Craig’s two basic conditional contentions, and also that theism was not the topic of the debate.

WLC’s two basic conditional contentions:

1. If God exists, then we have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

2. If God does not exist, then we do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

Symbolization key:
G= God exists (~G= God does not exist)
S= We have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties (~S= We do not have a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties)

Symbolization:
1. G -> S
2. ~G -> ~S

The negation of #1, ~(G->S) is logically equivalent to (G & ~S). So, in order for Harris to prove the first conditional false, he would had to have shown both that God existed and that there is not a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties, or in other words; when the antecedent obtained, that the consequent was false. There is only one way for a conditional statement to be false!

Similarly for contention #2, the negation of which is logically equivalent to (~G & S), Harris would had to have shown both that God does not exist (or that theism is false) and that there is a sound foundation for objective moral values and duties.

So, in order for Harris to show that Craig’s second conditional contention was false, he had to argue for each conjuct of the conjunction (~G & S), the left conjunct being that God does not exist. So, Harris was on target arguing that God does not exist (or that theism is false). He had to argue it in order to prove the second conditional false, there is no other way. Craig was making falsification of his conditional contention #2 impossible by his attempted restriction of theism from the topic of the debate.

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ayer April 21, 2011 at 6:04 am

Ayer – is Notre Dame secularized? And wasn’t Craig’s debate with Hitchens at BIOLA?

On Notre Dame, yes: “At Notre Dame, this process of faculty secularization is well underway. Indeed, the shrinking of the Catholic proportion of the faculty has proceeded so far that Notre Dame can no longer lay claim to the robust Catholic character of its past and to which it continues to aspire.”
http://www.projectsycamore.com/secularization/

On Hitchens at Biola, that’s true–but 99% of Craig’s debates have been at state-run or secularized private universities. So as I say, bring on more debates.

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Tony Hoffman April 21, 2011 at 6:53 am

Ayer: “Well, anyone who is actually interested in the truth should hope for debaters who present actual on-topic arguments instead of propaganda.”

If this statement is not gratuitous, show where Harris was off-topic. (I think that reticularimus has shown how Craig devised his argument in a way that made Harris’ comments on the POE, for instance, entirely relevant.) Then define propaganda and show how Harris used it in a way that couldn’t be applied to any of Craig’s statements as well.

Ayer: “Craig is being invited in to the most secularized domain in the world…”

Private universities are not very secularized, nor are they the most secularized domain in the world. The domain of science is, I think, entirely secularized, at least practically so. The U.S. government is far more secularized than private universities. A principle difference, you see, is that Notre Dame, and many other private universities, have explicitly religious charters. (Here’s a sample quote: “The intellectual life of [Notre Dame] should at all times be enlivened and sustained by a devotion to the twin disciplines of theology and philosophy.”) ND still has a department of theology for freak’s sake. And aside from churches, it’s easy to think of a virtually limitless assortment of more secularized domains – public corporations, professional sports, Denmark, etc. I think you are confusing public schools with private universities?

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ayer April 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

If this statement is not gratuitous, show where Harris was off-topic.

Luke has done that quite well in his review.

Then define propaganda

An off-topic rant designed to throw red meat to the crowd instead of addressing what the other side just said.

Private universities are not very secularized,

Sorry, I went to one (that was originally founded by a religious denomination)–like most of them, it is now highly secularized. Also, look at the entire Ivy League–Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. not secularized? Give me a break.

A principle difference, you see, is that Notre Dame, and many other private universities, have explicitly religious charters.

Which they have abandoned in practice, as is happening at Notre Dame (see the quote and link in my comment above). It’s true that not all have; e.g., Biola, Wheaton.

ND still has a department of theology for freak’s sake

So does Harvard–so what? It is still an highly secularized environment. In addition, you are forgetting all the debates Craig has had at public universities. But if you think those religious bastions known as the Ivy League need some exposure to Harris, I say have Harris and Craig schedule a series of debate on the existence of God at each of the Ivy League schools. The students would benefit from the exchange.

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Tony Hoffman April 21, 2011 at 11:57 am

Ayer: “[Propaganda is a]n off-topic rant designed to throw red meat to the crowd instead of addressing what the other side just said.”

Okay. Then Craig does the same thing when he falsely states that Harris has done nothing to provide a basis for objective morality. So by your criteria Craig is not interested in the truth.

Ayer: “Sorry, I went to one (that was originally founded by a religious denomination)–like most of them, it is now highly secularized. Also, look at the entire Ivy League–Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. not secularized? Give me a break.”

I said that private universities were not “very secularized.” I did not say that they are not secularized (at all). By omitting my “very” you have simply misrepresented what I said.

You began by saying that private universities “are the most secularized domain in the world.” If by that you meant that some, if not most, are “highly secularized,” I would not disagree. But if you care to defend your earlier assertion and show why you think private universities like Notre Dame, and even Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (all of which have theology departments or divinity schools, as far as I can remember) represent the most highly secularized domains in the world, then you should make that argument.

Ayer: “In addition, you are forgetting all the debates Craig has had at public universities.”

I didn’t forget; I don’t care. It’s not relevant to me. I simply began by stating that Harris (and Craig’s better opponents) seem to win on a level where their arguments are more intellectually stimulating and interesting. If the only way that students would be able to hear Harris’s ideas were at a debate with Craig, then I think they would be better off attending a debate with Craig and Harris wherever it could be held. Fortunately, that is not required, and it’s possible to cut out the fat and arrive faster at the meatier topics without having to endure Craig’s 5 arguments for what seems like the millionth time. (Once is more than enough there, I think.)

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ayer April 21, 2011 at 12:28 pm

If the only way that students would be able to hear Harris’s ideas were at a debate with Craig, then I think they would be better off attending a debate with Craig and Harris wherever it could be held. Fortunately, that is not required, and it’s possible to cut out the fat and arrive faster at the meatier topics without having to endure Craig’s 5 arguments for what seems like the millionth time. (Once is more than enough there, I think.)

Well, I think it is best for students to hear both sides; most people are not afficionados of these issues like us and have never heard Craig’s arguments on their campus. So as I said, no one has anything to fear from open debate–bring on more of them.

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Kaelik April 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Well, I think it is best for students to hear both sides; most people are not afficionados of these issues like us and have never heard Craig’s arguments on their campus.So as I said, no one has anything to fear from open debate–bring on more of them.

Unless debate format is uniquely suited to misleading people by presenting arguments that are wrong, but cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format, and you have a debater who purposefully takes advantage of it.

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Reidish April 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Unless debate format is uniquely suited to misleading people by presenting arguments that are wrong, but cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format, and you have a debater who purposefully takes advantage of it.

What are the characteristics of an argument that is both wrong and cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format? I’d like to be on the lookout for those!

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ayer April 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Unless debate format is uniquely suited to misleading people by presenting arguments that are wrong, but cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format, and you have a debater who purposefully takes advantage of it.

It has nothing to do with the format (which has been used for decades if not centuries), but with the competence (or lack thereof) of the debater, especially when he is given about an hour of speaking time but chooses to use it to regurgitate standard book-tour talking points instead of responding to the arguments presented by the other side.

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Bill Snedden April 22, 2011 at 5:51 am

@Reidish:

What are the characteristics of an argument that is both wrong and cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format? I’d like to be on the lookout for those!

The infamous “Gish Gallop” comes to mind…

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ayer April 22, 2011 at 7:42 am

The infamous “Gish Gallop” comes to mind…

Interesting that you should cite that, since it happens to describe exactly what Harris was doing: “in which they (the debaters utilizing the Gish Gallop) skip around from topic to topic spewing out an unceasing blizzard of baloney and unsupported assertions.” Maybe we should refer to the “Harris ramble”–in a debate on moral ontology, go off int a discussion of Old Testament ethics, the problem of evil, the destiny of the unevangelized, transubstantiation, the Taliban, Buddhist meditation, etc. etc. etc.

And the solution for the Gish Gallop is to “..narrow the debate down to a single topic–the age of the earth, or the fossil record–and then debate it through to its logical conclusion. This defeats the Gish Gallop, and also prevents the common creationist tactic of suddenly changing the subject whenever he or she gets uncomfortable.” Which is exactly what Craig did–narrowed the topic to the subject of Harris’ book, then refused to chase the off-topic “red herrings” thrown out by Harris during his “non-rebuttal.” So the “Harris ramble,” like the “Gish Gallop,” can be defeated by an experienced and disciplined debater, as Craig demonstrated.

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Reidish April 22, 2011 at 10:03 am

Reidish: What are the characteristics of an argument that is both wrong and cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format? I’d like to be on the lookout for those!

Bill Snedden: The infamous “Gish Gallop” comes to mind…

I wouldn’t call the Gallop an argument, rather a technique. Can someone cite an argument that is both wrong and cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format?

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Kaelik April 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

I wouldn’t call the Gallop an argument, rather a technique.Can someone cite an argument that is both wrong and cannot be dismantled in a traditional debate format?

I actually called out specifically how Craig uses arguments that are easily disassembled in either text conversations with hyperlinks, or direct back and forth questions, but cannot be easily defeated in a standard debate format in the other thread.

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Kaelik April 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Repost, because I assume people will complain about having to read through 250 comments:

I see this sort of hilarious statement a lot. WLC doesn’t win based on the strength of his arguements. If it was the strength of argument, then other apologists would also win debates, and yet, WLC is somewhat infamous because he is magnitudes better than apologists using the same arguments.

Here is a quick summary of all of Craig’s arguments, and exactly how they are repeatedly crushed in comment threads, or forums, or personal conversations, and why those same methods don’t work against Craig in formal debates.

1) Kalam Cosmological Argument: Very brief description of why the premise is wrong featuring a hyperlink to scientific literature on B theory of time, and why it is the one that is empirically justified.

Does not work in debate, because you cannot hyperlink in a debate, and people will come out of it not understanding B theory, and why it is a better fit to the universe than A theory, even if you do explain why B theory negates the Kalam.

2) Moral argument for God, or any argument about the source of morality: Probe into perfect being theology, ask simple questions, wait for response, turns out, perfect being theology is actually based on subjective ideas of perfection, that are tautologically defined to be what God is about.

Does not work in debate, because you cannot simply spend your five minute rebuttal asking one question, and then Craig won’t even answer the question anyway, and the debate is over before you can delve far enough.

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ayer April 23, 2011 at 8:51 am

I actually called out specifically how Craig uses arguments that are easily disassembled in either text conversations with hyperlinks, or direct back and forth questions, but cannot be easily defeated in a standard debate format in the other thread.

Nope, because Craig’s opponents have raised arguments against Craig’s positions the responses to which are equally “difficult” (e.g., problem of evil, Euthryphro dilemma) and Craig has had plenty of time to effectively respond to them in the same debate format in which Krauss, Harris and Hitchens floundered.

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Reidish April 23, 2011 at 9:27 am

Here is a quick summary of all of Craig’s arguments…

He uses more than two arguments. Indeed I can’t think of any debates where he’s limited himself to two. But anyway…

1) Kalam Cosmological Argument: Very brief description of why the premise is wrong featuring a hyperlink to scientific literature on B theory of time, and why it is the one that is empirically justified.

Both the A and B are “empirically justified”, by which I take you to mean accommodating all of the empirical data. The difference in the two arises from different metaphysical interpretations of the data.

Does not work in debate, because you cannot hyperlink in a debate, and people will come out of it not understanding B theory, and why it is a better fit to the universe than A theory, even if you do explain why B theory negates the Kalam.

Good grief. Any information given in a hyperlink could be reproduced pretty easily in the spoken word during a debate.

2) Moral argument for God, or any argument about the source of morality: Probe into perfect being theology, ask simple questions, wait for response, turns out, perfect being theology is actually based on subjective ideas of perfection, that are tautologically defined to be what God is about.

Does not work in debate, because you cannot simply spend your five minute rebuttal asking one question, and then Craig won’t even answer the question anyway, and the debate is over before you can delve far enough.

Who says one needs to present their case by asking questions? Instead, present the supposed tautology as your argument.

I’m sorry, I can’t take seriously this accusation that the atheist is hamstrung by the nature of the debate format. There is nothing unique about theistic arguments that makes them immune from challenge in any format. This is just a creative way of trying to deflect blame away from recent opponents like Harris and Krauss, both of whom have been woefully underprepared and/or ignorant of what the issues are.

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Kaelik April 23, 2011 at 9:34 am

Ayer, I understand your desire to get on your knees and suck Craig’s cock makes up 90% of your reason for posting here, but even you should be able to avoid contradicting yourself in a single post.

Your contentions of that post are:

1) Various arguments that Craig makes are equally as difficult to refute as various arguments that atheists produce in the standard debate format.

2) Craig easily refutes them.

3) Atheists are incapable of correctly addressing Craig’s arguments.

4) This isn’t because Craig is a better debater.

WTF?

And for a brief waste of time, because you avoid responding to content wherever possible, I will actually address your post with real content.

Craig’s arguments are not difficult to refute because they require a lot of time to refute. You could give me six years, and most of Craig’s arguments are irrefutable in that time, because he very specifically uses vague and useless terms, uses non standard definitions that he made up himself, hides premises both in how he states the arguments and in playing on the audience’s assumptions, and otherwise avoids clarity of argument.

You cannot refute an argument that doesn’t actually make sense, but is designed to sound like it does to the less informed or less critical audience. Step one in making Craig look like a fool is to grill him on his definitions and claims to make him spell out an actual argument with all his hidden premises revealed.

For example, Does Good come from God. Craig presents, among his arguments, the idea that God’s commands would be objectively moral. But at what point does he do anything to establish that any God would or does issue commands? He doesn’t, he specifically avoids talking about God’s commands, because he is trying to play on the audience’s assumption they are talking about the Christian God, but without having to actually justify Christianity in any way. He can’t present a good argument for why we would think that a God must give commands, or does give commands, without making the argument about whether God exists, and the Nature of God, and whether a particular Christian God’s moral statements are what we say as moral, something that is counter to his rhetorical goal of berating Harris for arguing about the Nature of God.

Craig’s evasive bullshittery cannot be dug out in a conventional debate format, because he refuses to clarify himself, and he will ignore any attempt to force him to clarify himself.

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Kaelik April 23, 2011 at 9:46 am

Both the A and B are “empirically justified”, by which I take you to mean accommodating all of the empirical data.The difference in the two arises from different metaphysical interpretations of the data.

And Creationism is empirically justified if you metaphysically interpret the data as a hoax. But for people who are intellectually honest, and look at the actual high level physics, A Theory is not empirically justified.

Good grief.Any information given in a hyperlink could be reproduced pretty easily in the spoken word during a debate.

Explaining high level physics to people in way they can understand requires examples, visual diagrams, and hours of time. This is not replicable in a debate format. Craig avoids a refutation by relying on the audience’s ignorance of high level physics, an ignorance he shares.

Who says one needs to present their case by asking questions?Instead, present the supposed tautology as your argument.

Because Craig will deny that this is how he has come to define the attributes of his God, but will never specify how he actually does, because he doesn’t even know himself.

I’m sorry, I can’t take seriously this accusation that the atheist is hamstrung by the nature of the debate format.There is nothing unique about theistic arguments that makes them immune from challenge in any format.

It is not the atheist who is hamstrung, it is everyone. The debate format is not the ideal format for determining truth value. In practice, people who win debates are people who are good at debating, not people on the side that is true. And people who are good at debating are people who are good at abusing the failures of the format. Did you never take debate in high school? You have to argue both sides of things all the time, and for some reason, the same person manages to win both sides of the debate more often than not, when they are the better debater.

This is just a creative way of trying to deflect blame away from recent opponents like Harris and Krauss, both of whom have been woefully underprepared and/or ignorant of what the issues are.

No it is not. It is an argument for why these sort of debates are not good for determining truth value. I didn’t even see the Krauss debate, and Harris is far more crippled by his belief in objective morality and his own made up definition of it that is even more out of touch with what people actually mean by objective morality than Craig’s made up definition. Not that his debate skill is fantastic either, but when you are arguing about the source of X, it helps if you actually have the same definition of X as the audience or judges.

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Reidish April 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

Reidish: Both the A and B are “empirically justified”, by which I take you to mean accommodating all of the empirical data.The difference in the two arises from different metaphysical interpretations of the data.

Kaelik: And Creationism is empirically justified if you metaphysically interpret the data as a hoax.

Either this is a non-sequitur, or you agree that the A/B debate must be settled with metaphysics.

But for people who are intellectually honest, and look at the actual high level physics, A Theory is not empirically justified.

Does “intellectually honest” mean “conjoin B-theory with high level physics to establish one’s view of the world”? Because I thought you just agreed that it needs to be settled with metaphysics, not just empirical data / high level physics.

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ayer April 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

This is just a creative way of trying to deflect blame away from recent opponents like Harris and Krauss, both of whom have been woefully underprepared and/or ignorant of what the issues are.

I agree; it is similar to Sarah Palin fans who insist she really is knowledgeable and competent, it’s just that the “debate format” or “mainstream-media interview format” don’t showcase her awesome qualities. She, like Krauss and Harris, do a lot better when speaking without opposition in front of a home crowd of raving fans.

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mopey April 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Really, ayer… really?

Sarah Palin… former Miss Wasilla and staunch advocate of shooting wolves from a helicopter….. is just like Krauss and Harris – each of whom have doctoral degrees in their respective fields. Really? Three peas in a pod? No joke?

Maybe you spotted some cliff notes written on Sam’s hand that I missed.

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Kaelik April 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Either this is a non-sequitur, or you agree that the A/B debate must be settled with metaphysics.

Does “intellectually honest” mean “conjoin B-theory with high level physics to establish one’s view of the world”?Because I thought you just agreed that it needs to be settled with metaphysics, not just empirical data / high level physics.

Protip: If you aren’t smart enough to figure out what someone is saying, don’t try to rephrase what they are saying. I am saying that if you postulate a metaphysics where empirical observations are not reliable, then you can claim any view as justified, but if you don’t assert such a claim, and instead rely on empirical observations, then only B theory is an empirically justified belief.

Really, ayer… really?

Sarah Palin… former Miss Wasilla and staunch advocate of shooting wolves from a helicopter….. is just like Krauss and Harris – each of whom have doctoral degrees in their respective fields. Really? Three peas in a pod? No joke?

Maybe you spotted some cliff notes written on Sam’s hand that I missed.

I think my favorite part is that he says this directly after I roundly criticized Harris. So apparently, me saying that Harris is terrible in this debate in particular, bad at debate in general, and completely wrong about morality counts as talking about how awesome he is.

I assume based on this interpretation that I must also be complementing Craig when I call him an evasive conniving trickster exploiting the ignorance of his supporters.

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Reidish April 24, 2011 at 5:48 am

Protip: If you aren’t smart enough to figure out what someone is saying, don’t try to rephrase what they are saying.

Protip #2: When you are called out on something that isn’t true (only the B-theory is empirically justified), don’t obfuscate the issue by bringing up irrelevancies to hide the fact that you are conceding the point.

I am saying that if you postulate a metaphysics where empirical observations are not reliable, then you can claim any view as justified, but if you don’t assert such a claim, and instead rely on empirical observations, then only B theory is an empirically justified belief.

Question-begging nonsense.

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Kaelik April 24, 2011 at 7:31 am

Protip #2: When you are called out on something that isn’t true (only the B-theory is empirically justified), don’t obfuscate the issue by bringing up irrelevancies to hide the fact that you are conceding the point.

See, like this. Anyone who can actually read would be able to tell you that I am not conceding a point at all. Your assertion that A theory meets all the same criteria as B theory is not true, and just your repeated assertion is not sufficient to make it so.

Question-begging nonsense.

No, it is not question begging nonsense. You apparently also don’t know what begging the question is. Only B theory is empirically justified because of actual empirical observations, if you change the observations, A theory could be justified. It just isn’t.

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ayer April 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Sarah Palin… former Miss Wasilla and staunch advocate of shooting wolves from a helicopter….. is just like Krauss and Harris – each of whom have doctoral degrees in their respective fields. Really? Three peas in a pod? No joke?

Yes, when it comes to debating philosophical issues concerning God’s existence, Krauss showed Palin-like ignorance. Krauss knows his field, but he was out of his field, just like Sarah’s expertise in “skinning a moose” (or whatever) may be impressive, but is irrelevant to her debate with Joe Biden. Similarly, Harris may know neuroscience quite well, but showed little evidence of familiarity with the issues of moral ontology.

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Reidish April 24, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Anyone who can actually read would be able to tell you that I am not conceding a point at all. Your assertion that A theory meets all the same criteria as B theory is not true, and just your repeated assertion is not sufficient to make it so.

Please show me where I said the A “meets all the same criteria” as the B, or anything remotely like that. What I said was that both theories are empirically justified. Only the bits added by philosophers Parmenides through McTaggart et al form the distinction.

No, it is not question begging nonsense. You apparently also don’t know what begging the question is.

Modern physics is consistent with the B-theory. Why is the B-theory true? Because it is consistent with modern physics. And on, and on…

Only B theory is empirically justified because of actual empirical observations, if you change the observations, A theory could be justified. It just isn’t.

Please give even just one argument in support of this claim.

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Kaelik April 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Please show me where I said the A “meets all the same criteria” as the B, or anything remotely like that.What I said was that both theories are empirically justified.

Fine, A fails to account for all th empirical evidence we have. You think it is still justified because you think that all the evidence that doesn’t fit is fake.

Modern physics is consistent with the B-theory.Why is the B-theory true?Because it is consistent with modern physics.And on, and on…

The funniest part is that even with you trying to phrase my statements as question begging, it’s still not question begging.

X is consistent with Y. Why is X true? Because X is consistent with Y.

What is not part of that is, the claim that X is consistent with Y because X is true, which would make it a question begging system. However, X is true because it is consistent with Y, and X is consistent with Y because it accurately accounts for an is compatible with our empirical observations. See how that’s not question begging, that’s actually based on the empirical results.

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Reidish April 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Reidish: Please show me where I said the A “meets all the same criteria” as the B, or anything remotely like that.What I said was that both theories are empirically justified.

Kaelik: Fine, A fails to account for all th empirical evidence we have. You think it is still justified because you think that all the evidence that doesn’t fit is fake.

I’m beginning to see why you think the contention that A theory is correct can’t be dismantled in a debate format. All you have offered so far is pure bluster. Again, please provide even just one argument demonstrating that the A theory does not account for all the empirical evidence.

X is consistent with Y. Why is X true? Because X is consistent with Y.

What is not part of that is, the claim that X is consistent with Y because X is true, which would make it a question begging system. However, X is true because it is consistent with Y, and X is consistent with Y because it accurately accounts for an is compatible with our empirical observation.

And around and around you go. Suppose that, (1) A and B are both justified empirically and, (2) the distinction between these mutually exclusive options is only metaphysical. Now, you agreed with (2) above, but notice how that entails that you must accept (1). For if at least one is justified by empirical evidence, and the only difference between the two is metaphysics, then the other is also justified by empirical evidence. But if that is true, then the only way for your “argument” to work is for you to assume the truth of B at the outset.

I’m done, you can have the last word.

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Kaelik April 26, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Suppose that, (1) A and B are both justified empirically and, (2) the distinction between these mutually exclusive options is only metaphysical.Now, you agreed with (2) above, but notice how that entails that you must accept (1).For if at least one is justified by empirical evidence, and the only difference between the two is metaphysics, then the other is also justified by empirical evidence.But if that is true, then the only way for your “argument” to work is for you to assume the truth of B at the outset.

You are incredibly stupid. I have explicitly stated multiple times that this is not true.

Take the following two premises:

1) Time exists. 2) B theory of time is true.

Since you agree with 2) this conversation is now over, because we all agree that B theory is correct.

Oh wait, if you claim that people agree with premises they don’t fucking agree with, and have explicitly said they don’t agree with, you are a fucking moron.

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Martin Freedman April 26, 2011 at 11:49 pm

This is not metaphysics. Special Relativity confirmed the B-theory and disconfirmed the A-theory. Hence the relativity of simultaneity. The twin paradox is only a paradox to presentism not eternalism.

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cl April 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Tony Hoffman,

CL, on that thread, remains silent. He’s been super, super busy, I guess.

I wrote the post I promised I would write, here.

Ajay,

You’re still talking about Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate review (part 1)?

…therefore you have no reason to believe Divine Command Theory is true. You lost.

How did I “lose” if I demonstrated how every objection you offered fails [April 13, 2011 at 10:23 am], and then came back and responded to Martin [April 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm]?

Chris Hallquist,

You’re getting called a troll because you’re acting like a jackass.

Come on, drop the act. We all know people break out name-calling once their “logic” has hit a standstill.

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JT April 30, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Has anyone ever seen William Lane Craig debate Daniel Dennett or Colin McGinn? I would like to see Craig debate a professional philosopher. I do believe that Bart Ehrman did defeat Craig when they debated and I wish that debate received more attention.

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Marco May 1, 2011 at 4:43 am

@JT

Daniel Dennett is not so much an expert on the topic of scholastic theology. Dennett just starts from the natural mechanism of evolution and thinks old philosophical problems through from there. Craig would just call him on the insufficient logical necessity of the absence of a god when thinking in evolutionary terms. These two would just have separate talks and wouldn’t find the claims the other one is making very interesting or relevant.

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Silver Bullet May 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm

At one point, Harris points out that even Xians have, at the heart of their considerations, human well-being: well-being for an eternal after-life in particular.

And then WLC claims that Harris has a sad understanding of Christiantiy and that Xians love god because god is just so great and so worthy of love and worship.

But just imagine that Jesus/Yawheh/HolyGhost appeared unmistakably to everybody and explained that they are the omnipotent and perfectly-good creators of everything, but that there is no after-life. Death is death and its final. That would be the end of Christianity. Nobody would follow it because there would be nothing in it for anybody – it would have no effect on their well-being.

Without an effect on well-being at the cosmic level, religion is flatus and moonbeam.

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Michael May 1, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Has anyone ever seen William Lane Craig debate Daniel Dennett or Colin McGinn?

Not a proper debate, but they have had an exchange of sorts.
See here with some snarky commentary ;)
http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/must-listen-william-lane-craig-takes-on-prominent-atheist-daniel-dennett/

I would like to see Craig debate a professional philosopher.

Erm…Craig has already done loads and loads of debates with professional philosophers. Look on luke’s debate page, in particular austin dacey, paul draper, sinnott-armstrong, arif ahmed to name but a few. They’re all philosophers.

Anyway, Craig himself is a professional philosopher

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Marco May 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for the link Michael.

One serious comment I found is this. I’ll just copy paste it:

[Finally, Dennett seems to be setting the bar for what is to count as a good argument too high by requiring premises that are not merely plausible, but scientifically supportable. Not only that, but his conclusion (viz. that good arguments require scientifically justified premises) strikes me as self defeating, since any argument supporting it can't rest on scientifically supported premises, but must instead rest on the sorts of plausible philosophic premises that many of Craig's arguments rely upon.]

What ‘s wrong with this argument obviously is the presumption that an argument has to back-up the reason to bring up the argument itself.

But anyways, I thought Dennett struck a home run there and whether this scientific attitude towards philosophical problems can be made fit an into a sound syllogism or not the reason for taking this scientific attitude towards the question what causes universes can be made clear enough: Scientific attitudes brings us further generally in answering questions than theology. That’s not so difficult to defend I’m sure.

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Vijay May 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Instead of sticking to the topic, Sam Harris went into specifics of Christian God, Islamic scripture etc. The topic of discussion is about the need for a notion of God who is perfect (who that God is, whether any of the religion represents such a God correctly etc is a different debate). Sam Harris should argue whether the notion of a perfect God is needed for objective morality or or not. Or agree that such a notion helps, but argue that such a perfect God does not exist. Or present a case why there is a better way for objective morality than a notion of a perfect God. Instead he makes assumptions of various specific beliefs (wrong assumptions and misundesrstandings mostly) and then attacks those specifics of belief. One would expect at least staying on the topic in a debate at this level.

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mpg May 17, 2011 at 5:52 am

For those who are interested, there is a great debate on objective morality between Craig and Kagan going on at Prosblogion.

Among the comments you will see philosophers of various worldviews showing why Craig was wrong in how he debated Harris. But will also show why Harris is wrong and why Kagan improves on Harris’ moral ontology. Enjoy.

http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2011/05/craig-kagan-and.html

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Doubting Thomas September 7, 2011 at 6:22 am

Luke,

You were pretty damn hard on Harris here, and I really don’t see why. All Harris had to do to obliterate Craig’s claim that theism provides a sound foundation for an objective morality was to point out that Craig’s view that anything that god commands is intrinsically moral can apply to the jihadist just as well as it can to any action that Craig feels has moral worth under his particular brand of theism. And when Harris raised this point during the Q&A at the end of the debate, as predicted, Craig had absolutely no response other than to concede Harris’ point that under Craig’s view, suicide bombing in the name of god would be wrong only insofar as a jihadist has a view of god that is incorrect (according to Craig). Killing in the name of god is not wrong under Craig’s view, provided that god actually issued the command. There is therefore nothing the least bit objective about the morality that Craig prosposes; it is wholly dependent on the various human concepts of who and what god is and what god deems to be moral.

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