Am I Obsessed with William Lane Craig?

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 8, 2009 in William Lane Craig

craigEarlier, I wrote that:

Craig… seems to understand the scientific issues better than [his opponents] do. On top of that, he always understands the philosophical issues better than they do.

Penneyworth asks:

These sweeping assertions are [wildly] optimistic… Most of us could come up with enough counter examples to [Craig's] claims… to fill a book. So could you, and that is why it baffles me that you would say such nonsense.

Why is it that you constantly over-credit him with this tone of reverent awe? Is it because you see him as the best contender for the cause of Yahweh, and since he is the best they’ve got, he should be elevated to the same level as those who actually make sound arguments for the sake of some sort of affirmative action?

Is it that parental authority and hypnotic, preachy self assurance that he has mastered through years of evangelism? Do you think Christians will be more open to you if they think you are giving them a fair chance seeing as you sing his praises?  Is it his witty little ad hominems that he offers up in his debates to make his fans cheer? Because his arguments do not work. Even his baby, the KCA, falls flat at every turn. The wild assertion that minds can exist out of time and space and with no brain is just one example.

What gives?

Why do I write about Craig so much?

No doubt, I cover the work of Bill Craig more than the work of anybody else – theist or atheist. Of about 240 posts on this site, I count at least 24 posts focused on Craig and his arguments. One out of every 10 posts! Why?

  • Craig’s work – his writings and debates – are more numerous and accessible than those of any comparable apologist.
  • Unlike Lee Strobel or other major apologists, Craig has decades of important published work in the two most important fields relevant to Christian apologetics: philosophy of religion and Historical Jesus studies.
  • Craig has repeated his arguments so many times that his responses to almost every objection you can imagine are available somewhere (whether or not they are persuasive).
  • Craig still interacts with his fans and critics constantly.
  • Craig writes scholarly articles but also does a good job of translating his work for the layman.

“Most of us could come up with enough counter examples to [Craig's] claims… to fill a book.”

This is true of almost any philosophical topic, which is why these topics still belong to philosophy and not science.

It is quite easy to fill a book with counter-examples and counter-arguments regarding D.M. Armstrong’s position on universals, but nobody thinks that Armstrong is naive or silly or not worth taking seriously. And the same is true for hundreds of positions in philosophy: Jaynes’ position on probabilistic logic, Sayre-McCord’s definition and Shafer-Landau’s defense of moral realism, Dennett’s take on consciousness, Chomsky’s linguistic theory, Kuhn’s philosophy of science, and so on.

“Why is it that you constantly over-credit [Craig] with this tone of reverent awe?”

I am rather impressed that Craig is a genuine expert in both philosophy of religion and Historical Jesus studies. I am impressed that he has published so many scholarly articles and books. I am impressed with his skilled debate performances, which he can deliver equally well in English or German. I am impressed with his understanding of cosmology and the philosophy of physics. Craig is an impressive guy in many ways.

In other ways, he is not so impressive. For example, when he speaks on faith and reason, moral values, God’s morality, Christian politics, and a host of topics I haven’t yet addressed. I’ve written some pretty harsh criticism of Craig, and will continue to do so.

Do I think Craig is the best Christian apologist, so he should be elevated to the ranks of people who make sound arguments for, say, some sort of affirmative action?

Actually, I think Richard Swinburne is the most formidable defender of Christianity. His The Existence of God is one of the few Christian books to take seriously the problem of magical explanations.

But, I’d like to know… who are these people who make sound arguments for “some sort of affirmative action”? Most arguments in ethics or politics are irritatingly vague and weak compared to, say, Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument.

“Is it that parental authority and hypnotic, preachy self assurance that he has mastered through years of evangelism?”

No. That shit is a turnoff.

“Is it his witty little ad hominems that he offers up in his debates to make his fans cheer?”

Lol, no.

“The wild assertion that minds can exist out of time and space [is an example of his failed arguments.]“

Agreed.

“Do you think Christians will be more open to you if they think you are giving them a fair chance seeing as you sing his praises?”

Yes.

More importantly, I try to encourage what I like and discourage what I don’t. So I praise Craig when he:

  • Offers clear and logically valid arguments (unlike most of his opponents).
  • Spends decades studying and researching in the fields he discusses.
  • Gives clear and succinct rebuttals to his opponents arguments during debate.

And so on. I also criticize Craig when he:

  • Uses a double standard when evaluating general morality and God’s morality.
  • Uses a double standard when evaluating the epistemic merits of the “inner witness” of Christianity versus the inner witness of other religions.
  • Doesn’t respond to the most important rebuttals to his work.

And so on. I encourage what I want to see more of, and discourage what I want to see less of. This strategy makes sense to me.

Perhaps the Atheist Tribe doesn’t like it when I say something nice about a Christian apologist. Or have I misunderstood?

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike aka MonolithTMA September 8, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I like your handling of Craig just fine. I much prefer polite dialogue with theists. good post.
 
I was trying to figure out how to spend the $25 gift certificate I received from Amazon tonight. I think I’ll  pick up Swinburne’s book. Thanks for the recommendation and link.

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lukeprog September 8, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Mike, take note that everything in The Existence of God depends on his earlier The Coherence of Theism.

Also, if you buy through the link of my site, you help cover my bandwidth costs, by a few cents. :)

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IntelligentDasein September 8, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I respect Craig as well, but he does not seem to understand some very important concepts in science, like the fact that the universe did NOT start at the Big Bang (regardless of being corrected several times) and he has made some outright dumb statements about evolution and intelligent design (his unlikelyness of evolution math, he thinks there are irreducibly complex parts and people are closeminded for not believing in them).
He seems like a gentleman and is a very talented rhetorician and for this, I do respect him.

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Ben September 8, 2009 at 8:57 pm

There’s credit where credit is due which doesn’t happen enough on atheist blogs and then there’s overdoing it. I think some of us think you are overdoing it. Naturally it’s your blog, but you’re going to get some negative feedback from even empathetic members of the atheist tribe who think it is important to not demonize opponents. We shouldn’t angelify them either to compensate for the group think of the rest of us.

Ben

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Jorg September 8, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Um, I take issue with the claim that Craig understands the scientific issues. His knowledge of modern cosmology is not above a mildly educated layman, and he seems to have problems grasping what the Big Bang theory actually entails. He is also (in)famouse for attempting to justify genocide by divine command. All in all, an unsavoury character.:)

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lukeprog September 8, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Jorg: His knowledge of modern cosmology is not above a mildly educated layman

Are you kidding me? Have you read his extensive discussions of models of cosmogony? Did you see his Templeton lecture videos? This is no mildly educated layman.

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mikespeir September 9, 2009 at 3:58 am

“Uses a double standard when evaluating the epistemic merits of the “inner witness” of Christianity verses the inner witness of other religions.”
 
I suspect you meant versus?  Nitpicky, yes.
 
I, too, like that you give credit where it’s due.   An attitude that prevails among the most vocal atheists is that theists aren’t to be taken seriously about anything.  If they think it’s so, then we’re determined that it must not be so.  That kind of attitude refuses to seriously engage the opposition, and thus can fail to recognize when the other side is in fact making a good point.  That’s among the reasons why some theists accuse us of being “dogmatic” and “fundamentalist.”

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Mike aka MonolithTMA September 9, 2009 at 4:26 am

Thanks, Luke. I picked them both up through Amazon, the first from your link and the second pasting “/ref=nosim?tag=lukeprogcom-20″ after the item so I think you got credit for both.

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lukeprog September 9, 2009 at 6:32 am

Mike,

Cool, thanks. Those books must be read very slowly, but they are good.

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drj September 9, 2009 at 7:03 am

I appreciate the seriousness with which you take Craig’s arguments, even if some do seem absurd.
 
I think the lesser crime is to spend a lot of time to seriously respond to many seemingly poor arguments, when compared with the risk of inadvertently dismissing an argument that turned out to be a potent one.

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Jeff H September 9, 2009 at 8:15 am

Jorg: Um, I take issue with the claim that Craig understands the scientific issues. His knowledge of modern cosmology is not above a mildly educated layman, and he seems to have problems grasping what the Big Bang theory actually entails. He is also (in)famouse for attempting to justify genocide by divine command. All in all, an unsavoury character.:)

As a mildly educated layman, I can attest that Craig does know much more about modern cosmology than I do. (Or at least he knows how to use the big words to make it seem like he does – I don’t know whether he uses them correctly or not :P )
 
I like your approach to this, Luke. My personal opinion is that we should encourage reason and rationality wherever we find it. So you have my full support when you praise Craig for his reasonable arguments and criticize him for his stupid ones. It seems to me to be a good approach.

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Penneyworth September 9, 2009 at 8:31 am

I’m very surprised and flattered that you dedicated a post to respond to me. Thank you. I’ll try not to write a novel in response. Please note that I don’t think you are obsessed with craig, I know that you criticize him often, I too am impressed with his abilities and accomplishments, I would never say that he should be ignored, and I agree that he should be engaged seriously and often. Still, I stand firm by my comments. That he understands most of the scientific issues and ALL of the philosophical issues better than his opponents seems to me to be false. I won’t heap all my examples here, because I know it will be nothing surprising to you.
Those books you linked to all seem to deal with metaphysical concepts like definitions of consciousness etc. You also mention theories of ethics and politics as being irritatingly vague.. Yes but, how does all of that compare with the KCA? The KCA is not a vague thoery about something as elusive in definition as ethics or functional legitimate government. It asserts that god exists, and the premises fail. Everything has a cause? Maybe true for everything we have obsevered within the universe, but we can’t say that about that which is outside the universe (where the universe was presumed to be caused). The timeless spaceless mind? Also utterly unsupported. The premises don’t hold, so the conclusion doesn’t hold (even if the argument does hold). It may be impressively elaborate, but it really can’t be compared to something like ethics. It is better compared to, say, the gravitational shell theorem. It has premises, and a conclusion that we really can’t test (since we can’t easily make planet sized hollow spheres), but since all the premises hold (and the ensuing argument holds), we believe that the proof holds.
“Perhaps the Atheist Tribe doesn’t like it when I say something nice about a Christian apologist. Or have I misunderstood?”
You have most definitely misunderstood, at least in my case. I’m not an atheist.  My only beef is with overcrediting a man who, while possessing many admirable qualities, is not on the level that you sometimes elevate him to (having no truly qualified debate opponents, always posessing better philosophical understanding – statements that entail the “reverent awe”).

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lukeprog September 9, 2009 at 10:52 am

Penneyworth: That he understands most of the scientific issues and ALL of the philosophical issues better than his opponents seems to me to be false. I won’t heap all my examples here, because I know it will be nothing surprising to you.

I have given many examples of how Craig understands the scientific and philosophical issues at play better than nearly all his opponents. The video of the Templeton lecture was one example, my reviews of Craig’s debates provide other examples. I would like some comparable examples of how Craig is uninformed about something. You may disagree with his position on infinities or causality or something, but there are many atheists who agree with Craig on these issues and they are certainly up for debate. It is not because Craig is uninformed about infinities that he takes the position he does. It’s because he IS informed, and he thinks certain arguments are stronger than others.

Penneyworth: Those books you linked to all seem to deal with metaphysical concepts like definitions of consciousness etc. You also mention theories of ethics and politics as being irritatingly vague.. Yes but, how does all of that compare with the KCA? The KCA is not a vague thoery about something as elusive in definition as ethics or functional legitimate government. It asserts that god exists, and the premises fail.

I would say God is a pretty elusive concept, as is anything in cosmogony, the study of causation, they study of infinities… all things that the KCA deploys. Craig’s premises are debatable, but he contends that they are more plausible than not, and there are many atheist philosophers who would agree that each of his premises are more plausible than not… with the possible exception of (4), which is unfortunately discussed the least.

I said that Craig had no debate opponents not because others aren’t well-informed on these issues, but because he’s a much better debater. And as for having better philosophical issues of the understanding at hand than most of his opponents, I have provided copious examples of that and you have provided none for your position.

 

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Lamplighter Jones September 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Lukeprog: It is not because Craig is uninformed about infinities that he takes the position he does. It’s because he IS informed, and he thinks certain arguments are stronger than others.

 
As I mentioned in a previous thread, he seems to be unaware of the possibility that a collection could be infinite and have no denumerably infinite subcollection, or at least unaware that this possibility is relevant to his version of the KCA.
 
If he addresses this somewhere, could someone please provide a reference?

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Penneyworth September 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Ok, I’ll list some. (This is not to say I think it impossible that Craig does in fact understand these issues fully, but ignores them for the sake of his cause. And of course, correct me if I’m wrong on some of these; there are hours and hours of debates, and memory is far from perfect.)
 
He seems to completely ignore the most obvious refutation of the design argument when it comes to the gravitational constant, elementary charge, etc. Have you heard him respond to the argument that the fundamental constants are what they are, and life developed within those constraints, rather than vise versa? The classic puddle-fits-the-hole explanation suffices to void all his strenuous pleading for the vast improbablility that the constants would happen to be set just so for life to exist. Near the end of his opening speech against Stenger, he asserts that the fundamental constants can not be necessary because “as we have seen” the laws of nature are independent from the constants. I blinked, and then listened to that speech again and detected no support for that statement. Does that even make sense anyway? I was under the impression that the constants were part of the laws of nature. Does anyone claim that the constants could have been anything given this universe? Craig assumes that we will never discover that the constants could only have been exactly what they are. Do any physicists agree with that? Furthermore, he ignores suggestions that given different constants, different forms of life could have developed. Is life on Earth the only possible form of life?
 
Philisophical examles seem more abundant.
Craig says the deepest question in philosophy is: why is there something rather than nothing? Well, he ignores the obvious question: why is there a god rather than nothing?
I remember Parsons asking him why sins ought to be punished. Is it not a better philosophy to think of punishment as punative rather than vengeance that is not intended to rehabilitate the one who is punished? He had no answer as I remember.
What about Bradley’s logical argument against Craig’s claim that a world where noone goes to hell was impossible for god to create – using heaven as that possible world? Craig showed that he didn’t understand that a possible world that can be caused by another is still possible without it’s cause. eg, God could easily skip straight to heaven with all its intended souls complete with memories of earth with no need to create the tortured, damned souls. The concepts of causal and logical make sense even to an everyday normal dumbass like me, so again, it seems probable that he understands the argument, but maintains his position in order to not appear weak by admitting having been wrong.
He offers no logical link between the existense of god and the existense of “objectvice moral values.” He simply asserts that we all know they exist and that without god, they couldn’t. He then goes on to scoff at the (at least coherent) concept of objective moral values as defined by the general consensus.
 
God’s definition may be elusive indeed, but the premises are clear, and the conclusion is clear too in that it asserts that god exists like one might assert that my foot exists. I still don’t see how its success or failure as an argument can be compared to the vague slaims of metaphysical philosophy, but it’s not an important matter I supose.
fuck, I’m late… I’ll have to continue this later. No time to check for spelling errors.

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lukeprog September 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Lamplighter Jones,

I don’t know if Craig is aware of this or not, but I certainly am not. Are you saying that we can’t rule out the possibility of an actual infinite (in Craig’s sense) because an actual infinite could possibly have no denumerably infinite subcollection, which would be required to manifest the absurdities of Hilbert’s Hotel and related thought experiments?

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Lamplighter Jones September 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Luke,
 
 
That’s exactly the issue.  An expert on the mathematics of infinity should be aware of this possibility, because (I think) it was how Paul Cohen showed that Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory is equiconsistent with Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory + the negation of the axiom of choice.  Here‘s a rough outline.

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lukeprog September 9, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Penneyworth,

I appreciate your examples. I’m not familiar with Craig’s responses to all these objections, but I know Christian apologists have offered many different “solutions” to them, and I suspect Craig would parrot one of them.

Here are Craig’s responses to the ones I happen to remember:

Re: heaven as a possible world. In that debate, Craig said that it’s possible heaven is a possible world that, still, God cannot actualize (despite being omnipotent). I assume Craig would follow Plantinga’s reasoning about why certain worlds are not actualizable even by an omnipotent being.

Re: God as a necessary condition for objective moral facts, one of Craig’s most important papers is on that very subject. See here. Remember, a debate allows only a pinprick of an argument. He has fleshed all these ideas out in other writings, or else is making reference to writings by Plantinga and others.

In sum, I’d like to say this: When I’m listening to a debate between Craig and an atheist, I usually finding myself object to what the atheist says JUST AS OFTEN as I object to what Craig says. So Craig might make lots of unsupported claims, but no more so than his opponents.

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lukeprog September 9, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Lamplighter Jones,

You have lit my lamp. :)

Thanks for the link. You should put your objection into fully-stated form and then Submit Your Question to Craig’s Q&A.

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Penneyworth September 10, 2009 at 8:13 am

I read Craig’s article, and it reads almost identical to the speeches he gives in his debates. As a bonus, there is an attempt near the end to actually show a logical reason that objective moral values necessitate god, but it fails miserably. It is just a string of assertions from Richard Taylor that are mostly unsupported or plain false. How about the final assertion: “the concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart form the idea of God. The words remain, but their meaning is gone.” Unintelligible? For starters, utilitarianism and moral relativism are in fact intelligible. But anyway, Craig then simply claims victory by saying “It follows that moral obligations and right and wrong necessitate God’s existence.” No, it does not follow.
 
One could go though this article line by line and point out all the fallacies, unsupported assertions, ridiculous examples that mischaracterize naturalism, and gross contradictions, but I’ll just mention the example that is the most blatant to me:
His thought experiment about the nazis winning the war and brainwashing everyone into believing the holocaust was morally good only points to the fact that (assuming for the moment that the bible’s history is true) the genocide in the old testament was objectively wrong despite the fact that Craig and the rest of Christendom are brainwashed by the stupid concept that those people were “cursed” and that it was morally good to put their children to the sword.
 
To me, a contradiction could not be more blatant – despite the fact that I think objective moral values exist no more than Plato’s magical realm of the Forms.

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kriss the sexy atheist September 10, 2009 at 10:18 am

It’s OK to give credit where credit is due.  There is nothing wrong with admitting that he is a learned person and a super awesome debater.  He believes in the Resurrection, which is beyond science/natural laws, but he still wins debates.  I was hoping Carrier would have done better against him, as well as Hitchens, but they didn’t.
 
The other day the Tongan Assemblies of God gave me a thank you card for coffee we donated to their event.  I don’t agree with their philosophy, but I acknowledged to them that it was a nice jester (in person and in tweet).  I/we don’t agree with Craig, but come on man, admit that the guy is the debaters debater.  Nothing wrong with that.
 
KTSA

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Penneyworth September 10, 2009 at 11:30 am

HAY kriss if ur so sexy wy not post some nude pix? That would be a nice jester lol!
Btw luke u said ur nude pix were on youtube but I couldnt find any wtf?!

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Sabio Lantz September 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Luke, just another voice here saying I really appreciate your approach.  Great corrective, along with Alonzo, for us in the “Atheist Tribe”.  Thank you for your hard work and all the information !

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lukeprog September 10, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Penneyworth,

I swear they are there, but I’m not telling where! ;)

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Epictetus September 10, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Regarding WLC’s 1) in KCA:  “Everything which begins to exist must have a cause,” I’ve found two objections not satisfactorily answered:
A)  Quantum pair-production – a phenomenon uncaused as far as we know and yet happening at every single point in the universe constantly
B)  If time itself “began” to exist simultaneously with the physical dimensions, matter, and energy of the universe, in what sense is it meaningful to say the universe *began* to exist?  Doesn’t a beginning of existence in any coherent sense of the concept imply a *time* prior to that beginning?
 
Regarding the impossibility of actual infinities, a la Hilbert’s hotel, didn’t folks like Frege, Russel, and Wallace demonstrate the possibility of countable infinities?  Or at least the impossibility of all infinities being denumerable?
 
Otherwise, Craig, definitely a guy who punches above his weight in the L/D debate format.  I’ve wondered whether we should hold his opponents to the L/D standard.  So what if the opponent doesn’t answer Craig’s rapid-fire arguments for God’s existence and the historical resurrection of Jesus?  Must we declare all opponents failures merely because they don’t swat at all the flies?

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Jason S. September 11, 2009 at 9:02 am

Craig is a very gifted rhetorician. He does exceptionally well in debate formats where quick thinking and the ability to shotgun a variety of bad arguments all at once can reign supreme.
I take issue with Craig either as having a powerful understanding of science-issues or a particularly cogent apologist. In particular, Craig’s understanding of evolutionary biolgoy is atrocious. His interaction with metaethical theory also leaves a lot to be desired. While, I’d be hardpressed to find people making traditional design arguments related to biology doing much better (ID/creationism isn’t known for its strong understanding of biology or sound explanations), there certainly are much better believers in divine command theory contributing material. Philip Quinn comes to mind.

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Jason S. September 11, 2009 at 9:11 am

Of course, in metaethics, the challenge for the divine command theorist is to find a way to argue that the notion that the truth-value of moral statements depends on will/nature of God shouldn’t be laughed off the table because of things like the Euythphro dilemma. That’s what people like Philip Quinn are doing.
 
To argue that this is the only intelligible account of moral obligation (and moral obligations exist, therefore God does), given that a variety of other accounts are much more defensible and actually taken seriously in the field, is to enter some fun-house mirror world.

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anti_supernaturalist September 11, 2009 at 11:23 am

There are no moral phenomena at all, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena. — Nietzsche (1886)

Source: Beyond Good & Evil, section 108. trans. Kaufmann

the anti_supernaturalist

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anti_supernaturalist September 11, 2009 at 11:50 am

** I ask God that he rid me of God. — Meister Eckhart

• what’s Reason got to do with it?

There is nothing new about philosophy defending one of the big-3 monster-theisms — that has been going on since tin-Platonizing by Origen, 3rd cent CE.

Philosophy as apologist, as ancilla, as lickspittle. Limping Reason struggles to engineer a way around Paul and Tertullian, Luther and Kierkegaard.  Employing rationality to shore up irrationality — core xian nihilism:

27 God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are. . .1Cor1:27-28 NIV

Paul preaching the umbilicus of xianity — naked “revaluation of all values” of Antiquity, more disgusting than it is false — tarted up as the religion of Love.

comix for cultists and fan fiction by philosophers

Philosophical chatter about God is mere scripticism — Baker Street Irregulars parsing the canon. The BSI gather together to iron out contradictions in received Word. They write learned papers. Like God, Sherlock Holmes has taken on a life of his own outside the canon — witness a clever novel, ’The  7% Solution.’

The almighty lords of dualism: Yahweh, Allah, God are moral equivalents of a comic book super-villain, The Joker. Lurid pulp about them enjoys fanatical cult followings. Theology is fifth-rate fan fiction.

I can have opinions about a fictitious character ’Sherlock Homes’ as presented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in ’The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’. I can also have opinions about another fictitious character ‘Christ’ as presented by Paul’s genuine letters.

All I can know about these characters is what I can read in pages directly devoted to them. I can no more find Christ by doing cosmological or biological research than I can apply archeological methods to disinter Holmes’ bones in a side chapel at Westminster Abbey. At least, the BSI know that their object of devotion is a fiction.

As collections of religious comix the NT, the Torah, the Koran, the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad-Gita are all subject to the same analysis. Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna sit down to a hearty breakfast of ambrosia every morning with Zeus, Athena, Inanna, Gilgamesh, and Enkidu.

• healthy antidotes to big-3 poison

Anyone, with a little research, can appreciate that xianity is another religion perfectly tailored for empire building. (So are zoroastrianism, islam, and buddhism.) It deserves attention because of its cruel domination of the Western mind for 1,000 years and in the US for its continued in-your-face self-righteous claims to imperial power in matters domestic and military worldwide.

• Wilken, R. The christians as the romans saw them. Yale. 1984. Looks at roman intellectual and governmental reaction to the rise and spread of an underground cult. Period from roughly 100-400 CE. Provocative concluding chapter on xianity as a “jewish heresy.”

• Celsus. The true doctrine. (trans/intro RJ Hoffman) Oxford. 1987. Translation of the greek original preserved by Origen, written perhaps at the request of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius about 180 CE. Presents many arguments against xian beliefs and practices. A “pagan” intellectual’s condemnation of an illegitimate religion. One he considers “atheistic” and unpatriotic. Quite amusing in some places. And, from a xian-laden perspective highly ironic.

• Onfray. M.  A Defence of Atheism (Atheist Manifesto in US) 2006.  Translation from the French original. Michel Onfray’s short, clear, overview of what a working substitute to xianity would have to look like. His proposal perforce introduces a lot of Jesus-as-fiction scholarship which Onfray summarizes very effectively. (And for you RCs, pay attention to his thorough discussion of Pius XII’s fruitful partnership with Hitler.)
the anti-supernaturalist

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cass September 13, 2009 at 6:47 am

Hi, do you know if there is a coherent answer to his video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnhMmJPnnDo ? (Who designed the designer?)
Thanks

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lukeprog September 13, 2009 at 3:45 pm

cass,

Dr. Craig’s response to the question “Who designed the designer?” is correct, though incomplete.

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Jeff H September 13, 2009 at 6:24 pm

cass,

To give my two cents, I agree with Craig’s assessment of Dawkins’ argument. However, while we may not need to ask about “who designed the designer”, that doesn’t rescue intelligent design from the argument about whether it is, indeed, the best explanation. If we found arrowheads in the ground, but no evidence of any humans ever existing in the area, it would be at least reasonable to challenge the idea that they were, in fact, designed. Were we then to come up with a suitable theory of a natural process that could create arrowheads, it would be much more reasonable to choose that explanation rather than the one of a designer for which we have no evidence.

Of course, the analogies of arrowheads and machinery are also misleading – they are as fallacious as the watchmaker argument. Neither arrowheads, nor machines, nor watches, are able to reproduce themselves. I know this was not Craig’s point when he brought it up, but it’s important to point it out, I think. Comparing amphibians to arrowheads is misleading, when one has the capability of mating and producing offspring, and the other does not.

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oliver September 13, 2009 at 11:12 pm

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Wade September 14, 2009 at 10:38 am

I actually think Craig’s cosmological argument is pretty strong and is the most difficult one for me (atheist) to refute. Sure seems like there must be a cause, if not a first one. However, I think the “who designed the designer” is a valid rebuttal, although it presumes the existence of something, whatever it is.

However, Craig then leaps beyond all leaps to then suggest that the first Cause is the Christian god. That is a weak leap. All of his arguments regarding the truth of the resurrection, which is his primary argument for the truth of the Christian god, presume accuracy of the Bible, and discounts all other reasonable explanations. It sure seems like cults of all types convince themselves that weird mystical things happen without evidence, why not the apostles and their buddies?

Members of other religions die for their faith, don’t they? Muslims gladly die if persecuted, as do Jews, Buddhists etc., and Craig thinks they have no evidence for their beliefs, right? That is the weakest part of Craig’s oft-repeated argument, I think.

Even if he is right that there is a first cause, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a mind outside of time who is “personal” as he asserts with no support. Could be multiple entities, something beyond “entity,” who knows?

I would love to ask both Craig and any other god-debater “what is your weakest argument?” I think that would be enlightening. Anyone seen Craig answer a similar question? I would like to see it…

Craig is obviously smart, nice guy, good debater…BUT can you please learn how to not speak like a weird cyborg from Missouri or thereabouts?

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Wade September 14, 2009 at 10:51 am

Also, on brief reading of his “Q and A” archive one comes across “logical” gems like this one regarding the problem of evil.

“A righteous being would not punish someone eternally for unavoidable lack of belief. I agree; but unbelief is always avoidable. God has given a general revelation of Himself in the world, and by His Holy Spirit He seeks to draw all persons to salvation. He judges people based on their response to the light that they have. The Bible says that all men are without excuse for not believing in a Creator God, since unbelief is not due to lack of information but to a perverse will which suppresses the truth (Romans 1.19-21).”

So, if you think the evidence is lacking, you are not really illogical, just “perverse.” Seems to me beneath the veneer of “logic” Craig is just another “because the Bible says” debater.

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Jeff H September 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm

oliver: @ cassYes, I do. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGYQyWKCeDs

To be honest, that seems like somewhat of a straw man to me. Craig is saying that we don’t need to necessarily know anything about the designer in order to determine that something is designed. Presumably, the inference that something is designed comes before the inference of who designed it. It seems like Craig is arguing about the second part, whereas DasAmericanAtheist is arguing about the first one. We could have evidence to support that something is designed (such as arrowheads, to continue the example, having scrape marks to indicate that it was shaped) without knowing who did it. And if we don’t know who did it, we can’t determine whether they, also, were “designed.”

So I still would say that Craig’s rebuttal holds, yet it doesn’t salvage intelligent design from other arguments. Only from that one.

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oliver September 14, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Jeff H: To be honest, that seems like somewhat of a straw man to me. Craig is saying that we don’t need to necessarily know anything about the designer in order to determine that something is designed. Presumably, the inference that something is designed comes before the inference of who designed it. It seems like Craig is arguing about the second part, whereas DasAmericanAtheist is arguing about the first one.

To quote him from that video, Craig says (as his rebuttal to Dawkins’ rebuttal of the design argument) that ‘In order to recognize that the explanation is the best, you don’t have to be able to explain the explanation’.

OK, let’s break this down, beginning with ‘in order to recognise that the explanation is the best…’. This implies that at some point the person doing the evaluating is faced with a number of possible explanations, from which he must recognize, or infer, which one is best. ‘Best’ is a comparative word. A thing is ‘best’ only in comparison to other things, right? Therefore, for an explanation to be deemed the ‘best’, it must be found to be more valid than other competing explanations (or hypotheses, as DasAmericanAtheist states).

So the gist of DAA’s objection is that the only way one can arrive at the ‘best’ explanation is by comparing that explanation with other contenders for that title. How else, besides ‘explaining’ each of the proposed explanations, can we determine which of these explanations is the BEST?

Once the word BEST gets introduced, you can’t escape the burden of having to explain those explanations.

Therefore DasAmericanAtheist’s objection, to me, is valid – and it still stands.

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Jeff H September 15, 2009 at 6:03 am

Bah, quote to me straight from the video, why don’t you? Haha alright, I’ll concede the point and plead faulty memory. I should have watched both videos again, one right after the other. As it stands, I was drawing from my memory of what Craig had said. Apparently I gave him more credit than I should have :P

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Robert Gressis September 15, 2009 at 8:33 am

I haven’t read the whole thread, but these two claims seem to me to be in tension:

(a) Craig says everything that begins to exist has a cause. But, since we don’t know what’s “outside” the universe, we don’t know if that’s true for _everything_ that begins to exist.
(b) Craig thinks there can be a timeless, spaceless mind. This is absurd. Why is this absurd, though? Presumably, because every mind with which we’re familiar in our universe is in time and space.

Do you see the tension? On the one hand, a timeless, spaceless mind is absurd because it’s outside our experience, but some things may begin to exist without cause–how can we rule it out given that we haven’t experienced things outside our universe?

This is, of course, just a tension. It can, I think, be resolved. (Personally, I have no problem with a timeless, spaceless mind but I do have a problem with things coming into existence without cause.) I point it out merely because I worry that some of you may be moving too quickly.

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oliver September 16, 2009 at 6:47 am

Jeff H: Apparently I gave him more credit than I should have

I guess we all have, at some point!

It is also not clear to me why we are supposed to be impressed that he is familiar with most of what is known today in astro-physics and cosmology. Defending the Kalam Argument is part of his career, afterall – it would actually be odd if he DIDN’T equip himself with a full understanding of what is presently known in the relevant field, wouldn’t it?

He probably does argument mapping too. Is it not likely that he’s simply taken the time to chart every single possible objection to the Kalam argument and develop plausible responses and counter-counter-responses to them? This guy is a professional debater and apologist – again, it would be ODD if he wasn’t doing this. That’s how he can manage to stand in front of physicists and seem like he knows what he’s talking about, without actually succeeding in convincing any of them (strangely). And we’re impressed?

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Qohelet September 17, 2009 at 6:11 am

I can see how Craig would get one’s respect when he’s talking about philosophy of religion, but historical Jesus studies? He’s no more credible than Gary “Sindonologist” Habermas. It’s like reading Michael Martin heaping praise for George A. Wells’ speculative theories. If you actually engaged with Historical Jesus literature, you will find nary a reference from scholars of Craig’s work. NT Wright, LT Johnson and Ben Witherington III are much more impressive Evangelical scholars in HJ studies. WL Craig is a non-entity.

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manicstreetpreacher December 3, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Hello CSA

I must say, for an atheist you have an unhealthy obsession with William Lane Craig! I mean, being able to quote the question numbers from his website for your intended question at the Hitchens debate… scary!

What’s the attraction? Craig is a formidable debater, but that’s all he is. His arguments suck big time and have been refuted ad nauseum. He must know that he’s wrong, particularly in respect to his take on matters of science, so why does he keep repeating them? It is a clear case of outright dishonesty.

I agree that Christopher Hitchens lost his debate against Craig at Biola (wouldn’t say that Craig spanked him like a foolish child, mind you!) even though I agree with Hitch’s point of view. He was partly the author of his own misfortune by failing to answer the majority of Craig’s five “arguments” but equally Craig played every dirty trick in his book by showboating in front of his home crowd, dropping in too many points during his rebuttals than are capable of being answered and fudging hard scientific facts to his own ends.

But perhaps better than Hitch wiping the floor with his opponent was that he showed Craig as a right-wing fundie; a Ted Haggard in a don’s gown. My analysis can be read here.

Make sure you watch and listen to Victor Stenger’s debate with Craig to which my piece links, and witness Craig get a proper dusting by someone who has actually done his homework (which alas Hitchens did not. Why, I do not know. He bangs on about how great Stenger’s God, The Failed Hypothesis is. He should have re-read it in preparation for meeting Craig, since Stenger demolishes Craig’s arguments within its pages!).

There is an Internet campaign afoot to get Richard Dawkins to debate Craig, which Dawkins has so far refused to do, despite repeated invitations. If you read my recent piece on the Dawkins/Grayling –v- Harries/ Moore I2 debate on atheist fundamentalism, during the Q & A Dawkins finally put paid to all hopes of him debating Craig. Without even repeating his name, he said that Craig’s only claim to fame is as a professional debater. I’m sure Craig would mop the floor with Dawkins, but it would be the result of multiple punches below the belt. Besides, Dawkins does soundly refute all five of Craig’s “arguments” in The God Delusion.

I also recommend you read my analysis of Craig’s take on the God-ordered massacres of the Old Testament. His grotesque use of “Divine Command Theory” completely refutes his own argument that without God, objective morality cannot exist. It is also like reading a scholarly manifesto of the Inquisition or the 9/11 hijackers: “If God tells us to kill innocent people en mass, then that makes it OK!”

Right…

I’ve read a few of your posts and like what I see. Sort of. If you read my blog, you’ll see I tend to go for the more knee-in-groin approach. Hoping this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

MSP

P.S. The debate with Mike Begon at Liverpool University in 2007 was the first time I saw Craig speak after a lecturer in University’s philosophy department lent me their copy of the DVD. Pretty embarrassing for our side. Begon didn’t know enough handle Craig. He played for the draw rather than the win and Craig ran rings around him. The shame! Why don’t more of Craig opponents actually watch his debates and read his books (or your blog even!) before the big night?!

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Gavin Kirby January 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Minor comment re. “who are these people who make sound arguments for “some sort of affirmative action”?” –

I thought the point of the “affirmative action” comment was that elevating Craig to parity with “those who actually make sound arguments” itself constitutes a kind of “affirmative action”, i.e. treating his arguments as better than they actually are simply because they come from (arguably) the best known/respected Christian apologist. NB – “sound arguments for the sake of some sort of affirmative action”, not “sound arguments for some sort of affirmative action”.

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Rhys March 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm

The moment I heard Dr Craig say that the “inner witness of the Holy spirit trumps all evidence” I was instantly disgusted by him. This is exactly the kind of thing philosophy of religion seeks to defeat. Philosophy of religion should try to make it’s affirmative case based on arguments and evidence, not just declare that it’s key premiss is a given fact as seemingly obvious as the external world then proceed from there. I agree with you Luke that at least Swinburne does think that you need to rely on sound arguments and evidence to make your case, not engage in meandering pseudo-spiritual Plantingism and offer post hoc reasoning for your spooky personal feelings.

Every time I hear Craig open his damn mouth now it makes me cringe, because all I see and hear is him sitting there with this smug grin on his face saying “nothing, NOTHING, will make me change my mind! Not a damn thing. You can throw any bullshit arguments and evidence at me that you want, I am literally immune to all their effects! I just know that Jesus is real and he is the One True God™ and even if every piece of evidence in the universe contradicted me, it wouldn’t mean a damn thing since my sensus divinatis is right and every non-Christians is completely wrong. How do I know this? I just know because I know.”

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Rhys March 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Also Luke, his opponents DO usually offer logically valid arguments, i.e. they are not fallacious, but they are not always sound. Craig’s arguments are far from sound, especially his use of Dembski’s design filter in his fine tuning argument and his justifying of (2) in his moral argument by just asserting “deep down I think we all know it”.

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