William Lane Craig’s Debates (Reviews)

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 7, 2009 in Christian Theology,Debates,Reviews,William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is a prolific Christian philosopher, apologist, author, and public debater. He is the best debater – on any topic – that I’ve ever heard. As far as I can tell, he has won nearly all his debates with atheists. When debating him, atheists have consistently failed to put forward solid arguments, and consistently failed to point out the flaws in Craig’s arguments.

I’m not the only one who thinks Craig has won nearly all his debates. For some atheists, it is rather maddening.

Craig is a skilled debater, an encyclopedia of facts and quotes, and a careful rhetorician. If you make a logical mistake, Craig knows exactly how to skewer you for it (and for this, I respect him). He holds prepared and persuasive responses to everything an atheist might say, and atheists usually fail to clearly point out the logical flaws in what Craig has to say. Also, Craig does a great job of summarizing the points and counterpoints that have been raised during a debate, and presents them in a way to show he has decisively won. His opponents are never that organized or clear.

This is especially embarrassing for atheists because Craig’s arguments and debates are easily available, and he uses the same arguments all the time. So it should be easy for atheists to prepare for a debate with Craig.

Atheists underestimate Craig. They think it will be easy to win an argument with anyone who has a wish-granting invisible friend. Atheists do not properly prepare for Craig’s arguments, and they do not prepare for his remarkable skill and experience in live debates.

Personally, I’d like to thank Dr. Craig for raising the level of debate on this issue. Though he makes many patently absurd arguments, they are no less absurd than some of the bad arguments made by his opponents, and they are usually more relevant to the central point. Atheists tend to ramble on about irrelevant topics when they debate Dr. Craig.

Below, I’ve written quick reviews for each of Craig’s recorded debates. (Not updated to cover his 2009 debates. Also see my reviews of his debates with Mike Begon and Shelly Kagan.)

Craig’s debates – the good

Craig vs. Sinnott-Armstrong [book]
A superb debate. Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong took statements from two of their debates, then clarified and expanded them to form the back-and-forth chapters of this book. Sinnott-Armstrong is the only one who comes close to Craig’s degree of organization, and he starts off with a bang by pointing out 3 major problems that are common to all Craig’s arguments.

Craig vs. Dacey [video]
Craig gives his usual arguments. Dacey responds with 5 facts that fit better with atheism than with theism: the hiddenness of God, the success of science, the mind-brain connection, evolution, and the abundance of pointless suffering. Craig says that it’s possible to fit all these with Christian theism.

Dacey responds to the First Cause argument by saying that some scientists think the Big Bang does not explain the initial bang, but rather what happened after the bang. That’s true, but there are better arguments against First Cause arguments, and Craig easily dispatches this weak complaint.

About fine-tuning, Dacey says we might someday in the future discover how physical properties emerged from simple rules. There are so many good arguments against fine-tuning, and again Dacey chooses just about the weakest counter-argument he could have picked.

Dacey does a better job of responding to Craig’s arguments from morality and the Resurrection, but he doesn’t have enough time to more fully rebut them.

In general, Dacey does a better job of being clear and organized than most of Craig’s other opponents, but in the end Craig is still more organized and had good-sounding responses to Dacey’s arguments that Dacey didn’t get a chance to rebut.

Craig vs. Dacey (2) [audio]
Dacey gives the same arguments as in their previous debate, and Craig sticks to only 2 arguments: Kalam and the Resurrection. Craig thoroughly rebuts Dacey’s arguments, usually by a retreat to the possible, and Dacey doesn’t really call him on it.

This debate is mostly a repeat of their previous debate, but a little better. Craig seems to win this one simply by presenting more information and argument than Dacey does – basically, by talking faster. Also, Dacey again misses lots of great responses to the Kalam argument, and instead focuses on a mathematical disagreement that ends with “Yes it is.” “No it’s not.” “Yes it is.” “No it’s not.” What a waste. I would ignore the math; it’s irrelevant.

Craig vs. Price [audio]
A great debate between two people who really know their stuff. Price does a good job of pointing out the dishonesty of Craig’s approach, but as expected he does not organize his arguments as well as Craig and thereby loses.

Craig vs. Bradley [audio, transcript]
How can a good God torture forever those who’ve never heard of him? This is a hard question for Craig to answer, and Bradley is a good debater – on both the emotional and intellectual levels. Craig is beaten up pretty badly in the Q&A session. This might be a debate that Craig lost. It’s too bad Bradley never clearly pointed out Craig’s constant retreat to the possible with something like an analogy to Hitler: sure, it’s logically possible that Hitler’s genocide actually resulted in more moral good than evil, but are we rational to think so? Craig survived on the weakness of Bradley’s final speech and the strength of his own.

It’s too bad there’s no video for this one, because both debaters frequently refer to slides.

Craig vs. Parsons [audio]
This is the other debate Craig may have lost. He certainly lost it on logic, though he probably won on rhetoric and organization (as he always does). Parsons is full of logic, common sense, and passion.

Craig vs. Tabash [audio, video]
Tabash does a better job than most, but he spends more time attacking God’s morality and peripheral doctrines like souls and hell than he does debating Craig’s arguments for God’s existence.

Craig vs. Stenger [audio]
A good debate in which Stenger doesn’t let Craig get away with as much bullshit as he usually does, but Craig still wins due to superior skill, speed, and organization.

Craig’s debates – the bad

Craig vs. Zindler [audio, video]
Zindler makes some great points, but he suffers due to the superior organization and rhetoric of Craig’s presentation, which shows most of Zindler’s points to be irrelevant to the immediate topic of the debate. If you make mistakes like this, Craig will make you pay for them.

Craig vs. Crossley [audio, video]
Craig makes his own well-developed case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and then there is some good historical back-and-forth between the two. Again, Craig wins by way of superior organization and rhetoric.

Craig vs. Brown [audio]
At first, Brown rambles and says very little that is relevant to the question “Does God exist?” Craig has the playing field all to himself. Brown stands on the sidelines, watching Craig do slam dunks and yelling “You suck!” By his second speech, Brown begins to engage in the debate, but he cannot possibly catch up.

Craig vs. Shook [audio, video]
Both Shook and Craig make bad arguments here, but Craig does a better job of exposing Shook’s bad arguments, especially when Shook talks about naturalism and morality.

Craig vs. Slezak [audio, video]
Slezak starts off strong, but then starts to lose quickly, and in his summary he forgets to remind his audience of all the good points he made up front.

Craig vs. Cavin [audio]
Surprisingly, one of Craig’s most interesting debates is with someone who defends the idea that Jesus’ Resurrection was faked by an unknown identical twin. Cavin does a decent job showing why Craig’s magical Resurrection hypothesis is even more ad-hoc and implausible than alternative theories, but Craig’s rebuttals show why he is one of the best debaters in the world. In his first rebuttal, Craig demolishes about 20 different points made by Cavin – in a clear, convincing, well-organized way – in the space of 8 minutes. Cavin can’t possibly keep up with that.

Craig vs. Ahmed [audio]

Ahmed opens quite well. His response to Craig’s moral argument, in particular, is perfect: “Dr. Craig says that objective moral values exist, and I think we all know it. Now that might pass for an argument at Talbot Theological Seminary, and it might pass for an argument in the White House, but this is Cambridge, and it will not pass for an argument here.” But starting with Craig’s first rebuttal, Craig starts to pull ahead due to his superior organization, denser content, and better rhetoric.

Craig vs. Avalos [audio]
Craig begins by embarrassing Avalos by showing how Avalos combated a previous opponent by demanding that he be able to recognize Biblical manuscripts by sight – which is not how scholars work with Biblical texts anyway. Avalos comes out swinging, citing very specific parts of Craig’s work and trying to put Craig in uneasy situations. Craig responds calmly and confidently, and reminds the audience that almost nothing Avalos has said (1) builds a case against the Resurrection, nor (2) rebuts the arguments Craig gave in this debate. Avalos focuses on a linguistic disagreement with Craig – but of course nobody in the audience can tell who is right, and it wasn’t even part of Craig’s case in the debate.

Also, Avalos is kind of a dick at certain times, which doesn’t help him. His language attacks Craig more than Craig’s arguments. After Craig gives his final speech, Avalos jumps in on Craig’s applause and says, without any humor, “I very much appreciate your applause for me, thank you.” Smooth, Avalos.

Craig vs. Kurtz [audio]
As usual, Craig argues against the moral ontology of atheistic philosophy, while Kurtz defends the view that nevertheless, atheists can choose to live morally. They are two ships passing in the night.

Craig vs. Draper [audio]
Draper makes a semi-weak case for naturalism, which Craig further weakens. Draper is unable to properly address all of Craig’s arguments. As usual, Craig wins with superior debating skill.

Craig vs. Ehrman [audio, video, transcript]
Craig gives his usual case for the Resurrection. Ehrman mostly argues against the historicity of miracles, and spends very little time refuting Craig’s points. But perhaps because Ehrman keeps his case very simple, he ends up sounding more convincing than many of his predecessors. The first question in the Q&A is from up-and-coming apologist Mike Licona.

Craig vs. Hoover [audio]
Hoover does a good job of rebutting Craig’s claims, but again Craig wins on superior organization.

Craig vs. de Souza [video, audio]
de Souza is a good rhetorician, but Craig is both a good rhetorician and a careful logician. Craig is, once again, better practiced and prepared for anything de Souza can say.

Craig vs. Nielsen [transcript]
This debate on the problem of evil starts out okay, but then Craig brings out his moral argument which, once again, his atheist opponent has no proper response to at all.

Craig’s debates – the ugly

Craig vs. Flew [audio, video, book]
Craig gives his standard arguments (Kalam, fine-tuning, morality, Resurrection, personal revelation). Flew, instead of rebutting Craig’s arguments, goes on a weak, rambling rant about how we can’t know about things outside the universe, and about how eternal torture is bad. Flew’s talks are so confused he seems downright senile.

Craig vs. Cooke [audio, video]
Craig produces his usual arguments. Cooke does not try to disprove God, but instead argues that religious belief is a “barrier,” that it is arrogant, etc. Like many debates, Craig focuses on rational argument, and his opponent focuses on polemic.

Craig vs. Spong [audio, video]
Spong is a preacher, not a rational debater. He’s great to listen to, but he’s no match for Craig in tight, logical debate.

Craig vs. DiCarlo [video]
The topic here is not God’s existence, but: “Does God matter?” So, Craig focuses mostly on his “absurdity of life without God” material. DiCarlo seems confused about the topic, for he argues that, “God doesn’t matter because God doesn’t exist.” The whole debate is a mess, with lots of rambling and odd tangents – mostly the fault of DiCarlo.

Craig vs. Edwards [audio]
Not a debate, but a back-and-forth discussion. Edwards asks tough questions, Craig has answers.

Craig vs. Edwards (2) [audio]
Again, Edwards is clearly not prepared to take on such a formidable opponent.

Craig vs. Antony [audio 1 2, video 1 2]
Craig covers more ground and is of course better organized. Also, Antony never even bothers to defend her position that objective moral values exist without God. What is her meta-ethical theory? She never says!

Craig vs. Atkins [audio, video, videotape]
Atkins is more interested in lecturing about the nature and glory of science than in debating the existence of God. Atkins also does himself no favors by speaking with condescension.

Craig vs. Drange [audio, video]
Drange makes almost no case, talking about “hyper-universes” and other weirdness, and Craig walks all over him. Of course, Craig’s arguments are equally bizarre, but Drange does not do a good job of showing why.

Craig vs. Borg [audio]
Borg lectures about metaphor and the nature of the gospels, not once engaging the evidence for or against the Resurrection. Craig has the debate all to himself.

Craig vs. Barrier [audio]
Barrier is polemical and incoherent – especially when talking about morality. Barrier has no college degree – which isn’t necessarily bad – but it really shows here. Craig walks all over him.

Craig vs. Dayton [audio]
A debate on the problem of evil. Dayton has little to say, because he doesn’t think that the problem of evil disproves God, or even that it should persuade Christians! He makes some good points, and shows some good humor, but of course Craig makes more points, with better rhetoric and organization.

Craig vs. Ludermann [audio]
Here it is clear that another of Craig’s advantages is his skill at compressing his arguments. Ludermann says very little in his opening 20 minutes compared to Craig, and never really engages Craig’s arguments. In fact, Ludermann never explains his theory about the Resurrection, so Craig does it for him and then thoroughly smashes it! Meanwhile, Ludermann continues to mumble about assorted points, and doesn’t make it clear how any of them relate to the question of whether the Resurrection actually happened or not.

Craig vs. Ludermann (2) [audio]
Here, Ludermann performs just as poorly as in his previous debate with Craig.

Craig vs. Crossan [audio, book]
Crossan lectures, Craig argues. In the Q&A period, Crossan is particularly incoherent and evasive, refusing to answer such simple factual questions as, “During the Jurassic period, when there were no humans, did God exist?”

Craig vs. Hardin [audio]
Hardin lectures and gives memoirs, whereas Craig debates. Craig wins, hands-down.

Craig vs. Morgentaler [audio]
Morgentaler clearly has little experience in debate, and does not accept the structure and logic of debate. Craig walks all over him.

Craig vs. Washington [transcript]
Washington makes a few good points, but takes too long to make them, and makes them in a rather informal way that looks bad next to Craig’s clear and solid rhetoric.

Craig vs. Jesseph [transcript]
A very typical debate in which Craig’s opponent is not prepared for Craig’s skill, speed, or organization, and things just get worse for Jesseph as things go along and he falls further and further behind.

Craig vs. Curley [transcript]
Curley barely touches the question of the existence of God, instead preferring to argue about specific theological doctrines instead, and so Craig’s position remains mostly untouched by the end of the debate.

Craig vs. Pigliucci [transcript]
Another typical debate in which Craig’s skills totally smash his opponent. Atheists seem to think they need not prepare for a debate with Craig because he is just another wacko with an invisible friend who grants him magical wishes. I think they are all surprised by how plausible Craig can make such an absurd idea sound.

Craig vs. Tooley [transcript]
Tooley gets bogged down in very technical (and actually, wrong) objections to Craig’s arguments – for example he denies the Big Bang. Craig blows past him.

Craig vs. Smith [transcript]
Smith offers a highly technical response to Craig’s typical cosmological argument, one I’m not sure his audience could even appreciate. Craig’s superior rhetoric wins the day.

Craig vs. Smith (2) [transcript]
Even worse than the previous debate. Smith spends lots of time on some technical details, and meanwhile Craig blasts through which is usual train of well-organized and solid-sounding arguments, with a perfectly succinct and impressive rebuttal prepared for everything Smith could possibly say.

Craig vs. Taylor [transcript]
I don’t even understand the point of this debate, since Taylor already agrees with Craig that (1) Christian theism has a coherent account of moral ontology (Taylor just thinks it happens to be false), and that (2) atheistic morality is relative. Taylor tries to defend the idea that relative moral values can actually be something like “objective,” and of course Craig destroys all such attempts.

Craig vs. Payton [video, audio]
The host of the debate has to wring Payton’s neck to force him to offer actual arguments, whereas Craig is eager to demolish his opponent. Not much of a debate, more of a scattered interview.

Craig vs. Wolpert [video]
Wolpert has no idea how to do a debate. Wolpert is merely snarky, and Craig flogs him.

Summary

Craig has probably won all his debates. He makes many bad arguments, but so do his atheist opponents. It’s the job of each contender to show the flaws in his opponents’ arguments, and Craig consistently does this better than the atheists do.

He’s also more skilled at debating. Most atheist scholars are not experienced in debating, nor in being an apologist for atheism. On the contrary, Craig is one of the best debaters in the world, and has decades of experience with Christian apologetics.

Of course, another possible explanation for Craig’s success is that his arguments are sound, and God does exist. But I don’t think so, and in a later post I’ll show why. I’ll show how to properly respond to Craig’s arguments.

Note: I have not reviewed Craig’s debates with Muslims, since they are less interesting to me.

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{ 469 comments… read them below or add one }

Aurelien February 7, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Thanks for your pretty neat website, I like it ! I am looking forward to seeing how to properly respond to Craig’s arguments.

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nal February 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I’ll show how to properly respond to Craig’s arguments.

I’m drooling in anticipation.

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Teleprompter February 8, 2009 at 12:13 am

Now that you’ve spent all this time telling us how other people have poorly addressed or not adequately responded to Craig’s argument, I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Knife Fight Colobus February 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Great page like all your others, keep it up.

I disagree with the Crag vs. Shook debate being bad, however. I think Shook did a much better job against Craig, he called him out on his use of mathematical arguments really well and definitely had the crowd on his side (though of course I agree that doesn’t always mean he debated well).

But that debate was the one that sold me on Craig, I’m with you on respecting him and his skill. The thing that got me was Craig saying that evolution doesn’t have a problem with Christianity, and that gets a thumbs up from me.

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Crazy Religious Nut February 24, 2009 at 8:07 am

I admire your willingness to admit that Craig is so dominant, but if he consistently wins with incorrect arguments and deceptive tactics, doesn’t that prove that debates are pretty much useless? Obviously these debates are just a ploy used by Christians to make atheism look bad, right? So why even be concerned about it? Why would Craig’s success be \maddening\ to atheists?

Another question… To your knowledge, has an atheist ever used incorrect and inconsistent arguments, and yet still won a debate by using deceptive strategies and experience? Who and when? Thanks, I am enjoying your blog.

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lukeprog February 24, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Debates can be pretty useless, but they are all we have! The history of philosophy is a series of 10,000 debates waged over many centuries. One some issues the best arguments have won and there is no more debate. On other issues the debate must go on.

Christian debaters are always out there to make atheists look bad, and many atheist debaters are out there to make Christians look bad, too.

Craig’s success maddens atheists for the same reason it would madden me to lose a game of chess who started the game without a queen. The atheist’s is clearly the easier position to defend, and yet against Craig the atheist consistently loses!

Has an atheist won a debate with bad arguments and manipulative tactics? I should think so, but the examples that leap to mind (e.g. Hitchens) are always opposed by much worse offenders (e.g. Dinesh D’Souza).

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Stratsheep March 7, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Lukeprog, as a Christian I appreciate your honesty and frankness on Professor Craig’s debating skills – and your willingness to admit that maybe, just maybe, he might be on to something.

I’d really like to read your article on how you would refute his claims, because I have really listened carefully to his debates and investigated the claims made and cannot find anything \dishonest\ in what he is saying.

God bless you.

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Kris March 17, 2009 at 4:41 am

I'm a theist and I'm really impressed with your honesty in your reviews about the debates of William Lane Craig. Though I think the arguments of Craig are sound, I'm always open to new insights and responses so I'm quite interested in your responses to Craig's arguments, I'll add this site to my favorites!

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Marco March 23, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Just ran into this website and these post. Honestly one of the very first atheistic websites that does not leave me with a bad taste in any way! And that while I'm not a theist.
WLC is in my opinion by far the most gifted debater in the field, with that; he's very funny at times. For example the debate in which he tells that his wife is much hotter than his opponent is. Just love that!

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Geoffrey of Ballard March 24, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Underrated: Arif Ahmed v. Craig and Bart Ehrman v. Craig. They are two of the most entertaining and insightful debates I've heard.

I think Ahmed and Ehrman each took the upper hand because they spoke to the crowd and presented arguments that were both sound and easily understandable to a popular audience. Ahmed in particular showed Craig's arguments to be morally bankrupt and void of compassion.

From a personal standpoint, the Crossan debate had a special impact for me. I was in attendance and agreed with Craig at that point in my life, but Crossan's ideas stuck in my head. I picked up a few of his books 10 years later. He is now one of my favorite Biblical scholars.

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James Vandenberg April 1, 2009 at 1:02 pm

If you think WLC is such an able opponent, you should try debating him yourself. You know, I've seen atheist debates for nearly two decades and this is a rare dose of self-criticism from the godless side.

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lukeprog April 1, 2009 at 7:10 pm

I would get wasted, so bad. But I will have an upcoming series on how to beat William Lane Craig.

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Sam Meyerson April 5, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I believe that Ahmed and Ehrman clearly won their debates.  So much of Craig’s presentation depends on his selective quotation of sources.  For example, he is happy to quote Martin Rees, who finds that the Universe is finely tuned, but not Steven Weinberg, who is unimpressed by fine tuning arguments.

Craig’s distinction between “natural” and “divine” mechanisms for the resurrection is similarly laughable.  He explains that it is of course very unlikely that Jesus would be raised “naturally,” but the proposition that “God raised Jesus from the dead” is not at all unlikely.  This strikes me as a bit like the following: “Surely the probability that Jack’s beanstalk would have reached the clouds is infinitesimal if we were using *ordinary beans*.  But we have absolutely no basis to make such an estimation if he used *magic beans*, as our literary sources indicate.”

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snafu April 6, 2009 at 5:40 am

Luke – I agree completely with what you say.

WLC tends to win across the board.  In particular, if you’re not really paying attention (casual listening on the train to work!) it appears that he’s making clear, specific, decisive points that are skewering the opponent.  He has devastating debating ability and is well-practiced.

On closer inspection:  he’s using the same points all the time.  They *can* be argued against.  He has a knack of making his opponent’s naturalistic bias seem unreasonable.  (“What do you mean, the resurrection is unlikely a priori?  If God did it, it seems perfectly reasonable that a dead man could come to life again.  Remember that morality doesn’t have a proper grounding without something god-like writing it into our hearts.  Look at the monkey…”.  Etc. Only he words it far, far better…

Awesome site, by the way.  How you have time for maintaining all those download links, I have no idea.

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Chris April 6, 2009 at 8:28 pm

William Lane Craig is an excellent speaker… too bad his completely wrong!
 
I think Dr. Arif Ahmed won his debate with WLC. Remember, it was on the existence of god, and all Dr. Ahmed had to do was demonstrate enough doubt to abstain from belief, and show how WLC’s arguments did not remove that doubt. I think he did this. I would go further a suggest that he is a better better debater too, at least in terms of approach. In the two debates listed here he tends not to hide behind authority nor does he cite scholar after scholar (which the audience cannot confirm) but instead he uses simple but effective arguments and easy to understand analogies that nicely illustrate his point.
 
Although Dr. Craig typically wins his debates, he hardly wins the argument. Any serious analysis of the claims in his debates and he would hardly fair well.

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Oliver April 14, 2009 at 4:36 am

Whenever Craig argues for the resurrection of Jesus, he keeps talking about “Overwhelming Majority of New Testament Scholars” agreeing to his so-called 4 or 5 “facts”.

I understand that in a debate there wouldn’t possibly be enough time for his opponent to thoroughly deconstruct this claim, but I always ask myself “just WHO are these scholars?”, “what methods do they utlize?”, “how many of them are Christians?” and “just what does he mean they are ‘facts’ and how was this decided?”. I am puzzled as to why debate after debate, this claim never gets effectively challenged.

Isn’t it about time someone dissected this claim to find out more about these scholars? Like who they are, what their theologiacal background is, and what methods they are employing to grant aspects of the gospel accounts as FACT? Such information, if made available to all, might better equip atheists when debating Craig on the resurrection, I think. (What immediately comes to my mind is that the majority of these scholars ARE Christians so of course they’ll concede those ‘facts’, right?).

Or would the better strategy be to simply dismiss Craig’s claim as an appeal to authority and leave it at that?

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lukeprog April 14, 2009 at 6:42 am

Oliver,

This tactic does frustrate his atheist debaters, and some of them do point out it is an appeal to authority, and also that most New Testament scholars are Christian, but it doesn’t slow down Craig one bit. He just keeps saying it.

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Oliver April 15, 2009 at 8:11 am

Luke, I listened to your very interesting interview with Mike Licona. Suppose you contacted him, and asked him to provide a list of these New Testament scholars with their backgrounds, and clearly stated positions, would he oblige? He works with gary Habermas, so I would think he has access to this info.
I mean if these guys are being sincere about the claim that the majority of New Testamnt scholars buy the Jesus story, I think they ought to make such info available for scrutiny. Just to give you an example: if a creationist challenged me to provide a list of scientists who accept evolution by natural selection, as a starting point, I could refer him here: http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/list-steves. The link takes you to a NCSE page that lists qualified professionals in the field, specifying even their credentials. Here, the NCSE was trying to make apoint of just how many scientists (named Steve) accept evolution. Here is an even more detailed list from another pro-evolution organisation, going as far as to include not only credentials but also religious affiliations of hundreds of scientists who accept evolution: http://www.shovelbums.org/images/stories/misc/Petition/petition_against_id_as_science.pdf
In the same way, since these apologists are trying to make a point of how many ‘scholars’ accept certain ‘facts’ about Jesus, they ought to be willing to furnish us with details of who these scholars are, with their religious affiliations included. Afterall, we are right now simply taking their word for it that these scholars accept these ‘facts’. They also often mention token non-believers like Carrier and Price as part of the scholarship being cited to make it seem like its all very balanced – but can we be sure? They themselves did the research (Habermas) so they must have this info somewhere. Let them show it to us, then we will be able to check for ourselves the work of these scholars, and see if their claims hold any water, or if this ‘majority’ is genuine.
If  ’evil’ evolutionists can do this, one would expect Christian apologists do even better. Would Mike say no?

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lukeprog April 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Oliver, I think there are a few Habermas papers in which he did count up the opinions of scholars, but of course the way he questioned and his choice of who to ask is open to attack. I’ll try to find those articles; I can’t remember which ones they were or in which journal they were published.

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Eliezer Yudkowsky April 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I know that incompetence is the default expectation of all people, all times, and all places, but this string of victories seems slightly suspicious to me.   *I* have not heard back from Craig myself.  Perhaps Craig’s true cleverness lies in his careful choice of *opponents*.

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lukeprog April 23, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Eliezer Yudkowsky: I know that incompetence is the default expectation of all people, all times, and all places, but this string of victories seems slightly suspicious to me.   *I* have not heard back from Craig myself.  Perhaps Craig’s true cleverness lies in his careful choice of *opponents*.

Yes. He says “I don’t debate non-Ph.Ds”, but there are plenty of non-Ph.Ds he has debated, so he appears to be using that line as an excuse to not debate people he doesn’t want to face (like John Loftus, who is a former student of his and an expert on all his arguments).

But listen: I’ve seen/heard every Craig debate on the net. His arguments are unsound, but he’s one of the best debaters in the world, on any subject, and he can win debates against people who know all the arguments but simply aren’t experienced in formal debates.

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Pablo Stafforini April 24, 2009 at 5:08 am

Although I fully agree with your assessment of Craig’s rhetorical skills and philosophical acumen, I think you are wrong in implying that he won the debate with Arif Ahmed.  Craig’s capacity for taking control of the debate by able framing of the issues and repeated summaries of his arguments didn’t really work against Ahmed, whose performance was all the more remarkable given that his background was not in philosophy of religion and seemed to have no prior acquaintance with the relevant literature and arguments.

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Dante April 26, 2009 at 1:32 am

This is an amazing resource! Thank you very much for making this available for all of us. By the way, I’m a Christian, and I visit this blog every now and then.

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Simon April 27, 2009 at 6:45 am

Thanks for the resource – much appreciated.

There is a lot of confidence in your protestations against Craig and theism (‘promissory intellectualism’ one might even say) but zero substance. One is reminded of King Canute.

Your comments on why Craig has won his debates surely miss the point. Craig has faced the greatest of the atheist elite and won, not because he is a genius but because his arguments are grounded in unshakable reality.

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Wade June 2, 2009 at 11:59 am

I find Craig’s arguments re-hashed, outlined, and wanting.  The jump from a “first cause” argument to a Christian view of history is huge.  Even a “first cause” may not be supernatural, we have not even begun to explore the universe.  His fine tuning argument is limited and presumptive, as life is just barely holding on, right?   The minimal facts argument?  That is recognized only by Biblical scholars, go figure, and requires the enormous presupposition that the witnesses were not misinformed or exagerrating (see any Catholic miracle-Guadalupe, anyone?) He merely replies to other debaters that their arguments are not as strong as his and that there are no arguments being made.  I think what is infuriating, as usual, is that people put stock into the arguments not because they are strong, but because they match a presupposed belief system.  But if you believe, you believe. 

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Michael July 3, 2009 at 7:53 am

I downloaded the Craig Hitchens debate before it was removed, so have been able to watch it several times…

I can’t understand how anyone could think he is a good debater.

He continually asked Hitchens to produce evidence that god does NOT exist! Shifting the onus of proof. That’s got to be the weakest argument ever devised.

And just as often asked Hitchens for evidence that atheism is true! For goodness sake, atheism is not a philosophy or world view that can be proved either true or false. An atheist does not believe that god exists and that’s all there is to it.

Craig a good debater? Weak as piddle, I reckon.

Craig never got beyond asking for evidence that god does NOT exist and evidence that atheism is true – so you’re not missing out on too…

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Michael July 3, 2009 at 7:58 am

Ignore the last three lines in the above comment. I left them there by mistake (and can’t delete them).

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Acidgawd July 10, 2009 at 3:20 am

I would have to say that in the first debate between Craig and Smith, Smith crushed Craig.
Anyone who reads Craig’s opening statement and Smith’s rebuttal can see that only Smith is using logic.
Craig might be good with the rhetoric but without any logic his argument falls apart quick.

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Keith October 20, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Craig is a genius. This is not about who is the best at debating, or how well one can debate. This is about the ISSUES, and Craig has spent 30 YEARS studying and researching philosophy, science, and religion. Craig is good at what he does because he knows the issues better than his opponent does. Plus he is a great speaker. The man studied GREEK for crying out loud, just so he would be able to understand the Greek translation of the bible. Thats why he is so good.

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Kelvin20 October 22, 2009 at 12:32 pm

The public understands large-scale double-blind medical studies well enough to discuss the risks of experimental treatment, the ethics of withholding prom- ising treatment from the control group, and the conflicts of interest that are addressed by the blinding process. ,

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Muto October 23, 2009 at 7:24 am

I think the Slezak debate should be listed among the good ones.

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Jorg November 6, 2009 at 8:18 pm

I agree with some of the above posters: Craig is long on rhetoric, weak on logic–and facts. Kalam argument only works for those who are totally ignorant of modern cosmology, for example. Probably that is why he is so “maddening”: his arguments are weak, beg the question and he is way too fond of cherry-picking his quotes (as are all apologists). And yet…he still wins, right? That is why I think that public debates of such sort are totally useless and their outcomes have nothing to do with the truth of the matter. I mean, Hitler could have won all such debates (and did…:))

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Tel November 10, 2009 at 12:38 am

I’m a Christian and am thankful for sites like yours where cooler heads prevail. It is not unreasonable to think, as you do, that Craig has won (perhaps) all his debates, even if you don’t think, as I happen to, that his arguments are sound.

Let your readers not be confused why this is: he does not win on rhetoric; he wins because he makes a better case for theism than his opponents do for atheism. The “rhetoric” complaint one often hears strikes me as nothing over and above humbug at the wrong side winning (from the atheist persepctive)–a mere emotive report of displeasure. The same can generally be said of explanations of Craig’s victories that employ terms such as ‘semantics’ or ‘language games’. If one finds oneself in the position of being convinced by something Craig says, why not conclude, “Wow. Maybe I should rethink my atheism?” Hell. Why not? Life’s too short and the stakes too high to let the fear of others gloating over you (shame on them if they do) keep you from considering a change of mind and heart as a live option.

As for the NT scholars Craig cites on the historicity of the resurrection, he appeals almost exclusively to *atheists*–not Christians–and this by design in order to forestall the very objection of bias (to be sure, a poor objection in its own right: are objectors charging his sources with rational or psychological bias? The former undermines credibility in the source; the latter is trivial with respect to credibility.) Moreover, NT scholarship is rife with secular scholarship, so it’s a mistaken impression of the discipline to think it populated exclusively (or even nearly exclusively) by Christians.

Finally, some hard numbers on what this broad consensus consists of. I here quote Craig from the Bill Cooke debate (Video 7 of 12), about 5 minutes into the video: “I would point out in support of my contention that this is the broad consensus of scholarship, that in the journal Dialog from two years ago, there was a bibliographical article that surveyed 1400 articles over the last 25 years on the resurrection of Jesus, and it showed 75% of scholars writing on the subject agree on the historicity of Jesus’ empty tomb, and there is near-universal agreement on the postmortem appearances and the origin of the disciples belief in Jesus’ resurrection.”

Anyway, thanks for your site. I appreciate your levelheadedness.

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Rhys November 10, 2009 at 6:04 am

I wouldn’t mind seeing round 2 between Sinnott Armstrong and Craig. I noticed that Craig’s refutations of WSA’s arguments were piss weak, but on the same token WSA made a few errors in his examining of Craig’s arguments. Id like to see it in video format as well. The “problem” is WSA is more eclectic with his philosophy PhD, he also puts it to good use to try and make the world a much better place rather then just engaging in incessant dialectical prestidigitation about the existence of primitive invisible magical sadistic sky genies. Not that philosophy of religion isn’t valuable, it is, but Craig has literally spend his whole academic life writing books, papers and debating only about

(a)his Magical Fantasy Sky Daddy
(b)implicitly declaring his disdain for atheism
( c)amusing the masses with his desperate attempts to justify the barbaric, petty, unjust bloodthirsty sadistic idiosyncrasies of Yahweh in the Old Testament.

However, I really like WSA’s work on philosophy of law, and if some of his ideas were put in place, I think it would cause a major positive overhaul in the current American judicial system i.e. bringing neuroscience and psychology into a more active role to prevent recidivism.

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erik d. November 24, 2009 at 12:37 am

lukeprog: Oliver,This tactic does frustrate his atheist debaters, and some of them do point out it is an appeal to authority, and also that most New Testament scholars are Christian, but it doesn’t slow down Craig one bit. He just keeps saying it.  

i think you’re missing the point here…1) if most N.T. scholars are Christians, it doesn’t follow that they are dishonest about the material.(if thats the case then couldn’t the same be said of an athiest scholar as well?) 2) Perhaps some of them are Christians as a result of their critical study of the N.T., not before. 3) When “critical” is used in connection with N.T. scholarship, it is almost always referring to non-christian and sometime atheist, agnostic scholars (Ludemann, Borg, Price, etc..) 4) I think quoting authority outside of your area of speciality is a necessary part of debate/discussion. I don’t think he thinks or expects anyone else to think, that he means his conclusions are unanimously agreed upon. I think the whole point is that if the majority of scholarship, including those from the “left” and the “right”, can agree to certain historical data, we should at least consider Why they agree on these things. just something to consider…

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Skb November 28, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I want to see a William Craig vs. Richard Dawkins on whether God is a delusion or a reality.

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lukeprog November 28, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Richard Dawkins has repeatedly refused this invitation, because he would lose very badly.

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Rhys Wilkins December 1, 2009 at 1:29 am

I think he would win if it was about intelligent design. Dawkins is actually an extremely experienced debater, he debated many creationists back in the day.

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elribla December 5, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I don’t think so. The debates in which WLC takes part are very very rigid (20 minutes – 10 minutes – Q&A) and he has no other thing to do since that’s his job for many years.

But a debate with questions to the other side, interruptions and instantaneous rebuttals would be far more interesting.

By the way, I’ve seen all the debates and William Lane Craig is a very good debater indeed, but he is so vulnerable in the Q&A parts. Did you notice that?

lukeprog: Richard Dawkins has repeatedly refused this invitation, because he would lose very badly.  

lukeprog: Richard Dawkins has repeatedly refused this invitation, because he would lose very badly.  

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Rhys Wilkins December 5, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Yeah I think I have heard Dawkins himself say that he abhors moderators and the traditional LD style debates where you have to shut-up and listen to the other person for 20 minutes.

It is good as an academic sport mind you, but if you are trying to have a serious discussion its bullshit.

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lukeprog December 5, 2009 at 6:51 pm

LD debates are like gladiatoral combat. It doesn’t matter who is right. It just matters who trained more.

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J Nernoff III M.D. December 7, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Why don’t some atheists form a committee to analyze and rebut WLC and other supporters of superstition? (I know, it will turn out to be a camel.) Isn’t there a qualified organization to take on this task? American Atheists, FFRF, and Kurtz’ Center for Inquiry are 3 I can think of. A while back there was the Jesus Seminar, where every word was graded. Something should be done, but alas, with atheists it’s like herding cats.

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lukeprog December 7, 2009 at 7:36 pm

A friend of mine is considering a book focused on rebutting WLC, we’ll see if it happens…

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David Law December 9, 2009 at 3:37 am

Luke

Having listened to the Craig-Ahmed debate I have to say I felt Dr Ahmed did a very fine job of undermining Craig.

Ahmed did not have the fluency of Craig, and Craig’s rebuttal was dense with well made points and almost word perfect (as you say he has such experience with debating not only his words and phrases, but whole paragraphs come fluently to him).

Despite this I thought the intellectual honours went to Adhmed. He undermined Craig in his prelude by stating he didn’t take the debate to be a parlour game. Throughout the debate he picked up Craig for “tricks of the debating trade” so to speak. In this way Ahmed successfully took the gloss from Craig’s highly polished persona by characterising it as style without real substance.

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Kornhusk December 9, 2009 at 10:29 am

One way to test Craig is to hire an amateur reader to give his presentation and to see if ordinary speech (the arguments will be exactly the same) can win the day (arguments win) or lose (presentation is the key, not the arguments).

Craig dresses immaculately (shirt, tie, jacket)(unlike the slovenly Hitchens); he is rugged and handsome (like the pipe-smoking figure in the Church of the Sub-Genius, Bob); he has a low, mellow, resonant voice like a radio-announcer; his presentation is measured and steady with no uhhhs or uhhms; and he employs “stacking” — that is the relentless piling on of one claim after another, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…. giving the opposition no chance to ever dislodge them all.

That’s part of the key: voice, professionalism, a hurricane of “facts.”

The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a person only tells them with all his might. –Mark Twain

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Terje December 11, 2009 at 4:13 am

If you want the satisfaction of seeing a debate where Craig undeniably loses, check out the one with Shelly Cagan.

First video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_l69QN7ixmM&feature=PlayList&p=2D3765E616306CB1&index=0

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Muto December 11, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I just watched the debate between WLC and Micheal Schmidt-Salomon. Craig gets beaten up pretty badly. Maybe it is because the debate is in german.

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Muto,

Do you want to volunteer to transcribe that debate into English for the rest of us? :)

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JP December 17, 2009 at 10:16 am

Thanks for the comprehensive list of debates. Given how important the subject matter of the debates is, I only wish more of such debates were professionally videotaped and made available. Many of the video debates available online are poor recordings of low quality, which is really too bad.

Nonetheless, I will look for other debates from this list that I’ve neither seen nor heard.

Thanks…

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rhys December 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Craig is the kind of rhetoritician that could make even the most absurd claims sound credible with his eloquency and smooth articulation.

Seriously Id like to see Craig argue for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I reckon he could make a case for it sound mildly convincing!

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Keith January 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I just want to touch on a few things. I think that some of you people are purposely undermining the brilliance of WLC. I keep seeing all of this crap about how good of a debater he is, and how much rhetoric he has. That is just not the case at all. Craig is a expert on the arguments. To show how brilliant he is, watch the debate that he had with Victor Stenger. Now, Stenger is a physicist. WLC completely demolished him on any subject that had to do with physics, particularly on quantum physics when Victor made an attempt to argue that some particles in quantum physics appear to come “from nothing”. WLC gracefully refuted that claim and Stenger didn’t mention it again. He also refuted Stengers view on “time”, by showing what was wrong with it, and also showing how it SHOULD of been presented and how even if it was presented that way why it would still fail.

This is more than JUST rhetoric and good debate skills people. I mean yeah, it helps to be a good debater in ANY debate just like it helps to be a good basketball player in ANY game of basketball. You people keep (at least most of you) saying that WLC is a “good debater” as if it is a mischievious advantage or something. But as I said in another post, WLC wins because he KNOWS THE ISSUES better than his opponents does. In the debate with Ayala (as Luke even admits), Ayala is supposed to be the expert on the issue, and he was completely outshined by WLC.

WLC does a good job of refuting his opponents arguments as well. He knows the issues people. You people need to give props when it is due instead of being in denial and taking away from the mans abilities. But that is life. I have heard people criticize many great sports figures, despite how many championships that they won. But to read some of the crap that people say on here is just sad.

Oh, another thing. I really ejoyed the Craig vs Ahmed debate. Another person on here mentioned that debate and how well Ahmed did. Luke, I think you should do a extended review of that debate on here. I enjoyed it. I thought Ahmed was a little arrogant at times. Some of Ahmed’s refutations of Craig’s arguments were rediculous. There was no juice behind them. I like the fact that Craig pointed out directly to Ahmed about how close-minded he is in reference to the arguments. I still think Ahmed did well, but this was another victory for Craig.

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Martin January 5, 2010 at 8:56 am

I’m gonna have to agree with Keith on this one. I’m not a believer myself but I think Craig wins debates because his reasoning is impeccable, for the most part. If you read articles on his website you’ll see that he claims to be defending a “weak theism,” and even admits that his arguments are not rationally coercive and are not meant to be so.

Not to say his arguments convince me Christianity is true (they don’t), but they do provide a reasonably sound foundation for his faith. Much better than the Christian layman ever manages.

It’s like the example of a person who knows they are innocent of a crime but for which evidence is scarce; they might not be able to prove it absolutely, but they can point to weak or even halfway decent evidence that supports what they know to be true. I think Craig succeeds in this respect.

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John D January 20, 2010 at 9:22 am

I know I am way out of date on this one (although there have been recent comments). But I just read the first Smith-Craig debate. I must say, Smith’s rebuttal of the Kalam argument is very good: it is focused and pungent. Craig undoubtedly fails to respond to his point about infinite arithmetic being distinct from finite arithmetic. He also offers a really weak response to Smith’s “fallacy of equivocation” argument.

That said, I am basing this on a reading of the transcript, not on the vocal performance, which might be quite different.

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Rhys Wilkins February 15, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I think in terms of arguments, Quentin’s were vastly superior to Craig’s. Craig just managed to shoot off a lot of rhetorical jabs in a short amount of time. Craig seemed to misunderstand Quentin’s interpretation of the Kalam somewhat.

Smith won the argument
Craig won the debate

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kaka February 28, 2010 at 5:03 pm

if there is ample evidence for atheism, would it really take a skilled debater to present it?

a five-year-old could present a decent case for the roundness of the earth with pre-scripted rebuttals to the most common arguments by believers of flat earth theories.

but it’s fair to say the atheists craig debates do not get anywhere near a ‘decent’ performance. as lukeprog observes, they are often demolished.

when a speaker delivers valid arguments in a clumsy way, it’s often a good idea to give them the benefit of the doubt so the truth of what they are saying is not ignored because they were not as articulate or well spoken as they could have been.

in this case, strangely, atheists might like to give craig the benefit of the doubt because his delivery is too articulate and organised!

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lukeprog February 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm

If there is ample evidence for the Standard Model of Particle Physics, would it really take a skilled debater to present it?

Yes.

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kaka March 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm

lukeprog: If there is ample evidence for the Standard Model of Particle Physics, would it really take a skilled debater to present it?Yes.  

i didn’t say to prepare or argue the point. i said present.

it’s conceivable that well-reasoned arguments backed up by lines of evidence could be researched and written up by a scholar in any field, be in religion or physics, and then given to someone, child or adult, to present ie, to read aloud verbatim according to a prepared, written script.

this would result in a decent argument and would be a miles ahead of what craig’s opponents are doing which are at best, scattered generalisations or vague statements which are not philosophical arguments in the sense of having premises leading to a conclusion.

thus it seems to me what craig’s opponents are not lacking is not debating skill (which i define as the ability to respond to rebuttals – i don’t take your definition of being able to write concise, compressed arguments as evidence of debating skill but writing skill) but the ability to form an argument in the first place. this is most apparent in debates where craig’s opponents go first, such as craig v morgentaler. in that debate, morgentaler could have simply read out what he has researched and even if he got crushed in the rebuttals, would have at least provided a strong opening statement that other atheists could build on. what he provides is a vague, confused lecture with almost no academic references. no amount of rhetorical flourish from a world-class debater could have improved morgentaler’s presentation.

and i don’t buy the excuse that craig’s opponents do not understand what a ‘debate’ is. you don’t need to be a professor to figure out that if discussion is confined to an academic topic and a time limit, one should stick within that topic, provide academic references for all arguments (students learn this as undergraduates) and only offer strong arguments in the interests of time. if they cannot do this it is not because they need debating training, it is because they are lazy or uninterested.

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John D March 16, 2010 at 4:06 am

Finally watched the Ehrman-Craig debate. I think Ehrman did a great job. In fact I would go so far as to say he clearly “won”. The only shaky part was when Craig brought up Bayes Theorem (only to reject it himself in the Q&A).

I particularly liked the contrast between their final statements. Craig went into “witnessing” mode and Ehrman called him on it. He also pointed out how he had actually responded to all four of Craig’s “facts”; how his alternative scenario was still more plausible than the resurrection; and then proceeded to outline what he thinks is the most likely explanation of the resurrection story.

I think Ehrman managed to do three things that Craig’s debate opponents usually don’t do. First, he made a strong educational point about how historical scholarship actually works and how it cannot be used to prove religious claims (I think this kind of educational message is important because it gives audience members something they can build on in their own investigations). Second, he actually tried to rebut Craig’s arguments (despite Craig’s persistent claims to the contrary — this is a very annoying debate tactic). And third, he provided two alternative theories. One just to make the point about how miracles cannot be proved historically and the other a good attempt to explain the origins of the resurrection story.

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manicstreetpreacher March 16, 2010 at 5:35 am

I broadly agree with what you’ve said from the debates I have seen/ heard. However….

Ehrman – Won convincingly. Hats off for not falling for Craig’s use of Bayes Theorem (!) or being distracted by Craig using demagogic tricks i.e. “Ehrman’s Egregious Error” and “Bart’s Blunder”. Craig is an evangelist disguised as a serious academic and Ehrman proves it.

Crossley – This one was a draw. Neither speaker would have changed anyone’s minds or convinced a neutral. Craig’s delivery is much better, but he doesn’t bully his opponent or pander to the audience. May be he was having an off day.

Tabash – I think he just about won. “If God sacrificed 6 million Jews to establish the state of Israel, he needs a lesson in efficiency!” Genius.

Price – See my own post here. Price’s opening speech where he attacks Craig and everything he stands for (spending two minutes at the end actually addressing the debate motion!), is one of most extraordinary opening addresses I have ever heard. Alas, the debate runs out of steam and Craig gets away with saying his opponent has not satisfied his burden of proof etc.

Spong – This was a delight. Spong rises above Craig’s petty attempts to rationalise his fairy tale and explains the philosophy of being an atheist Christian. If only all believers were like him. Credit is still due for exposing Craig’s dishonest reliance on authorities who are in fact at opposite ends of NT scholarship spectrum.

Avalos – Still lets Craig get away with saying that he hasn’t met his burden of proof, but deserves credit for not being put off by Craig’s disgraceful attempt to embarrass him in relation to a previous debate as well highlighting Craig’s “printer’s error”.

Wolpert – Didn’t do as badly as you make out. He was more prepared to push his own ideas of the evolutionary explanation of belief on the premise that God does not exist rather than disprove Craig’s arguments. But he held up reasonably well.

Stenger – Deserves a separate post!

Dacey and Shook – The debates are my queued up on MP3 player. Looking forward to them.

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manicstreetpreacher March 16, 2010 at 5:38 am

Vic Stenger – I agree that this is an excellent debate and Stenger does not let Craig get away with as much BS as he normally does, but come on; Stenger flattens him! Granted, Vic is no showman, but what he lacks in flair, he more than adequately compensates for with authority and clarity.

There is so much to enjoy that this debate rewards repeated visits. I have done my own analysis here which Vic kindly posted on his own website.

Stenger runs so many rings around Craig that it’s the only time Craig hasn’t finished off pimping the warm fuzzy feeling he gets when thinking about the person up in the heavens who loves him.

Stenger has taught me so much in this debate. In particular, that theology is just dreaming up logically consistent models of gods when there is no way that theologians can prove what they say. “Well, I don’t know how Dr Craig knows all that.”

He also exposes Craig’s dishonest mining of Stephen Hawking’s work to give the false impression that Hawking still believes in the Big Bang singularity. Of course Craig has never taken any notice of this.

And that line about conducting polls among the “scholars” at Bob Jones University is just priceless. If that’s not calling Craig on his sophistry, I don’t know what is!

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lukeprog March 16, 2010 at 6:21 am

Thanks for your thoughts, manicstreetpreacher.

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Mike March 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I really appreciate the level-headedness and respect on this site, which I think is wonderful! I was wondering if any of you could honestly recommend 2 debates to me (both done in a non-Christian venue). (1) The first would be WLC’s most one-sided loss, or perhaps his most tongue-tied debate where he seems just totally, uncharacteristically lost. (2) WLC’s most one-sided and obvious “win” against a Ph.d in a non-christian venue. Thanks! I really appreciate this site!

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lukeprog March 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm

His wins are easy; check this list.

As for embarrassing losses, I dunno. Most people seem to think that if WLC has lost a debate, it was his debate with Shelly Kagan.

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Mike March 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Thanks, Lukeprog! I’m getting more familiar with the debates, but am far from having seen or heard the dozens of debates WLC has accomplished. I’m an agnostic and I know it was probably an impossible question in knowing the top 2 or 3 most obvious or one-sided wins of WLC at a non-Christian venue. You and the people on this site have a lot of knowledge about his debates (after all, they’re reviewed above); whereas I only saw one – the Frank Zindler/WLC Debate. This was definitely a one-sided, obvious win for WLC no matter what anyone says. Having said this, I guess I was looking for a debate just like the one I saw – only in a non-Christian venue. Or the top 3 or so. I’d like to watch his most obvious “win” (along with the Kagan debate I’m in the process now of ordering). Thanks, lukeprog! I truly appreciate it!

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manicstreetpreacher April 3, 2010 at 1:33 am

I listened to the Shook debate yesterday and I thought he came off better than most. True, his arguments were not as well structured as they could have been, but he sounded very confident, did not put up with any of Craig’s nonsense and judging by the applause and tabletop banging, had the support of the audience.

Dare I say that he won!

Another time when Craig has not had chance to plug the warm fuzzy feeling he gets when he thinks about how much God loves him in his final remarks.

I was appalled by Craig dishonestly quote-mining Stephen Hawking’s The Nature of Space and Time to support his religious view of cosmology that the universe began with the Big Bang singularity during cross-examination. He must know full well that Hawking was referring to the impact of his and Penrose’s old thesis which they have now recanted.

I sometimes wonder how well atheist bloggers would do against Craig in a live debate. After all, they have probably seen and heard more of Craig’s debates and spent more time debunking his “arguments” than his actual opponents!

MSP

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manicstreetpreacher April 3, 2010 at 1:33 am

I have put my thoughts of the debates against Ehrman and Spong on my own blog.

I am also proofing a series of three posts with my second thoughts on the Hitchens debate to go out one year after the event BST.

MSP

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Rhys Wilkins April 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Heh,

You got Craig vs. Jesseph in the Ugly section? Craig himself said that was his most challenging debate!

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lukeprog April 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Yes, that was a surprise. I wonder why Craig didn’t think his hardest debate was with Ray Bradley or Shelley Kagan, where he took some serious blows.

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oarobin April 11, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Dr. Craig vs Dr. Avalos
topic: is there sufficient historical evidence to establish that Jesus rose from the dead?

in my humble opinion Dr. Craig was savaged by Dr. Avalos

first off Dr. Craig gets the debate topic wrong arguing for fact or fiction of the resurrection
when the topic was about historical evidence.

Dr. Craig starts with his usual 4 facts of the resurrection granted by his “majority of new testament scholars”.

Dr. Avalos – what is a fact here are not the resurrection but stories about the resurrection and what we need to explain is the origin of the stories.

Dr. Craig philosophical training was useless here as Dr. Avalos rammed home that Dr. Craig didn’t know the languages he was quoting(first century from medieval Aramaic), misquoted Josephus, historical criteria is silent when zombies rise from the dead – Matthew 27 and positive on the resurrection of Jesus – Mark 16 even though they satisfy the same criteria.

and i left out the useless passing (or “sharing” in this case) the burden of proof,
poisoning the well by bringing up debate tactics from another debate instead of ironing this out

with Dr. Avalos before the event (after all didn’t Dr. Craig say he thought Dr Avalos was a scholar and a gentleman.

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Rhys Wilkins April 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm

I have come to the conclusion that Jesseph actually did do quite well in the debate. Jeffery Jay Lowder wrote an article on the Secular Web with a technical overview of the debate, and he found that Craig actually broke a couple of debate rules (under LD debating rules, you cannot skip over an objection to an argument in your first rebuttal then present a brand new objection in the following rebuttal). In terms of arguments, it was a 4-4 draw:

Fine tuning: Jesseph
Kalam: Craig
Resurrection: Craig
Holy Spirit Epistemology: Jesseph
Argument from Conservativism: Craig
Argument from Asymmetry: Jesseph
Evidential Argument from Evil: Jesseph

Luke, you should at least move Jesseph up into the bad section rather then the ugly! I mean if the technical debate score was actually a draw AND Craig himself thinks that it was his closest debate, then it surely deserves a more prestigious place in this list!

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Danny April 20, 2010 at 11:38 pm

“An atheist does not believe that god exists and that’s all there is to it.”

-At least there are a few honest folks among the Athiest crowd.

It’s not about having a “make belief friend that grants wishes”. That’s ridiculous and just plain ignorant. If anything my life has become much harder as a believer!

The only reason I believe is because I’m convinced it’s true.

I wish Athiests were just more blunt & honest and said that they don’t believe God because they don’t want to believe in God. Like Thomas Nagel, although he doesn’t try and push his views of athiesm, he just states his position.

For Christians it makes sense to debate, and argue for the faith like WLC: If heaven & hell are real, then it matters what you think about God. If sin has consequences like death and eternal separation from God, and if I have found the cure (Jesus dying on a cross for my sins) then doesn’t it make sense for me to want to tell my family, my friends, the whole world so that they could get in on the best news in the world?! (No death, eternal life, forgiveness from God, and all I have to do is believe in Jesus and follow after him, it’s a pretty sweet deal.)

If a doctor discovered the cure for AIDS wouldn’t he try to mass produce it so that the disease would disappear? Maybe some people would not want the cure because it would cost too much. But we should at least let people know about the cure and give them that option to choose.

This is the view of most Christians. This is why we try so hard to tell others about God and about Jesus.

But why are Athiests so intent on pushing their views? I don’t get it. If you are positive that your view is correct you better be damn sure you’re correct because eternity is at stake here, and nobody should be messing around with that unless you’ve got some excellent reasons to back that up.

And if Christians are wrong then it’s just like Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:17-19 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile… If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men”

1. The Resurrection of Jesus.

If this did not happen, then all of it is pointless. If the Athiests can find proof to defeat this one claim they will successfully see the fall of Christianity which has stood the test of time for nearly 2000 years.

If Athiests can find a way to deny this claim. Then they will be able to defeat WLC.

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MauricXe April 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

Yes, that was a surprise. I wonder why Craig didn’t think his hardest debate was with Ray Bradley or Shelley Kagan, where he took some serious blows.  

I found this quote from WLC:

“I [WLC] did respond briefly to Prof. Kagan’s view… but I didn’t press the point because our hosts with the Veritas Forum had made it very clear to me that they were not interested in having a knock-down debate but a friendly dialogue that would foster a warm and inviting atmosphere for non-believing students at Columbia. The goal was simply to get the issues out on the table in a congenial, welcoming environment, which I think we did.”

Source:
http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/william-lane-craig-vs-shelly-kagan-is-god-necessary-for-morality/

Danny you said:

But why are Athiests so intent on pushing their views? I don’t get it. If you are positive that your view is correct you better be damn sure you’re correct because eternity is at stake here, and nobody should be messing around with that unless you’ve got some excellent reasons to back that up.

I think Hitchens answers your question for me between

4:57-5:15
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXC8VldIKEc

Beating WLC is a matter of coming with good counter arguments, managing one’s time, and being a decent speaker. Craig is an excellent debater in both style and content. Ofc I don’t think his content is unbeatable, but his content isn’t as weak as some of the atheist arguments he runs up against.

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ahmet April 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm

“Craig vs. de Souza [video, audio]
de Souza is a good rhetorician, but Craig is both a good rhetorician and a careful logician. Craig is, once again, better practiced and prepared for anything de Souza can say.”

unless you expect fireworks or artilery carpet bombing from a rational debater ,i cant see how de souza didnt carried across his points, along with obliterating 2 of the main arguments of graig.(infinity/ontological, morality )
taking mind time constrains any atheist debater will always do bad when faced 20 comblex theistical psedo-rational arguments.
how can you overcome the issue of morality when only linking biochemistry with culture will need a good 1 hour just to pronounce the names of the chapters of the theory, vs god=morality-morality exists=god exists.

apriory the debater should restrict the debate in a single argument, if he wants to take his message across.

robert price debate was excelent too.price really knows his subjects and he moves with in the framework of academic ethics and scientific historical orthodoxy combares to graigs typical arguments of the type “you here are not a man , you there also arent one, therefor i am..”

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Noam GR April 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Based on that introduction I was hoping to see an intelligent theologian presenting his case. — I have often been told that the likes of Hovind do not represent the theistic community; and that I would have a hard time defending atheism if I were to have to debate with an intelligent theologian.

Yet I’m yet to see a convincing example of one. Craig does a god job of affecting his language and posture with an air of sophistication; but at its heart, his philosophy is the same nonsensical, illogical drivel of Hovind and Ray Comfort: “Anything created must have a sentient, all-knowing creator.”

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Jim June 15, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I have to say that I think that Ahmed defeated Craig fairly decisively. He quite clearly and eloquently pointed out the fallacies and flaws in Craig’s arguments – especially during the 12 minute rebuttal periods

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Jon June 29, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Craig is unethical and disingenuous. I suspect that most of the good debating skill present in craig that some of you are howling about is how cleverly sleazy he is. There is nothing to be proud of. Craig is a downright liar, and even when he is presented with clear rebuttals to his points he just keeps uttering them with the same level of banality. Craig’s points couldn’t hold up in a court of law if God came down to the courthouse himself. To address the points made of the atheist losing their debates; mostly,i think, the atheists don’t care(Though maybe they should). The reason these atheists take the time on Craig seems to me to be more of an ethical one. That is, I believe the atheists want to dispel myths and lies presented to the public by evangelicals. There is a perception that because of craig’s so called “wins” his position is taken seriously by most people when it isn’t. This stuff is plain bad for our kids.
Also, how should an atheist effectively debunk Craig’s vacuous arguments? Well when Craig formulates his argument upon a false/tenuous, unprovable premise, i.e., God; the best way to tear it down is by providing evidence to show why God is the least likely answer. So no, the atheists don’t have as much rhetorical flair(debatable) as Craig, but their best arguments against craig are refuting his points with simple facts.

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rooney July 3, 2010 at 10:07 am

I have read the transcript of craig vs. jesseph and just by reading the words, there are no reason to call out craig as the winner. Moreover, I have seen the craig-slezak debate two times now, and I think it’s clear that Craig wins solely on rhetoric because Slezak really has the better arguments, but he doesn’t stay as calm an confident as Craig. Craig looks like a winner, he has an enormous amount of charisma and always give the impression of success. That is why he wins

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AgeOfReasonXXI July 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

I think your assessements of many of these debates is bogus. just like almost all Christians you seem to be more impressed by rethoric and outrights lies than honesty and arguments. This is especially evident in your declaring Craig the winner of his debate with Stenger. it’s a shame

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pen July 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm

If you’re looking for a man who can take part in a debate without losing his cool or breaking a sweat, then Craig is your man. But if you’re looking for an honest person who will present logical arguments to back his claims, then look somewhere else. I’ve seen several of his debates too much and in my opinion Craig is the most dishonest person on the face of the planet.

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bramdakota July 5, 2010 at 7:23 pm

William Lane Craig is a sophist whose philosophy is based on fallacious arguments. His performance on debates is aggressive, and he is well-organized. Having been a championship debater myself, I see that he has mastered the techniques of debate. Unfortunately, these skills don’t rescue his arguments, which are insipid and bankrupt. Essentially, this man is a huckster. In my opinion, he has lost every debate I’ve seen, because his arguments are so baseless.

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Márcio July 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm

The arguments presented by WLC are so “bad and fallacious” that in the last 20 years or so, no atheists have sucefully answered to them.

The worst part is that WLC always use the same arguments.

If his arguments were “bad and fallacious”, atheists would have refuted them in 5 seconds.

That is the truth!!!

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Leo July 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Luke, thanks a lot for these links!

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Marc July 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Haha, grounds for belief such as “personal relationships with God, ressurection of Jesus, etc.” Atheists don’t waste their time with such rebuttal, yet this is WLC’s main “evidence.” Haha, he provides no evidence at all, ever. The fact that you believers buy into these things is why you think that he won any of his debates. This is why Dawkins won’t debate him…it’s a waste of time. WLC is a windbag and debating with him is like arguing with a child. He doesn’t use reason, he builds arguments on flawed logic and he’s either manipulative or doesn’t understand why his “logic” is flawed. He’s painful to listen to because his content is just horrible. Haha…you say he won all of his debates??? Hahahahaha.

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Paul July 20, 2010 at 11:56 am

I have to disagree because I’ve watched a bit William Lane Craig’s debates and I have to say that his debates fall short of connecting logical leaps. It’s like he plays tap dancing with logic and leaps from one assumption to the next. I find this absolutely mind numbing and annoying. Especially when it comes to the debate with him and Bart D. Ehrman. His proof of the resurrection is laughable. It makes no sense and has a lovely circular effect in logic. PI find William Lane Craig’s arguments more like white noise, the guy just plays linguistic gymnastics while proving nothing.

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kaka August 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm

you know what’s even more amazing? people like manicstreetpreacher and oarobin who say with a straight face that craig’s opponents won! how anyone can look at the debate transcripts objectively and conclude that avalos beat craig is beyond me!

some people just don’t *want* to believe.

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J. A. Kraulis August 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Thanks for putting up this great summary. But I’m not sure that Craig actually “wins” any of his debates in a meaningful sense. It is of course perfectly possible for skilled debaters to successfully argue even a position they do not personally believe in but one assigned to their side, and to be so good that they are declared the winner by most observers. But winning an audience and winning an argument are two different things. When it comes to recorded debates which can be replayed, one can review the statements made, and so far I haven’t come across any of Craig’s aha-I-gotcha points which can’t be shot down, and easily so. He does not have modern knowledge nor logic on his side, and I suppose one must accord him some respect for putting up a good fight from such a disadvantaged position.

Unless I’ve missed it, you haven’t listed the debate Craig has had with the supremely articulate Christopher Hitchens, against whose mesmerizing apprehension and responding skills he can find no opening.

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lukeprog August 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Kraulis,

This post was written before the Hitchens debate. Here is my review of that debate.

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manicstreetpreacher August 8, 2010 at 5:27 am

@kaka

If you read my comment properly, you will see that I award Craig’s debates against Shook, Stenger, Tabash and Ehrman to the opponent.

The Avalos debate was more or less a draw. Both participants scored as many hits as they took. But since I loathe Craig so much, especially his distraction technique of revisiting one of Avalos’ previous debates, which probably most of the audience had never seen for themselves, and putting his own spin on it, I gave extra credit to Avalos for not letting himself be put off.

MSP

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jojo jacob August 10, 2010 at 5:46 am

Bradley fucked Craig

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Dominic August 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Dr. Craig puts arrgant atheists in their place.
There are MANY good reasons to be an atheist, i totally respect that.

There are also GOOD reasons to believe in a God. Atheists should repslect that, and not be so arrogant.

i see only respectfull people here, i love it !!!

http://www.Reasonablefaith.com is craigs official website, you can ask him direct questions.
Im Christian, an on this site ^ imgoing to be suggesting to him more arguments i havent heard him use!

God Bless !

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David Hume August 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

Bradley, Kagan, and Stenger definitely won against Craig.

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kaka August 22, 2010 at 9:52 pm

@manicstreetpreacher:

“But since I loathe Craig so much…”

i suggest that you and many non-christians feel this way and this makes you unable to OBJECTIVELY perceive and assess the result of these debates.

you are all so biased and cannot give credit where credit is due. you all know what i’m talking about :)

for an example, read J. A. Kraulis’s post – my mind just boggles at what he claims. so craig doesn’t have ‘modern knowledge’ or ‘logic’ on his side? did we listen to the same debate?

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J.A. Kraulis August 23, 2010 at 1:52 am

kaka, thanks for reading my post. You wrote: for an example, read J. A. Kraulis’s post – my mind just boggles at what he claims. so craig doesn’t have ‘modern knowledge’ or ‘logic’ on his side? did we listen to the same debate?

I should clarify, if it is needed, that I did not thereby impugn Craig’s knowledge or his skills with logic, but rather I said that in both categories, he is working from a position of considerable disadvantage. (Modern science does NOT support Craig’s biblical perspective.) So I was indeed giving him “credit where credit is due”.

As far as his debate with Hitchens is concerned, I stand partially corrected. I have watched or listened to a lot of Hitchens debates with Christian and Jewish theologians and in almost every case, it was no contest. So when I wrote my comment, I had not revisited his debate with Craig and was going with my overall memory of his debates in general. Craig’s debate with Hitchens is not listed in the above, note. (I was later referred to the discussion of it elsewhere on this site.)

That said, it is quite irrelevant to me who “wins” a particular debate. As I suggested, a skilled debater could argue that the earth is flat and win the debate against a clumsy opponent. That doesn’t make the earth flat.

The sole value in listening to any of these debates is to take the points away for further analysis. When I do so, I find nothing convincing in Craig’s arguments. He plays a shell game with logic and modern science. For example, he argues that, according to (his) simple logic, the universe MUST have had a beginning. That our universe had a beginning 13+ billion years ago is the accepted view of modern cosmology, as he is quick to add, but that does not necessarily follow from “logic” at all. (And never mind the possibility that our universe may be a mere bubble in some larger universe.) Two of the greatest thinkers of the last century in this regard, Einstein and Hoyle, had no problem with the logic of a universe that had no beginning. They both believed that our universe had always existed. If Einstein and Hoyle (among others) did not think that pure logic dictated that the universe must have a beginning, I would suggest that Craig’s little lesson from Philosophy 101 is wanting.

BTW, regarding Einstein, I don’t know that debating was anything he was particularly practiced in, and so I think one could readily imagine that a professional like Craig might “win” in a debate against Einstein. And what would that prove? Nothing.

Finally, regarding your reference to objectivity, be careful, because the pot vs kettle analogy likely applies. I used to be religious. I was confirmed in the Lutheran church. I used to believe in the Christian God. I can even recall an instance where a fervent prayer of mine was most dramatically answered (it seemed). But now you could classify me as an atheist (although as many have pointed out, it should really be somewhat of an unnecessary label, sort of like nonsantaclausian). Because of this background, I listen to and understand both sides of the arguments carefully. If you told me that you were once a thinking non-believer, but have now come to religious faith, I might give more credence to your perception that some of us are “unable to OBJECTIVELY perceive and assess the result of these debates” and that we “are all so biased”.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. Craig could win every one of a hundred debates, and it wouldn’t make it one bit more likely that Jesus rose from the dead. Believe it if you wish (to quote Hitchens).

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manicstreetpreacher August 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

@kaka

I agree with you that debates are subjective affairs. Very often both sides claim victory and ultimately it comes down to personality and whether you agree with the stance of one of the participants before a word is spoken.

But my loathing of Craig doesn’t just depend on his smug demeanour and bullying tactics; the Avalos debate a prime example. It is his continued reliance on bogus and flawed “arguments” that have been refuted ad nauseum and are not even the reason why he believes in the first place. Craig believes because he gets a warm fuzzy feeling when he thinks of Jesus on the cross and manipulates evidence and authorities to support that presupposed conclusion.

Having said that, I know when Craig has won a debate (Atkins, Hitchens, Zindler) and when he has lost (Stenger, Ehrman, Kagan).

@Luke

What did you think of Dawkins publically refusing to share a platform with Craig last year on the grounds that he does not take on “professional debaters”?

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lukeprog August 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm

manicstreetpreacher,

If that’s what Dawkins said, that sounds like he knows he would lose. A wise move by Dawkins.

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manicstreetpreacher August 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Luke

Yes, I admit in my post on the matter that Craig would probably whip Dawkins’ ass in a live debate, but that is not because he is right. It is because he is a clever performer who could make Holocaust denial sound convincing if he wanted too.

Craig’s main ploy is to make his opponent look silly. He doesn’t debate opponents, but carries out hit jobs on them. Obviously Harris and Hitchens come out with a fair few dry one-liners (Deepak Chopra had it coming in the ABC Nightline Face Off!) but Craig takes patronising ridicule to a whole new level. That does not advance positive rational discourse one jot.

Dawkins refuses to share a platform with creationists because they engage in dirty tricks like dropping in too many points of misinformation than can be answered and then accusing their opponent of not refuting their arguments (any of this sound familiar?) and also that a debate would give the creationists the oxygen of publicity and credibility by being seen alongside a proper scientist.

I dare say Dawkins had similar thoughts in mind by turning down a stand-off with Craig.

MSP

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J.A. Kraulis August 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm

lukeprog,

What Dawkins actually said was that he doesn’t debate creationists or professional debaters. Forget the second. The first gives a more than sufficient reason to understand that a debate between the two would be ludicrous idea. I find it odd that so many don’t realize this.

For Dawkins to accept Craig’s challenge would be analogous to one of the world’s foremost experts on plate tectonics agreeing to debate someone sympathetic to the idea that the continents have always been in the same respective positions on the surface of the earth. Such a debate would be nothing more than a farce; too much is known in far too great detail for the latter notion to respectably share the same stage with some distinguished geologist. Same for Craig vs Dawkins.

Craig has responded to Dawkins with the claim that he doesn’t want to debate evolution with him, he wants to debate the existence of God. He has often demonstrated similar contempt for the education and intelligence of his listeners. Where does he expect us to imagine that the bulk of Dawkins’ case would come from, if not from Dawkins’ extensive knowledge of and research in evolutionary biology?

You are quite right, Dawkins knows he would lose, because he can’t possibly win. No matter how effective he may be, Craig would still come out ahead of where he was before the debate merely by virtue of being seen to be on the same intellectual level as Dawkins with respect to thinking about the origin of complexity in living systems. And he is not. Not even remotely.

I would be disappointed if Dawkins ever changed his mind.

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J.A. Kraulis August 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Further to the above, to appreciate why Dawkins wouldn’t and shouldn’t debate Craig, consider the following direct quote from Craig’s prepared introduction in his debate with Francisco Ayala: “Some, like Richard Dawkins, reject intelligent design out of antimetaphysical or antireligious motives.” Thus he slanderously impugns the scientific integrity of Dawkins’ research, writings and indeed career. One could as readily suggest that Steven Weinberg’s contributions to particle physics are tainted by his atheism. It is crass and offensive.

Why should any distinguished scientist want to debate someone willing to sling such ridiculous insinuations? Anyone who has read Dawkins to any degree can easily recognize that his religious views come out of his study of evolutionary biology, not the other way around.

Or should we be surprised? The religious method is to take an interpretation of the world and then find every imagined bit of “evidence” or logical construct to fit – the exact opposite of the scientific method. This is what Craig does, so maybe it’s natural for him to assume that’s how a scientist should think.

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mojo.rhythm August 31, 2010 at 3:49 am

There is one person who will beat Big Bad Bill in a debate if they ever meet, and that person is…

Wait for it…..

Jeffery Jay Lowder.

Luke why isn’t he on your “people I’d like to see debate Craig” list?

He is the great white hope.

To see why I think this, please YouTube this man. He is a masterful experienced LD naturalist debater.

(P.S. not that I think debate makes one iota of difference if you are a genuine truth seeker, but it is entertaining to watch a good debate, for the same reasons it is good fun to watch a good boxing match or MMA fight.)

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J.A. Kraulis August 31, 2010 at 9:54 am

Mojo,

You are right about entertainment being the main aspect of these debates, and for this reason, possibly the best person that could and should debate Craig is one Pat Condell. Craig would be knocked out the minute he stood up, if one can expect Condell’s opening barrage to be in his usual style.

A sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKg4HLsu5gE

I would bet money that Craig would never accept such a challenge, probably making some excuse about not debating professional comedians, if indeed Condell ever has debated anyone or would be inclined to do so. But wouldn’t we love to see it?

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J.A. Kraulis August 31, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Mojo, I searched for Lowder on YouTube and it brought home how ultimately fruitless these debates are except for their entertainment value, and perhaps for some points to take home for further analysis and reflection. Here’s 9 seconds of Lowder “caught telling a bold-faced lie!” (Why only one exclamation mark, I wonder.) We don’t even hear the complete sentence – for all I can tell he is reading a quote from someone else:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIjY0L0LLgc

This is how religious people often treat these debates. They find a few seconds of something taken completely out of context and they post it with great flourish on YouTube, as if it refutes everything the quoted person has ever said or written. It’s almost always the religious side that does this. And then some of them come on forums like this and accuse the rest of us of bias and closed-mindedness.

I’ve listened to a lot of interesting ideas from some very bright minds, scientists who think there may well be something beyond the material. They are in the minority in science, but one cannot dismiss their perspective. Many interviews with quite a few of them, along with interviews with hard-core atheists and with religious leaders and theologians, can be found at this extremely worthwhile site:

http://www.closertotruth.com/participants

( BTW, interviews with Craig himself are there: http://www.closertotruth.com/participant/William-Lane-Craig/24 )

What strikes me is how the ideas of the scientists interviewed, including the “spiritual” ones (for my lack of a more articulate term) are all fresh and mind-boggling. Our universe (itself possibly one of many), it is now thought, could be a “million billion trillion” times bigger than the hundred-billion-galaxy Cosmos that Carl Sagan described to us, which in turn was vastly greater than the single-galaxy universe as it was understood when Einstein published his Theories of Relativity. Science today is like Dubai. Construction is going on everywhere at a dizzying pace, much of it on recently laid new foundations. Meanwhile religion is only renovating and adding on a few floors to the same old teetering small structure.

In all the interviews Kuhn does of theologians and believers like Craig, I don’t think I’ve listened to one that in the essence of its ideas would have been any different had it been conducted centuries ago.

What I find absolutely bizarre is that none of Craig’s opponents ever seem to challenge the real basis of any of his assertions. Craig argues that the universe must have had a beginning and that therefore that beginning must be God. Why one god? Why not two (male-female, yin-yang, good-bad, past-future)? Why not four, one for each of the four fundamental interactions (forces)? Why not a million billion gods? After all, no city was built by one architect. Since we know nothing about the mechanism by which “God” made everything, one assumed model is as logical as another. And Craig’s definition of God is not a matter of semantics, note (i.e, the view that two, or a million “gods” are really all just different manifestations of the same One). The God he argues for is unambiguously the God of the Bible, which in turn is clearly a work of fiction.

I have yet to hear any of his debaters press him on that irrefutable problem. Without the Bible, what is he arguing for? Without the God of the Old Testament, who exactly WAS Jesus’s father? If the stories of Adam’s rib, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, etc, etc are not true, how can it possibly be logical to assert that the Resurrection really happened?

It is not debate, it is theatre of the absurd when Craig uses the latest theories in cosmology to in effect defend the claim that “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth”, and then blithely ignores everything else that immediately follows Genesis 1:1. Science utterly refutes that there could be even a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis that matches reality. 1:2 and 1:3 clearly states that there was water before there was light, for example, and it gets just more unreal from there on. Craig seems unjustifiably smug over the fact that the Bible (apparently, as far as we know now) got the answer right on one true/false question (the world either had a begin or it has always existed).

But his opponents let him get away with this. It’s as if someone was arguing that Harry Potter is indeed a real person with all these powers of magic, but we could regard the existence of Hogwarts as a mere metaphor, not a real place. And, oh, by the way, you’ll notice that in the Potter stories, people read newspapers that display moving pictures, not just printed photographs, and now technology has developed flexible paper-thin video screens than can do exactly that, further proof that belief in the real Harry Potter is supported by modern science.

Craig’s opponents are basically in the position of having to show that someone like Harry Potter doesn’t exist. We may KNOW that he is a fictional character, but imagine that you have to prepare yourself for a debate in which you have to show that to be case. Try to imagine it. I think you would immediately realize that it’s not going to be an easy task, and that indeed you may well badly lose the debate to someone very familiar with the Potter books. Every single argument that you can think of would have a counter argument, including any assertion that the author herself has stated the book series is fiction, and not a real expose. (There could be any of a number of plausible reasons she would want to so disinform us.) And even if it is conceded that the Potter books are indeed fiction, how can you prove they aren’t merely the fictionalized version of another, real magician in a magician’s parallel world?

You could build a whole industry around debating the actual existence of Harry Potter.

For a similar reason, I don’t think the traveling Craig show means much except that, as you say, the debates are rather entertaining. And no doubt very profitable for William Lane Craig.

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J.A. Kraulis September 2, 2010 at 9:32 pm

According to today’s news (no doubt not news to those better informed than I): “God did not create the universe, says Hawking”. That’s from Reuters LONDON | Thu Sep 2, 2010 6:45pm EDT. It looks like Craig will have to come up with a new act or retire from professional debating.

The centerpiece, if not the very foundation of all his debates, his beloved Kalam cosmological argument, is probably going to be demolished, Copernican style. Here’s part of what followed the above headline:

This isn’t really about Hawking vs Craig, although when it comes to who would you believe regarding the implications of modern physics and cosmology, one would have to choke on any suggestion that the choice could be other than the obvious. No, this is about modern science vs the arrogance of one dilettante.

(I have no sympathy for someone who describes some of the foremost scientists working today as intellectually “unsophisticated” – a favorite word of Craig’s – because they don’t share his own scholarship in philosophy and theology and thus are incapable of understanding his ideas. Craig has said essentially that. And if we were to actually grant him credence in this regard, it only follows then that his own understanding of science must in turn be unsophisticated. But he has had the arrogance and the disingenuousness – and quite possibly also pretentiousness; I’m skeptical that he truly understands the theories he cites – to try to force the most difficult concepts in modern science into prostitution for his apologetics.)

Craig would now seem to be in a position that theologians have found themselves in throughout history, most famously when science established that contrary to the Bible, the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth. He should have accepted Stephen Jay Gould’s truce of “non-overlapping magisteria”. Instead he chose to try to exploit very recent theories in cosmology and is now looking down the barrel of his own weapon.

As Craig is no doubt also an authority on history, he would appreciate that science always advances, and religion retreats. The only question I would be interested in asking Dr. Craig is, does he think this could go on for an infinite amount of time, or must there be some end point where our knowledge of reality (magnificent, beautiful, mind-boggling reality) will become so complete that we can all agree :-).

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J.A. Kraulis September 2, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I failed to copy and paste the quote from the Reuters Hawking article into the above, or it didn’t take for some reason (I had put it in italics, which apparently doesn’t get formatted here). Here it is:

********************

God did not create the universe and the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In “The Grand Design,” co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts Thursday.

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes.

“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

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J.A. Kraulis September 3, 2010 at 1:03 am

Relating to the above, the first minute or so is an instructive example of how a practicing Christian treats a generous colleague who happens to disagree with him:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjzUOn4I5F0

Craig heaps derision and scorn on the distinguished philosopher, Daniel Dennett. In stark contrast, Dennett’s own comments on Craig (on another YouTube video) are most gracious and begin with an expression of admiration (far more so than Craig deserves, I would think).

So it is quite delicious that the concept Craig so sarcastically mocks turns out to be exactly what Hawking apparently says the latest theories in physics and cosmology imply.

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kaka September 5, 2010 at 5:41 am

@J.A. Kraulis

you just continue to contradict yourself:

“And never mind the possibility that our universe may be a mere bubble in some larger universe”

is this the *mainstream* view of modern science? or is it a fringe theory?

“Two of the greatest thinkers of the last century in this regard, Einstein and Hoyle, had no problem with the logic of a universe that had no beginning.”

is this *modern* science, to reference thinkers within the last century? or is the hawking-penrose model the mainstream, accepted model? if not, what?

yes, hawking has updated the model to suggest the universe had no beginning. does this mean we now accept this as the *mainstream* model? or should hawking’s theory be peer-reviewed/criticised for a few more years? does every new theory that comes along automatically become the current, accepted theory? or does it have to prove its mettle first? (as the hawking-penrose model did)

“If Einstein and Hoyle (among others) did not think that pure logic dictated that the universe must have a beginning, I would suggest that Craig’s little lesson from Philosophy 101 is wanting.”

did we listen to the same lecture? craig makes it clear this is a metaphysical conclusion not a logical one.

——————–

@manicstreetpreacher

“I agree with you that debates are subjective affairs. Very often both sides claim victory and ultimately it comes down to personality and whether you agree with the stance of one of the participants before a word is spoken.”

you just eloquently summed up my point.

i am *not* saying debates are subjective.

my point was – it is possible to assess a debate *objectively* and sum up the pros/cons of each side.

to do this, you must temporarily put your values/beliefs to one side and listen.

but some atheists are so set in their ways, they find it impossible to leave their non-belief at the door and be a neutral observer to the debate. hence, anything craig says is filtered through their biases.

this makes it impossible to, as J.A. Kraulis suggests, “take the points away for further analysis” as the listener’s biases have already pre-empted the outcome (craig loses).

the reasons you give for craig’s arguments against avalos to be bogus and flawed…suggest to me that you are doing this.

i do not think any honest, objective, unbiased, neutral observer of the craig-avalos debate can say avalos won. lukeprog suggests craig won.

is this making sense?

——————-

@ the dawkins thing:

if creationism does not have a leg to stand on and dawkins does care about science, wouldn’t that compel him to debate? wouldn’t he leap at the chance to set the record straight once and for all? wouldn’t the ‘dirty tricks’ of the creationists make it easier for him to demolish their arguments, if trickery is all they rely upon?

what about J.A. Kraulis’ suggestion, that the outcome of a debate is irrelevant – the exchange of ideas is more important? does one conclude that dawkins is not interested in exchanging ideas? is that a scientific attitude?

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manicstreetpreacher September 5, 2010 at 11:34 am

Kaka

You really think that Christians do leave their preconceptions at the door and sit down thinking that the atheist speaker could change their minds?

I would believe if Craig or any other apologist or clergyman presented some decent evidence, rather than lame philosophical syllogisms, inferences to the “best” explanation, reliance on scriptures that contain do not contain anything that could not have been known or imagined by the ancients who wrote them, or deep personal convictions that there has to be “something more” than this veil of tears.

There are plenty of features in this world that I do not like. I’m not a terribly big fan of cancer or genocide, but I have to accept their existence because there is plenty of evidence for them.

If you are still at a loss as to why Dawkins does not debate creationists, consider why we do not see reputable historians such as Ian Kershaw or Martin Gilbert sharing a platform with the likes of David Irving debating whether or not the Holocaust happened.

There are some facts that really are beyond debate.

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J.A. Kraulis September 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Sorry Kaka,

I may not have expressed myself clearly – that’s for other readers of my post to judge as well – but you did miss my point entirely.

First. Einstein and Hoyle were right about many things and wrong about a few things, but they were intellectual giants, compared to whom Craig is very short in stature indeed. Craig has made a point of boasting how “sophisticated” his philosophy is, and has asserted in no uncertain terms that the universe MUST have had a beginning. It is the basis of his Kalam cosmological argument. All I said – all I said – was that if there was an inescapable logic that the universe MUST have had a beginning, that logic evidently escaped the minds of the likes of Einstein and Hoyle.

It just so happens that our universe DID have a beginning (something both Einstein and Hoyle would most certainly acknowledge if they were alive today). But if that was LOGICALLY necessary, then why was it once not so obvious to some of the greatest minds of our time who spent most of their lives thinking on exactly that point?

Second. Although it is agreed that our universe did have a beginning, current thinking suggests that it may be one of many universes (a huge number of them, in fact). Whether this is a “fringe” theory or the “mainstream” one, I wouldn’t know, you would have to ask a cosmologist. But that is completely irrelevant to the point. EVERYTHING Craig has to say about God is merely an assertion, for which he offers zero evidence – because there isn’t any. Maybe you think a good argument in debate is evidence, in which case I can’t help you. But given that Craig does make these speculative assertions, it is quite reasonable to examine how they stand up to certain possibilities, as speculative as they may also be. And just because there is (substantial) evidence and theory to explain that this universe had a beginning, that all says nothing about a possible larger cosmos that contains it, which may conceivably have “always” existed. We don’t know, and probably can never know – in spite of Craig’s assertions that everything that exists must logically have had a beginning and that therefore there must be a creator. (That doesn’t follow either, of course, but that’s his argument).

I hope this helps clarify my comment in brackets which bothered you. Again, I’m merely pointing out that there is no reason to concede to Craig either on philosophical grounds or even on scientific grounds that the universe (or the super-universe that may contain it or the hyper-universe that may contain the super-universes, etc) “must” have had a beginning.

That IS his argument, i.e that there must be a “First Cause” and that that cause was God. If you say he is arguing metaphysically rather than logically, one can just as well debate whether or not two gods or four gods or 108 gods exist, but there is no place then for science in the discussion at all. Craig should really be debating Muslims, Hindus, Pantheists, Scientologists, etc.

Meanwhile, with regards Hawking, I would suggest that he may have had thoughts on this subject that go deeper and wider than Craig’s. From your comments, it seems you haven’t heard of his latest (which I mentioned in other posts above). A couple of links:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/need+creator+Hawking+maintains/3484471/story.html

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/entertainment/books/20100905_Hawking_and_Mlodinow_return_with_a_unifying__Grand_Design_.html

I should add Craig’s frequent striking of an assertive pose with science is getting tiresome, if not ridiculous. People like Einstein, Weinberg, Hawking and the “unsophisticated” Richard Dawkins, among many others, have made great contributions to science and to our understanding of nature. Craig’s contribution in that area has been zero, absolute zero. Or negative.

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kaka September 5, 2010 at 10:51 pm

@manicstreetpreacher

“I would believe if Craig or any other apologist or clergyman presented some decent evidence, rather than lame philosophical syllogisms, inferences to the “best” explanation, reliance on scriptures that contain do not contain anything that could not have been known or imagined by the ancients who wrote them, or deep personal convictions that there has to be “something more” than this veil of tears”

really? did we see the same debate?

——————————

@J.A. Kraulis

“All I said – all I said – was that if there was an inescapable logic that the universe MUST have had a beginning, that logic evidently escaped the minds of the likes of Einstein and Hoyle.”

“It just so happens that our universe DID have a beginning (something both Einstein and Hoyle would most certainly acknowledge if they were alive today). But if that was LOGICALLY necessary, then why was it once not so obvious to some of the greatest minds of our time who spent most of their lives thinking on exactly that point?”

your argument seems to be:

1. craig claims universe had a beginning (in fact it isn’t craig who claims it, he is citing the hawking/penrose model)
2. but einstein/hoyle didn’t think so
3. therefore, it is likely 1. is false

have i represented you correctly? if so, can you see what’s wrong with this?

“Whether this is a “fringe” theory or the “mainstream” one, I wouldn’t know, you would have to ask a cosmologist.”

craig is a cosmologist. he says his kalam argument is based on current, mainstream cosmology and that string theory, m-theory, the cyclic model, ekpyrotic universe and multiverses are fringe theories.

whether or not these theories, some of which are discussed in hawking’s new book will stand the test of time remains to be seen.

“I’m merely pointing out that there is no reason to concede to Craig either on philosophical grounds or even on scientific grounds that the universe (or the super-universe that may contain it or the hyper-universe that may contain the super-universes, etc) “must” have had a beginning.”

what atheists have to realise is – if they can’t accept a universe with a beginning, they are not just denying craig but mainstream cosmology. if they don’t accept the universe has a beginning, their issue is with the hawking/penrose model.

but perhaps craig has misrepresented mainstream cosmology. that’s an assertion. where’s the argument? but consider that none of the cosmologists he quotes, including atheists like hawking, have pulled him up for misusing their research. and this is after craig recycling the same argument for over 10 years.

“That IS his argument, i.e that there must be a “First Cause” and that that cause was God. If you say he is arguing metaphysically rather than logically, one can just as well debate whether or not two gods or four gods or 108 gods exist, but there is no place then for science in the discussion at all. Craig should really be debating Muslims, Hindus, Pantheists, Scientologists, etc.”

i see. and where’s this argument for 108 gods then?

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J.A. Kraulis September 6, 2010 at 1:51 am

Hi kaka,

You wrote:

your argument seems to be:
1. craig claims universe had a beginning (in fact it isn’t craig who claims it, he is citing the hawking/penrose model)
2. but einstein/hoyle didn’t think so
3. therefore, it is likely 1. is false
have i represented you correctly? if so, can you see what’s wrong with this

No. As I mentioned, if Einstein and Hoyle were alive today, they would easily understand the evidence (cosmic background radiation, etc) and the theory pointing to the fact that our universe had a beginning. Among other things I wrote “It just so happens that our universe DID have a beginning.” I could hardly conclude that 1 is false!

What Craig has argued – and maybe we are referencing different debates or interviews here – is that a universe that is infinitely old makes no sense. But if it does indeed make no sense, then how come certain very intelligent minds who had spent their lives thinking about these this had no problem with the concept of a universe that has always existed?

In other words, they did not feel that reality ultimately required a “First Cause”. Craig argues that it does and that that must be God. Clearly, the idea of infinite regress is not compatible with Christian philosophy.

But there’s plenty of room, given that our universe had a beginning, to imagine that there is a much larger scheme of things where there is no beginning. The question is NOT whether that is the case, please note, but whether it is even plausible. Craig asserts that it is not even plausible since that is essential to his argument that God must exist, as the First Cause. I think it’s important to stress that Craig is not arguing that God MIGHT exist. If that were the case, he would be venturing into agnosticism. And if that’s all he was able to assert, he’s hardly won any argument.

But regardless, as far as this universe is concerned, if Hawking’s new book has been quoted correctly, then the “First Cause” is scientifically explainable. Whether it is ultimately the correct explanation is secondary. The important point is that, contrary to what Craig asserts, there is no need to resort to God. To repeat from my earlier post: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes.

As hundreds of articles have all too predictably opined, you then have to explain where gravity comes from. So why does that require explaining, but where God comes from does not? Science comes up with a plausible model describing the “First Cause” and of course the religious response is, no, no, that’s not the right answer. The right answer has to be “God”.

No reason that I can discern is given for this. Again, why one god? Why is this god masculine? Craig frequently refers to his god as “He”. Either he takes this literally or he is being very sloppy. And in one particularly bizarre debate he argues with another Christian theologian over whether God is a trinity or a single entity.

Re: 108 gods:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/108_(number)#Religion_and_the_arts

I personally like the idea that there are billions and billions of gods, but I suspect that ultimately, it may turn out that the answer is 42:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Answer_to_Life,_the_Universe,_and_Everything#Answer_to_the_Ultimate_Question_of_Life.2C_the_Universe_and_Everything_.2842.29

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kaka September 6, 2010 at 6:02 am

@J.A. Kraulis

“What Craig has argued – and maybe we are referencing different debates or interviews here – is that a universe that is infinitely old makes no sense. But if it does indeed make no sense, then how come certain very intelligent minds who had spent their lives thinking about these this had no problem with the concept of a universe that has always existed?”

“In other words, they did not feel that reality ultimately required a “First Cause”.

well…i just can’t see how this has any logic or explanatory power. at best it’s…a speculative appeal to dead authorities?

science is a progressive building up of knowledge through research and experimentation. einstein did his bit, adding to the store of scientific knowledge. einstein did his bit. hoyle did his bit. newton did his bit.

hawking/penrose then added onto that. the *current mainstream cosmological model* is the hawking-penrose model which does posit a beginning of the universe. the next model, if there is one, will add onto that.

it is meaningless to speculate how past scientists like einstein would have expressed their theories in the light of contemporary knowledge. that’s not how science progresses.

am i making sense?

“But there’s plenty of room, given that our universe had a beginning, to imagine that there is a much larger scheme of things where there is no beginning. The question is NOT whether that is the case, please note, but whether it is even plausible.”

well that’s another unsupported assertion.

“To repeat from my earlier post: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes.”

well this isn’t an argument is it? “because of gravity”? that’s not an argument is it? that’s just a soundbite.

as i said before, having not read hawking’s book, i’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he has made some sort of convincing argument for an alternative to the hawking-penrose model, with the one caveat that such a model must stand the test of time and peer-reviewed scrutiny before it becomes the mainstream model.

“No reason that I can discern is given for this. Again, why one god? Why is this god masculine? Craig frequently refers to his god as “He”. Either he takes this literally or he is being very sloppy. And in one particularly bizarre debate he argues with another Christian theologian over whether God is a trinity or a single entity.”

now you’re inquiring about the nature of god…which means you’re presupposing that god exists. you’re also presupposing this god is the christian god.

they’re great questions and you’ll want to keep searching if you want to turn up some answers. i think craig has addressed them somewhere and any decently trained christian minister can answer them as well.

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J.A. Kraulis September 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm

kaka,

You write:

*well this isn’t an argument is it? “because of gravity”? that’s not an argument is it? that’s just a soundbite*

“God did it” is also a soundbite.

But you are right. That quote from Hawking is a sound bite, used by the media in very short news reports or reviews. And behind that sound bite there is a deeply abstract, very complex, conceptually difficult, mathematically dense and intellectually profound theory developed out of the hard work of thousands of PhD-qualified research and theoretical physicists.

I may well be misinformed, but if Craig is a cosmologist, has he made any contribution to any theory in modern physics, or has he simply read up on them enough so that he can pick out parts that he can force into his a priori assumption of the existence of a god with a number of presupposed characteristics, the Christian god no less?

Craig takes his favored theories in cosmology – which no one can possibly really understand without reference to some very advanced mathematics and other abstract concepts – and then shuffles these with simple philosophical rhetoric. It’s an impressive card trick, often hard for his debating opponents to follow. But that’s all it is.

You have made reference to fringe theories in cosmology. Surely Craig’s own theory, basically that the Big Bang leads to the conclusion that a three-day-old corpse rose from the dead, is the fringe of the fringe.

Obviously I don’t presuppose, as you say I have, that God exists. That is what Craig does. I point out that in the absence of evidence, one presupposition for any kind of god or gods is as valid as the next.

I have no interest in speaking to a Christian minister. Someone I know walked out of a service once and never went back to church when the minister asserted in his sermon that all Jews were going to Hell. As odious as that would have been, it seems to me that the minister was being consistent with Christian doctrine.

It begs a question which I would, in much more polite form, pose to Dr. Craig. He wouldn’t, of course, respond to me and I assume he’s been questioned on this point many times, but I’m not aware of any good answers to it. Perhaps you can point me to some.

So I’ll ask you the question: What is Dr. Craig’s destiny after he passes on as compared to the destiny of persons (souls, whatever) such as Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Stephen Weinberg, Richard Dawkins, etc? To put it perhaps too simplistically, will Dr. Craig go to Heaven and these other luminous minds end up in Hell?

I think you can see that there are certain implications no matter what your answer or Dr. Craig’s would be. I would be very interested in hearing it.

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kaka September 6, 2010 at 6:25 pm

@J.A. Kraulis

earlier in this thread i suggested that some atheists are so biased that their thinking becomes clouded and they are unable to objectively perceive reality – any statement that looks vaguely theist gets thrown out before its merits as a valid argument are considered.

this makes it almost impossible for them to gain any value out of the debates that lukeprog has listed as their minds have already been made up – craig the theist is the loser and anything he says is automatically dismissed.

before this goes any further i’d ask that you consider casting a critical eye over your earlier responses and ask yourself honestly, do they live up to your own standards of taking points away for further analysis?
i think any fair-minded observer would have to admit you’ve offered many conclusions and assertions but none of these have been supported by any logical discussion or argumentation.

——————————————

“I may well be misinformed, but if Craig is a cosmologist, has he made any contribution to any theory in modern physics…”

are you suggesting only those who produce original, groundbreaking research are worthy of being heard? isn’t this ad hominem? what about attacking his argument instead?

“or has he simply read up on them enough so that he can pick out parts:

this is called referencing. it’s a part of scholarly research.

“God did it” is also a soundbite.

“that he can force into his a priori assumption of the existence of a god with a number of presupposed characteristics, the Christian god no less?”

really? did we see the same debate? in his debates about the existence of god, i heard an argument – premises leading to a conclusion. his kalam argument doesn’t say the cause of the universe is the christian god.

“Craig takes his favored theories in cosmology – which no one can possibly really understand without reference to some very advanced mathematics and other abstract concepts…”

sounds a bit like hawking’s “deeply abstract, very complex, conceptually difficult, mathematically dense and intellectually profound” new book!

“– and then shuffles these with simple philosophical rhetoric. It’s an impressive card trick,…”

really? did we see the same debate? craig lays out his arguments step by step. his arguments have been in printed form on the internet for more than 10 years. the arguments are there for all to inspect – they are not hidden in a pack of cards in his pocket.

the philosophical complexity of the debates is why craig provides references – so his methods of research are open to inspection.

“….often hard for his debating opponents to follow.”

that’s part of the reason why craig himself insists he only debates professors. and i don’t recall in any debate do any of his opponents complaining his arguments are hard to follow!

“You have made reference to fringe theories in cosmology. Surely Craig’s own theory, basically that the Big Bang leads to the conclusion that a three-day-old corpse rose from the dead, is the fringe of the fringe.”

really, this just proves my point about atheists not being able to perceive reality objectively. once again – the big bang theory is not a fringe theory.

craig’s kalam argument is based on the big bang and doesn’t contain any reference to the christian god or corpses rising from the dead.
did we even see the same debate? can you look up the kalam argument on craig’s website and show me the part where it concludes that a three-day-old corpse rose from the dead?

“I point out that in the absence of evidence, one presupposition for any kind of god or gods is as valid as the next.”

i agree. however, craig offers evidence…and an argument. did we see the same debate?

———————————————————

“So I’ll ask you the question: What is Dr. Craig’s destiny after he passes on as compared to the destiny of persons (souls, whatever) such as Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Stephen Weinberg, Richard Dawkins, etc? To put it perhaps too simplistically, will Dr. Craig go to Heaven and these other luminous minds end up in Hell?
I think you can see that there are certain implications no matter what your answer or Dr. Craig’s would be. I would be very interested in hearing it.”

well…my honest reply, as a biblically illiterate person taking baby steps into the christian faith, responding to your spiritual question about the afterlife situation of those people you mentioned is – i don’t know! :)

your question presumes that i, as a mortal being sitting here typing at my computer, would know whether certain people throughout history have gone to heaven or hell (i’m assuming you mean the christian definition of this?)

i don’t think that i, nor any christian can be certain of their own eternal fate, much less dr craig’s – that’s my position.

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maynard October 9, 2010 at 7:15 am

“stop kiddin’ around: Craig knows more cosmology than nearly all his published critics”. – Luke Muehlhauser

I love this quote from Luke.

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J.A. Kraulis October 14, 2010 at 7:37 am

maynard,

Of course Craig has studied his cosmology, for the same reason that a criminal defense lawyer would want to know forensic science. Craig takes from cosmology that which supports his evangelical case, and discards the rest.

The conclusions he would have us take from modern cosmology are not shared by any of the cosmologists whose names he casually drops. I challenge you to find me one of those, just one, who shares Craig’s biblical beliefs.

The joke is, Craig doesn’t debate cosmologists. I stand corrected if I have missed any others, but from Luke’s long list of Craig debaters above, only Victor Stenger is a cosmologist, and even he seems to have moved onto Craig’s ground, Wikipedia describing him as “now active in philosophy and popular religious skepticism”.

Now why do you suppose that is? Of Craig’s five reasons for the existence of God, the last three make for relatively tepid and circular discussion, and Craig would be just another run-of-the-mill evangelist uninvited to any debate if those were all he had. His first two reasons, the origin of the universe and the apparent fine-tuning of the universe are begging to be dealt with by professional cosmologists, but almost all of Craig’s debating opponents are just other philosophers.

I would speculate that Craig is careful who he chooses to debate or that real cosmologists do not wish to give his ideas credence by sharing a stage with him.

No one knows physics and cosmology better than Steven Weinberg, and a good antidote to taking Craig too seriously is this short video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66CeQb4EVOI

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keatris October 23, 2010 at 8:34 am

Just a note about the Craig vs. Nielsen debate.
You say “This debate on the problem of evil starts out okay, but then Craig brings out his moral argument which, once again, his atheist opponent has no proper response to at all.”
When I read the transcript it seems on the contrary that Craig spent his whole opening speech dedicated to the problem of evil, and it’s Nielsen who in his opening speech brushes it off and starts talking about his conception of objective moral values. Here some quotes from Nielsen’s opening speech:
“I’ve never thought that the problem of evil is the greatest obstacle to belief in God… For the atheist, there isn’t such a thing as the problem of evil. There is just evil in the world that we struggle against endlessly, and that’s it… My problem, and perhaps this is where we do begin to meet, is that you can in a perfectly reasonable way give a conception of objective values.
All right I just thought I’d mention that. Otherwise great review of debates. Keep it up!

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Matt November 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I just watched the Shook debate. It seemed like Shook was getting really upset at Craig specifically in regards to the historical argument and the moral argument. I don’t remember hearing Craig’s general disclaimer that atheists CAN act morally without believing in God so that may be part of it.

Neither of the men seemed fully composed. Did anyone else get that impression?

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rupert mirdock November 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm

you are ed MSP are polar opposites. WLC has won most of his debates, but not ALL. admit when he lost, and MSP–admit win he wins

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manicstreetpreacher November 11, 2010 at 12:55 am

@rupert mirdock

For the umpteenth time on this thread, I acknowledge that Craig probably has won most of his debates against atheists. However, his victories are mainly thanks to underhand tactics like bullying his opponent and distorting scientific facts and authorities in order to cover up the real reason why he believes in Christianity i.e. a warm fuzzy feeling inside that there has to be something more beyond this veil of tears.

Nevertheless I am standing by my assessments of his debates against Stenger and Ehrman, and to a certain extent Shook. It was a pleasure to see an atheist actually prepare for Craig’s “arguments” and tactics and trash him thoroughly.

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Martin November 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

Just listened to the Shook debate. Holy lord in heaven, he presented an awful case. I can’t believe this guy has a doctorate in philosophy (!!!!).

He made no case at all! Instead, it was a long rant about science and naturalism and and on and on. The atheist section of the audience cheered him on whenever he said anything at all, no matter stupid. Just proof that tribalism is just as rampant on the atheist side as on the theist; if someone has the “right” worldview, then everything they say is great.

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Martin December 2, 2010 at 9:12 am

Going down the list…

Dacey #2: Finally! An atheist who at least tries to make a positive case, and tries to be at least somewhat organized. Dacey at least is paying attention, a bit. Putting your arguments into formal syllogistic format is good, though, so you can tell if it is committing any fallacies. Dacey does not do this, so Craig does it for him, shows how they clearly fail, and ultimately eviscerates him.

Zindler: Just awful. Zindler babbled incoherently about the Bible and how he doesn’t have to make a case and other irrelevant nonsense, while Craig makes his usual rational case which stood untouched at the end of the debate.

Crossley: Soooo boring on Crossley’s part. He just threw a bunch of random spaghetti at the wall to see if something will stick. “Well, well… you see… um… the saints! Zombies!…. and… and…. Joseph of Arimathea! Well, I can accept that he existed. And… you see… legend! Um…” Long pauses. No organization. I don’t even know what he was trying to say. He never makes an alternate hypothesis nor tries to tear down Craig’s four facts.

Ahmed: His rebuttal consists of making fun of what Craig wrote in Reasonable Faith about making reason subservient to the Gospel, although we all know about the Jody Foster example so this objection is fruitless, not to mention a red herring. He attacks Craig on his argument about infinity minus infinity, but if he has read Reasonable Faith then shouldn’t he know that Craig provides four in depth arguments in support of premise 2? No, because Ahmed clearly didn’t read it.

He then trots out argument from ignorance (if God cannot be proven to exist, then this is proof he does not), problem of evil, and appeal to consequences (religion is evil, therefore it is false). So two logical fallacies and one good argument. Craig makes mincemeat of the fallacies, as he should, and provides skeptical theism as a response to the PoE, which I think is a reasonable response but not without it’s own (potentially fatal) problems, as well as the argument for God from evil (that good and evil do not exist if atheism is true, and so the very presence of evil proves that atheism is false) Ahmed loses. He got somewhat arrogant in places, as well, which didn’t help.

I’ll continue, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand the atheist entrails strewn across the floor in Craig’s wake.

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kaka December 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

i count myself among the atheists who opened their hearts to god’s existence by listening to craig’s comprehensive victories in these debates. as an atheist, i WANTED craig to lose. but i had to admit, on the strength of the arguments and evidence, that theism was worth a hearing.

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J. A. Kraulis December 8, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Craig has had exactly the opposite effect on me. I could find nothing in his arguments that was intellectually persuasive, but I observed plenty that reminded me of the techniques of a very crafty lawyer. Whether his debating opponents “lost” or won doesn’t change the facts on the ground. Craig’s core beliefs when cross-examined are patently absurd. They are destroyed by simple questions such as this one from the audience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjU9CeRC85A. Note that Craig does not dispute the premise that “our entire salvation is dependent on our accepting Jesus”, he reinforces it by making reference to Pascal. In other words, we can take it as a given that the likes of Einstein and Ghandi are suffering eternal torment in hell, while every unthinking lazy sycophant gets a free pass to heaven.

Craig answers the audience member’s question with what is apparent sarcasm (or is otherwise a vacuous and debatable assertion), saying that “certainly God could have written on every atom ‘made by God’”. But Jesus needed to do far less than walk on water to convince future and distant souls of his divinity. All he needed to do was make reference in one of his sermons to the fact that we are made up of a trillion cells, and that there are galaxies containing billions of stars in the heavens, and that these things would one day become known. Then all of us would be believers. No obscure predictions of supposed future events, no miracles of any kind required, just a few revelations of knowledge of things that existed at the time and which surely would have been known to God. Instead, the Bible, the supposed word of God, seems designed to trick the enquiring mind into believing it to be a work of fiction, thereby leading the reader to eternal torment, ha ha ha .

As to the problem of why scores of generations living in the Americas, Australia, South and East Asia, Africa (in other words most of the people on earth) should be condemned for the hundreds of years when they would have had no chance of hearing boo about “Jesus”, I’m sure Craig has some clever, obfuscating answer. I just can’t imagine that it would be worth my while to try to look it up. In our modern, enlightened times, serious belief in the Christian doctrine should be seen as ridiculous, no different from belief in Santa Claus, etc. But there it is, corrupting our education and perverting our morals, with the devilish help of the advocate, William Lane Craig.

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Martin December 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm

J.A.,

Indeed, Craig’s weak spot is defending the more nutty doctrines, like Biblical inerrancy.

However, with just bare theism, I have to admit he makes his case and atheists seem unable to answer it. It’s brought me around to the idea that bare theism is a perfectly valid alternative to naturalism.

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Raphael Lataster December 11, 2010 at 12:45 am

Hi fellow freethinkers!

Like you, I am an atheist (a Christian atheist, naturalistic pantheist etc at that. think Robert Price), and would like to weigh in on the discussions about William Lane Craig. Here is my website where there will be a series of WLC related articles.

http://www.pantheismunites.org/Articles/Debates%20-%20William%20Lane%20Craig's%20Five%20Points%20Refuted.htm
http://www.pantheismunites.org/Articles.htm
http://www.pantheismunites.org/

The first is a quick refutation of WLC’s debates. I hope one day to use it in debating WLC. Check it out and let me know what you think.

And keep up the good work! Would you like to exchange links by the way?

Best Regards,

Raphael Lataster

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Martin December 11, 2010 at 3:42 am

Raphael,

The “refutations” you offered are incredibly weak and show serious misunderstandings of all five of Craig’s arguments. A debate format is necessarily constrained on time and the arguments presented are brief. Craig fleshes out his arguments in great detail on his website reasonablefaith.org, and in peer-reviewed literature. He is NOT easy to refute and most things he says are at worst controversial, but not outright wrong.

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Raphael Lataster December 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I will have to respectfully disagree. Here is a summary of what I’m saying in regards to his 5 points:

- Cosmological and teleological arguments: He has made a number of assumptions here; putting words in the mouths of atheists, that we believe the universe came ex nihilo for example. My main point here is that even if these arguments pointed to a designer, he has provided no evidence that it is Yahweh. It could be Zeus. Or Vishnu. Or even a deistic god. It is not up to atheists to disprove nonsense. It is up to believers to prove their belief. In proving Yahweh, WLC has failed miserably. Before criticising WLC’s atheistic opponents, we need to realise that. It’s not their job to disprove him. Then we may as well all work on disproving fairies.
- Moral argument: WLC again makes assumptions such as the existence of an objective morality, as well as absolute good and absolute evil. These things have not been proven. And not all cultures have seen rape and child torture as wrong – especially not the land from whence his Bible came. And once again, even if successful, this argument does not point to his god (Yahweh).
- Resurrection of Jesus argument: ALL of WLC’s arguments here come from the Bible. We KNOW for a fact that the Bible is unreliable due to allegorical and ambiguous language, variant texts, and numerous contradictions with itself, history and archaeology. To believe then what the Bible says about miraculous events is madness – it can’t even be trusted for more mundane events.
- Warm fuzzy feeling inside argument: This appeal to emotion is completely subjective and has no place in a discussion of evidence. I feel embarrassed for him.

Once again, from his 5 points, 4 of them (1,2,3 & 5) could refer to ANY god. This makes his argument incredibly weak, as he must prove the existence of HIS god, not Osiris. Only point 4 (itself incredibly weak, as the Bible is extremely unreliable as a source for historical evidence) makes it obvious that we’re discussing Christianity, but even then doesn’t make it obvious that we’re discussing Yahweh. Many Gnostic Christians for example hold that Yahweh is the bad guy of the New Testament, while Jesus is the son of the “true god”.

Why praise WLC and his terribly ineffective arguments so? How would you refute his 5 points?

Why be so harsh on atheists? Do you know what atheism is? Atheism is not an ideology – one of WLC’s biggest errors! He shifts the burden of proof onto atheists, as if they need to prove their point. But atheism needs no proving; it is not a religion, ideology, belief system etc. It is simply a rejection, or (I like to stress the passive nature of it) the NON-ACCEPTANCE of an idea. Indeed, we are all atheists. He is an atheist towards the 330 million Hindu gods for example.

Before you pay yet more respect to WLC, look for all the nasty and ignorant things he says in his debates. I nearly fell off my chair when he criticised Christopher Hitchens for acting as if atheism meant some sort of a-theism… As Hitch rightly pointed out, that’s what it means! WLC doesn’t even know the meanings of the words he uses (note: WLC is not a linguist). Atheism is not a positive assertion that there is no god (which is what WLC wants atheism to be, allowing him to shift the burden of proof). And the atheists that do say this are at risk of being labelled dogmatic. We ought to be OPEN to the existence of some sort of god (be it theistic, deistic, pantheistic, or something else), but must not accept someone’s idea of god without evidence. Heck, I’d like there to be a god, some sort of quasi-deistic god would be nice. But there’s just no good evidence to believe in any sort of god. Except of course the god of my naturalistic pantheism – a synonym for the universe.

William Lane Craig also confuses the terms science and atheism. He points to (what he believes are) erroneous scientific ideas and says, “See, atheism is wrong!” Once again, atheism is not an ideology, it has no beliefs, and it makes no positive assertions. Even if science got something wrong, atheism hasn’t got anything wrong. Science and atheism are not interchangeable terms. While many atheists are scientific, and most scientists are indeed atheists, the theories of science are not the doctrines of atheism.

The onus isn’t upon us non-believers to disprove anything. That’s shifting the burden of proof.

Furthermore, WLC or any other Christian debater will only have succeeded when they:
a) Prove the existence of a god
b) Prove the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh
c) Prove that Yahweh is the supreme god as they claim

I highly stress c). Even if a) and b) were proven true (though thousands of years of trying has yielded no success) we still need to know whether Yahweh is indeed the supreme god, before we all change our lives for him. Keep in mind that Semitic and Gnostic mythologies both agree that Yahweh is a lesser god. The Bible itself hints at this. Semitic mythologies show Yahweh to be one of 70-odd gods under the higher god El, while Gnostic mythologies portray Yahweh as the demiurge, an imperfect god who created an imperfect world. And this demiurge is the bad guy of the New Testament (Satan!) who opposes the son, or manifestation, (Christ) of the true Almighty God.

So far, after thousands of years of trying, we still have no compelling reason to believe that Christianity is true.

Stay tuned for more of my WLC-related articles, where I rip into his numerous logical fallacies.

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J.A. Kraulis December 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Martin,

Craig’s cosmological argument may not be easy to refute, but it is justifiably easy to dismiss, which is not he same thing. Bertrand Russell’s orbiting tea kettle analogy applies here. The fact that Craig has written extensively in books and papers about the cosmological argument proves nothing. There are extensive treatises, some very technical, on all kinds of things from astrology to water memory. Separating the mumbo jumbo from the legitimate premises contained in such texts would often take more effort and words than are in the original work. Basically, it’s not worth it.

When it comes to philosophy in particular, it’s easy to confound common sense. Xeno’s famous paradox, which proves that once the tortoise has been given a head start Achilles can never catch it, is an example of how difficult it can be to disprove an argument which experience and common sense tells us is absurd. That’s an extremely simple situation, whereas when it comes to modern cosmology we are dealing with something vastly more complex and with correspondingly more angles to exploit with tricks of logic. One doesn’t need to study philosophy to know that one can catch a tortoise that’s been given a head start, and one similarly doesn’t need to read Craig’s writings in depth to recognize why he can be dismissed.

Craig’s cosmological argument is simply stated, and it’s easy to understand why it proves nothing. In a nutshell, 1) it depends on a limited definition of “universe”, 2) it unsupportably assumes the nature of time as simple and understood, or indeed even understandable, and 3) it assigns various unnecessary attributes to “God” which are nothing more than assertions shoehorned to fit the character described in an established work of fiction. I’m sure Craig must have an answer to all of these objections, it just gets altogether too circular and pointless to go down that path unless one is to be well paid for doing so, as Craig assuredly is.

I’d rather concede to a higher authority. Like a world-renown cosmologist, or maybe a large number of them. Craig, as Raphael points out, is not a cosmologist (and doesn’t claim to be, note). If his cosmological argument had any merit, you would expect it to be part of the speculative vocabulary of professional cosmologists. It is not. Those who understand the origins of the universe far better than Dr. Craig could (because of his background and biases, not his intellect) tend to almost unanimously come to conclusions completely opposed to Craig’s. Arguably the two most respected and famous authorities on the origin of the universe are Steven Weinberg and Stephen Hawking. Their views on Craig’s “God” are well known.

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Martin December 11, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Raphael,

Craig provides deductively valid arguments, and so the only thing in question is whether the premises are true. Any attempt to talk about anything else is a red herring. For instance:

My main point here is that even if these arguments pointed to a designer, he has provided no evidence that it is Yahweh.

Strawman. The argument concludes “Therefore the universe has a cause” not “Therefore, Yahweh exists.”

Then we may as well all work on disproving fairies.

I see atheists equivocating all the time with the word “proof.” Proof is only for mathematics. But what you can and should have is warrant for believing that something does or does not exist. From knowledge of the human family tree, you have warrant for thinking fairies do not exist and you could make arguments that they don’t. Not 100%, but enough to justify your belief that they do not.

WLC again makes assumptions such as the existence of an objective morality, as well as absolute good and absolute evil.

As I said, he fleshes these out in depth in his writings. You are hearing the barest tip of the iceberg in debates. Objective morality is difficult to argue for, in the same way it’s difficult to argue that the mind-independent world exists. BTW, most ethicists believe in objective morality.

And not all cultures have seen rape and child torture as wrong – especially not the land from whence his Bible came.

And not all cultures have believe that the world is round – therefore there is no correct answer out there? Pointing to disagreement does nothing to show that an objective world does not exist. Physicists disagree about quantum mechanics right now; but one of the answers will eventually turn out to be the correct one.

And once again, even if successful, this argument does not point to his god (Yahweh).

All these arguments are arguing for is the Neoplatonic “God of the philosophers.” There is intention to connect it with the Bible in this argument. Strawman.

To believe then what the Bible says about miraculous events is madness

Sometimes it’s clear atheists are not paying any attention to anything he says. He provides four historical facts, agreed upon by the majority of non-Christian Bible scholars, that are fully mundane. He offers evidence for each one, as well as appeal to non-Christian NT authority. In one debate (with Cavin), his opponent offered the hypothesis of a twin brother, so you can tell that non-Christian Biblical scholars agree about the four main facts. They just disagree with the resurrection hypothesis. I have read several non-Christian books on Jesus, and indeed they agree that the resurrection events are facts, but that they don’t know what gave rise to it.

I do agree that the case gets a bit weaker when trying to identify this God as the Biblical God, but compare his resurrection argument to, say, Josh McDowell’s awful “trilemma.” THAT, my friend, is weak.

>This appeal to emotion is completely subjective and has no place in a discussion of evidence.

Which he admits right off the bat, but includes it anyway as the final piece of the puzzle; that he knows Christianity is true through internal evidence, not external evidence. His reasoning on this is absolutely correct. See the first comment here: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=5225

Why praise WLC and his terribly ineffective arguments so? How would you refute his 5 points?

Because he does a good job. Not enough to convince me, but a good job nonetheless. I commend the man for providing a rational case. I have never heard a good, solid, cogent case for metaphysical naturalism that can stand in opposition to Craig’s.

I can’t refute his arguments, and I seriously doubt any atheist can. Even Luke conceded all of these arguments in his first letter to Vox day, knowing how difficult they are to outright refute. All we can do is try to build a positive case for naturalism that supplants Craig’s. So far, there isn’t much out there.

He shifts the burden of proof onto atheists, as if they need to prove their point. But atheism needs no proving; it is not a religion, ideology, belief system etc.

These debates are over the quetion “Does God Exist?” Correct me if I’m nuts, but one person should take the “yes” side, and one should take the “no” side. The burden of proof is on anyone making a knowledge claim. If the “no” side isn’t actually taking the “no” side, then what the hell are they doing in the debate in the first place? Atheists have begun rationalizing being sissies. Craig stands up for his worldview. I respect him for it.

I nearly fell off my chair when he criticised Christopher Hitchens for acting as if atheism meant some sort of a-theism… As Hitch rightly pointed out, that’s what it means!

And what happened when Craig pressed him on his position? Hitchens said he thinks the Christian God is imaginary. I.e. it does not exist. Hitchens believes that the Christian God does not exist. Good. This is what he should argue in a debate on “Does God Exist?”, and he never once presented an argument for it.

But there’s just no good evidence to believe in any sort of god.

There you go. Craig has given you three arguments for a deistic omni God. Unless you can show the premises are false instead of true, what keeps you from accepting it?

The onus isn’t upon us non-believers to disprove anything. That’s shifting the burden of proof.

My god, man! The debate is on the question “Does X exist?”! Of course you have to prove the “no” side if you are engaging in a debate like this! What’s wrong with you? Both sides have to offer warrant for their position in a “yes” vs “no” debate! You’ve basically conceded to the “yes” side before the debate has even begun if you engage in evasion like this!

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citizenghost December 12, 2010 at 6:57 am

May I join the Fray?

Strawman. The argument concludes “Therefore the universe has a cause” not “Therefore, Yahweh exists.”

Of what use is the argument then? Isn’t the question at issue, “Does God Exist?” What do you suppose Craig means by “God?”

You have characterized this argument as one of three that Craig makes for a “deistic omni God.” But Craig isn’t making the case for deism. He doesn’t even pretend. When Craig presents his cosmological argument, he doesn’t stop with the conclusion “therefore the Universe has a Cause.” He routinely insists that this Cause MUST be a timeless, spaceless, personal being. A cosmological argument can’t help him otherwise.

Now Craig tries to justify this leap by resorting to contemporary cosmology (or, more accurately, to selectively draw upon excerpts made by leading cosmologists and physicists, none of whom actually agree with Craig’s conclusions). But even if Craig’s understanding of cosmology is accurate, we should be clear – he is operating outside of the realm of any deductive argument.

It’s a trick he resorts to with his other arguments as well. He’ll present a formula that seems like a “proof” – it looks neat, tidy, deductively valid. But at the edge of the deductive argument is a definitional shift, an appeal to emotion, a begging of the question or some similar rhetorical device. And that’s before even getting to the premises that Craig asserts.

As for Craig’s “historical Jesus” argument, it is certainly NOT the case that scholars agree on those “four facts.” While some scholars are willing to assume those facts for the sake of argument, the historicity of the key “facts” (the empty tomb, for example) depends entirely on accepting the truth of the Gospels. And here we see yet another sleight of hand on Craig’s part. When Craig appeals to authority by referring to “scholars” he is almost always referring to theologians. Not historians.

(The argument is, in any event, a non-starter and is easily the weakest of Craig’s arguments. It fails not just on the history, but on logical grounds. Even if every one of those resurrection “facts” were true, how would it show that the God exists? All it would show is that the supernatural is possible.)

You suggest that no atheist can “refute” Craig’s arguments. Perhaps you are applying some technical or mathematical defintion of “refute” but it’s not a difficult thing at all to demonstrate why each of Craig’s arguments are either fallacious or simply bad arguments.

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Raphael Lataster December 13, 2010 at 3:23 am

Hi citizenghost,
Good point by the way that the “4 facts” don’t give the conclusion that Yahweh exists. I have added it to my refutation article (all hail Poseidon for clearly raising Jesus from the dead!). Check it out (and my new WLC logical fallacies article!) http://www.PantheismUnites.org

I am now writing a serious article about the disgusting abuse allegations made about WLC recently.

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Raphael Lataster December 13, 2010 at 4:37 am

I have finished that article about WLC’s abuse allegations. I probably shouldn’t post it here as it may offend, but please read it here: http://www.pantheismunites.org/Articles.htm
and provide feedback. The point is to show how dangerous it is to use logical fallacies and to shift the burden of proof especially.

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Martin December 13, 2010 at 6:28 am

Citizenghost,

Craig’s case is cumulative. First he starts with an argument for a deistic God, and each argument refines it more until his resurrection argument identifies it as Yahweh. As for the personal nature of the first cause in Kalam, Craig offers three arguments for it. He doesn’t just assert it. If you want to dispute it, you need to show that one of the premises are false in his three arguments.

His arguments are all in deductive form, and so the conclusion must follow if the premises are true. Kalam is a categorical syllogism. Fine tuning is a disjunctive syllogism. And the moral argument is modus tollens. These are all logically valid.

So the only question is whether the premises are true. Talking about anything other that that is to engage in red herrings.

As for the resurrection argument, he appeals specifically to non-Christian New Testament scholars for his four facts, specifically to avoid the charge of him appealing only to Christian scholars. He is not an idiot, and assuming he is an idiot is exactly why atheists keep losing debates to him.

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Martin December 13, 2010 at 6:43 am

Raphael,

Did you miss my response above?

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Birdieupon December 13, 2010 at 7:06 am

Hey!

I just wanted to say, in case I haven’t already, I commend you for your honest atheism. You don’t shy away from the fact that you disagree with theists, but you know good arguments when you see them and don’t try to dress things up and sugar-coat them (in the way many delusional Dawkinsians do). The issue is complicated, and you’re not afraid to admit when atheists fail or when theists put a good challenge on the table.

I, personally, am almost theist (I was nearer to atheism 3 years when I read Dawkins, Hitchens etc al) so I know what it’s like to study arguments and try to focus on following them, and them alone (after all, I’d be much more comfortable with their being no God)! Not sure if I’ll ever get out of the agnostic bracket, but one way or another, I think you set a good example for everybody to pursue truth rather than T-shirts with Big “A”s or “JC”s on them!

All the best to you my good sir!

BU

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Luke Muehlhauser December 13, 2010 at 8:37 am

Thanks, BU.

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Raphael Lataster December 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Martin,

No I didn’t miss your post, but CG beat me to it and I felt he did a good job. I also didn’t feel like talking to you after you’re rather rude “what’s wrong with you?!” comment. If you feel like accepting the burden of proof when you shouldn’t, go ahead, but the more rational among us shall stick to our guns.

I was also busy working on 2 articles (while also trying to run my business) on WLC’s logical fallacies (finished now, check them out) and am working on an article about the inappropriateness of the debate format for these sorts of belief questions. You do after all make a good point, why debate if non-believers aren’t meant to accept the burden of proof? We shouldn’t have to justify our non-belief in dragons. So why debate it? What argument could we use to prove our dragon atheism in a debate?

Please note that from WLC’s 5 points, 4 are not specific to his religion/god, while the resurrection argument is a classic example of circular reasoning, so can be thrown out. He knows the resurrection happened because god did it (he admits that it is extremely improbable without god), then uses the resurrection as proof that god exists. Laughable. If you think that makes logical sense (it is circular reasoning) you may as well be a fundie Christian.

I’m not a big fan of this WLC-fawning on the atheistic side. Not because I’m an atheist, but because WLC really doesn’t use good arguments. He says that sound arguments must be logical and the premises must be true. His premises are often outright false or unproven (i.e. atheists believe the universe came ex nihilo, objective morality exists), while he commits numerous logical fallacies (please read my article on his logical fallacies – I list about a dozen of his favourites – and provide feedback). And with the follow-up article, if he was accused of being a paedophile, by his own logic, he would have to disprove the accusation, and as he can’t, he’d have to admit that he is indeed a child molester. Madness!

I try to be unbiased. I am Christian-friendly. I was a fundie and am happy now to call myself a Christian atheist (like Price or Spong). I’m also open to the idea that there is indeed some sort of theistic, deistic or pantheistic god out there. I just cannot accept it without convincing evidence (that’s intellectual honesty). And I cannot believe that WLC gets so much respect when his arguments are so full of logical fallacies and false/unproven assumptions.

Note (my own 5 points):
- WLC has failed to prove that there is indeed a god/gods
- WLC has failed to prove that his god, Yahweh, exists
- WLC has failed to prove that his god, Yahweh, is the supreme god
- WLC has failed to prove that Jesus even existed
- WLC has failed to prove that the Bible’s claims of Jesus are true

Considering all this, how can we honestly say with a straight face, that WLC wins all his debates against atheists? He has failed in his quest to prove that Christianity is true.

Best Regards,

Raph

p.s. Please enlighten us as to how you would “disprove” WLC’s Christianity, and how you would “prove” atheism to be true. I’d be keen to see your arguments and may add them to my articles.

p.p.s. Despite not bearing the burden of proof, I can show great reasons against the ideas in my own “5 points” – a topic for another article. Much of which is covered in my book iGod by the way.

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Raphael Lataster December 13, 2010 at 4:27 pm

p.p.p.s. Sorry for the long post! I was curious though, LM, Martin, BU: If you find WLC’s arguments so great and convincing, and are sure he wins his debates against atheists, why aren’t you Christians? I don’t want to commit a logical fallacy here… But wouldn’t it follow that if you think WLC is speaking the truth, you’d become Christians?

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Martin December 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I’m sorry if it sounded rude but it’s flustering to see people claim they don’t have to make a case in a friggin’ debate! Atheists have already handed the win to WLC if they act like this. It makes no sense and I find it baffling.

Take a sample debate, over the question “Does Santa Exist?” One takes “yes” and one takes “no.”

So the “yes” side goes first and presents his arguments:

* The cookies I put out on the porch are always gone
* Presents appear under the tree, and they are the ones I asked Santa for
* I hear jingle bells outside on Christmas Eve
* Santa is seen at the mall

Then, imagine that the “yes” side says this: “In order to convince us that Santa does not exist, my opponent will have to tear down each of my arguments, and then erect a case of his own in their place.” This is a direct line that WLC uses in most of his debates, and he is 100% correct. Watch the “no” side do just that…

First, he refutes the “yes” arguments:

* The cookies could be eaten by anyone, or even an animal
* Presents are often bought by parents
* All kinds of jingle bells are present on Christmas
* Workers dress up as Santa at malls

Then he presents his positive case that Santa does not exist:

* There is no large factory at the North Pole
* There is no solid land at the North Pole
* Reindeer don’t fly
* There isn’t enough time in one night to deliver all the presents

Clearly, the case against Santa is better than the case for, and this is the real reason you don’t believe in him. It isn’t lack of evidence but the presence of evidence against.

The same goes for all the other stuff you don’t believe in. Dragons? There isn’t support for them in the evolutionary family tree. Leprechauns? A rainbow doesn’t stay in one place and hence it would be impossible to have a heavy pot of gold at the end of one of them. Russell’s Teapot? No American or Soviet missions ever went out that far, and matter does not spontaneously organize itself into teapots.

Think if you were just born a few minutes ago (and can speak English). You would have no way of knowing whether Santa existed, or whether Russells’ Teapot exists. It is only after you know something about the world that you have in place arguments against their existence, and thus can justify not believing in them.

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J. A. Kraulis December 14, 2010 at 3:10 am

Martin,

Bill Craig here.

I’m sorry, but I can’t believe how unsophisticated your argument is. You must have been reading Dawkins !

I can give you five reasons that Santa must exist.

First of all, I have personally experienced the presence of Santa Claus, as have many others. That alone is proof that he exists.

Second, sightings of Santa gliding across the sky have been reported by several independent sources. Most persuasively, Santa has been tracked by NORAD; you must have heard the news reports of his progress as it is typically broadcast on CBC radio in Canada every Christmas Eve.

Third, we can know objectively whether children have been good or if they have been bad. How is this possible if there is no Santa?

Fourth the total number of gifts that humans have exchanged over the course of history numbers in the trillions. This could not have happened by chance alone. The most reasonable explanation is that there must be a Santa Claus.

Finally, Santa Claus operates outside of our dimensions of time and space. He only chooses to appear in our world in brief, elusive moments at Christmas time. This fifth point defeats all four of your “proofs” that Santa does not exist.

I would like to make some further comments. Your statement that there is no factory or land at the North Pole is offensive; you are making a caricature from a literalist interpretation. Of course Santa is not at the North Pole (see my final point above). And there would be plenty of land on Ellesmere Island for any number of factories (which, existing in another dimension would not be directly observable by us in any event). And the reindeer don’t fly because they don’t have to. Again, because Santa operates outside of our material realm, the entire sled with the reindeer is not subject to gravity.

Regarding the delivery of presents, certainly Santa could deliver presents to every household, just as God could write on every atom “made by God” (as J. A. Kraulis was so kind to quote me in his Dec 8 post above). But just as God performed all His miracles two thousand years ago and (as Pascal points out) that offers us sufficient proof of His divinity and His existence, so too it is sufficient for Santa to only visit a few households to offer proof of his existence. And that he has done so has been reliably documented, just as have been God’s miracles.

Again, sorry, but you’ve failed to prove your case. In fact, by your own standards (and mine), I don’t see how you ever could.

Sincerely,

WLC

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Raphael Lataster December 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Martin,

Our conversation is over. I listed NUMEROUS points as to why WLC’s 5 points are baloney, and listed for you a number of logical fallacies he employs. Rather than address and even acknowledge each one you use broad statements like “your arguments are all weak” and in your last post just focused on the burden of proof. While I agree that we can and probably should show some reasons why we don’t believe in WLC’s god (and I already did that…), I am just saying that we ought never to accept the burden of proof. Because at the end of the day, we cannot disprove 100% that there are no dragons, fairies, gods, etc.

I also asked you some questions which you haven’t bothered to answer, so I really don’t see the point. I grow tired of our discussion, but I thank you for your participation.

Kraulis: Great post! May I host that on my website? Giving full credit to you of course. That’s a perfect example of the language and confident-sounding illogic that WLC uses to try and get people to believe in the silliest concepts. He could make anything sound good… If he were a chef, I’m sure he could convince many of us to eat poo!

Best Regards,

Raph

p.s. Keep an eye out for my own 5 points, where I can demonstrate that Yahweh isn’t even the supreme god (as admitted by even the Bible) and that Jesus probably didn’t even exist.

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manicstreetpreacher December 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm

@Raphael and Kraulis

See here for a wonderfully irreverent take on Craig’s four “facts” surrounding the resurrection of Jesus argument that I think will tickle your fancy:

I am going to demonstrate with completely sound reasoning why the most reasonable conclusion based on the evidence is that Chippy the squirrel rose from the dead.

There are four historical facts which must be explained by any adequate historical hypothesis:

1. Chippy’s burial

2. The discovery of the empty tomb

3. His post-mortem appearances

4. The origin of a few people’s belief in his resurrection

Now let’s examine these facts.

1. Chippy’s burial

I myself witnessed Chippy’s burial along with 3 other people. So there is multiple, independent attestation to the burial of Chippy. This is one of the earliest and best attested facts about Chippy.

2. On the Sunday following Chippy’s unfortunate demise, a group of women found his grave site empty.

3. On different occasions and under various circumstances different individuals and groups of people experienced Chippy alive from the dead.

4. My three friends and I came to the conclusion despite every predisposition to the contrary that Chippy was risen from the dead.

Further proof, if any were needed, that you demonstrate absolutely diddly squat with a philosophical syllogism, deductive “logic” and inference to the “best” explanation.

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Martin December 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Raphael,

I haven’t addressed your points yet because I don’t have time to write a bunch right now. I wanted to address the burden of proof issue first as it relates to debates. If atheists don’t think they can justify their non-belief, then they shouldn’t participate in debates.

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Martin December 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm

the resurrection argument is a classic example of circular reasoning

If it stands alone it is circular. But you’ll note that he first presents three arguments for the existence of God, and then he uses that hypothesis as the best explanation of the resurrection. His resurrection is more of an identification with Yahweh argument.

- WLC has failed to prove that there is indeed a god/gods
- WLC has failed to prove that his god, Yahweh, exists
- WLC has failed to prove that his god, Yahweh, is the supreme god
- WLC has failed to prove that Jesus even existed
- WLC has failed to prove that the Bible’s claims of Jesus are true

He presents four deductive arguments. The only way out of the arguments is to dispute the premises. This is what atheist philosophers do. See Graham Oppy’s Arguing About Gods. You won’t see him making any criticisims like yours, because he knows that Craig is presenting a logical case that needs to be refuted at the premises. Which is what he does. He provides objections and reasons that at least one of each of the premises are false or more likely to be false than true.

Please enlighten us as to how you would “disprove” WLC’s Christianity, and how you would “prove” atheism to be true.

I would try to show that at least one of the premises is more likely to be false than true. For instance, that the universe began to exist, I could appeal to arguments that the universe is finite but beginningless. This is what the atheist philosopher Quentin Smith does. He partnered with Craig on a book about Big Bang cosmology, taking the opposing position.

You could show atheism is true by trying to develop an argument that shows a logical contradiction in the concept of God. You could develop an argument that the amount of evil in the world is incompatible with the idea of an all-good being. You could try to show that the universe is self-contained and is thus not in need of a creator. Etc.

Despite not bearing the burden of proof

As I would have hopefully shown by now, in a debate setting you would have a burden of proof for the “no” side.

If you find WLC’s arguments so great and convincing, and are sure he wins his debates against atheists, why aren’t you Christians?

Because I don’t find them convincing enough to change my worldview. They are good arguments, but they rely on premises that are controversial. Do objective moral values exist? Most ethicists seem to think so. But it’s hard to tell.

But I contend that the arguments for naturalism are no better.

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Martin December 14, 2010 at 2:06 pm

J.A.,

Great! My point is that the negative side can and should build a positive case. But they rarely do. Why is that?

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Martin December 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Ed,

Appeal to authority is a perfectly rational method of acquiring information, as long as that authority is in a relevant field.

I do seem some evidence that these four facts are, indeed, facts as agreed by NON-Christian NT scholars. Craig even appeals to NON-Christian NT scholars specifically to avoid this charge.

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manicstreetpreacher December 14, 2010 at 2:40 pm

@Martin

I don’t want to get into the arid non-subject that is biblical “scholarship”, so I’ll make a general point about Craig’s reliance on external authorities in debates.

If William Lane Craig told me Sir Isaac Newton’s opinion on the colour of an orange, I would double-check the great mathematician / physicist’s true views on the external appearance of said orb-like fruit in his own words before accepting Craig’s portrayal.

Take this absurd clip where Craig cites John Barrow and Frank Tipler’s book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986) as supporting his contention that evolution is so improbable that it is a miracle and therefore evidence for the existence of God.

In fact, Barrow and Tipler go on to say:

We should emphasise once again that the enormous improbability of the evolution of intelligent life in general and Homo sapiens in particular does not mean we should be amazed we exist at all. This would make as much sense as Elizabeth II being amazed she is Queen of England”.

Case closed.

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J. A. Kraulis December 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Hi Raphael,

“You wrote: Kraulis: Great post! May I host that on my website? Giving full credit to you of course. That’s a perfect example of the language and confident-sounding illogic that WLC uses to try and get people to believe in the silliest concepts.”

Thanks! Go ahead and use my post any way you wish. No credit is needed or expected. I would think you might want to rewrite it and change the examples, as I did not really think them through or consult the details in Craig’s own five points. You should feel free to do so and assume the argument as your own. Mine was pretty much a spontaneous write after I thought of the last point as a response to Martin’s proof of the non-existence of Santa Claus. I was more trying to show that any assertion for which there exists no evidence can nevertheless be effectively defended ad infinitum against naysayers. This applies not only to WLC, but to all similar arguments (for Sasquatches, UFO’s, etc.)

I was going to offer a challenge to anyone who could provide a reason that Santa could not exist which I could not counter (in which case I’d be happy to buy them a beer if they ever pass through Vancouver). But I can probably show right here that I would never have to make good on my offer: 1) You can’t prove Santa doesn’t exist if it is possible that he could exist. 2) It is possible (regardless of whether it is highly unlikely or not) that WLC’s God exists 3) This all powerful deity, creator of the universe, resurrector of the dead, performer of miracles, certainly COULD create a Santa Claus 4) Therefore it cannot be proven that Santa does not exist.

It is in the nature of debate that a good debater who has prepared and organized his arguments well and who is articulate can begin to persuade you of anything. As I start to think of debating points for the reality of Santa, I find myself starting to believe that Santa might exist! The argument takes on a life of its own. So it is with Craig. As an advocate, he can persuade a lot of people. Which is a shame, since the last thing our world needs is more effective evangelists. And there are better and more beautiful ideas about the nature of existence than his.

BTW, one can observe an interesting psychology in all this. I’ll share with you a story that I’m not sure is mine to divulge, but in these times of Wikileaks I can’t see that I’m going to be reproached for doing so. A good friend of mine works on secretive intelligence projects for the American military. He once confided to me that Russell’s orbiting teapot actually exists! (Contrary, you’ll note, to Martin’s proof that it doesn’t). As a test of the precision of detection capabilities out to distant orbits (probably part of missile defense research, but I would be speculating) his agency, in one of those numerous classified military launches, sent a variety of objects of different sizes and made from different materials out into space. The intention was to find the limits of what could be detected and even imaged. Now, the rocket scientists involved were obviously persons of uncommon education and intelligence, and at least some of them would have been familiar with Russell’s famous argument. Nor were they without a sense of irony and play, and so one of the objects they selected for this secret experiment was, you guessed it, a tea kettle. I can’t prove this beyond telling this story, myself not knowing any further details and I certainly wouldn’t be in a position to divulge the identity of my friend. Whether you believe me or not, you have to admit that there is now some plausibility in your mind that there is a teapot in orbit out there, that even if I had made the story up, a similar scenario unknownst to me could well be true.

- J. A.

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Martin December 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm

JA,

You, and many atheists, seem to be stuck on this idea that you have to be 100% one way or another to accept or deny a claim. I can’t prove 100% mathematically that Santa does not exist. I can however offer justification, for why someone would be more reasonable to conclude that he does not exist than that he does.

And that’s my point: you have to have justification (not mathematical proof) for not believing in something before you can not believe in it.

Craig does the same. He says he is defending “weak theism.” He says, and I quote, “I never said Christian theism is a slam dunk.” His goal is only to make theism more probable than not. Not 100% proof.

The atheist goal should likewise be to make theism more probably false than true. But they are going to continue failing as long as they play games about not needing to justify their position, or not being able to prove a negative, or that Craig has a big nose, and every other red herring they can think of except debating over the premises, which is the only thing in question…

Silly. And exasperating.

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J. A. Kraulis December 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Martin,

I’m not sure how I gave the impression that anything CAN be 100% certain. I would have thought that I gave quite the opposite. That would certainly be my position in any case. You on the other hand seem to be taking Craig’s opponents to task for not being able to prove a negative. There is plenty of evidence that the idea of “God” is unnecessary to explain the existence of practically everything in the universe. This is what the miles and miles of science journals in the stacks of university libraries around the world – in contrast to this little book of myths called the Bible – are all about. That God is unnecessary for the Universe to work and evolve doesn’t prove with certainty that God doesn’t exist. That I’ll readily concede. But the problem with Craig’s model of reality is that I would concede the same to a whole variety of other possibilities, some theological, most naturalistic (but not necessarily materialistic). I believe I earlier recommended this site: http://www.closertotruth.com/participants
I spend a lot of time there. Dr. Craig is one of the participants. So are well over a hundred other bright intellectuals, cosmologists, theologians, philosophers, etc. The debate over the nature of existence does not divide along the lines of Craig’s philosophy and Not Craig’s philosophy. I can point you to dozens of those participants who have more interesting and less simplistic non-materialist speculations about the nature of reality than he does.

One of the interesting things about Craig’s arguments for God is what he leaves out, what he avoids, and why. His biggest omission is arguing God from consciousness, which for me has always been THE most convincing argument for the existence of God, by far. So why is it not one of his five points? There are several reasons, all coming down to the fact that Craig is first and foremost a Christian apologist, and Christian doctrine has no place for the notion. (Whereas eastern religions do.) If Craig ventured into that idea, he would find his arguments start to come undone because of all the much better philosophies out there that incorporate consciousness in their speculations about reality.

J. A.

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Martin December 15, 2010 at 10:04 pm

You can prove a negative, as long as you understand “prove” to mean “justify” and not prove mathematically. I just did it with Santa.

Listen to the debate with Draper. Although Draper peters out quickly, and Craig ultimately crushes him, he starts very well. He first says that Craig presented some arguments that make theism more probably true than false, but now he, Draper, is going to present some arguments that make naturalism more probably true than theism. And he does.

This is good. This is how it should be done. This is what happens subconsciously in your head with your own worldview. This is what Craig does.

BTW, I love Closer to Truth. I need to figure out how to extract the audio from the video so I can put them on my mp3 player. No luck so far…

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J.A. Kraulis December 16, 2010 at 2:44 am

Martin, but isn’t what you just did with Santa exactly what science and accumulating knowledge in general has been doing to religious doctrine for the last several centuries? You point out that reindeer can’t fly. One can similarly ask why the fleet of ships that Noah must have built in order to go fetch the kangaroos, jaguars, llamas, pandas, is never mentioned in the Bible. And et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Craig’s opponents should hardly be expected to recapitulate the encyclopedia of science in these debates.

However, one thing I do not understand – I admit I haven’t followed the debates nearly as well as you have – is why Craig’s opponents never challenge him on his beliefs by focusing on his third (or was it fourth) reason, namely the resurrection of Jesus. How can Craig defend the first book of the New Testament, The Gospel of Matthew, as historical fact when the first book of the Old Testament is patently complete fiction. If Jesus is the Son of God, then what God would that be? The same guy who made Eve out of Adam’s rib? How is the resurrection any more believable than that? Does Craig really think that our languages came from that little incident at Babel? If not, why does he believe the story about Jesus walking on water?

I really do not know why Craig’s opponents let him get away with it. They should snow him under with a blizzard of questions. Similarly, what’s the big mystery about why we have a sense of morality. I would think that the existence of love is a far more persuasive argument for god. But I see that has always been an awkward problem for religious doctrine. I mean, isn’t one of the characteristics of love that it embraces, indeed celebrates diversity. And yet Christian doctrines have sought to restrict who we love, how we love, when we love, why we love. How does that square with objective morality? For that matter, where are the examples of objective morality in the Bible, which advocates the stoning of disobedient children, etc.

Craig is given far too much courtesy by his opponents. You’re right, they are lame. My attitude towards Craig is colored by the larger context in which I have observed him. This is a guy who has preached at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Warren, as Hitchens mentions in one of his debates, apparently was once asked by a Jewish woman if there was salvation for her, and Warren said no. In some of his moral arguments, Craig has referenced the Holocaust and the Nazis. I’m sorry, there is something not just inappropriate but odious in a Christian apologist doing so.

Anyway, that’s enough ranting. I apologize if I have sometimes talked past you, but that’s the nature of relatively spontaneous comment on such a complex and expanding topic.

- J.A.

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J. A. Kraulis December 16, 2010 at 3:09 am

Martin, Raphael,

One more kick at the can:

Without his Kalam Cosmological Argument, William Lane Craig would be just another Christian evangelist about whom none of us would ever have heard, so that is the most important of his five reasons for the existence of God to address. To apply the same line of reasoning in the KCA to another example, we can say:

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2) New York began to exist
3) Therefore, New York has a cause

I think you can see right away where that goes. New York does not have one cause, it has many. New York was not created by a Supreme Architect, a builder of immense talent and unlimited power. Any persons who can be credited with establishing New York are all long dead and have been unable to intervene in events in New York for quite some time. It could be argued that New York did not come into existence because of any conscious intention. Et cetera.

The flaw in my example, you could say, is that New York is not the same kind of thing as the Universe, to which I would first respond that it is a far better analogy to the Universe than is Paley’s famous watch (the teleological argument that Craig sometimes slips into, not limiting himself to just the apparent fine tuning of constants in physics).

But yes indeed, New York does not exactly compare to the Universe, to the totality of existence. So I would suggest that rather than New York being a flawed substitute for the Universe, it is the application of such simple syllogistic reasoning to the Universe that is inappropriate and unconvincing. One could explain the origin of New York in simple English in ways anyone could understand, while a true grasp of theories in modern cosmology and physics is not accessible without the very complex and abstract mathematics necessary to describe these theories, and even then the resulting models are beyond the ability of the human mind to fully conceptualize. (Richard Feynman is famously quoted as having said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics” and it’s reasonable to say the same thing for the even more mind-bending theories that have been developed since).

It is worth mentioning the philosophic tradition that the KCA came out of (never mind the irony of it’s precedence through Islamic theologians who would clearly deny the divinity and resurrection of Jesus). The Islamic philosophers who originally articulated it believed that true knowledge could only be had through the application of pure reason (as well as, of course, divine revelation). This was Plato’s view as well, in contrast to the Buddhist view that all truth is empirical. And it is clearly the tradition in which Craig presents his KCA.

Pure reason in Plato’s time gave us the four elements, earth, air, water and fire, while empirical evidence produced the Periodic Table. Craig’s KCA in its historical context, as well as its intrinsic value, is like the idea of the four elements. It is pure speculation, an assertion, not a proof. It requires a number of unsupported assumptions, some obvious, some hidden, to work. Not the least of which is the assumption that logic can actually be applied to an explanation for the existence of the Universe. Logic cannot even contribute to an understanding of the photon. The double-slit experiment defies everything one could call logic. But at least in that case what occurs has been clearly described. This is not so with regards to how time works, or what time is. Without that basis, arguments about “first cause” are basically impotent. If the laws of physics work equally well when described running forwards as well as backwards, if time is a dimension like space which can be regarded from “outside” in it’s entirety, what meaning does “begin” and “first cause” have?

There are better speculations on the nature of existence than Craig’s, which do not lead to this simplistic idea of some kind of being as creator. A male being no less, as Craig clearly identifies Him.

With regard to that last, if you listen to Craig, he consistently refers to God as “He”. You may defend Craig by saying that he is being grammatically economical and just following convention. That doesn’t wash. “God” is as brief an articulation as “He”, and one can have a discussion perfectly well about God without ever using the pronoun, just as easily as one can avoid using old gender specific terms like “chairman” or “mankind”. I paid careful attention to one long interview on Closer to Truth where Kuhn was interviewing a religious philosopher on the subject of God. (I can’t quite recall who it was.) He never once, not once used the masculine pronoun, and this was clearly conscious on his part. God was consistently referred to as “God” and his speech did not in the least sound repetitive or constrained. It’s not hard to do. It can’t be that Craig is a lazy speaker, or that he has never thought this through. Craig unabashedly believes in the biblical God, the Father, the Son, etc. This is where he steers his KCA and there is no philosophical justification for it. It’s advocacy, or apology, whatever you want to call it.

I should add that I do not argue against the application of pure thought. This is of course how Einstein came to his Theory of Relativity. But in such a case, the theory has to be validated by empirical observation, otherwise it is just an interesting debating point between philosophers with no value in the real world, and no better than any other non-falsifiable assertion, which is where the KCA resides.

- J. A.

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Raphael Lataster December 16, 2010 at 4:05 am

MSP: I’m sufficiently convinced. How do I convert to Chippyism? After all, I can’t disprove it…

JAK: Hi Mr. Kraulis, I shall post it as is and give you full credit. It may be “unfinished” but is a great example nonetheless and does the job. I disagree with you about Santa though. He DOES exist. Prove that he doesn’t (haha)!

I do agree however that there is indeed a celestial teapot. And now that you have confirmed it, I would expect every religious believer (and atheistic WLC fan boys) to prove that the teapot didn’t create the universe and resurrect Jesus from the dead. If you can’t disprove it, then prepare for an eternity of torment. It’s funny, debates almost setup a false dichotomy. As if it’s atheism vs., Christianity, which one is true? Have we forgotten about the THOUSANDS of other religions and millions of possible ones? The only rational approach is to stick with the null hypothesis we were born with and let all believers have their say. Like I said, a debate isn’t the ideal format for this discussion, although we do have great counterpoints to religious arguments (less so pre big bang knowledge, pre evolution knowledge etc – which raises an interesting issue and solidifies our stance that we ought never to accept the burden of proof). Keep an eye out for this upcoming article on the PantheismUnites website.

You hit the nail on the head my friend. I find that atheists here are disappointed in the atheistic debaters for not proving 100% that there is no god. That is just insane and is why I keep bringing up the burden of proof. That’s also the reason why I dropped by here; to let my fellow atheists know that the burden lies with WLC and all believers from all the THOUSANDS of religions out there. The burden lies not with us non-believers to disprove the THOUSANDS of religions out there – I’d never get to do my charity work! We can provide arguments against his religion, but it will never be enough. We’ll never be 100%. Thank the non-existent god we don’t have to be. For more on the existence/non-existence of god by the way check out my site which summaries all the SCIENTIFIC evidence at: http://www.proofthatgodexists.net

Plus, whatever argument is given “for atheism” or “against Christianity” the religionist always has an unbeatable response. i.e. “god did it”, “you can’t question god”, “your thinking is not as advanced as god’s” etc. Like I said, it is a silly game to play (atheists accepting the burden of proof) as it is rigged from the outset.

I also am intrigued by your mention of the God from consciousness (sounds very pantheistic), would you mind emailing me something about that? As a naturalistic pantheist, I do not believe in any sort of god, but am open to all. I just require evidence, especially if that god wants us to kill, die, suffer etc in his name :)

Btw I think I have an answer to your question as to why atheist debaters don’t rip into Craig regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. Every time it is hinted at he says it isn’t relevant to the debate. He also says it doesn’t have to be… I would tear him a new one. He gets all his “facts” from that god-awful book, so you better bloody believe it is relevant and inerrant!

As for calling god a he, yes, I never envisaged god has having a penis. Seems absurd. As for WLC’s KCA, well I think the best way to counter that is to show that a) he ASSUMES without any proof WHATSOEVER the 2nd premise, and flat out LIES to the audience by saying that atheists believe so too. Last I checked, there was no “catechism of the atheistic church”.

All:

I have succeeded in convincing some people here that from WLC’s 5 points, only 1 is specific to Yahweh (and even that’s debatable). I have succeeded in convincing some people here that THAT point, is a circular argument (and thus can be thrown out), meaning that WLC hasn’t a leg to stand on. Yet somehow I have failed to convince some people here to put those two halves of the truth together and conclude that WLC has indeed failed in ALL of his debates, to prove the existence of his specific god.

What can I say? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!

As for the burden of proof, I suggest that some people here read up on what the burden of proof is, and who ought to bear that burden. I can guarantee that it isn’t the one who makes no claims about god/s. The burden lies with the one saying that they are CERTAIN that their god exists and they want you to convert – often done with threats of violence in this life or the alleged next. And that’s the point, when this god wants you to kill or die in his name, then I do require 100% certainty, 100% proof. Yeah, I’m a real jerk for demanding that huh… I don’t give a hoot if Lao-Tzu existed or not, because his book is full of wonderful wisdom and doesn’t once tell us to do anything horrible to each other. When it comes to the Jesus/Yahweh tag team however, yeah, I want you to really justify it. If you don’t think so, then William Lane Craig is a child molester.

I am left wondering… Are the atheists here really Christians masquerading as atheists? Or are they atheists who don’t understand logical reasoning? Why was Luke eerily silent as this discussion ensued (after all I listed numerous errors and logical fallacies with WLC’s arguments that were not accepted or refuted)? Or are they simply egotistic, and can’t admit that they were wrong? I believe that we should all be ready to admit when we are wrong. I did. I was a Christian fundamentalist for 20 years!

It’s okay to be proven wrong sometimes. You accept it, and move on. How do you think science works?

I thank you all for the discussion here (and I thank you Luke for providing a valuable – though somewhat biased – resource for these debates), I did enjoy looking at WLC’s arguments from a few more angles and finding even more holes in them. Keep an eye out for more of my articles/reviews on WLC’s debates on my Pantheism Unites website, as well as articles on atheism, pantheism, Christianity, the meaning of life, and Eastern traditions.

Best Regards,

RL

p.s. If anyone has convincing evidence that William Lane Craig isn’t a child molester, do send me the proof. Until then, I suggest we all keep our children locked up when he’s around.

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J. A. Kraulis December 16, 2010 at 11:07 am

Hi Raphael,

You write: “As for WLC’s KCA, well I think the best way to counter that is to show that a) he ASSUMES without any proof WHATSOEVER the 2nd premise”.

Actually, big bang cosmology proves that THIS universe began to exist, though of course this universe could be part of some eternal cosmic chaos with big bangs happening all the over the place, or any of a number of scenarios, some of which the human mind might not even be capable of grasping (particularly if consciousness is involved). Craig plays fast and loose with the term “Universe”.

But I digress. This morning it occurred to me that Craig’s FIRST premise is false.

It states: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Never mind New York, I can think of nothing that has “a” cause. A single cause is as meaningless as a single term in an equation. Everything that begins to exist MUST have at least two causes, and often there are many. A boulder begins to roll down the hill. You may say that the cause is gravity. But there is also the mass of the boulder. Neither cause is secondary. Gravity could not act on a massless boulder. The instant you add mass to the boulder, gravity acts on it, not before. One could also consider the slope of the hill; friction, without which the boulder would slide, not roll; etc. But Premise One remains false even if you intend it to mean that whatever begins to exist has a PRIMARY cause.

You can argue that the universe would be a unique case, but then you can’t apply the logic of general principles, that whatever begins to exist has “a” cause.

I believe I am correct in this. I would be interested to hear from anyone who can name me an exception to the point that everything that begins to exist must have at least TWO causes. And in any case, even if they could, WLC’s first premise remains false, as “Whatever” means anything and everything, no exceptions. (If there were exceptions – as there are – the “logic” would not of necessity have to apply to the Universe. I had overlooked this point in my New York example.)

Craig apparently has never given much thought to the Zen koan, what is the sound of one hand clapping?

- J. A.

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citizenghost December 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

Raphael,

Thanks for your comments and for sharing the link to your blog. Good stuff!

CG

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citizenghost December 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Martin,

Thanks for the reply.

Craig’s case is cumulative. First he starts with an argument for a deistic God, and each argument refines it more until his resurrection argument identifies it as Yahweh.

Not exactly. For one thing, Craig does not make an argument for a deistic God. You’re assuming that it makes sense to argue first for some baseline level of divinity (i.e. a “general” deity) and then to build on that and make a case for a specific kind of deity. But it would be just as fair, and just as accurate, to say that a theistic God is entirely inconsistent with a deistic one. In any event, that is NOT what Craig is doing. Indeed, for each of Craig’s individual arguments, he is advancing a case for a specific kind of God – a personal and interventionist God.

And, NONE of Craig’s arguments identify the God as Yahweh. We are asked to assume this. Here we see yet another rhetorical device – an appeal to cultural bias. Where’s the deductive argument? Does Craig ever lay out a deducutive or logical process by which we can or should conclude: “If Jesus was resurrected from the dead, then the God who exists must be Yahweh and Jesus must have been the son of Yahweh.” Of course not. Even if we were to assume that all of the New Testament miracles really did occur – all that would show is that the supernatural is possible. It wouldn’t demonstrate that Yahweh exists, or that Jesus was the son of Yahweh or that anything Jesus said was true or morally correct. It would only show that he was crazy powerful.

And let’s be clear: if Craig is making a “cumulative” case, then the cumulative argument is not itself one of deductive logic. Instead we see him drawing on the FORM of deductive logic – he presents four “arguments” that look like proofs but since they don’t provide conclusions that are themselves helpful to his theist view, he must do some rhetorical work. So, in order to get to the conclusion he wants (“Therefore, God [the Christian God] exists…”) he binds his “arguments” together with appeals to emotion and various other fallacies which are easy enough to identify.

As for the personal nature of the first cause in Kalam, Craig offers three arguments for it. He doesn’t just assert it. If you want to dispute it, you need to show that one of the premises are false in his three arguments.

Absolutely. Well…either false or unfounded. But that’s easy enough. Craig goes from a “first cause of the universe” to a “personal being” by resorting to a version of cosmology that no cosmologist actually accepts. That’s a problem.

His arguments are all in deductive form, and so the conclusion must follow if the premises are true…So the only question is whether the premises are true. Talking about anything other that that is to engage in red herrings.

Well no, his arguments are not all in deductive form. Craig routinely asks us to accept his account as the “best explanation” – that’s not a deductive argument. In any event, I’m perfectly happy to take on the individual premises as others have done (indeed each of Craig’s arguments rely on premises that are highly questionable (or, the premises themselves are circular, or question begging). But it’s simply not the case that one is obligated to do so in order to refute Craig. One is perfectly justified in pointing out the limits of deductive logic as well as the rhetorical gamesmanship that Craig employs. After all, if an argument appears logically valid but is built upon an ambiguity of language, it is useless.

As for the resurrection argument, he appeals specifically to non-Christian New Testament scholars for his four facts, specifically to avoid the charge of him appealing only to Christian scholars.

That’s clever of him. But it’s still dead wrong. His claim that the majority of non-Christian scholars agree that those four facts are historical events is demonstrably false. And again, we see a certain sleight of hand. The objection isn’t that he’s appealing only to Christian scholars. Tthe point is that the “scholars” that he’s appealing to are almost always theologians – not historians.

And of course Craig is not an idiot. He’s quite clever. That doesn’t mean his arguments aren’t bad arguments.

C.G.

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Martin December 17, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Raphael,

I find that atheists here are disappointed in the atheistic debaters for not proving 100% that there is no god.

No, not at all. I’m disappointed in atheist debaters for not even presenting a case of any kind, much less 100% proof. Craig presents four arguments, each in valid form: the universe has a cause, the fine tuning is due to design, God exists, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.

I want to see an atheist debater similarly present deductive arguments with conclusions such as: the universe is a closed system, the universe has always existed, God does not exist.

Rarely do any of them even try. The only one that ever reall did was Sinnot-Armstrong, proving they can do it, quite well. So what’s the problem with the other 99%?

We can provide arguments against his religion, but it will never be enough. We’ll never be 100%.

And Craig doesn’t try to 100% prove his religion, either. Let me quote you Craig from his website: “I’ve never said that Christian theism is a slam dunk—just more plausibly true than false.” And also: “I myself defend what you’d call a weak theism: I can’t offer a mathematical proof of God’s existence, but I think that the evidence for God’s existence makes the negation of ‘there is no God’ more probable than not.”

That’s all he tries to argue in his debates. Weak theism. If atheists can’t try to beat that, then they are acting really strange.

As for WLC’s KCA, well I think the best way to counter that is to show that a) he ASSUMES without any proof WHATSOEVER the 2nd premise

Raphael, Craig offers four arguments in support of the 2nd premise: Hilbert’s hotel paradox against an actual infinite, the impossibility of creating an infinite by successive addition, the singularity in most cosmological models, and thermodynamics. As well as a paper by Borde/Vilenkin that makes an infinite past impossible.

The fact that you think he doesn’t provide any evidence “WHATSOEVER” makes me think you haven’t really listened to him at all, and yet you are stumbling over yourself to criticize him.

What can I say? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!

Indeed.

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Martin December 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Where’s the deductive argument? Does Craig ever lay out a deducutive or logical process by which we can or should conclude: “If Jesus was resurrected from the dead, then the God who exists must be Yahweh and Jesus must have been the son of Yahweh.”

Sure he does:

1. There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.
2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.
3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.
4. Therefore, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.

Craig goes from a “first cause of the universe” to a “personal being” by resorting to a version of cosmology that no cosmologist actually accepts.

He doesn’t use cosmology to argue that the cause is personal. He makes an argument concerning how a timeless state gives rise to a temporal effect. This is just appeal to basic reasoning, not appeal to cosmology.

Well no, his arguments are not all in deductive form.

Yes they are. Kalam is a categorical syllogism:

1. All A are B
2. X is A
3. Therefore, X is B

Fine-tuning is a disjunctive syllogism:

1. Either A, B, or C
2. Not A or B
3. Therefore, C

And morality is modus tollens:

1. If not A, then not B
2. B
3. Therefore, A

All of these arguments are deductive and valid. For an argument to succeed, it needs two things: logical validity, and true premises. They all have the first part covered, so the only thing in dispute then is if the premises are true. If you don’t want to accept the conclusions (the universe has a cause, fine tuning is due to design, God exists, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists), then the only way out is to show how at least one of the premises in each argument is more likely to be false than true.

Craig himself says that he only argues for “weak theism”. His aim is not to prove his premises true 100%, but to show that they are more likely true than false. It’s a weak case, but at least its A case, which is more than I can say for most atheists.

Bertrand Russell is spinning in his grave.

His claim that the majority of non-Christian scholars agree that those four facts are historical events is demonstrably false.

I don’t think so. I see some evidence that he is correct. I have a book on the historical Jesus that ends with the author saying that the resurrection experiences are a historical fact, but what caused them he does not know. And leaves it at that.

the point is that the “scholars” that he’s appealing to are almost always theologians – not historians.

No, that’s just the point. He appeals to critical scholars, not theologians. And he doesn’t only do appeal to (relevant) authority, he also present evidence.

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J. A. Kraulis December 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Martin, Craig’s Jesus argument is worse than weak, it’s a mockery of reason. The only basis for believing in the resurrection of Jesus is faith, pure faith. Evidence and therefore deductive reasoning is simply irrelevant and inapplicable. That’s been pointed out by other theologians and in fact is implicitly implied elsewhere by Craig himself (somewhere on this site Luke has posted a piece on Craig’s admission that he would still believe in the divinity of Jesus even if he could go back in time, wait at the entrance to the tomb and after three days, no Jesus emerged.)

You enumerate Craig’s argument as follows:

“1. There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.
2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.
3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.
4. Therefore, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.”

Re: 1. There are no “established facts” whatsoever about Jesus any more than there are established facts about the Flood, despite the recent “discovery” by “archaeologists” who claim that timbers found on Mount Ararat are “99.9 %” certain to be from Noah’s Ark. There is at least one credible book that argues that Jesus never existed.

2. No it’s not, any more than numerous sightings of Jim Morrison or Elvis means that the “best explanation” for this must be that these men are still alive. The best explanation for what in all other cases would be an incredible claim, that of a person rising from the dead after three days of rigor mortis and the beginning of rot, is that the story is fiction or that the witnesses are mistaken. This is always the best explanation for events known to be impossible without some contrived reference to the supernatural.

3. If indeed Jesus rose from the dead, it doesn’t follow that God was responsible. Jesus himself supposedly raised Lazurus from the dead. Maybe Mary Magdalen raised Jesus from the dead, if people back in those days had that ability. How would we know. There are accounts of hundreds of people being raised from the dead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection
All of these, one could reasonably assume, are fiction. Except perhaps one. I would concede that it’s hard to discount the possibility that Elvis might actually be alive.

4. Therefore nothing.

- J. A.

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J.A. Kraulis December 18, 2010 at 3:29 am

Martin,

Further regarding the “best explanations”, does this sound like a good explanation:

http://www.thebricktestament.com/the_life_of_jesus/lazarus_reanimated/jn11_01-03.html

or this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6THwSYY_aU

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Martin December 18, 2010 at 10:10 am

JA,

I don’t find the evidence compelling enough to change my worldview, either, but you have to understand the case your opponent is making and not attack a cartoon version of it. My primary concern in this whole thread is not to defend Craig at all costs, but to make sure that people understand accurately what he is saying. Most of the attacks on Craig here are aimed at strawmen.

There are no “established facts” whatsoever about Jesus any more than there are established facts about the Flood, despite the recent “discovery” by “archaeologists” who claim that timbers found on Mount Ararat are “99.9 %” certain to be from Noah’s Ark. There is at least one credible book that argues that Jesus never existed.

They are “established” in the same way many historical facts are established, which is to say, a lot more than that for Noah’s Flood. Craig provides several pieces of evidence for each fact, as well as appeal to scholarly non-Christian, critical opinion. I have a good book on the historical Jesus by a non-Christian, non-theologian, expert in the New Testament, who confirms the three facts. He says that the resurrection experiences are a historical fact, but that he does not know what gave rise to them. You can see some evidence of this yourself, by listening to the above debate with Robert Cavin. Cavin is a non-Christian expert on the NT, and he agrees with Craig about the three “facts.” He just presents an alternative explanation for them.

There are also a myriad number of popular conspiracy theories, such as the Da Vinci Code. These all point to the existence of an historical “hole” that needs filling in.

As for Christ myth theory, it is a bit of a fringe theory and most of the ones who espouse it are non-experts. Not that ad hominem is a good argument, but if you have the large chunk of experts in a field agreeing on something, and some non-experts taking the opposite postion, the probability is better that the experts are correct. If a layman goes with a fringe instead of the expert consensus on some topic, my suspicion would be that he has some preconcieved motivation for doing so. Here is a parody of Christ myth theory, arguing that Napoleon Bonaparte never existed: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18087/18087-h/18087-h.htm

There are several pieces of evidence that speak against the myth theory, that I don’t have time to go into right now. One example is that of the birth narratives. Both birth stories are clearly fictional, and they attempt to get Jesus (of Nazareth) into Bethlehem somehow because the Messiah was supposed to come from there. Both attempts are contrived. But why go through all that trouble if Christ is just a myth? Why do they have to jump through such hoops? They could have said that he was born in Bethlehem and be done with it. The fact that they have an inconvenient fact that they have to try to explain away bespeaks to a genuine Jesus.

Another one is the failed prediction of the end of the world within the lifetime of some of the apostles. This is an embarrassing fact that each gospel keeps trying to fudge away. This too bespeaks to a real person who made a real prediction.

So if the scholarly non-Christian opinion has at least nominal support for these three facts, attention would then turn to how best to explain them.

No it’s not, any more than numerous sightings of Jim Morrison or Elvis means that the “best explanation” for this must be that these men are still alive. The best explanation for what in all other cases would be an incredible claim, that of a person rising from the dead after three days of rigor mortis and the beginning of rot, is that the story is fiction or that the witnesses are mistaken. This is always the best explanation for events known to be impossible without some contrived reference to the supernatural.

But if you could first provide at least some evidence that Jim Morrison is still alive, say, in the form of three deductive arguments, you would then be justified in using the “Jim is still alive” hypothesis as the best explanation of those sightings. This is what Craig does. He first argues for the existence of God, and then argues that that is the best hypothesis. Even if you don’t find the God arguments convincing, Craig is at least doing his job. Compare with the other theories: conspiracy, twins, drugs, etc. When opponents present these, they fail to first provide support for their hypothesis like Craig does; they just assert it. As for it being unlikely that a person would rise from death, Craig agrees that it’s unlikely that he would rise naturally, but he emphasizes that he is not arguing that.

If he succeeds in the above two premises, the rest follow logically.

or this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6THwSYY_aU

Ugh. That movie is frustrating, because I expected a documentary about Christ myth theory, and instead what I got was the director being pissed off at his evangelical upbringing. This plays right into the hands of the religionists, who will point and say, “See? Atheists are just trying to deny God’s existence because of upbringing” or whatever.

But the short ten minutes that actually is about the God who wasn’t there is lackluster. Why does he only interview Robert Price and Richard Carrier? Some of the few scholars who actually accept this hypothesis? And Price only being a fringe scholar? Isn’t this exactly like Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ? Where he only interviews people that will support his preconceived Christianity? Why are atheists criticizing Strobel and then turning around and doing the exact same thing?

I would like to see a good documentary on this topic, interviewing real, peer-reviewed scholars from both sides, examining the arguments for both, and making a conclusion based on the evidence.

I’ll call out shitty reasoning wherever I see it, even if it’s on “my” side…

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citizenghost December 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Martin,

I’m not sure you’ve accurately characterized Craig’s “resurrection argument”, but I’ll gladly accept, for purposes of argument, that you have.

1. There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.
2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.
3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.
4. Therefore, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists

As already discussed, premise 1 and premise 2 are demonstrably false. Premise 1 on factual grounds (Craig’s characterization of what constitutes an “established” historical fact is easily refuted by reviewing the actual historical scholarship – as Bart Ehrman convincingly did in their debate). Premise 2 on inferential grounds.

And premise 3 is a classic Circulus in Demonstrando. Note how the premise “entails” the very conclusion of the syllogism.

If that REALLY is Craig’s argument, then you’re quite right to be frustrated with the failure of atheists to do a better job of exposing Craig. Because that truly is a terrible argument.

We can quibble about how such fallacies should properly be classified – whether we’re talking about an informal or formal fallacy (or whether a fallacy is one of presumption or one of ambiguity – or both). But either way, it’s fallacious. And it’s not sufficient to say that such an argument is logically valid and that the only issue worth discussing is the truth or falsity of the individual premises. That’s because it’s not merely the factual nature of the premises that are at issue. In the case of this “resurection” argument at least, the logical reasoning itself is deeply flawed.

As for your models of Craig’s other arguments – Kalam, fine-tuning and morality – they look fine, tight and neat when reduced to their geometric form. But when you actually apply language, the rhetorical tricks become evident. Consider Kalam:

1. All A are B
2. X is A
3. Therefore, X is B

Yup. So the conclusion is “…therefore the universe has a cause….” Yes?

Now according to you, the process by which Craig goes from “the Universe has a cause” to “That cause is a personal and interventionist Divine Being (a Being who happens to be remarkably similar to the one described in this scriptural text that I’d be happy to share with you)” is by appealing to “basic reasoning.” But we’re well outside the scope of anything that might be called DEDUCTIVE reasoning. If you’d like to argue that if timeless state gives rise to a temporal effect, that somehow a Personal Being must be responsible, then please go right ahead. But you don’t get there via a deductive syllogism. And neither does Craig.

Craig himself says that he only argues for “weak theism”.

Is there any other kind? What would “strong theism” look like? A mathematical formula? It’s interesting though. Here we have Craig advancing arguments that take the form of deductive proofs which ARE essentially math formulas. And according to Craig the conclusion “therefore God exists” MUST follow from each if the premises are true. So, what is “weak” about that? This is yet another rhetorical game.

Bertrand Russell is spinning in his grave

If he is, it’s probably because Craig’s casuistry somehow passes as “philosophy” these days. It truly is embarrassing.

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Martin December 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

Citizenghost,

As already discussed, premise 1 and premise 2 are demonstrably false.

See my above reply to JA.

And premise 3 is a classic Circulus in Demonstrando. Note how the premise “entails” the very conclusion of the syllogism.

The 3rd premise is to identify the God already argued for in his firs three arguments as the one that Jesus entailed. So it’s identification, not circular. It’s only circular if it’s stand alone. Craig is creating an interlocking, cumulative case.

If you’d like to argue that if timeless state gives rise to a temporal effect, that somehow a Personal Being must be responsible, then please go right ahead. But you don’t get there via a deductive syllogism. And neither does Craig.

Sure you do. Any bit of reasoning can be put into deductive form:

1. A timeless state giving rise to a temporal event implies intelligent agency
2. The cause of the universe is a timeless state giving rise to a temporal event
3. Therefore, the cause of the universe is an intelligent agency

This is deductive, and so only the premises are in question.

Here we have Craig advancing arguments that take the form of deductive proofs which ARE essentially math formulas. And according to Craig the conclusion “therefore God exists” MUST follow from each if the premises are true. So, what is “weak” about that? This is yet another rhetorical game.

What is weak is whether the premises are true. That is where the debate lies. Craig offers support for his premises, but not mathematically strong support. He only argues that his premises are more probably true than false, and so his entire case is just to argue that Christian theism is more probably true than false, though not coercively so. Atheists seem to argue that because he can’t prove his premises 100%, then his case fails. But the same goes for any deductive argument, even the classic sample one:

1. All men are mortal
2. Socrates is a man
3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal

Premise 1 is more probably true than false, but I can’t prove it absolutely. What would you think of someone who rejected the argument because you can’t prove absolutely 100% that premise 1 is true? Someone who says “well, you haven’t seen every man on earth. Maybe some are immortal.” This is the road to extreme skepticism.

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J. A. Kraulis December 19, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Hi Martin,

Maybe you missed my earlier post or I am, I admit, one of those unsophisticated (in Craig’s view) people who have never studied philosophy.

Regardless of any wizardry Craig performs with his deductive reasoning, you’ll agree that his entire argument falls apart if the premise is wrong.

As I discussed before, the first premise in his Kalam Cosmological Argument is that “whatever begins to exist has a cause”. This is demonstrably false or incomplete. For anything to begin to exist, there has to be at least two causes, or conditions met. Something has to preexist and an agent has to act on it. A cause cannot act on nothing. Craig’s argument leads to his asserting that God caused the Universe to exist out of nothing. That would be an exception to a complete statement of the first premise, and so the general syllogism would not apply.

I think this becomes clear if you apply it your example:

1. All men are mortal
2. Jesus was a man
3. Therefore, Jesus was mortal

That’s a perfect deductive proof that Jesus did not rise from the dead, is it not? You could argue that Jesus was an exceptional case, that the first premise does not apply to him, and that therefore my syllogism is completely irrelevant. That’s exactly what I would say about Craig’s KCA.

- J.A.

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citizenghost December 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Martin,

Concerning the resurrection argument and your response to J.A., you seem to suggest that Craig is correct because you have a book in which the author agrees with him (as does another scholar you identify) saying that Craig’s 3 “established facts” are indeed historical. But this is certainly not a majority view. Craig is simply wrong here. What Craig does is rattle off the names of some scholars (few of whom are actual historians) and attempts to give the impression that there is something like a scholarly consensus here. But when Craig debates an actual historian, like Bart Ehrman, his claim is easily shot out of the water.

And the reason is obvious. The empty tomb story is entirely uncorroborated – it appears in no source other than the Gospels. The story itself surfaced decades after the events described and it comes from an anonymous source who we know nothing about, save for one fact – that he was promoting the early Christian cult. To call that a “historical fact” is to apply a standard of historicity that wouldn’t pass muster with regard to any other story from any period in history.

It’s true that some theologians (including non-Christians like Cavin) accept these “facts” for purposes of their theological inquiries. But Craig is playing another trick here by suggesting that this means the truth of the stories are “established” historical facts. Professors of Greek Mythology also treat stories of Theseus and Odysseus as if they really happened. They do it because what counts for them, for purposes of their subject matter, are the stories themselves. The HISTORICITY of the stories is another matter entirely.

The 3rd premise is to identify the God already argued for in his first three arguments as the one that Jesus entailed. So it’s identification, not circular. It’s only circular if it’s stand alone. Craig is creating an interlocking, cumulative case

I don’t think Craig really IS creating a cumulative case. Craig has stated many times that if any of these arguments don’t hold up, “dont worry, I’ve got more.” His “proofs” clearly aren’t intended to depend on one another for their validity. It would be more accurate to say that Craig is intending to create an “impressionistic” case. Throw enough arguments against the wall and hope that some will stick.

But even if we assumed that the argument is “interlocking” and depends on first establishing the existence of God through some other argument (cosmological, fine-tuning, etc.), the logical reasoning still fails. Let’s assume some deity exists. How would the ability of an individual to perform miracles demonstrate that the deity is Yaweh or that the miracle worker is actually the son of Yahweh? It doesn’t. Not even remotely. The miracles would merely constitute evidence of supernaturalism. By offering Yaweh as the “best” explanation, Craig is simply appealing to our familiarity to the Christian story and its impact on our culture. It’s a remarkably unserious argument.

I do accept that any argument CAN be reduced to a deductive format. But then it becomes remarkably easy to pick apart the premises. Some arguments work much better (and with greater honesty) as inductive arguments. For example, let’s take a look at the first premise of the deductive syllogism you present which supposedly gets us from “the Universe has a cause” to “the Cause is a Divine Being who is Personal and Interventionist” :

1. A timeless state giving rise to a temporal event implies intelligent agency

Says who? Am I really required to demonstrate this statement is false? Does the mere presenting it in this format somehow shifts the burden to me? Or how about the next premise:

2. The cause of the universe is a timeless state giving rise to a temporal event

Is it sufficient to point out that there isn’t a single physicist or cosmologist of note who agrees with either statement?

Sure, you can frame this as a deductive argument but then the argument falls apart very quickly. The strength of Craig’s debating is not the deductive form of his arguments, but in the subtle appeal to emotion and appeal to ignorance as the basis for his inferences.

The fine-tuning argument is a classic case. The entire rests argument rests on the premise that “God” (i.e. “design”) is the likely alternative to “chance” (why?) and since chance SEEMS so improbable to explain the universe, voilá! Again, it’s easy enough to explain why his premises are unsupported though admittedly it takes a bit of time and that’s why Craig’s tactics make for clever debating. But it’s not JUST that the premises are unfounded, It’s the very process by which the premises are generated – the inferences – that suffer from poor reasoning.

There’s also something of an absurdity in arguing this way because you can literally construct hundreds of logically valid arguments that are ALL terrible arguments. But because they seem to follow the form of a deductive proof you can sit back and pretend that the burden is somehow on ME to undermine the premises. I’ll happily do it and play the game, but let’s be clear – this IS rhetorical gamesmanship.

Finally, I am not suggesting we embrace sort of extreme skepticism that would result in an ability to accept any premise. You gave the classic example:

1. All men are mortal
2. Socrates is a man
3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal

You would agree, I trust, that a premise like “All men are mortal” is a very different sort of proposition than “A timeless state giving rise to a temporal event implies intelligent agency.” The first is widely accepted based on experience and observation. The second (which contains multiple assumptions) isn’t supported by science, evidence or logic. It’s a complete non-sequitur.

The irony (which did not escape J.A.) is that it is Craig who would be unable to to accept the premise that “All Men are Mortal”

C.G.

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citizenghost December 20, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Martin,

My apologies if you’ve already addressed this. But I have to ask:

If you find Craig’s arguments so strong, so impossible to refute, why are you not persuaded by them?

Or are you?

Pardon me for asking. But something doesn’t add up here.

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Luke Muehlhauser December 20, 2010 at 11:19 pm

citizenghost,

I don’t find them impossible to refute at all. I just think atheists do a poor job of refuting the arguments in debate format.

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citizenghost December 21, 2010 at 6:05 am

Luke,

Fair enough.

But one has to ask, what does it really mean to win a debate? Ultimately debates aren’t won by the logical validity of the arguments, but by their soundness and more than that, their persuasiveness. I’ve never understood the thinking that says “Well, I thought that guy was absolutely full of it – but he did a better job and won the debate!”

But ultimately the determination of who wins a debate is a purely subjective one, so it’s no wonder that having watched several of Craig’s debates, I have a very different scorecard than your own.

Personally, I think you’re far too easy on Craig and far too tough on the atheists who’ve debated him but I suspect that one of the reasons is this: You think you can do a better job. And maybe you can.

There seems to be a tendency among those non-believers interested in academic philosophy to take Craig far more seriously than he deserves. I can’t help but think it’s because they resent the “new” atheists who, they feel, are vulgar and dismissive of philosophy itself. (And to be fair, some of them are) Craig’s atheist defenders see him as representing a sort of philosophical tradition they’d like to keep alive. For my part, I think they have it backwards. Craig demonstrates how a clever rhetorician can absuse logic and turn arguments into word games. It’s a useful reminder of why philosophers study language. Now, THAT is an area of philosophy which – unlike ontological arguments for God’s existence – is alive and well.

Anyway, I appreciate the give and take. You do a nice job with this website. Keep up the good work.

C.G.

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Martin December 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

But this is certainly not a majority view.

I believe it is. I see some evidence for it, and Craig quotes several critical scholars who say that it is.

few of whom are actual historians

Yes, they are. Not only are they legitimate New Testament historians, but they are also generally critical of Christianity. For instance, Gerd Ludemann is a real historian, critical of Christianity, who provides a hallucination explanation for the resurrection to explain the facts of it. He doesn’t deny that the basic facts of the resurrection took place.

The empty tomb story is entirely uncorroborated – it appears in no source other than the Gospels. The story itself surfaced decades after the events described…

Craig of course provides multiple pieces of evidence for it, one of which is that Mark can be traced to a central passion story, which itself can be traced back to within a few years after the events in question. You would have to engage his evidence directly if you want to dispute it.

How would the ability of an individual to perform miracles demonstrate that the deity is Yaweh or that the miracle worker is actually the son of Yahweh? It doesn’t.

In Craig’s case, it would be that he only argued for the existence of one supernatural being in his first three arguments. To pull in other supernatural events as hypotheses (magic, demons, etc) would be to pull in a hypothesis ad hoc that he hasn’t argued for.

The entire rests argument rests on the premise that “God” (i.e. “design”) is the likely alternative to “chance” (why?) and since chance SEEMS so improbable to explain the universe, voilá!

Part of the problem is if you haven’t read his in depth arguments. He gives only the barest bones of an outline of them in debates. I’ve read Reasonable Faith, which is perhaps the reason why I “defend” him all the time, because most of the objections that keep popping up are already answered in his book.

Luke Barnes, a cosmologist interviewed on this blog by Mr. Muehlhauser, actually agrees that Craig’s argument is well structured. I believe he leans more towards a multiverse explanation, however.

And in fact Stephen Hawking even provides the same three choices: “Most physicists would rather believe string theory uniquely predicts the universe, than the alternatives. These are that the initial state of the universe is prescribed by an outside agency, code-named God. Or that there are many universes…”

If you find Craig’s arguments so strong, so impossible to refute, why are you not persuaded by them?

I don’t find them persuasive because they depend on controversial premises.

I disagree with Luke that they are not impossible to refute. I think that, since they are controversial, anyone can offer objections to them. But offering objections is not the same as refuting. It’s just extremely difficult to tell if they are true or not.

The same goes for naturalism.

Which is why I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain agnostic.

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citizenghost December 21, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Martin,

Thanks again for the prompt reply.

I don’t think we’re going to resolve the battle of authority. You believe that Craig is correct when he says that most scholars accept the historical “facts” of the resurrection. I believe that he’s wrong for the reasons which Bart Ehrman has explained and the reasons that I’ve provided above. Again, the fact that Craig tries to blur the distinction between scholars who are theologians and those who are historians, is certainly not a point in his favor. It’s sneaky. And even when Craig names names, it doesn’t take much digging to prove him wrong.

For instance, Gerd Ludemann is a real historian, critical of Christianity, who provides a hallucination explanation for the resurrection to explain the facts of it. He doesn’t deny that the basic facts of the resurrection took place.

Sure he does. In particular he disputes the most important fact: the story of the empty tomb. I refer you to the debate he had with William Lane Craig – the transcript is available on Google Books.

Regarding cosmology, Hawking’s “choices” are most certainly not the same as Craigs. Mutliverse theory and string theory do not figure into Craig’s list of choices. They are hardly analogous to the ones that Craig presents. Most importantly, Hawking is presenting the the most commonly accepted explanations for the Universe. He does not do what Craig does – which is to pretend the explanations are exhaustive and thereby suitable for a deductive premise (either A, B or C). This is simply poor reasoning.

It’s an error Craig makes time and again. He tries to create deductive proofs out of statements that lack the architecture for them. It’s an abuse of language as much as it is an abuse of logic.

I disagree with Luke that they are not impossible to refute. I think that, since they are controversial, anyone can offer objections to them. But offering objections is not the same as refuting

As a practical matter it really is the same thing.

If your premise is unsupported, I don’t have to “refute” your premise. The fact that Craig’s arguments are presented within a rhetorical pattern whereby none of his premises can be tested, or any of his theories subject to falsification is not a strength of his arguments. It renders them so weak that it’s puzzling they’re taken seriously. It’s more than sufficient to point out that the premises are unsupported or the inferences unfounded and explain why.

It’s also worth pointing out the rhetorical gamesmanship that is the hallmark of his debating style. And you’re correct – I AM more familiar with his debates than I am with his book, “Reasonable Faith” though I’ve certainly read dozens of online articles and excerpts from this and other books Craig has written.

Color me unimpressed.

C.G.

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J. A. Kraulis December 22, 2010 at 12:32 am

Martin,

I think you are too impressed with Craig’s courtroom skills. He would be a good lawyer, and operates that way. He is a Christian apologist first and foremost (and arguably only that). He (ab)uses philosophy, history and science to build his case backwards from his preferred conclusion, not the other way around. If you look at his website, it is evangelical in content and intent. (I just did now to reconfirm my earlier impressions and I have to say that I find Craig’s answers to his parishioners – that’s what they sound like – offensive to both my education and my values, including my moral values. If you spent some time on his site, if you could possibly stand it, I don’t think you would have as much inclination to defend his positions in debates, which are prepared for a different audience entirely.) And then contrast Craig’s site with, for example, Dawkins’ website. Recently I found on the latter a link to an article that described how students in faith-based schools were outperforming by miles the students in public schools in Britain. Dawkins is not fond of faith-based schools, needless to say. I read the article waiting for the part where it is explained how the study cited was flawed, or how the results, properly interpreted, actually damned faith-based schools. It didn’t come. I looked for commentary dismissing or disputing the story. There was none. It was simply evidence to be taken into account and Dawkins, the scientist, was presenting it as such. Do you think you would ever find anything on Craig’s website that might look like it justifies the opposing side? Not a chance. That should tell you something about why Craig “wins” his debates.

The defenders of Craig, yourself included, seem to have this idea that his opponents must disprove Craig’s arguments, never that Craig needs to disprove his opponents’ take on reality. Consider the resurrection of Jesus. That is medically impossible, period. To assert that “God did it” is no rebuttal. Jesus was flesh and blood, otherwise why would he expire on the cross in the first place? Of itself the whole idea is too fantastic to even be acknowledged in an evidence-based scientifically enlightened context. Meanwhile Craig references the most recent modern cosmology to support his conclusion that the Universe was created by a supreme being, but then when it comes to Jesus, science is supposed to be completely irrelevant, it has no place in the discussion at all? How can anyone respect that kind of shyster crap? There are credible theories in cosmology regarding how the Universe can create itself out of nothing. There are no theories, credible or otherwise, in any science regarding how a three-day-old unfrozen dead body can be resuscitated.

In her fabulous TED talk, novelist Isabelle Allende begins, “There’s a Jewish saying that I love. What is truer than truth? Answer: the story”. Craig actually retards and demeans his own religion by trying to convince people that the Jesus myth is fact. Again, as I’ve said before, if Jesus was who Craig says he was, then his father, the jealous, slaughtering, manipulative and cruel dictator described in the Old Testament actually exists (and we’re all screwed). Far better to accept the myth for what it is, a symbol, a vehicle for honoring one’s own moral beliefs and the suspicion, if not hope, that there may be more to our own existence than we are able with our limited awareness to apprehend. In other words, to see the Jesus story as “truer than truth”, instead of as something to be taken as literally having happened. The latter is just a path to the worship of nonsense.

Did Jesus actually exist? Scholars debate. The number of fantastic miracles he is alleged to have performed lends weight to the idea that he is entirely fictional. But if he isn’t, that doesn’t change the essential argument. A large part of unicorns and of winged horses are also based on a real being. That some parts of the Jesus legend might be historical fact about a real person really makes little difference to an argument against claims like Craig’s. There is more evidence for the historical Santa Claus than there is for the historical Jesus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Nicholas. The man, Saint Nicholas, existed. The impossible story of a toy factory at the North Pole and of a sled pulled by flying reindeer does nothing to reduce the likelihood that Saint Nick lived. But the fact that he existed does nothing to make the reindeer and North Pole story the slightest bit more likely either. What CAN be said is that if it could be proved that Saint Nick never existed, then we can be even more certain that everything about Santa is fiction. The same applies to the alleged proof that Jesus never existed. If it is wrong, it doesn’t mean that Jesus did all that the Bible says he did, or that he is the “son of God”. But if it is correct, then Craig’s kind of Christian faith is 100% delusion.

I could write a dozen more posts against Craig’s arguments, but I have a lot to do at this time of year. And this is cautionary: http://xkcd.com/386/

Thanks, Martin, for such well-thought-out and stimulating points. Thanks, Luke, for this website. Merry Chritsmas to all.

- J. A.

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manicstreetpreacher December 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Martin

Take a step back from all this NT “scholarship”, ignore the trees and focus on the wood for a moment.

To quote Victor Stenger in his first debate against Craig in Hawaii in 2003, if you can’t believe what you read in the New York Times last week, then how are you supposed to trust something that was documented decades after the events that it purports to describe by people were primitive by our standards and simply did not possess our faculties of critical reasoning and sceptical inquiry?

And Craig continually refers to “majorities of scholars”. Where does he take these polls? Bob Jones University?!

Religion is all about revering ancient ideas, declaring them to be infallible and celebrating them forever. Let’s try this “reasoning” on another domain of knowledge. Would you trust a medical doctor from First Century Palestine to operate on you if you discovered a lump in an embarrassing place in the shower tomorrow morning?

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manicstreetpreacher December 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm

J A Kraulis

Augustine was a theologian I could really dig when he wasn’t defending slavery or the torture of heretics.

On the apparent contradict of Jesus expiring on the cross while at the same time being God, he observed that JC’s suffering must have been symbolic only, otherwise he could not have been God.

In other words the light of the World was doing a Meg Ryan in the diner and FAKING IT!

I wonder why Craig never relies on this particular “scholar” to support his resurrection “hypothesis”?

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Martin December 22, 2010 at 9:57 pm

citizenghost,

I believe that he’s wrong for the reasons which Bart Ehrman has explained and the reasons that I’ve provided above.

You can read Ehrman’s debate here: http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/p96.htm

You’ll note that he doesn’t really challenge Craig on the four facts. He instead offers a conspiracy theory that he admits is unlikely, but says that it’s more likely than the miracle theory. This is yet more prima facie reason to think that these four facts are indeed difficult to deny for someone who is an NT scholar, even if they are non-theist, like Bart.

Mutliverse theory and string theory do not figure into Craig’s list of choices.

Multiverse falls under the “chance” hypothesis, and string theory falls under the “physical necessity” hypothesis.

He does not do what Craig does – which is to pretend the explanations are exhaustive and thereby suitable for a deductive premise (either A, B or C). This is simply poor reasoning.

His 1st premise presents three possibilities. In his book he invites anyone to suggest more if they can think of them. I can’t. I’ve never heard anyone suggest a fourth possibility. You have not suggested a fourth possibility. If not, then what exactly is the problem?

none of his premises can be tested, or any of his theories subject to falsification is not a strength of his arguments.

This is true of any philosophical argument, including those for atheism. There is no way to test whether gratuitous evil exists or not.

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Martin December 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm

JA,

I think you are too impressed with Craig’s courtroom skills.

I’m not so much impressed with Craig as I am UNimpressed with atheists.

Craig has four conclusions: the universe has a cause, the fine tuning is due to design, God exists, the God entailed by Jesus of Nazareth exists. All these follow from his premises IF the premises are true. All this talk…

He is a Christian apologist first and foremost (and arguably only that). He (ab)uses philosophy, history and science to build his case backwards from his preferred conclusion, not the other way around. If you look at his website, it is evangelical in content and intent.

…is just red herrings, rhetoric, sophistry, and ad hominem. And it’s similar to many of Craig’s opponents arguments as well. None of that kind of talk addresses the premises. The only thing that should be in question is if the premises are true. If you aren’t talking about whether the 8 premises are true, then you are dodging the topic. Any theist could easily point to this and say “Look at those atheists! They don’t have an argument so they have to attack the person instead!” And they would be 100% correct.

The defenders of Craig, yourself included, seem to have this idea that his opponents must disprove Craig’s arguments, never that Craig needs to disprove his opponents’ take on reality.

I’m a defender of Craig only in that I’ve read his book and he addresses many of the criticisms that atheists throw out as if they were brand new and as if he has never answered them. I wrote sketches of all five of his arguments, brief sketches of the support for the premises, and of the objections and how he answers them. Let me know if you would like them. Same goes for anyone else.

I’m interested ONLY in his arguments. I don’t care how nutty he is in other topics or how big his nose is.

Craig absolutely has to disprove his opponents arguments…..if they ever frakkin’ gave any! Which they rarely ever do. It’s usually just sophistry. And that’s central to my criticisms.

There are no theories, credible or otherwise, in any science regarding how a three-day-old unfrozen dead body can be resuscitated.

Look at the structure of his cumulative case; he first argues for God, an external agent that isn’t bound by the laws of nature, and then he argues for a miracle in the case of Jesus. Craig over and over says that a naturalistic resurrection is extremely improbable (as you do), but that he is arguing for God reaching in from outside and performing a miracle. If you think this is false, then you have to refute at least one premise from each of his three arguments for God’s existence.

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Martin December 22, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Ed,

how are you supposed to trust something that was documented decades after the events that it purports to describe by people were primitive by our standards and simply did not possess our faculties of critical reasoning and sceptical inquiry?

Craig provides the supporting arguments for each fact. Refute them or they stand.

And Craig continually refers to “majorities of scholars”. Where does he take these polls? Bob Jones University?!

Yeah, yeah. Stenger said that. Actually, Craig provides supporting evidence for each point AND he appeals to critical NT historians. I.e., non-theologian, non-theist NT historians. He does this specifically to avoid such criticism.

Would you trust a medical doctor from First Century Palestine to operate on you if you discovered a lump in an embarrassing place in the shower tomorrow morning?

I’m only interested in his arguments, which means I’m only interested in his premises, which means I’m only interested in the supporting evidence for or against his premises. That’s it. Anything else is a fish of the Clupea genus.

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J. A. Kraulis December 23, 2010 at 1:55 am

Martin,

It isn’t “red herrings, rhetoric, sophistry, and ad hominem” to look at the larger context of Craig’s debates: his own posts on his own website. One way to defeat an argument is to show where it ultimately leads. Am I to assume that Craig’s don’t lead to some of the things he asserts on his site? You defend Craig because you say he has already answered the criticisms we make of his arguments somewhere in this book of his, but my making references to other of his writings is somehow not allowed?

Craig makes homophobic comments on his website, and we are supposed to take his philosophical arguments about objective morality seriously !? I just looked this up in the course of responding to you: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6231 I don’t know what your moral philosophy is, but IMHO Craig is in no position to debate anything regarding morality and God. The man is morally sick. (And, for the record, I’m 100% heterosexual.)

He also affirms his belief in intelligent design on his website, but never brings it up in his debates because he knows he would loose that round: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cO1a1Ek-HD0 You have asked for atheists to give good arguments for their side of the debate, and the laryngeal nerve of the giraffe is one that would come forward rather convincingly.

You mention that I “have to refute at least one premise from each of his three arguments for God’s existence”. I thought I did this twice before in my earlier posts regarding the very first premise in his first reason. Let me try a third time then. Since I can only assume that Craig has answered this very obvious objection in his book, which I have not read, I would be grateful if you could tell me what was wrong with my argument . (I’m being sincere here, not sarcastic.)

The premise states: “Whatever begins to exist has a cause”. This is an incomplete statement because anything that begins to exist needs not only a cause (or several) but also some preexisting condition. The Universe, from Craig’s position, had no preexisting condition. Therefore it is sophistry to apply this statement to the Universe. Craig’s first premise is falsely framed.

Put another way, a cause, obviously, has to have something it can act on. It is nonsensical to talk about a cause acting on nothing.

- J. A.

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citizenghost December 23, 2010 at 6:33 am

Martin,

You can read Ehrman’s debate here: http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/p96.htm
You’ll note that he doesn’t really challenge Craig on the four facts.

If you read Ehrman’s written work, you’ll note that he does. The reason he’ll “accept” them for the sake of an argument is to make a seperate debate point which is this: Even if we assume the historicity of those facts, the conclusion that “God raised Jesus from the dead” is far from the “best” or most likely explanation.

Multiverse falls under the “chance” hypothesis, and string theory falls under the “physical necessity” hypothesis.

Here I’ll have to defer to those who know more about cosmology than I do. But having read some of Brian Greene’s work on multiverse and string theory, I fail to see how multiverse theory, in order to be true, is required to operate by “chance.”

And at the risk of stating the obvious, the failure to identify a 4th or 5th option doesn’t mean that the 3 have been presented are exhaustive or appropriate for a disjunctive syllogism. (A is either B or C or D).

It’s analogous to the argument commonly made by creationists on the fine-tuning of life (as opposed to Craig’s for the fine-tuning of the Universe) They say “life evolved either by Chance or from Design.” Clearly, a false choice. The very formation of this premise requires both a mischaracterzation of the science (evolution by natural selection is not “chance” nor is it “design”) as well as an appeal to ignorance.(Those are the only 2 options because we don’t yet know of any others). It also requires yet another assumption, Craig’s favorite one – that IF the correct option is “Design” that we can surmise anything at all about the nature of the Designer.

That’s mainly a criticism of the inferences he makes to generate his premises. We can certainly play it your way and limit our discussion to the premises themselves. His premises that (the universe did NOT arise from chance or from “physical necessity”) have indeed been disputed and/or criticized by any number of prominent cosmologists and physicists. (and not limited to atheists like Stenger and Hawking).

I’ve enjoyed the discussion and am happy to continue this another time. For now, I’m going to take J.A.’s caution to heart and get on with my holiday.

Dare I say it? … Merry Christimas.

C.G.

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Martin December 23, 2010 at 7:38 am

One way to defeat an argument is to show where it ultimately leads.

An argument requires two things: logical validity and true premises. All of Craig’s arguments have logical validity, which leaves one last thing. You can’t defeat an argument by showing where it leads. That would be the slippery slope fallacy.

Craig makes homophobic comments on his website, and we are supposed to take his philosophical arguments about objective morality seriously !?

Yes. His personal beliefs are irrelevant. What Craig says on his website is irrelevant. This would be poisoning the well: “a logical fallacy where adverse information about a target is pre-emptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say.”

The only relevant thing are his premises, because the conclusions follow logically from them. In fact, one could even argue that you being disgusted with his views on homosexuality only confirms premise 2 of his moral argument: objective moral values exist.

Don’t let your brain get so clogged with hatred for fundies that you lose the ability to think clearly. That’s all I’m saying when I “defend” Craig.

You have asked for atheists to give good arguments for their side of the debate, and the laryngeal nerve of the giraffe is one that would come forward rather convincingly.

Perhaps. I don’t think it’s easy to use evolution as a disproof of God, though. Evolution disproves Biblical literalism, but that’s about all.

This is an incomplete statement because anything that begins to exist needs not only a cause (or several) but also some preexisting condition.

Craig addresses this in his book. He says that when he means cause and effect, all he means is something that brings about an effect. Whether it be from pre-existing material, or creation ex nihilo is irrelevant.

If the universe began to exist, then it doesn’t seem to be a good objection to say that because it began to exist from nothing, therefore it doesn’t need a cause.

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Martin December 23, 2010 at 8:07 am

citizenghost,

Even if we assume the historicity of those facts, the conclusion that “God raised Jesus from the dead” is far from the “best” or most likely explanation.

Perhaps, but Craig provides extensive justification for why he thinks it’s the best explanation in his book. He can only touch on it in debates. There is a lot more there than can just be handwaved away.

I fail to see how multiverse theory, in order to be true, is required to operate by “chance.”

Multiverse would mean that there are many universes, and hence many shots at getting the right fine tuning for life. It’s a way that the chance hypothesis could work. Saying “the fine tuning is due to a designer, multiverse, or string theory” is the same as saying “fine tuning is due to a designer, chance, or physical necessity.”

They say “life evolved either by Chance or from Design.” Clearly, a false choice.

Obviously, as natural selection is not change. So the correct dilemma is: “life evolved either by natural selection or design.” But the above three choices for fine tuning are about all there is: either it was designed, or it happened by chance, or it couldn’t have been otherwise.

As I said, Luke Barnes, a cosmologist interviewed on this blog, makes a criticism of one of Craig’s points but agrees that otherwise his fine tuning argument is OK: “Apart from the above example, Craig’s work on the fine-tuning of the universe for life isn’t too bad (my next blog post notwithstanding). In particular, the other points he makes against the multiverse hypothesis deserve our consideration.”

These arguments for God are not in the same category as silly ID arguments. They are taken quite seriously by atheist philosophers and are published regularly in peer reviewed journals from prestigious places such as Oxford.

Dare I say it?

Please do! I hate to see poor Jesus get dragged through the mud because his wackjob followers do the polar opposite of what he said to do. Not to mention, Christmas is 95% pagan winter celebration anyway.

Merry Christmas!

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manicstreetpreacher December 23, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Martin

You’re only interested in Craig’s arguments and premises and will consider nothing else?

That’s part of the reason why Craig “wins” most of his debates. He stubbornly makes the rules, refuses to consider all other avenues and declares his wonderful arguments untouched even when on the odd occasion the other guy has completely destroyed him.

In the first Stenger debate, he made a lame attempt to brush aside Stenger’s objections to God’s existence, such as the ineffectiveness of prayer and the failures of revealed scripture, by saying that it was presumptuous to demand such evidence from God without answering Stenger’s arguments at all.

Vic made a very valid point in his first rebuttal to the resurrection argument that even if the empty tomb was an historical fact, its explanation could be purely natural.

If you were to go to Napoleon’s tomb in Paris to find the casket’s lid open and his remains missing, would you be justified in concluding that the Emperor had been raised from the dead and into heaven? Hardly! You would figure that someone had stolen the body.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Craig cannot prove that someone didn’t remove Jesus’ body. This remains a more plausible naturalistic explanation and a supernatural explanation is not required by the data.

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manicstreetpreacher December 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Martin again

Continuing in this vein of Craig’s refusal to consider any other line of enquiry.

Steven Carr once made a very amusing point in a dry, sardonic way that only he can with respect to Craig’s four facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus on the Premier Christian Community forum:

Craig comes up with four pseudo-facts and demands people explain them. Imagine if people used that approach in other fields. Suppose a Holocaust-denier came up with these four facts. And these are real facts, unlike Craig’s pseudo-facts:

Fact 1: Hitler never signed a document ordering Jews to be liquidated in Europe.

Fact 2: No German ever recorded hearing Hitler saying orally that all Jews were to be killed.

Fact 3: The building now known as Gas Chamber 1 at Auschwitz was an air-raid shelter in 1944.

Fact 4: After the war, trained historians like David Irving and clergymen like Bishop Williamson testified that there was no systematic killing of 6 million Jews.

Now these are all genuine facts, unlike Craig’s claim that it was a fact that a person called Joseph of Arimathea (where’s that?) buried Jesus.

Imagine if Holocaust-deniers suddenly demanded that people explain these four facts, and refused to consider anything else in a debate.

Craig’s four facts approach to a debate is so bad that even Holocaust-deniers do not use that kind of logic!

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J. A. Kraulis December 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm

An argument requires two things: logical validity and true premises. All of Craig’s arguments have logical validity, which leaves one last thing. You can’t defeat an argument by showing where it leads.

Of course you can. All of science is based on just exactly that, the falsifiability of a good argument (theory) on the authority of subsequent evidence. (Craig of course selectively uses science where it suits him and rejects it when it doesn’t.)

But to return to what you are saying, that all that matters is here is whether Craig’s premises are true and his logic is sound, consider the following two premises:
1) Events that are inconceivable cannot reasonably have occurred
2) The Holocaust is inconceivable

Therefore….

You have to agree that taken independently all on their own, there is nothing wrong with either of those two premises. It would be hard to disagree with them. If you accept that, then do you have to accept that the necessary conclusion has merit? The trick here is of course that “inconceivable” has slightly different meanings, i.e. impossible in the first instance and unimaginable in the second. And this is exactly the trick, in more elaborate ways, that Craig uses consistently in his “logical” and “common sense” arguments, with terms like “Universe” and “cause”, not to mention “God”. They really don’t need a deeper explanation than that.

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J. A. Kraulis December 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

* The first paragraph in the above was a direct quote from Martin, but for some reason it didn’t format that way.

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J. A. Kraulis December 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Martin,

Three more points. You wrote: “I don’t think it’s easy to use evolution as a disproof of God, though. Evolution disproves Biblical literalism, but that’s about all.”

That’s about all ??? Good god, man, you can’t be serious !! It disproves intelligent design which need not reference the Bible at all. It disproves Craig’s kind of God, one that is perfect and that interacts with the material world. It’s not just the example of the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve, but hundreds of yards of book shelves full of technical journals in the biological and geological sciences that utterly disprove intelligent design or a God-guided evolution. This is not something that can or needs to be settled in casual commentary or some entertaining debate. It is fact. The earth is round. Inform yourself of the science.

Second, you say that “In fact, one could even argue that you being disgusted with his views on homosexuality only confirms premise 2 of his moral argument: objective moral values exist.” I’ll buy that. And then the obvious conclusion would be that the God that Craig worships is not a moral God. That’s evident from the fact of those whom he would condemn to eternal torture in hell, isn’t it? It’s obvious from the story of Noah. Billions of innocent animals cruelly destroyed by slow terrorizing water torture during the Flood, along with young children, pregnant women, etc. Why couldn’t God have just gassed them all? Hitler was a paragon of mercy by comparison. Disgust with Christian (and Islamic, etc) morals is precisely the reason many of us are so-called atheists. The assertion that objective moral values exist is meaningless if you can’t give examples, and Craig gives us his.

Finally, with regards to my problem with the first premise in his cosmological argument, you say: “Craig addresses this in his book. He says that when he means cause and effect, all he means is something that brings about an effect. Whether it be from pre-existing material, or creation ex nihilo is irrelevant.”

Well how convenient. In other words, there are two kinds of causes, the one that we are all logically familiar with which MUST act on something pre-existing, and another very special kind of cause that Craig is an authority on which applies only to the Universe.

Let’s state Craig’s KCA properly then:
1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause and a pre-existing condition, except the Universe.
2) The Universe began to exist without a pre-existing condition (we are going to assume).
3) Therefore the Universe has a cause.

That makes sense to you?

And I haven’t even brought back my earlier point about how many things have more than one cause, like New York. Where is it written that the cause of the Universe, if one can even talk about such a thing, has to be a solitary being? In analogy with the causes of New York, why does the Universe need conscious intent to come into being? Craig’s KCA is actually a disguised argument from analogy, and can also be defeated as such. We know that “whatever begins to exist has a cause” is a reasonable premise because we can think of examples, and can’t think of exceptions. Craig asks us to accept that these examples, by analogy, should apply to the universe as a whole. It’s all sophistry from the get go.

- J. A.

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Martin December 23, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Ed,

You’re only interested in Craig’s arguments and premises and will consider nothing else? That’s part of the reason why Craig “wins” most of his debates. He stubbornly makes the rules…

The rules of logic? Craig didn’t make those. Aristotle did. For an argument to work, it needs two ingredients: validity and soundness. Nothing else is required. Craig has validity. So the only question is soundness. Do you have some problem with logic?

ineffectiveness of prayer and the failures of revealed scripture

These are weak arguments, and the second one doesn’t even address Craig’s case at all. Craig argues from natural theology, not revealed theology.

Vic made a very valid point in his first rebuttal to the resurrection argument that even if the empty tomb was an historical fact, its explanation could be purely natural.

Fine, but then make the case! Craig does his part. Now the atheist should offer an alternate and more plausible case. If it’s so easy, why do none of them ever do it? What exactly is this naturalistic explanation? Hallucination? Conspiracy? What?

If you were to go to Napoleon’s tomb in Paris to find the casket’s lid open and his remains missing, would you be justified in concluding that the Emperor had been raised from the dead and into heaven? Hardly! You would figure that someone had stolen the body.

This kind of stuff makes me think you aren’t paying attention. Craig first argues for a supernatural being. Only then does he offer that as an explanation. With the Napoleon example, you don’t also have a bunch of people claiming to see Napoleon after he dies, going to gruesome deaths for their beliefs, and starting a major worldwide movement based on that belief.

Any explanation for the resurrection of Christ would have to also account for all that.

Suppose a Holocaust-denier came up with these four facts.

Yes but there are other facts about the Holocaust that need explaining as well, and those would tip the case away from the deniers. There are only so many facts about the resurrection.

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Martin December 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

JA,

And this is exactly the trick, in more elaborate ways, that Craig uses consistently in his “logical” and “common sense” arguments, with terms like “Universe” and “cause”, not to mention “God”.

Here’s what I suggest. Look in Graham Oppy’s Arguing About Gods. Oppy is one of the top atheist philosophers today. If he doesn’t raise something like this as an objection, then there is probably a good reason. And also you’ll get to see what good objections to Kalam there are. No reason to re-invent the wheel. People who “do” atheism all day long have traveled this path before.

It disproves intelligent design which need not reference the Bible at all.

There are arguments for God: ontological, cosmological, cosmic telelogical, biological teleological, moral.

And arguments against God: evidential evil, logical evil, non-belief, hiddeness, interaction.

Darwin squarely did away with the biological telelogical argument. OK, that’s one argument for theism that has been knocked out. But taking away an argument for God is not the same as making a positive argument against God. To be fair, Plantinga refuted the logical problem of evil, so that’s also one argument against God that is gone as well.

So now the case looks like this:

For God: ontological, cosmological, cosmic teleological, moral
Against: evidential evil, non-belief, hiddeness, intereaction

In short, evolution does away with biological design but it does little else.

And then the obvious conclusion would be that the God that Craig worships is not a moral God.

Forget that and just look at the premises, as if they were stand alone and having nothing to with any argument. The 1st premise: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. This is the old is/ought problem. How can naturalism account for morality? It’s doable, but not easy. Neither premise is easy to refute. And if both stand, then the conclusion follows deductively.

That’s evident from the fact of those whom he would condemn to eternal torture in hell, isn’t it?

Which would affect the doctrine of Hell, but not the existence of God. Are you aware of inclusivism? Universalism? Annihilationism? These are all competing theories with the theory of Hell. Some Christians even say that the Catholic Church invented the idea to keep people in line!

What you’re doing is attacking a fundie YEC version of Christianity. I say that that kind of Christianity is not compatible with what Jesus taught. A reading of the Gospels will clear anyone of the notion that the Christian Right is a follower of Christ’s teachings.

Where is it written that the cause of the Universe, if one can even talk about such a thing, has to be a solitary being?

It isn’t. Craig even says that Kalam is compatible with deism and polytheism as well. You have to understand what Craig is doing. He isn’t trying to come up with some knock down slamdunk case for God. He is trying to nudge the probability his way just a bit.

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J. A. Kraulis December 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Martin writes: “This kind of stuff makes me think you aren’t paying attention. Craig first argues for a supernatural being. Only then does he offer that as an explanation. With the Napoleon example, you don’t also have a bunch of people claiming to see Napoleon after he dies, going to gruesome deaths for their beliefs, and starting a major worldwide movement based on that belief.”

Martin, Martin. The explanation for the difference with Ed’s Napoleon example isn’t that the story about Jesus is likely to be true. The explanation is that Napoleon hasn’t gone missing from his tomb! If he had, under certain circumstances and with certain predisposed conditions (his own megalomaniac assertions of immortality perhaps), you’d better believe there would be some crackpots keen to start a religion around him. Who is not paying attention?

Also, we know enough about Craig – check out his website again – to know that his whole career (by his own admission) has been around proving Jesus divinity. He’s worked out his “logical” arguments backwards from that necessary – for him – conclusion. Some of us can see that clearly.

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J. A. Kraulis December 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Martin,

You write:

” …which would affect the doctrine of Hell, but not the existence of God. Are you aware of inclusivism? Universalism? Annihilationism? These are all competing theories with the theory of Hell. Some Christians even say that the Catholic Church invented the idea to keep people in line! ”

Those are not falsifiable “theories” but rather, other superstitions immune to refutation. And also entirely beside the point I was making. I was referencing Craig’s own beliefs and how incompatible they are with anything reasonable people would consider objective morality. And Craig definitely believes in hell. You can find lots about that on his website, this is just a quote pulled at random from it (I don’t have time to look for better): “Dr. Craig responds: …..That’s why I went on to offer the second, better solution: that the rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior, being a rejection of God Himself, is a sin of infinite gravity and proportion and therefore plausibly does merit infinite punishment. So seen, people are sent to hell, not so much for murder and theft and adultery, but for their rejection of God.” http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6199

So there you have it. We’re all here guilty of a sin of infinite gravity (except maybe for kaka, whom we haven’t heard from in a while) deserving of infinite punishment. I guess Craig’s idea that nothing that is real can be infinite doesn’t apply to those who are so unspeakably immoral as to disagree with him.

Anyway, this is my last post for a while, I have to pack for a trip. Sincere thanks, Martin, for such thoughtful provocation. I have to say, however, that the more I learn about Dr. Craig, the less respect I have for him, despite your efforts.

again, Merry Christmas!

- J. A.

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MauricXe December 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

Dr. Krauss will be debating Craig March 30th.

A week after that, Craig will be debating Sam Harris @ Notre Dame.

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MauricXe December 24, 2010 at 7:49 am

Two good debates to look forward to:

WLC vs. Dr. Krauss on March 30th.

A week before that, Harris will be debating Craig @ Notre Dame.

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manicstreetpreacher December 24, 2010 at 10:48 am

Martin

No, I don’t mean Craig invented the rules of logic. Although, as illustrated in my example of Chirpy the Squirrel, I don’t think you prove anything with philosophical syllogisms.

I meant that Craig sets out his five “arguments” and refuses to consider anything else his opponent offers. He even hedges his bets by quoting Kai Neilson and saying that all his arguments could fail, yet God could still exist!?! Perhaps all the arguments against the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster fail, yet the FSM could still not exist!

People have died for Joseph Smith and started a worldwide movement in his name, which is one of the fastest growing religions in the world today. Is that claim valid for the truth and validity Mormonism as well?

And as Bart Ehrman rightly pointed out in his debate against Craig, whatever the evidence is for Jesus’ disciples and immediate followers dying for their faith, he has never come across it.

Craig soooooo does argue from revealed theology. He harps on about Jesus’ “extraordinary claims to divinity” and how Jesus declared that in him “the Kingdom of God had come”. However, he conveniently ignored Stenger’s point about how JC’s return to Earth trailing clouds of glory in order to judge the human race for its sexual indiscretions is 2,000 years overdue and counting.

Arguments of the reliability of the historical narrative of the Gospels will continue as long as people still adhere to Christianity. However, the Second Coming is a very specific prediction that so far has utterly failed to materialise.

And there are plenty of other facts surrounding the resurrection that Craig ignores, such as the litany of internal contradictions between the four Gospels, or Luke’s ridiculous fabrication of a Roman census in order to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

I suggest you watch a lecture by David Irving and see who he focuses in on a few interesting facts and discrepancies while ignoring a wealth of contradictory evidence. Irving’s arguments are blown apart with a quick visit to Deborah Lipstadt’s website. Remind you of anyone else?

A plausible natural explanation? Conspiracy. Hallucination. Someone having a laugh to see if they could make people believe if the corpse really had got up and walked out of the tomb. The whole charade being a made up pile of hokum. Anything is more plausible than JC being raised from the dead by The Thing That Made The Things For Which There is No Known Maker.

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J. A. Kraulis December 24, 2010 at 11:26 am

Re: WLC vs. Dr. Krauss on March 30th

http://www.closertotruth.com/participant/Lawrence-Krauss/48

I’d be surprised if the debate with Krauss was anything other than a big disappointment, since the tepid topic will be “Has Science Eliminated the Need for God”. Even the most hard-boiled atheist would concede that some people need and benefit from religion, so the easy answer is no. Craig gets a free pass on this one.

I wonder how the topics are decided. Presumably by negotiation, and it seems Craig got everything he must wanted in advance. I pointed out earlier that Craig almost never debates cosmologists, so finally we have a cosmologist lined up against him and what do we get? A debate where Craig’s KCA and fine tuning argument are off topic!

I can already see where this goes. Krauss points out that science has revealed a reality enormously more magnificent and worthy of reverence than anything suspected by the authors of the fictional Bible. Look at the galaxies, look at the living cell, he will say. Yes indeed, Craig will respond, isn’t the glory of God awesome.

Snore.

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Martin December 24, 2010 at 8:58 pm

He even hedges his bets by quoting Kai Neilson and saying that all his arguments could fail, yet God could still exist!?!

Again, Craig is correct. This is from Introduction to Logic by Harry Gensler:

When we criticize an opponent’s argument, we try to show that it’s unsound. We try to show: (a) that one of the premises is false, or (b) that the conclusion doesn’t follow. If the argument has a false premise or is invalid, then our opponent hasn’t proved the conclusion. But the conclusion still might be true – and our opponent might later discover a better argument for it. To show a view to be false, we must do more than just refute an argument for it; we must invent an argument of our own that shows the view to be false.

I mean, I’m sorry but this is just basic logic 101 stuff. It seems to me that your hatred of Craig is so strong that you’ll throw logic out the window just because he uses it.

A plausible natural explanation? Conspiracy. Hallucination.

And Craig would argue that these don’t explain the facts of the resurrection. Hallucination would explain the resurrection appearances, but it wouldn’t explain the empty tomb. Conspiracy would explain the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances, but it would not explain the apostles wanting to do for their belief.

And with both of these you would have to build a case for hallucination or conspiracy in order to use them as viable hypotheses. Can you show evidence that there is a motive and ability to pull of a conspiracy? Etc.

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manicstreetpreacher December 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Martin

Well, none other than Immanuel Kant argued that you cannot just argue something into existence with sheer force of logic. Syllogisms are just summaries of an argument if you already agree with the conclusion.

So there!

Like Craig and all these other NT “scholars”, you make the mistake of assuming that the Gospel narrative is true in some loose historical sense true and then proceed to explain the “facts” such as the empty tomb or post-mortem appearances either through naturalistic or divine methods.

I notice that you ignored my final possible explanation that story is a made up pile of hokum. Who said there was a tomb to be emptied in the first place?

I realise that I cannot prove any of these naturalistic alternatives to the resurrection. But then again what are you expecting, Martin; a copy of The Jerusalem Times dated Easter Monday 30AD with a screaming headline, “Crucified man stays dead in tomb!”?!

Craig is the one making the extraordinary claim that something happened that is in direct contradiction with the natural order i.e. that a dead guy got up and walked out of his grave and then shot up to heaven.

I’m just going though the same thought processes that Craig does in respect of Perseus slaying Medusa: that the story has little if any basis in fact and is a manmade myth.

And before you say it, the absence of evidence is most definitely evidence of absence. There is no evidence whatsoever outside the Old Testament for the stories of Moses and the Exodus. Even Craig has acknowledged that these are seen as founding myths of Israel like the founders of Ancient Rome Romulus and Remus being raised by a she-wolf.

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TheMirabillis December 27, 2010 at 3:53 am

I keep hearing how much of a lier Craig is. How much he is engaged in rhetoric. The simple fact is he is making ‘plausible arguments’ for the existence of God. His books are readily available, his videos also. Everything he talks about is easily accessible to anyone who is going to debate him. Yet everytime someone goes to debate him… they “appear” very unprepared to properly debunk his basic 5-6 points. You would think by now that someone has got the hint and thought.. “Gee… I might study my enemies arguments and get him on them.. I will get a hold of his books and study them etc.. and do a good rebuttal on his points”.. But no it has not been successfully done.

The biggest problem I have out of all the reviews on YT and blogs and reviews is that no atheist really knows too much about philosophy… Atheists seem to think they are in a neutral free zone in gaining access to the truth.. the world is freely given so the atheist thinks….The atheist appears to never question their presuppositions, their epistemology, their hermenuetic of reading and interpretation.

The atheist doesn’t know much of Kant, Hume, Heidegger, Gadamer, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, nor do they know much about the philosophy of science. If I was an atheist I would think it laughable how weak the the atheistic program is.. The arguments from atheists are truelly very weak especially when compared to reading Heidegger and Nietzsche.

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citizenghost December 27, 2010 at 10:40 am

TheMirabillis

Everything he talks about is easily accessible to anyone who is going to debate him. Yet everytime someone goes to debate him… they “appear” very unprepared to properly debunk his basic 5-6 points.

I hear this frequently from Craig’s defenders and I can’t help but wonder what debates they are watching. Craig’s points are debunked all the time – both in forums like this one and in any number of the debates that are available on YouTube.

Curiously, Craig’s defenders simply choose the ignore the panopoly of criticism.

The fact that Craig’s rhetorical approach is still taken seriously by individuals who claim an interest in philosophy says a great deal more about the sorry state of academic philosophy that it does about the “atheist program” (whatever that is supposed to mean).

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TheMirabillis December 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm

citizenghost

Why I reject criticism on Craig’s arguments is because the atheists just really do not have good replies to Craig’s arguments. Especially on the cosmological argument as well as the moral argument. Atheists do what they accuse the the theist of doing. They make appeals to authority, use fallacies, speculate without evidence, assume certain forms of knowledge to be correct. They do this in the name of reason & logic & science and yet when you use listen to the atheists you think… man alive… your doing what your accusing the theist of doing.

Even though I like Craig.. I personally would go a different way in the debates and come from a German and French persective on philosophy. The reason being…. there are too many Anglo-American thinkers who have had it hammered into their heads that a certain way of thinking is the only way to get to the truth. Kant, Heidegger, Gadamer, Nietzsche & Delueze would throw a lot of knowledge out of the window the American atheist trusts in & accepts. And sad to say but a large majority of the Anglo-American world have not got a clue about Heidegger.. If they do they have been told not to take the German or French way of thinking too seriously and with the added assumption us Americans have the inside scoop on how to really get to the truth.

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Martin December 29, 2010 at 9:52 pm

citizenghost,

Craig’s points are debunked all the time

What you are saying is that the premises of his arguments are shown to be false instead of true, in debates. Can you show a specific example of this?

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citizenghost December 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

What you are saying is that the premises of his arguments are shown to be false instead of true, in debates. Can you show a specific example of this?

Either false or unsupported. Absolutely. Let’s touch on each one of his arguments. (I won’t bother with his “personal witness” argument which, I’m sure you’ll agree, isn’t an argument at all).

1. It’s almost unfair to keep picking on his “historical Jesus” argument (which doesn’t merely suffer from unfounded premises but also from astonishingly poor reasoning), but his key premise there – that historians agree on the “fact” of the empty tomb – was exposed as plainly false by Bart Ehrman in their debate (and in greater detail in Ehrman’s writings), as it has in the writings of many other historians.

2. Craig’s morality argument rests on a core premise, the assertion that “objective morality” requires the existence of God. I refer you to Craig’s debate with Shelly Kagan who shows why this premise is entirely false. (Craig has no answer except to redefine “objective” so as to create a perfectly circular and utterly useless argument). The nice thing about Craig’s debate with Shelly Kagan is that the very premise is the topic of debate. In such tight quarters, Craig’s has less room to get away with his usual word games and rhetorical flourish.

3. No need to spend much more time on the Cosmology argument. Even if we were to accept the initial Kalam portion of the argument (whose premises have been disputed by many prominent cosmologists who are far better acquanited with quantam mechanics than Craig is) Craig’s argument doesn’t get very far. He goes from “the Universe has a cause” to “the cause MUST be an ominpotent personal BEING with a will” by resorting to assumptions in physics that no actual physicist would possibly agree with. This has been well covered by Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking, Quentin Smith and many others.

4. Which brings us to fine-tuning. This is the most seductively appealing of Craig’s arguments and probably the only one that really ought to be taken seriously. But it still is rooted in unfounded premises and appeals to ignorance. (“Look at this remarkable & baffling universe. This all seems so gosh-darned improbable, therefore….”).

Earlier, you defended his disjuncitve premise :

“Saying “the fine tuning is due to a designer, multiverse, or string theory” is the same as saying “fine tuning is due to a designer, chance, or physical necessity.”

I don’t think it’s the same thing at all. It’s certainly inconsistent with everything I’ve read about multiverse theory and string theory. Putting that aside, what is the basis for claiming that these “explanations” are either exclusive or exhaustive? Does Craig have an argument for why “Design” is MORE probable than either multiverse theory or string theory? He does not. What he has is a rhetorical trick – a disjuncitive syllogism rooted in a false dillema. A classic fallacy.

As for the premises themselves, there are many physicists and cosmologists who refute Craig’s premises that the physical constants of the Universe could not be owed to chance or to the nature of the Universe itself. But I’m sure you know this.

Finally, you are still insisting that because Craig’s arguments are logically “valid,” the only thing that remains to be discussed is whether the premises are true. But there’s plenty else to discuss. An argument isn’t simply a bunch of factual premises inserted into syllogism. Any proper argument entails inferences which themselves must be supported. Craig’s aren’t. And the burden of proving Craig’s premises false (or his inferences well-reasoned) is no more on me or any of those who debate Craig, than it is on him to demonstrate why he is justified in making them.

Perhaps you are simply taking issue with my use of the term “debunked.” If so I’ll gladly accept the rebuke and rephrase: The paucity and weakness of Craig’s points have been exposed thoroughly and convincingly from a broad range of critics and scholars as well as contributors to this very message board.

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TheMirabillis January 1, 2011 at 5:34 am

citizenghost

1. Kagan is offering a fairly commonsensical view of morality in that talk. I would feel very frustrated in a lecture if I had him as a philosophy lecturer. He is not pressing the question of morality far enough or deep enough. In essense… all he is saying is… that certain actions are wrong because they are wrong. And we as people have decided & come to a consensus that certain actions are wrong.

This is why I have mentioned Nietzsche, Heidegger & Deleuze before. They press the question of morality much further & deeper. I would agree with Craig in this talk & anyone that doesn’t go to the depth that Craig is going to in describing the basis of objective morality or even thinking about what Nietzsche had to say is just not a deeper thinker.

2. Where Kagan’s view breaks down for the atheist is to imagine for a moment …that an atheist lived in a predominately Christian culture where Christian morality had been adopted and practiced. Certain views of morality were seen to be rational and conducive & laws passed on these views were agreed upon but disagreed by an atheist… then what ? The Christian could say to the atheist… “Well look… 80 % of us are Christians and its perfectly rational for us to act a certain way. We have made these morals and come to a consensus and entered into contract to see our morals lived out. If you don’t like it then you just have to come to see that your way of thinking and acting is wrong”.

Now…. this is where the atheist bucks the system on Kagan’s view. To the atheist they will do what they can to overthrow the Christian view of morality and even protest and attempt to get laws passed.. thinking that the Christian views are “really” wrong. So basically… on the one hand the atheist may like Kagan’s view …yet on the other hand… when its working against them… then they will reject Kagan’s view.

3. As for the Cosmological Argument… atheists have to presuppose (if they are going with current cosmology such as Hawking & Krauss) that the quantum energy field before the big bang is eternal… Of course the atheistic cosmologist moves into speculation at this point and tries to sell off the thinking that they are going where the evidence leads. I would disagree with them completely. Immanuel Kant the German philosopher would be critical against these cosmologists for trying to extend the categories and principles of the human mind to where they cannot go. And Ludwig Wittgenstein the famous Austrian philosopher would critique them on using factual everyday language to describe that which cannot be talked about. Overall… it breaks down because you have two systems of “belief”.. One in God and one in an eternal field of quantum energy. The atheistic cosmologist is speculating and even by their own admission they are doing that. So… to say that Craig jumps to the conclusion that God did it … The atheists jumps to the conclusion that quantum energy and the law of gravity did it (without no corresponding evidence.. just speculation). To judge Craig for resorting to assumptions is calling calling the kettle black since its what the atheistic cosmologist does himself/herself.

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Martin January 1, 2011 at 10:26 pm

citizenghost,

As for Jesus, check this out: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8013

It’s not exactly on topic, but it does display something that concerns me. Christ myth theories are a bit like creationism for atheists. It’s something many of them seem to dogmatically believe in, despite the fact that hardly any peer-reviewed NT historian takes it seriously. All that is ignored in favor of a few popular sensationalist writers. Books about Christ myth are like Discovery Institute books about the origin of life. You can tell a crank from a real historian when he doesn’t publish anything in respectable journals.

As for the moral argument, Kagan may make some good points, but Craig’s argument also has a core plausibility. The first premise is the old is/ought problem. If materialism is true, then all there is is “is” and hence, no oughts. The second premise for objective morality may be difficult to tell if it’s true or not, but do note that most ethicists lean towards moral realism: http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl?affil=Target+faculty&areas0=30&areas_max=1&grain=fine

The most Craig’s arguments are guilty of is the same problem any philosophical argument has, which is tons of objections. The problem of evil is no different.

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manicstreetpreacher January 2, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Martin

I don’t want to get too off-topic but your response to mythicism is part of the reason why I am sceptical as to whether Jesus the man ever existed at all.

Rather than engaging in perfect valid objections to Jesus’ existence, believers start shrieking about how sceptics are akin to Holocaust deniers (or creationists in your case), wheeling out their armies of “scholars” and saying that George Wells is not qualified to criticise religion because he is a professor of German literature.

That is not an argument or a refutation. That is an ad hom and an appeal to authority. But perhaps nothing less should be expected from a fawning Craigophile.

For the record, my two pence is that a person or persons vaguely resembling JC existed around that time i.e. a charismatic, eccentric preacher trying to lead a messianic movement who met a sticky end thanks to the Romans and the Jewish establishment. It is this story that has been melded into the New Testament narrative.

However, the waters have been sufficiently muddied by the passage of time, transmission of documents, embellishments, interpolations etc. that the original man has been lost so that he may as well be a figment of someone’s imagination.

So there.

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manicstreetpreacher January 2, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Continuing from my last comment.

I watched that clip of Eddie Tabash asking Craig during his 1998 debate against Peter Atkins and think that Tabash made a very good point. If God has to remind humanity of his power and presence with violations in the natural order in the form of miracles, why doesn’t he perform these in the 21st century in full view of CNN’s cameras?

As Thomas Paine pointed out in The Age of Reason, even if the events described in the Bible really did happen, we today are perfectly entitled – if not obliged – to disbelieve them as they are still hearsay:

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication – after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.

When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.

When I am told that the Koran was written in Heaven and brought to Mahomet by an angel, the account comes too near the same kind of hearsay evidence and second-hand authority as the former. I did not see the angel myself, and, therefore, I have a right not to believe it.

Look what’s happening today in Zimbabwe for example. That is quite a strong Catholic country. Don’t they deserve a prophet from heaven to spread a few plagues and part a few oceans in order to free God’s people from the evil Pharaoh Mugabe?

Or does God have to witness 400 years of untold suffering by his devoted followers before deciding to lift a finger?

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Martin January 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

That is an ad hom and an appeal to authority.

Appeal to authority is only fallacious when the authority is in an irrelevant field. I would argue that most of your knowledge comes from authorities. How do you know the dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid? Because you measured sedimentary layers yourself or because you accept what paleontologists tell you?

Bart Ehrman is a non-Christian NT historian. As he says, the myth theory is something that is only written about by sensationalist authors trying to make a buck. You won’t find much peer-reviewed support for it.

The historicity of Jesus comes from the criterion of embarrassment. Why do Luke and Matthew have to invent such absurd stories to get Jesus to be born in Bethlehem? Most likely because the real person wasn’t born there and thus they had a problematic fact on their hands. Why does Mark mention Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, which is then downplayed in the later Luke and Matthew, and then eliminated entirely by the even later John? Most likely because it was an inconvenient fact of the real person that had to be dealt with by the Christian propagandists. Why do the gospel writers keep trying to downplay the prediction that Jesus would return within the lifetime of his followers? Most likely because a real person made that prediction.

Myth theory is quickly becoming an article of faith among atheists. More and more, I see atheists turning into a quasi-religious group that are just as stubbornly ignorant of anything that doesn’t line up with their worldview as any good fundamentalist Christian.

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J. A. Kraulis January 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Martin, that Bart Ehrman interview is not very convincing. He claims (several times) that he knows “thousands” of New Testament scholars and not a single one of them doubts the historicity of Jesus. That’s just complete hyperbole and cannot be true. I doubt that any of us know “thousands” of other experts in whatever field we work in, nor is it conceivable that you would find such unanimity in ANY scholarly field. If you can find among biologists and physicists those who believe religious doctrine, surely you can find historians who hold minority views regarding Jesus. And when the interviewer asks him about Robert Price, Ehrman at first pretends he doesn’t know who he is! Doesn’t sound very intellectually honest, IMHO.

Ehrman’s logic is furthermore so poor that I can’t see how his analyses could be very “sophisticated” (to borrow a word from Craig). He says we may as well doubt that the Holocaust happened and that Abraham Lincoln existed. Dare one suggest there is a slight difference between events and persons actually photographed, documented in thousands of original publications, attested to by living witnesses or their grandparents versus stories told or retold (?) in a handful of single-copy bits of parchment two thousand years old? He then brings up the example of Julius Caesar. In fact, if it was documented that Caesar did fantastic feats, say defeated an army of ten thousand men all by himself and swam across the Mediterranean to visit Cleopatra, there would be serious discussion about whether or not this Caesar actually existed as well. The reason the existence of Jesus is legitimately questionable is that it is claimed this man was born to a virgin, performed all kinds of fantastic miracles during his lifetime and rose from the dead after three days. In other words, did things beyond incredible if one has not had prior persuasion through Christian dogma. On that basis, there is very good reason to suspect that Jesus is a mythical person, like Hercules, and a truly objective historical analysis might seek to understand how this fantasy came to acquire such a mantle of authenticity. Hercules has nothing to offer us, while Jesus, so many people really want to believe, apparently does, and that makes all the difference to how he is studied and the biases that are brought into any investigation of his life. As you well know, “serious” Islamist scholars, “authorities” in their own right, have a completely different view of the divinity of Jesus from that of Christian “authorities”, and I’m sure it’s pretty much unanimous too.

But in the end, whether there actually was such a person as Jesus or not is besides the point. It’s completely irrelevant. Contrary to your assumptions, I would think that most so-called atheists couldn’t care less if Jesus existed or didn’t. The mere fact that the fantastic stories about him can be linked to an actual individual doesn’t make those events the least bit more likely to have occurred. We know that Baron Munchhausen really existed (his dates are known with more certainty than those of the alleged Jesus: b 11 may 1720 – d 22 feb 1797). Does that make the stories about what he did any more likely? (BTW, something not unrelated to the Munchhausen Syndrome isn’t a bad explanation for the supposedly witnessed miracles of Jesus, etc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Münchausen_syndrome.) Muhammad also existed. Should we have a debate on whether or not he rode to heaven on a horse?

And, BTW, Ehrman is not a “non-Christian”; look him up. He claims to be agnostic now (so he still half believes), but he can no more let go of his deeply inculcated religious prejudices than Karen Armstrong has ever been able to let go of hers. When you have invested so much of your life in a certain belief, you will always want to find in your past at least something that is justifiable and redeemable. Sir Fred Hoyle, as brilliant an intellect as ever walked the earth, could never give up on his Steady State Theory, even while far lesser minds could readily see that it was wrong.

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manicstreetpreacher January 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Appeal to authority is only fallacious when the authority is in an irrelevant field.

I think a discussion of whether theology and biblical “scholarship” are academic subjects at all deserves a thread all to itself.

As Dawkins would put it, “How much Leprechaunology do you have to read up on before deciding to disbelieve in them?”

How do you know the dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid? Because you measured sedimentary layers yourself or because you accept what palaeontologists tell you?

Again, I don’t want to get too off-topic, but actually there is a healthy debate between scientists as to what exactly killed the dinosaurs. Was it an asteroid, climate change, disease, egg stealers?

If someone comes up with a new and interesting theory, the science establishment does not start howling and trotting out their armies of “scholars” to reinforce the old theories.

Check out this clip of Dawkins imagining if science worked in this fashion.

The historicity of Jesus comes from the criterion of embarrassment.

Ah the good ol’ criteria of embarrassment! I was wondering when someone would bring that one up.

“Look, everyone! It’s so stupidly childish that no one in their right mind would believe it, THERE MUST BE SOMETHING TRUE ABOUT IT!”

Academic discipline FAIL! Name me another subject that uses such a pathetic argument?

And while you’re thinking of an answer, take a look at my disgracefully “unscholarly” piece debunking Richard Bauckham’s pile of claptrap, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

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Eric the Red January 6, 2011 at 3:04 am

Fun fact: this post is now being quoted by idiotic Christians as “evidence” for their god – because Craig wins debates.

Debates like these are fun and interesting and even intellectually stimulating, but ultimately don’t prove anything other than who is the better debater.

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Murrath January 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Hi Luke
You said “in a later post I’ll show why. I’ll show how to properly respond to Craig’s arguments” – has that been done yet? If yes, where is it?
I listened to the New Zealand Brian Edwards debate/discussion and thought you mustn’t have heard of it. Then I see it down in the ‘ugly’ section.
I thought Edwards took it to him and left him squirming and pathetic. Is that what you think is ugly?
If Edward’s thorough slaying of the dragon is not to your taste I look forward to seeing what you regard as the right response.
Perhaps as an Australian I find the New Zealands approach more to my taste. Craig doesn’t do nearly as well when he can’t ‘take charge’ in his usual way because he’s up against another man who talks for a living.

Murrath, Australia

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citizenghost January 7, 2011 at 7:01 am

TheMirabillis,

Whether or not Kagan is a good professor or a”deep” thinker when it comes to morality, he certainly does a thorough job of exposing the flaws in Craig’s own morality argument. Kagan’s own views seem to along the lines of John Rawls which, I would argue, don’t suffer from a lack of depth. But as you suggest, it’s a philosophy which is “commonsensical” and that makes it less appealing to more adventurous thinkers. Atheists may or may not agree with Kagan’s own view of morality.

What you seem to be saying is that Kagan’s own views of morality are either flawed or unsatsifying. But remember, Kagan isn’t the one attempting a “proof” of the existence of God (or anything else) using morality. That’s Craig. And Kagan illustrates why Craig’s key premise “Objective morality cannot exist without God” is a poor one. For one thing, it’s easy to see how Craig plays fast and loose with the word “objective.” But more basically, Craig’s fundamental assumption is that for moral values (or any values) to have meaning, we must have eternal life. Craig doesn’t offer any basis for this, yet it is at the core of his morality argument. One need only think about that proposition for about 3 seconds to realize that it’s a complete non-sequitur.

As for cosmology , you say “The atheists jumps to the conclusion that quantum energy and the law of gravity did it (without no corresponding evidence.. just speculation)”

Not exactly. What scientists say (and not just “atheists”) is that the cause of the universe, if it can be understood, is likely to be understood by appealing to science – not by appealing to the supernatural. What scientists say is “I don’t know.” This isn’t a weakness in the scientific approach. It is a strength. Craig, on the other hand, appeals to ignorance. He looks at the bewildering complexity of the Universe and the things that are difficult to explain and says “Well what ELSE could be behind this.” He’s too clever to frame it in such obvious terms, but that’s the plain logic he uses to defend his premises.

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Martin January 7, 2011 at 8:05 am

Murrath,

Just a quick note. Craig is weak when he tries to defend the Bible or conservative Christianity. This is his Achilles heel. In that debate with Edwards, he is his usual strong self until he tries to defend specific Biblical stuff, like the 10 Commandments.

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Martin January 7, 2011 at 8:10 am

citizenghost,

Kagan illustrates why Craig’s key premise “Objective morality cannot exist without God” is a poor one.

But this is basically just David Hume’s “is/ought” problem. You can’t derive an ought from an is, and if naturalism is true, then all there is is “is.” I don’t know if this is true or not, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a weak premise.

the universe, if it can be understood, is likely to be understood by appealing to science – not by appealing to the supernatural. What scientists say is “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know” is good, and indeed these types of arguments are ultimately speculative. They are like today’s versions of Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus’ metaphysical theories. Of course, Democritus turned out to be right.

But the appeal to the supernatural is actually rational in this case (even if it is not ultimately correct). Kalam argues that the universe began to exist, and if so, and if it needs a cause, then that cause can’t be physical (since the laws of physics come into existence at that point).

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citizenghost January 7, 2011 at 10:26 am

Martin,

Craig’s first premise “Objective morality cannot exist without God” certainly touches upon the Hume “is/ought” problem.

But I don’t think it’s quite the same thing – mainly because of Craig’s introduction of this fuzzy term “objective.” What does he mean by it? We can understand what this might mean in the context of “is/ought.” For moral values to be objective they can’t merely be descriptive (‘is”), they must also be prescriptive (“ought”). Yes? That seems reasonable enough.

But that’s not all Craig means by “objective.” When Craig offers his 2nd premise: “objective moral values exist,” he’s not just proposing moral realism. (After all, Kagan too is a moral realist). He’s setting up a false dichotomy – Moral values are either “objective” or they aren’t real. And for Craig, moral values aren’t real (or “objective”) unless they are “transcendent” and unless humans can live forever. How does he support this? I don’t believe he ever does. Indeed, he has no response when Kagan challenges him on these points .

If “objective” refers to something that is true regardles of individual opinion, then one can certainly offer explanations for moral values that do not require “transcendence” or God. Hume himself did exactly that. Such explanations may well have problems but then so too does Craig’s.

How does Craig support his view that “objective morals exist.” Because many people think they do? Because it would be better if they did? Because the notion that some things are always right and other things are always wrong is somehow intuitive?

Another problem. God can exist. And God can be the source of “objective” values. But all that provides is a basis for saying that such things are “objective” – it still doesn’t tell us the first thing about what makes something MORAL – i.e., what makes one thing good and another thing bad.

I agree that with respect to the moral argument, Craig has crafted a logically valid argument. But, as we’ve discussed, that doesn’t make it a good or sound argument.

C.G.

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Richard Romano January 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

The debate with Dr. Morgantaler was very painful to listen to; Craig presented a rational case for the Christian faith, while Morgantaler appealed to emotion and anecdotal evidence, essentially undermining his position that secular humanism is based on reason.

He even made glaringly ridiculous factual mistakes — “millions” of witches were killed during the inquisitions, including Salem?

I actually felt bad for Dr. Morgantaler — he was clearly out of his league.

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TheMirabillis January 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm

citizenghost

Definitions:
Objective morality = some action is wrong or right worldwide and not dependant on anyones

opinion of the action.
Subjective morality = something is wrong or right based upon a person(s) or societies particular

values only

Craig does not assume that for objective morality to have meaning we must have eternal life.

Rather.. Craig is offering the view that for objective morality to exist we would need to have a

standard to appeal to.. to measure our morals by… that transcends cultures and people(s)….

otherwise morality is just a spin off from socio-biological-evolutionary-processes. And one who

flouted the given morality would just be acting unfashionable like someone who belched at the

table. It just would be a distatesful act….. but the action is not ‘really-objectively-wrong’ “in

the sense” that Craig is describing.

He does believe that atheists can live & act morally. His question to the atheist however is…. What is the basis for objective morality ? This basis is the ground and the standard which surpasses any one particular culture or person. Why is this problematic for the atheists ? Because what society may see as a ‘really-objectively-wrong-action’ now… may if 50 years time been seen as ok. Morals become abitrary and can shift like sand dunes in a desert. On athiesm…. there is no objective morality “in the sense” that Craig is describing. I concur with Craig on this and so do many philosophers and atheistic philosophers at that.

The most plausible explanation for an objective standard and ground for morality is given to a

transcendent being of some type. This being is typically known as God. In the thought of

Martin Heidegger (German philosopher) this ground would be in ‘Being’. There have been

attempts to see how Heidegger’s ‘Being’ & ‘the monotheistic God’ are synomous in some way.

Albeit… it does take an excursus into negative theology.

As for Cosmology there are many problematic issues to draw upon by appealing to science as we

know it. There are issues of cognition. That is…. whether our cognition does know an external

reality & if our theories correspond one-to-one with that reality. In Friedrich Nietzsche’s

paper called “Truth And Lie In An Extra Moral Sense” (available on Google) he draws our

attention to the fact that all truth is just metaphoric and charges us with an anthropomorphism

and an anthropocentrism. That is to say…. that all our ways of viewing life, the cosmos etc… are “only” human ways of seeing it. Immanuel Kant drew this out very strongly in his “Critique Of Pure Reason”. This has been followed up in the thought of many major philosophers including Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Nelson Goodman, Thomas Kuhn etc.

Scientists do not say they don’t know how the universe came into being. They say they do know… refer to current cosmology with Hawking and Krauss. Their thought is speculation and people have bought into the thinking they are following where the evidence leads. What I find strange with atheists on forums or YT is that if they don’t agree with Craig… they say he is using a logical fallacy… yet Craig is not using a logical fallacy…. nor is he out to “proove” that God exists….. he is rather using arguments to show “the plausibility” of the existence of God. There is a difference between proof arguments & plausible arguments. On a personal note.. due to my education in philosophy from 2 major universities .. I don’t only think… but I know that naive realism in science is barking up the wrong tree.

To say Craig is using a fallacy…. is like me saying… “Ok.. I don’t agree with Hawking on his law of gravity etc.. and what he is saying is a logical fallacy. No… its not a fallacy…. its just that I don’t happen to agree with his conclusive argument about the origin of everything. Even if I was an atheist I would still have to say that Craig has the stronger arguments. Why ? Due to my education in philosophy. The ‘majority’ of atheists I have encountered just flounder & get totally lost. Rather…. they are an ignorant bunch who are not deeper thinkers…. who have no exposure to Hume, Kant, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Husserl, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Goodman, evolutionary epistemology, hermeneutics etc. The atheists I have encounted are not the brights but the dulls.

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TheMirabillis January 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Exuse the way the above comments are set out.. the computer went haywire !

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TheMirabillis January 7, 2011 at 7:28 pm

citizenghost

Definitions:
Objective morality = some action is wrong or right worldwide and not dependant on anyones opinion of the action.
Subjective morality = something is wrong or right based upon a person(s) or societies particular values only

Craig does not assume that for objective morality to have meaning we must have eternal life. Rather.. Craig is offering the view that for objective morality to exist we would need to have a standard to appeal to.. to measure our morals by… that transcends cultures and people(s)…. otherwise morality is just a spin off from socio-biological-evolutionary-processes. And one who flouted the given morality would just be acting unfashionable like someone who belched at the table. It just would be a distatesful act….. but the action is not ‘really-objectively-wrong’ “in the sense” that Craig is describing.

He does believe that atheists can live & act morally. His question to the atheist however is…. What is the basis for objective morality ? This basis is the ground and the standard which surpasses any one particular culture or person. Why is this problematic for the atheists ? Because what society may see as a ‘really-objectively-wrong-action’ now… may if 50 years time been seen as ok. Morals become abitrary and can shift like sand dunes in a desert. On athiesm…. there is no objective morality “in the sense” that Craig is describing. I concur with Craig on this and so do many philosophers and atheistic philosophers at that.

The most plausible explanation for an objective standard and ground for morality is given to a transcendent being of some type. This being is typically known as God. In the thought of Martin Heidegger (German philosopher) this ground would be in ‘Being’. There have been attempts to see how Heidegger’s ‘Being’ & ‘the monotheistic God’ are synomous in some way. Albeit… it does take an excursus into negative theology.

As for Cosmology there are many problematic issues to draw upon by appealing to science as we know it. There are issues of cognition. That is…. whether our cognition does know an external reality & if our theories correspond one-to-one with that reality. In Friedrich Nietzsche’s paper called “Truth And Lie In An Extra Moral Sense” (available on Google) he draws our attention to the fact that all truth is just metaphoric and charges us with an anthropomorphism and an anthropocentrism. That is to say…. that all our ways of viewing life, the cosmos etc… are “only” human ways of seeing it. Immanuel Kant drew this out very strongly in his “Critique Of Pure Reason”. This has been followed up in the thought of many major philosophers including Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Nelson Goodman, Thomas Kuhn etc.

Scientists do not say they don’t know how the universe came into being. They say they do know… refer to current cosmology with Hawking and Krauss. Their thought is speculation and people have bought into the thinking they are following where the evidence leads. What I find strange with atheists on forums or YT is that if they don’t agree with Craig… they say he is using a logical fallacy… yet Craig is not using a logical fallacy…. nor is he out to “proove” that God exists….. he is rather using arguments to show “the plausibility” of the existence of God. There is a difference between proof arguments & plausible arguments. On a personal note.. due to my education in philosophy from 2 major universities .. I don’t only think… but I know that naive realism in science is barking up the wrong tree.

To say Craig is using a fallacy…. is like me saying… “Ok.. I don’t agree with Hawking on his law of gravity etc.. and what he is saying is a logical fallacy. No… its not a fallacy…. its just that I don’t happen to agree with his conclusive argument about the origin of everything. Even if I was an atheist I would still have to say that Craig has the stronger arguments. Why ? Due to my education in philosophy. The ‘majority’ of atheists I have encountered just flounder & get totally lost. Rather…. they are an ignorant bunch who are not deeper thinkers…. who have no exposure to Hume, Kant, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Husserl, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Goodman, evolutionary epistemology, hermeneutics etc. The atheists I have encounted are not the brights but the dulls.

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citizenghost January 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm

TheMirabillis,

Thanks for your reply.

Definitions:
Objective morality = some action is wrong or right worldwide and not dependant on anyones opinion of the action.
Subjective morality = something is wrong or right based upon a person(s) or societies particular values only

If THOSE are the definitions of “subjective morality” and “objective morality” then there should be little difficulty at all in understanding how objective moral values could exist without the existence of God. A great many moral philosophers – and much “deeper thinkers” than Craig – have explained exactly that. (Even Hume stands for objective morality under that definition.) So if those are the definitions, we can stop right here. Craig’s first premise is dead in the water.

Craig does not assume that for objective morality to have meaning we must have eternal life.

Sure he does. Indeed, he makes clear that he does in debate after debate. He says it all the time: “If life and the Universe are coming to an end, then there can be no objective values of any kind. Nothing we do matters.” How does this fit in with the definitions of objective and subjective morality that you’ve provided? It doesn’t. It’s a complete non-sequitur. And yet his morality argument rests entirely on this assertion.

( In the Kagan debate, Craig has absolutely no response for any of this. He looks like a lost college freshman – hardly a deep-thinking philosopher).

Of course what Craig is doing here isn’t philosophy, much less “deep” philosophy – it’s rhetoric. He sets up a false dichotomy: Either moral values are “objective” (i.e., absolute, eternal, derived from a standard that transcends the universe ) or morality isn’t real. Anyone who HAS studied moral philosophy and who IS familiar with the deep thinkers you mentioned can spot the trick in an instant. It’s a false dilemma.

(Not to mention an obvious and crass appeal to emotion – for who would accept an alternative in which child rape and Auschwitz are OK?).

But perhaps I’m being unfair. Craig might actually believe what he’s saying – many theists do. They genuinely believe that unless there is divine supervising being, there can be no meaning or values in the world beyond their own whims. A rather sad and impoverished view if you ask me, but if that’s their belief, then that’s their belief. But Craig doesn’t give a good argument for it. And sure, you can find atheists as well as theists who hold to that view, but it’s certainly not the position held by the majority of moral philosophers – but then, you already know this.

Craig is offering the view that for objective morality to exist we would need to have a standard to appeal to.. to measure our morals by… that transcends cultures and people(s)…. otherwise morality is just a spin off from socio-biological-evolutionary-processes

Morality may well result solely from a biological-evolutionary process. That hardly precludes the existence of objective morality – unless of course “objective” is defined in such a way as to make the whole argument circular. This is precisely the sort of equivocation Craig engages in constantly. It’s a signature part of his word games.

Don’t get me wrong – this issue of morality is a problem and its counfounded philosophers for centuries. But it’s not a greater problem for an atheist than it is for a theist. Yes, the existence of a supervisory supernatural being would allow you to point to some source of of authority for which you can say “Look! Standards!” But when it comes to explaining what morality actually IS – what makes one thing good and another thing bad, you’re right back at square one. Craig’s treatment of morality is incredibly superficial – for him, morality amounts to nothing more than a set of commands. He ignores the role of moral reasoning entirely. You can’t seriously be claiming that Craig is a “deep thinker” in this area.

Quite simply, the moral questions and problems that we face would be exactly the same whether a supernatural God exists or doesn’t exist.

Scientists do not say they don’t know how the universe came into being. They say they do know… refer to current cosmology with Hawking and Krauss

I’m sorry to call your bluff on this one. But anyone who thinks that Hawking or Krauss claim to KNOW how the universe came into being, has never read anything written by Hawking or Krauss.

C.G.

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Joe Fasulo January 12, 2011 at 7:15 am

Atheists generally lose arguments for very definable and measurable reasons. a. They generally do not counter specifically and pointedly each assertion made by their challengers. This is probably because of the inability for most people to remember each statement made and each argument presented as in Craig’s 4 reasons for a god and designer. b. They do not take into account the behaviorist account of conditioning and it’s effects on morality. Even Hitchens does not account for children’s behavior in this fashion. He calls the honesty of children “innate” and therefore undefinable. c. They do not take into account the necessity of cooperation as a means for survival in a world that is obviously unsuitable for the size and complexity of the human brain. This leaves the human being completely dependent on it’s ability to use tools, predict the next most probably event, and adjust as best as it has been conditioned or trained (educated) to do. d. The English language and for that matter most languages that have evolved into what can best be described at this point in time as partially primitive and partially scientific. Primitive for the most part because it still includes the concept of freedom, wills, and freedom of the will. Humans according to definition are the only animals that have and practice this quality and hence we have a world filled with Law, Religion, Responsibility, Accountability, and many other attributes assigned to humans and not to animals of a lower cerebral capacity of size and/or quality. A mechanistic and referential language with appropriate definitions cannot and would not include such questionable realities.

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Raphael Lataster January 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I agree with Murrath above (another Australasian, as are Brian Edwards and I). Brian Edwards beat WLC hands down. I already disagreed with Luke’s reviews, and his fawning Craigophilia (as manicstreetpreacher calls it), but the “reviews” on the Edwards debates are utterly disgraceful. Here is a more in-depth review, by someone who isn’t taken in by Bill’s smarmy smile, smug demeanour, illogical arguments, and outright lies. Enjoy :)

http://www.pantheismunites.org/Articles/Debates%20-%20Brian%20Edwards%20vs%20WLC%20-%20Round%201.htm

More reviews will appear on my site. Perhaps I will have to re-review all these debates over because the more I listen to, the more I disagree with Luke’s reviews. I already have nearly finished the Tabash and Hitchins debates and should post these shortly. I should probably let them know that too. Particularly Tabash who did a fantastic job.

Here is my article too:
————————————————-

Brian Edwards vs. WLC, Round 1 – Bill Savaged by New Zealander
by Raphael Lataster

Maybe it’s an “Australasian thing”, but I have never seen William Lane Craig made to look so pathetic and squirmy as in this debate. The Christian philosopher, who normally is quite comfortable in a more traditional debate format, often can’t adequately answer the New Zealand media personality in this to-and-fro discussion.

What I find so fascinating is that within his first minute of speaking, Edwards DEMOLISHED all of Bill’s “4 facts” for the resurrection. And defined “atheism” before Bill could mention what he would like atheism to be (so he can shift the burden of proof as he often does). Edwards is very logical, open to ideas, honest and never ever accepts the burden of proof. This is exactly how I would debate Bill and his ilk.

Topic: The resurrection of Jesus

WLC: Bill starts off with his “4 facts”. The death of Jesus, the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the belief in Jesus. He claims that the best explanation for these 4 “facts” is that Bill’s god (Yahweh – why it couldn’t be Osiris or Zeus, he doesn’t explain) raised Jesus from the dead.

BE: Demolished Craig’s argument in 1 minute. Brian rightly said that these are not 4 facts at all, they are hearsay (found in the Christian Bible), and not universally believed. Also said that Bill’s argument assumes the existence of god (which makes Bill’s use of this point as evidence for his god, circular reasoning).

Dr. Edwards also calls Craig out on his shifting the burden of proof. Defines atheism (as simply a lack of belief in a personal god) and says an atheist who says “I know there is no god” is a fool. Bravo!

WLC: As fundies normally do, he refers to Socrates being improvable. Bill stumbles when asked for evidence by the host, but this intriguing development is interrupted by Edwards…

BE: Edwards rightly says that we are not making fantastical claims about Socrates (indeed, who kills or dies in Socrates’ name?). Bill got spanked and had no answer. Edwards then explains how Bill’s resurrection argument is circular. He says that resurrections generally don’t happen, but this time it’s okay, because god did it… Brian Edwards is on a roll.

WLC: Once again, Bill shows the weakness of Christianity’s claims and the dishonesty and illogical nature of his approach. He says that you can only discount god resurrecting Jesus if you can prove atheism to be true and prove that god doesn’t exist. What the? I shall refer to my oft-used example. William Lane Craig is a pedophile until he can prove otherwise. Bill can thank god that the justice system doesn’t work this way.

BE: Refers Bill back to his earlier definition of atheism. As atheism is a LACK of belief, not a BELIEF in itself, it doesn’t need proving (unlike the claims of fundamentalist religions). Also says he’s open to miracles, to possibility. Then tells Bill that Bill shouldn’t mention how difficult it is to prove things in history, because god exists now too, right? So where is he now? Where is the proof now? Bill stumbled, he couldn’t adequately address this great point…

WLC: “He’s in the bible”…

BE: Calls Bill out, says that Bill’s gone back to the past again, but where is god now?

WLC: Refers to his other points in his famous “5 points to prove god” (please read my other articles for an examination of these 5 points, including their inadequacy – 4 of the 5 points aren’t specific to Bill’s god, and the only one that arguably is, the resurrection of Jesus, is circular, illogical, lacks evidence, and makes many assumptions). Brian doesn’t cower away and says he’s happy to address them. Bill then says again that if you can’t prove atheism you need to be open to miracles. Even though atheism isn’t an ideology and thus needs no proving. And even though Edwards already said he’s open to all possibilities. I don’t see why so many people respect Bill Craig. He’s a disgrace to scholarship.

BE: Referring to Bill’s first point, that of a designer, he call’s Bill out on his hypocrisy. “So you’re unwilling to accept an uncaused universe, which we know exists, and are willing to accept an uncaused god, which we don’t know exists.” Bam! This is a “double whammy”. He exposes Bill’s hypocrisy (one is “certain” to be uncaused but the other just can’t be) AND the stupidity (we KNOW the universe exists, we can’t say that about god).

WLC: Bill then ASSUMES that the universe started at the big bang. This is not scientific at all. This isn’t proven and is disputed by many famous cosmologists.

BE: Says that Bill’s points are all inference, and that inference isn’t evidence. Good point.

WLC: “Yeah…”, but then changed his mind: “No, but…” Bill is struggling hard.

BE: “We could end all this right now if god just revealed himself! Why is he hiding?!” Excellent point.

WLC: Bill was then challenged by Edwards on even newborn babies being sinners. Bill said that this is something Christians disagree on. Edwards retorts, “like most things.” Bill then evades the follow-up question about his children being born sinners! He evades, laughs and moves on.

Host: Brings the discussion back to the resurrection.

WLC: Restates his “4 facts” of the resurrection. Puts words in Brian’s mouth by saying he doesn’t believe because it’s a miraculous explanation. Not true, Brian doesn’t believe because there isn’t any evidence. Brian also is open to all possibilities, like a good atheist should.

BE: Blasts god for doing jack all for billions (trillions?) of years, then suddenly decides to make us because he’s bored, makes us in his image because he’s vain etc… And he should know in advance that man will reject him… So he decides to come down to be crucified and resurrected… “I’m not gonna come down there and say “here I am”, you just have to believe in me by faith!” Bam! Also brilliantly says (as I have stated many times to believers also) that he’d rather believe in god, but he simply doesn’t. There’s no evidence.

The discussion continues on a bit even after the end of the official “debate”.

BE: Says that in New Zealand, 40-50% of churches don’t even believe the resurrection literally anymore; says a significant amount of Christians don’t believe in the resurrection. Very true, I’m one of them. Brian then says that the church is divided on this issue.

Note: This was a very crucial point. Often there are things that Bill Craig doesn’t want to discuss, saying “Well Christians disagree on that” (i.e. whether the Bible is perfect, which parts of the Bible are literal or allegorical, etc.), implying that he can thus evade such tough questions and explanations. Edwards brings up a fantastic point: not all Christians believe in the resurrection. Nor do all Christians believe in a literal Jesus or a literal Yahweh. Does that mean people like Bill can avoid proving Jesus/Yahweh too? Please…

BE: Asks why god is so coy, “Why not just show himself?”

WLC: Bill says that it has to do with the prepared heart. Says god is vague and unclear. Then drones on that god is revealed in scripture, in the world and in morality. I can’t believe this Bill-shit is allowed in a debate. He says if you open your mind and heart you can see this. This is an outright lie; I believed with an open heart and an open mind. I reached a point where I couldn’t believe anymore. By opening my mind I was led to atheism, to pantheism, to secular humanism, and to eastern philosophies. By opening my heart and mind and accepting that I may be wrong, I was taken to a place far from religious fundamentalism.

BE: Addresses Bill’s point about morality. Says it’s a social device. Asks, “if there is an objective morality from god, why is there no universal conscience?” Explains that the Maoris (indigenous New Zealanders) were cannibals before the Europeans arrived, and that the practice was seen as fine. Says there is only subjective morality. Also says if god gave us morality, it’s still subjective, as it came from him and not us.

WLC: Accuses Brian of saying there’s nothing morally wrong with the holocaust, rape or child abuse! Again, Bill is putting words in Brian’s mouth. The inglorious basterd! From this day forth I will no longer hold back in calling WLC a child molester. Let him disprove it.

BE: Call’s Bill out on his false and highly emotive argument. Says he does think those things are dreadful; awful. Re-iterates that there is no objective morality, and that we decide these things for ourselves.

Host: The host interestingly brings up the issue that they’re discussing Bill’s god (not just any, generic god). Indicates that Bill operates in a narrow world where it’s either Bill’s god, or no god. Bill evades it totally with more typical Bill-shit, “it’s not my god, I’m his”… The host makes a great point. Bill isn’t here to defend just any god, but HIS god. And he totally evades the issue.

BE: Says that it’s not fair for Bill to make these moralistic claims and that we shouldn’t confuse philosophy with reality. I.e. we may lack free will, but shouldn’t therefore give up on life. I say something similar; life may essentially be meaningless but we can still live with meaning. There may be no objective morals, but we can still choose to be “good”.

Summary: WLC provided no evidence for the resurrection. He supplied 4 “facts”, from the bible, none of which are verified by history. Edwards jumped on this in the first minute of his discussion, rightfully labeling Bill’s facts as hearsay. For me, it was a landslide victory, even after only one minute, by Edwards. Furthermore, WLC just ASSUMED that god exists when he says that the best explanation for the 4 facts is that god (note: HIS GOD) did it. Why it couldn’t have been Baal, I don’t know, Bill doesn’t explain…

Edwards also did a great job in explaining what atheism is and why believers must hold the burden of proof. Much talk followed, and I do give Edwards the upper hand for the rest of the debate. The point of the debate was the resurrection, and Bill thoroughly failed to prove it. He gave 4 “facts”, all from the bible, and not facts at all. As Edwards said, hearsay.

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Raphael Lataster January 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Here is my review on Brian Edwards vs WLC – round 2

http://www.pantheismunites.org/Articles/Debates%20-%20Brian%20Edwards%20vs%20WLC%20-%20Round%202.htm

A year after Edwards demolished WLC on the resurrection of Jesus, Bill came back for more. And really didn’t fare any better…

Luke’s one line reviews above says that Craig was formidable and had answers… Well, we must have been looking at different debates. He looked squirmy, not formidable, and evaded many questions, rather than providing logical and fact-filled answers. Pathetic.

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Lee February 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm

citizenghost,
But this is basically just David Hume’s “is/ought” problem. You can’t derive an ought from an is, and if naturalism is true, then all there is is “is.”I don’t know if this is true or not, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a weak premise.
“I don’t know” is good, and indeed these types of arguments are ultimately speculative. They are like today’s versions of Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus’ metaphysical theories. Of course, Democritus turned out to be right.But the appeal to the supernatural is actually rational in this case (even if it is not ultimately correct). Kalam argues that the universe began to exist, and if so, and if it needs a cause, then that cause can’t be physical (since the laws of physics come into existence at that point).  

Shelly Kagan pointed out in his conversation with WLC that theism doesn’t bridge the is/ought gap either. “Because God says so” isn’t compelling as a deductive argument for this purpose, and thats about all he’s got. Might makes right? Essence of the good? None of these bridge the gap, and they’re all question begging.

Your earlier points about burden of proof is just wrong. Atheists do not have to prove god does not exist, nor even provide evidence against it. As Descarte pointed out a couple hundred years ago, the default position is nonexistence. Any claim to existence must not just be asserted, but supported. Many things we take to exist (other minds, matter, etc) are, in large part, accepted simply because they are universally attested to. If philosophers were to ask around, and find that a good portion of the population isn’t convinced that matter exists, or that their mind is the only mind around, there would be very good reason to be skeptical about such things. As it stands, while we can’t prove deductively that these things exist (i.e. necessarily), there is good reason to accept such claims. This is the position theists try to leverage God into, and it’s simply not the right category.

Your analogy with Santa is salutary here; notice that every single point you bring up is a negative argument (isn’t, don’t, not, etc.). A “positive” argument against the existence of anything is inconceivable in any situation but logical contradictions, or semantic points. Bertrand Russell pointed this out a hundred years ago with his teapot: it is defined in such a manner, with enough negatives, to make disproving it impossible. The purpose of the thought experiment he presents is not to establish belief in such a teapot, but to demonstrate the vacuous nature of this form of argumentation (think: timeless, changeless, immaterial). These are the sorts of attributes used to describe nonexistence, not existence.

Which leaves the question, “why bother debating?”. This is a very good question, and does require an answer. The debate occurs, over and over, because xians make some very clear claims about the nature of both God and the world; claims which, when compared with what we know to be true, or supported by things we can not possibly verify, fail to be compelling to anyone who does not accept the general premise a priori. Is there objective morality, unexplainable by science? Well, this is a rather large question, and does not admit of a simple answer. Atheists are stuck having to explain the entire thing in the clearest terms possible, and much of it remains unexplained, yet theists basically insist that “God did it”. Various, and variously convoluted, metaphysical speculation is then foisted upon us without any of the requisite evidential standards that are being requested from the atheist.

The clearest problem with this claim (objective morality unexplainable) is two pronged: there is no real consensus among philosophers on the existence of objective morality, regardless of their view of the supernatural, and much of what we consider to be moral, or immoral, DOES in fact admit of evolutionary explanation. Altruism, game theory, studies of other social mammals who share a common ancestor, all of these disciplines regularly discover pieces of this puzzle. Sociologists discover moral, and immoral, tendencies that transcend culture(sociobiological), in addition to some that hinge upon culture(as a product of language). The most fascinating science currently exploring this terrain, albeit tentatively, is neuroscience. In philosophy (and neuroscience), an old (circa 1000 BC, perhaps earlier) hypothesis called Determinism is beginning to gain evidential ground. I highly recommend taking a look at the findings, and the arguments. Turns out the Buddhists are the closest to making a prediction about our subjective experiences. I look forward to your conversion.

Other claims, like transubstantiation, the efficacy of witchcraft and prayer, the transformative claims of christianity on the human mind, etc., have been systematically tested, and found vacuous. Religion likes to bring the whole carload of doctrine through the door as valid, then only defend some sort of vague deism. As Robert Price pointed out, this is essentially “shortening the apologetic line of defense”, and, as Christopher Hitchens adroitly points out, “leaves you with all of your work still ahead of you.”

Other commenters have pointed this out, repeatedly.

TL;DR – If you’re just going to defend deism, or pantheism, don’t show up to a debate about the christian God; more importantly, don’t show up expecting atheists to pass up on all the low-hanging fruit for the futility of attempting to proving a negative. IF thats what you’re looking for, you will be continuously disappointed.

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Martin February 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Your earlier points about burden of proof is just wrong. Atheists do not have to prove god does not exist, nor even provide evidence against it. As Descarte pointed out a couple hundred years ago, the default position is nonexistence.

The default position for explicability is nonexistence. If something does not exist, then you don’t have to explain its nonexistence. But if you take the position that something does not exist, then you have to justify the reasoning you used to arrive there.

Think of it this way. “God exists” is a proposition. Thanks to the law of the excluded middle, it’s either true or false. It can’t be anything else. It doesn’t default to false until proven true. The only way to take the position that it is false is to have justifying reasons for that. Either that the concept is logically impossible, or that the universe does not require the hypothesis, or whatever. In these debates, the debate is whether the proposition “God exists” is true or false. Craig takes the true position and offers five syllogisms to support it. The atheist invariable flounders around, doesn’t address the arguments, doesn’t present his own arguments, or takes the ridiculous position that he doesn’t have to support his position at all. Craig wins automatically. Just hand a blank check to him to do whatever he wants with.

This is silly, and I would expect more from people who claim to be the defenders of reason. Not understanding logic 101 is truly embarrassing.

Here is what Introduction to Logic says, by Harry Gensler:

“When we criticize an opponent’s argument, we try to show that it’s unsound. We try to show: (a) that one of the premises is false, or (b) that the conclusion doesn’t follow. If the argument has a false premise or is invalid, then our opponent hasn’t proved the conclusion. But the conclusion still might be true – and our opponent might later discover a better argument for it. To show a view to be false, we must do more than just refute an argument for it; we must invent an argument of our own that shows the view to be false.”

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J. A. Kraulis February 25, 2011 at 12:33 am

Martin, you wrote: “‘God exists’ is a proposition. Thanks to the law of the excluded middle, it’s either true or false. It can’t be anything else. It doesn’t default to false until proven true. The only way to take the position that it is false is to have justifying reasons for that.”

Exactly the same argument could be applied to the flying purple spaghetti monster.

What do you mean by God anyway? The guy described in the Book of Genesis? It’s very easy to prove that that God does not exist. It’s actually more difficult (or impossible) to prove that the flying purple spaghetti monster doesn’t exist without comparable specific claims for it. Or is “God” some fuzzy, nebulous and adjustable concept that could equally be evoked through the multitude of gods in Hinduism, or “the divine”, or “the spirit that dwells in each one of us”? Or maybe God is just the mathematical laws that govern existence? Or God is the Universe? In which case, checkmate atheists.

Why God? Why not two Gods? From what we know of generative principles, the concept of two gods makes more sense. Why not a whole, vast civilization of gods? That’s the conclusion that the argument from design, the watchmaker analogy, in fact logically leads to. And one of Craig’s sillier debates is where he defends his triple god of the Holy Trinity against a rabbi who insists there is only one God.

So which position does the atheist have to prove is the false one?

When scientists assert – just for example – that our universe had a beginning in a big bang, they are asked to elaborate. How exactly could this happen, what is the evidence for it, etc? And they respond with explanations that are extraordinarily detailed, precise and extensive, to the point of filling technical journals that occupy many aisles of shelves in our university libraries. But when theologians and philosophers assert that God exists and are similarly challenged as to specifics, they offer nothing of the sort, but in contrast retreat into slippery generalities and looping arguments with convolutions that hide their essential circularity, use words where they mean one thing in one context and another in a different context, and reference legends two thousand years old that cannot in principle be “disproved”, even as they can be easily disbelieved.

It seems that different rules apply for the religious side vs the rational side. When the former asserts a negative against a certain claim, for example that evolution does not occur or that the Earth is not billions of years old, they can expect an avalanche of evidence that buries their position. But when the latter proposes that God does not exist, the sufficient rebuttal is that they haven’t proven anything? And you think that Craig “wins” on this kind of ground?

- J

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Martin February 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

Exactly the same argument could be applied to the flying purple spaghetti monster.

Yes. It can and it has to. If you are going to take the position that “FSM exists” is false, then you need to justify your reasons for thinking so. You are cheating because you already have those reasons in place and you don’t conciously think about them, and so you are mistakenly assuming that “FSM exists” has a default value of False. It does not. It’s false because you know what pasta is. You know how animals acheive flight. You know the evolutionary history of life on earth. You can easily justify your False position.

What do you mean by God anyway? The guy described in the Book of Genesis?

When philosophers speak of “God” with a capital “G”, it is generally defined as the omni-God. The Neoplatonic conception. It may be YHWH, it may not. Just because religious fundamentalists are generally idiotic about their definitions does not mean that there are not smart theists who can argue rather well.

But when the latter proposes that God does not exist, the sufficient rebuttal is that they haven’t proven anything? And you think that Craig “wins” on this kind of ground?

Go back up and read the quote from Introduction to Logic. This is not a religion book, but a book on logic. To show a view to be false, you have to come up with an argument against that position. Atheists seem to be abandoning logic in droves. You can count me out.

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J. A. Kraulis February 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Martin, you are making a caricature of the flying purple spaghetti monster. Those who propose that He exists do not assert that He is literally made out of pasta, or that He flies or is purple, unless they are fundamentalist idiots. FSM does not even manifest Himself physically (although He could have two thousand years ago). He is independent of time and space, just like Craig’s God. You can’t disprove that He exists. He is defined precisely in such a way that that is impossible. If you were to argue otherwise, where is your proof, where is your evidence?

Richard Swinburne at Oxford University would surely be among your smart theists. He writes “The hypothesis of theism is that there is a God that is an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free being.” There’s nothing to stop one from assigning those same attributes to FSM. It’s a cheap trick, really. You come up with an proposition that cannot be disproved and work your argument backwards from there. Note that Swinburne is unambiguous in asserting that God is “a being”. That’s because he is a Christian apologist and that’s what he wants to believe. As I pointed out, I see no good reason why two such beings or an infinite number of them wouldn’t be an equally defensible (or indefensible) proposition. And then the idea of God as a being is rather primitive and unsophisticated in the first place, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps God is an emergent phenomenon coming out of the consciousness of all beings in the universe which then, through other dimensions we are unaware of, loops back and creates the universe and us. (The physicist John Wheeler’s idea that the universe is like a self-excited circuit, which I wouldn’t even pretend to have the background to understand, may involve something like that.) Or perhaps God destroyed herself in order to create the universe; she was all that existed once, and she exists no more, except that she is the universe. Any one of a thousand different speculations can be put forward in place of philosophies like Craig’s and Swinburne’s, which ultimately must be judged on their conclusions, not their initial propositions. And many of us find those conclusions – that if we don’t believe Jesus died for our sins we will burn in Hell (Craig states this unambiguously when he’s not debating in front of an intelligent audience) – to be both ridiculous and offensive.

I would only add that naturalism has proved to be capable of explaining completely the existence of everything from the Big Bang forward. (The exception might be consciousness, a subject the Christian apologists apparently won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, for interesting reasons.) Science has determined exactly how the elements everything is made of came to be created, how the earth was formed, how species originate and diversify, etc, etc. It’s a huge, incredible and thoroughly detailed story. So if God indeed caused the Big Bang, or (deferring to Hawking) created gravity which caused the Big Bang, there is no logical requirement that “he” is/was “omnipotent, omniscient”. He merely needed to be very smart and well-placed. Swinburne’s and Craig’s God is just another hollow assertion, distinguishable from that of FSM merely in its solemnity.

- J

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Martin March 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm
J. A. Kraulis March 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Since these debates have no value other than that of pure entertainment, judging from what seems to be a most objective review (insert sarcasm), it looks like Krauss was by far the more entertaining of the two.

One thing that seems to be overlooked is that philosophy, or junk philosophy in the case of Christian apologetics, is completely irrelevant in actually proving or disproving anything about the nature of reality, a reason why Hawking correctly said, “philosophy is dead”.

Craig and others like Swinburne apply the apparent rigor of their “sophisticated” logic to terms that are vague, imprecise and so throughly flexible that they can be shoehorned into arguments designed to lead to a predetermined conclusion. Craig plays a shell game with the term “universe”, along with others like “cause”, “beginning”, etc., if you haven’t noticed. Perhaps he impresses some philosophers, Martin, but I challenge you to find a single scientist who thinks his reasoning contortions have any merit. (Some share his beliefs in a deity; I know of none that find appeal in his methodology.)

That philosophy is actually irrelevant to an understanding of reality is evident from history, but the example of Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the tortoise illustrates the point rather well. Expressed verbally, it was a source of consternation for philosophers for centuries. But if you mathematically model the situation, there is no paradox whatsoever, the idea of one would simply never arise.

Inviting scientists to debate philosophers is a bit like inviting NHL hockey players with their skates on to come and play against a field hockey team on astroturf. Not only is the more demanding and elegant discipline placed at an immediate disadvantage, the whole idea is a silly proposition from the get go.

Krauss probably needed the money, and more power to him, as scientists in general are one of the significantly underpaid groups in our society. In contrast to, say, evangelists, who all know that it can be a very lucrative business indeed.

- J

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MauricXe March 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm

nah, Krauss has plenty of money :)

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Martin March 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Here’s the thing, JA.

A sound argument requires logical validity, and true premises. If so, then the conclusion follows. This would be the case for ANY reasoning. Craig does his job: he offers logically valid arguments that support his side, and then offers support for the truth of his premises.

Formulating a strategy to debate Craig is EASY. He offers 5 arguments, right? Three to establish the existence of God, a fourth to establish the resurrection, and a fifth (non) argument about personal experience.

The last two rely on the first three. So taking out the first three will automatically defeat the last two.

Remember, the two ingredients of a sound argument are logical validity and true premises. All of Craig’s arguments have logical validity. So there’s nothing to attack there.

That leaves his premises. Attack one premise from each of his first three arguments, and that takes care of all five. Then provide a positive argument, most likely the evidential argument from evil. Know that Craig will respond with Skeptical Theism. Read up on the problems with skeptical theism: http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com/2010/10/end-of-skeptical-theism-part-11-summing.html

If time allows, perhaps offer Schellenberg’s argument from divine hiddeness.

This is how atheist philosophers argue in the literature. This is how rational debate works. You won’t find atheist philosophers screaming “SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE!” and “CRAIG HAS A BIG NOSE!!” and other time-wasting nonsense.

It’s exactly like chess. Craig plays chess, his debate opponents shit all over the board and peck the pieces, just like the cartoon about creationists.

That’s it. Two simple ingredients: attack 3 premises, offer the argument from evil. Take down Craig’s case, build a case against theism. This is all any atheist opponent should be doing.

Despite the snarkiness of Wintery Knight, everything s/he says is 100% correct about Krauss. His case is nothing but a bunch of irrelevant diarrhea sprayed all over the place.

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J. A. Kraulis April 1, 2011 at 1:43 am

Martin,

As you say, debate is exactly like chess. It’s a game. Beat me in chess, and what have you proved? That you are a better chess player. Nothing more than that.

However, if you changed the rules of the game as it went along, I wouldn’t even concede you that much. In the case of chess, your trying to do so would be rather obvious if, say for example, you asserted that your knight could move three squares forward rather than two before going one to the side. There are only a limited number of pieces and very simple rules in chess. But the board Craig plays on has as many pieces as the English language has words, and the rules for each word are rather complex, so it becomes very easy to hide subtle changes in the rules as you play along.

To illustrate, what does Craig mean by “universe”? The universe began to exist, he argues, and furthermore in order for God to have created the universe, “He” must be independent and separate from it. So what constitutes the universe? Everything that exists? Then if God exists, he must be part of this everything, in other words, part of the universe. Well, that doesn’t work. But if the universe isn’t everything, then other universes could exist, both according to theory and certainly as logically possibilities. God would necessarily have had to have created them too. So all these universes together constitute a superuniverse. Whether such actually exists is irrelevant. It is a logical construct for which we at present don’t have sufficient evidence, just like Craig’s God is similarly a logical (or illogical) construct. So is God then part of this superuniverse, or is he separate and independent from it? Well, if he is a part of it, that’s not in principle any different from being part of the “universe”, so he must also be separate from a superuniverse. But if he can create one superuniverse, he can create other superuniverses. Together, these superuniverses would then constitute a hyperuniverse. So is God then a part of this hyperuniverse, or separate from it? And so on, to infinite regress. Thus Craig’s assertion that the universe must have a first cause, i.e. God, depends entirely his rules on what we must mean by “universe”. And the cause of this universe is God. Why? Because Dr. Craig said so.

“Whatever begins to exist has a cause”. You call that a premise that leads to a conclusion. I call it a debatable, logically unnecessary and therefore questionable statement. It seems to be true in our experience (but then, maybe not even). However, there are many aspects about the nature of things that do not fit with or admit to understanding by our experience at all. Some physicists point out that in the realm of quantum mechanics, things do begin to exist without apparent cause. What about thoughts? Do thoughts always have a cause? They begin. It’s arguable that they don’t need a cause. What about God’s thoughts, which presumably he employed in creating everything?

On the other hand, you are welcome to argue that the cause of my thoughts is simple: it is me. OK, then you have to follow that logic to the end. The cause of me is my parents, my parents existed because the earth exists, and the earth exists because the universe exists. In other words, if you are going to explain the coming into existence of anything simply with reference to antecedents, then the ultimate cause of *everything* is the “universe” itself. Then, either the “universe” caused itself or the “universe” is uncaused. You can readily substitute “God” for “universe” in the preceding, but it doesn’t explain anything nor does it lead to any sort of necessarily distinguishable logical conclusion (i.e. one that supports the Christian faith). It’s just a word switch, that’s all.

Further, asserting that whatever begins to exist has a cause is only a simple description of our own particular, limited experience of reality (and again, not even that, as explained). It is not metaphysically necessary at all. Before they come to understand the workings of our world through experience, children would have no problem with the idea that things pop into existence uncaused. It would seem quite natural to them. Certainly an all-powerful God such as Craig envisages could create a universe where things spontaneously popped into existence through no cause.

Thus the first premise of Craig’s Kalam argument is nothing more than a convenient assertion.

His second premise, that the universe began to exist, simply borrows from current cosmological theory regarding *this* particular universe, the one we know about, the one we can observe and measure and thereby then develop very sophisticated mathematical models that explain how it all works. But there is nothing at all that logically precludes *this* universe from having originated out of some other larger cosmos that has no “beginning”, that exists independently of the the particular space-time structure within which we are confined, just as (Craig asserts) God does. And furthermore, it is quite meaningless to talk about some kind of ultimate “beginning” when we don’t even have an real understanding of time itself. The dimensions within which we frame our enquiry into things may be just four out of many. It may be as meaningless to talk about the “first cause” or the “beginning” as it once proved to be to talk about the ends of the earth.

Again, *this* universe may well have begun to exist (according to current cosmological theory), but that does not oblige the same to be true of the larger reality within which this universe may exist. If “God” can exist independent of this universe, so can some vast, cosmological foam in which this universe is but a temporary bubble. Call the foam God or God the foam. Again, it’s just a switch of words or a change of spelling insofar as the construction of the logical argument goes.

The casually framed two premises of Craig’s cosmological argument are effectively meaningless but disguised as “common sense” (something Craig rhetorically appeals to quite often when he’s not dissing his opponents for their lack of “sophistication” on the other hand). It’s not possible to “win” a debate against such a devilish strategy. You can’t engage the argument, and you can’t dismiss Craig out of hand without being accused of having offered nothing in rebuttal.

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J. A. Kraulis April 1, 2011 at 11:44 am

Martin,

Isn’t there a hidden double standard in your and wintery knight’s dismissal of Krauss?

It seems to me that you have taken the position that it was Krauss’s job to disprove Craig, and that if he didn’t effectively do so, Craig wins. Does Craig disprove anything that Krauss asserts? I’ll admit I haven’t watched the debate, but I seriously doubt it.

This is a bit like your chess game, whereby the rule seems to be: If player B is unable to checkmate player A after fifteen moves, player A wins.

- J

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Martin April 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm

If you know how logical reasoning works, then the formula of a debate should be obvious.

If an argument is logically valid and has true premises, then the conclusion follows. That’s all you need to know. Hold that in your mind.

Thus, imagine a debate over proposition Q. Being a proposition, Q is only capable of being T or F. There are no other options. One side will take T, the other F.

Now they need to present arguments for their side. The T side goes first:

Argument 1: A, B, therefore Q is T
Argument 2: C, D, therefore, Q is T
Argument 3: E, F, therefore, Q is T

Now, the F side goes. They need to first take down these arguments, and then present their own for Q being F. Remember: logical validity, true premises. Let’s assume these are professionals, and they have logical validity in all their arguments. Which means the premises are the only things that can be attacked.

So F goes…

Argument 1: Premise B is false because of XYZ
Argument 2: Premise C is false because of 123
Argument 3: Premise E is false because of 456

And then presents his own arguments:

Argument 4: G, H, therefore Q is F
Argument 5: I, J, therefore Q is F
Argument 6: K, L, therefore Q is F

And so on.

That’s it. That’s all the opponents should be doing. Any deviation from this is a waste of time and a red herring. It just means you can’t show something wrong with the other side’s premises, and so you have to resort to distraction from that fact. “Look over there! What in the world can that be?!”

Shit. I can make a template for any atheist debating Craig:

1. If _____ then _____
2. _____
3. Therefore, it is not the case that the universe began to exist

1. If _____ then _____
2. _____
3. Therefore, it is not the case that if God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist

1. If _____ then ______
2. _____
3. Therefore, the fine tuning is due to the multiverse

Done! All five of Craig’s arguments fall! And then the problem of evil, to support the case that the proposition “God exists” is false:

1. If gratuitous evil exists then God does not exist
2. Gratuitous evil exists
3. Therefore, God does not exist

As you can see, Krauss did none of this. It’s just poop.

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Tristan April 2, 2011 at 12:41 am

I’m an atheist but I don’t abandon logic.
If you don’t agree with the conclusion then
you should show which of the premise/s is false.
Because if the argument is valid then the conclusion is inescapable.

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Rev. Dr. James L. Verner April 4, 2011 at 2:20 am

One might plausibly deduce that Craig wins debates because he has sound arguments. Atheists will stubbornly denounce Craig for winning debates since they don’t want to admit that Craig just might be right after all! :-)
James Verner

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Joe Fasulo April 4, 2011 at 4:18 am

The “soundness” of any argument is not evidence and Craig offers no other evidence than the bible for his assertions. His notions of beginnings and endings are expressed by cultural language only and make sense only to those who cannot understand the nonsense of absolutes. He and the great majority of human beings do not understand the nonsense of “objectivity”, nothingness, and the foolish assumptions of non-physicality. If these notions were a reality then zero would be measurable and molecular vibration could measurably cease. There would be an ultimate heat temperature and there could be no more elements possible in the known or the unknown universe. Human beings are such naive and preposterously assumptive animals so much so that they actually think they are the ultimate in the development of intellect and understand. No humility found here.

Craig, like most other human beings, is an arrogant, pompous ass who cannot imagine being wrong about his ability to understand his very small and insignificant place in life. This is essentially the reason for human beings arguing about themselves and ignoring the rest of their fellow animal creatures both human and non.

For a start I refer you to this site.

http://religiouscomics.net/my_images/spaceb.jpg

For the religious go here and try to understand the insignificance of your life by comparison.

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J. A. Kraulis April 4, 2011 at 4:39 am

Actually, Dr. Verner, I haven’t noticed anyone here “stubbornly denounce” Craig for allegedly winning debates. Some of us have articulated at some length what we feel is wrong with Craig’s reasoning, while others have criticized his debating opponents. It’s quite lame to assert that Craig has sound arguments without offering any elaboration of your own.

But may I ask you, which one of Craig’s five main arguments (or others) do you yourself find to be the strongest? I would be happy to engage you in a discussion on it.

(Incidentally, I don’t really identify with the label “atheist”, but that’s a whole other topic.)

J. A.

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Martin April 4, 2011 at 6:10 am

The “soundness” of any argument is not evidence

If an argument has logical validity and true premises, the conclusion follows. Craig has logical validity in all his arguments. Thus, all that matters is whether the premises are true or not.

Sheesh.

Atheists think of themselves as the bastion of rationality, and yet very few of them seem to be able to grasp this.

Craig offers no other evidence than the bible for his assertions.

Craig’s first three arguments don’t touch the Bible.

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Joe Fasulo April 4, 2011 at 11:51 am

The logic Craig uses is a culturally based explanation for physical phenomena. It has nothing to do with the measures taken in any of the sciences. Logic to be conclusive must be predictable and, if necessary and possible, preventable or productive depending upon the undesirable or desirable goal. Craig assumes beginnings and endings and he uses a mathematical measure that he cannot duplicate nor does he even understand the process. He assumes the possibility and the probability of nothingness just as he assumes the possibility and probability of resurrections, ghosts, and “zombies” (entire groups of people arising from graves and saying “hello” to their friends and relatives. If one tries to use the science of mathematics and “measurable” constructs to support a philosophy that in turn is used to support the very book that one is trying to use as evidence then, Yes, his arguments do touch the bible.

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Martin April 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm

The logic Craig uses is a culturally based explanation for physical phenomena.

The logic Craig uses is everyday propositional logic and syllogistic logic, right from my logic text book.

Kalam is a categorical syllogism. It can be tested for validity by applying the star test:

1. All B* is C
2. u is B
3. Therefore, u* is C*

It passes the star test, and so is logically valid. That means it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. Thus, all you have to worry about now is whether the premises are true or not.

Saying:

Logic to be conclusive…

And:

…support a philosophy that in turn is used to support the very book that one is trying to use as evidence then…

And:

Craig is a this, Craig is a that

…does not address whether the premises are true or not.

You know what I think this is? I think it’s a form of dogmatism from atheists. From years of having to deal with creationists and other similar fundies, atheists now have in their heads that Christians cannot be rational. So when they come up against one who actually is, then, well, there must be something wrong with logic itself.

In fact, this is precisely what Krauss did in his recent debate. Rather than fucking address whether the premises of Craig’s arguments are true or not, he suggested that logic itself doesn’t work.

If atheists continue on this path, they will soon be joining their buddies Ken Ham and Ray Comfort over there in nutjob land…

Count me out.

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J. A. Kraulis April 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Martin,

What Joe touches upon – although I don’t presume to speak for him – is that logic is a very poor and entirely inadequate tool for understanding nature and reality. Do I really need to go over the history of science and of philosophy to explain this? How does logic apply to the dual nature of light, to the double slit experiment, to Schroedinger’s cat? It doesn’t. The Socratic philosophers believed that all knowledge could had from purely deductive reasoning. What a pathetic conceit that has turned out to be.

Re Craig’s Kalam argument, I have explained – perhaps not very succinctly – what’s fatally wrong with it in several prior posts, but you continue to have a religious reverence for it (as nothing can convince you that there is anything wrong with it). I’ll take one more kick at it in my next post, and perhaps you can find a way to then defend Craig again, although please don’t retreat into citing Craig’s academic credentials or pointing out that he has written a book on the argument and that he thereby must have answered my points in it.

See the following.

J. A.

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Martin April 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm

How does logic apply to the dual nature of light, to the double slit experiment, to Schroedinger’s cat?

You’re mixing up “counter-intuitive” with “logic.”

Logic still applies and you can still construct valid syllogisms that show the dual nature of light. I can imagine a debate on copenhagen vs many worlds, with each presenting a syllogism, with true premises, about why their particular QM interpretation is correct.

I don’t worship Kalam. I honestly think Kalam is weak because it relies on A-theory of time and the beginning of the universe. Either of these things tip the other way, and Kalam collapses. It doesn’t have as much robustness as, say, Aquinas or Leibniz cosmological arguments, which are immune to whether the universe is infinite or finite.

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J. A. Kraulis April 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Martin, you wrote: “If an argument has logical validity and true premises, the conclusion follows. Craig has logical validity in all his arguments. Thus, all that matters is whether the premises are true or not.”

Not exactly. The premises also have to be complete. To illustrate:

1 All apples are green
2 The McIntosh is an apple
3 Therefore, the McIntosh is green

You will protest that my first premise is false. In fact, it is true but incomplete. The complete version would be: “All apples are green when unripe”.

Craig’s Kalam argument is stated as follows (Wikipedia reference):

1 Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2 The universe began to exist.
3 Therefore, the universe has a cause.

His first premise is incomplete. A complete version would be: “Whatever begins to exist has multiple causes.” I would challenge you to name me a single exception. The universe itself may or may not be such an exception, but then you can’t use the argument for the universe, can you? (And, BTW, if the universe was an exception to the first premise, that could just as well be the basis for an argument that the universe is uncaused.)

I earlier pointed out how Craig plays games with words and it is instructive to note how even the very simplest of all words, “a”, has two different meanings in his Kalam argument. In the conclusion, he clearly means that the universe has ONE cause, that being God. That’s his whole case, where he ultimately takes the cosmological argument. Then, to be properly rigorous by the rules of mathematically precise logic, his first premise must use the term “a” in exactly the same sense throughout, i.e. the first premise should be stated as: “Whatever begins to exist has ONE cause”. Clearly, this is false.

J. A.

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J. A. Kraulis April 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Martin,

I wasn’t confusing logic with counter-intuitive. I was pointing out the impotence of logic alone as a means to understanding reality. Craig’s logic depends entirely on simple premises that may or may not be true, or may be true but in not in all cases, or may “logically” exclude possibilities not even thought of. “Whatever begins to exist has a cause” seems like a reasonable and even self-evident premise, but it is nothing more than an assertion, conveniently selected in working backwards from a desired conclusion.

Consider these two statements:
1 Light is a wave
2 Light is not a wave
Both are correct and yet they are mutually contradictory and logically incompatible.

I am fully open to all sorts of speculations as to how the universe may have come into existence. If modern science has taught us anything, it is that no possibility, however bizarre, bewildering or breathtaking, can be ruled out. The existence of the universe may depend on some sort of consciousness of which our own is a manifestation. Time may form some kind of loop in greater web of many other dimensions and so our particular universe may in fact have created itself (an idea that Dr. Craig, preferring his more simplistic and simple-minded explanation, mocks).

Or perhaps the universe is the product of a great, pure non-physical mind. And that mind figured out how to destroy itself in the Big Bang and become physically manifest in the zillions of varied parts of the immense universe in which we exist. There was a “God” once, but it vanished at the beginning of time and is now us. There are thousands of such possibilities one could reasonably speculate on, but the mythical tyrant of the Abrahamic tradition that Dr. Craig defends is not one of them.

Gotta go…

J. A.

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Peter Andes April 5, 2011 at 12:31 am

Hi Luke,

Great site. I just wanted to say that I watched the Craig vs. Drange debate and it did not seem to me to go as badly for Drange as you say it did.

You say:
“Drange makes almost no case, talking about “hyper-universes” and other weirdness, and Craig walks all over him. Of course, Craig’s arguments are equally bizarre, but Drange does not do a good job of showing why.”

But Drange’s case relied on the two arguments that were also central to his book, the argument from evil and the argument from nonbelief. Maybe you don’t like these arguments, I’d be interested to see why if that is the case, they seem very powerful and well formulated to me. If I remember correctly Craig tries to counter the problem of evil first by trying to call Drange’s argument invalid, then by trying to say that all the terrible suffering in the world brings people to God. Drange counters with an analogy of a father who is away from his family, loves them, and can stop their suffering but doesn’t does not make sense. He also counters with saying that Craig did not say why so many children have to die, suggesting that its silly to claim that God could only make the maximum number of people believe if they saw children dying every day. Craig makes some points but none that are devastating for this argument. I think Craig totally failed to show that people would be more likely to begin a loving relationship with something they aren’t sure exists than if they are absolutely sure something exists. That makes no sense. He uses the classic free will response has for a long time made no sense since Satan knows perfectly well God exists and he is in a state of rebellion. He ended up reverting to the idea that those people who are Christians are those whom God knew would accept him, which Drange nailed with the inequality of the distribution of believers in the world. I think Craig failed to dismiss the argument from nonbelief, and it is where Drange is most successful in the debate.

As for the hyper-universes, I agree that was a bit odd, maybe it was something that was popular in the 90s I don’t know, but that was only one of three naturalistic theories he offered that were as equally plausible or more plausible than Craig’s theistic explanations.

I agree that Drange could have done more, such as with the resurrection. Craig was of course a better debater, but Drange did not get walked all over, he raised some decent objections and even mentioned what arguments Craig had failed to address. I think this debate certainly does not belong in the Ugly category. It would probably be one of the better ones out of the bad, though I think you ought to have an average category or just something in between good and bad whatever it is called, thought I understand you were going for the particular expression.

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Joe April 5, 2011 at 4:44 am

Trying to prove the arguments of 2000 yrs ago or in the case of the old testament several more thousands of year is trying to prove the validity of the behavior of very crude and very primitive people. Money is the reason why Craig and others like him use the most primitive aspects of this evolved language. And money is the reason why this set of values is so admired and defended so vigorously by the great majority of humans on this globe. It is money or the lack of it that so motivates these cannibals to defend the value system of their so-called forefathers. Foolish ignorance of a very primitive tribe of primate creatures is really indefensible and an insult to any saner group of human beings capable of all of the cultural, scientific and structural achievements of the last 100 years. Those who repeat the past intellectually or behaviorally are condemned to live it or live as hypocrites. It is mostly the latter that is practiced.

The concept of beginnings and endings is strictly a human invention for the purposes of interactive with environment. This is the reason for the concept of infinity (or eternity) and the zero. There is no other sane reason for proving the existence of either concept since it is by definition an impossibility to achieve either. Nothingness is a Craig tool in all of his arguments and yet no-one has called him on this. It is unmeasurable since the measurement must be made by an observer and if this is even considered to be possible it is obvious that the entity doing the measure must be “something”……..which renders the nothingness as impossible. Zero means nothing which means a perfect vacuum….a physical impossibility. God would have to exist in a perfect vacuum and somehow ( Magic?) produce something physical.

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J. A. Kraulis April 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Tristan writes:

“I’m an atheist but I don’t abandon logic.
If you don’t agree with the conclusion then
you should show which of the premise/s is false.
Because if the argument is valid then the conclusion is inescapable.”

Not necessarily. Or, the conclusion may be “inescapable”, but that doesn’t mean it is true. Or the whole story.

1 Light is a wave
2 Waves propagate through a medium
3 Therefore, light must propagate through a medium

The premises are as true now as they were 125 years ago. And in fact, light does propagate through various mediums, through air, water, glass, etc. But it also propagates through a vacuum, through empty space. The conclusion turned out to be false. Before the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment, the conclusion that space was filled with some kind of luminiferous aether, the medium through which light had to propagate, was inescapable.

Evidence trumps the most carefully constructed logic. It always has. In the case of of the Michelson-Morley experiment, absence of evidence (for the aether) turned out to be evidence of absence, something admirer’s of Craig would do well to ponder. The catalogue of naturalistic explanations which have replaced supernatural, religious ones is huge. No where in this vast uncovering of knowledge is there anything that could be seen as evidence for the kind of God described in any of the Abrahamic religious texts.

As Bertrand Russell pointed out, there is no credible evidence for God. You can do all the logical contortions you want, but the Christian apologists would be the first to let them all fall by the wayside if real evidence was discovered that there is a God.

When the Biblical accounts of the origin and substance of things all turn out to be fiction, when the world seems to be constructed more and more in such a way as to make God unnecessary, when “He” remains hidden against all logical reasons that “He” should do so, when experiments designed to determine the possibility of his existence fail to do so (such as those testing the efficacy of prayer), then it seems to me that the evidence for his non-existence is at least as compelling as the evidence for the non-existence of the aether.

Resorting to some trivial logic trick like the simple Kalam argument proves nothing. All it does is suggests that the origin of the universe merits an explanation. From there you are free to suggest that God created the universe, but it is no less valid to assert that two Gods did so, or 108 Gods did, or that the universe was created by mindless gravity, as Hawking, who happens to know a great deal about the subject, thinks.

You can play all the Zeno-type games that you want, but in the end, they are meaningless. Zeno, you may recall, “proved” that Achilles couldn’t catch the tortoise once the latter was given a head start. If you want to understand why Craig “wins” all his debates, do this thought experiment: imagine a debate between Zeno and Isaac Newton. Zeno steps up to the lectern and clearly, succinctly presents his well-known paradox. It’s Newton’s turn and he begins calling Zeno a fool; everyday experience tells you that he can’t be right. (Martin, in the audience, groans at this point, anticipating the worst.) Newton goes on. CALCULUS, CALCULUS…he’s practically shouting (and Martin’s discomfort is more evident). Newton then goes off into some unclear discussion about “functions” and the plotting of curves and other things whose relevance to the debate isn’t exactly clear. Zeno, apparently, wins the debate hands down.

But not only does calculus offer a robust argument against Zeno, when we understand it and use it to look at situations like Achilles and the tortoise, the paradox disappears. It would never arise in the first place. However, Newton can’t teach a course in calculus in the short time available in a debate, so he “loses”.

It’s exactly the same with Krauss vs Craig. We can understand every word of what Craig has to say. His arguments are clear because they are so simple. Krauss, meanwhile, is a physicist. He understands cosmology on a far deeper, more abstract and complicated level than anyone in his audience and including Dr. Craig. If you’ve ever seen a technical paper in modern physics, you know that (unless you yourself are a physicist) you don’t have a hope in hell of even beginning to have a meaningful understanding of it.

Among many other reasons which I have attempted to articulate throughout this thread, Craig’s Kalam argument is meaningless because the “cause” of the universe is unlike anything we understand by “cause” in our world, the “cause” in the Kalam’s first premise. It must be a different kind of thing entirely (as modern physics would define it). Craig thus uses the word “cause” to describe two different things. It isn’t legitimate logic. It only appears to be so through the trick of language.

J. A.

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Ramses April 5, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Perhaps someone pointed this out before, but the discussion is very long and I probably missed it.

The Kalam Argument isn’t logically sound, even accepting the first premise as true, since it commits the fallacy of composition. It may be true that “Everything that begins to exist has a cause,” but the universe is not a “thing,” rather it is the *set* of all things.

From Dictionary.com:
Universe: the totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space; the cosmos; macrocosm

Notice the word “totality.” It is the set of known or supposed objects, but properties of the members of a set do not necessarily apply to the set itself. For example:

1) Humans are made up of atoms
2) Atoms are invisible
Therefore
3) Humans are invisible

This is obviously problematic, as humans, being a set of atoms, are not in themselves atoms.
Or
1) Every person has a mother
2) The human species is made of every person.
Therefore
3) The human species has a mother.

The problem, again, is that humanity isn’t a person. It is the *set* of all persons.

Likewise when Craig says “The universe began to exist,” he is thinking of the universe as a “thing,” in the same sense as “every*thing* that begins to exist has a cause.” But the universe is not a “thing,” it is the *set* of all known or supposed things, so the conclusion does not follow.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 1:05 am

@ Ramses, interesting post.

I don’t think the Kalam argument commits the fallacy of composition. I think what your’re arguing for is that the Kalam argument commits the fallacy of equivocation, but I don’t think it goes through. (You believe the Kalam proponent is equivocating the universe as a thing, though it is a set of things.)

In the Kalam argument, I believe everything is meant to be a broad notion of a thing, and not necessarily a specific, singular, thing. In this sense even the universe counts as a thing (even though it’s a “set” of things). Example, when the human zygote is formed, you have a thing. That thing, in this case, is a person (so it’s really not a specific, singular, thing. Rather, a person is a whole “set” of things). Though, we still can call the person a thing, or a something. So, when the Kalam proponent says “everything” she is is meaning all things (be it a specific singular thing, grouping of things, sets of things, and etc.) that begin to exist have a cause.

We could also just slightly modify premise 1 (if “thing” is causing you trouble): Whatever comes into being has a cause. (Though, I don’t think this is needed, because of the above information.)

If so, we can render the new syllogism as follows:
1) Whatever comes into being has a cause.
2)The universe came into being.
3 ) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

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J. A. Kraulis April 6, 2011 at 2:45 am

The Kalam argument is meaningless because, as I have outlined before, the premises are incomplete and imprecise, and because Craig takes advantage of the ambiguities inherent in non-mathematical language.

Craig’s logic appears to be as follows:
1 Whatever does A has B
2 The universe did A
3 Therefore, the universe has B

In fact, it is really this:
1 Whatever does A has B
2 The universe did Ay
3 Therefore, the universe has Bx

Not quite the same thing, is it? The argument is meaningless because it is in effect three separate statements, not a conclusion that has followed from two premises.

Using the same word for two different things does not make them the same!

What does it mean to “begin to exist” in Kalam’s Premise 1? It is an event that occurs within the framework of space and time.
What does it mean to “begin to exist” in Premise 2? It is an event that did NOT occur within the framework of space and time.

What is a “cause” in Premise 1? It is something that can be described and explained by the natural laws and principles of science, down to at the most basic by physics.
What is a “cause” in the Conclusion 3? It occurs at a point (a singularity) where the laws of physics break down completely and it CANNOT be so described and explained.

Using the same word for two different things does not make them the same!

But I repeat myself.

J. A.

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Joe April 6, 2011 at 4:55 am

Craig makes the same mistake that not only his major adversaries make but everyone here it seems. First of all there is no such thing as a cause to anything. There are causes and there are series of events but no single causation. Secondly for there to be a first cause there would have to be a “no thing” prior to the event and it cannot be demonstrated physically or non that such a phenomena is possible. A ghost is not an explanation except in the most primitive of terms and places and from a measurably primitive tribe of “explainers”….a people who know nothing of physicality except in the most basic of needs for their survival. Craig is merely making money and living well so he must resort to notions of beginnings and endings or else his entire explanation falls apart. He assumes eternity and infinity for the non-physical (for which there is no evidence) and cannot understand eternity and/or infinity for the physical the evidence for which can be found in theory and in the human measure of the length of time thus far (measured by the number of rotations of this planet around a sun which is much younger than the rest of this MW Galaxy). Time may be far different before the development of this sun or this galaxy. Time depends upon change which is the measure of this BB theory that Craig uses to explain ghosts. If you substitute “measure of change” every “time” you use time as the word to describe existence you’ll find that it is a human measure and not necessarily a measure of beginnings and endings.

It is a preposterous assumption that there is any one cause to anything in the world that you live in and there is no evidence whatsoever for any other world or existence. Craig is desperately trying to convince other human beings (and so far successfully in that these humans, his audiences, are especially ignorant) of the necessity for physical evidence and the unimportance of primitive and crude philosophies. It is measurably accurate that extraordinary claims such as beginnings and endings require extraordinary evidence. I do not think it can be demonstrated here or anywhere else on this planet.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 11:07 am

@ J. A. Kraulis,

I believe using the language: Whatever comes into being has a cause is a better than whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Your questions are good questions. You ask what does it mean to begin to exist. What a Kalam proponent would argue is that to begin to exist means for something to come into being, in which what came into being did not exist eternally or timelessly. To put it syntactically, Alexander Pruss did it this way: If x has not existed for an infinite extent of time, then either x does not exist, or x exists eternally and timelessly, or x came into being some time ago (for any x). Then one would say: The universe does exist, but does not exist eternally and timelessly. Therefore, the universe came into being.

You then ask what does cause mean in the premises? The Kalam proponent can say that a cause is simply something that directly relates and influences its effect. (This definition is good enough for the Kalam proponent.) Aristotle classified four different types of causes: efficient, material, formal, and final. The Kalam proponent would say even though there was no material cause of the universe, there was an efficient cause (i.e, God).

What’s important to note is the language coming into being and beginning to exist hinges on the A-theory of time. The best way to attack the Kalam argument is here. There seems to be warrant for both A and B-theories of time, and I haven’t even begun to study these issues.

Thanks for the reply, and hope this is somewhat helpful.

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm

@ Jarret Cooper

But changing “everything” to “whatever” doesn’t change what he is claiming. The argument seems to be that whatever we observe “beginning to exist” (whatever that means) has a cause, it makes sense to conclude that the universe, if it began to exist, has a cause. It is basic inductive reasoning, and Craig backs it up by claiming the Big Bang shows the universe “began to exist.” The problem I mentioned still stands, as the universe is not what we see IN the universe, but is rather the set of all things known or supposed. The inductive reasoning fails when trying to project whats true of the parts onto the aggregate of the parts.

Another interesting problem I read about (will find the reference later, it’s not my idea), but I don’t think i necessarily damning is this: To say “everything begins to exist has a cause” suggests two different sets:

set 1) Things that begin to exist and therefore have causes, and
set 2) Things that do not begin to exist, and therefore do not have causes.

We need examples of things that belong to the second set. Dr Craig would probably respond with “well, God.” The problem is that such an answer puts the conclusion into the premise, and makes the argument circular. To avoid this, one must provide at least one OTHER thing in the set of “did not begin to exist,” and explain why that is discarded as a cause of the universe.

Lastly, it has been mentioned that the first premise is highly problematic. I am not tackling that here, I am simply assuming the premise to be true to examine the actual logic of the argument.

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Martin April 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm

To avoid this, one must provide at least one OTHER thing in the set of “did not begin to exist,” and explain why that is discarded as a cause of the universe.

Platonic Forms: numbers, mathematical objects, abstract objects, etc.

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm

@ Martin

You’re begging the question.

The Theory of Forms is the result of the traditional “Rationalist” point of view, that says we can know eternal things through our intellect alone, without any input from the senses. To accept the Platonic Form, one must accept the rationalist perspective, and to accept the rationalist perspective is to accept God as a kind of Platonic ideal: the perfect being.

What your essentially doing is assuming the validity of the rationalist perspective to provide examples of uncaused things that didn’t cause the universe, arrived at through reason alone. But your conclusion only follows if one assumes a priori that the rationalist POV is true, since that’s the only way to conclude that. If it were true however, we wouldn’t be dealing with all this Kalam business.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 1:28 pm

@ Ramses,

It’s not necessary that we need to observe something to begin to exist for us to say it must have a cause. The first premise of the Kalam argument is simply a metaphysical principle (i.e., ex nihilo nihil fit–out of nothing, nothing comes). Things that come into being, or begins to exist, have causes. This metaphysical principle is not only applied to what’s in the universe, but to and for anything that comes into being or begins to exist.

To make the definition of universe simpler: we can say that the universe is all of matter and energy, and space and time. One wouldn’t say that platonic forms are part of the universe. The Kalam proponent would argue that the universe had a beginning. This is done by both a priori arguments, which are philosophical arguments that says an actual infinite is impossible, and that an infinite causal chain is impossible; and a posteriori arguments which would be the scientific arguments that says the Big Bang is the beginning and also using the Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin theorem that says even for multiverse scenarios that these are past incomplete (i.e, they are past finite).

Once the the beginning of the universe has been established one would then use the metaphysical principle–ex nihilo nihil fit. If there is a beginning of the universe then the answer as to what’s the cause of it then becomes a metaphysical debate and not a physical (i.e, scientific) debate. Science can’t say there is a physical explanation to the existence of the universe, for the universe just is all that is physical/material. The answer then needs to be transcendent. The only appeal science can say to the explanation of the universe is that of self-creation, though this view is incoherent. You can’t self-create when you don’t exist!

As Martin above notes, those who believe in platonic forms believe such things are eternal and timeless and therefore have no cause. However, such abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations, so these objects will be ruled out for the cause of the universe.

I just want to note, though I don’t think the Kalam argument commits the fallacy of composition, but even if it did–doesn’t meant it’s fallacious. Fallacy of composition is only an informal fallacy, but also what’s important is that there are exceptions to the fallacy of composition, thereby making the argument valid. Here is the exception: “In ascertaining when using the fallacy of composition is valid, Frans H. van Eemeren has argued that the property in question must not be expansive. According to van Eemeren, a property is expansive if and only if it is absolute and structurally-independent. If a property is expansive, then the fallacy of composition is not applicable to it.” When it comes to the Kalam argument you’re saying since everything in the universe that begins to exist has a cause does not mean that the whole universe itself does not have to have a cause for its beginning. So, the property we need to look at is ‘beginning to exist’ or ‘comes into being.’ This property seems to fit the criteria of being exempt from falling into the fallacy of composition. The property ‘coming into being’ is both absolute and structurally-independent.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition#Exceptions

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

@ Ramses,

Do you have any references with regards to your reply to Martin. You have atheists who believe in abstract objects. One must not have to accept the “rationalist” point of view to embrace Platonic forms. Many accept abstract entities, and yet reject the rationalist point of view. For example, Johann Goethe and Friedrich Schellin were opposed to the “rationalist” point of view, though they embraced abstract objects (albeit they were Christians).

In any case, it’s all beside the point. The Kalam argument does not have to list other alternatives for things that do not begin to exist, and therefore do not have causes. The argument is not question begging because the premises, in and of themselves (the premises are theistically neutral), does not assume God exists. It simply concludes things that ‘begin to exist’ or ‘comes into being’ have causes, and that the universe began to exists, therefore the universe has a cause. From here we extrapolate what the cause could be. The final conclusion ends with God. It makes no difference if one doesn’t have any other alternatives that can fall for things that do not begin to exist, and therefore do not have causes. William Lane Craig doesn’t even believe in abstract objects. He’s a nominalist!

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J. A. Kraulis April 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm

@ Jarrett

Changing “begins to exist” to “comes into being” doesn’t change the physics, the fact that what are being described belong to two different categories.

For example, you could say

1 All material things have energy
2 The universe is material
3 Therefore the universe has energy

The premises are true, the logic inescapable. But according to modern cosmology (to Krauss in particular), the net energy of the universe is zero! The conclusion is thus false. So much for logic. The Kalam argument is exactly the same. Whether its conclusion is actually false or not, who cares; the argument itself is meaningless. Rules that apply to the parts of a whole do not necessarily apply to the whole. That remains the fatal fallacy in Craig’s argument.

Regarding “cause”, you of course are much better acquainted with philosophy than I am, but if Aristotle defined four types of causes, it should remind us of the inadequacy of philosophy when it wades into the deep sea of science. I can’t recall who stated it (perhaps it was Aristotle himself), but the Greek philosophers also believed there were four types of matter, four “elements”. Compare that to what we now know. How physicists might define and categorize causes, I don’t know, but you can be sure they wouldn’t be referencing Aristotle or Dr. Craig.

I can think of yet another problem with Craig’s argument. Because of the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy, there is nothing in the entire universe that “begins to exist” or that “comes into being”. There is merely transformation from one thing into another. We are all stardust, remember. (My existence is every bit as much due to some undetermined supernova explosion more than five billion years ago as it is to some fateful meeting of my mother and father, or of my grandparents, or…) The ONLY thing that has ever begun to exist is the universe itself, and Craig’s first premise in Kalam is effectively vacuous.

(This relates in part to what I have said several times before, namely that there is no such thing as “a” cause, except in the exceptional case that Craig wants in his conclusion. You write, “The Kalam proponent can say that a cause is simply something that directly relates and influences its effect.” OK. New York is clearly something that came into being. So what is the cause of New York?)

BTW, there is also an awkward irony for Craig in all this. His Kalam argument depends on the theory that the universe did have a beginning in the instant of the Big Bang, and on the rejection of Hoyle’s Steady State Theory. Yet in Hoyle’s universe, new matter was continually being created as the universe expanded. In other words, there was actually something for God to do. In the Big Bang model, after the initial moment of “creation” there is no further need for God, if even then. The First Cause is the only necessary one.

J. A.

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

@ Ramses,

For example, Johann Goethe and Friedrich Schellin were opposed to the “rationalist” point of view, though they embraced abstract objects (albeit they were Christians).

But the notion of God (or gods) is right in line with the idea of Platonic forms. When someone says something like “in order to have objective good and bad, you need a transcendent standard of goodness” they are appealing to a Platonic ideal of “goodness.” They simply call it “God.” It’s the same idea.

In any case, it’s all beside the point. The Kalam argument does not have to list other alternatives for things that do not begin to exist, and therefore do not have causes. The argument is not question begging because the premises, in and of themselves (the premises are theistically neutral), does not assume God exists. It simply concludes things that ‘begin to exist’ or ‘comes into being’ have causes, and that the universe began to exists, therefore the universe has a cause. From here we extrapolate what the cause could be. The final conclusion ends with God. It makes no difference if one doesn’t have any other alternatives that can fall for things that do not begin to exist, and therefore do not have causes. William Lane Craig doesn’t even believe in abstract objects. He’s a nominalist!

Allow me to quote the article I got this argument from:

“The curious clause ‘everything that begins to exist’ implies that reality can be divided into two sets: items that begin to exist (BE), and those that do not (NBE). In order for this cosmological argument to work, NBE (if such a set is meaningful) cannot be empty[2], but more important, it must accommodate more than one item to avoid being simply a synonym for God. If God is the only object allowed in NBE, then BE is merely a mask for the Creator, and the premise “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is equivalent to “everything except God has a cause.” As with the earlier failures, this puts God into the definition of the premise of the argument that is supposed to prove God’s existence, and we are back to begging the question.
Where do theists obtain the idea in the first place that there is such a set as NBE? By what observations or arguments is the possibility of beginningless objects warranted? Certainly not via the cosmological argument, which simply assumes NBE; nor from science, which observes nothing of the sort. If they get their initial idea from a religious document or from “inner experience,” their argument may be more presuppositionalist than evidentialist.” (Barker, Dan. “Cosmological Kalamity.” http://www.Infidels.org. Published 1999, accessed April 6th, 2011. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/dan_barker/kalamity.html)

Anyway, it’s worth pointing out that even if this argument ends up being a bad one, the Kalam still fails because of its compositional fallacy.

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm

@ Jarrett Cooper

To say that the universe caused itself or is uncaused in no less absurd than saying it was caused by something that is itself uncaused or self-caused (ie. God). All you’ve done is push the argument back one step:

Universe–>came from–>N/A (uncaused/self caused)

Universe–>came from–>God–>came from–>N/A (uncaused/self-caused)

You see the conclusions are exactly the same. Ultimately it comes down to “uncaused” or “self-caused” in both models. The main issue is then parsimony. Since God is not a needed step to reach the conclusion, he can be left out.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm

@ J. A. Kraulis, thanks for giving me some food for thought.

Here are some of my thoughts. I would like one to better define the term energy. In this particular case I don’t know what the word energy precisely means.

However, what needs to be noted is that it could very well be the case that the universe is not netting any more energy, but that doesn’t mean the universe doesn’t have energy. One article reads: “The idea of a zero-energy universe, together with inflation, suggests that all one needs is just a tiny bit of energy to get the whole thing started (that is, a tiny volume of energy in which inflation can begin). The universe then experiences inflationary expansion, but without creating net energy.” (http://www.astrosociety.org/pubs/mercury/31_02/nothing.html)

So, in fact there is energy that is seemingly required for the universe to start for inflation to occur and after that there is no more net gain of energy (I’m unsure how conclusive the science all is). The article notes that there are quantum fluctuations that happen all the time and this could possible the the cause of our universe. This has been called the “ultimate free lunch.” However, the quantum fluctuations is not nothing–non-being (even Krauss noted this).

With regards to the “Elements” and philosophers and people throughout the ages who held to such notions, this does not negate the four views of causation, which have both a physical and metaphysical aspects, whereas the “Elements” are material/physical. However, such concepts developed natural philosophy and helped give rise to modern science. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science)

With regards to Aristotle’s four causes. This is much more rigorous in detail and has much more support than the “Elements.” We are able to categorize and classify causes into Aristotle’s four causes. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/). The sciences do use and are aware of the four causes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes#The_four_causes_in_modern_science).

With regards to your paragraph about the law of conservation, you are right that things only transfrom from thing to thing. Though at the subatomic level the law of conservation [of mass] is broken. (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/law+of+conservation+of+matter). Nonetheless, all that is truly needed is the metaphysical principle ex nihilo nihil fit. Further still, syntactically, we can formulate the first premise as Bill Craig does: For any x, if x began to exist, then x has a cause. This holds up even accepting the view that things are just a transformation from one thing to another. Even the language itself notes that at one point a “thing” was not was it currently is now, and therefore there is a cause for the new thing arising (even if the new thing is just a transformation of something already existing). There is a cause for the beginning of the famous sculpture the “David.” The efficient cause is Michelangelo, and the material cause is the marble Michelangelo used. There was a point when the “David” did not exist, and then there was a time when the “David” did exist–and therefore the “David” has a cause.

You ask what is the cause of New York. As far as the municipality goes, the inhabitants that came together and ratified that New York becomes a state are the cause for New York’s existence. Another example, if my whole family, including myself, wanted to start a new business, we (however many it took) would be the cause (efficient cause) for our new business. Just like when a couple has a child, the cause (at least the efficient cause) of that child’s existence is both on the part of the mother and father (viz., sexual intercourse).

For your last paragraph, I think anyone arguing for God’s existence would be happy just to get to the fact that God is needed for the universe’s existence.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm

@ Ramses, I too thank you for the feedback.

One can believe in abstract objects, like numbers, but not believe that it correlates to some perfect form. To be a realist about numbers, though called mathematical Platonism, is really a misnomer. This is so b/c it simply parallels to Platonism, but those who believe there are numbers don’t believe numbers are of some perfect form like that of traditional Platonism. So, it’s not analogues to God in the sense of the’ Good.’ Though it is analogous that such people who are realist about numbers believe such things are eternal and therefore do not begin to exist (though these people don’t necessarily have to believe in God). Given this view we can have more than one object that goes into the NBE category. (Below I’ll will dispute the notion that there has to be more that one object that goes into NBE for it to be meaningful.) Furthermore, if you still wish to reject the view that numbers could fall into the NBE category. There are cosmologists who argue that the universe can be past eternal and therefore does not begin to exist. So, the universe is a candidate for NBE.

Again, there is no begging the question in the Kalam argument. The premises are religiously neutral. This means that a non-religious person can accept the premises and not be considered a theist or anything of the sort.

I don’t believe the Kalam argument commits the fallacy of composition. See the above comment about the exception clause.

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Martin April 6, 2011 at 9:01 pm

I have to agree with Jarrett. There is nothing overtly wrong with Kalam. I think if it fails, it’s because it’s possible that the universe is finite but beginningless. There are some arguments along this line, and a Craig opponent should take that strategy.

I also think that it’s ultimately a bit wobbly because it rests on A-theory of time and the beginning of the universe. Either of those tip the other way, and Kalam goes as well.

Compare to Leibniz and Aquinas, which are much more robust and resistant to whether the universe is infinitely old or not, and more of a general fundamental form of argument.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm

@ Ramses,

I would have to disagree and here is my reason. It is more absurd to say the universe caused itself or is uncaused (unless it’s shown that the universe is past eternal). I say it’s absurd to say that the universe caused itself because it’s a incoherent view. To cause your own existence, you must already exist! Which is ridicules. You have the cart before the horse. I wouldn’t think it be absurd to say the universe is uncaused, if one could show it’s past eternal. (Though, one can still argue it requires an explanation for its existence.) However, I would find it absurd to say the universe is uncaused if it is past incomplete (i.e., past finite). This is because it goes against the metaphysical principle ex nihilo nihil fit.

The conclusions would not be the same because there are arguments that says that God–a necessary being–is a metaphysical necessity and therefore exists necessarily, and is not self-caused, though would be uncaused. The universe on the other hand is not necessary in its existence, so needs an explanation for it’s existence (only if one accepts the PSR), and if the universe is past finite would require a cause for its existence. (I’ve seen arguments that argue for the contingency of the universe, but don’t see arguments that argue that the universe is necessary and everything in it are all necessary facts, or brute facts.)

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 9:18 pm

One can believe in abstract objects, like numbers, but not believe that it correlates to some perfect form. To be a realist about numbers, though called mathematical Platonism, is really a misnomer. This is so b/c it simply parallels to Platonism, but those who believe there are numbers don’t believe numbers are of some perfect form like that of traditional Platonism. So, it’s not analogues to God in the sense of the’ Good.’ Though it is analogous that such people who are realist about numbers believe such things are eternal and therefore do not begin to exist (though these people don’t necessarily have to believe in God). Given this view we can have more than one object that goes into the NBE category. (Below I’ll will dispute the notion that there has to be more that one object that goes into NBE for it to be meaningful.)Furthermore, if you still wish to reject the view that numbers could fall into the NBE category. There are cosmologists who argue that the universe can be past eternal and therefore does not begin to exist. So, the universe is a candidate for NBE.

Sure, but that position falsifies the second premise of the Kalam. You reference numbers as uncaused things, but I think those are conceptual. The whole point of the Kalam that Craig drives home is that infinities do not exist in the *real world.*

Again, there is no begging the question in the Kalam argument. The premises are religiously neutral. This means that a non-religious person can accept the premises and not be considered a theist or anything of the sort.

The Kalam argument itself is neutral, but not the way Craig is using it. In debates he almost always ends his argument for the Kalam with something like “This cause must therefore be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, personal being of unimaginable power.” Hmm…sounds familiar.
But it doesn’t even need to be God, it could be whatever the cause is. Lets call it “Cause No. 1.” Even without theological terminology, if “Cause No. 1″ is the only thing in the “Doesn’t begin to exist” camp, then it’s in the definition of the premise, and the question is begged. Since the main point of the KCA is that infinities do not exist in reality, then conceptual things do not count. A Mathematical Realist position would posit that infinite things exist in reality, again refuting the KCA.

I don’t believe the Kalam argument commits the fallacy of composition. See the above comment about the exception clause.

I get what your saying (I think), but I think your argument is semantic. Again, the KCA uses inductive reasoning to conclude that the universe “has a cause” because supposedly whatever that begins to exist has a cause. But the only things we have observed at all, whether beginning to exist or not, are *part* of the universe. The universe, being the *set* of all these things, cannot be characterized by the traits of its constituent parts. We can argue about the definition of the word “thing,” and for the sake of our language we refer to the universe as a “thing,” but it isn’t in the same sense that galaxies, planets and people are “things,” so again the characteristics of those “things” are not necessarily shared with the universe. I think I may have misunderstood your argument, if so, my apologies and I hope you will clarify for me :-).

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I haven’t studied philosophy formally, but it seems to me that the argument “God is necessary” is essentially the ontological argument. I don’t really buy into ontological necessity, it seems to me to be the exact thing laymen mean when they accuse philosophy of being pointless or stupid. Just because a maximally great being can be conceived does not mean such a being exists, such a being is not necessary. We can both agree the universe exists, but we can’t agree that God exists, and the statement “God is necessary” just seems so vacuous. How do you know God is necessary? Can’t I, with just as much authority, claim that the universe is necessary?

Additionally, I think Bertrand Russell said that the best view of the universe is that it is simple a “brute fact.”

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Martin, I agree with you. Earlier I said that the best way to attack the Kalam is by going after the A-theory of time. I, myself, have not really begun to study this complex topic. (If the A-theory of time fails, then things don’t truly begin to exist, and therefore don’t come into being.)

The Leibnizian argument (aka Argument from Contingency) does not fall prey to the finiteness of the universe, or lack thereof, nor does it fall prey to any particular theory of time.

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Martin April 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Can’t I, with just as much authority, claim that the universe is necessary?

You can, but it’s uphill. Since cosmologists can coherently conceive of different ways things could have gone, then there doesn’t seem to be anything necessary about the universe. Compare with, say an isosceles triangle, which has to have the properties it has; you can’t even conceive of it coherently with, say, four sides instead of three.

Another choice is Russell’s brute fact. But this could be seen as special pleading: why suddenly whip out a brute fact, ad hoc? We’ve never seen brute facts before, and it seems an extraordinary claim.

And the third choice is that the universe does have an explanation. But this leads you on the road to fertile soil for deism and theism.

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm

But religionists conceive of many different “causes” of the universe. Obviously the KCA is used to defend Christian theism by Craig, but it could just as easily be used by a Hindu or a Muslim (where is originated), or a follower of any and all gods imaginable or even unimaginable. It seems that “God is necessary” could be reduced to “the transcendent is necessary” if you want to take that tact.

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Martin April 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Totally. But Craig uses Kalam only as a sort of foundational thing.

His first argument gets you a cause. The second gets you an intelligent being. The third gets you God. The fourth gets you the God of the Bible. And that’s it.

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J. A. Kraulis April 6, 2011 at 10:09 pm

@ Martin

Re “His first argument gets you a cause. The second gets you an intelligent being. The third gets you God. The fourth gets you the God of the Bible.”

None of those arguments follow from any of the others as a logical sequence as you or Craig may imply. God, as the supposed source of morality, could have emerged after the universe came into existence, just as human consciousness emerged. Similarly, a God that arrived on the scene after the the universe “began”, whatever that may mean, could have then fine tuned it. It’s rather ironic that this is in fact exactly implied in the Book of Genesis from Craig’s favorite book: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (King James version.)

Clearly, water (the basic substance from which all else was derived, according to one or another of the Greek philosophers, I can’t offhand recall which) existed before God got down to the business of making the world. But what am I saying? The Bible is a work of fiction, of course. But then again, it’s the primary evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I’m confused, Dr. Craig.

The more I follow this thread, the more I understand why intellects greater than any of ours (Hawking, Dawkins, many others) wonder what the hell philosophy is good for today anyway.

J. A.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 10:13 pm

@ Ramses,

I personally don’t know where I fall into with regards to the reality of abstracta. I haven’t read much argumentation to even make an informed opinion on the matter. What I would note is even if one accepts the reality of abstracta, and believes that there are infinite abstract things–really doesn’t hurt the Kalam argument. Three things: 1) One can argue as J.P. Moreland does (he’s a Platonist) that one can make a distinction between concrete infinites and abstract infinites. He argues (I think) that only for the concrete infinites do you get paradoxes, absurdities, and/or contradictions (I don’t know if one would think this move is ad hoc, but it does have some merit.) 2) One can believe in infinites (like Alexander Pruss) but argue that you do get paradoxes when you have an infinite causal chain of events. Pruss has an argument called the Grim Reaper paradox (http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2009/10/from-grim-reaper-paradox-to-kalaam.html). 3) One can believe in infinites, but say that the a posteriori arguments (i.e., scientific arguments) establish the finitude of the past.

Certainly the conclusion of the Kalam argument is theistic. I wasn’t arguing against that. Rather I was saying the two premises are religiously neutral. Anyone can accept those two premises and not be called a theist. Though accepting the conclusion will make you one. Philosopher Quentin Smith accepts the first two premises but believes the universe is self-caused (I’m unsure if he still holds this view). It’s in that sense that the Kalam argument doesn’t beg the question because the premises truly are not assuming God exists. (The two premises in and of themselves does not assume God exists).

About the universe and things, parts, sets, and all that other fun stuff. What makes the Kalam arguments powerful is if it’s true that the universe did in fact have a beginning (aka came into being) then the force of the metaphysical principle ex nihilo nihil fit comes into play. A defender of this principle would argue if you don’t accept this that it becomes inexplicable why anything and everything just don’t pop into being uncaused. If something like the universe can pop into being from nothing uncaused, then why don’t we see things popping in and out of existence uncaused constantly? I see no reason to reject the principle.

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm

That’s a very interesting view, and I am certainly interested in learning more about it.
I think the metaphysical principle you’re talking about seems like it could be a problem for God too. Why doesn’t God have a reason? You could say “God is necessary,” and then we are back to “Why isn’t the universe necessary?”
Ah, philosophy….
For now, I think our discussion is done. Neither of us have convinced each other, but as a non-philosopher who wants to become one one day (I’m actually a musician…not that the two are mutually exclusive), I have certainly learned a lot, including that my thoughts are not complete rubbish, nor absolutely on the mark. Thanks for the opportunity to bounce some of my ideas off of you :-). Maybe we’ll catch up later.

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

@ Ramses,

One need not argue for the necessity of God though the ontological argument alone. One can use the argument from contingency (Leibnizian Cosmological Arguments). Here’s Alexander Pruss’ Leibnizian Cosmological Argument that appeared in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (https://bearspace.baylor.edu/Alexander_Pruss/www/papers/LCA.html).

As Martin said, just appealing to the universe as a necessary brute fact will not work. There are good arguments that say otherwise, and if the universe did have a beginning then that would show it’s not necessary.

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drew April 6, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I disagree with one one of the reviews.
I thought the Wolpert debate was excellent.
“Boy are you ignorant” he says to Craig at one point.

In my opinion one of the best moments of any Atheist vs Craig debates.

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Ramses April 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm

The argument from contingency also has compositional problems.
How do you know the universe is contingent? Because parts of it are contingent? Then, once again, you are placing the characteristics of the parts onto the whole. It is just a new phrasing of the KCA really…

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 10:46 pm

@ Ramses,

I want to thank you for the exchange.

With regards to the metaphysical principle ex nihilo nihil fit one would say this does not apply to God (one would argue that God never came into being). However, what I think you’re getting at is that God will need an explanation for his existence. This is if you accept the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). The whole argument from contingency hinges on the PSR. (I also think we have very strong reasons for accepting this principle.) In the end it will come down to the theist saying the universe is contingent and that contingent explanations requires an explanation (if you accept the PSR) and that this explanation will involve a necessary being. Then one will argue why this necessary being is unique and then make distinctions between a necessary being and contingent beings.

In my above post where I linked to Alexander Pruss’ Leibnizian Cosmological Argument. There is a whole section titled 2.2. Why should we believe the PSR?. Much of it can be understood, even if one is not an expert. If it’s too much, Pruss wrote a book about the PSR titled The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment. Some of it can be read online via Google books.

Once again thanks for the conversation!

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Jarrett Cooper April 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm

@ Ramses,

I somehow knew you would say that. :) No, there are arguments from contingency that do no commit the fallacy of composition. For example, Robert Koons, has a mereological argument for the contingency of the universe. “To avoid any hint of the Fallacy of Composition and to avoid these complications, Koons (198–99) formulates the argument for the contingency of the universe as a mereological argument. If something is contingent, it contains a contingent part. The whole and part overlap, and by virtue of overlapping, have a common part. Since the part in virtue of which they overlap is wholly contingent, the whole likewise must be contingent.” (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/)

Also, Pruss’ Leibnizian Argument does not commit the fallacy of composition either.

Here is his [Koons'] 1996 paper, though this paper uses modal logic and can be more daunting if one is not familiar. Unfortunately, I can’t post a link that goes directly to the paper (b/c it’s a PDF), but here is a Google link, it will be the first one on the list titled A New Look at the Cosmological Argument. (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&biw=1600&bih=775&sa=X&ei=i1KdTbfmB5CC0QHB0ZiwBA&ved=0CBQQvwUoAQ&q=Robert+Koons+A+new+Look+at+the+Cosmological+Argument&spell=1)

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J. A. Kraulis April 7, 2011 at 12:07 am

Jarrett,

I have to thank you and Martin in particular for your input, as only those who take positions different from one’s own can expand one’s understanding, even if just one’s understanding of one’s own perspective. It’s like any exercise. If you aren’t challenged, there isn’t much benefit.

Now, as to your comments, you write that you “don’t know what the word energy precisely means”. Exactly the point I was making. I don’t know what “cause” or “beginning” mean in the Kalam argument. I still maintain they mean different things with respect to what occurs within the universe vs with the universe as a whole. And that doesn’t even begin to address what the term “universe” might mean, given that we have parallel universes, multiverses, bubble universes, any number of structural possibilities within which this universe may be just a speck.

Check out discussions on how vast is the cosmos here: http://www.closertotruth.com/ (a fascinating site; Craig is one of the more than hundred participants interviewed, BTW) and you will gain a new appreciation for that famous line in Hamlet about there being more in heaven and in earth than is dreamt of in one’s (Horatio’s) philosophy.

Re New York, I meant the city, and the point again is that one cannot name a specific cause or even a series of causes, or identify a specific time or period when New York began to exist. (The incorporation of New York City does not define some moment when the thing began to exist, nor is it a cause.) You end up with a tangled web of multiple causes and causers, and the everything-is-connected-to everything-else paradigm applies. And you end up with the reasonable proposition that the the ultimate cause of New York is the coming into being of the universe itself. Which again means, IMHO, that to assert that whatever begins to exist has a cause is vacuous.

The only reason I find the Kalam argument interesting is because I have observed (on YouTube) numerous examples of deceitful reasoning on Craig’s part, especially when he puts down people whose ideas he disagrees with. The guy is not a paragon of logical reasoning. He’s a lawyer, a trickster, a master fisherman (when it comes to red herrings). So it’s fun to see what’s wrong with his most cherished case.

The bare fact is, the initial logic of the Kalam argument is essentially pointless. That the universe had a cause is something that – while there are other possibilities – seems more than entirely reasonable. In fact, we can take it as a premise! Hawking thinks the universe had a cause. It is gravity. Lise Randall thinks the universe had a cause. It is the intersection of branes in string theory. (I don’t have a clue what this really means, I assure you.) In fact, every modern cosmologist would probably agree that the universe has a cause. It’s what some of them spend their lives trying to figure out, for Christ sake! Craig doesn’t want to take it as a premise. Somehow “proving” it logically makes God more likely. I fail to see why, and again it seems absurd that he wants to connect modern cosmology to the New Testament. I’ve always wanted to hear someone ask him why he thinks the New Testament is journalism and the Old Testament is allegorical fiction. Or does he really believe the stories about Noah and Jonah and Adam’s rib and the Tower of Babel, etc, some of which rather contradict the cosmology he cites.

I realize he takes the argument further from there, but this is what we have been discussing. And the further doesn’t get better. Again, I’m just using Wikipedia here, but Craig’s Kalam continues:

1 An actual infinite cannot exist
2 An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite
3 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist

But Craig has no problem with the infinite torture of those who reject God (read: those who don’t agree with his theology)!

Listen to him here, in a debate Luke has listed above:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qODwe02Mk6I

At 1:16: “To reject Christ is to reject God himself, and this is a sin of INFINITE gravity and proportion, and therefore deserves infinite punishment.” And he goes on. (It gets worse, or better.)

So there you have it. An actual infinite cannot exist, except in the case of infinite punishment for those of us who don’t accept Christian dogma. I have tried to be polite and respectful in my opinions here, but I have to say, how can anyone respect such utter bullshit? If someone asked me why I’m no longer a Christian (I was confirmed in the faith when I was sixteen), I can think of no better explanation than to refer them to this clip of William Craig in debate.

J. A.

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Jarrett Cooper April 7, 2011 at 2:08 am

@ J. A. Kraulis,

It’s my pleasure.

I believe we have good definitions of what cause means. Following Alexander Pruss’ view of causation, he writes syntactically: That C causes E entails that were C not to exist or take place, E would not have taken place. In this case the Kalam proponent would say that if God did not exist then the existence of the universe would not exist or have taken place. (Place God in for the variable ‘C’ and place universe for the variable ‘E’.) I also think cosmologists have a good definition of universe: All existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos.

Thanks for the link. I’m aware of the Robert Lawrence Kuhn and Closer to Truth. I’ve once even posted, at this website, the piece with Alan Guth, and how he notes that even his inflationary theories are past incomplete (meaning past is finite).

With regards to New York and its cause. I believe I previously answered this correctly. Here’s the above syntax of causation: That C causes E entails that were C not to exist or take place, E would not have taken place. Here’s some of the causes of New York City, ” its roots to the 1624 founding of New Amsterdam as a trading post by Dutch colonists. The city and its surrounds came under English control in 1664,[9] and was renamed New York after King Charles II of England granted the lands to his brother, the Duke of York. New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790.[10] It has been the country’s largest city since 1790.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City)

We have Aristotle’s four views of causation: efficient, formal, material, final. Along with direct and indirect causes. Just because there can be array of happenings that attribute to a particular cause, doesn’t do the Kalam proponent, nor any other proponent with a view of causation any harm. Depending what you’re exactly asking for can allow the syntax for causation to better answer your inquiry. But if you wish to take the route of the infinite regress with causation then, as a theist, I can halt the regress of causation with God. In whom all things came and for whom we live (cf. 1 Cor 8:6).

I agree, we need to assess these other alternatives that could be the cause of the universe. However, when one demonstrates such things don’t work, when will one accept that it very well could be God that did it? It seems there are some non-theists that are so opposed to the supernatural that they will never embrace the God hypothesis. As John Lennox noted about Hawking’s law of gravity causing the universe is misguided. “But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1308599/Stephen-Hawking-wrong-You-explain-universe-God.html). For such views that hold onto string theory (many criticize string theory and argue it shouldn’t even be called a theory), we need to see if such views are legitimate, and ask ourselves are such things past eternal (if not then the principle ex nihilo nihil fit comes into play.

I don’t know how Craig would respond to your questioning about the Old and New Testament. But I do think Craig would respond that when it comes to the issue that God being the cause/creator of the universe–both the Old and New Testament are pretty clear on this front.

What Craig makes clear, or at least tries to is that there is a difference between an actual infinite and a potential infinite. Craig argues that an actual infinite cannot exist. Those in Heaven and Hell will exist in that state for a potential infinite amount of time (meaning the infinite will never be actualized, but will always continue onto future infinity).

I would just try to take focus away from actual followers of Christ and put my eyes toward Christ, himself. (I don’t want to come across as some in your face evangelical [I even deleted some stuff thinking it would seem patronizing or something of that sort], but I just think it’s important that one shouldn’t reject Christianity because of certain followers of it. )

Time for bed! (It’s past 5:00 AM over here.)

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Martin April 7, 2011 at 6:02 am

JA,

The more I follow this thread, the more I understand why intellects greater than any of ours (Hawking, Dawkins, many others) wonder what the hell philosophy is good for today anyway.

You realize the self-refuting nature of that statement, right? Hawking says that philosophy is dead, and then goes on to make a case for non-realism! He sneaks philosophy in under the guise of “science.”

I can’t find it now, but Quentin Smith has an article where he develops an argument against theism using Hawking’s scientific work, saying at one point something like “Hawking leaves it to the philosophers to make a coherent argument for naturalism.”

Science provides the puzzle pieces. Philosophy tries to put it together.

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Ramses April 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

What Craig makes clear, or at least tries to is that there is a difference between an actual infinite and a potential infinite. Craig argues that an actual infinite cannot exist. Those in Heaven and Hell will exist in that state for a potential infinite amount of time (meaning the infinite will never be actualized, but will always continue onto future infinity).

The same concept could be put forward for the universe: It doesn’t have a beginning, but it never reaches infinity, since infinity cannot actually be realized. Cosmologist Victor Stenger puts forward this exact view in his book “God: The Failed Hypothesis,” (Chap. 4, “Cosmic Evidence”) when taking Craig to task on the cosmological argument. He also shows, using Quantum mechanics, that there is no reason to think the universe “began” at the Big Bang. Arguing from Einstein’s definition of “time is what you see on a clock,” he says you can go forward/backward an infinite amount of ticks, but you will never reach infinity. But that doesn’t mean time is finite. In fact, that view could be put forward for anything we might think of as infinite! It goes on forever, but never actually *reaches* infinity, since such a concept is self-contradictory. Thus, the KCA is falsified yet again, because potential infinities are all that is necessary in the real world for the universe to not have needed a beginning.
The only thing that can’t get away with this is God, since he is supposed to be the *full realization* of all things, not in any way deficient or “becoming,” but rather “being.” Doesn’t God violate the rule against actual infinities?

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Ramses April 7, 2011 at 8:58 am

Here is the quote:

“You can count backwards as well as forward. Counting forward you can get a very big but never mathematically infinite number and time ‘never ends.’ Counting backward you can get a very big but never mathematically infinite negative number and time ‘never begins…’
Even if the universe does not have a mathematically infinite number of events in the future, it still need not have an end. Similarly, even if the universe does not have a mathematically infinite number of events in the past, it still need not have a beginning. We can always have one event follow another, and we can always have one event precede another.” (Stenger, Victor. “God: The Failed Hypothesis,” Chap 4.)

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Jarrett Cooper April 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm

@ Ramses,

With regards to Victor Stenger, the past has been actualized. The past is not some mere potential aspect, but the fact of the matter is the past has already been actualized.

Bill Craig has a good piece, at his website, on how it’s impossible to form an actual infinite by successive addition: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5732

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Ramses April 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm

With regards to Victor Stenger, the past has been actualized. The past is not some mere potential aspect, but the fact of the matter is the past has already been actualized.

But it isn’t a real infinite, because the past is made of successive moments adding up. So even if you take out the notion of a beginning, this point still stands. It is not an actual infinite because it will never reach that point (you can’t “reach” infinity).
Your (Craig’s) explanation about how infinite torture can really happen uses the same logic. If you reject this argument, then you also reject the notion of an infinite afterlife. It need not be actualized, it need merely be potential. Additionally, in physics “infinite” is usually just a synonym for a very very big number. Again, nothing can actually *reach* infinity, so even things that are referred to as infinitely old or beginningless are not ACTUALLY infinite.

“To say the universe is infinitely old is to say that it had no beginning–not a beginning and infinite amount of time ago.”-Keith Parsons

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Jarrett Cooper April 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm

@ Ramses,

We need to understand the distinction between actual and potential infinites. The future is mere potential. The past has already occurred and therefore has actualized. One would say that an actual infinite cannot be true (b/c of contradictions, absurdities, and paradoxes); however, a potential infinite does not succumb to such things, and therefore one can accept such a concept.

If Stenger, Parsons, and whoever else says the past is eternal (infinite), then that person believes an actual infinite has occurred. One can’t apply the same logic to something that’s actualized with something that is merely potential.

Furthermore, you have arguments that find faults with a backward infinite causal chain of events (even if one accepts actual infinities). Alexander Pruss makes us of the Grim Reaper arguments to show how it supports the fact that the universe had a beginning. (http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2009/10/from-grim-reaper-paradox-to-kalaam.html)

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Ramses April 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Will respond later, am currently watching the stream of Harris V Craig. Btw, here is quote from Richard Dawkins about Craig, from the article he posted by Lawrence Krauss about HIS debate with WLC:

“I can’t think why some people say Craig is a skilled debater. It is true that he seems to do nothing else with his life EXCEPT travel around debating, so he has had plenty of practice at debating against people who have better things to do. But the only time I have been in a debate with him (in Mexico) I found him pedantic and surprisingly unimpressive. He seemed to think he had scored points of logic when, to anyone of any intelligence, he obviously had done nothing of the kind.

Richard”

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/612104-dealing-with-william-lane-craig

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Martin April 8, 2011 at 8:21 am

And Craig mops up the third member of the horsemen, Sam Harris: http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/audio-and-summary-of-the-william-lane-craig-vs-sam-harris-debate/

The Christians use logic and reason, and the atheists resort to insults, like Dawkins’ quote above. I consider myself intelligent, and I think Craig did score logical points (even if he is still ultimately wrong).

Outside the world of (easy to beat) creationists and fundamentalists, atheists seem to be lost at sea.

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J. A. Kraulis April 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm

@ Martin

Why is it that I get this sense that Wintry Knight’s “review” might be a pre-determined and distorting opinion? I don’t know why you even find that particular blog credible enough to post a link to it. (From the earlier link you sent regarding the Krauss debate, I got the impression that WK was rather more pleased with his own “wit” than he was in presenting a serious account of what must have transpired.)

Dawkins is absolutely right about Craig’s logic. But it handily fools those who cannot see the gross faults in Craig’s reasoning.

There is no better example of this than here, in Craig’s attack on Dawkins himself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsymb6UxWM0

You will listen to it, and you will think, boy, Craig demolishes Dawkins. It’s a perfect example of a grandmaster of sophistry at work. The faults in logic might not be immediately apparent while you listen to his articulate speaking. They will only become evident if you think about what was said afterwards. But Craig doesn’t care. If he’s convinced 90% of his sheep that he is right, he has won.

If Craig believes that his logic is sound here, he is really rather stupid. One can make a persuasive case that Craig is not stupid. Which leaves me to conclude that he is dishonest. One reason why, the more I listen to him, the more contempt I feel for him.

Can you see what is so abysmally wrong with what he says in the mentioned video? If so, I would hope you would be less inclined to be so impressed with Craig’s “skill”. If not, I’ll be happy to enlighten you in a follow-up. (Note first of all that Craig is very good in restating his adversaries’ arguments in ways that subtly change them to something rather different that he can then attack, the straw man fallacy, but that is the least of the problems here.)

J. A.

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J. A Kraulis April 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Martin, you wrote that: “Outside the world of (easy to beat) creationists and fundamentalists, atheists seem to be lost at sea.”

1 They seem that way to you. They don’t seem that way to me.

2 After (among other things) the link I posted to Craig’s unambiguous assertion that the rejection of Christ is “a sin of infinite gravity” that “deserves infinite punishment”, how in God’s name can you think that Craig is outside the world of creationists and fundamentalists?

J. A.

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Martin April 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Can you see what is so abysmally wrong with what he says in the mentioned video?

Let Luke Muelhauser tell you himself: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6081

Twice: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=6113

With quotes from atheist philosophers as backup.

All of whom make the same point as Craig in the video.

Craig is outside the world of creationists and fundamentalists?

Craig is absolutely part of that group. I’m not saying he isn’t. But some of his arguments fall well outside this category. General arguments about the generic God of the philosophers are not so easily vanquished.

Atheists seem to keep mixing up Ken Ham, ID, and Craig’s reprehensible defense of genocide, with valid and puzzling arguments for generic theism. Lumping them all into one batch and thinking the whole thing can be chucked without even having to think about it.

Even the atheist philosopher William Rowe (THE creator of the modern argument from evil, and thus, in some ways, a much better centerpiece of modern atheism) wrote a book about cosmological arguments and how they are not clearly refuted, and even defended them to a degree.

I have a friend who is quite excellent with finance, but she also falls hook, line, and sinker for every alternative health bullshit claim there is. If you went by her alternate health lunacy and chucked everything, you’d be throwing the baby out with the bathwater and missing out on some excellent financial advice.

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J. A. Kraulis April 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Martin,

Oh boy. So Luke has fallen under the spell of the Dark Lord as well? Too bad. (I’ve only had time for a quick scan of the links you sent, but it appears that he approvingly quotes Craig at length from the very same link that I gave.)

Can’t you see that the analogies that Craig uses don’t fit? Craig uses the examples of archaeologists finding arrowheads and a piece of machinery discovered on the back side of the moon. These are examples of EVIDENCE. What Dawkins was questioning was the assertion WITHOUT evidence (and in the face of contradicting evidence, actually) that God designed the world , and the position that this assertion is the FINAL explanation beyond which we cannot speculate. All Dawkins is asking is the reasonably provocative why not? Craig’s response is pure, but obviously very effective sophistry. It might be too kind to say that he resorts to comparing apples to oranges.

From his false analogies, Craig goes on to say that Dawkins’ demand would make science impossible, because if you needed an explanation for an explanation, you would need an explanation for that explanation, and then another explanation for *that* explanation, ad infinitum, ha ha ha.

Hello Dr. Craig? Hello…? Are you there? You have in fact described beautifully the history of science and exactly how science works!

Every explanation in science HAS led to and does REQUIRE the search for further explanation. Ever see pictures of the Large Hadron Collider?

(BTW, it happens to be an open debate – real philosophy in this case – whether science will ever get to a point where further knowledge can no longer be had, or whether the enterprise of science can go on forever. Scientists are divided in their opinion on this – see some of the interviews on the Closer to Truth site).

If archaeologists discovered new artifacts somewhere, they would immediately want to understand who the people were that left them there. If alien machinery was found on the moon, you can be sure that there would be a massive space program launched to find out more. On the other hand, what are we supposed to do with the assertion that the God described in the Bible exists? If he doesn’t exist – a very plausible possibility – then ANY question about “Him”, even if utterly silly, is as irrelevant as the next. I insist that there is a flying spaghetti monster that created everything. So where does this FSM come from, you ask me. Fool, I respond, you are asking me for an explanation of an explanation, checkmate, ha ha ha!

More could be said about what Dr. Craig said. Is it really worth the time?

J. A.

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J. A. Kraulis April 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Martin,

Further to Luke’s quoting of Craig, Craig says “In fact… if in order to recognize an explanation as the BEST [my emphasis, and to Craig's point] you have to have an explanation of the explanation…”

That’s EXACTLY correct, Dr. Craig. (How’s that bullet wound in your foot coming along?)

Consider Alfred Wegener’s explanation that continental movement accounted for certain facts, like the fit of the shapes of the coastlines of Africa and South America. This idea was generally debunked, until the mechanisms of plate tectonics, EXPLAINED why it was in fact the BEST explanation. Without that, one explanation (like the flying spaghetti monster) is just as good as any other.

J. A.

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Martin April 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm

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J. A. Kraulis April 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Martin,

I’ll certainly read the Taylor paper when I have the opportunity to give it proper attention. Meanwhile, here’s one for you that I found: http://www.investigatingatheism.info/danieldennettchapter.html

The entire site looks to be worthy of investigation, as it is published by the University of Cambridge.

Before I go, however, here’s yet one more reason that Craig’s attack on Dawkins lacks logical integrity. Arguments from design are all basically variations on Paley’s well-known watchmaker analogy. It is an argument by analogy (that’s what it is called) and Craig uses analogy (falsely, I pointed out) in making his case, so it is reasonable enough to illustrate Dawkins’ question with an analogy.

In fact, let’s not even do that, let’s ask the exact same question in the case of the Paley argument: “Who designed the designer (the watchmaker)?”

The theist, as you can well anticipate, would not dismiss the question. S/He would enthusiastically welcome it. God (!) ultimately designed the watchmaker, either directly or indirectly depending on how literalist one is.

The evolutionary biologist would point out that no one designed the watchmaker. And of course much of Dawkins published work and most of his entire career has been about explaining, eloquently and beautifully, the answer to what is in essence that very question, “Who designed the designer?”, in other words, explaining where watchmakers, as well as giraffes, snakes, etc, etc, etc, etc come from, in rigorous, elaborate, arcane detail.

So, if “Who designed the designer?” is a legitimate, indeed fruitful question to ask in the case of the watchmaker, then why, by perfect analogy, is it an illegitimate challenge when we get further up the ladder of inquiry?

The reason is that the existence of God is purely a matter of faith. There is no evidence from which one can proceed towards an inquiry, let alone an answer. Nor is there justification to presuppose a God in the first place. So the question,”Who designed the designer (God)?” becomes absurd. It is indeed silly to ask it.

And that is Dawkins point! And Craig missed it entirely.

(In other words, you can’t logically argue for something if it doesn’t admit logical enquiry.)

The again, Craig likely knows full well what he is doing. He is an evangelist, a special case pleader, not a truth-seeking philosopher. Access to much of his website and his sermons (like one he gives at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church) is carefully controlled (unlike the case for Dawkins, Dennet, etc). You won’t find them on YouTube. And consider the audience that he gave his anti-Dawkins speech to. It was taken as a given that the universe and life in it was designed, if you listened carefully (otherwise, he would have made even less sense). It was directed probably at a religious audience (maybe even in church), certainly not an academic one.

Time to move on. A word of thanks to Luke, for a superb job on this site, an excellent resource. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with him, does it? It wouldn’t be as interesting if one did. So I am inclined to dispute his general hypothesis that Craig wins most of his debates. Then again, O.J. Simpson’s lawyers won their case…

J. A.

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Martin April 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm

…then why, by perfect analogy, is it an illegitimate challenge when we get further up the ladder of inquiry?

Because it is being used by atheists as an argument against a designer , as a way of objecting to it or “refuting” it.

To drag you back along your analogy, say we find a watch on the beach, and you say that it must have been designed by a watchmaker. I then answer, “No, silly. Then who designed the watchmaker? You’ve just replaced one mystery with another. That’s no answer at all!”

Would you not be a bit perplexed by my retort?

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J. A. Kraulis April 8, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Martin,

Because it is being used by atheists it is an illegitimate challenge ???

It’s actually just a challenge to a particular kind of reasoning, that’s all. (The origin of a whole catalog of things has been magnificently explained by modern science in terms of processes that do not require a designer. But I don’t call that an argument; I call it a library.)

I might be perplexed as to why you thought your retort made a point in your favour. I would reply that the watch is not a mystery at all, and that I could offer solid proof. Evidence. If not a visit to the factory, perhaps a link to the website of the manufacturer stamped on the back of the watch. (Then again, if it said “Rolex”, I might unobtrusively stuff the watch into my pocket and change the subject.)

J. A.

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Martin April 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

It’s a perfectly legitimate question, but atheists use it to reject the idea altogether. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “I don’t believe in God because if God created the universe, then who made God?”

Dawkins’ argument is along these lines. If the universe is so complex that it needs a designer, then the designer is even more complex. Therefore, there is no designer.

??? How does that conclusion follow?

OK, forget the watch. Go with alien-looking machinery discovered on Mars. You say that it is very likely that aliens put it there. I say “But that’s no explanation! We don’t have any evidence of these aliens! And who created the aliens? You’ve just replaced one puzzle with another! Therefore, aliens did not put the machinery there.”

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Joe April 9, 2011 at 11:55 am

Craig, religionists and atheists all avoid the possibility that beginnings and endings are purely human concepts and have no bearing on the reality of the universe. Even the BB is thought to be a “beginning” and when that is rejected by the nincompoops in the world of religion their conclusions turn to designers and celestial engineers. That includes almost every human alive. Sad but true that human beings are the only utterly non-humble beings on this planet. Merely thinking that you are focus of the attention of the maker of all things only means one thing. You haven’t the slightest clue about yourself or the world around you.

Once more go to this site to see just how insignificant you really are.http://religiouscomics.net/my_images/spaceb.jpg

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J. A. Kraulis April 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Martin,

“Atheists”, and not only atheists, can ask follow-up questions and there are two reasonable ways of answering. One is to offer an explanation. The other is to say, I don’t know. The latter is in fact Dawkins own position on the ultimate explanation for the existence of the universe. One of his favorite quotes, which he has repeated several times, is J.B.S. Haldane’s “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose ” This is Dawkins position. Not only does he not know where all that we know comes from, what it’s all about, but he admits that it’s conceivable (perhaps even likely) that even if he could know, he could not possibly understand it. That’s pretty humble, don’t you think?

Contrast this to the arrogant Craig. He certainly does not say he doesn’t know the answer. He makes all kinds of claims for the ultimate origin and explanation of things. Everything was created by God, who is one male “being” of immense power and intelligence who sent his only son (who also happens to be himself) to die for us and if we reject that idea we qualify for infinite punishment. I’m not making a caricature here – you know very well that he has stated this and a great deal more – a great deal more – about the nature and intentions of God, as do all religious leaders and theologians.

But then, when someone asks for an explanation of where all these (insane) ideas are coming from, Craig derisively goes into this spiel about how that’s asking an explanation for an explanation. His is logic that deserves contempt, as I earlier explained.

It’s one thing to have faith, and to subscribe to Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA, idea that religion and science are “non-overlapping magisteria”. It’s quite another to use (abuse) science the way Craig does (cherry-picking ideas in cosmology to fit them into his evangelical agenda) and then to turn around and say that scientific methods of inquiry don’t apply when it’s inconvenient.

You write: “Dawkins’ argument is along these lines. If the universe is so complex that it needs a designer, then the designer is even more complex. Therefore, there is no designer.” That’s not what he is saying at all. What he is saying is that recourse to the God the Designer hypothesis leads to infinite regress, as an explanation. The watch is complex, it was designed by a watchmaker. The watchmaker is, I think we can easily agree, more complex than the watch. God designed the watchmaker (according to Craig). God is more complex than the watchmaker, I’m sure Craig would agree. So what’s illogical about continuing this line of enquiry?

What’s illogical about it, of course, is that Dawkins’ field of evolutionary biology has explained thoroughly how and why the watchmaker was NOT designed. And again, that was the point of Dawkins’ rhetorical question.

Yes, I know, Craig freely acknowledges that evolution is a fact, and that’s how God “designs” things. That’s his position in front of an academic audience. In front of a religious one, he champions the idea of intelligent design (as he was doing in the video clip we are discussing). This is not intellectual integrity. It’s not something to admire or respect.

By trying to defend the indefensible, you are confusing your arguments. The machinery on the moon is evidence. Craig is arguing a case for which there is no evidence.

Certainly, if some strange machinery was discovered on the moon that was unlike anything that could have been put there by humans, pretty much any reasonable person would accept the hypothesis that aliens had visited our solar system as the best explanation. But if you asserted without evidence that that had been the case, is my skepticism unreasonable? Is it dumb of me to ask you where your aliens may have come from? “I don’t know”, would be an acceptable answer to such a question, although my skepticism would remain. “You fool, you are asking for an explanation of an explanation,” would not be be a a very bright retort.

We can take this further. “Alien” machinery is indeed discovered on the moon by a future NASA mission, but a rigorous examination of the pieces reveals that it is in fact the remains of a secret Russian launch from the 1970′s. But this leaves your assertion of alien visitation unchanged.

The analogy, of course, is that a whole range of scientific enquiries has explained perfectly well how supposed “design” in the universe has occurred. The evidence in biology for evolution in particular is overwhelming and beyond doubt. Craig-types who think there is room for the intelligent design “hypothesis” should do a bit of reading to appreciate how little they know.

Go here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/best-science-maps/?utm_source=UniBul&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29&pid=1052

Over a million scientific papers are now published every year. A million! And pretty much every one of them would be about something that a layman could not understand. Meanwhile, Craig thinks that his “logic” of Christian apologetics, based on some two-thousand-year-old collection of mythical stories, trumps modern science, and that people who read Dawkins are “unsophisticated” (somewhere I’ve got the YouTube link where he says that about many of us.) It’s arrogant. It’s pathetic. It’s bullshit.

J. A.

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Ramses April 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm

My thoughts on the Craig/Harris debate.

I know I am biased, but I really thought Harris walked away with this one. From what I could tell, the audience (a predominantly Catholic one!) agreed too, since most of the questions were rather cynical and aimed at Craig.

An interesting accusation made against Harris was that he didn’t engage Craig’s points. No he didn’t, at least not point-by-point in a Craigian fashion. But I don’t think this is a problem. Bare with the analogy:

What is the best way to defeat an opposing army? Well, you set up the entire situation, the time, the location, everything you can, in your favor. Then you lure the enemy army onto the field when they aren’t prepared. Once they get there, your prepared, expecting army snaps the trap shut and the foe is annihilated. This pattern is observed in many great military victories (i.e. The battles of Trebbia, Trasimene, Cannae, almost anything by the Mongols, etc.)

Craig was attempting to do exactly that, and that Harris’ didn’t engage Craig on his terms doesn’t mean Harris didn’t know what he was doing, what it meant was that he could see through the trap.
Craig, in his opening statement said (paraphrasing) “The debate question in this. Which really means we are talking about X,Y, and Z, and I will defend these statements about X,Y, and Z…” Again, this is simply trying to frame the debate, the battlefield, in his favor. Whenever Harris’ brought up something else that wasn’t X,Y, or Z, Craig accused him of using a red herring, and wouldn’t respond. Of course, this also means that either A) Craig wasn’t answering Harris’ questions or B) Craig wasn’t going to fall into Harris’ trap, so the accusation (or compliment) goes both ways.

Harris’ points about the horrific morality of the Abrahamic God were perfectly on topic to the debate question I thought, since if one assumes a moral lawgiver, one must analyze the actions of the moral law giver to make sure they are indeed moral. If we cannot agree with their morality, then it seems absurd to assume our morals come from this particular person. Craig was visibly shaken in his third rebuttal, and frequently blew off the accusations by referencing books. In the Q and A he did the same thing, while Harris actually answered his share of weird questions. I don’t think Craig came off looking very good.

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Mark Sargent April 9, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I would put the Craig/Harris debate in the “ugly” category.

Harris didn’t reply to Craig’s arguments; he didn’t even seem to take them seriously. He just kept reiterating some common anti-Christian retorts.

The previous poster wrote that Craig framed the debate in a way that is unfair with his two initial theses. I think that this is perfectly legitimate way to argue, to make clear what one is asserting, and to argue for it. Harris seemed to ignore the thesis and their arguments. Not only is this rude, but unprofessional as well. And Craig’s second point, that on atheism there is no objective morality, is right on topic. It’s too bad Harris couldn’t come up with a clear reply to the very specific and clearly made arguments offered by Craig.

At the very least Harris could have said that he thinks the way Craig set up the debate was wrong and point out why.

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Mark Sargent April 9, 2011 at 11:40 pm

I would put the Craig/Harris debate in the “ugly” category.

Harris didn’t reply to Craig’s arguments; he didn’t even seem to take them seriously. He just kept reiterating some common anti-Christian retorts.

The previous poster wrote that Craig framed the debate in a way that is unfair with his two initial theses. I think that this is perfectly legitimate way to argue, to make clear what one is arguing for, and to argue for it. Harris seemed to ignore the theses and their arguments. Not only is this rude, but unprofessional as well. And Craig’s second point, that on atheism there is no objective morality, is right on topic. It’s too bad Harris couldn’t come up with a clear reply to the very specific and clearly made arguments offered by Craig.

At the very least Harris could have said that he thinks the way Craig set up the debate was wrong and point out why.

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Joe April 10, 2011 at 6:52 am

I do agree wholeheartedly with J.A. above however just to add to that Atheists hardly ever refer to conditioning, behaviorism, or definition in particular “Referential” definition. Therein lies the necessary information related to the so-called “objective morality” concepts with which Craig so vigorously adhered to. A definition for objectivity can be eliminated if it is adequately defined in terms that are referential and measurable.

It is true and measurable that the audience was predominantly religious or, at the very least, declaretively religious. Craig continued ad nauseam to use the term objective morals and duties” and Harris never questioned the concept of objectivity.

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J. A. Kraulis April 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Joe, I agree with all the points you have made, except that I would be inclined to be more generous towards most members of our own species.

Meanwhile, the argument from objective morality that Christian apologists in general, not just Dr. Craig, bring to the table strikes me as not just invalid, but as an artificial distraction. 

It is first necessary to explain that the existence of a moral sense in humans is dead simple to understand.  The more intelligent species, which include crows (as recent research shows), apes, whales, elephants, etc, have the capacity for empathy, for understanding what another member of their species might think or feel.  It’s not some God-given moral sense that makes us squeamish when driving past the scene of a gruesome traffic accident.  For the same reason, I would never gratuitously punch you in the face because knowing what that would feel like makes me uncomfortable.  And it’s hardly the prospect of retaliation from *God* that is another reason why I wouldn’t do so!  (I think anyone can see right away why the argument that without God, we would all be stealing from and attacking each other simply doesn’t hold.)

Secondary factors in giving us our moral sensibilities are our capacity to reason, and our sense of self-worth (not unrelated to our instinct for self-preservation).  Reason allows us to be logical about what is right and wrong, about what is consistent with empathy, which is formulated in the Golden Rule: do unto others as…etc.  As for self-worth, it explains why we try to ski well, play tennis well, (debate well), and also explains why, having reasoned things out, we want to do what is good and right rather than what is evil and wrong.

So then what about all this “deep” theological stuff about “objective” vs “subjective” morality?  Apart from the fact that the distinction becomes a word shell-game (of which Craig is a master), I find it less interesting to pursue that avenue as I do to think about the arguments that Christian apologists like Craig leave out of their arsenal.  Like reason itself.  Where does our ability to reason come from?  Isn’t that something that suggests the existence of a God?  Why does reason and reasoning have to exist in the first place?

Christian apologists will never go down that road because it exposes their flank to fatal attack.  There’s that quote (I can’t remember who to credit for it) that if you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people.  OK, cheap shot.  But what is a big problem for the apologist is that people reject religion, they reject God and Jesus, precisely because their God-given capacity to reason forces them to do so!  God has a plan for me, the bible-bearing pair at my front door has come to tell me.  Well, let me describe that plan as it must apply to me.  The plan has apparently been to have me confirmed in the Lutheran church at the age of sixteen, then to give me a university education and to enable me to refine my reasoning ability as I grew older to the point where I have no choice but to regard as ridiculous the idea that the stories in the Bible are anything but fiction.  I have no choice but to come to that conclusion.  And acting according to the advice in Pascal’s wager by going to church and pretending to believe in Jesus won’t cut it.  An omniscient God could see right through that hypocrisy.  So through God’s gift of reason, I am destined for “infinite punishment”, according to Dr. Craig.  (Never mind me, so are persons like the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, etc.  That’s some moral God!)

So you will never see intelligent Christian apologists like Dr. Craig suggest that our capacity for reason, the possibility of being able to deal with logic itself, is evidence of God. (There can’t, of course, be anything like “objective morality”, never mind any kind of morality, without the prior existence of reason as its foundation, note.)

Another thing the Christian apologists will never mention is the mystery of consciousness.  Surely any complete enquiry into the nature of “ultimate reality” cannot ignore the puzzles this brings forward.  There’s no a priori reason why the universe and life itself could not exist and operate without consciousness, why we couldn’t, in principle, all be unconscious robots.  (See for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Jaynes).  Are hive-building bees conscious? (It is a point of philosophical speculation, of course.)  If there is any apparent evidence for God that would give an atheist pause for thought, surely the existence of our consciousness is it!  And yet Craig and the apologists never bring it forward, never even *mention* it!

Why do you suppose that is?  One reason is that the subject of consciousness is simply too complicated, too abstractly difficult to fit into the simplistic arguments that Dr, Craig uses to “win” his debates.  (And this same factor is the reason that his adversaries like Krauss “lose” the debates, i.e. they are presenting ideas that are simply too complex to allow for proper elaboration and argument in the debate format.)  Another reason is that once you do bring consciousness into some sort of religious or spiritual discussion, Christianity in contrast to the Eastern religions begins to look like some wise-ass know-it-all high school student in conversation with a tenured university professor.  It simply has no insights of any consequence whatever to offer.  And indeed, its view of a mind-reading God separate from us (which in turn is absolutely necessary to allow the separation of individuals into the two groups of the saved and the damned, those condemned to “infinite punishment” vs those destined for eternal paradise) precludes any kind of deeper consciousness-related enquiry.

Back to the distinction of “objective” vs “subjective” morality.  Why make that an argument for God and not another, like asserting that there is such a thing as “objective” beauty?  Why not delve into the mysteries of why music affects us as an argument for God?  After all, music is often described as that which moves the soul (even by “atheists”), so that necessarily implies the existence of a soul, and therefore the existence of God.  Slam dunk.  Kurt Vonnegut, who was an atheist, said that music could make him believe in God.

So why choose the relatively weak argument from presumed “objective” morality as one of your five pillars?  The reason is that the Christian apologists are not interested in advancing intellectual understanding.  They have an evangelical agenda, which includes the advancement and imposition of Christian “moral” dogma.  (Among which you will find plenty that is immoral, such as Dr. Craig’s own views on homosexuality, etc.)  So the moral argument MUST be part of the Christian apologist’s case.  Their central and most important cause is advancement of their own (non-objective!) moral values.  Logic has nothing to do with it.

J. A.

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Steve April 10, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I would love to see a more thorough analysis of the Craig/Harris debate much like you did for Craig/Kagan, etc.

My intuition watching the debate was that Harris had better rhetoric, but Craig made a better case and therefore won the debate. Some people suggest that I may be missing subtleties in Harris’ statements where he refutes Craig’s arguments in one line in a somewhat indirect manner (which seems like a terrible debate tactic).

I have no formal training or knowledge of debates, but I understand at a slightly above average level how logic and logical arguments work, and I’ve been watching debates pretty regularly now for the past year.

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Joe April 11, 2011 at 6:33 am

J.A.
Ever since I was 18 I have tried to be as mechanistic as possible in analyzing definitions of both the physical realities of this life as well as cultural phenomena that we are stuck with. I cannot help but be as reductionist as possible which has lead me to the world of behaviorism and rejection of free will, absolutes, and the “non-physical”. Still, you and I must operate in this culture as if these “things” were a reality or survival would not be possible. You, I and the rest of humanity must deal with this world of scarcity (and the threat of ) which obviously does not match or coincide with the complexity with which we are well capable of. The result of this discrepancy and inconsistency is this world of conflict, continuous and on-going disagreement.

There is a principle that can describe empathy and the “moral” sense in animals of a certain order of complexity and that is the principle of predictability which the human species has the greater capability. Associative memory is the description used by Jacque Loeb as long ago as 1912 to describe the behavior of animals. The Mechanistic Conception of Life and Forced Movements, Tropisms and Animal Conduct are two books defining the behavior of lower orders of life. The principles therein can be applied to Human behavior but is far more difficult to understand given the culture we live in.

Our language and it’s structure are measurable obstacles to understanding the complexities of predictability. It is easy for Craig to give examples of what he would or would not do in any debate but it is always during the debate where it makes sense to him and his audience that there are “free choices” available to him. However in the real world divorced from the present debate and aside from debates, every decision he and every human makes is dependent on the human being’s ability to predict given the information available to it. “Force” or offer a better alternative and the decision changes….automatically. Craig is a victim, as is his audience, of the inability to remember the various bits of information that forces or causes his abilities to predict and arrive at his decisions. It is as simple and as reductionist as that. Not very difficult to understand but very difficult to accept not being given credit or blame. Religion thrives on this very difficulty.

“YOU have a choice” and more specifically a FREE choice is their mantra and they could not be more inaccurate. This give rise, of course, to the legal system, this economic system of scarcity, debt, and the horrors of war. It gives humans the fictional notions of justice (seeking revenge), “natural” sexual preferences, responsibilities…political, legal, social and personal…..in short…. Holding human beings responsible instead of that which produces them.

The world you and I live in is not well mentally and Craig is but one small example.

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stag April 13, 2011 at 2:49 am

@ “Joe”:

Nice point, complex-network-of-electro-chemico-bio-culturally-generated-information-emerging-from-inherent-material-propulsions. Couldn’t have said it better myself…

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Joe April 13, 2011 at 4:23 am

@ stag

Glad you understand!

@ “Joe”:

Nice point, complex-network-of-electro-chemico-bio-culturally-generated-information-emerging-from-inherent-material-propulsions. Couldn’t have said it better myself…

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Christopher April 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I’m amazed at the various responses to the Shook debate, from people who think Shook sounded atrocious, to people who think he beat Craig.

I, for one, thought he beat Craig. He by no means took full advantage of the flaws in Craig’s rhetoric, but his ease and confidence, along with the clarity with which he presented himself (at least in his prepared presentations) put him at even with Craig in terms of speech.

There was, unfortunately, a real lack of blasting Craig on his retreat-to-the-possible, which he invokes full-scale here. Shook’s bizarre definition of naturalism (the kernel of which I think I can affirm, though certainly not the actual argument as presented, which Craig points out is not valid) was a low point, but that’s the worst it goes.

Well worth a listen.

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tristan April 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I could not believe my eyes when Krauss unbuttoned his and showed the 2+2 = 5. Wow! Are we going this far? have we lost common sense? Oh, where are the Russels, the Nietzsches?

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drew April 22, 2011 at 10:57 am

Imho Craig has lost every debate he has ever been in. Here’s some proof

Chances that Jesus was resurrected; maybe one in a trillion.
Chances that the Jesus’ post-mortem appearances were a hallucination; maybe one in 10..

Craig stridently avers that the odds of 1 in a trillion are far superior to the odds of 1 in 10.
Such a proposition is beyond preposterous. It is flat out idiotic.
Thus Craig is just a big fat idiot and idiots don’t win debates. Q.E.D.

In any case, it seems so me that what atheists should really be debating is the inherent wickedness of the New Testament.

The hypothesis is that if there are any Christians out there that actually possess some semblance of compassion for others; they have no logical choice but to reject the teachings of Jesus and his gang…which are quite obviously horrifically brutal and cruel and almost entirely devoid of compassion.

An ugly conception, to be sure. I just wonder what kind of lipstick this Craig would put on it.

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manicstreetpreacher April 23, 2011 at 3:44 am

@drew

Well said!

As my desk “motivational” phrases flip chart says, “There is no point arguing with idiots. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

Pretty much sums up Craig’s debating style.

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Samuel Awad April 25, 2011 at 3:52 am

J. A. Kraulis

Are you up for a discussion on WLC´s arguments for the historicity of jesus burial, empty tomb narrative, the disciples vision of christ and their original belief in a risen christ?

You wrote somewhere that you are up for debate on this topic if i am not mistaken?

We can also have a discussion of Richard Bauckhams book, i presume you think its “shit” basically, but i am interested in knowing why since the reviews i have read (from non christian scholars) highly praise it for its contribution to NT scholarship.

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Joe April 25, 2011 at 4:43 am

Fuggetaboutit! There’s one book and one book only that refers to all of your interests and that is insufficient evidence and can easily be considered as non-evidence since it is a book written by humans……Obviously! This would turn into another example of “faith” based reasoning which I do not believe any human (save those who would have their children die without actually medical assistance) actually has. Push comes to shove….you have no faith at all except for the self-centered assumption of what might happen to you after you kick the bucket.

Stories about ghosts, zombies, murder, pedophilia, genital mutilation, rape and other such behaviors belong in a psychiatric journals and are not sane conversations in the discourse of human beings.

If you are interested in answers to questions regarding the insanity of your upbringing then asking would be far more productive than the very tired and very old assertions of ignorant mullahs and priests of the utterly ignorant bronze-age mentality. It you are only interested in promoting these assertions then you are very very incompetent. You should actually refer yourself the the rantings of the falwels and the grahams and the popes of recent history.

P.S. Any book that might defend the possibility of ghosts and the use of human sacrifice is a “shit” book……by any measure of sanity.

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Samuel Awad April 25, 2011 at 5:09 am

Joe

Is your message directed to me?

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Joe April 25, 2011 at 5:32 am

Actually it is and it is not. I have found agreement with Kraulis and that leads me to the assertions I made regarding the bible book and Craig’s very crude use of it to determine his repeated conclusions. I admittedly have not read Bauckhams’ book but I assume it to be a challenge to the philosophy of a world without gods and devils. The “shit” book I was referring to is the bible but a comparison applies to all those books that support these stories as accurate history…….and that is a great number of books. It’s no wonder that this is and has been a world at war for so many thousands of years.

Religion actually does poison Everything.

Joe

Is your message directed to me?

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Samuel Awad April 25, 2011 at 5:33 am

Joe

I will answer it just in case.

Fuggetaboutit!

?

There’s one book and one book only that refers to all of your interests and that is insufficient evidence and can easily be considered as non-evidence since it is a book written by humans……Obviously!

Well actually no, i rather compare the gospels with the rest of the ancient greco roman world to draw my conclusions

This would turn into another example of “faith” based reasoning which I do not believe any human (save those who would have their children die without actually medical assistance) actually has. Push comes to shove….you have no faith at all except for the self-centered assumption of what might happen to you after you kick the bucket.

I believe i have faith through reason, through historical analysis, and i hardly think my parents would let me die instead of getting medical treatment (if that is what you were referring to). Your last sentence do not make any sense whatsoever, please explain further.

Stories about ghosts, zombies, murder, pedophilia, genital mutilation, rape and other such behaviors belong in a psychiatric journals and are not sane conversations in the discourse of human beings.

If you are interested in answers to questions regarding the insanity of your upbringing then asking would be far more productive than the very tired and very old assertions ofignorant mullahs and priests of the utterly ignorant bronze-age mentality.

I was never raised as a christian, and what are these “ignorant bronze age mentality” you are referring to? I did not think that bronze age mentality would make you a follower of the british academy? but maybe they have changed their standards over the years to “scholars who exceed in bronze age mentality” :)

It you are only interested in promoting these assertions then you are very very incompetent. You should actually refer yourself the the rantings of the falwels and the grahams and the popes of recent history.

Why am i incompetent? because i wanted to have a debate with someone who claims he can demolish WLC´s arguments for the historicity of the NT? Thats not being incompetent, quite on the contrary, i might learn something new from him.

P.S. Any book that might defend the possibility of ghosts and the use of human sacrifice is a “shit” book……by any measure of sanity.

The problem with your assertion here is that he is not defending the possibility of ghosts and the use of human sacrifice. Have you even read the book?

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Infernvs April 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Craig is fantastic at rigid debate format. The reason for this is NOT that his arguments are better, it’s that its nearly impossible to sufficiently rebut assertions that are dressed up in a logically consistant package in the time frame involved. This is the same reason Creationists who are FLAT OUT WRONG like Kent Hovind are able to topple 3 or 4 credible scientists at the same time.

Christianity itself already has an advantage in this format because it is based on alot of presuppositions that are incredibly difficult to refute IN THE TIME FRAME INVOLVED.

This makes it incredibly difficult, even for an opponent as skilled a debater as Craig, to refute all points sufficiently enough to not be chastised for “drops”, or leave out important things that Craig can pounce on because they didn’t have enough time.

The big test of this comes with formats that are not the rigid debate format Craig is so good at. Shelly Kagan did incredibly well, because it was a discussion, and he was intelligent enough to be able to call out Craig’s fallacies AS they were being made, stopping him from building his arguments on top of a fallacious foundation.

This is also why Craig seems to have a bit more trouble in Question and Answer periods than his opponents usually do.

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Martin April 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm

it’s that its nearly impossible to sufficiently rebut assertions that are dressed up in a logically consistant package in the time frame involved.

If by “dressed up” you mean “real logic,” then yes, you are correct. All of Craig’s arguments are logically valid: Kalam is a categorical syllogism, fine-tuning is a disjunctive syllogism, and morality is Modus Tollens.

Which means the only thing left to attack are his premises:

“1. It is controversial whether the universe began to exist or not; time began at the Big Bang, so how could the universe have “begun”? Also, see Alexander Vilenkin’s response on this point. Therefore, it is not known at this time whether premise 2 of Craig’s Kalam argument is true or false.

Boom. Done with Kalam.

2. There is separate evidence for the existence of a multi-verse. Which means that there might be many chances at a finely tuned universe, in which case the weak anthropic principle would pick out our particular one. See cosmologist Luke Barnes for more. Therefore, it is unknown whether premise 2 of Craig’s fine-tuning argument is true or false.

Boom. Done with fine-tuning.

3. There are many theories of morality, such as Cornell realism, that theorize possible objective morality without an offshore anchor such as God. Therefore, it is unknown at this point whether premise 1 of Craig’s moral argument is true or false.

Boom. Done with morality.

Since I have now shown Dr Craig’s first three arguments to each have at least one controversial premise, then all three are unsound. His fourth argument about the Resurrection requires the first three for its premise that “The hypothesis, ‘God raised Jesus from the dead’ is the best explanation of the three facts of the Resurrection.” With the first three arguments unsound, this premise is unsound as well.

That takes care of Craig’s entire case for theism. Now, I shall present two arguments for atheism: the evidential argument from evil, and the argument from non-belief…”

Etc.

This is what atheists should do. Do they? Never. Why? Because their brains are clogged with almost superhuman levels of arrogance: “I’m smart. Christians are stupid. I don’t need to learn anything about Craig’s arguments.”

Atheists spend so much time attacking the stupidest religious people (Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, etc) that they are making themselves stupid in the process.

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Infernvs April 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

The end of the Kalam is much better to attack IMO. Craig is notorious for having all kinds of quotations memorized, and he would just quote some expert to back up his premise, and in the eyes of the audience he would win… regardless of whether the expert had been shown to be false or not. It’s a game, and Craig would be able to take your refutations, and spin them right around.

The problem with Kalam is the conclusion… he merely DEFINES god as the cause of the universe. Using string theory terms, you can plug “therefore 11 dimensional P-Brane structures exist” and boom, you have the same exact argument but with a non-theological conclusion. However in standard debate format, it would take forever to point out why this is a far more valid hypothesis based on current theoretical physics than Craigs fancy “god of the gaps”.

Like I said, most of the atheists don’t do well in standard debate format because they don’t know how to play the game, and waste time refuting things that are difficult to refute concisely.

HOWEVER, in conversation, Christianity often gets completely annihalated. This is why when people go with Craigs arguments to a show like the atheist experience, they get destroyed extremely quickly.

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Martin April 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm

he merely DEFINES god as the cause of the universe.

See? This is exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t bother to learn what the argument actually says; just attack something it doesn’t say because that’s easier.

The argument states that the entire universe (all space, time, matter, and the laws of phyics) began to exist and has a cause. If so, the cause could not consist of space, time, matter, the laws of physics. This would include branes and higher dimensions.

Thus, if Kalam is successful (which I’m not claiming it is), then the cause would have to be something that transcends all that. This is where Kalam gets to something “spaceless, timeless, and non-physical.”

Kalam’s supplementary arguments give something of an intelligent nature:

1. An argument that the cause must be a mind
2. An argument that a timeless state giving rise to a temporal effect must mean an intelligent agent
3. And an argument that the cause could not have been contingent, and thus must be agency.

Not to say it succeeds, but if you want to deal with it, you need to understand what it says accurately, otherwise you are attacking a strawman. Something all too common with modern atheists.

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Infernvs April 25, 2011 at 9:33 pm

How is he NOT defining it as “God”.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. The universe has a cause
4. Therefore the universe had a cause
5. This cause is God

If we grant for the sake of argument that all his premises are sound, this leads us to only proving that the universe had a cause, and he is just SAYING that that cause is God.

How can he assert that the laws of physics, matter, time and space came to exist? we don’t have any reason to believe that they came to exist, only that our universe did. The creation of our universe could merely be a product of the laws of physics interacting outside of our universe.

The problem is Craig can get away with jumping to the conclusion that the laws of physics came into existence too because that preys on the general ignorance of the audience. Then how much time does it take to legitimately explain why this is an unsound assertion?

Not only that, but he just makes God into something completely untestable, which makes it impossible to DISPROVE. The farthest you can get is pointing out that it’s an unjustified assertion… but usually he innoculates himself against this by shifting the burden of proof from the get go, and forcing the atheist to disprove his undisprovable God.

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J. A. Kraulis April 26, 2011 at 2:14 am

Wait a second, Martin, you write: “The argument states that the entire universe (all space, time, matter, and the laws of phyics) began to exist and has a cause. If so, the cause could not consist of space, time, matter, the laws of physics. This would include branes and higher dimensions.”

You’re doing exactly what I’ve been saying Craig does all the time, that is, he uses words loosely and they mean different things in different contexts so he can get away with making a case that seems logical but really isn’t.

What do you mean by “universe”? According to modern cosmology, THIS universe, the one we are in, had a beginning. This does not mean that the larger Cosmos, or whatever you want to call everything that exists, had to have a beginning. This universe could be one of zillions popping in and out of existence in some vastly larger realm which had no “beginning”, or which could exist in some different “dimensional” arena about which talk of “beginning” or even of “cause” is meaningless or completely missing the nature of the beast.

What does Craig mean by “universe”? It seems to be a conveniently vague and shifty idea. If he really means just this universe, which could be part of a larger timeless cosmos, his Kalam argument amounts to nothing. If, however, by universe he means “everything that exists”, well, that must include God. But no, his God must necessarily be “outside” of everything that exists so that he could have caused it to exist. But no again, for if God exists then He must be included in “everything that exists” and everything that exists couldn’t have a First Cause because then that first cause would not be part of everything that exists and could not exist.

You admire the consistency of Craig’s arguments as they follow from certain premises. I’ve tried to show earlier how these premises are in fact incomplete and useless oversimplifications. Here’s another example of how a Dr. Craig might have argued something centuries ago:

1) Either the world that stretches out before us goes on forever or it comes to an end
2) Nothing can go on forever (see Craig’s “proof” that an actual infinite cannot exist)
3) Therefore…

And that Dr. Craig would have had people speculating on expeditions to reach the ends of the earth. Yes, it’s easy now to see the flaw in the reasoning, but in fact there is nothing at all wrong with the two premises, and in earlier times they would have appeared complete and logically unassailable. Just because the premises make sense doesn’t mean the conclusion has to. (You’ve stated otherwise.)

Conceptualizing the nature of “universe” is vastly more difficult than understanding the earth as a globe. In fact, the human mind may ultimately not even be capable of such conceptualization. J.B.S. Haldane suspected that “the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer that we CAN suppose”.

Craig’s Kalam “proof” (it’s not his, it’s several hundred years old) is irrelevant sophistry.

- J. A.

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Martin April 26, 2011 at 6:07 am

If he really means just this universe, which could be part of a larger timeless cosmos, his Kalam argument amounts to nothing.

He is referring to space, time, matter, and the laws of physics.

He goes through several cosmological model, including the colliding branes model, the multiverse, and so on, and argues that no matter what model turns out to be correct, there must be an absolute beginning to all of it at some point. He refers to the Vilenkin paper for support, which does argue that even multiverse and brane models must begin in a singularity, and he refers to thermodynamics, and two arguments for the impossibility of an infinite, which would apply to the whole shebang.

So, regardless of whether it works or not, you need to attack it for what it actually says.

Here, I’ve sketched out Kalam: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1e8QahtBK8AUnCs8gUw4IiMSASHvKBPmPFgY9X8Ly4Yo

Attack it on its own grounds; not a strawman version of it.

I think the weak point is that the universe may be finite but beginningless, but this would need to be developed into a good argument and not just asserted.

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Infernvs April 26, 2011 at 8:37 am

Saying that the beginning of the universe is the same as the origin of time, matter, and physics is simply Craig showing that hes completely ignorant of contemporary physics. The 2nd premise is that the UNIVERSE began to exist, and I’m sorry, pretending that means everything that exists is just weaseling to win his argument. Because we know absolutely nothing about the multiverse, or brane models, how can he simply state that they had to begin too? and why is God immune from these infinities? Saying that these other things needed to begin with the EXCEPTION of his God is just an assertion.

How can we possibly attack his argument when no matter how its attacked, he will spin it to sound like you’re attacking a strawman? That’s his schtick, and how he often wins debates.

It’s dishonest, but clever.

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J. A. Kraulis April 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Martin, you write: “… this would need to be developed into a good argument and not just asserted.”

That’s right, and just asserting things is exactly what Craig does and what Christian apologists do in general. EVERYTHING Craig has to say about God, that “He” is a “being”, that he is unimaginably powerful, etc is nothing more than an assertion. Even the idea that there is ONE God to begin with (actually there are three, according to Craig in a debate he had with a rabbi, but I digress) is nothing more than an assertion of the superiority of the Abrahamic myth over other myths.

The idea that somehow mind or consciousness, or a mind or a consciousness, or many, or something like that which we don’t understand and have a name for could account for the existence (whatever THAT means) of everything is not an invalid theory, and a Kalam-type argument might have it’s place in such speculation. But serious physicists have who have done heavy lifting with weighty mathematics (not just the simple rules of logic, easily distorted with word games) have considered this, not just Craig and his fellow agenda-driven theologians.

For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Archibald_Wheeler
“Many don’t agree with John Wheeler, but if he’s right then we and presumably other conscious observers throughout the universe, are the creators — or at least the minds that make the universe manifest.”

Again, I’m less interested in any supposedly valid (but incomplete, as I have argued earlier) premises as I am in conclusions. What conclusions do Craig’s arguments lead to? Among other things, we have to conclude – and this is where his assertions in at least one of his debates MUST lead to – that Craig will end up with God when he passes away and the Dalai Lama, by contrast, will endure “infinite” punishment in hell.

Is this any kind of philosophy that deserves anything more than ridicule?

- J. A.

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Martin April 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Because we know absolutely nothing about the multiverse, or brane models, how can he simply state that they had to begin too?

He provides arguments. If you wish to deal with it, you need to deal with his arguments. He provides two arguments against an actual infinite, which argues that the past cannot be infinite, whether there are branes and a multiverse or not.

He provides several supporting arguments that the past must contain a singularity and hence a beginning, and he refers to the Vilenkin model to do this.

He provides an argument from thermodynamics, that even on cyclical models (including branes) some entropy carries thru and thus if the past were infinite then we would now be in a state of complete heat death.

So, again he has four supporting arguments for premise 2:

1. An argument against an actual infinite
2. An argument against creating an infinite by successive addition
3. An argument that science strongly confirms a beginning
4. An argument from thermodynamics

If you want to deal with premise 2, you need to show what’s wrong with all four supporting arguments. Otherwise, they go through and so does Kalam’s main conclusion.

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Martin April 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

But serious physicists have who have done heavy lifting with weighty mathematics

And I would argue that it is philosophers who can put it together into a coherent argument for naturalism, not physicists. The atheist philosopher Quentin Smith laments that Hawking provides the puzzle pieces, but apparently wants philosophers to form a coherent argument for metaphysical naturalism.

What conclusions do Craig’s arguments lead to?

The first only provides a vague deism: “The universe has a cause.”
The second provides intelligence: “The fine tuning is due to design.”
The third provide moral goodness: “God exists.”
And the fourth gives you the Biblical god: “The God entailed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.”

It’s a cumulative case, like a coat of chain mail, with each piece reinforcing each other. And the whole thing can be toppled by attacking just three premises: the universe began to exist, the fine tuning is not due to chance, and if God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist. That wipes all four off the map.

Is this any kind of philosophy that deserves anything more than ridicule?

If you wish to think rationally, yes. The doctrine of Hell is a specific Christian doctrine, and there are multiple interpretations of it. Annihilationism is the idea that the damned will be killed permanently upon death; no afterlife. Inclusivism is the idea that Christ is the path to God but that one can follow Christ and hence be saved without even having heard of him; this was defended by such major Christians as C.S. Lewis and even Billy Graham.

You can’t conclude that the universe did not begin to exist by talking about Hell. This is just a red herring and a signal of weakness, that you can’t refute his case because you have to resort to “Look over there! What in the world can that be?!”

This is all Sam Harris does. His brain is so clogged with hatred for religion that he can’t even think rationally anymore.

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Joe April 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm

“What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” which is exactly where the philosophy of religion is today and should be treated as such. Absolutes do not exist in any measurable way and so Craig’s arguments should be treated as such. It is indeed unfortunate that the major proponents of a philosophy without gods, ghosts and devils cannot demolish the preposterous notions of absolutes, free will and the super-natural but, then again, they are trying to argue within the parameters of the English language……….an unfortunate medium for the exchange of ideas.

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Martin April 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm

What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence

Then I dismiss that statement.

Here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/analytic/#SH3a

I’ll leave it to you to read about logical positivism and why it failed. The unexamined life…

which is exactly where the philosophy of religion is today

While the evidence may not work, to say that they make assertions without evidence is just silly. Premise 2 of Kalam is supported with four supporting arguments, two mathematical, and two scientific.

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J. A.Kraulis April 26, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Martin,

Actually Sam Harris does not rule out the possibility of something beyond life (and “afterlife”, whatever that could possibly mean).

What he hates is the assault on reason that is basically a religious project.

My personal outlook is that debates, such as the one Hitchens had with Tony Blair on the topic, is religion a force for good in the world, address the wrong questions entirely. In that specific case, one should be asking, is *dogma* a force for good in the world? Then the really important issue becomes rather clear. Instead of the religious side trying to associate Hitler with atheism and atheists pointing out that Hitler was raised a Catholic, recognize that the Nuremberg rallies and the spectacle of thousands bowing to Mecca every day are exactly the same phenomena; both are about surrendering one’s own self to an authority figure, a power that is capable of advancing one’s own hopes and wishes in exchange for obedience and the suspension of critical thinking.

The unfortunate thing about Craig’s debates, or at least your take on them, is that it seems to be that their goal must be to somehow refute Craig’s arguments. What is so important about Craig’s arguments, which are contrived to lead to a predetermined conclusion, that we should give them some sort of preeminence? What about the points put forward by his debaters, why do they have to address his structured case and he doesn’t have to address theirs?

You write: “You can’t conclude that the universe did not begin to exist by talking about Hell. This is just a red herring and a signal of weakness, that you can’t refute his case…”

Whether the universe began to exist or didn’t is the red herring! The universe did what it did and the answer to that question can only be answered through science, through observation and experiment, not through philosophical “logic”. The universe is under no obligation to follow our rules of logic and in fact doesn’t. What is important is the conclusions that we come to, and the Christian doctrines of Hell – all of them – are ridiculous and insulting. The various variations are just attempts to patch up something that has become too obviously absurd.

You mention Annihilationism. So this is a “better” idea? We get to Heaven and we can listen to Dr. Craig’s sermons, but we can’t attend lectures by Einstein or Bertrand Russell because they are permanently dead? This just piles stupidity on top of absurdity.

Re Quentin Smith’s lament, of course he would want to assert some significant role for his profession, but Hawking’s take on it is that “philosophy is dead”. And I would ask you if you can name one insight into the nature of reality that philosophy can claim credit for? I can’t think of any myself. Meanwhile science of course has revealed the complexity of a single cell, the fact that we are made of trillions of them, the mechanisms through DNA by which these cells reproduce, the Big Bang, the creation of the elements of the periodic table in the explosions of supernovae, evolution, etc, etc. All things that the ancient philosophers could never have dreamed of in (literally) a million years of “logical” thinking.

As a debater, Craig is an interesting phenomenon. As someone who advances our understanding of things, or even as someone who has interesting speculations to chew on, I would count him as a big zero.

- J. A.

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Martin April 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm

And I would ask you if you can name one insight into the nature of reality that philosophy can claim credit for?

The entirety of science itself. Philosophy gives “birth” to sub-professions. Democritus and his metaphysical theory of atoms is today’s physics. Methodological naturalism was birthed via philosophy.

There is a good reason for the catchphrase: “Philosophy has a habit of burying its undertakers.” By making the statement that “Philosophy has not given us any insight into the nature of reality the way science has”, you are, in effect, making a philosophical statement and thus refuting yourself.

Hawking’s take on it is that “philosophy is dead”

Heh. I love it. Start a book with that phrase, right before you make a case for model-dependent realism, a fucking philosophical position if ever there was one. Hawking has wrapped up his philosophy in the guise of science.

But again, look no farther than our gracious host for his (correct) take on this kind of horseshit: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=12409

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J. A. Kraulis April 27, 2011 at 12:29 am

Martin,

Perhaps philosophy *gave* birth to science. So did religion, many hundreds of years ago. So what? The abacus gave birth to the modern computer. Are there still problems the abacus can solve that the computer can’t?

And to the “entirety of science”? What does that even mean, philosophically speaking? Did your parents give birth to the “entirety” of you?

You (and maybe Luke too, I didn’t really read the whole link) seem to think that anything that involves reasoning automatically owes everything to philosophy. (In fact you seem to suggest that any statement I could possibly make is a philosophical one.) That’s not unlike the claim of religion that we owe all our morality to its God(s) and its principles, a rather presumptuous and entirely backwards claim. Philosophy owes its existence to thinking, not the other way around, just as religion in part owes its existence to our moral sense, not the other way around.

Accusing one of the greatest minds of our time of “horseshit” is no way to make a case either.

Regarding Democritus, his metaphysical theory of atoms is assuredly NOT today’s physics, anymore than the Platonic solids are the basis for ideas about the geometry of the universe, or that ideas about air, earth, water and fire contributed to the development of the Periodic Table. Democritus “insight” has to be one of the most overrated in history. He had a fifty-fifty chance of guessing the right answer. In his day, there were two possibilities if you kept dividing matter up into ever smaller pieces, i.e. this went on forever or you came to a point where further division would not be possible. (Of course you can divide the atom further, and for most forms of matter the smallest discrete unit that can still be called the same substance is the molecule, not the atom, but never mind.) If Democritus had guessed the other way, i.e. that matter is infinitely divisible, it wouldn’t have changed the history of physics one tiny bit. And Democritus himself would never have believed it possible that one day his idea could be empirically validated.

You still haven’t answered my challenge: “I would ask you if you can name one insight into the nature of reality that philosophy can claim credit for?” (Merely maybe being an unintentional parent to a system of enquiry used by science doesn’t exactly qualify.)

- J. A.

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J. A. Kraulis April 27, 2011 at 12:41 am

Martin,

Perhaps philosophy gave (past tense) birth to science. So did religion, many hundreds of years ago. So what? The abacus gave birth to the modern computer. Are there still problems the abacus can solve that the computer can’t?

And to the “entirety of science”? What does that even mean, philosophically speaking? Did your parents give birth to the “entirety” of you?

You (and maybe Luke too, I didn’t really read the whole link) seem to think that anything that involves reasoning automatically owes everything to philosophy. (In fact you seem to suggest that any statement I could possibly make is a philosophical one.) That’s not unlike the claim of religion that we owe all our morality to its God(s) and its principles, a rather presumptuous and entirely backwards claim. Philosophy owes its existence to thinking, not the other way around, just as religion in part owes its existence to our moral sense, not the other way around.

Accusing one of the greatest minds of our time of “horseshit” is no way to make a case either.

Regarding Democritus, his metaphysical theory of atoms is assuredly NOT today’s physics, anymore than the Platonic solids are the basis for ideas about the geometry of the universe, or that ideas about air, earth, water and fire contributed to the development of the Periodic Table. Democritus “insight” has to be one of the most overrated in history. He had a fifty-fifty chance of guessing the right answer. In his day, there were two possibilities if you kept dividing matter up into ever smaller pieces, i.e. this went on forever or you came to a point where further division would not be possible. (Of course you can divide the atom further, and for most forms of matter the smallest discrete unit that can still be called the same substance is the molecule, not the atom, but never mind.) If Democritus had guessed the other way, i.e. that matter is infinitely divisible, it wouldn’t have changed the history of physics one tiny bit. And Democritus himself would never have believed it possible that one day his idea could be empirically validated.

You still haven’t answered my challenge: “I would ask you if you can name one insight into the nature of reality that philosophy can claim credit for?” (Merely maybe being an unintentional parent to a system of enquiry used by science doesn’t exactly qualify.)

- J. A.

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J. A. Kraulis April 27, 2011 at 1:51 am

Martin,

After thinking about the above further (specifically about Democritus and that he in fact may be wrong – “matter” may be infinitely “divisible” after all, as far as we know), and actually reading what Luke wrote rather than just glancing at it, I have to concede that you are correct. Or not wrong. (Is that the same thing, philosophically?)

But it’s too late at night for me to elaborate much further.

Basically, since we’ve gone from atoms to protons and neutrons to quarks to strings (oversimplifying it somewhat), who is to say that something doesn’t account for the existence of strings, and then something else for the existence of that, and it keeps getting weirder and weirder, the laws of physics being like some superstrange Mandelbrot set, admitting higher and higher levels of magnification or abstraction forever.

And that would take us back to exactly the same situation that Democritus was in, a philosophical one, and we’ve come full circle.

But then the role of philosophy is in speculation, it’s value a contemplative one on questions that we may have to concede we can never answer. (For actual answers, we have to turn to science.)

And that is not how Craig uses (abuses) philosophy! He (mis)uses it to “prove” his predetermined assertions. In spirit, he is neither philosopher nor scientist. He’s a lawyer.

I recently heard someone quote an apparently wise theologian (if that’s not a contradiction). He said “God is not the answer, God is the question.” That’s an outlook that Craig, with his ideas of “infinite” punishment for non-belief, etc, could not possibly relate to.

- J. A.

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Martin April 27, 2011 at 6:23 am

But then the role of philosophy is in speculation, it’s value a contemplative one on questions that we may have to concede we can never answer. (For actual answers, we have to turn to science.)

In a way, this is true. Philosophy is sometimes described as somewhere between science and art. So saying “philosophy is dead” is like saying “art is dead”, or “stamp collecting is dead.” It’s amusing to me that people have to engage in philosophy in order to denigrate philosophy.

When making a case for, say, metaphysical naturalism, the view that the universe is all that exists and there is no Creator, one would be engaging in philosophy. Science can’t give you this answer, even in principle, because for this you have to step outside the natural world and see if the natural world is all there is. This can only be done via reasoning and inference. So it’s a two way street: yes, philosophy about God is speculation, but so is philosophy about metaphysical naturalism and materialism.

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Gregory Magarshak May 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Seriously, I think there are a lot of good points to be made for religion, and I respect William Lane Craig as a debater. He definitely has done a lot.

That said, if I debated him I’m pretty sure I would win. I mean come on, all those debates about “is God necessary for good” with various atheists… they always choose to bring their own positive case and Craig always comes back with, “so I see they haven’t addressed anything I said.” And those debates with “Does God Exist” he starts out with “my opponent has to show that my 5 arguments are wrong” etc.

I would just start out saying, listen, I’m not a professional debater, but I will just use common sense and logic. I will address Dr. Craig’s arguments instead of bringing my own subjective opinion because there are plenty of debates on YouTube already where atheists have done the other thing. And then I will proceed to point out the flaws in his arguments, and at the end sketch out the common sense approach that the atheists are putting forth.

What is amazing is, like you said, Dr. Craig’s videos are on YouTube! And I have just given away my whole strategy in advance of what I will do. So the playing field is level. But somehow I doubt Dr. Craig will ever debate me.

PS: I wrote him a letter to try to get him to respond to some vexing questions of mine, but he said the dawkins line – that he is too busy, and he hoped that I would understand. Well, when Dawkins refused to debate WLC, many accused him of not having the balls to do it? I know WLC has the balls. But really I think the world deserves a chance to have someone address Dr. Craig’s arguments instead of spouting their own thing. And I can definitely do it. And I’m not even an atheist! :)

So that means that if I win, his record against atheists will still be the same. Woohoo!

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J. A. Kraulis May 16, 2011 at 2:04 am

Steve, you wrote, “I would love to see a more thorough analysis of the Craig/Harris debate”

While not exactly thorough, Harris’ own take on the debate is here:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-god-debate/

It would be interesting to see these debates done in written format, where the debaters could take the time to reason things through, where tricks and sophistry could be easily separated out and exposed. I doubt Craig could win any such debates, where the merits of the argument would prevail over debating skills. These debates favour the courtroom tactics of lawyers. A debate in writing back and forth would favour the kind of reasoned examination that judges engage in.

- J

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Martin May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm

JA,

In fact, many of Craig’s debates have been published in written form, where each debater fleshed out his case. A good one is the Sinnot-Armstrong one, which was published as God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist. I read it. I would say they tied. Many Amazon reviewers seem to agree.

Craig and Quentin Smith collaborated on a book about cosmological origins, titled Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology, which is a fleshed out version of a debate they had. Showing, again, that there are two viable sides to this debate. Can you imagine PZ Myers collaborating with Ken Ham on the evidence for and against evolution?

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joseph May 25, 2011 at 2:11 am

Brief comment only.
Think both the Ahmed and Ehrman debates are under-rated.
Ahmed calls Craig repeatedly on the ‘objective morality or bust’ argument, the fine tuning argument and raises the simplest objection to the Kalam cosmological argument. All with very few arguments from authority (I do tire of Craig’s watchtowerian habit of quote mining, but great memory and delivery).
Ehrman starts of a little dull, but from the first rebuttal, it’s on!
Kagan was shockingly funny to watch at times too.
Cannot bring myself to listen to the Tabash debate, by Thor what terrible sound quality.

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Luke Muehlhauser May 25, 2011 at 7:56 am

joseph,

Thanks for sharing!

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Joemailman May 25, 2011 at 8:33 am

The people of the future will most probably look back on all of this and shake their heads wondering all the time how could atheists ever need to debate such an utterly foolish set of values as is demonstrated by this Craig fellow. But this will only be a drop in the huge bucket of nonsense that is perpetrated and perpetuated by this culture.

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joseph May 27, 2011 at 7:54 am

Thankyou,
This is a very helpful resource, I started by reading your mapping of the KCA. Personally I find it an intellectually dressed up excuse to avoid an infinite regress and shoehorn God into the first cause, I don’t understand how it avoids God being an “actual” infinite, how it supposes a timeless entity can cause….anything, why God creating something from nothing is fine, but the universe coming from nothing is a no go, how mathematical constructs, that aren’t intuitive (like an electron spinning twice) but describe the world beautifully must be rejected…..
Well you get the idea. Am reading Oppy currently, a bit heavy of terminology!

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Chris Horton May 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

I only agree that Craig appears to win many of the debates he enters because of his polished presentations. But, he says the same five things like he is a pull toy. Taken individually, Craig probably does appear to win the majority of his debates, but look a little deeper. Against Ehrman, he didn’t even bother to address Ehrman’s criticisms over the historicity of miracles. Ehrman clearly made the point that we cannot possibly say historically the resurrection or any other miracle occurred. This is one of Craig’s five main points, and, in my opinion, the one in which Craig’s worldview most depends, and he didn’t even address Ehrman’s questions on the subject during the debate. He just kept going over his usual talking points with his smooth and polished delivery. But, that doesn’t make his points good or valid. At the end of the video, Craig ends up evangelicizing because he realizes his historical argument is getting creamed. What about that makes him the winner?

Against Lawrence Krause recently he again appears to win because of delivery. But look at the content. That debate was over whether there is any evidence for God. Krause’s arguments beat the hell out of 3 of Craig’s other talking points. That is ontology, teleology, and probability. Incidentally, I think the probability of reanimation rather obviously violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics which would make its probabiliy zero using any rational empirical perspective. The underlying assumption of any probability must be empiricism because probability is used to make predictions about the future. It is rather a poor tool to use to assess the past. But I digress, Krauss makes the points well that modern cosmological understanding, just like evolution, has made God superfluous to the universes existence. Now all one needs is occam’s razor and God disppears from Craigs’s cosmological and teleoligcal arguments. They are now unnecessary. Our knowledge has caught up to our ignorance and surpassed it on this subject.

God’s lives and thrives whereever ignorance reigns supreme. That brings me to Craig’s final point, morality. Craig depends on the feeling we all have that there must be a correct way to behave that maximises happiness when he addresses morality. There must be an absolute rule giver from his point of view. But listen to him when he debates and listen close, because he himself admits that morality ebbs and flows with the times and, in many circumstances (Jesus’s supposed comments on adultery come to mind), improves as our knowledge of morality grows. So he starts from the same position we do when he makes this admittion, that we don’t actually know what constitutes the most moral and just life, and we certainly don’t know the most ethical way to structure the rules of society to promote the most moral and just life. But that being said, it does not address his key point, that for their to be morality, there must be a base. There must be something efferial and perfect to juxtapose our actions against. Stated differently, there must be something out there that would always act in a perfectly moral manner so that we can judge our actions against those actions. If you listen, that is the very argument given for Jesus’ godship, that he lived as perfect example so he had to be god also. Craig is completely wrong on this point.

There is a case to be made for an absolute morality, but it has nothing to do with angry, vengeful sky gods. Ethics is, as Craig has admitted during his debates, something that improves or gets worse with time as our understanding of morality grows or shrinks over that same time. However, the fact that one gets to exist implies that one owes a debt to the process that brought him or her into existence. That process is evolution, or stated differently, the survival of the fittest. This is a phrase that is normally associated with social darwinism when the subject of morality comes up, but we know more now. We know now that what made our species the most fit to become the dominant predatorial species on the planet is its ability to collectivise for the common good. This collectivising principle is the actual foundational principle that allows a person to exist, not God. One’s actual obligations are not to a God, they are to the natural evolutionary principles that allowed one to come into exitence. The absolute is the debt owed to the process of evolution that made one’s exitence possible. For our species this debt more specifically is owed to our ability to work together to make our situation better than any of us could ever accomplish alone. This of course does not detail what actions are indeed absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Ethics are situational, they are not absolute and they certainly are not numinous. But ethics being situational does not remove one’s obligations to his fellow man. This obligation is the absolute that Craig so seeks when he makes his arguments and it is owed entirely to the evolutionary process.

Craig’s arguments fail to impress on any level because he also believes in divine command theory which makes any action, no matter how terrible, just because God says so. He is able to make this claim because he thinks we owe an absolute debt to God for our existence, but we know better and we are able to see just how disgusting ethnic cleansing and suicide attacks are. These are perfectly fine for Craig, so long as God says so. Is that morality?

Incidentally I did not proof read this, so sorry for the mistakes I am sure are in here.

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Majesty May 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

This is a response to Chris Horton. Craig did answer Ehrman by saying that in order to deny that Jesus rose from the dead, you would have to deny miracles, and in order to deny the possibility of miracles, you will have to deny the possibility that God exists. Since the hypothesis is that God indeed raised Jesus from the dead, one would have to deny that God exist, and and since Ehrman is speaking based off of historicity he is in no position to do that. That is why WLC gives a cumulative case for the existence of God. And as far as the debate with Krauss, one of arguments that Craig used was the argument from contingency, which states that the universe is not necessary and whatever that is not necessary does not have to exist. And Krauss apparently didn’t understand the argument because he said “contingent things happen all the time” what?? Krauss was in over his head in that debate.

As i mentioned above, WLC wins his debates because he knows the arguments better than his opponent and he is also very eloquent in his speech. His opponents and also his criticizers need to deal with the substance of his arguments instead of focusing on the fact that he is a good debater and crap like that.

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joseph May 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Just two points:

1. Resurrection not being possible due to thermodynamics
-i suppose a believer would argue against it being an isolated being and say a massive amount of energy came from a being that is timeless, transcedent and a disembodied consciousness. I never said it made sense to me. That raises interesting point that if we could understand miracles through naturalistic explanations, are they miracles or not?

B/ The way I saw it Krauss was arguing that our particular universe was contigent, but not strictly speaking necessary, just a probability amongst a very large number. That the multiverse itself, from which universes spring, based on Hawkings model, is not contingent (I confess my knowledge of mathematics and physics fail me, but I am sure they would only fail me more so in the case of God)

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Joemailman May 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Craig is utterly ignorant of the incredible lack of substance and irrelevance of his arguments. He assumes absolutes at every opportunity and then comes up with this ridiculous use of the “English” language and says something like the necessity of “having to exist” or “not having to exist”. Just how is it that there is even the possibility of something “having” to exist? That is just an utterly ridiculous use of words to win an argument. The future will view Craig as the kind of intellectual buffoon that was use by the most ignorant kinds of human beings to justify their ridiculous behavior.

If any god existed it would be in violation of every known physical law and would be a direct contradiction of every known value that is measurably a part of the process of human cooperation and solidarity. It hardly matters to me whether or not those who are or claim to be religious actually can be convinced otherwise. The damage created by this ridiculous set of values is nearly permanent as long as American education is kept at the dangerously low level that it is.

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J. A. Kraulis May 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Majesty, you write: “Craig did answer Ehrman by saying that in order to deny that Jesus rose from the dead, you would have to deny miracles…etc.”

So, in order for you to deny my claim that I went for a ride in an alien spacecraft, you would have to deny that extraterrestrials could exist, otherwise my assertion is most probably true? That’s exactly the logic you defend Craig with. Even if miracles were possible, it hardly follows that therefore Jesus rose from the dead. One can believe in miracles – as many Jews and Muslims do, for example – and still deny that the Resurrection occurred.

And as has been pointed out by many in this thread to the point of exasperation, the argument that God exists, therefore miracles can happen, Jesus was a miracle, therefore God exists is perfectly circular.

But it gets better – there’s no reason to accept the bald assertion that miracles are possible. There has never, ever been a single scientifically verified observance of anything that could be described as a miracle. None. Nor is there any evidence that such miracles occurred in the past.

Indeed, it’s just the opposite, as to give one example, the story of the Flood (a thoroughly obscene and disgusting miracle) has been debunked by modern science in dozens of different ways. In fact also, biology and modern medicine completely disprove the notion that a flesh and blood body could rise from the dead after three days. (If the legend of the Gospel of St. Matthew had never been written, and some contemporary science fiction writer had today come up with such a tale for the first time, likely it would never be published on the reasonable grounds that it lacked the barest minimum of plausibility, being the equivalent of a story based on a flat earth, such as could only be accepted if as a complete fantasy.)

The only “evidence” for miracles is pure hearsay from a small number of supposed witnesses, which of course is grounds for total skepticism. In fact it’s not even hearsay, it’s just *alleged* hearsay, since these apparent witnesses wrote their accounts over two thousand years ago, and it’s hard not to think, in the case of the Book of Genesis especially, that these works were originally intended as allegorical fiction , if they weren’t entirely delusional. Craig himself admits – indeed all but asserts – that there have been no God-caused miracles in more recent history (in his citing Pascal; see one of my earlier posts above).

Alien abductions are more believable than the story of the Resurrection. There are far more independent accounts of the former, and most of the witnesses are still alive! If you want to believe in alien abductions, fine. But it’s not something that would be interesting to debate. I don’t know why the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead should be worth debating either, except for cultural and historic interest and because of the popular obsession with the subject.

As I think you have shown, one can easily confound one’s opponents with absurdities in a debate. This is what Craig does very effectively and subtly, and it goes a long way towards explaining why he “wins’ his debates.

J.A.K.

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Majesty May 29, 2011 at 4:07 am

To J.A.K

You said “So, in order for you to deny my claim that I went for a ride in an alien spacecraft, you would have to deny that extraterrestrials could exist, otherwise my assertion is most probably true.”

It depends on WHY one is objecting. In the example that you gave, I could say that the reason I don’t believe you went for a ride in an alien spacecraft is because at the time you said that you went for a ride, there was video footage of you at Wal-Mart. I can raise that objection while STILL believing in the existence of extraterrestrials. But in the case for the Resurrection, if you accept that it is true, you have to accept the fact that it is a miracle. But if you deny the fact miracles occur, then you by default deny the existence of the Christian God, because the Christian God performs miracles.

You said “And as has been pointed out by many in this thread to the point of exasperation, the argument that God exists, therefore miracles can happen, Jesus was a miracle, therefore God exists is perfectly circular.”

How is it circular? The argument will go like this.
1. The Christian God exists
2. The Christian God is the only being that can perform a miracle
3. Jesus’ resurrection, if it occurred, was a miracle
4. Therefore, the hand of the Christian God was used to perform the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus

You said “But it gets better – there’s no reason to accept the bald assertion that miracles are possible. There has never, ever been a single scientifically verified observance of anything that could be described as a miracle. None. Nor is there any evidence that such miracles occurred in the past.”

I don’t think so. I would say that the origin of the universe is proof that miracles are possible. If the universe began to exist as modern cosmology tells us (and by universe I mean any kind of space/matter ANYWHERE, for those that like the multiverse theory), if it began to exist, then its existence could not have been a natural cause and therefore a miracle. Plus, since we have no reason for evolution, i would say that the origin of life was a miracle. I can’t speak for miracles in the present, but i can certainly speak for miracles in the past.

I will just leave it at that for now.

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Martin May 29, 2011 at 4:24 am

So, in order for you to deny my claim that I went for a ride in an alien spacecraft, you would have to deny that extraterrestrials could exist, otherwise my assertion is most probably true?

There are good reasons to think that aliens are not involved in Earthly affairs: it is very unlikely that any nearby planets can support life, and it is very unlikely that farther aliens would be able to reach us or even know that we are here, considering the immense size of the universe.

So we have prior justification for thinking that it is false that aliens have visited the Earth, and hence good reason to suggest that you did not take a ride with aliens.

But consider the existence of God. The primary argument against it is the argument from evil, which is far from a strong argument; certainly not as strong as the above argument against aliens. At any rate, it is still an open question. So to rule out divine miracles from history requires one to first argue that God does not exist.

And as has been pointed out by many in this thread to the point of exasperation, the argument that God exists, therefore miracles can happen, Jesus was a miracle, therefore God exists is perfectly circular.

There is nothing circular about it. The last step is identification of the god that was argued for:

1. A powerful non-physical cause of the universe exists
2. It is intelligent
3. It is the ground of moral goodness
4. It is the being that raised Jesus

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joseph May 29, 2011 at 8:18 am

Isn’t the circular nature of the argument as follows:
1. God exists
2. God is the only explanation for miracles
3. A miracle is the only explanation of the resurrection.
4. God therefore is the only explanation for this miracle.
5. Therefore God exists.

Apologies if I am misrepresenting, failing to understand, or being philosophically naïve.

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Martin May 29, 2011 at 8:31 am

Joseph,

Craig’s case runs as follows:

1. Kalam argument: the universe has a cause which is powerful, immaterial, spaceless and timeless
2. Fine-tuning: there is an intelligence behind the universe
3. Moral: there is a being who is the ground of moral goodness

At this point, a generic God is established. Since he first argued for the existence of God, this hypothesis is then available to him in the Jesus argument.

4. Jesus: the being established above raised Jesus from the dead, which entails that it is not just any god but the Biblical God who did so

And, as I’ve pointed out ad nauseum above, an atheist who wishes to challenge the case needs to show that one of the premises of his first three arguments is false. If an atheist isn’t making arguments that some of these premises are false:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. The fine tuning is due to chance, physical necessity, or design
4. The fine tuning is not due to chance or physical necessity
5. If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist
6. Objective moral values exist

…then that atheist is not rationally engaging with Craig. Most of his opponents do not. Most throw out what I can only describe as atheist Gish Gallop.

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Joemailman May 29, 2011 at 9:15 am

What makes sense to millions or billions of people matters not at all. There is a greadt deal of money in religion. That translates into a much much higher standard of living for those who are able to capitalize on the gain. Ignorance is rampant all over the globe and has been rampant for thousands of years. The religious are like the ignorant parasite that is in an opportunistic position to gain. In some ways they are far more ignorant than their flocks as they do not know nor care about the havoc which they wreak upon their own families and their own intellect. The religious are ignorant beyond description. It is beyond description because ignorance has no limits. It is an infinitely repressive set of values.

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Joemailman May 29, 2011 at 9:20 am

Joseph,

Craig’s case runs as follows:

1. Kalam argument: the universe has a cause which is powerful, immaterial, spaceless and timeless
2. Fine-tuning: there is an intelligence behind the universe
3. Moral: there is a being who is the ground of moral goodness

At this point, a generic God is established. Since he first argued for the existence of God, this hypothesis is then available to him in the Jesus argument.

4. Jesus: the being established above raised Jesus from the dead, which entails that it is not just any god but the Biblical God who did so

And, as I’ve pointed out ad nauseum above, an atheist who wishes to challenge the case needs to show that one of the premises of his first three arguments is false. If an atheist isn’t making arguments that some of these premises are false:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. The fine tuning is due to chance, physical necessity, or design
4. The fine tuning is not due to chance or physical necessity
5. If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist
6. Objective moral values exist

…then that atheist is not rationally engaging with Craig. Most of his opponents do not. Most throw out what I can only describe as atheist Gish Gallop.

You are wrong stating from your number 1. You will continue to be until you have adequately analyzed the wording of the language in number 1.

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joseph May 29, 2011 at 9:41 am

Nice reference to Mr.Gish, though I felt sorry for him when in a debate he was offered the opportunity to test the theory of electricity.

I think I see what you mean. Attempting to paraphrase:

The predicate “there is a God” is established by Craig’s KCA arguments, fine tuning argument, and moral argument. Rather than established from the Ressurection.

Still are the other parts of the argument valid?
In Biblical Egypt, various egyptian wise men are said to perform miracles, Moses merely performs better miracles. According to Christian theology could a demon perform a miracle, Satan seemed to in Job. Of course other Religions make claims for there own supernatural entities.

Do we have to accept that the only (not best, but only) explanation of the information available is a miracle?

I think the KCA argument has been least well refuted, in the debates I’ve seen, Krauss probably did it best.

Arif Ahmed noted the fine tuning argument is founded on possibilities not probabilities.

Kagan showed how objective values can be infered without a God.

Thankyou for replying.

Ahmed challenged whether we have any proof of objective moral values other than we think there should be some.

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J. A. Kraulis May 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

Martin, you say “There are good reasons to think that aliens are not involved in Earthly affairs…[and therefore]…to suggest that you did not take a ride with aliens.”

That’s precisely to my initial point: your doubting me (which I would certainly expect) does not automatically oblige you to doubt that aliens exist somewhere in the universe. I was pointing out to Majesty that denying that Jesus rose from the dead does not oblige one to deny that miracles could occur – if that is part of Craig’s argument. (It seems a bit too naive to be what Craig says, but then again….) Just like you do not have to assert that extraterrestrials don’t exist in order to justify your incredulity over my story.

Of course, many of us do not believe that divine miracles do occur, but that’s the next step.

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Martin May 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Joemailman,

You are wrong stating from your number 1. You will continue to be until you have adequately analyzed the wording of the language in number 1.

That’s Craig’s premise, not mine. If you wish to challenge his ultimate conclusion, that the God of the Bible exists, then you need to show how his premises are wrong and not just say it.

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Martin May 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm

joseph,

Do we have to accept that the only (not best, but only) explanation of the information available is a miracle?

Craig only argues for an inference to the best explanation. He states on his website and in his more detailed articles that he is only making a weak case, here, not a slam dunk one. He just wants to show that Christian theism is more probably true than naturalism or materialism.

I think the KCA argument has been least well refuted, in the debates I’ve seen, Krauss probably did it best.

Kalam is alive and well. No slam dunk refutations as of yet. Mostly just disagreement. Krauss was rambling and never refuted either premise of Kalam. You should be at all times asking yourself, “Did Kraus show either premise as false?” He did not. At no point did he present an argument that ended with either “Therefore, it is not the case that everything that begins to exist has a cause” or “Therefore, the universe did not begin to exist.”

He just spewed a lot of irrelevant garbage, designed to dazzle the audience. Atheist Gish Gallop.

Arif Ahmed noted the fine tuning argument is founded on possibilities not probabilities.

Did he present a sound argument that ended with “Therefore, there is a fourth option to the fine tuning which is X” or “Therefore, it is the case that the fine tuning is due to chance or physical necessity”? I don’t believe he did. Atheist Gish Gallop.

Kagan showed how objective values can be infered without a God.

I have to listen to this one again.

Ahmed challenged whether we have any proof of objective moral values other than we think there should be some.

Did he present a sound argument that ends with “Therefore, objective moral values do not exist”? No. Atheist Gish Gallop.

I’ve said this at least five thousand times above, and I’ll say it again: a sound argument requires logical validity and true premises. All of Craig’s arguments are logically valid. The only thing left to talk about are whether his premises are true or not, and it is not enough to just say that they aren’t. One would need to present a sound argument, with at least two premises, that ends with “Therefore, it is not the case that X”. Anything else is a red herring, designed to distract.

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J. A. Kraulis May 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Particularly from Martin, there seems to be a frequent assumption in this thread (I suppose because it is after all about WLC), that the (so-called) aetheist’s job is to refute Craig, as if Craig’s point of view is the paramount one and failure to defeat it makes it probable, if not indisputable that God exists. Meanwhile, when Craig ignores or misrepresents and fails to refute alternative propositions from his opponents, that is somehow besides the point?

I’d don’t buy it at all, but what I have observed is that like all religious absolutists, Craig is necessarily a victim of cognitive dissonance. For example, as I have pointed out earlier, Craig unequivocally states, in his blog and in at least one of his debates, that those who reject God deserve “infinite punishment”, in his words. Meanwhile one of his philosophical analyses argues that an “actual infinite”, i.e. one that is real, cannot exist. What could be more real or actual than something that an individual can or will experience? If “infinite punishment” isn’t an “actual infinite”, what the hell (pardon the pun) is?

That’s just one example. His whole method suffers from the same kinds of inconsistencies. The most advanced modern science is marshaled to support his argument that the universe began to exist, and appears to be fine-tuned, but science can have nothing to say regarding the resurrecting of the dead. (This is like calling a witness to testify for your side in court, and then insisting that the same witness isn’t credible just in the part of their testimony that goes against your case.) Objective morality supposedly shows that God exists, but so does his own internal certainty (reason 5); is that objective too? (Both necessarily arise from and involve conscious introspection, but of course wading into the subject of consciousness quickly becomes very problematic for the Christian theologian, so it must be ignored.)

Craig may seem solid when his debates are looked at individually. But if you compare his reasoning across several of them and look at his more evangelical assertions, he doesn’t impress.

He is certainly no Bertrand Russell, whose simple explanation for not giving the God myth credence is still the gold standard: there is no evidence.

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Martin May 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm

All of Craig’s arguments are logically valid. The only thing left to talk about are whether his premises are true or not, and it is not enough to just say that they aren’t. One would need to present a sound argument, with at least two premises, that ends with “Therefore, it is not the case that X”. Anything else is a red herring, designed to distract.

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joseph May 29, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Ok, so as I understand it, for example on the objective moral argument Craig’s argument.

1. God is the only possible source of objective morality.
2. There are objective morals
3. Therefore God exists.

So, in my understanding, Kagan refutted premise 1, and Ahmed asked for evidence of premise 2.

Without these the conclusion (3) cannot be drawn.

I admit I gave the easiest example to check if this is what you mean or not.

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joseph May 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I understand that Ahmed does not prove the premise false. But I don’t understand how an argument can be constructed on an unproved premise (maybe if there were empirical evidence backing up the conclusion, even then…just a thought).

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Martin May 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Joseph,

From what I understand and remember, Kagan presented a version of Kant’s moral theory, which does offer objectivity without God but it has its own set of problems. A theist could retort that there is no ought involved in following what rational people decide is good for society. Why ought one do this?

So premise 1 is controversial and will probably never be completely refuted or confirmed.

Same goes for premise 2. Objective morality is hard to pin down by its very nature; it’s like arguing that we are not living in the Matrix. The most Craig can do is appeal to our inner convictions, but the same goes for the other side as well.

So, contrary to atheist urban legend, the theistic arguments are not clearly false and the God question is still quite an open one. A theist could rationally accept both those premises, and an atheist could rationally deny at least one of them, most likely the first one.

This is why I label myself agnostic, not atheist. :)

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joseph May 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Oh I see, that seems reasonable, disproving the possibility of a God of some description isbeyond my thinking abilities.

I confess I haven’t read in depth about moral philosophy. I can’t find a good list of definitions (for example Oppy uses “modal structure”) and would be willing to take suggestions and/or direction.

My training was in branches of biology and chemistry, not in philosophy, grammar or spelling.

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Martin May 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Sure. Just check out the IEP. It’s written for laymen: http://www.iep.utm.edu/

Here is morality: http://www.iep.utm.edu/category/value/ethics/

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Brian May 30, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I have heard a few debates of his and found he is like atape recording of one single debate. His points are logical. He bases some of them on the bible for hells sake. He always says the others side doesnt make sense and follows with his strange reasoning that leads to god did it. The big bang says the universe was made from nothing he claims. He doesnt follow sciences progression and tries to use past theories as proof for god did it. He believes christ ressurection was factual. Who thinks he is winning anything with this bull. He has a talent it seems for debating, but his lack of real facts is disappointing. He claims things are facts like miracles which are not facts from the scientific method. How can you claim he has won anything when he uses his own facts like miracles.

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Emil Snijer June 2, 2011 at 4:07 am

Allright, please give me a break here. William won all debates with atheïsts? That is so not true, this impliments how people listen to common scense, with biased beliefs. Than the only thing that rests is to hear one’s likes. Offcourse when you understoud Peter Atkins, you wouldn’t have said anything victorious about william lane Craig considering the debate. And that accounts for the most I’m affraid.
Furtheremore, it always surprises me that the reliable sourses of theïsts, are grounded on personal (stronly subjective) stories. The real claim is to say, “look at the world, the horror, the cruelty, what the nazi’s did, Cambodja, etc. Therefore there must be -good and evill- Allways poor connection, but strong example.

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Linda Saintil July 5, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Craig doesn’t win because of his superior rhetoric style and argument, he wins because he lays out the facts and most of all, BECAUSE IT”S THE TRUTH, LETS NOT KID OURSELVES

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J. A. Kraulis July 5, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I’m not aware of a single “fact” that Craig lays out. It would be an interesting discussion if you could name just one so-called fact that Craig uses in his arguments that people who think about these things can agree on. The “fact” that Jesus rose from the dead? So supposedly did dozens of other people, some mentioned in the Bible itself. That’s a fact in the same category as the “fact” that some people have been abducted by UFOs, for which there are a great many contemporary “witnesses” – far more than the number of those who two thousand years ago apparently claimed to have seen Jesus after his death (strange how no one actually saw him walk out of his tomb). There are lots of people who believe these stories, who believe that UFO abductions are a “fact”. Believe it if you wish, but it’s not a debate that I myself would find worth having . And the same for the the “fact” of the Resurrection. One also might find a little humility in the fact (and it is a fact) that four-fifths of the population of this planet does not believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

Admittedly Craig does cite “facts” from modern cosmology – that the universe had a “beginning”, that it is “fine-tuned” (the jury is still out on what precisely these things mean), but the conclusions he argues from these facts are not in any way supported by the very authorities he cites. Foremost among these would be Alan Guth, and I would highly recommend that you listen to all of the fascinating interviews with Guth on closertotruth.com (a site on which William Lane Craig is also one of the participants, note), and you will get a sense of how unsophisticated and indeed trivializing Craig’s philosophy really is. (BTW, Guth himself actually admits the speculative possibility that our universe could conceivably have been intentionally created, but in such a case, the “creator” would necessarily be cut off from this universe forever. So much for the Jesus idea).

All Craig does with “facts” is uses them to support arbitrary assertions. The universe had a cause, he says. And so? Well, that cause must be his God. It can’t be two gods or seven or a civilization of gods or gravity (according to Hawking, etc) or our own consciousness looping back through time in a greater-dimensioned reality, or any of a number of fabulous and sometimes intriguing ideas. It has to be Him, God Himself (wait, actually it’s a Triune God – Craig debates this vigorously against a rabbi who insists that God is One). Why? Because Craig says so. So that makes it a fact?

I hope I have your attention, Linda, and that you won’t go and hide like the other Christians who come here and drop a one-sentence capitalized remonstration and then disappear, because I happen to be very interested in the truth and in facts, and have been all my life. And what I am very curious about and what no one has yet been able to explain to me is why it is that certain things in the Bible must be interpreted as fact, and other things can be dismissed as myth. Certainly no educated person can believe the story that women are descended of Adam’s rib, or that God killed all the terrestrial animals in the Flood, or that He was genuinely concerned about tower building at Babel and so that explains the diversity of languages (or that the Tower builders themselves hadn’t figured out that they could get closer to Heaven far more easily just by hiking up a mountain). I hopefully assume that you do not consider these stories to be”facts”. So then, if so much of the Old Testament is pure fiction, why do you (as I assume you must since you think Craig knows the “truth”) and other Christians believe that the New Testament is all reliable journalism? As a former Christian, confirmed in the Lutheran Church, this question remains deeply puzzling to me.

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Martin July 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

JA,

I just watched the Alan Guth interview about the beginning of the universe on Closer To Truth. He explains his inflationary theory, about how our universe is just one bubble among many… BUT he also explains how he developed a mathematical theorem that regardless of the cosmological model that turns out to be true (including his own), the multiverse as a whole had an absolute beginning at some point in the past.

Here is Craig on Guth: “With the formulation of their stronger theorem, Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin were able to generalize their ealier results on inflationary models in such a way to extend their conclusion to other models. Indeed, the new theorem implies that any universe which has on average been globally expanding at a positive rate is geodesically incomplete in the past and therefore has a past boundary.” – Reasonable Faith

Exactly what Guth said in the video. Which supports premise 2 of Kalam.

The universe had a cause, he says. And so? Well, that cause must be his God.

But Craig argues for this; he doesn’t just assert it. If you wish to dispute him, you have to deal with his arguments, otherwise you are engaging in the very appeal to bare assertion you (falsely) accuse Craig.

“His” God comes about from a cumulative case, not just from Kalam. It’s all his arguments together that add up to the God of generic theism: fine-tuning and moral argue for an intelligent being that is the ground of moral goodness. Coupled with the modal ontological argument, they support the first premise of that argument which then “hits it out of the park” and makes it a mathematical certainty that God exists. Or so the arguments go. If you wish to escape the conclusion, then you have to dispute the premises.

It his entire case together, not just any single argument.

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j. a. kaulis July 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

Martin,

If you are going to lean on the theories of heavyweights like Guth, you can’t just cherry pick those parts of his theories that fit your argument and ignore those that don’t. If you listened to all of the Guth interviews, there is one place (and one only, as I suspect he doesn’t care for simple-minded discussions about “God”) where he refers to theological implications. He explains that if our universe was created, the creator would necessarily be cut off from it forever.

In other words, the moral God, the God of Jesus, cannot be the same as the creator of our universe (the only universe about which we can make any factual statements and the one that Craig is talking about, although as I have pointed out before, he is shifty with his definitions and loose with the terms he uses).

I don’t accept in the least that his case is cumulative. That’s what he would have us believe, but there is no law of logic that says that all of Craig’s gods must be one and the same. Craig’s only basis for positing his particular God is the Bible, without which all his arguments apply equally to the metaphorical flying spaghetti monster or any other divine theory. And in the case of the Bible, he again cherry picks the parts that work for him (the myth of the Ressurection – absurd but can’t be absolutely disproved) and ignores the fact that all parts of the Bible that can be disproved scientifically (the Flood, the Adam and Eve story, etc.) have been!

Far from being cumulative, Craig’s arguments would work even better for multiple gods, and there is of course that delicious irony in his debate with the rabbi over whether God is One or Three.

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J. A. Kraulis July 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

Martin,

You keep saying: “If you wish to escape the conclusion, then you have to dispute the premises.”

This is not how science works. There are countless premises in science which were true, which remain true, but which have led to false conclusions. In fact, the entire history of science turns on that. Conclusions are all that matter. And when one examine’s Craig’s conclusions – his own moral positions and in particular his assertion (another one) that rejection of God (Jesus) merits INFINITE punishment – one can pretty much dismiss his entire package, the 30 books he’s written notwithstanding. (Lots of people have written lots of books that are all bullshit.)

Referencing Guth again, he lends a lot of credence to the possibility – indeed the likelihood – that the universe (the whole thing, not just ours) is infinite. He talks about what meaning one can take from this, and I think if you listen carefully to Guth, you would appreciate that it is not in any way compatible to the meaning Craig wants to assign to our existence.

In Guth’s cosmology, our planet – and by extension the God that involves Himself in it with these silly asserted miracles that conveniently occurred 2,000 years ago – is utterly insignificant. We have to look within ourselves for meaning, he says, we can take nothing from the external reality, the universe at large (and by extension, God). Note that Guth is THE primary authority for Craig’s cosmological argument, and it’s not inconsequential that his own view of the implications is incompatible with Craig’s.

And, BTW, Craig does not “mathematically prove” anything, any more than Xeno proved Achilles could never catch the hare.

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manicstreetpreacher July 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

J A Kraulis

Your last post was music to my ears!

Craig’s dependant on “logic” and syllogisms prove nothing except that logic is grossly overrated.

Why Penguins Aren’t Very Good At Logic.

Computer game characters are logically consistent otherwise they wouldn’t run on a computer. But they exist in the virtual world, not the real world.

If it was proved that the universe did not have a definite beginning but was eternal and uncaused to extent that even Christian apologists could not deny the evidence, Craig would simply rearrange his “arguments” to argue that an eternal, uncaused universe was evidence for Yahweh.

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Martin July 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

He explains that if our universe was created, the creator would necessarily be cut off from it forever.

Due to the laws of physics. Which, by definition, the creator would not be beholden to because he is postulated to be the one who made them in the first place.

That’s what he would have us believe, but there is no law of logic that says that all of Craig’s gods must be one and the same.

Occam’s razor; no reason to suggest more than one. Not to mention, natural theology is a lot bigger than you think. Craig’s arguments can couple with, say, Aquinas’ Five Ways, which gives detailed argumentation as to why there can only be one supreme being, by necessity. As an aside, it’s interesting how badly atheists have had to distort Aquinas. I wonder what the motivations for that is…

You keep saying: “If you wish to escape the conclusion, then you have to dispute the premises.” This is not how science works. There are countless premises in science which were true, which remain true, but which have led to false conclusions.

Questions of God vs metaphysical naturalism are philosophical, not scientific. Science is inductive. By nature, inductive arguments are entirely possible to have true premises and false conclusions. Deductive arguments are not. All of Craig’s arguments are deductive, which means your focus shifts to the premises, as the conclusion follows necessarily IF they are true.

And when one examine’s Craig’s conclusions – his own moral positions and in particular his assertion (another one) that rejection of God (Jesus) merits INFINITE punishment – one can pretty much dismiss his entire package, the 30 books he’s written notwithstanding.

Guilt-by-association is a logical fallacy. I would argue that everyone is right about many things and wrong about many things. A friend of mine is great at finance and you would be missing out on a lot of great advice if you ignored her due to her obsession with crap pseudoscience alternative health therapies.

It’s easy to laugh at Craig’s pathetic attempt to defend genocide in the OT, but it is fallacious to let this in any way affect evaluation of Kalam or other arguments. Kalam is argued in peer-reviewed journals, including astrophysics journals, and taken seriously by some of the best atheists today, such as Quentin Smith.

If it was proved that the universe did not have a definite beginning but was eternal and uncaused to extent that even Christian apologists could not deny the evidence, Craig would simply rearrange his “arguments” to argue that an eternal, uncaused universe was evidence for Yahweh.

Kalam is the only one of the Big Three cosmo arguments that attempts to argue for a beginning, and is in my opinion the weakest. Aquinas argued for a theistic being that operates here and now, with creation as an ongoing activity, and his argument is almost identical to Aristotle’s, which dates way back to 320 B.C. Compare with Kalam, which only dates to about 1110 A.D. So the idea of using a beginning to the universe to prove God is actually the rearguard action, not the other way around.

Craig’s dependant on “logic” and syllogisms prove nothing except that logic is grossly overrated. Why Penguins Aren’t Very Good At Logic

The penguin is providing an invalid argument. Star the distributed terms in his premises, and the undistributed terms in his conclusion. The argument is valid if every term is starred once and there is exactly one righthand starred term:

1. All P* is B
2. Some T is B
3. Therefore, some P* is T*

The “P” is starred twice, and so the argument is logically invalid and the premises can be true but the conclusion still false.

Compare with Kalam:

1. All B* is C
2. u is B
3. Therefore, u* is C*

Every term is starred exactly once, and there is one righthand starred term. Thus, Kalam is logically valid and the conclusion follows necessarily IF the premises are true. Thus, you can chuck the conclusion and just focus on whether the premises are true or not. That is the ONLY thing you should be doing, should you wish to engage with the argument.

Jettisoning all of logic just to avoid a conclusion you don’t like (theistic arguments might have some merit) is irrational, and should Christians do such a thing you would skewer them for it, and rightly so.

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Kristine July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm

“Craig’s dependant on “logic” and syllogisms prove nothing except that logic is grossly overrated.”

Have atheists abandoned logic?

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Martin July 8, 2011 at 8:22 am

Ed,

I’m sorry, I didn’t see you pop in, there. I thought your post was part of JA’s.

My response to your otherwise astounding statement about logic is embedded in my response to JA.

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manicstreetpreacher July 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

@ Martin and Kristine

Funny you should mention my distain for Craig (ab)use of logic. I recently started a thread on an Xian debate forum . Here was my opening shot:

After witnessing William Lane Craig spout such inane drivel in the form of countless philosophical syllogisms as if they are supposed to prove anything with certainty, I have come firmly to the shocking conclusion that his version of logic is grossly overrated for the following reasons:

1. Why resort to “arguments” and “logic” at all. What’s wrong with hard evidence? Why doesn’t God just reveal himself during the World Cup Final and put the question beyond doubt or at the very least perform miracles that are captured by CNN reporters and broadcast on a nightly basis to every home on the planet?

2. From 1, hence why no discipline other than theology / religious philosophy uses logic to prove anything.

3. From 1 and 2, logic is a poor substitute for people trying to disguise the absence of evidence in support of their presupposed dogmatic positions.

4. From 3, if it could be shown to the satisfaction of every scientist and every Christian apologist that the universe had no definite beginning in the finite past but was eternal and uncaused, Craig and his ilk would instantly re-invent their “arguments” to show that an infinite and uncaused universe was evidence for a creator God.

5. Premises and conclusions are always disputed. Therefore, logic is subjective.

6. Just because something is logically consistent doesn’t mean that it exists in reality. Computer game characters with superhuman powers are logically consistent otherwise they would not be able to run on a computer. However, their characteristics do not exist in the real world; they exist in the virtual world.

I’m not writing-off logic altogether. It has its uses and I copy and paste the occasional syllogism myself. However, I believe that its uses are retrospective rather than prospective. It is a useful tool to summarise empirical evidence and observable effects.

Richard Dawkins’ summary of his arguments at the end of Chapter 6 of The God Delusion has been much criticised by people doped up on too my Craig. The summary is precisely that; it is not a logical syllogism with premises and a conclusion.

And Martin. The fact that you dissected the penguin cartoon strongly suggests to me that you need to get out more.

MSP

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Martin July 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Ed,

Your posting there is even more astounding then your short comment here.

Why resort to “arguments” and “logic” at all. What’s wrong with hard evidence?

When scientists publish their evidence, they are using, behind the scenes, logic. “If evolution is true then we should find increasing complexity in the strata. Our paper shows that there is increasing complexity in the strata. Therefore, probably, evolution is true.”

You are so entrenched in such a hyper-positivism and a brain-clogging hatred of religion that you probably don’t even realize you are doing it. Nor do you seem to realize that positivism is one of the few philosophical positions that can be said to have been soundly refuted, over 50 years ago. Refuted in a way that would be like if the bones of Jesus had been found. It fell so hard that even its originators ran away from it. Yet, here you are, blissfully unaware…

You are basically trying to say that “hard” empirical evidence is the only legitimate path to knowledge. But since there is no empirical evidence for this viewpoint, it refutes itself and is, thus, false.

Therefore, you should stop believing it.

Or, continue to believe it in the same way that some religious folk believe in a young earth, by doing mental contortions like abandoning “logic” because it tells you something you don’t want to hear.

The “dogmatism” you accuse the people you hate of engaging in is right there, staring back at you in the mirror…

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manicstreetpreacher July 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Martin

Why don’t you read my post properly? I’ll break it up for you piecemeal.

I’m not writing-off logic altogether.

It has its uses and I copy and paste the occasional syllogism myself.

However, I believe that its uses are retrospective rather than prospective.

It is a useful tool to summarise empirical evidence and observable effects.

The scientist’s use of logic is exactly the form of logic I am defending. It is essential in assembling data and evidence into some form of order and getting it to make sense.

However, Craig abuses logic by asserting that it proves something that has previously been undiscovered when he has not empirical evidence for what he is saying.

Craig will never prove Kalam to the extent that Dawkins can prove evolution. All he has is smoke and mirrors.

MSP

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Martin July 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Ed,

I’m not writing-off logic altogether.

It has its uses and I copy and paste the occasional syllogism myself.

However, I believe that its uses are retrospective rather than prospective.

It is a useful tool to summarise empirical evidence and observable effects.

You can’t write it off at all. How can you even work out that empiricism is good? How can you even work out that it can tell you anything? By reasoning that it can, of course. I.e., logic.

The scientist’s use of logic is exactly the form of logic I am defending

Which can tell you a great many things about the natural world. But if you want to move beyond that, and reason out whether the natural world is all that exists, whether morality exists or not, whether even the external world you see is not some dream you are having, you have to use a combination of metaphysics, a priori, and empiricism.

However, Craig abuses logic by asserting that it proves something that has previously been undiscovered when he has not empirical evidence for what he is saying.

He supports his second premise with empirical evidence: the Bord-Guth-Vilenkin theorem, thermodynamics, and Big Bang models. He also uses a bit of a priori: two arguments that an infinite past is impossible. He also uses a bit of metaphysics.

His only goal is to get theism more probable than not. He never claims to prove it 100%. The amount you are turning up your skepticism filter to keep it out would keep out almost everything else as well, if you did it consistently, but you don’t. Your are filled with raging hatred and it shuts down your brain.

Craig will never prove Kalam to the extent that Dawkins can prove evolution.

Same goes for naturalism. Good luck.

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manicstreetpreacher July 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

Martin

Why is Craig only content to argue for God’s existence as more probable than not?

Here’s who Dawkins sums up the evidence for evolution:

Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eye witnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips…continue the list as long as desired. That didn’t have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn’t. It didn’t have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it.

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Martin July 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Why is Craig only content to argue for God’s existence as more probable than not?

Because he is trying to make it more likely than naturalism. The two main competing theories of “what’s really going on”, apart from what science can tell us, are theism and naturalism. I can’t think of any good arguments for naturalism, to be honest with you. The only one people seem to ever bring up is the whole “forward march of science” argument, but that is perfectly consistent with raw theism as well, so I don’t see how it’s an argument for naturalism.

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manicstreetpreacher July 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Martin

The infinite regress of what-proves-what ends with naturalism.

Naturalism just works.

Anyone who doubts the veracity of the law of gravity should jump off a ten storey building.

MSP

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Martin July 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Naturalism just works. Anyone who doubts the veracity of the law of gravity should jump off a ten storey building.

????

I’m talking about metaphysical naturalism, the main competitor to theism. The idea that energy and particles are all that exist, and they exist inexplicably. What are the arguments for that? What is the case for the opposing side? Doesn’t seem to be much there, from what I can tell. That the world operates according to natural laws would be consistent with either side, and so that isn’t a good argument for metaphysical naturalism.

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J. A. Kraulis July 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

@ manicstreetpreacher

You wrote that “if it could be shown to the satisfaction of every scientist and every Christian apologist that the universe had no definite beginning in the finite past but was eternal and uncaused, Craig and his ilk would instantly re-invent their “arguments” to show that an infinite and uncaused universe was evidence for a creator God.”

That’s an excellent point. And I’m wondering if one could find some of the arguments of Christian apologists which were being made during the time of Einstein and Hoyle, when an eternal universe was assumed by many of the deepest thinkers in cosmology and was generally the more accepted model. Too bad there was no internet then. One would have a gold mine of theological self-contradictions. (Not that we don’t have enough already.)

Re your point 1, “Why doesn’t God just reveal himself during the World Cup Final and put the question beyond doubt or at the very least perform miracles that are captured by CNN reporters and broadcast on a nightly basis to every home on the planet?”, you are familiar, I think, with Craig’s completely lame answer to a similar question from an audience member during one of his debates.

The much better, and probably best answer is that God is in fact evil. That logic solves THE basic conundrum of religious belief. It explains everything from why there are parasites that eat the eyes of children to the Holocaust. An evil God has no obligation to keep promises or tell the truth, of course, but a certain kind of malevolence takes pleasure in trickery rather than straightforward lying (which would otherwise not rule out an evil God revealing himself to us either). Accordingly, the hope provided by the Resurrection will be shattered when Christians find that after their demise they did not meet the standards of the “Judgement”, and are destined for Hell after all, whereby their anguish will be intensified by their shattered expectations and sense of betrayal. Why is there so much beauty and joy in the world, then, you may ask? Precisely so that we have that experience to contrast against the horrors of the afterlife, which would otherwise not be experienced as intensely.

The existence of an evil God violates no logic and solves pretty much ALL the mysteries raised by theology. It explains the evil actions of God in the Bible: the Flood, the trickery with the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, His exhortations to slaughter, the suffering of Job, etc, etc. If one believes in the God of the Bible, defending the idea that He is evil is a slam dunk. Logically it is completely irrefutable and more likely than Craig’s scenario.

I cannot subscribe to such a dismal belief in any way. This is the reason I (and I expect many “atheists”) reject the idea of the Biblical God. Christians listen up: ours is the positive, hopeful and beautiful philosophy.

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Martin July 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

J.A.,

And I’m wondering if one could find some of the arguments of Christian apologists which were being made during the time of Einstein and Hoyle, when an eternal universe was assumed by many of the deepest thinkers in cosmology and was generally the more accepted model.

This is exactly what Aristotle and Aquinas argued, before Kalam. Aquinas rejected Kalam because he didn’t think it could be proven that the universe had a beginning. Aristotle felt the same. Kalam is the later argument.

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manicstreetpreacher July 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

J A Kraulis

Thanks for your vote of confidence.

If Craig was debating 150 years he would be arguing for Paley’s concept of design.

If he was debating 500 years ago he would be arguing for geocentricity!

Yes, I have seen Eddie Tabash’s question to Craig during his 1998 debate against Peter Atkins and he answer does not even merit such a compliment as “lame”.

Craig says that our hearts have “to be open to follow the evidence wherever it leads”.

Yet whenever an atheist scientist (most recent example Stephen Hawking) publishes a book arguing that there is no place in the universe for a designer God, Craig publishes a book in response / goes on another lecture tour to tell the flock, “No, no, no! He’s got it all wrong, you can still believe!”

But as we all know, Craig has already had his mind made up for him by “the inner witness of the Holy Spirit”. Evidence is an occasional convenience. Reason is an attempt at intellectual veneer. The guy is Ted Haggard with a couple of doctorates.

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Kristine July 15, 2011 at 4:15 am

“And I’m wondering if one could find some of the arguments of Christian apologists which were being made during the time of Einstein and Hoyle, when an eternal universe was assumed by many of the deepest thinkers in cosmology and was generally the more accepted model.”

Oh! How romantic! If only the Big Bang wasn’t discovered. If only the DNA…
As science progresses the arguments of atheists became thinner and thinner.

The entry of the big bang models was an anathema to most scientists because it requires a beginning.

With the discovery of the fine tuned universe. Atheists retreat to the “multiverse theory” which according to Roger Penrose (Hawking’s contemporary) isn’t even a theory.

Multiverses are not even observable. And take note: Science is about observation.

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J. A. Kraulis July 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Kristine, I wasn’t being in the least bit “romantic”. I’m not interested in the romance (?) of ideas of old; hardly, in the face of the amazing pace of new discoveries and new theories that are being made at a non-stop pace today. My point was that it would be amusing to examine the logical fallacies and self-contradictions of Christian apologists in this just past century (not -note to Martin – Aristotle’s time) when they would have formed their arguments in the then prevalent belief (including therefore their own) that the universe was eternal. I was picking up on manic street preacher’s point.

Theological arguments over the centuries have been re-rigged and reinvented with every new scientific paradigm that comes along. The God of the gaps (essentially, Craig’s God) is running out of gaps. Paley’s watchmaker analogy has been thoroughly trashed by Darwinism, so now the Swinburnes and the Craigs have grasped the fine-tuning straw. Unfortunately, the possible explanations for “fine tuning” are not two, as the apologists would have it, i.e. God did it (which is no explanation at all) or that it’s due to highly improbable chance (multiverse idea). They are many. And in any case statistical arguments cannot be meaningfully applied to a singular event after the fact (much less to the beginning of “everything”). Otherwise I could just as easily insist that it was logically absurd to suggest that chance was involved in, say, my collision at precisely 11:23:13 AM with a red 2002 Honda Civic, license plate 3G7 O9D, at the corner of Oak and Broadway on August 14, 2010 and that therefore God must have involved himself in the incident. (Change the date to August 2011, and then and only then would one have to admit that the odds of all that happening are so impossibly remote that there would have to be some kind of paranormal explanation for it.)

You wrote “As science progresses the arguments of atheists became thinner and thinner.” Since the total opposite is the case – virtually all scientists reject the biblical narrative as anything more than pure myth and almost all the leading scientists today are “atheists”, more so than ever before – I don’t really know where to begin! The trend line in history is interesting in that regard. Isaac Newton believed in God. Einstein described the (only) sense in which he was a “deeply religious man”, but rejected entirely the idea of a personal god or a belief in an afterlife (whatever that could possibly mean in Einsteinian time in the first place). And now Stephen Hawking has renounced even the idea of “God” as metaphor. I posted this earlier, but since we are basically on the topic of physics and cosmology here, I would recommend to you this brief portion of an interview with Steven Weinberg, arguably the greatest living physicist, even ahead of Hawking:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66CeQb4EVOI

The idea that science has made the atheist case thinner and thinner would certainly be news to Weinberg and any of his colleagues!

You also write “The entry of the big bang models was an anathema to most scientists because (!! – my emphasis) it requires a beginning.” You have a terrible, terrible understanding of the nature of science in general and the history of cosmology in particular. Individual scientists sometimes cling to their own theories in which they may have devoted most of their careers, but scientists in general have no bias towards anything other than the best possible understanding of the way things are. The Big Bang model in fact opened up all kinds of new avenues of investigation that were thrilling to scientists. Every new discovery, and every potential paradigm shift in science is generally welcomed by theoretical scientists with excitement – it gives justification for their being able to continue doing what they do! This is why they lobby for expensive new tools like the LHC.

If you have understood him correctly, too bad for Penrose, because the multiverse actually is part of Guth’s inflationary model, the prevailing cosmological theory today. And atheists don’t “retreat” to any theory. They don’t have to. It’s theologians who have done ALL the retreating throughout history. Give me one example, one single example, where some religious assertion has led directly to a re-evaluation of science. There is none. None at all. Meanwhile, the entire history of theology and apologetics is one of re-accommodation to new realities revealed by science.

Science,as you say, is indeed about observation, but it’s also about theory, and in modern physics and cosmology almost everything being worked on today could never be directly observed. But the theories can hopefully be tested through indirect observation and when and if they are, they are either confirmed or rejected.

This isn’t the case with religious “theories”, which are either contrived to be untestable, are so non-specific as to contribute nothing at all to our understanding, or which when tested have failed. The efficacy of prayer has been studied scientifically and the results show that prayer has zero (zero!) effect. The Turin shroud is a fake. Every Biblical story about how things came to be (those in Genesis especially) has been shown to be nonsense, if taken as anything other than intended fiction.

Further – and this is really the important point – when scientists put forward any theory, science demands details. How, exactly, does it all work? What are the specific mechanisms? How does it fit with everything else that we know? If the theory were a true model of reality, what would happen if….or if…? Etc, etc.

And how does religion contribute anything at all to our comprehension of reality? For example, in the afterlife, those who believe in Jesus will supposedly enjoy eternal bliss of some kind. So what is that like, hmm? Will I be able to enjoy music in this “Heaven”? Will I be able to hike through magnificent landscapes similar to the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas? Will I be able to see and play with my beloved dog again? In other words will I be able to enjoy anything that was important to me when I was alive, that in fact made me who I am, and without which the very idea of “me” has no meaning? I have always wondered what my life would have been like if Sarah hadn’t broken off our relationship – will she be “up” there too? What about my parents who I loved dearly but who didn’t believe in God and who are therefore suffering eternal torture in Hell – how could I afterlive with that horrible knowledge?

Theologians answer such questions by saying that we don’t know (that’s helpful, isn’t it?), or they will make up some BS. In the arena of understanding anything at all about reality and our own existence – or beyond it – contemporary religion is utterly impotent and completely useless.

And back to your derisive “romantic” comment. Can you not see that this is exactly the religious attitude? Presumably your own? I can only guess that you give great weight to a work, the Bible, written by men who had no idea, no idea at all about the incredible wonders in the universe, about the immense numbers of galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars in each, about the fact that a single drop of pond-water is teeming with the life of innumerable tiny creatures, or that the human body contains trillions of cells, each as complicated in its workings as a city, or that visible light is just a sliver in a much wider electromagnetic spectrum, or that dinosaurs existed, or that continental movement builds mountains…. The authors of the books of the Bible didn’t even know that glaciers existed. (Interesting that during the Flood, they should all have melted or floated off their moorings, but never mind.) But this 2000-year-old extremely limited view of the world is the ultimate source of your ideas of reality. Talk about “romantic”!

Carl Sagan hoped that someday we might see a religion that would embrace the breathtaking magnificence of what science has discovered to be true, instead of all the many current religions that diminish our potential for awe and reverence with trivializing fairy tales and immoral doctrines. But it seems like a vain hope.

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Martin July 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm

J.A.,

Theological arguments over the centuries have been re-rigged and reinvented with every new scientific paradigm that comes along.

This just simply isn’t true. Like I’ve said four times now, the order goes:

1. Aristotle’s unmoved mover and first cause (still not refuted) – 320 B.C.
2. Anselm’s ontological argument (still alive today) – 1100 A.D.
3. Kalam – 1110 A.D.
4. Aquinas’ reworking of Aristotle and rejection of “god-of-the-gaps” for precisely that reason. Aquinas rejected Kalam. – 1270 A.D.
4. Leibniz (basically immune to any future scientific discoveries) – 1700 A.D.
5. William Paley (thoroughly refuted by Darwin) – 1802 A.D.

As you can see, Paley is a late and weak argument. There is no sign of a retreat by Christian apologists at all, other than the fact that some loud modern ones have gone gung-ho in their defense of Paley.

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J. A. Kraulis July 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Martin,

SOME – but hardly all, or even most – theological arguments clearly haven’t changed. And they haven’t been proven either. That’s the problem with philosophy in general, isn’t it? How long has the speculation over free will vs determinism been going on? Science, of course (in quantum and chaos theories) has brought new information for the philosophers to chew on, but they are no closer to an answer than when the question was first posited.

The same is true and always will be for certain questions in theology, until perhaps such a time as when science shows that a certain question itself is meaningless to ask (like the old speculation of what happens when you get to the ends of the earth, or better, Hawking’s example of asking what’s south of the South Pole).

Philosophy, in its endless navel gazing, is unwilling to let go of certain debates that are in fact no longer of any interest to the scientific mind, as they depend on entirely on assertions that cannot be proved or disproved.

The problem with Christian apologetics and with theology in general is that it can’t actually answer ANY meaningful questions!

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Martin July 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm

J.A.,

What you’ve just said is “Look over there! What in the world can that be?!” to distract from my refutation of your point.

The only point I’m making is that the arguments for the existence of God are not in endless retreat before science, contrary to what you continually assert. What has happened is twofold:

1. Creationists obsessed with William Paley (the latest and weakest argument for theism) have been loud recently, and give the (false) appearance that theism is based almost entirely on Paley’s argument.
2. Atheists have created distorted versions of the cosmological arguments (like “everything has a cause”)

Then, when other theists trot out the older and still unrefuted arguments, it gives the illusory appearance that they are retreating and making new arguments, when in fact the opposite has occurred.

Revisionist history.

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J. A. Kraulis July 18, 2011 at 1:55 am

Martin,

I’ll readily concede that you know much more about philosophy and the history of theology than I do, and am happy to stand corrected where I have made false assumptions.

OK, so the theological arguments haven’t changed in a thousand years. Forget about Galileo, about the reluctant acceptance of the Catholic Church that evolution is a reality, about the fact that science proves that the book of Genesis is pure fantasy – it doesn’t even work as a metaphor for the way things actually happened. I’ll accept that you would point out that the core arguments remain, even while major contortions in them must have been made to accommodate new “details”.

So does that make the apologists’ case any better? The Theory of Evolution is barely 150 years old, modern cosmology post Special Theory of Relativity is a hundred years old. In that time, literally millions of scientific papers have immensely increased our understanding of the way things are. Galaxies were discovered in what may now turn out to be an infinite universe, or infinite universes. We know in detail how all the basic elements of the periodic table that make up everything we can see and touch were created in the nuclear reactions in stars and in exploding stars. In conjunction with genetics and molecular biology, we have a vastly greater understanding of all life on earth in general and of aspects relating to medicine and our health in particular. The advances in our awareness and knowledge in just one century have been mind-boggling, breathtaking, wonder-inspiring, incredible. In just a hundred years.

What has theology and religious philosophy added to our understanding of the world in the last thousand, or two thousand years? As you inadvertently have pointed out, nothing. Nothing at all. Zero.

And why would that be? How is it that these “deep thinkers” like Craig and Swinburne don’t contribute anything new to our knowledge? The answer is that their case and their arguments ultimately come down to nothing more than unprovable assertions. Just assertions. As so ably exposed by Eddie Tabash, among others.

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Martin July 18, 2011 at 7:49 am

What has theology and religious philosophy added to our understanding of the world in the last thousand, or two thousand years?

Either the universe/multiverse was created by something with a purpose, or it just exists inexplicably with no purpose at all. One of these is true, and the other is false. Theism vs naturalism. Science alone cannot answer this question because the question goes beyond the natural world. It is a question for philosophy. One must use arguments informed by science, a prior reasoning, and metaphysical reasoning.

Think of a scale, with one side that the universe was designed, and the other that it wasn’t. For every argument, add a weight:

Theism:
This side is filled with cosmological arguments (from Aristotle to Leibniz), telelogical arguments, ontological arguments, arguments from reason, arguments from morality.

Naturalism:
This side is filled with….filled with….what? It is no good putting the old argument that science shows only natural explanations, because if the universe was designed and is a rational place, then this is consistent with both theism and naturalism.

So what, then? What is the justification for believing in naturalism over theism?

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J. A. Kraulis July 18, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Martin,

In the first place, I wouldn’t say that naturalism is something one “believes” in. If there was any evidence for theism in the world at large at all, it would presumably be accepted within the canon of explanations for how things are. I am reminded of what someone pointed out with regards to “alternative medicine”, namely that any curative method that could be shown to work would o longer be alternative medicine, it would indeed be just medicine.

One doesn’t “believe in” evolution in the same sense that one believes in creationism.

There is no evidence whatsoever for the theistic hypothesis in anything that we understand or are able to determine. Doesn’t it say something that when our knowledge has reached truly spectacular levels of insight, nothing out of all that we have discovered counts as evidence for a deity? So theism then claims the high ground of being the explanation for that which we cannot (perhaps even in principle) explain, and does so without offering any explanation! The ways of the Lord are mysterious and all that.

But that’s not all. Your statement that there are only two possibilities pretty much summarizes the problem I have with theism in general. You write: “Either the universe/multiverse was created by something with a purpose, or it just exists inexplicably with no purpose at all. One of these is true, and the other is false.”

Apart from the fact that the universe could have been created by something with no purpose (either just for the sake of creating it, with no idea of any destiny for it, or indeed even by accident), or that it may exist or have come into existence (two separate possibilities right there) inexplicably but that consciousness (and therefore “purpose”, whatever you mean by that) is something that emerged afterwards, there are hundreds of other possibilities, including perhaps some too strange or abstractly complicated for humans to even understand (a point made by Haldane, emphasized by Dawkins, as I have pointed out).

It’s not atheists who are simplistic in their approach to Craig’s philosophy, it’s Craig’s philosophy that is primitive and unsophisticated.

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Kristine July 20, 2011 at 2:04 am

@J.A

BIG BANG
“The Big Bang model in fact opened up all kinds of new avenues of investigation that were thrilling to scientists.” – J.A.

Of course, scientists are looking for other explanations, but what I am saying is that scientists don’t like it because it requires a Big Banger.

Here’s what Dr. Robert Jastrow, Director Emeritus of Mount Wilson Observatory and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has to say:

“This finding has traumatic implications for science. Scientists have always felt more comfortable with the idea of a Universe that has existed forever, Scientists have always felt more comfortable with the idea of a Universe that has existed forever, because their thinking is permeated with the idea of Cause and Effect”

Add to that, Princeton astrophysicist David Spergel said “We’re dead.”

M-Theory
“Science, as you say, is indeed about observation, but it’s also about theory, and in modern physics and cosmology almost everything being worked on today could never be directly observed. But the theories can hopefully (FAITH) be tested through indirect observation and when and if they are, they are either confirmed or rejected.” – J.A.

I asked mr wikipedia about theory. Here it says:

“in modern science the term “theory”, or “scientific theory” is generally understood to refer to a proposed explanation of empirical phenomena, made in a way consistent with scientific method”

Empirical phenomena – this is evidence, this is about observation. That is why Roger Penrose quipped that M-theory is not even a theory. Why? THERE IS NO EVIDENCE. There is nothing to observe. And you claim to be scientific?

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J. A.Kraulis July 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Kristine,

Thanks for your reply. I appreciate the opportunity to expand – and if I think it merits it – change my point of view.

But according to Wikipedia, Jastrow (essentially a contemporary of Fred Hoyle – he was ten years younger), established the George C. Marshall Institute which “later took the view that tobacco was having no effect, that Acid Rain was not caused by human emissions, that ozone was not depleted by CFCs, that pesticides were not environmentally harmful and it was also critical of the consensus view of anthropogenic global warming.”

He was a brilliant man, but like many brilliant people, he could also be utterly wrong, and it seems he was rather prone to unthinking hyperbole, as in this statement: “Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world….the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same.”

The account of Genesis has been absolutely disproved by science, it is not even metaphorically correct. The ONLY element in it that can be asserted to be consistent with modern knowledge is the general idea that there was a “beginning” (whatever that means in the context of a “time” when time did not exist). It is, of course, just the apparently right guess to a true-false question, where the chance that a speculation made in antiquity would match modern knowledge is 50%. But even there, in that famous first sentence, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” the good book is wrong, wrong. The earth was not formed simultaneously with “the heavens” (as that would have been understood two thousand years ago) and before light existed. Stars and galaxies and zillions of other planets (as we now know) would have existed over a nine-billion-year history before our little rock came along. Everything else that follows in Genesis is completely contradicted by modern cosmology, geology and biology.

This brings up a question I have asked Christians and which I hope authorities like Craig and Swinburne might have answered, and if so, maybe you could direct me to it. The question is this: Given that the first book of and much else in the Old Testament is most certainly myth, why are we enjoined to treat the accounts in the first book of the New Testament (the Gospel of Saint Matthew) and in subsequent derivative gospels as the literal truth?

- J

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J. A.Kraulis July 21, 2011 at 3:07 am

Kristine,

Further to your reply, I have in the past looked up M-Theory (which you mentioned, I didn’t bring it up) and string theory, and just from the Wikipedia entries, which don’t even get into the heavy math and technical jargon of professional papers, I can tell you that wouldn’t have a hope in hell of beginning to understand it.

Theology and Dr. Craig’s arguments are a very great deal easier to grasp. My only point in referencing cosmologists responsible for theories like inflation is that when Craig cites them in support of his case he is in fact drawing conclusions that they themselves would not support. I’ve listened to interviews with them, looked them up.

If you care to look it up in Wikipedia, Roger Penrose is an atheist. So of course is Lawrence Krauss (who debated Craig) who agrees exactly with what you say for Penrose. Again from Wikipedia: “M-theory (and string theory) has been criticized (e.g., by Lawrence Krauss) for lacking predictive power or being untestable.” So you were saying…??

There is nothing wrong with citing higher authorities to make a case, but if you are going to do so, you should at least make sure that they would support your point. The same goes for Craig. He’s made a big show of his familiarity with modern cosmology. He should be honest enough to mention that most (quite possibly all) cosmologists don’t see their work leading to his conclusions, and that some don’t support his premises either. Andrei Linde is a cosmologist who most certainly understands cosmology and physics on a deeper level than Dr. Craig and according to the Wikipedia entry on Inflation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflation_(cosmology)#Eternal_inflation):
“Linde… believes inflation may be past eternal”

In fact, as I look this up further, I note that Craig formulated his Kalam Cosmological Argument in 1979 and “in 1986, Linde published an alternative model of inflation that … is in some ways similar to Fred Hoyle’s Steady state theory, as it employs the metaphor of a universe that is eternally existing, and thus does not require a unique beginning or an ultimate end of the cosmos.” (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaotic_inflation) I don’t know if this is a return to the “romantic” era in modern cosmology, but I must say on reflection one has to find the idea of an eternal cosmos beautiful. If God, that jealous tyrant described in the Bible and subject to fits of rage, did not create the cosmos, then it stands to reason that He cannot, in a moment of pique, destroy it either (like what He did to the earth in that monstrous act of the Flood). I think this is reassuring; I don’t know why anyone would hope that it would be otherwise.

I do myself as well as you a disservice if I do not note that more recently, in 2007 Alan Guth wrote: “Although inflation is generically eternal into the future, it is not eternal into the past: it can be proven under reasonable assumptions that the inflating region must be incomplete in past directions, so some physics other than inflation is needed to describe the past boundary of the inflating region.”

There’s no reason to be certain that this is the final word, and no doubt some cosmologists disagree (including Linde if my first Wikipedia citation is correct and current.) But in any case note that Guth says “some physics other than inflation”, not “God”, least of all the Yaweh of Craig’s philosophy. Nor does he (and nor can he) say that whatever greater realm or cosmos inflationary universes came out of, THAT could not be past eternal.

Finally, you write: “Empirical phenomena – this is evidence, this is about observation. That is why Roger Penrose quipped that M-theory is not even a theory. Why? THERE IS NO EVIDENCE.”

Yes, that is precisely what Bertrand Russell said! Exactly my point and that of many others in this thread. The Christian apologists (all of them, not just Craig) have no EVIDENCE to offer for their God. Because there isn’t any! It is just one shallow assertion after another.

I find it really rich that Craig draws from the most complex and advanced scientific theories to supposedly support his case on the one hand, and then when it comes to something like the Resurrection (impossible under scientific principles), science should have nothing to say.

Indeed, you are no doubt right that the very leading edge of cosmological theory is in the realm of speculation. But it represent a truly remarkable intellectual endeavour, thinking at the genius level, creative, abstract, immensely difficult, a disciplined working out of arcane and complex details – a great and most impressive effort at explaining things. Scientists like Hawking and many others have devoted years to developing the mind-boggling math behind these ideas, based in turn on their deep understanding of what is known, of proven theories and of what has been discovered by thousands of researchers in astronomy and particle physics. And then theologians come along and say, no, no, no…we have a better explanation…God did it! What arrogance. What ignorance. What a sad lack of curiosity. And it’s no explanation at all.

- J

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Myself July 23, 2011 at 4:26 am

While reading your post I was wondering what you mean by “winning a debate”.
It the a good criterion to decide who has won a debate?

I have not seen many debates with WLC but after two or three I stopped watching them
in detail, because Craigs use of mathematics, probabilities and physical facts is just awful.
What is the value of a “won” debate where your arguments are not worth a penny?

But I agree with you on the point that the atheistic side should be better prepared
to deal with his dishonest tactics.

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Cyril July 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

I am just starting to listen to your interviews/debates so I am way behind the times I just finished listen to your Licona and he does sound like the next Craig. I have listened to some of the Craig debates and agree so far with your comments.
Here are some things no one brings up. The Mormon faith and especially John Smith. He meets almost all the requirements that Licona brings up in your interview (no 2). ie He talked to god, he had witnesses, his followers were persecuted etc.
Licona discounted dreams, so why is the book of revelations okay?
When Licona accepts some thing in the bible are made up, what is his criteria for what is truth and what isn’t? Why can’t we discount Paul seeing Jesus?
He needs to be challenged when asked about modern miracles he says “I haven’t looked into that”. That seems to be his answer when it goes against his particular belief.
If others have answers to these question I am interested in reading them.
Luke: I think you are a good interviewer, but you let the person go on and on much to long. I ended up fast forwarding past the very repetitive comments of Licona. I hope that as I listen to your later interviews, that changes.

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Aaron July 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Dr Craig almost undoubtedly lost the debate with Dr Arif Ahmed. Despite your claim that Craig had better rhetoric and denser content, I am not sure why you would think Craig won. Dr Ahmed countered Craig on all points and, what is more, called him out on his misunderstanding of transfinite mathematics (which engenders Craig’s argument against actual infinity).

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Scott Scheule August 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm

The Sinnott-Armstrong debate is, at least, a tie. It’s the first debate with Craig (and I’ve listened to many) where I would say that. They both answer each other, point for point. I think Sinnott had a chance to lay a good blow, but never did–he should have attacked Craig for arguing that, when God allows evil, the consequences are unknown, and there might be reasons for it. Yet Craig is perfectly happy to speak about the consequences as if they’re well known when they are positives resulting from God’s actions. Craig has a viable response to that, but it would be refreshing to hear it presented.

Craig’s “haunted house” response is very weak. He should abandon that–he’s got better responses.

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ShakenNotStirred August 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Achil

He has 2 Achilles Heels and a few additional weaknesses, and you’re right on the first. The 2nd major vulnerability is that he speaks so far above his audience’s heads that he can’t connect with them — even does this during Q&A sessions. He’s like a robot running a very tight software routine. I’m willing to bet most of the average attendees who consider him the victor are just bowled over by his intelligence and style, trust that he knows what he’s talking about, but couldn’t coherently repeat any of the arguments he actually made if you asked them.

I think these are glaring weaknesses, and it’s a huge mistake to put the guy on a pedestal and consider him unbeatable. Likening it to boxing, Craig is like an “Apollo Creed” — all mouth and style, and certainly incredibly skilled in technique. What you need to defeat him is a “Rocky” – an average Joe who avoids the temptation of trying to stand toe-to-toe and outbox Craig on his own terms. Recognize his weaknesses, and above all, concentrate on connecting with the audience. Sam Harris did an outstanding job of doing just this, and the clown who claimed Craig mopped Harris up (‘Martin’ I think), is dreaming. Craig was robotic, evasive and “on script” as usual, while Harris came off “human”, humble, and above all, relatable. Craig seems like a guy who loves the sound of his own voice, while Harris is more like the guy next door. You think the audience can’t tell the difference?

I try to be as objective as possible, and I have yet to hear Craig make one single easy-to-follow, common sense argument to support any of his stances. Take this toy away from him very early, like in the opening statement, so that the audience picks up on it and I guarantee it will hurt him for the rest of the debate. He’ll look clownish.

And when he comes back and claims that you haven’t refuted any of his cutting-edge theorems, mathematical probability formulas, whatever — sweep the leg! I’d just shrug and say to the audience, “Do any of those things really matter to you? Do they mean ANYTHING to you? They don’t to me… and I’ll tell you, if that’s what we all have to swallow simply to believe in the existence of God, then how can anyone seriously make the case that God is willing that none should perish, but that all come to knowledge of the truth in him?

No need for debating tricks… just keep the points simple, common-sense, and above all – PRACTICAL. I’d address this straight up with the audience — say Dr. Craig is right, and God does actually exist. Ok, so… What does that mean, and how does it relate to us? How does it prove which God exists, and how can we know for sure? What does this god want from us, and what must we do to please him?

Craig won’t follow along… he’ll claim he’d be happy to talk about it but won’t because it’s outside of the scope of topic for the night. Maybe he’ll refer you to a book on the subject, knowing that the bulk of the audience won’t buy and read it. But there is a reason you don’t see debaters doing those kinds of debates — because they can’t win them. That’s why they stick to vague topics like the existence of God that don’t go very far, and have very little value as it relates to us personally. But keep slipping that jab with the practical, easy to follow points, and they will not be lost on the audience. Christianity is so full of contradictions and holes that any time someone concentrates too hard shoring up any point, it only exposes a deadly weakness in another area — watch for those practical weaknesses and keep slipping that jab.

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Scott August 11, 2011 at 8:20 am

Christ, Shaken, with friends like you…

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M.L. August 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I think Craig is incredibly overrated as an intellectual. He often does well in debates but he doesn’t succeed in ‘selling’ his worldview to those who don’t already share it; he’s essentially a rhetorical swashbuckler who ‘wins’ debates by ensnaring his foes in rhetorical traps rather than persuasively arguing his position. If he were so motivated I’d bet my intestines he would do just as well if he were arguing for a flat earth or geocentrism, yet he wouldn’t actually persuade any one to accept his position as true. If he were actually persuasive, with all his public debates, you’d expect there would be many people inspired to “come to Christ” after listening to him, yet there is absolutely no evidence of this.

I’ve never been impressed with Craig or understood why he is held in such esteem by his critics. He always struck me as rather smarmy or arrogant with an unpleasant passive aggressive quality; he comes across more as a smooth politician, preacher, or even game show host than a scholar. He’s not charismatic or attractive; he’s merely a very clever, very experienced rhetorician.

As for his famous defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (interesting that a Christian apologist is best known for an argument that originated with Muslim apologists!) I think that is the most ridiculously overrated argument in the history of such debates. It’s fundamental flaw is that it relies on the notion that “the universe” had a beginning. But “the universe” is ultimately just another word for “Everything” or “all that exists”; as such, regardless of what cosmological model you consider (single universe Big Bang, various multiverse scenarios, etc.) “the universe” necessarily always existed.

As a thought experiment, suppose there was a time or place when the universe did not exist (as Craig does when he falsely equates the Big Bang as the ‘beginning’ of “the universe”). If that thing that began with the Big Bang contains all that exists, then it is necessarily spatiotemporally self contained and there is no time or space or anything else ‘before’ it or ‘after’ it. Even if, by that metric we call time, it is only 13.7 billion years old, or ‘when’ it was just a second ‘old’, it still necessarily always existed. The only alternative is that the ‘thing’ that began with the Big Bang does not contain all that exists (such in various “multiverse” scenarios), in which case it ISN’T “the universe” (i.e. it isn’t “everything”).

Anyway you slice it, “something” always existed, and if something always existed, there was always a universe. Again, the only alternative would be for there to have been a ‘time’ or ‘place’ or [insert hypothetical unknown metric here] ‘when’ nothing existed. But nothing is just that – NOTHING. So even in the alternate case, we see that “something” necessarily “always” existed, and hence a universe always existed and therefore could not be said to have “began to exist” as Craigvinsists.

To reference a cheesy 80s pop song I think maybe some of Craig’s foes over the years have perhaps been “blinded by science”, getting rhetorically snagged by some consequence of a particular cosmological model instead of thinking of what ” the universe” ultimately refers to, regardless of the hard science. This is a basic logic problem, not a “hard science” issue.

[By the way, I seem to have prematurely posted part of this post by accident; if so, excuse the semi-double-post].

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Tom August 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm

@M.L.
“ensnaring his foes in rhetorical traps rather than persuasively arguing his position”

How is Craig doing this please? Which premises? Given his premises which conclusions?

“If he were actually persuasive, with all his public debates, you’d expect there would be many people inspired to “come to Christ” after listening to him, yet there is absolutely no evidence of this”

Have you attended “all” his debates?

“I’ve never been impressed with Craig”

Sure. Fine. Validity of arguments aren’t measured by emotions.

“‘the universe’ necessarily always existed”

Fine for you. I thought we’re using science here.

“I think maybe some of Craig’s foes over the years have perhaps been ‘blinded by science’”

Sorry Krauss, sorry Stenger.

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M.L. August 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Hi Tom,

As to how Craig “ensnares his foes into rhetorical traps rather than persuasively argue his position”, you may take his debate with Bart Ehrman, which I jus recently watched, as a case in point. Now, while Ehrman’s performance was flawed, he nevertheless presented several strong arguments as to why the historical record does not provide compelling evidence of the resurrection. For example, he pointed out that there are numerous explanations that can be put forth to explain why Jesus’ tomb was empty (e.g. his family retrieved the body) which, however unlikely, are still more than the possibility of a
supernatural divine intervention (Occam’s Razor, anyone?).

Craig countered this with a lengthy argument to the effect that the likelihood of a supernatural resurrection was quite high if considered essentially as a Bayesian probability which presupposes the existence of God. For all the rhetorical noise, this is about as persuasive as arguing that probability that Smurfette actually exists provided it is true that Smurfs actually exist). Ehrman didn’t respond very well to this, and merely made a snide remark about how Craig would be laughed at if they were before an audience of knowledgeable scholars.

With all due respect, your subsequent questions about premises and conclusions make no sense as stated; please clarify what it is you are asking about.

As for whether I have attended all of his debates, that is a rather silly question, isn’t it? No, I haven’t attended all of his debates, though thieves hardly refutes my contention that
there is no evidence whatsoever that his impressive rhetorical performances in debating skeptics has resulted in inspiring attendees to “come to Christ”, and neither myself nor anyone I know who has attended Craig debates (and I know many who have) have ever witnessed or heard of this. If you have any compelling evidence significant numbers of people have been persuaded to “come to Christ” after seeing a Craig debate, reference it; I would be very interested to evaluate it.

While I did say I was not impressed by Craig, I did not evaluate the validity of his arguments based on emotions; in fact, stating you bate not impressed by Craig isn’t an emotional response, it’s simply stating an opinion. However, I did offer a very specific, non-emotional counter argument to his Kalam Cosmological Argument.

As far as my logical conclusion that the universe always existed, this is in no way contrary to science whatsoever. I merely pointed out that this conclusion does not depend on a specific cosmological model. I myself have a degrees in physics; Craig is NOT a scientist, he is a philosopher. He also has described himself as “agnostic” about human evolution in the past (though he is not a Young Earth Creationist). Mr. Science he ain’t. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is not a scientific argument anyway, though Craig cites cites ideas from modern science and physics in particular to support some aspects his argument.

Now, your regarding Krauss and Stenger are particularly amusing. I actually helped Victor Stenger prepare for his debate with Craig, and honored to have had him incorporate some of my suggestions on how to respond to Craig’s Fine Tuning arguments in his presentation. You completely misunderstood my point about some of Craig’s foes being “blinded by science”. This is NOT an attack on science, but actually an observation that, in one form or other, has often been acknowledged openly in the scientific, skeptical community, of which I consider myself a member. It’s not a knock on science, but rather, a recognition of the curious fact that many otherwise brilliant skeptical academics, often from the hard sciences, do surprisingly poorly in these sort of debates. This has been acknowledged by high profile skeptics and scientists,including Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould. Some speculate that it may just be that some academic, introverted, “science geeks” just don’t make good debaters. I suspect it may be more a form of “paralysis by analysis” or “not seeing the forest for the trees”; they are used to looking at these issues from the perspective of a scientist and lack the perspective of someone like Craig who, though lacking their scientific knowledge base, as a philosopher and highly skilled rhetorician with a long history of debating is nevertheless better suited to the debate format.

Of course, some have handled Craig quite well, such Sam Harris and indeed Lawrence Krauss.

By the way, if you may entertain a possibly foolish question, what is your impression of Craig and his arguments? I am new to this forum and am unaware of your views.

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M.L. August 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Note: Beware of some odd smartphone typos in the previous post (e.g. somewhere in there I see the word “this” was autocorrected to “thieves”).

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Martin August 15, 2011 at 6:27 am

ML,

I actually helped Victor Stenger prepare for his debate with Craig

This is a rare opportunity for me, then, to ask a question of the atheist side of Craig’s debates:

Why does it seem like atheists do not understand how logic works? For an argument to be sound, it requires logical validity and true premises. All of Craig’s arguments are logically valid, which just leaves one question: are his premises true or not?

Yet, very few atheist opponents seem to grasp this simple point, and instead flail a lot of rhetoric around but rarely ever trying to show WHICH PREMISE IN EACH ARGUMENT IS FALSE!!!!

For example, Craig’s fine tuning argument is:

1. The fine tuning of the universe is due to physical necessity, chance, or design
2. It is not due to physical necessity
3. It is not due to chance
4. Therefore, it is due to design

This argument is a disjunctive syllogism, which is deductively valid. The conclusion is inescapable IF the premises are true. So the only thing left to argue about is if they are.

An atheist opponent has three options here:

1. Show a fourth option in premise one
2. Show some scientific support that the fine tuning is physically necessary
3. Show some scientific support that a multiverse exists, and respond to Craig’s criticisms of it

I am now going to examine Stenger’s response to this argument, and see which premise he attacks:

Now, what about this fine-tuning argument? Again, it’s an argument that’s based on the low probability of our kind of life. And that not only means carbon-based life but also life with the existing physical laws as we know them. Even if the probability of a particular form of life was highly improbable to have occurred by natural process, some kind of life could still be highly probable. Probably not silicon – I agree that silicon is a poor candidate – but that’s with our existing laws of physics.

Another form of life might still evolve in a universe with different physical laws or different physical constants. We simply don’t have the knowledge to rule that out. To say that there’s only possible form of life and only one possible set of laws of physics and only one possible set of constants is extremely narrow thinking and not at all required by anything that we know about science.

None.

Craig wins. Not due to “superior organization” or “more debate experience”, but because Stenger failed to show which premise in a logically valid argument is false.

It’s very simple. Yet, every time I hear an atheist open his mouth and spout off about stuff other than Craig’s premises, all I can think is: “they don’t have a case against Craig’s arguments; if they did, they would be shouting which premise is false from the rooftops; but none ever do.”

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Martin Freedman August 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Martin

Stenger was attacking the hidden premise in Premise 1 – that there is a fine tuning for life that needs or could be explained. One would hope that debates in the real world amongst adults do not need to patronisingly or condescendingly state the blindingly obvious – this is not a school debating competition. WLC is the exception here but he needs to play that game to pander to his predisposed supporters, not caring if his opponent has indeed addressed or even refuted his argument (if that is the case) and rhetorically claiming that they have not regardless.

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M.L. August 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Hi Martin,

See my responses to your comments below (preceded by *):

You wrote
“Yet, very few atheist opponents seem to grasp this simple point, and instead flail a lot of rhetoric around but rarely ever trying to show WHICH PREMISE IN EACH ARGUMENT IS FALSE!!!!”

* Strange of you to say that, inasmuch as a good portion of my post was dedicated to explaining how the Kalam Argument’s premise that “the universe began to exist” is demonstrably false.

You continued:

“For example, Craig’s fine tuning argument is:

1. The fine tuning of the universe is due to physical necessity, chance, or design
2. It is not due to physical necessity
3. It is not due to chance
4. Therefore, it is due to design”

*There are many problems with this argument. Martin Freedman has already indicated above one problem with the first premise. The choice of words here is particularly problematic; to characterize the fact that the values of the physical constants of nature are within the narrow range necessary for life as we know assume being “fine tuned” effectively assumes a designer (a fine tuner) at the outset. Moreover, it has been shown by Stenger and others that life as we know it could in fact have been possible if the constants had different values by noting that if several parameters are varied, the “life preventing” effects of one changed value could be compensated for by the “life allowing”effects of other changed values.

Premise 2 and 3 are simply not true; the values of the constants of nature could certainly be what they are due either to chance or to some yet unknown physical necessity. It’s a terrible argument for ‘design’.

I will add an additional fact that is rarely brought up, namely, that the whole notion that our universe is “friendly to life as we know it” is an anthrocentric illusion; the period of time for which our universe has been and will remain suitable physically for life as we know it is only a miniscule fraction of the whole; for the vast majority of it’s past and future existence, the physical conditions necessary for life as we know it did not and will not exist. In fact, the window of time during which just our tiny planet will be a suitable habitat for life as we know it is quite limited. We live in a brief, life friendly season in a universe that for virtually all of it’s existence will be incapable of supporting life as we know it, and even NOW, even if there are billions of unknown earth like planets with life as we know it, most of the universe in this brief “life friendly” window of time is incapable of supporting life as we know it; the notion that the universe was specially designed for life as we know it is utterly preposterous.

Of course, one could argue that perhaps, the universe is today and will in the future be filled with life as we DON’T know it or could even imagine. But then the conditions necessary for life can’t be very slim, could they? Any way you slice it, the notion of fine tuning just cannot withstand close scrutiny. As a matter of fact, Victor Stenger has recently published an excellent book about this issue called “The Fallacy of Fine Tuning”.

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J. A. Kraulis August 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm

M.L.,

Your post of Aug 14 is well articulated and addresses the same issue that many have raised on this thread, namely what does it mean to “win” a debate? A skillful debater or debating team can “win” a debating contest in which they take some absurd position which they themselves could never believe in. They win for all the reasons that Craig “wins” (a debatable opinion in its own right). They are better organized, they seem more plausible at the moment because of their rhetorical skills, their opponents stumble, etc. But with respect to actually answering serious questions, “winning” in that manner is meaningless. What counts is if you can persuade critically thinking people – once they have had the time to digest and reflect on your arguments – that you are right.

It seems to me, as you have pointed out, that in this respect Craig fails completely.

I consider myself to be open-minded. (Which does not mean, of course, that I’m going to change my mind every single time I am confronted with a different way of looking at things. Some people seem to think that if you don’t agree with THEM, then you are closed-minded.) In fact, my own suspicion is that the “ultimate explanation” for reality could well involve something like “consciousness”, “intelligence” and/or “intention” in ways that we cannot comprehend with our present preconceptions of what those terms even mean.

Whatever that explanation is (and whether we can ever have even a vague grasp of it), it will surely be something far more subtle, more complex and perhaps more wonderful than anything postulated by the childish theologies that we are still cursed with.

I’ve argued this before: what matters with Craig’s philosophy is not whether his premises are true or whether his arguments are sound (they aren’t, but let’s say they are); what matters are the conclusions he comes to. A scientific theory could be elegant and logically consistent, but if the conclusion is absurd, one rejects it. Meanwhile, Craig has, on his website and in at least one YouTube debate, very clearly articulated a philosophy that leads to a conclusion that is not only absurd but obscene. It leads to the inescapable inference that some of the finest human beings who have lived, who have contributed the most to our culture and civilization, our understanding and knowledge, and indeed to our moral philosophy, are suffering or are destined to suffer “infinite punishment” – in Craig’s words – for the temerity of essentially having rejected his philosophy. God-fearing Christians, on the other hand, are destined for eternal reward for their mindless sycophancy.

Frustratingly, whenever I raise this point, the defenders of Craig go to ground. Just ignore the inconvenient points, and claim that Craig “wins”, and that somehow proves something.

Re your dismissal of Kalam, one can find quite a number of other things wrong with this trivial bit of “philosophy”, but I have to note again that it makes use of a common trick of religious apologists and sophists in general. (It may well be an unconscious trick, as it tends to be among many “thinkers”.) That is, it depends on the vague and imprecise meanings of words which can be manipulated into something that resembles “logic” but in fact violates it. In the case of Kalam, those words would be “universe” , “beginning” and “cause”. You’ve addressed aspects of the first. I will only add that “cause” implies sequence – it must precede its effect – which in turn implies time. What does it mean to say that the universe had a “cause” before the universe – and time – existed? This apparently does not need to be explained by apologists like Craig. Whereas any speculative idea coming out of science requires a detailed explanation of how it would work, in theological argument, it seems that mere assertion will do.

J. A.

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Martin August 16, 2011 at 8:12 am

M.L.,

Regarding Stenger and fine-tuning, have you listened to Luke’s interview with cosmologist Luke Barnes? http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8109

He answers many questions about fine-tuning, and on his website he calls out what he calls both “true believer syndrome”, where Christians will distort evidence to support their belief in God, and “true unbeliever syndrome”, where the opposite occurs. He particularly skewers Stenger:

http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/no-faith-in-monkeygod-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-victor-stenger-part-2/

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M.L. August 16, 2011 at 11:45 am

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the link; great interview. Barnes makes a lot of great points and was a pleasure to listen to.

I think Barnes’ criticism of Victor Stenger’s “Monkey God” parameter tweaking program are reasonable, nevertheless the basic idea that the apparent fine-tuning may not appear as fine if we consider alternate values of several parameters rather than just one remains a reasonable counterargument. However, I’ve never considered these sort of “Monkey God” counter arguments particularly persuasive, including Stenger’s.

Where Barnes is perhaps weakest is in his apparent lack of imagination so far as what different sorts of life are possible. I wholeheartedly agree with his point about how the possibility of silicon based life as an alternative to carbon based life does nothing to weaken the mystery of fine tuning, but he seems to overlook the possibility of completely different sorts of life / conscious beings. As I alluded to in an earlier post, perhaps there creatures throughout the universe too alien for us to recognize; perhaps the vacuum of space is platform for a radically different form of conscious being. Now, I’m not saying I think this is the case, but the possible forms of life or intelligent beings are not limited to silicon or other similarly lumpy analogues of carbon based life.

Similarly, I can imagine a short lived (from our perspective) alternate universe that rapidly recollapses and is too hot and matter less and short lived to possibly host life as we know it filled with beings of a radically different sort who imagine their universe mysteriously fine tuned for their kind of life who would regard a universe big, cold, lumpy universe like ours utterly incompatible for life.

I also don’t think anything he said adequately addresses the point I alluded to in a previous post that our universe really isn’t very well suited for life as we know it. It’s not just a matter of the universe being mostly empty space or, to paraphrase Barnes’ scrapheap crushing analogy, how cool the cars are, it’s the fact that this universe will not be suitable for life as we know it for the vast majority of it’s existence. Our universe’s life friendliness is vastly overstated.

Moreover, why would an all-powerful supernatural Deity have to fine-tune “His” creation? Why is He so constrained? If we lived in a universe specially created and fine-tuned by an all powerful supernatural God, if anything, we would expect to see precisely what the anthropic principle says we cannot – a universe unsuitable for life as we know it which we nevertheless exist in, due ostensibly to the interaction of an omnipotent God who is not constrained by the laws of nature. If Craig’s omnipotent personal creator God existed, given all the possibilities, the fact that we find ourselves in one of the few possibilities in which life could come about naturally only hurts the God hypothesis.

It’s worth noting also that Barnes agrees that, however boring and disappointing it might
be if the fine-tuning was the result of chance or hidden necessity, he admits it possible, so the problems cited with Craig’s argument, which depends on the fine-tuning being neither by chance or physical necessity, are not resolved by what Barnes said.

I should make it clear, by the way, that I don’t deny that the fact that the constants of nature are within the narrow range necessary for life as we know it isn’t an interesting fact worth study and discussion, I just don’t see any evidence of a designer God in it.

Anyway, thanks for the great link.

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InnocentBystander August 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Lukeprog,
I really appreciate this page. It has led to many hours of viewing and listening pleasure. I really appreciate your objective analysis and have found my thoughts to be the same nearly every time.
I’m just curious, though, why you take the time to worry about these things. What would you say to someone who said, “Well, now it’s time to solve the harder questions, and then what? We solve the harder questions that people have found insolvable for thousands and thousands of years, and then we die?” Basically, if Craig wants to have a “wish-granting invisible friend,” why do you care? I’m tempted to say, “If it makes his life happier, let him believe whatever he wants.” Just wondering, love the site!

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ShakenNotStirred August 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Hmm… interesting article about Craig on FoxNews.com today – apparently he’s having trouble finding debate challenge