William Lane Craig on Debating Atheists

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 5, 2010 in Debates,William Lane Craig

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In his latest Q & A article, William Lane Craig responds to some questions about debating atheists. Cris says:

[Many atheists] say that the only reason you really have an upper-hand in a majority of the debates is not because your facts are right, but because you are such a great speaker and debater.

Dr. Craig replies:

Boo hoo! Poor atheists! Big, bad Bill Craig has debate training, and that’s why they can’t even mount a decent response to the same five arguments I’ve been putting out there for 20 years!

Seriously, Cris, while debate training (especially knowing how to manage the clock) is undoubtedly a great help in winning a debate, that’s just not a sufficient explanation for the impotence of atheists to offer refutations of these arguments – or to present a case of their own for atheism. Keep in mind that my oral debates are actually a relatively minor part of my work. Most of my work is published by scholarly presses and in peer-reviewed professional journals, where I have been very forthcoming in responding to critics such as Mackie, Grünbaum, Smith, Oppy, Sobel, Morriston, et al.

Dr. Craig is correct. Craig’s dominance in debating technique is not the only reason he wins nearly all his debates.

Dr. Craig also wins his debates because Dr. Craig gives better arguments.

Let me explain what I mean. It might be the case that, for example, none of Craig’s arguments are as ‘good’ as an argument from evil or an argument from reasonable nonbelief, two popular atheistic arguments. However, Dr. Craig’s arguments are almost always stronger than the atheist’s arguments as presented in these debates.

What I mean to say is that because nearly all of Craig’s opponents are apparently oblivious to the philosophical literature on all these arguments, Dr. Craig knows what the best responses to all the atheistic arguments are, and he gives them. In contrast, his opponents do not know the best atheistic responses to Craig’s arguments, nor do they know the strongest formulations for their own arguments.

Let me give you one example. Let’s say the atheist argues that the existence of evil shows there is no God. Dr. Craig replies that “I understand this is an emotional problem, but it need not be an intellectual one, because the existence of evil and of God are not plainly incompatible, and no atheist has been able to supply the additional premises that would be needed to show that they are, indeed, incompatible.”

To anyone familiar with the philosophical literature, it is obvious that Dr. Craig is calling up the work of Alvin Plantinga on the logical problem of evil. If the atheist supplies additional premises, Dr. Craig can show that evil and God are not incompatible merely by proposing a premise of his own:

(P) God has a morally sufficient reason to allow evil.

We need not assume that we would know what God’s morally sufficient reasons are for allowing evil, and if P is even logically possible, then God and evil are not logically incompatible.

This is Problem of Evil 101 stuff, but atheists are oblivious to it.

Now, if the atheist ignores the logical problem of evil and instead gives an evidential argument from evil, then Dr. Craig gives his “we wouldn’t expect to be aware of God’s reasons for permitting evil, so evil doesn’t provide evidence against God” response. This response is known as skeptical theism, and there is a vast literature on it.

The problem is that Dr. Craig is familiar with this literature, and his opponents are not. So the atheist isn’t familiar with the best replies to skeptical theism, but Dr. Craig is.

Likewise, when Dr. Craig presents, for example, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, nobody is more familiar with the literature on this argument than Dr. Craig. So he knows the best way to present it, and he knows the best answers to all the atheist’s skeptical objections. In contrast, the only atheist debater I know of who bothered to actually read the literature on this argument was Wes Morriston, who of course has been debating the argument for years in the philosophical literature. Because all other atheists are woefully ignorant of the argument, they give objections that either misunderstand the argument or are easily countered by Craig.

Another example is the moral argument. Only about 10% of Craig’s opponents have even understood his moral argument God’s existence, so 90% of them have given responses to the argument that are totally irrelevant, and easily dismissed by Dr. Craig.

So however strong these arguments are in the philosophical literature, there is no doubt that Craig’s arguments are always stronger than the atheist’s arguments as they are presented in these debates. Why? Because Craig knows the literature and has the best responses to everything at hand. The atheist is almost always oblivious to the literature on these arguments. The atheist swings blindly in the dark, and only occasionally lands a successful jab on Craig by sheer luck.

Dr. Craig also says:

I read scholarly criticisms of my work, but I tend to ignore popular stuff on the internet, since I figure the internet critics are not likely to say anything of substance that the scholars have missed.

This is a wise choice. My experience agrees with his. When I present theistic arguments on my blog, nearly all the atheistic objections so confidently given in the comments either (1) misunderstand the argument because the commenter hasn’t actually read the relevant articles, (2) are weak objections because the commenter has a poor grasp of the philosophical and scientific issues involved, or (3) are messy repetitions of significant objections that are given with greater strength and precision in existing philosophical articles.

So Craig is quite wise to ignore internet criticism of his work. If you’ve really got such a brilliant new objection to these arguments, why not publish a peer-reviewed article on it? Peer review is an excellent filter that allows people like Dr. Craig to focus his attention on the objections to his work that matter.

This also explains why, when discussing the arguments for and against theism, I doubt there is a single new idea on my entire blog. My main effort is to help myself and others to become aware of the existing philosophical literature on these arguments, so that we can argue more clearly about them. Only when we’ve caught up with the current state of the debate are we in a position to contribute something new to it. And almost nobody who writes on the internet is familiar with the current state of the debate.

I’m reminded of the journalist who asked Einstein: “So, Einstein, what’s new in science?”

Einstein reportedly replied: “Oh, have you caught up with all the old science?”

Dr. Craig Uses My Writing?

Another questioner asks:

Luke Muehlauser from Common Sense Atheism has stated that people should study your debating technique like actors should study Marlon Brando, and I fully agree.

Would you ever consider releasing an instructional manual on the intricacies and more technical aspects of professional debating?

…along with some other questions about debating.

Dr. Craig replies:

I wouldn’t publish a book on debating, but I do occasionally teach a course on debate… I even used some of Luke’s stuff in the class!

Well, I’m flattered, though I’m not sure what Craig is referring to. I haven’t written anything on how to debate, except for obvious stuff like:

  • Respond to your opponent’s arguments.
  • At the end of each speech, summarize why the debate so far leans in your favor.
  • Read the relevant literature before debating.
  • Make careful use of the clock.
  • Always call it out when your opponent doesn’t respond to an argument you gave.

Dr. Craig goes on to say that Doug Jesseph was his most challenging debate opponent yet. Not surprisingly, Craig later learned that Jesseph was on a college debating team.

Craig also gives some examples of things he has changed his mind about in the past few decades:

  • Craig used to think God was only factually necessary (ala Swinburne), now he apparently thinks God is metaphysically necessary.
  • Craig used to think the ontological argument failed, but he was persuaded by Plantinga’s formulation of it.
  • Craig was unconvinced by Leibniz’s cosmological argument, but he was persuaded by Stephen Davis’ formulation of it.
  • Craig was convinced by David Basinger to adopt the middle knowledge position on God’s omniscience.
  • Craig used to argue from the existence of abstract objects to God, but now he is attracted to nominalism about abstract objects. [Me too, by the way.]

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{ 229 comments… read them below or add one }

Erika April 5, 2010 at 11:55 am

Boo hoo! Poor atheists! Big, bad Bill Craig has debate training, and that’s why they can’t even mount a decent response to the same five arguments I’ve been putting out there for 20 years!

From this quote, Craig sounds like a jerk. That does not diminish the depth of his knowledge and skills or excuse the atheists who debate him unprepared, but it sure makes me think that I would not want to discuss religion with him.

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Justfinethanks April 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Great Post.

I think the really poisoinous factor that keeps making atheists so poorly prepared (in both argumentation and debate strategy) is arrogance. They equate God belief with yokels who crowd churches every Sunday and think, “Sure, I’ll study up on on modern theology, right after after I complete my research on imaginary fabrics!! Boo -ya!” And so they stroll into debates with a little “But who made God?” and a “People just believe God because they were raised to,” and quite justly get creamed.

If atheists could just start to realize that there exist really smart theists who have devoted a lot of energy and thought into forming sophisticated defenses of their beliefs (as ultimately faulty as these defenses may be), then that would at least put us on the right path towards besting apologists in these public forums.

For a good starting place to look at how people should approach debating should look at Craig’s debate with Austin Dacey. He did two things almost all debaters never do.

1) Presented a POSITIVE case for atheism. (This is important because it forces the debate opponent to actually respond to something. If you go the “negative atheist” route, that forces you to always be on the defensive.)
2) Responded to Craig’s arguments in a way that reveals that he actually did his homework.

While Dacey lost his footing on a couple spots near the end, at the very least this looked like the Atheist knew what he was talking about and was aware of what the other side was saying, which (as depressing as this is) is a huge step up from how Craig’s debates typically turn up.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Erika,

I think Craig is just responding in good humor. That’s basically the response I want to give if someone says that the only reason Craig wins is because he’s better at debating.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I’ve got a very special treat coming up where I’m going to show how to actually make a good showing against Craig in debate.

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Mark April 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Perhaps many wouldn’t agree with me here, but I’d argue that another reason Craig wins is that theism is just much easier to defend before philosophical laymen than atheism. That is, there are more specious arguments for theism which it takes a fair amount of sophistication to untangle. For instance, people with no prior familiarity with philosophy of science and set theory will often find Craig’s succinct argument from Hilbert’s Hotel to the impossibility of “actual infinites” fairly intuitive. While the argument is in fact abysmal, it’s difficult to bring such people up to speed on the relevant concepts in order to illustrate precisely why within the strict time limits of the debate. And even when one does this successfully, the audience is going to be weighing Craig’s simple and intuitive argument against his opponent’s more complex and intuitively “iffy” objection; and guess who wins then?

The same thing goes for, e.g., the moral argument. Laymen just have this peculiar idea floating around in their heads that morality refers to God’s commandments. When Craig brings something like this up as a debating point, people are naturally going to nod along. When atheists start talking about how morality is a reflection of human empathy or something like that, things begin to get confusing and unfamiliar for them. All Craig has to do is hammer home the confusingness of this position while continually pointing out how intuitive his own Divine Command Theory is. Appeals to Euthyphro can be satisfactorily dealt with by muttering something vague about “God’s nature.”

It’s just a bad state of affairs. Public, spoken philosophical debates against opponents who know how to abuse them are rarely a good idea, entertaining as they no doubt are.

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Erika April 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I guess that’s just not my sort of humor then, since I didn’t get it. =)

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Thomas Reid April 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Mark,
You wrote:

For instance, people with no prior familiarity with philosophy of science and set theory will often find Craig’s succinct argument from Hilbert’s Hotel to the impossibility of “actual infinites” fairly intuitive. While the argument is in fact abysmal, it’s difficult to bring such people up to speed on the relevant concepts in order to illustrate precisely why within the strict time limits of the debate.

You don’t have to explain it here, as that could get too far off-topic, but I’ll take a reference explaining the abysmal-ness of the argument if you would like to offer one. Thanks.

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Mark April 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I should add that I once went to a debate on the morality of homosexuality held by two professional philosophers. One was sophisticated, careful to draw distinctions, careful to illuminate the historical moves that philosophers have made in the past, careful to argue that what is “natural” cannot be understood as what is moral. The other was a buffoon who just said, “Well, some of us believe in God!” and proceeded to ignore most of his opponent’s thoughts for the remainder of the debate.

At the end of the debate, I thought it was a clincher for the first philosopher. But then I heard a woman behind me remark to her friend, “Well, I knew where that guy [the Christian] was coming from, but I didn’t know where the other guy was coming from.”

This experience suggested to me that victory in such debates is mostly about recognizability. If your opponent’s case is highly recognizable and yours isn’t, it doesn’t matter how much nuance you try to introduce. It will just make your case all the more unrecognizable. I’ve long felt that most of Craig’s debates obey this principle.

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Mark April 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Mark,
You wrote:
You don’t have to explain it here, as that could get too far off-topic, but I’ll take a reference explaining the abysmal-ness of the argument if you would like to offer one.Thanks.  

Sure. Infinite/transfinite sets work differently from finite sets. Hilbert’s Hotel illustrates this by showing how, unlike finite sets, infinite sets are equinumerous with their own proper subsets. Craig additionally uses Hilbert’s Hotel to show that the operation of subtraction is ill-defined on infinite cardinals. Facts like these are “surprising” in the sense that they’re an interesting departure from the normal arithmetic we’re used to (namely, that of finite numbers), but it’s perfectly mathematically consistent and makes a lot of internal sense when you think about it. Deducing that actual infinities are impossible on the basis of these things is as silly as deducing that space must be Euclidean because otherwise not all triangles would have angles adding up to 180 degrees.

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Steven Carr April 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm

So what is Craig’s sophisticated explanation of why his God came to earth and told his friends how to get free money by looking in the mouth of a fish – something that Craig allegedly defends in peer-reviewed articles?

And why does Craig duck all debates on the historical reliability of the Gospels?

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Steven Carr April 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Why does Craig refuse to defend in public most of what he believes? Why does Craig refuse to defend in public the morality of his imaginary god allegedly ordering whole tribes of men, women and children to be killed?

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David John Wellman April 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Presentation of arguments and preparation for counters, while drawn from a base of having good arguments, nonetheless falls under the purview of debating skills and technique. Your above-the-fold material is highly misleading at best, Luke.

The arguments Craig uses are not so much *good* arguments as they are more readily defensible in classical oral debate style. Take a transcript of one of his recent opening statements, allow an internet hack apologist to use it as the opening statement in a written debate against me, and more likely than not I would tear him to bits.

Put me up against the same guy on an open stage, on the other hand, and I wouldn’t fare so well at all — which is not to say the other guy would, of course, but it would be disappointing either way for atheists in attendance.

Put me up against Craig, I’d be dead.

I know the material, I know the literature, and I firmly believe that I can, in writing, utterly demolish all of his arguments. Nonetheless, in a framed oral debate with Craig, I would lose. So contra Craig, I believe that his debating skills are indeed sufficient explanation for his performance. If anyone doubts it, let him ask Craig why he almost never* participates in a written debate with an atheist philosopher.

*I say “almost never,” because I don’t want to say “never” and then find out he had one written debate back in 1989 or something.

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Landon Hedrick April 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm

David,

As Craig and Luke have said, the real debate takes place in the philosophical literature. If you think you can tear Craig’s arguments to shreds in print, submit your work to a philosophical journal.

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svenjamin April 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I found Craig’s “Boo hoo! Poor atheists! Big, bad Bill Craig has debate training” line pretty funny, especially coupled with a photo that reminds me of Bruce the Shark from Finding Nemo.

http://www.solarnavigator.net/films_movies_actors/cartoons/cartoon_images/finding_nemo_bruce_shark_dory_and_marlin_tasty_bites.jpg

I agree with Mark’s additional reasons for why Craig wins debates, and would further observe that Christianity exists despite its being false because its concepts are quite natural to human minds. So the atheist debater really does have the cards stacked against him/her when the line of the debate forces them to contend with ‘natural’ ideas like morality and transfinite cardinality.

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Jeffrey Shallit April 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I’m afraid I don’t entirely agree. Craig’s command of mathematics is quite poor, and the arguments he makes that depend on mathematics are, by turns, naive and wrong. See, for example, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6189 , where he doesn’t bother to understand the point I was making at all, and my reply http://recursed.blogspot.com/2008/05/reply-to-william-lane-craig.html , which he refuses to link to.

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Lee A.P. April 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Doug Jesseph

How does Craig fare in his writings as compared to debate Luke?

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Charles April 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Luke,

You talk about more than just atheism versus theism. You also talk a lot about desirism. How well is desirism represented in the literature? From previous statements made by you, my guess is ‘Not at all.’

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David John Wellman April 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm

David,As Craig and Luke have said, the real debate takes place in the philosophical literature.If you think you can tear Craig’s arguments to shreds in print, submit your work to a philosophical journal.  

At home, preparing a statement on my computer, I would be able to research this literature in comfort, without rush, and with an eye toward accuracy. During a debate, however, I would have to rely on nothing but my memory and whatever notes I brought with me that evening, to be accessed in the space of a few short minutes, during most of which the other guy is still talking and I have to pay attention.

Were I as much a master of the latter as I am of the former, I would, for the most part, be able to rely on the existing literature in going up against Craig.

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Thomas Reid April 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Mark,

Sure. Infinite/transfinite sets work differently from finite sets. Hilbert’s Hotel illustrates this by showing how, unlike finite sets, infinite sets are equinumerous with their own proper subsets. Craig additionally uses Hilbert’s Hotel to show that the operation of subtraction is ill-defined on infinite cardinals. Facts like these are “surprising” in the sense that they’re an interesting departure from the normal arithmetic we’re used to (namely, that of finite numbers), but it’s perfectly mathematically consistent and makes a lot of internal sense when you think about it.

Right, transfinite sets work differently. Here you are confirming the absurdities of an existence of an actual infinite number of things. Far from being an abysmal use of the concept, it is precisely the point of the argument. The argument isn’t contending that there is inconsistency within the framework of transfinite math.

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David John Wellman April 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Mark,
Right, transfinite sets work differently.Here you are confirming the absurdities of an existence of an actual infinite number of things.Far from being an abysmal use of the concept, it is precisely the point of the argument.The argument isn’t contending that there is inconsistency within the framework of transfinite math.  

It’s abysmal in that it’s a misuse of appeal to intuition.

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Jeffrey Shallit April 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Here you are confirming the absurdities of an existence of an actual infinite number of things.

I don’t see that the existence of an infinite number of things is necessarily “absurd”. It may violate one’s intuitions, but many things in physics, such as relativity and quantum mechanics, violate our naive intuitions.

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manicstreetpreacher April 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The reason why most prominent scientists etc. who are atheists are not very good against Dr Craig is that they probably do not spend hours toiling away figuring out ways to disprove the existence of supernatural entities the existence of which is not immediately obvious to them or provable by the scientific method.

How many of them agonise over disproving the astrologers and the tarot readers?

Besides, nothing is going to change Craig’s mind as long as he has that warm fuzzy feeling inside courtesy of the Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit.

I thought that Vic Stenger and Bart Ehrman destroyed Craig’s “arguments” in their respective debates on the existence of God and the resurrection. Has that stopped Craig from using them?

Ask me another…

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manicstreetpreacher April 5, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I think Craig is just responding in good humor.

Good humour?! William Lane Craig is one of the most witless, obnoxious people I have ever encountered in my life!

I agree with Erika that Craig is not someone I would want to discuss religion with one on one, let alone engage in public debate.

I will limit myself to debunking his pathetic “arguments” on the blogosphere.

MSP

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David John Wellman April 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Here’s a suggestion: a mock debate, or a series of mock debates, to be held on Stickam or a similar forum, in which one debater takes the Christian position, and a transcript of one of Craig’s openings is used as a placeholder for his opening — the mock-Craig fills in the rebuttals and conclusion.

It might be entertaining, and it certainly would be informative, in at least one sense.

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Mark April 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Mark,
Right, transfinite sets work differently.Here you are confirming the absurdities of an existence of an actual infinite number of things.

Of course I realize that there’s not supposed to be a contradiction. Rather, my point is it’s not an absurdity. It’s just somewhat counterintuitive for those accustomed to dealing with the everyday rules of finite sets and finite arithmetic. (Space is in fact non-Euclidean; that’s deeply counterintuitive, but not truly absurd.) And it’s not like you have any sort of argument that those rules ought to apply to all sets/cardinalities beyond brute, probably misguided intuition. Do you seriously think that the lack of a well-defined subtraction operation for infinite cardinals is reason to think actual infinities are impossible? That’s like saying that it’s impossible for there to be any number of objects because division by zero isn’t well-defined.

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Paul Wright April 5, 2010 at 4:12 pm

MSP: Craig’s arguments are not invalidated by the mere fact that they are not the reason he himself believes, and they are not invalidated if in fact he is not a nice person. Whether theism is in fact equivalent to tarot reading is precisely the point at issue: to assume it is is begging the question.

I agree (see the final bullet point here) that it would not be worth having an individual discussion with Craig if your goal was to change his mind. Nevertheless, it would probably be a chance to test oneself against a truly difficult opponent, something a rationalist should welcome.

Of course, in a public debate, you’re playing to the audience: whether Craig changes his mind isn’t relevant.

Ehrman did not, I think, do very well, though this was partly down to Craig blinding him with science (previous comments of mine are here and two comments here and here, as you may have seen on the Premier Radio forums). I’ve not listened to Stenger.

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Thomas Reid April 5, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Jeffrey Shallit, you wrote:

I don’t see that the existence of an infinite number of things is necessarily “absurd”.It may violate one’s intuitions, but many things in physics, such as relativity and quantum mechanics, violate our naive intuitions.  

Well, if you can make any kind of sense of the Hilbert Hotel case (for example, subtracting the same number of guests but arriving at different numbers remaining), more power to you I guess. It seems incoherent to me – you can’t prevent people from leaving a hotel, after all.

Mark, you wrote:

Do you seriously think that the lack of a well-defined subtraction operation for infinite cardinals is reason to think actual infinities are impossible?

Yes, seriously I do. The operation isn’t permitted in transfinite math because of the obvious contradictions that result. But, there’s no reason to believe one could not remove items from sets in reality. The conjunction of these concepts is evidence for the claim that such a set could not exist in reality.

That’s like saying that it’s impossible for there to be any number of objects because division by zero isn’t well-defined.

First, a nit to pick: it’s not the case that division by zero isn’t “well-defined”, it’s that division be zero is not defined at all. Second, I don’t see how your analogy goes through since only division by zero is not permitted with the reals, whereas subtraction is not permitted at all with the transfinites. Third, I think you’re actually very close to arguing the case against actual infinities with your own example, to wit: what is the limit of 1/x as x goes to zero? Why must we use limit?

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Chris Hallquist April 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Wow. Craig is a scumbag. I mean, “the impotence of atheists to offer refutations of these arguments—or to present a case of their own for atheism.”–seriously? Craig wants to create the impression that since it’s generally acknowledged that he does well in live debates, it must also be true that everything thinks scholars have been completely unable to respond to his defense of Christianity. But he has to know that’s nonsense.

It reminds me of William Rowe’s comments on Craig’s tactics in his debate with Antony Flew:

immediately after saying he will leave the case for atheism to Flew, he then asserts, ‘But notice that although atheist philosophers have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God, no one’s ever been able to come up with a successful argument.’ Surely, that all the arguments against the existence of God are unsuccessful is not something that we can ‘notice’, like we might notice that the weather has been unusually warm?… Of course, we must remember that this is a live debate where a rhetorical flourish, now and then, may play a useful role. But one cannot help but be surprised when Craig begins his second speech by remarking, ‘You will remember that, in my first, I argued that there are no good reasons to think that atheism is true and that there are good reasons to think that theism is true’. It is, I submit, one thing to simply assert your view… but quite another thing to refer your audience back to your assertion and then tell them that you ave argued that there are no good reasons to think that atheism is true.

I personally have a very hard time believing Craig doesn’t know what he’s doing with that kind of rhetoric.

BTW, the Rowe quote is from one of the books Craig recommends at the above link (“Does God Exist?”). I second his recommendation in the case of that particular book. Same goes for the book Craig did with Sinnott-Armstrong. Both Sinnot-Armstrong and the atheists who comment on the Flew debate give a good sense of how little regard serious philosophers have for some of Craig’s arguments.

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drj April 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm

It’s abysmal in that it’s a misuse of appeal to intuition.  

To make things worse, Craig is using that appeal to intuition in an argument designed to convince you that an actual infinite exists, and is fond of you to boot! (ie God).

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Mark April 5, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Yes, seriously I do. The operation isn’t permitted in transfinite math because of the obvious contradictions that result.

There are no contradictions that result per se. Given two cardinalities K and G, we would want to define the cardinality K – G as the unique cardinality H such that G + H = K (where we’re using the standard, well-defined operation of cardinal addition here). However, when K = G and both are infinite, then there will be many cardinalities H satisfying G + H = K. So the expression K – G simply fails to pick out a cardinality in this case. There’s nothing particularly notable about this fact. There are many, many first order formulas phi(x) of one free variable x such that “the unique object y satisfying phi(y)” fails to exist. So what? What’s wrong with that? The description “the tallest man in the room” may fail to pick out a unique person if there are two equally tall people in the room. Do we conclude that it’s impossible for two people to be equally tall, or for people to have height?

But, there’s no reason to believe one could not remove items from sets in reality.

Hold on there! That’s much, much different from the inability to define cardinal subtraction. You can remove as many people from Hilbert’s Hotel as you want. The subtraction thing just means that you can’t find one single cardinal H such that if you remove denumerably many people from Hilbert’s Hotel, you’re left with H people remaining. In removing people from Hilbert’s Hotel, the number of people you’re left with may be dependent on precisely which people you select to remove. That’s the difference between Hilbert’s Hotel and a finite hotel, and it’s a little counterintuitive. But it’s hardly absurd, and it hardly means you couldn’t remove people from Hilbert’s Hotel at all.

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Hermes April 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

So many good comments. I see no need to say basically the same thing, but add that I respect the live debate skills of other Christian apologists as well, if not their written arguments.

That said, I am curious if Luke — or anyone — has an answer to Lee’s question and support for it;

How does Craig fare in his writings as compared to debate [...] ?

As an aside, personally, I see little reason to constantly chase down the slippery arguments of apologists while not focusing on what I actually think.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm

David John Wellman,

Craig participates in written debates with philosophers all the time… in peer-reviewed journals. He has also published several of his debates in books and allowed other philosophers to comment on his remarks and the remarks of his opponents.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Thanks for the links, Jeffrey. I will read and hopefully somewhat understand.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Lee A.P.

Not sure what you’re asking.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Charles,

The correct answer is ‘not at all’, though nearly all of the compontents that make up desirism are thoroughly discussed in the literature – for example taking desires as the primary object of moral evaluation, considering desires as the only reasons for action that exist, building a moral system from a set of hypothetical imperatives, and so on.

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Mark April 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Second, I don’t see how your analogy goes through since only division by zero is not permitted with the reals, whereas subtraction is not permitted at all with the transfinites.

Whoops, I forgot to respond to this. Subtraction is permitted with all transfinites except when you’re subtracting one transfinite from itself. Aleph one minus aleph null, for instance, is well-defined and just equals aleph one. There are many cases in mathematics where we can’t fully generalize a concept, and have to make do with some fragmentary generalization. For instance, Bertrand’s paradox shows that there’s no such thing as “the” probability of picking a certain geometric construction. What the probability is depends on the method you use to pick the construction, and there are many different methods yielding many different probabilities. Surely this doesn’t mean geometric probability theory is bogus.

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Hansen April 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Luke, you’ve recently made a post explaining why you don’t really care about the kind of god that Craig argues for with his ontological or cosmological or moral arguments. It’s a bit like when someone is really good at solving crosswords. It can be a fun and entertaining way to train your brain. But ultimately you accomplish nothing of relevance whether or not you solve the crossword.

Personally, I’d like to see more atheists (or theists for that matter) debate something that really matters. Something like real-world moral issues that affect society (without falling into the trap of discussing where we get our morals from). Or debates about whether religion is useful, dangerous, or necessary. Is Craig willing and able to debate such issues?

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Chris Hallquist April 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Re: Lee & Hermes: The way of phrasing the question is odd: how could Craig come out looking badly in his own writings if, in his own writings no one else is critiquing him? But if what you mean is “how does Craig come out when other philosophers make written comments on his work,” the answer is that a lot of Craig’s arguments come out looking pretty bad. This is especially obvious with the appeals to authority and rhetorical nonsense that underwrites his moral argument, but really, Craig’s arguments are aren’t that great on the whole.

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Hermes April 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Chris, that’s about how I took Lee’s question. Thanks for commenting on it!

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Jay April 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm

manicstreetpreacher says:

Good humour?! William Lane Craig is one of the most witless, obnoxious people I have ever encountered in my life!

Coming from you that’s not really saying that much, no offense. I invite people to visit the link you put up for his debate with Vic Stenger, as well as for people to view some of your other materials. You’re probably one of the more obnoxious atheist bloggers out there that I’ve stumbled upon.

Jeffery Shalit says:

I’m afraid I don’t entirely agree. Craig’s command of mathematics is quite poor, and the arguments he makes that depend on mathematics are, by turns, naive and wrong. See, for example, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6189 , where he doesn’t bother to understand the point I was making at all, and my reply http://recursed.blogspot.com/2008/05/reply-to-william-lane-craig.html , which he refuses to link to

It’s interesting the way people word things. It often reveals the state of mind in which they approach certain people or subjects. Why could it not be the case that Craig never knew you had a blog, hence why he never linked to it? Also, from reading his Q&A that week, he at least attempted to properly understand you and give you a charitable interpretation, but of course you make it seem like he’s lazy by not “bothering” to understand a person he’s never heard about.

That aside, I was very curious to hear how a professor, well versed in mathematics, would respond to Craig’s work and views related to mathematics. When I read your material, however, I was thoroughly unimpressed. What’s wrong with Craig’s view of mathematics? Your answer:

“It seems that what bothers Craig is perfectly understandable to any mathematician: namely, that the set of positive integers has the same cardinality as the set of integers greater than n (for any positive n), and the same cardinality as the set of even positive integers. All this was well understood 125 years ago, but it seems the Christian apologists haven’t caught up”

I’m pretty sure Craig, if he read that, would respond by saying “THAT’S PRECISELY THE PROBLEM”!! Craig tries to argue precisely that transfinite arithmetic, so understood by mathematicians, gives you these contradictions in reality. Indeed, Craig takes great pains just to describe the view of mathematicians that you put out in that statement (see for example his book “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”). Craig definitely gets it. It seems you don’t though, since you evidently think this is about the mathematical sense, which it’s not for Craig. He’s not arguing that the math doesn’t work on paper. He’s arguing that it doesn’t work in reality. Perhaps if you had “bothered” to even partially familiarize yourself with his work you might have realized that.

To be fair though, you do seem to somewhat get that point later on when you converse with Durston and others in the comment section. You write, in reply to Durston:

“But there are no paradoxes (in the mathematical sense) involving the infinities we are talking about. There may be paradoxes involving your intuition about how infinite quantities should behave, but this just indicates your intuition is wrong.”

Well again, the issue is not whether it works in the mathematical sense. Yes, it does, which is why Durston and Craig use the examples that they use (by the way, it’s somewhat ironic that you try to cast dispersions on Durston and Craig’s intellect on this matter when you don’t really seem to understand the argument in the first place). As for intuition, your response is weak. Sure, intuition can be wrong, but it doesn’t follow logically that it is. You have to do more than simply present a possibility. A mathematical possibility is not enough either. People in high school understand that point. A question involving the use of the quadratic formula to solve for the number of apples may lead to a negative and positive answer. No student would answer in the negative. Clearly, there are no such things as negative apples. The negative answer does not suffice. It works on paper, in the mathematical sense, but it most certainly does not work in reality. Likewise, it might be exactly the same with respect to infinity and physical reality, and nothing that you’ve stated so far even remotely goes to refute that proposition.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Hansen,

Craig debates the resurrection of Jesus alot. That one would matter.

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Hermes April 5, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Luke, even if it were shown to be more reasonable than not to a wide spectrum of non-Christians, I don’t see how the Jesus resurrection story applies to ‘something that really matters … like real-world moral issues’. (I could stretch an argument to cover it, but it’s not a natural fit.)

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Hermes, I was responding to someone who referred to my ‘I Don’t Care if God Exists’ post. So what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter if the God of the design argument or the ontological argument exists. But it would matter if Jesus magically rose from the dead. Then we would REALLY want to know what Jesus taught and who he believed himself to be.

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jim April 5, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Luke:

I’ve been following your commentary on Craig’s seeming ability to ‘win’ debates for quite some time now, and I have a question for you. Seeing that Craig and others like him can always appeal to gaps in our knowledge base concerning physics, time and whatnot, and can always invoke God’s ‘magic’ to fill those gaps, how can the opposition ever be said to ‘win’ a debate with him? Especially when the judges of who wins and who loses are coming from such diametrically opposed pre-suppositional positions? We can pursue the variations and shave the nuances down to a razor’s edge, but to what gain? The language will simply continue to become more sophisticated (convoluted), and either side can keep fishing new points and counterpoints out of the ever-growing sea of hypotheses, while the conversation drifts further and further away from any semblance of common-sense inquiry. The fact is, a lot of what Craig talks about seems anchored in pure speculation, and is only convincing to those who buy into the kind of rhetorical gamesmanship that seems more and more prevalent these days. In the end, most of his audience will cleave to what he says because they know he’s fighting for what they already believe anyway, and not because they actually follow what he’s saying. The phrase ‘blinded by science’ seems to apply here.

So, let’s pretend your wish is granted, and a new corps of atheist debaters is raised up, finely honed and trained to answer the apologists point by point. What then? I foresee nothing but new layers of ambiguous rhetoric, as well as deeper incursions into what we actually don’t know but choose to guess about to bolster positions arrived at by EVERYTHING other than the increasingly exotic subject matter that’s being debated. I don’t mean to be a party pooper here, but at what point does arguing about what’s on the other side of the looking glass become…silly? Futile? Utterly beside the point? And who does this serve? The apologist, naturally, who claims victory on the merit of simply continuing the conversation indefinitely, or at least until the other side recognizes they’ve been trying to run a race on a see-saw, and step off. I don’t mean to say that conversations both pro and anti apologetic shouldn’t continue; however, the kinds of subjects Craig specializes in- ultimate objectivity, time, and all that epistemological stuff that generates ANYTHING but clarity- are so popular amongst apologists these days precisely because they know that’s a well that can be drawn from interminably, forever and ever, amen.

Anyway, my two cents.

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Hermes April 5, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Luke, thanks. I understand the first part, but not the second (starting at “But it would matter…”).

Ignore this if the second part is really just one example of many possible examples. I can imagine other non-resurrection examples for Jesus being meaningful (magical or not), and don’t need to drag that one out.

* * *

If you mean it would be meaningful to Craig specifically as well as other Christians, then yes I can see that. (Christians already presuppose quite a bit so it would be strange if they didn’t generally find that event to be both credible and meaningful.)

* * *

For non-Christians, though, it’s a harder sell.

Let’s say I were shown that anyone ‘magically rose from the dead’, and I was shown so definitively, then I would be curious about the event, and would carefully reassess what I considered was likely to happen in reality. Yet, I would not automatically give special consideration to what the undead person said about things outside of that event. I don’t think I’d be alone in that. (Related: http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php?topic=6546 )

If you mean ‘magically rose from the dead … and a list of other specific things’, then it would matter quite a bit what those other things were.

* * *

If you mean ‘magically rose from the dead’ strongly supports the idea that ‘Christianity and all of the Bible should be given special consideration’, even if Yahweh continues to be not very credible, then I can’t see the connection.

Yes, many Christians have made statements like that, but they’re Christians. As before, I’d still be curious about the event, but without additional reasons I would not be curious about whatever else the undead person had said outside of the event itself.

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm

jim,

Later, I’ll be giving a video demonstration of what I think a successful debate performance against Craig would look like. Stay tuned.

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jim April 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Luke: Thanks! I’ll really be looking forward to seeing that.

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David John Wellman April 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm

David John Wellman,Craig participates in written debates with philosophers all the time… in peer-reviewed journals.

Putting aside for the moment the question of whether these exchanges can be called “debates” in the same sense as his oral debates, how, in your estimation, does he perform in these exchanges? I’m not asking if he can hold his own in a peer-reviewed article — of course he can — but rather whether he has successfully rebutted all the likewise published material that refute his arguments.

Craig has never, to my knowledge, engaged in a structured written debate intended for a lay audience.

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David John Wellman April 5, 2010 at 9:41 pm

jim,Later, I’ll be giving a video demonstration of what I think a successful debate performance against Craig would look like. Stay tuned.  

Are you planning to present merely an opening statement, or an entire demo debate? If the latter, do you need a foil?

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Rhys Wilkins April 5, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Woohoo! Go me!

That was my question that I posted up, I’m stoked Dr Craig answered!

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 10:14 pm

David John Wellman,

Craig’s scholarly work that people pay attention to is on the KCA, and goodness no, Craig has not replied to all his critics yet.

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MC April 5, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I’d say that I’m rather familiar with Craig’s popular and scholarly work, especially with regard to his philosophy of time. Craig has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subjects he tackles and really leaves no objection from any objector unanswered (whether he sufficiently counters their objections is a separate issue!).

Very briefly (and sloppily), Craig argues that the world given by relativity theory entails the B-theory of time, therefore entailing the “Block Universe” view of perdurantism and eternalism believed by Einstein, Weyl, Minkowski, Grunbaum, et al.* If this view is correct, he concludes (and I concur), then God neither creates, nor acts in, the universe (since, in B-Theory, there is no qualitative change, creation, or becoming). In order to secure God’s creation and divine action, an A-theoretic (presentist and endurantist) account of time is necessary, in addition to what he calls “Metaphysical time” (A-theoretic, for God), opposed to “Physical time” (B-theoretic time, for the Universe). Despite how Craig presents his arguments in his popular literature and public fora, he believes that physics as it is understood, practiced, and formulated by the vast majority physicists and philosophers today is deeply hostile to Christian theism.

Concerning how Craig’s scholarly work is received, I offer two assessments of his views by some prominent and capable philosophers of space and time:

(1) In their paper “Presentism and Relativity” (2003), Yuri Balashov and Michel Janssen argue against the attempt by Craig to formulate a neo-Lorenzian, neo-Newtonian “interpretation” of relativity and spacetime physics to make it compatible with A-theoretic accounts of time. They argue that Craig–“a philosopher who has an active agenda (and much at stake)”–advocates a “a highly controversial view” equivalent to arguments that we should “return to the days before Darwin in biology or the days before Copernicus in astronomy”(!) They conclude that “Craig fails completely in his attempt to make the case that we should trade in the standard space-time interpretation of SR for the neo-Lorentzian interpretation.”</b

Here is their paper:

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~janss011/pdf%20files/BJPS-balashov-janssen.pdf

(2) In addition to finding Craig's exposition of relativity theory “biased” and uncareful, in his review of Craig’s book, Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity (2001), Mauro Dorato (2002) also argues that “Craig’s book is essentially guided by an apologetic attempt and opportunistically uses physics and metaphysics for his purpose” and that he aims “to reintroduce in science wild metaphysical hypotheses with no independent support from science.” He continues: “The evidence for a connection between a neo-Lorentzian interpretation of special relativity and the existence of [metaphysical] time, however, is very thin.”

Here is his paper:

http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00000902/00/SRTbre.rtf

In addition to those of Swinburne, the eminent Adolf Grunbaum has attacked Craig’s arguments (especially those that are specifically scientific and cosmologically based) with a degree of argumentative hostility and force unmatched by the reviewers cited above. In addition to his papers, confer with those hosted by Infidels.org:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/adolf_grunbaum/

Needless to say, though Craig’s work in metaphysics finds some overlap with Quentin Smith, it is mostly sui generis (unlike his popular, evangelical works).

Though I was initially very impressed by his scholarly work in metaphysics (and there are impressive aspects), from my own personal appraisal, Craig employs much the same strategies that he uses in his debates: biased argument framing, ignoring relevant objections, hifalutin name-dropping, and ad nauseum argumentation. His changes of mind concerning the modal ontological argument and the metaphysical status of abstract objects inter alia are not done out of honesty or a pure pursuit of truth (remember?), but merely exchanged for their (perhaps temporary) superior argumentative or rhetorical purchase and advantage: unchanged for years since their inception despite objections raised against them, Craig is prone to recycle and copy multiple pages and/or paragraphs of text verbatim of his own works for use among his scholarly and popular publications, too.

Because of his blatant and intellectually shameful fideism (demonstrated many times and in many ways here on Luke’s blog), I can’t call Craig a philosopher in the pure, Socratic/Platonic sense of the term–viz. one who aims at the truth for the sake of it–but, he is mostly a competent researcher and scholar worthy of attention.

———
*(Craig has argued, more or less, that scientists and philosophers who concur with Einstein and Minkowski make the mistake based on their “interpretation” of relativity of reading metaphysical implications out of the mathematical formulation of 3+1 spacetime in relativity theory as an instrumental reading out of it, rather than as drawing realist implications. Craig has argued that any metaphysical conclusions based thereupon are the trite results of obsolete, positivist and verificationist assumptions).

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Chris Hallquist April 5, 2010 at 10:59 pm

David John Wellman,Craig’s scholarly work that people pay attention to is on the KCA, and goodness no, Craig has not replied to all his critics yet.  

This is actually worth emphasizing, the fact that Craig has mostly gotten serious academic attention for the KCA. His other claims tend to be treated as not worth responding to.

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johemoth April 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Can’t wait to see the demo debate. But the real question is…

When is Craig vs Muehlauser going to happen?

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manicstreetpreacher April 6, 2010 at 12:07 am

@Jay

Thank you so much!!! That is one of the best things anyone has ever said about me on the blogosphere! I’m thinking about compiling a “What they say” page for my blog, and that will be included! :o

I’m just giving Craig and his “arguments” the precisely the level of respect they deserve, which is none whatsoever.

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manicstreetpreacher April 6, 2010 at 12:09 am

@Paul Wright

Like I say in practically all my debate reviews, opinions on the blogosphere is always divided, but I disagree with your verdict on the Ehrman debate.

Craig’s use of calculus to overthrown Hume was a pathetic debating trick and Ehrman was wise not to respond to it. I seriously doubt whether Craig himself understood it, especially in light of Jeffrey Shallit’s comments on this thread regarding his poor grasp of maths.

When I say that Craig will never change his mind, I don’t mean that he will stop being a Christian as a result of losing a debate. I mean that he continues to use the same five arguments despite their faulty premises and invalid conclusions.

If you view the lecture by Vic Stenger I posted in my review of his debate against Craig, he directly accuses Craig of lying by continuing to argue that the universe and space time began with the Big Bang and quote-mining Stephen Hawking as a supporting authority.

The passages from Hawking’s books read in full show that he has recanted his and Roger Penrose’s earlier thesis and no longer thinks that the universe began with the Big Bang.

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mattr April 6, 2010 at 12:19 am

i don’t know if this has been said here already (too many posts!), but here’s my favorite example of craig (luke, pleeeease don’t call him “dr. craig” unless he gets an m.d. in the near future…) being a snake-oil salesman. in fact, i think he’s both a brilliant lawyer and a pretty good philosopher and a charlatan for God. People are complicated.

to the (standard atheist) objection that the Bible is full of morally reprehensible injunctions to kill people who dress badly on the sabbath and so forth, and to the concomitant argument that if God’s law = morality then how can he defend this as such, Craig always produces this truly awful reply: THAT, he says, is a question of “moral epistemology”, whereas he´s concerned with “moral ontology”, and the atheist (boo-hoo!) can´t say what´s morally up or down anyhow! QED! Knockout!

Not quite. I can’t believe how many Craig debators have let him spew this foggy nonsense without rebuttal (would be glad to hear who didn´t). As if the question of how you come to know that there is an X isn’t at least more or less the same question as whether we can ever assert there`s an X to begin with. Ontology and epistemology are mainly just cataloguing concepts–and yes, there are aspects of the two disciplines that may not overlap, but this is a classic example of their being two sides of a single coin. It’s sort of like the ID proponent who says you can detect “intelligence” without being required to say how that intelligence actually functions. If God is the source of morality, and if it´s necessary for the existence of moral values that this be so, then it´d better be the case that there´s a reliable way to KNOW what those values are, or else your argument is in trouble, buddy. Craig’s “rebuttal” is CLASSIC rhetorical hand-waving and nothing more.

So no, I don´t think that Craig always wins debates because he has better arguments, although I agree that he sometimes does, sad to say.

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chuck April 6, 2010 at 12:21 am

You do a good job of defining why Craig helped promote my atheism. He was unable to address the debate question with Ehrman regarding the historicity of the ressurection. His dismissal of triangulated data towards probable cause in favor of “just feel it” caused me to pause and ask myself if my declarations of Christ’s resurrection were honest. He failed to win because he applied his limited philosophical knowledge to a question that demanded more than philosophical argument.

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snafu April 6, 2010 at 12:36 am

apologies if I’ve missed what someone else has covered (no time to read the full RF article)…but is the Jesseph debate available as an mp3 anywhere?

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mattr April 6, 2010 at 12:45 am

learly, there are no such things as negative apples. The negative answer does not suffice. It works on paper, in the mathematical sense, but it most certainly does not work in reality. Likewise, it might be exactly the same with respect to infinity and physical reality, and nothing that you’ve stated so far even remotely goes to refute that proposition. 

ever hear of DEBT? those are my ⁄negative dollars we´re talking about, mister. i´m afraid to say that´s reality, much as i´d like to deny it. in fact, my debt is probably the best candidate for a divine law giver i can think of.

seems to me that the anti-actual-infinity people here are slinging around a very suspicious concept of “reality” where reality is something like wood blocks or chemical s, but not concepts like “curvature” or “plus and minus”. the square root of 2 for instance is 1.4142135623730950488016887242096980785696718753769480731766797379907324784621
070388503875343276…

Is this “real”? is it “impossible”? where exactly is the boundary line between a “purely mathematical” concept and a “real” one? i know this is phil of math 101, but it seems like dr. craig and his patients haven´t bothered to work this all out yet…

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matt April 6, 2010 at 3:36 am

p.s. Hey Luke, how come you haven’t given Louise Antony a “best” sticker? I just heard this debate and think she really and thoroughly kicks Craig’s formulaic ass. Basically all he does is to repeat his bizarre claim that the Euthyphro isn’t a problem for theism because God “just is” “by his very nature” (bla bla) the ground of morality, whereas for some unintelligeable reason Antony`s non-theistic moral realism has “no foundation”. She takes this flimsy construction apart and in doing so reduces Craig to sound-bite mantras about animals who rape each other and heat deaths of the universe. This is my new favorite debate against WLC, and in my opinion an unambiguous KO for the atheist position.

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Alex April 6, 2010 at 5:27 am

Luke,

You’re certainly going places, it seems to me that you’ve built quite a number of connections in the philosophical community, both through interviews such as the CPBD series and people like Craig checking out your blog. I fully expect to hear of a debate between yourself (sans Desirism :P) and Craig in the next 7-10 years.

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lukeprog April 6, 2010 at 5:28 am

snafu,

If the mp3 isn’t on my debates page, then it isn’t available. :)

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John D April 6, 2010 at 6:16 am

This is only tangentially relevant to this post but I thought I would share it anyway. I was flicking through my copy of Reasonable Faith (3rd Edn) this morning and spotted Craig saying something that I think is quite dishonest.

On page 114 Craig, discussing and defending premise 1 of the KCA, has the following to say about Daniel Dennett:

“Daniel Dennett, misstating the first premise as ‘Everything that exists must have a cause,” accordingly asks, ‘What caused God?’ This retort merely caricatures the argument.”

He provides a reference to pg. 242 of Breaking the Spell as the source of these Dennett-quotes. Well, I had been reading Dennett’s book recently and knew that Craig’s allusion sounded fishy. So I looked it up.

First off, Dennett’s book is about the psychological basis and evolutionary origins of religious belief. It is not an in-depth discussion of arguments for the existence of God. Chapter 8 of Dennett’s book is entitled “Belief in Belief” and in it he makes the argument that most people are emotionally committed to religion, irrespective of the contents of religious belief (such as belief in God).

This means that people will hold to a religion despite not understanding or agreeing with the entire belief-system. In making this argument, Dennett offers a cursory review of some of the arguments for the existence of God. In his one-paragraph discussion of the cosmological argument (on pg. 242) this is what Dennett has to say (quotation given in full for context):

“The Cosmological Argument, which in its simplest form states that since everything must have a cause the universe must have a cause – namely, God – doesn’t stay simple for long. Some deny the premise, since quantum physics teaches us (doesn’t it?) that not everything that happens needs to have a cause. Others prefer to accept the premise and then ask: What caused God? The reply that God is self-caused (somehow) raises the rebuttal: If something can be self-caused, why can’t the universe as a whole be the thing that is self-caused? This leads in various arcane directions, into the strange precincts of string theory and probability fluctuations and the like, at one extreme, and into ingenious nitpicking about the meaning of ’cause’ at the other. Unless you have a taste for mathematics and theoretical physics on the one hand, or the niceties of scholastic logic at the other, you are not apt to find any of this compelling, or even fathomable.”

I think it’s pretty clear from this quote that Dennett is simply giving a flavour of the debate and how arcane and recondite it can become. He is being non-commital about which counterargument he would adopt because he doesn’t think it matters: most believers don’t really worry about this kind of stuff. He thinks this supports his point that people don’t really believe in God, they simply believe in Belief (i.e. in the virtues of religious belief).

For Craig to suggest that Dennett was misstating or caricaturing the KCA is, to my lights, dishonest.

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MauricXe April 6, 2010 at 7:15 am

(luke, pleeeease don’t call him “dr. craig” unless he gets an m.d. in the near future…)

He has a PhD (two if I am not mistaken) and deserves the right to be called Dr. Anyone with an accredited PhD has earned it.

Anyway,

There is no doubt that his victories are in part of his debate skills. Take the Slezak debate as an example. Craig presented his usual arguments and then Slezak, during his refutation and opening periods, attempted to address each argument. Slezak ran out of time so Craig took the opportunity to say “Argument X has gone unrefuted” or “no good arguments have been presented otherwise so we can believe it” . The audience then believes Slezak and atheism can’t respond because the argument is too strong when in fact he only ran out time.

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John W. Loftus April 6, 2010 at 7:46 am

All I have to say is that Natural Theology is dead, and I hope to propel such a notion in my books and on my Blog, just as Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God before his time (although I’m no Nietzsche by far). Natural Theology is dead. It died at the beginning of the last century. The only reason it’s being given an air of respectability in our generation is simply because Christian thinkers like Craig ignore Biblical Criticism. The best way to show this is to take the rug out from under these Natural Theologians by undercutting the basis for their beliefs. Once Christians can be forced to see this they will see why Natural Theology does not work either.

Cheers.

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ildi April 6, 2010 at 8:29 am

Ok; if Craig is an exemplar of a good philosopher, but he uses pseudoscience, pseudomathematics, pseudophysics, pseudostatistics, pseudohistory, and excellent debating tactics to earn that badge, what does that say about the field of philosophy?

I really wish I understood what you admire about this guy, Luke. I think you said once that it was his ability to form logical arguments? Really?

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Thomas Reid April 6, 2010 at 8:57 am

Mark,
Thanks for your responses. You wrote:

Given two cardinalities K and G, we would want to define the cardinality K – G as the unique cardinality H such that G + H = K (where we’re using the standard, well-defined operation of cardinal addition here). However, when K = G and both are infinite, then there will be many cardinalities H satisfying G + H = K. So the expression K – G simply fails to pick out a cardinality in this case. There’s nothing particularly notable about this fact.

I agree with how you’ve laid out the case. I’ll simply add that the “notability” arises when we try to conceive of how such a description could at all correspond to sets of distinct, real objects. Moving on:

There are many, many first order formulas phi(x) of one free variable x such that “the unique object y satisfying phi(y)” fails to exist. So what? What’s wrong with that? The description “the tallest man in the room” may fail to pick out a unique person if there are two equally tall people in the room. Do we conclude that it’s impossible for two people to be equally tall, or for people to have height?

The analogy you’re trying to create breaks down on account of the fact that we can see how the description of the tallest man in the room could be meaningful under certain conditions. In contrast, I cannot conceive of how attempting to work with actually infinite sets of things could proceed. I’m guessing many of us have seen an example like this:

Cardinality of occupied rooms = aleph-0
(1) Add 1 person. Now how many are there? aleph-0, the exact same number of people.
(2) Add 2 people. Now how many are there? aleph-0, the exact same number of people.
(3) Add 999 trillion people. Now how many are there? aleph-0, the exact same number of people.
(4) Remove all the people in the even-numbered rooms. Now how many are there? aleph-0, the exact same number of people.
(5) Remove all the people in rooms 3, 4,…,to infinity. Now how many are there? 2 people.
(6) How many people were removed at steps (4) and (5)? aleph-0, the exact same number of people.

I’ve tried, but I’m either not smart enough, haven’t read the right rebuttals, or haven’t smoked enough to see how the above scenario possibly could make sense. Rebuttals along the line of pointing out counter-intuitiveness just simply aren’t persuasive without a model of how it could possibly make sense.

So, I conclude that an actually infinite set of things cannot exist in reality. Maybe you are satisfied knowing that sometimes our intuitions aren’t correct about things. If so we can leave it at that, and maybe resume the discussion on a kalam-related post.

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Haecceitas April 6, 2010 at 9:27 am

The only reason it’s being given an air of respectability in our generation is simply because Christian thinkers like Craig ignore Biblical Criticism. The best way to show this is to take the rug out from under these Natural Theologians by undercutting the basis for their beliefs. Once Christians can be forced to see this they will see why Natural Theology does not work either.
Cheers.  

How is this supposed to work? Biblical Criticism and Natural Theology are so different in their methods that I fail to see how a defeat in one would provide the basis for a defeat in the other. Unless your point is just that most of the notable defenders of Natural Theology are motivated by their Christian commitments and therefore undermining their Christian beliefs might destroy their motivations for continuing with Natural Theology. But if that’s what you mean to say, then I wonder why you proclaim the death of Natural Theology rather than Christianity.

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Sam Bell April 6, 2010 at 9:27 am

Why does Craig refuse to defend in public most of what he believes? Why does Craig refuse to defend in public the morality of his imaginary god allegedly ordering whole tribes of men, women and children to be killed?  (Quote)

Actually, Craig has attempted to defend the mass murders in the Bible- listen to his Reasonable Faith podcast on “Did God Commit Atrocities in the Old Testament?” Along the way he says some pretty appalling things, such as saying that God can morally command you to do something that would be murder if God hadn’t told you to do it, that it would be your moral duty to kill children if God told you to do so, and that, in the Old Testament stories of mass murders ordered by God, one should have the most sympathy for the poor Israelites who had to suffer the anguish of doing the killing. (After all, as Craig helpfully points out, the slaughtered pagan children will go straight to heaven.) It’s all blood-curdling stuff, made all the more so by being delivered in Craig’s level-headed style.

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Haecceitas April 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

Along the way he says some pretty appalling things, such as saying that God can morally command you to do something that would be murder if God hadn’t told you to do it

While I’m not completely happy with Craig’s treatment of the issue, I don’t find this particular statement by him to be that appalling.

In fact, one can think of circumstances in which this is true not only of God, but even of the government. It seems plausible that there are at least exceptional circumstances in which capital punishment is a legitimate form of punishment for some crimes. And without the authority given by the government, the execution of the death penalty would be murder. (This is true even of the killing of a person in the death row if done by someone who’s not authorized for that.) So this constitutes a case in which doing something without the authorization of x would be murder, but with the authority of x, it is justice. (I don’t know if there are any good arguments for holding that even if God exists, he doesn’t have a level of authority over us that either equals or exceeds the legitimate authority of a government, but I doubt such arguments exist.)

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Sam Bell April 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

It seems plausible that there are at least exceptional circumstances in which capital punishment is a legitimate form of punishment for some crimes. And without the authority given by the government, the execution of the death penalty would be murder.nbsp; (Quote)

Craig, though, is speaking in the context of killing what he himself calls “innocent children.” Listen to the podcast yourself on this page: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=podcasting_main#rf
(It’s the 2008/03/03 podcast on “Did God Commit Atrocities in the Old Testament?”)

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John W. Loftus April 6, 2010 at 9:55 am

Haecceitas

How is this supposed to work? Biblical Criticism and Natural Theology are so different in their methods that I fail to see how a defeat in one would provide the basis for a defeat in the other.

This is accomplished quite easily. Once the basis for making these philosophical arguments are debunked then those very arguments can be seen for what they are, special pleading. I consider this the most effective response to them, although we do indeed need to criticize Christianity on both fronts.

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Haecceitas April 6, 2010 at 10:07 am

Craig, though, is speaking in the context of killing what he himself calls “innocent children.

Yes, that makes a difference in some important respects. But I was only commenting on the more general principle that allows the transfer of authority on weighty moral matters. That I don’t find particularly problematic in itself.

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Mazen Abdallah April 6, 2010 at 10:17 am

Wow, what a dick. He’s really just pushing the envelope on the whole ‘The atheists keep scrambling to respond to me and they have nothing’ line. I agree that whatever debate opponent he has deserves any punches he lets Craig land, but he’s doing a great job showing that he’s as petty as his so-called detractors. Seriously, fuck Michael Martin for featuring him in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism. If his idea of a good argument is that someone who doesn’t believe in a Christian God laughs when children get raped, then I shudder to think what his bad arguments are. One freaking argument. That’s all he’s got. A sexed-up version of the Islamic cosmological argument that depends on sketchy language and a very specific definition of space and time and an adherence to the singularity, despite the fact that the inflationary big bang is verified by cosmic radiation. And yeah, I know he’s got some response for that, he’s got some weaselly response every time he’s proven wrong. And he hasn’t been using the same arguments for 20 years. He’s been tooling them up with new bullshit every time someone critiqued him.The fact that the argument ‘still stands’ is really testament to his own devotion to it as a tool to shift burden of proof onto atheists. You know what the ‘A’ in atheist means? It means I’m not buying it Asshole! The only thing a scholar loses in a debate with William Lane Craig is 2 hours that could have been spent far more productively

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Sam Bell April 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

to the (standard atheist) objection that the Bible is full of morally reprehensible injunctions to kill people who dress badly on the sabbath and so forth, and to the concomitant argument that if God’s law = morality then how can he defend this as such, Craig always produces this truly awful reply: THAT, he says, is a question of “moral epistemology”, whereas he´s concerned with “moral ontology”, and the atheist (boo-hoo!) can´t say what´s morally up or down anyhow! QED! Knockout!

Craig also tends to reply to criticisms of evil acts in the Bible by saying something like, “If Bible story X seems to show that God did something immoral, that would be an issue about Biblical inerrancy, whereas we’re talking about…”

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Jeffrey Shallit April 6, 2010 at 10:52 am

@Jay:

Why could it not be the case that Craig never knew you had a blog, hence why he never linked to it?

Because I’ve informed him of my rebuttal, and he didn’t reply or link to me. That is not the kind of behavior I expect from an academic.

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Jeffrey Shallit April 6, 2010 at 10:57 am

@Thomas Reid:

I’ve tried, but I’m either not smart enough, haven’t read the right rebuttals, or haven’t smoked enough to see how the above scenario possibly could make sense.

I don’t know what you mean by “make sense”. For those with mathematical training, the scenario you outline (of the cardinalities that result by adding and removing people) are not only sensible, but obviously true.

It’s somewhat like objecting to the two-slit experiment because it doesn’t “make sense”. Perhaps it doesn’t, but nature doesn’t have an obligation to be arranged in a way that you find intuitive.

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Haecceitas April 6, 2010 at 11:32 am

If his idea of a good argument is that someone who doesn’t believe in a Christian God laughs when children get raped, then I shudder to think what his bad arguments are. One freaking argument. That’s all he’s got.

This has to be one of the worst misrepresentations of Craig’s moral argument that I’ve ever read. You’re either misinformed or dishonest in this characterization of his argument. (I suppose it’s also possible that you’re referring to something else Craig has argued somewhere, but then I have no idea what it could be.)

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mattr April 6, 2010 at 11:40 am

Craig´s moral argument, as far as I can tell is this:

Just animals just animals just animals doesn’t matter doesn’t matter doesn’t matter just animals doesn’t matter unless

God, who just is perfectly good.

Is there really any more to it than that?

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Haecceitas April 6, 2010 at 11:48 am

@Thomas Reid:I’ve tried, but I’m either not smart enough, haven’t read the right rebuttals, or haven’t smoked enough to see how the above scenario possibly could make sense.I don’t know what you mean by “make sense”. For those with mathematical training, the scenario you outline (of the cardinalities that result by adding and removing people) are not only sensible, but obviously true.It’s somewhat like objecting to the two-slit experiment because it doesn’t “make sense”.Perhaps it doesn’t, but nature doesn’t have an obligation to be arranged in a way that you find intuitive.  

I’m not the right person to discuss this particular topic with any depth, but could it simply be that you’re talking about two different things? Craig (to my knowledge) doesn’t claim that the counterintuitive scenarios that pertain to the nature of infinity somehow show that they don’t make sense mathematically. In his mind, the problem appears to be more with the move from the mathematically consistent to the ontologically real. One’s grounds for thinking that a move of this type is warranted aren’t simply a matter of knowing enough mathematics. It’s also a matter of the philosophy of mathematics. This would seem to have analogies in how a philosopher of science vs. a practising scientist approach some subject. Assuming that neither one of them is completely incompetent, the most likely explanation for a profound and persistent disagreement is that they are in fact focusing on somewhat different aspects of the issue.

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Haecceitas April 6, 2010 at 11:50 am

Is there really any more to it than that?  

Yes.

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Mark April 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I’ve tried, but I’m either not smart enough, haven’t read the right rebuttals, or haven’t smoked enough to see how the above scenario possibly could make sense.

Similarly, I’ve tried, but failed, to understand how these scenarios fail to make sense to admirers of Craig’s KCA. What doesn’t make sense about them, exactly? Why is it nonsensical that, given a collection of aleph null things, adding another thing still yields a collection of aleph null things? Or that aleph null minus aleph null is ill-defined? (I and many others find that it makes perfect, indeed beautiful, sense, even if it’s not what we expected when we first learned set theory.) You actually did give a conceivably valid reason in your last comment: if aleph null minus aleph null is ill-defined, this means we couldn’t remove things from an infinite set if one were to exist in reality. If this were true, it would constitute a good reason to disbelieve in actual infinites. However, do you agree with my explanation why it’s based on a confusion?

Here’s one last analogy. Imagine a monist insists that it’s impossible for there to be two or more things. For otherwise, we could imagine a hotel with two rooms. If the first room is occupied, then adding an occupant to the second room doesn’t change the fact that there are some occupants in the hotel. Similarly, if the hotel is full and you’re told we remove some occupants, we can’t say whether or not the hotel is left empty (since this depends on whether we’ve removed one or both occupants). This is so absurd and nonsensical, the momist contends, that “actual pairs” simply must be impossible.

Surely we can both agree that the monist errs in thinking that removing some occupants needs to determine how many occupants remain. Finite sets with cardinality greater than one work differently from sets with cardinality one: you need to specify how many objects you remove from them, in addition to just whether you’re removing something from them, in order to determine whether they’re left empty. There’s nothing to stop us from making such a specification in reality, so there’s nothing stopping non-empty, non-singleton finite sets of objects from existing in reality. And the fact that more people can be accommodated in a two-room hotel that already has some people is hardly absurd, but is instead totally obvious to anyone who thinks about the laws of arithmetic.

But something exactly analogous carries over for infinite sets. Infinite sets work differently from finite sets. If you remove people from Hilbert’s Hotel (unlike a finite hotel), we need to know which people you’re removing in addition to how many people you’re removing in order to know how many occupants remain. But that’s hardly a good objection, any more than the monist’s complaint that in the two-room hotel (unlike a one-room monist hotel) you need to specify “how many” in addition to specifying “some.” And that infinitely more people can be accommodated by even a full Hilbert’s Hotel is hardly absurd, but is (or should be) instead totally obvious to people with a healthy understanding of set theory.

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oarobin April 6, 2010 at 12:11 pm

i think the reason Dr. Craig is so “successful” in his debates especially with non-philosophers is that his opponents are usual arguing against a concept of a christian or at least naturally relevant god while Dr. Craig is just defending the possibility of some intelligent first cause and calling that god.
that is the majority of his arguments stress that the mere possibility of an intelligent first cause is not a logical contradiction with the world as we know it.if he actually says that instead of going through a series of poor arguments to try and justify that it may clarify issues so that we can ask the more relevant questions: how is the intelligence more probable than none?, how does one deduce the other properties of a christian god from this (after all he is a christian apologist), etc.

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Haecceitas April 6, 2010 at 12:11 pm

BTW, wouldn’t it be cool to have Jeffrey Shallit debate WLC? Perhaps it could be arranged somehow?

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lukeprog April 6, 2010 at 12:12 pm

John D,

I myself have complained that Dennett misstated the cosmological argument, and I hadn’t read that part of Craig’s book. I’ve never seen any theologian or philosopher state the argument the way Dennett did, and even in one paragraph someone can still at least state the first premise correctly.

But actually, reading it again I’m inclined to think Dennett is talking about the Leibnizian cosmological argument, not the kalam. In which case I’d like to withdraw my earlier criticism of Dennett.

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Thomas Reid April 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Jeffrey Shallit,
You wrote:

For those with mathematical training, the scenario you outline (of the cardinalities that result by adding and removing people) are not only sensible, but obviously true.

First, if it were obviously true, I don’t think it would have taken thousands of years to formulate the axioms of transfinite math.

Second, the issue is certainly not with the math, but with the correspondence to actual sets of abstracta or concreta. To repeat: the issue is not with the math.

“The infinite is nowhere realized, it is neither present in nature, nor admissible as basis for our rational thinking…”
~David Hilbert, Uber das Unendliche

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Steven April 6, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Haecceitas,

I think you are right, or at least on the right track. From the point of view of this physicist, it is a little silly to talk about filling up a space with infinitely many “real” things in the sense that the universe does not appear to have an infinite amount of energy, nor an infinite number of particles.

However, the lack of having infinite energy nor particles does not at all imply that space and time are not infinitely divisible, I think that is where Craig’s argument breaks down. It is quite possible for “Hilbert’s Hotel” to exist in real 3D space, in fact, it could exist in a relatively small space, but it would be impossible to fill it because the universe doesn’t contain an infinity of objects. I think this is what Craig is sort of trying to get at when he calls this a potential infinity, although from my perspective, there is nothing potential about it. It is a real infinity, and we traverse such infinities all the time without ever giving it a second thought. The mistake is that Craig ultimately conflates the notion of an infinity of discrete things with a continuous space-time. It’s effectively a category error.

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John D April 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I myself have complained that Dennett misstated the cosmological argument, and I hadn’t read that part of Craig’s book. I’ve never seen any theologian or philosopher state the argument the way Dennett did, and even in one paragraph someone can still at least state the first premise correctly.

I think the context in which Dennett brings it up is important. His book is about the psychology of belief, and that chapter is about why people think being a person of faith is a good thing. He is not trying to engage with philosophers or theologians. His whole point is that people don’t necessarily believe for intellectual reasons.

I wouldn’t even say Dennett is discussing the Leibnizian version (although it’s certainly closer to that). I’d say he is simply raising a perfectly normal “dinner party”-version of the cosmological argument (it’s certainly the version I run into all the time, along with the “why something rather than nothing?” question). He then suggests that defending this simple version can get you into rather deep philosophical waters.

I have problems with Craig’s subsequent discussion of Dennett’s views on p 151 as well. But I will leave them aside for now.

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manicstreetpreacher April 6, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Jeffrey Shallit:

Because I’ve informed him of my rebuttal, and he didn’t reply or link to me. That is not the kind of behavior I expect from an academic.

Hear, hear!

Re: Dennett and discussing God’s existence

Dennett spends all of six pages at the end of the penultimate chapter of Breaking the Spell discussing the arguments for God’s existence! I agree with several other commenters that the existence of God is not what his book’s about.

Dennett responded to H Allen Orr’s Courtier’s Reply that his office was overflowing with material arguing for God’s existence but he “found almost all of it to be so dreadful that ignoring it entirely seemed both the most charitable and most constructive policy.”

MSP

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Hermes April 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm

while Dr. Craig is just defending the possibility of some intelligent first cause and calling that god.

Yep. He argues for one idea, and then swaps in another as a match for it through a rush of claims at the end.

I guess the only way to deal with this Gish gallop lite is to ask him what his one single best argument is and to focus on that and that alone for the sake of time. If the single best one fails, then there’s no point in going further. When, as can be expected, a multitude of other arguments and claims show up, it is necessary to point out the single best one has been abandoned and that that abandonment should be considered a concession.

I think this is fair because it allows the claimant to choose the field of battle, but limits the scope to that field and not an entire region or set of nations.

The obvious complaint is that all parts of the argument are needed for each to hold together. If this is the case, then it is unreasonable for him to demand that others deal with what he can’t squeeze into the debate format himself, especially since a reply usually takes more words not less.

The attitude is one of ownership; Christians claim it and set the scope, make claims on the condition that they will be accepted if they are not refuted. Such attitudes should not be tolerated. They should be rejected outright if the scope can not be limited.

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Ben April 6, 2010 at 2:19 pm

So Jesseph argues that there wasn’t a first instant in time. Was there a second? lol Oh geez…

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Tony Hoffman April 6, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I was just listening to Craig debate with Antony on the way home. It’s about whether or not God is necessary for morality. After they have both spoken twice, Craig declares that Antony has failed because she has not shown that it is logically impossible for God to ground objective morality.

Actually, I think she did, and Craig’s attempt to reframe the debate outside it’s declared topic is so deceptive and outside the spirit of intellectual argument that I think he embarrasses himself.

I don’t really care that much who performs better or worse in a debate. But I do care about who tries to deceive the audience. Every time that happens, I consider the perpetrator to be the debate’s loser.

What is the criteria for determining who “wins” one of these things?

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Tony Hoffman April 6, 2010 at 5:37 pm

What are the criteria, I meant.

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Hermes April 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Tony, from what you described I would say that Craig probably ‘won’ even if your perception of what he was doing is 100% correct.

That said, did Antony vigorously address Craig’s claim of victory? If she remained silent on that point, or only gave half-hearted disagreement on his assessment, her actions might have been seen by the audience as tacit agreement with Craig. That more than Craig’s claims would have had the most impact on the audience.

And that’s the point. The audience’s perception.

The winner in a public debate is the one who changed the most minds towards their proposal and/or who made the most people uncertain about the other proposal.

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SBell April 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I had actually never heard of William Lane Craig until a couple of months ago when I started reading about the philosophy of religion again after a hiatus of a couple of decades. I’ve been listening to his podcasts while driving in the car and working around the house, and I’ve gotten through a pretty good chunk of them so far. When I first started listened to him I was thinking, hey, here’s a quasi-fundamentalist who actually knows his philosophy pretty well and seems pretty reasonable and fair-minded. By as I listened to him I started getting an increasingly negative feeling about his personality. In small doses he seems pretty level-headed, friendly, charitable to his opponents, etc. But as I listened to him more I started to see a monumental ego behind his surface personality, which started to seem calculated and fake. I still think he’s a brilliant man and a razor-sharp debater. But the problem is that he thinks he’s a brilliant man and razor-sharp debater, too. He’s constantly dropping mentions of his Ph.D. and years of academic study and the long hours which he puts in at his study desk. He’s a busy man, he assures us! Plus always in his account- always- his debate opponents don’t answer his arguments or just recite their prepared remarks without engaging in debate (he always assumes that he alone sets the debate agenda, and usually manages to actually do so) or he feels sorry for them because they’re obviously expressing their spiritual pain rather than presenting real rational arguments. But what started irritating me most of all is that little jovial laugh he’s got that he sprinkles into his talks, even when he’s discussing the slaughter of the Midianites or some such topic.

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Tony Hoffman April 6, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Hermes,

I haven’t finished listening to the debate; that was the part where my drive home ended.

Hermes: “The winner in a public debate is the one who changed the most minds towards their proposal and/or who made the most people uncertain about the other proposal.”

Fine, but this seems like an unknowable standard most of the time. The fact is that we mostly all follow debates and consider them alone. And because we don’t have access to the information you cite most of the time, I am still interested by what criteria we judge one side to have won and the other lost.

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lukeprog April 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Sbell,

Yes, Craig is quite the performer.

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Hermes April 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm

“Fine, but this seems like an unknowable standard most of the time.”

Yes, it’s very messy. It’s not an impartial analysis, or even an honest discussion among friends, it’s a debate intended to be used as propaganda.

“I am still interested by what criteria we judge one side to have won and the other lost.”

By reason or popularity? The two aren’t necessarily the same.

Did you see the debate on the Catholic Church that Hitchens and Fry were in? That slaughter happened for multiple reasons, only a few of them were that Fry and Hitchens had an easier time because of the facts available to them.

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RA April 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I listened to the Anthony debate as well today and was quite impressed with her arguments. She did call Craig out on his claim and provided a good defense of her position and was quite the cool customer throughout.

I didn’t bother to listen to Craig but it’s hard for me to imagine that she lost that debate although I’m sure someone would find something to complain about. Definitely one worth listening to.

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Hermes April 6, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Re: Anthony

I’m just listening to it now.

Excellent, after leveling the playing field, she’s continuing with divine command theory and Euthopro’s Dilemma. That’s the first time I’ve seen it used in a debate. Very wise choice. If Craig is on the ball, he’s going to attempt to say ‘God [Yahweh] is good by His nature’. She should have a counter to that bald assertion.

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Hermes April 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm

…spot on. She’s excellent.

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Mazen Abdallah April 7, 2010 at 2:40 am

This has to be one of the worst misrepresentations of Craig’s moral argument that I’ve ever read. You’re either misinformed or dishonest in this characterization of his argument. (I suppose it’s also possible that you’re referring to something else Craig has argued somewhere, but then I have no idea what it could be.)  

No, I’m not referring to his moral argument so much as specific phrases he utters while making it. That’s a paraphrase of a quote of his I’ve seen more than once. It’s not a scholarly sentiment so much as a slur, and unless the next atheist he debates opens with the phrase “Most Christians are Bible-Thumping Jewish-Zombie Eating Jesus Freaks who hate gays but love a long-haired hippy and believe God is his own Dad”, I’ll insist that Craig keep it above the belt. He can be as smug as he feels like and arrogant to boot, but defamation is not welcome in any context
He’s frequently commented that an atheist could not rationally argue against raping and killing a child. Much like Craig’s other arguments, it’s just based on the common misconception that atheists are bad people. It’s not a scholarly thing. I don’t go around explaining that a Christian necessarily adheres to every violent part of the Bible, as part of my image of Christians.
As far as morality, ontology, personal experience and teleology go, Craig is stretching himself a bit thin. He merely establishes the fanfare of the KCA, which is widely criticized and despite his responses will be continued to be poorly regarded by a lot of philosophers. And of course not regarded at all by scientists

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Chuck April 7, 2010 at 4:41 am

I’d suggest going to Craig’s site, downloading the transcripts of his debates and reading them. It’s easy to see his manipulative tactics and bad scholarship when they are stripped of his presentation skills. Reading Craig against Ehrman was my first introduction to him and I walked away baffled at why so many thought such a garden-variety evangelist was brilliant. I don’t get how anything he says or writes is any different than any other bible-thumper. He adds nothing to knowledge and simply defends common superstitions. He lacks intellectual courage or scholarly imagination and I put him in the same category as James Dobson (another “Doctor” by the way).

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Chuck April 7, 2010 at 5:11 am

Oh and Luke, your defense of Craig is born only for an appreciation of technique, not of intellectual honesty. If Craig were intellectually honest he would not refer to himself as a philosopher but be accurate in describing himself as an evangelist. I don’t mind him if I can see him for what he is, a run of the mill testifier, but, when he (and others like Luke) consider him a “Scholar” I get offended. Scholarship demands that one add to knowledge where knowledge is defined as useful information for the betterment of humanity. Craig reminds me of Isaac Newton drowning in his own ego while pursuing alchemy. The ideas he posits have little use outside of a defense of a specific 20th century Christianity rooted in American jingoism, which of course is a common superstition existing only to calm one’s anxieties.

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John W. Loftus April 7, 2010 at 5:38 am

Chuck, it’s all in what one considers scholarship. If scholarship is having three doctorates and a deep understanding of the issues in one’s specialty, then if Craig is not a scholar no one is. He merely has a set of control beliefs which causes him to see things differently than how you and I do. That’s why I spent more than half of my book WIBA arguing against those control beliefs of his and in favor of skepticism. They act as blinders. Once a believer adopts them they can only see what these blinders will allow.

Cheers.

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Ben Mackay April 7, 2010 at 5:42 am

Thanks for your terrific website, Luke. I really do believe it is a superb testament to all things interesting in philosophy!

I just want to say that we need to counterract this idea that Craig is unbeatable. He definately is avery good debater, but he does not in any way win ALL his debates. In fact he loses some of them. I know that the majority of them he probably wins, but a number of the ones you labelled “best!” and I listened to, it was clear the atheist side ocame across more rational and had better arguments. The debates with Price and Kagan are clear examples of this. Price destroyed Craig’s argument for the ressurection and Craig was resrting to saying things like “hmm the statemtn extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence sounds like it makes sense, but it doesnt because some people claimed to see jesus come back from the dead and why would they beliueve this if it wasnt true!!?” okay i am slightly skewing what he said but he couldnt really counteract Price’s points that 1) people have visions of the dead all the time and 2) that paradigms shift and people can come to believe that someone may have been raised from the dead even though it isnt a traditional feature of Jewish belief. but (my point) seriously if a tomb was empty and you see visions of your messiah isnt it quite likely that you qwill believe he has risen, if you are already pretty superstitious!?

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 6:10 am

[On how to determine the winner of debates]

“By reason or popularity? The two aren’t necessarily the same.”

Yes, but it seems that only the first one is normally available to us. And I am very wary of crowd reaction and even things like voting afterwards because it all seems fairly easy to manipulate.

I don’t have a well-thought out set of criteria, which is one reason I ask. I suppose that I can admire Craig’s economy (he has been doing this a lot, and I think he has 12, 10, 8, 5, and 2 minute versions of his arguments ready for autoplay at any time.) But I think the winner for me is the one who stays on topic and responds efficiently and comprehensively to the other’s arguments in the most compelling (to me) way. If anyone can come up with a response I hadn’t thought of, or said it better than I would have said it, I score them all kinds of points.

On this scale Craig wins very few debates I hear him participate in. His stuff is a well made hammer, looking for all the atheist nails that haven’t heard about what he does. (Agreed that there seems to be an unlimited supply.) But when you put him against someone like Antony, he’s exposed for being a heavyweight debater with middleweight arguments and a tendency to land low blows when cornered.

“Did you see the debate on the Catholic Church that Hitchens and Fry were in? That slaughter happened for multiple reasons, only a few of them were that Fry and Hitchens had an easier time because of the facts available to them.”

I did see it. I think it was most fun in that for once the theist side came unprepared instead of the other way around. Still, it felt a little bit like bullying at the end for me, and I savored it less than I thought I would.

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lukeprog April 7, 2010 at 6:18 am

Chuck,

How is Craig not a philosopher? He has published dozens of papers in peer-reviewed philosophy journals.

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 6:30 am

“How is Craig not a philosopher? He has published dozens of papers in peer-reviewed philosophy journals.”

I would say that Craig would not be a philosopher if he only built arguments to fortify a prior belief, as opposed to using the tools of philosophy to pursue the truth. I think this is a suspicion that some might have regarding Craig’s approach to philosophy, but that allowing such aspersions should be beneath us.

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lukeprog April 7, 2010 at 6:44 am

Tony,

In that case, there are a great many philosophers who ought not be called ‘philosophers,’ and not just theists, either.

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 6:48 am

“In that case, there are a great many philosophers who ought not be called ‘philosophers,’ and not just theists, either.”

Agreed. That’s why I think the charge is gratuitous, and unproductive.

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SBell April 7, 2010 at 6:53 am

Tony,In that case, there are a great many philosophers who ought not be called ‘philosophers,’ and not just theists, either.  

There are those who argue that there is such a things as “pseudophilosophy” the same way there is “pseudoscience.” Mostly, though, I’ve only seen that label applied to Ayn Rand. (I’m inclined to agree, though that’s really another discussion.)

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 9:27 am

He’s frequently commented that an atheist could not rationally argue against raping and killing a child. Much like Craig’s other arguments, it’s just based on the common misconception that atheists are bad people.

Perhaps you can provide a specific reference. But based on your characterization of Craig’s comment (as well as my memory of several of his debates), I don’t think you’re understanding him correctly. When he says quite explicitly in almost every debate that he does not argue that atheists are bad people, I’d say that one must interpret the unclear in light of the clear. The sense that I get from this is that Craig argues that atheists can be just as good people as theists, but that this is a fact that can be used to undermine their atheism since (so he argues, at least) atheists can’t rationally justify the good that they in fact do – or at least to the same extent as the theists can (or so he argues anyway).

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

Luke,

Craig is a philosopher like Newton was a scientist when puruing the elixir of life with alchemy.

Craig is an Evangelist, plain and simple. He may practice philosophy but, his objective is to convert people to his belief system.

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

Sorry guys

Any philosopher that ends a philosophic debate with an altar call is an evangelist. He’s a high brow Benny Hinn. Hinn may actually be less misleading about science.

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 9:59 am

“Perhaps you can provide a specific reference. But based on your characterization of Craig’s comment (as well as my memory of several of his debates), I don’t think you’re understanding him correctly”

In the debate I just listened to Craig does say something like, “On naturalism, the atheist must accept that blowing up a small girl with a bomb is just a rearrangement of molecules.” Are you trying to say that Craig is not trying to make a normative judgment about sincere atheism?

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 10:10 am

CRAIG (paraphrased)
In the debate I just listened to Craig does say something like, “On naturalism, the atheist must accept that blowing up a small girl with a bomb is just a rearrangement of molecules.”

CARR
On theism, what changes Monopoly money from money with no value to money that has a value is God, not the arrangement of molecules.

On Thiesm, people cannot assign value to a collection of molecules. Only God can do that.

So why does Craig think his money has any value?

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 10:59 am

In the debate I just listened to Craig does say something like, “On naturalism, the atheist must accept that blowing up a small girl with a bomb is just a rearrangement of molecules.”

Oh, I remember that one. I think he’s said something similar in more than a few debates. The point seems to be that according to the naturalist worldview, there are no irreducibly moral facts about the world. Natural facts such as the arrangement of molecules must be the basic constituents of reality. In no way does this imply that a naturalist can’t see the blowing up of a small girl as wrong. Craig’s point is just that in doing so, the naturalist is being inconsistent with the ontological commitments of his naturalism. Or at least that’s how I interpret it.

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Ben Mackay April 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

Another example is the Craig – Kagan debate. Kagan ran rings around Craig when it came to the question and answer session. Craig’s absurd belief that things are only meaningful on a cosmic level was shown to be just that, absurd. It’s like saying “I have written this novel but I only get meaning from having written this if God reads it too and he thinks it’s a great book. No God then I don’t get any value from having written this!”

Also, Craig didn’t really have much to say when Kagan pointed out that animal suffering is something that can be much better approached from an atheistic moral viewpoint.

Okay Craig rant here.
I really don’t think Craig’s moral arguments in any of his debates or as I have read them on his website are very good. And yet morality is where Craig and his evangelical Christians impinge on the world. I mean this is a man who seriously believes that murder is only wrong because God says so. And then why is God good? Because of God’s essential nature… This is a man who has odiously bigoted views on homosexuality and he reenforces these views every time he debates. He never actually debates the ethics of particular actions or situations (apart from hell; which is when he got beaten right?), but for thousands of Christians Craig winning debates = my whole moral viewpoint is right. Even though the God he argues for or the resurrection or whatever has no relevance on homosexuality, divorce (don’t know Craig’s view on this) etc. But I bet you once he gets them into the fold all these other views are pushed onto the believers with hardly any opposing viewpoints. Same with the inerrantcy of the bible – he never debates this even though this is one of his most idiotic beliefs.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

So why does Craig think his money has any value?  

The value of money is instrumental rather than intrinsic.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 11:02 am

Sorry guysAny philosopher that ends a philosophic debate with an altar call is an evangelist.He’s a high brow Benny Hinn.Hinn may actually be less misleading about science.  

I suppose we could say that Craig is both a philosopher and an evangelist at the same time. Someone like Dan Barker is pretty clearly an evangelist for atheism, and he would be a philosopher at the same time if only he knew a bit more philosophy.

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

Barker is not a philosopher. He is a critic of Christianity having once been a leading member and now an apostate.

Craig is an evangelist and is dishonest about that when he positions himself as a philosopher or scholar. As I said above, he is the scholarly equivalent to an alchemist. History will look on him as such.

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 11:45 am

“The point seems to be that according to the naturalist worldview, there are no irreducibly moral facts about the world.”

A naturalist can declare that sentient beings suffer, and that is an objective fact. A naturalist can declare that it is wrong for a sentient being to cause another sentient being to suffer, and that this is a moral fact that needs no grounding. Are you saying that these moral facts are reducible, and if so, how?

“Natural facts such as the arrangement of molecules must be the basic constituents of reality.”

Do you think that dogs cannot have sentience because they are made of the same things as rocks?

“In no way does this imply that a naturalist can’t see the blowing up of a small girl as wrong.“

Why not? Doesn’t a credulous zealot who believes that people are made up of immortal souls mean that he can’t see his blowing up of an innocent girl as wrong? Are you saying that Craig passes no normative judgment on the atheist’s moral position, because I certainly have a normative judgment of the credulous zealots.

“Craig’s point is just that in doing so, the naturalist is being inconsistent with the ontological commitments of his naturalism.”

Craig is not so much making a point as he is promoting a fallacy. The fallacy is that because some things share properties they must have only those properties. Just because rocks and dogs are made up of atoms I am not compelled, for the sake of consistency, to declare that rocks and dogs share all properties. Dogs are also sentient, and rocks are not.

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Hermes April 7, 2010 at 11:46 am

Craig’s point is just that in doing so, the naturalist is being inconsistent with the ontological commitments of his naturalism.

Craig equates all atheists with naturalists that are idealistically tied to naturalism. That’s not correct.

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 11:54 am

Craig does what he does because he is an evangelist whose objective is to convert people to christianity. Expecting him to offer arguments that further knowledge is like expecting an Imam to see women as equal to men.

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Expecting Craig to be considerate of non-christian moral conclusions would be like expecting an Imam to be gender neutral.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm

A naturalist can declare that sentient beings suffer, and that is an objective fact.

No disagreement here.

A naturalist can declare that it is wrong for a sentient being to cause another sentient being to suffer, and that this is a moral fact that needs no grounding.

In what way is it a fact, then?

Do you think that dogs cannot have sentience because they are made of the same things as rocks?

I actually do tend to think that if dogs have a genuine phenomenal consciousness (as they very plausibly do), it isn’t just the result of any particular configuration of the basic constituents of matter.

Why not?

Because it neither follows logically from the statement, nor is it accordance with clearer statements that Craig has made on this subject on numerous occasions.

Doesn’t a credulous zealot who believes that people are made up of immortal souls mean that he can’t see his blowing up of an innocent girl as wrong?

I don’t know. You’d have to ask the credulous zealot, whoever that is.

Are you saying that Craig passes no normative judgment on the atheist’s moral position

I think he’s said repeatedly that he doesn’t think atheists are less moral people than christians. Critiquing their meta-ethics isn’t the same as critiquing the contents of their ethics.

because I certainly have a normative judgment of the credulous zealots.

OK.

Craig is not so much making a point as he is promoting a fallacy.

Even if you’re right, this doesn’t refute my original point which wasn’t about whether Craig is right. I was simply correcting what I thought was a mistaken interpretation of Craig’s argument (or rather the verbal illustration he used when presenting it) and its implications.

The fallacy is that because some things share properties they must have only those properties. Just because rocks and dogs are made up of atoms I am not compelled, for the sake of consistency, to declare that rocks and dogs share all properties.

But we would have to consider the nature of the difference. Craig’s point could be that the type of causal story that is required to explain the rise of moral properties that are not in any way fundamental to reality is a far less plausible candidate for explaining how there can be objectivity in moral values.

Dogs are also sentient, and rocks are not.

You’re probably right.

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 12:42 pm

HAECC
‘The value of money is instrumental rather than intrinsic.’

CARR
So?
How can an ‘arrangement of molecules’ produce instrumental value, if Craig thinks only a god can create values and not humans?

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Barker is not a philosopher.He is a critic of Christianity having once been a leading member and now an apostate.

If he got an advanced degree in philosophy, then could he be a philosopher while being an atheist evangelist at the same time?

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm

HAECC
‘The value of money is instrumental rather than intrinsic.’CARR
So?
How can an ‘arrangement of molecules’ produce instrumental value, if Craig thinks only a god can create values and not humans?  

I don’t know if he’s ever said that instrumental value can’t be “created” by humans.

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm

So how does he think that value can be created by humans when all humans can do is rearrange molecules?

Presumably Craig is tremendously honest and makes clear that rearranging molecules creates value.

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Jeffrey Shallit April 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm

@Thomas Reid:

“The infinite is nowhere realized, it is neither present in nature, nor admissible as basis for our rational thinking…”
~David Hilbert, Uber das Unendliche

Yes, it’s true that Hilbert made that claim. But he made it in 1926; since then, physicists have been more open to the possibilities of infinite quantities in physics, such as Malament-Hogarth spacetime. Besides, I don’t understand why the mere assertion of Hilbert should be taken as definitive.

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Of course,a true philosopher immediately starts to play with words, talking about ‘instrumenatal value’ and ‘instrinsic value’.

Craig is very careful to use words totally correctly and properly, just after insinuating that atheists have no reason to say that blowing up young girls is bad.

What a True Philosopher he is! Cheap rhetoric mixed with playing with words.

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Jeffrey Shallit April 7, 2010 at 12:57 pm

@Thomas Reid:

First, if it were obviously true, I don’t think it would have taken thousands of years to formulate the axioms of transfinite math.

I said it was obviously true for people with mathematical training. Lots of things become obvious after they are pointed out.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 12:58 pm

So how does he think that value can be created by humans when all humans can do is rearrange molecules?Presumably Craig is tremendously honest and makes clear that rearranging molecules creates value.  

I doubt that he’s talking about instrumental value at all in this context.

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 1:03 pm

HAECC
I doubt that he’s talking about instrumental value at all in this context.

CARR
Really?

So how does Craig think that rearranging molecules creates instrumental value?

Or does Craig simply not bother with details like the fact that value can be created by humans? Would that get in the way of his debates?

How can Craig’s imaginary Yahweh can order children to be killed, because children have instrinsic value?

Can Baal also order children to be killed? Or Zeus?

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm

osopher immediately starts to play with words, talking about ‘instrumenatal value’ and ‘instrinsic value’.

Craig is very careful to use words totally correctly and properly, just after insinuating that atheists have no reason to say that blowing up young girls is bad.

The presumed distinction between those two might implicit in the context in which Craig made the statement. I haven’t checked if it was and I doubt that you have. Be that as it may, I don’t see the existence of merely instrumental value within the worldview of naturalism as being so significant that a failure to mention it in the heat of the moment in a debate would warrant the accusation of dishonesty.

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm

So how can humans create value by rearranging molecules?

Is Craig willing to blow up his money as that has purely instrumental value, unlike a young girl, whose body has instrinsic value? (Best not to get her hair cut, it obviously destroys something of value….)

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm

If Barker received an advanced degree in philosophy and maintained his atheism then he would be a philosopher who happened to be an atheist. Evangelism is the domain of religion and a necessary ingredient of Christianity. Evangelists also operate with a specific objective which, due to their coercive designs and prior commitments, defines in a distinct way. Craig is to philosophy as a Madrassas is to an institution of higher learning.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm

So how can humans create value by rearranging molecules?Is Craig willing to blow up his money as that has purely instrumental value, unlike a young girl, whose body has instrinsic value? (Best not to get her hair cut, it obviously destroys something of value….)  

One of us isn’t getting the point, and I don’t think it’s me.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm

If Barker received an advanced degree in philosophy and maintained his atheism then he would be a philosopher who happened to be an atheist.

He’s also a self-described “atheist evangelist” or “evangelical atheist”.

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I checked what Craig said about the deaths of young girls.

Here is Craig’s answer to children dying of AIDS, malaria, leukemia, starvation and being blown up by landmines.

CRAIG
‘We can summarize this new version of the argument from harm as follows:

1. If God exists, gratuitous harm does not exist.
2. Gratuitous harm does exist.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.

Now the most contentious premiss in this argument is (2). The first version of the argument from harm posed an essentially internal problem about the consistency of Christian theism, since the Christian is committed by his own theology to the truth of the propositions God exists and Harm exists. But the Christian is not committed to the truth of (2).

How, then, will the atheist prove that the harm in the world is truly gratuitous?’

If I rape and kill a 2 month old girl, Craig will go into the courtroom as a witness for me and say that the harm I infliced was not gratuitous harm….

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jim April 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm

It seems the most obvious problem is letting Craig get away with positing intrinsic value in the first place. Isn’t value necessarily relational- with a valuer, and something valued? This notion then allows him to create a false dichotomy, ‘intrinisic’ vs. ‘instrumental’ value. Then he moves on to declare ‘intrinsic’ value to be the only valid kind in the area of morality. Why? This seems to be a totally arbitrary assessment on his part. I think he’s counting on the fact that most people, even a lot of non-theists, naturally impart deontological status to their notions of good and evil without thinking too much about it. When they do that, they really ARE borrowing from the theistic handbook. However, there’s still conflation going on there, and a subtle pretense that the practical shorthand we use in discussing morality accurately reflects the arguments themselves.

There are other problems. Like the way the term ‘objective’ gets thrown around regarding God’s moral standards. An objective standard in the real world generally means one that’s set by some authority or other, like the standards of weights and measures. But what does it mean to say that such a standard is ‘intrinsically’ objective? I say it means nothing. It’s just another standard in the hands of an Authority with a Really Big Stick. And what does it matter, anyhow, since the interpretation of the standard lies wholly in the hands of fallible men using their own fallible standards of interpretation? The dangerous thing about this way of thinking is that empathy can be completely short-circuited by a plea to authority, and any and all atrocities can be seen as ultimately good purely on account of their source. And what is their source? Not God, since He’s not around applying the rules personally. No, it’s always the authority of God’s ‘spokesmen’ that counts, and we all know how well that’s worked out from an historical perspective, now don’t we? :)

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 1:26 pm

In fact, according to Craig, even the raped child would say something along these lines…

‘…no matter what you suffer, when you look back on it from heaven, you would say, “It was worth it! I would do it again to attain this sort of joy, this sort of glory, this sort of fulfillment!”‘

So the child would happily be raped and tortured again, according to Craig, so that she can get to Heaven.

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Steven Carr April 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm

‘ Like the way the term ‘objective’ gets thrown around regarding God’s moral standards’

What objective moral standards have Baal, Chemosh,Yahweh or Zeus given to mankind?

None.

People just made up gods and then claimed to speak in their name.

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jim April 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm

If gratuitous harm does not exist, then that means all harm is justified. If all harm is justified, then all agents of harm are innocent, saint and sinner alike. If everyone’s innocent, then…then…hmmm, what the hell am I missing here?

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Barker’s rhetorical flourish is devoid of meaning. I play the guitar so that makes me a musical atheist but that doesn’t mean I am a musician. Craig is a christian evangelist of the calvinist stripe who hides behind philosophy as a proslethizing tactic. The professional definitions of philosopher and evangelist can be objectively considered and Craig is obviously the former. Occupationally he is akin to Benny Hinn.

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Ooops I meant to say craig is obviously the latter. He is an evangelist.

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ildi April 7, 2010 at 2:06 pm

says chuck:

Oh and Luke, your defense of Craig is born only for an appreciation of technique, not of intellectual honesty.If Craig were intellectually honest he would not refer to himself as a philosopher but be accurate in describing himself as an evangelist.I don’t mind him if I can see him for what he is, a run of the mill testifier, but, when he (and others like Luke) consider him a “Scholar” I get offended.Scholarship demands that one add to knowledge where knowledge is defined as useful information for the betterment of humanity.Craig reminds me ofIsaac Newton drowning in his own ego while pursuing alchemy.The ideas he posits have little use outside of a defense of a specific 20th century Christianity rooted in American jingoism, which of course is a common superstition existing only to calm one’s anxieties.  

Money quote. I re-read your post on Craig from last March, Luke, and I’m wondering if you still think that Craig has “contributed to genuine progress in philosophy?” He may be a philosopher with the advanced degree and peer-reviewed publications, but he is no scholar. If he just stuck with theology I’m wouldn’t give a crap, but he misrepresents the sciences to advance his belief system which makes him no better than the average ‘lying for jebus’ shyster. Just much, much better at it.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Craig is a christian evangelist of the calvinist stripe

He most definitely is not a calvinist.

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Haecceitas April 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm

If gratuitous harm does not exist, then that means all harm is justified. If all harm is justified, then all agents of harm are innocent, saint and sinner alike. If everyone’s innocent, then…then…hmmm, what the hell am I missing here?  

Doesn’t follow. Something can be wrong for x to do, even if y has sufficient reasons to allow it.

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Thomas Reid April 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Jeffrey Shallit,
You wrote:

Besides, I don’t understand why the mere assertion of Hilbert should be taken as definitive.

Well, it is a falsification of your mere assertion that: “For those with mathematical training, the scenario you outline (of the cardinalities that result by adding and removing people) are not only sensible, but obviously true.”

His quote is evidence that one of the very pioneers of transfinite arithmetic thought that there is no correspondence to sets of actual objects. So you might want to think twice about continuing to claim that people who raise the Hilbert Hotel objection just don’t understand the math.

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lukeprog April 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Haecceitas,

I think Craig’s non-Calvinism may be why he rejects Plantinga’s ‘sensus divinitatis’ theory in favor of ‘sensus holy spirit’ theory or whatever Craig calls it.

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jim April 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Haecceitas,

“Doesn’t follow. Something can be wrong for x to do, even if y has sufficient reasons to allow it.”

Your statement is true, but misapplied here. y can indeed allow gratuitous harm to exist, but that’s different from saying there’s no such thing as gratuitous harm. Gratuitous harm is harm without justification, therefore if there’s no such thing as gratuitous harm, all harm that exists is somehow justified. Therefore harm’s agents cannot be held liable for the harm they cause.

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Thomas Reid April 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Jeffrey Shallit,
You wrote:

I said it was obviously true for people with mathematical training. Lots of things become obvious after they are pointed out. 

I see what you meant now – sorry for the misinterpretation.

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Craig’s denial of his own Calvinism is just more posturing to provide the illusion of intellectual liberty. His appeal to the “inner witness” is simply Calvin’s Sensus Divinititus (sic) taken to its Christian conclusion. The guy is a run of the mill liar. I see his kind all the time, I work in advertising.

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jim April 7, 2010 at 3:11 pm

The other question, of course, is that if y stands against the harm caused by x, and indeed has the power to prevent any harm being done by x, doesn’t that make x a de facto proxy of y’s harm? I know the ‘gotta let ‘em have their free will’ comeback is immediately brought into play, but consider- why can’t an omnipotent God simply allow the supposed free agent do his evil, and then stifle the effect i.e. stand between the bullet and the intended victim? No matter which way things turn, it seems to me that God’s ultimately liable for not putting up some cyclone fencing around His pool (or magic tree, as the case may be).

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Me: A naturalist can declare that it is wrong for a sentient being to cause another sentient being to suffer, and that this is a moral fact that needs no grounding.

Haeceiteis: In what way is it a fact, then?

In the same way that the suffering of sentient beings is a fact. If a sentient being can experience suffering, a sentient being can experience empathy. The feeling of empathy needs no grounding to be experienced, and its experience is a fact.

Haeceiteis: Because it neither follows logically from the statement, nor is it accordance with clearer statements that Craig has made on this subject on numerous occasions.

I don’t know what statement you are referring to here, nor what clearer statements Craig has made on this subject. I just don’t understand what you are saying here yet.

Haeceiteis: I think he’s said repeatedly that he doesn’t think atheists are less moral people than christians. Critiquing their meta-ethics isn’t the same as critiquing the contents of their ethics.

Craig has said a lot of things. Do you think that saying one thing at one time absolves one of saying or insinuating something else at another time?

Me: “[Are you saying that Craig passes no normative judgment on the atheist’s moral position,] because I certainly have a normative judgment of the credulous zealots.
Haeceiteis: OK.

You avoided the question here.

[After I pointed out the nature of the fallacy that Craig promotes – that is mistaken to think that because some things share properties they must have only those properties.]
Haeceiteis: But we would have to consider the nature of the difference. Craig’s point could be that the type of causal story that is required to explain the rise of moral properties that are not in any way fundamental to reality is a far less plausible candidate for explaining how there can be objectivity in moral values.

And this makes Craig’s fallacy not a fallacy how?

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jim April 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Tony Hoffman,

“Me: A naturalist can declare that it is wrong for a sentient being to cause another sentient being to suffer, and that this is a moral fact that needs no grounding.”

I think the theist would counter that your moral ‘fact’ is actually an arbitrary standard; arbitrary in the sense that it doesn’t emerge from some metaphysically objective…what? Edict? It’s certainly not objective in the sense of a natural law, or else it would be obeyed universally, like gravity. This is the problem I have with the notion of metaphysically objective morality. Either it’s a law or set of laws that governs existence, which obviously its not, or it’s just another set of principles amongst others, admittedly wielded by the biggest power there is. And since this power seemingly has little or no interest in actually upholding its own laws in the here and now, what you have is a morality based strictly on promise and fear of punishment. Not much of an environment for empathy to thrive in, is it? Simply ‘Obey, or be punished!’ Self interest all the way, and to hell with those Unitarian teenagers!

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Jim: “It’s certainly not objective in the sense of a natural law, or else it would be obeyed universally, like gravity. ”

That’s a poor standard; the theist claims that morality is objective under theism, but admits that morality is not obeyed universally despite this.

Other sentient creatures appear to feel empathy, such as the dog that dragged a wounded dog from a busy road in some youtube video I saw. But even if we are the only sentient creatures that experience empathy, I don’t see how we could declare that empathy would cease to exist with us, only that creatures who can experience empathy ceased to exist.

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Tony Hoffman April 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Jim: “This is the problem I have with the notion of metaphysically objective morality. Either it’s a law or set of laws that governs existence, which obviously its not, or it’s just another set of principles amongst others, admittedly wielded by the biggest power there is.”

I don’t have a strong position on moral realism — I just haven’t considered it long enough to have a position.

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lukeprog April 7, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Woah, too many comments here. :)

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jim April 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Tony Hoffman,

The whole bit about God’s morality being ‘objective’ has always been a puzzler to me. Apologists want to make God’s morality somehow more embedded in reality, almost like it’s a physical thing, or universally applied. They don’t want to equate it with the human sense of morality, because then it would just be one set of principles among others.

Would empathy cease to exist if all creatures who can experience empathy ceased to exist? Well, yeah. Seems pretty axiomatic to me, just like movement ceases to exist when there’s nothing about with the ability to move. I’m not much one for Platonic forms floating around, waiting to be actualized. Empathy is a state of mind, or biology maybe, and in my mind, it disappears when its receptacles disappear.

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unkleE April 7, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Luke,

158 comments in less than 3 days, shows you’ve touched on something! You and I had some discussion a while back, which I gave up on in the end because (a) I felt you weren’t being honest to the facts (can’t remember what the topic was now, must have been important!) and (b) I felt it better to get off the merry-go-round when it became obvious the discussion was unlikely to reach any conclusion.

Visiting again and reading your post & all the comments, may I congratulate you on trying to be intellectually honest and fair to Craig, and to theistic apologists generally, in not claiming that his arguments are totally fallacious, dishonest and inept. It seems clear to me that very few arguments are clearly refuted, and then only after clear formal statement and rigorous formal refutation.

The discussion here confirms to me that most people, believer and unbeliever alike, believe and make claims beyond what can be shown to be true in any formal sense, and we must look beyond formal rationality to explain why this is. I’m not sure you are answering that question yet, but at least you are beginning to ask it.

Best wishes.

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chuck April 7, 2010 at 5:15 pm

This atheist doesn’t think Craig’s arguments are anything you state (as if making a broad accusation to criticism gives critics the same consideration as the object of criticism), I just wish Craig and his fan boys would be honest to what he is. He is not a scholar. He is a well educated preacher, that is all. His work has not added to information to better society. He has simply formalized his superstition within an intricate pedagogy. It is thorough but is as useful as an Imam explaining the moral utility of the hajib using a Hadith-centered hermaneutic.

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lukeprog April 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Good to hear from you again, unkleE.

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Ben Mackay April 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Sorry my first comment I meant Craig – Parsons debate!!! Not Craig – Price.

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DoAtheistsExist? April 10, 2010 at 9:10 am

I’ve got a very special treat coming up where I’m going to show how to actually make a good showing against Craig in debate.  

Hey Luke, was just wondering around what time you’d be doing that post? Would it be sometime in the next month, or maybe even sooner? Even just a very rough guestimate would be great if you’re not sure =D
All the best Luke!

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lukeprog April 10, 2010 at 9:57 am

DoAtheistsExist,

I don’t know. Within the next 5 months.

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Jay April 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Chuck says:

The professional definitions of philosopher and evangelist can be objectively considered and Craig is obviously the former. Occupationally he is akin to Benny Hinn

Craig has published well over a hundred articles in peer reviewed professional journals, has published books with some of the finest scholarly presses such as Cambridge, Oxford, Rutgers, Routledge, Blackwell etc, has delivered many honorary lectures (Templeton Lectures, Palely Lectures, Geneva Lectures etc), is a member of prestigious professional societies such as the American Philosophical Society, The American Academy of Religion, The Philosophy of Time Society (past President), and has single-handedly revived a cosmological argument to prominence, no DOMINANCE, over all others — and yet your comparing him to Benny Hinn? Common…what a joke!!

Craig is to philosophy as a Madrassas is to an institution of higher learning

And yet respected scholars, scholarly presses and academic institutions disagree with you, since clearly they take his academic work seriously. How does that work? Please don’t tell me this is your opinion. Your opinion would pretty much be equivalent to a young Earth creationist saying that Stephen Hawking is an embarrassment to cosmology.

I just wish Craig and his fan boys would be honest to what he is. He is not a scholar. He is a well educated preacher, that is all. His work has not added to information to better society

Craig and his fan boys? How about all the scholars who regard him as one? How about all the other atheists who do as well, including Luke Muehlhauser of this very blog. Are they all dishonest too? Craig is no doubt a scholar. No informed person would say otherwise. Look up the definition of what a scholar is, because it most certainly does not fit into the preconceived idea you have of what one is. While your at it, look up the definition of philosopher as well.

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Steven Carr April 10, 2010 at 10:38 pm

If William Lane Craig is so well respected, why does he write articles justifying genocide?
CRAIG
‘Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.’

CARR
Can you imagine what it is like to have to kill some children?

Won’t somebody think of the soldiers?

CRAIG
God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.

CARR
Yes, Craig believes in Scooby-Doo.

His imaginary god would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky kids.

So Craig thinks children should be killed because if they are allowed to grow up, they would wreck his plans.

No wonder Craig is invited to give so many lectures.

What the world needs are more scholars justifying killing children.

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Mazen Abdallah April 11, 2010 at 3:49 am

Most of his ‘scholarly work’ has been the Kalam argument. And most of that has been splitting hairs with Quentin Smith, Adolf Grunsbaum and other scholars. It’s very simple. He started a controversy by juicing up an old argument, the philosophers responded by bombarding him with criticism, he responded to their remarks and released new editions of the argument, etc. As impressive as the KCA has been over the years, I think it’s safe to say he’s a one-trick dog. A huge trick mind you, but it’s really his only ace in the hole. The other arguments are the products of other theologians, and no one has really given them any regard. And in terms of the philosophy world, it’s currently fertile territory for Christians. In Smith and Craig’s own words, there are more theistsin philosophy than atheists as of 1960. Something like 2/3. So until the tides turn (if ever) I imagine we’re going to see a fair bit of philosophical churning from the good folks of theism, with Craig leading the battle. However, given the fact that reasonablefaith.com has an alexa rank of 1.2 million and this very website ranks number 88,441, I’d say this battle for good and evil is one that no one has really bothered to follow up on. For all I care, Craig can debate another 100 atheists in afternoon, make them cry and profess a neverending love to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and I still won’t regard him as that big a deal.

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Marco April 11, 2010 at 3:53 am

I think it’s obvious that commenters on the internet don’t know what the current state of the debate is. One needs to be a professional philosopher for that or at least spent all one’s free time studying the subject. Almost nobody does that. Craig does this for a day job. So there is no surprise there. (And that’s why I appreciate your blog so much because you make the arguments available for non-professionals in a unique way.)
For instance when you want to dismiss Craigs arguments for the impossibility of in infinite events in history you need to know the work of Georg Cantor. Most people just delegate this work to the professional. Of whom aren’t that much around I guess. Why should somebody dedicate his/her life to refutation of religious beliefs? I you know the answer to that you know the reason why Craig hasn’t met too many worthy opponents.

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Chuck April 11, 2010 at 5:34 am

Jay you said,

“Craig has published well over a hundred articles in peer reviewed professional journals, has published books with some of the finest scholarly presses such as Cambridge, Oxford, Rutgers, Routledge, Blackwell etc, has delivered many honorary lectures (Templeton Lectures, Palely Lectures, Geneva Lectures etc), is a member of prestigious professional societies such as the American Philosophical Society, The American Academy of Religion, The Philosophy of Time Society (past President), and has single-handedly revived a cosmological argument to prominence, no DOMINANCE, over all others — and yet your comparing him to Benny Hinn? Common…what a joke!!”

Which Craig contradicts with one move in all of the debates I have read of his with his “altar call” to the audience at each of them.

I encountered Craig when I was still an Evangelical Christian with the hope I could enjoy the confidence of a Christian whose honest scholarship would provide honest argument, rooted in scholarship, for that worldview. It didn’t and it doesn’t.

He misrepresents science when he quote-mines Stephen Hawking.

He argues against research triangulation and probability when he retreats to his “in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit” argument as truth for the historicity of the resurrection.

He steals a cosmological argument authored by a theism he holds as epistemologically unsound to prove the epistemological soundness for god.

He may have the support of the “industry” of scholarship but I’d say Hinn probably too has the support of the “industry” of television broadcasting.

What makes Craig an evangelist like Hinn is that his aim is not intellectual pluralism, it is religious conversion.

He has a belief system which hardens him to the best aim of scholarship, intellectual pluralism, for a superstitious worldview (rooted in either dishonest or solipsistic moves noted above) that seeks conversion to that superstitious worldview.

This can be further seen with his support of institutions (The Discovery Institute, Biola University) that do not hold pluralism or inquiry as the highest standard. Both institutions main aim is to evangelize for the Judeo-Christian worldview in the hope of converting all thought to their superstition.

That’s my argument.

Do you have contrary facts that defeat your fallacy of the consequent (e.g. Many scholars say Craig is a scholar, therefore he is a scholar.)

I will amend my prior definition of Craig. Dr. Craig is a scholarly Evangelist like Benny Hinn is a television-broadcast Evangelist. Both of them have vocational aims of Evangelism and therefore both of them obviate uncomfortable truth that would defeat their calcified superstitions.

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Jay April 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm

CRAIG

CARR

CRAIG

CARR

Please learn to use the quote feature properly like everyone else.

Mazen Abdallah says:

Most of his ’scholarly work’ has been the Kalam argument. And most of that has been splitting hairs with Quentin Smith, Adolf Grunsbaum and other scholars. It’s very simple. He started a controversy by juicing up an old argument, the philosophers responded by bombarding him with criticism, he responded to their remarks and released new editions of the argument, etc. As impressive as the KCA has been over the years, I think it’s safe to say he’s a one-trick dog. A huge trick mind you, but it’s really his only ace in the hole

You’re wrong as well. Craig was absolutely right when he said in his latest Q&A that some people seem to know him only through debating and not his other work. It may come as a surprise to you, but in addition to him being a leading philosopher of religion, he’s also considered a leading philosopher of time (as Quentin Smith has said himself). As I said previously, he was president of the philosophy of Time society (a secular based society) and his work in the philosophy of Time is taken very seriously by professional philosophers. Not only that, but he also considered a leading proponent on middle knowledge/molinism. There’s also his important contributions in historical Jesus studies, which have also been taken seriously by such eminent scholars as John Maier, LT. Johnson and the late Raymond E. Brown to name a few. So it’s just not true that most of his scholarly work has been on the Kalam. It’s only true to say that he has acquired significant academic fame as a philosopher of religion on that argument. It’s by no means limited solely to that argument, however.

For all I care, Craig can debate another 100 atheists in afternoon, make them cry and profess a neverending love to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and I still won’t regard him as that big a deal

I wasn’t talking about Craig being a big deal with respect to debating and his work as an apologist. I was talking about Craig being a big deal when it comes to his work as a scholar. On this question there can be no denying he is a big deal (ie. he is a major reputation in his area of expertise). You can think otherwise but your only deceiving yourself.

Chuck says:

Which Craig contradicts with one move in all of the debates I have read of his with his “altar call” to the audience at each of them

That’s like saying Dawkins isn’t an evolutionary biologist because he promotes atheism. Weak response.

He misrepresents science when he quote-mines Stephen Hawking

Show me how. I’ve actually been down this road before with maniacstreetpreacher and his similar accusations of Craig. When I investigated such supposed “quote-mines” I found them all to be untrue. So, by all means, please demonstrate these “quote mines”. I’m pretty confident that you won’t be able to prove that he’s doing it though.

He argues against research triangulation and probability when he retreats to his “in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit” argument as truth for the historicity of the resurrection

That “retreat” as you call it is actually a well developed epistemic philosophical position which is also supported by Alvin Plantinga. But perhaps you don’t think he’s a scholar too.

He may have the support of the “industry” of scholarship but I’d say Hinn probably too has the support of the “industry” of television broadcasting

These are two completely different things. Your original argument was that Craig was not a philosopher and scholar and that he was akin to the reputation Madrassas have to higher institutions of learning. Again though, the argument fails big time since Craig easily DOES have the reputation and scholarly status you try to dismiss of him.

Anyways, I do fully agree with you that Craig is also an evangelist. I’m not at all disputing that. Insofar as that is concerned it’s legitimate to compare him to Benny Hinn in that sense. I was only disputing your claim that he was not a scholar and philosopher.

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Steven Carr April 11, 2010 at 10:29 pm

JAY
I was only disputing your claim that he was not a scholar and philosopher.

CARR
Jay does not even bother to dispute claims that Craig thinks children should be killed to preserve religous purity.

All Jay can do is deleted Craig’s remarks from his reply and try desperately to pretend that Craig does not write articles urging children to be killed to defend his religion against ‘impurity’

CRAIG
God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.

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chuck April 12, 2010 at 3:35 am

Jay

Craig uses Hawking to confirm the idea of a singularity is setled science which Hawking wouldn’t agree with.

I see you are a fan of Craig.

Thanks for agreeing with me on his being an evangelist. His scholarship is akin to a Madrassas in as much as he has admitted his cognitive bias over-rules evidence.

And no, conceding to an inner witness is not intellectual laudible. It is a rationalization of an imaginary friend.

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ayer April 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Anyways, I do fully agree with you that Craig is also an evangelist. I’m not at all disputing that. Insofar as that is concerned it’s legitimate to compare him to Benny Hinn in that sense. I was only disputing your claim that he was not a scholar and philosopher.

I agree. I’m not clear why some are claiming that one cannot be an evangelist and a scholar at the same time. On that logic, then leading pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty was not a scholar, for he was clearly an evangelist for atheism. See http://granitegrok.com/blog/2009/05/notable_quotes_richard_rorty.html:

“The late Richard Rorty, the philosopher and devout atheist, is refreshingly honest. He argued that secular professors like himself need to “arrange things” so that incoming students who enter college “as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists” will “leave college with views more like our own.” The goal of education, said Rorty, is to help these youth “escape the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.” Rorty was bracingly candid in his message to parents: “We are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.” http://granitegrok.com/blog/2009/05/notable_quotes_richard_rorty.html

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chuck April 12, 2010 at 10:38 pm

I don’t know this Rorty’s work.

Nice strawman though.

No, you haven’t convinced me that Craig’s main aim is not conversion to a popular superstition rather than truth rooted in research and intellectual courage. Craig’s defensive rationalizations clearly define his vocation.

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lukeprog April 12, 2010 at 11:09 pm

chuck,

I have no doubts that Craig’s main goal is converting people to Christianity.

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Chuck April 13, 2010 at 4:26 am

Luke,

And my bias against the guy is rooted in resentment towards what I saw as basic church strategies in his debates when I read them. I didn’t encounter his debate arguments while watching them but rather down-loaded the transcripts from his site.

When he argued against Ehrman to the effect that weighing probabilities in evaluating the historicity of past events is unnecessary, I paused and thought I was listening to someone who denies scholarship to protect the feelings they have related to a certain idea.

Reading transcripts of his debates opened me up to the possibility that people debating the truth of Christianity from the negative may not be dishonest. It started me on my path which has led me here and put an end to my faith.

Ironic seeing that Craig was recommended to me because I was struggling with what looked like intellectual dishonesty from I.D. apologists and the Discovery Institute. I was told that his philosophical arguments would show me how a Christian perspective could also be rooted in intellectual courage.

After investigating him, I went away depressed at the man’s need to manipulate his opponents and over-sell his arguments. He seemed like any average baby boomer christian looking to make the world wrong as evidence his arguments are correct.

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ayer April 13, 2010 at 5:50 am

I don’t know this Rorty’s work.

Nice strawman though.

No, you haven’t convinced me that Craig’s main aim is not conversion to a popular superstition rather than truth rooted in research and intellectual courage. Craig’s defensive rationalizations clearly define his vocation.

Ok, but if you don’t even know who Richard Rorty is (one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rorty), then you are not qualified to determine who is and is not a “scholar” in the field of philosophy. If Rorty is a scholar, so is Craig; and no serious observer of philosophy would deny that Rorty is a scholar.

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ayer April 13, 2010 at 5:58 am

I went away depressed at the man’s need to manipulate his opponents and over-sell his arguments.

You reject Craig on this basis and yet embrace Ehrman? Have you read Luke’s critique of Ehrman’s overselling and spinning? And Luke’s not the only one. As Greg Boyd, a fellow student with Ehrman at Princeton, notes about Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus”:

“The book is a good introduction to the science of textual criticism. But some of Bart’s conclusions seem to outrun the evidence — even the evidence that he himself cites. Consider that Bart is looking at the same evidence every other textual critic looks at. He’s “discovered” nothing new. Yet, hardly anyone goes to the extreme Bart goes to in his conclusions.

One of Ehrman’s teachers, whom I also knew at Princeton, was Bruce Metzger. Metzger came to much more conservative conclusions than Ehrman — yet looked at the exact same evidence. The vast majority of textual critics are closer to Metzger than Ehrman.” http://www.gregboyd.org/qa/bible/how-do-you-respond-to-ehrmans-book-misquoting-jesus/

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chuck April 13, 2010 at 7:22 am

Ayer

Did I say that I embraced Ehrman? If I did I was not being truthful.

I appreciate Dr. Ehrman’s use of probability to derive historicity but don’t agree with all of his conclusions.

Also, I am not a philosopher so can’t comment on all the thinkers in the field.

I consider Craig a scholarly Christian evangelist because of a few things.

1. I am a strategist who deals with clinical data and find Dr. Craig’s admission that data would not sway his feelings for Jesus as intellectually inept
2. Craig’s objective based on his arguments is to confirm his conclusions rather than falsify them
3. His willingness to be a fellow at the Discovery Institute indicates his disrespect for honest scholarly inquiry when defense of christianity calls

I will check out the links you suggest.

The quote you provide however while sympathetic to atheism seems to indicate a pedagogy that looks to challenge cognitive bias rather than reiforce it. I find the former practice scholarly and the latter something Craig does.

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ayer April 13, 2010 at 1:56 pm

1. I am a strategist who deals with clinical data and find Dr. Craig’s admission that data would not sway his feelings for Jesus as intellectually inept

It is not an “admission”, it is a distinction drawn between “knowing” your faith is true (based on the fact that such knowledge is properly basic, a la Plantingan epistemology) and “showing” your faith is true to an outsider (using evidence and reason).

2. Craig’s objective based on his arguments is to confirm his conclusions rather than falsify them

See Luke’s earlier post where Craig lists several philosophical arguments that he has changed his mind about. Also, “falsification” is a criteria of experimental science. Philosophy and historiography involve inference to the best explanation.

3. His willingness to be a fellow at the Discovery Institute indicates his disrespect for honest scholarly inquiry when defense of christianity calls

Since Craig is agnostic as between evolution and intelligent design, I don’t think so. In fact, if you look at his debate with evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala it is clear that it is Craig who is applying logic and reason to the issues, and Ayala who is mouthing platitudes.

The quote you provide however while sympathetic to atheism seems to indicate a pedagogy that looks to challenge cognitive bias rather than reiforce it. I find the former practice scholarly and the latter something Craig does.

When Craig goes into overwhelmingly secularist environments (e.g., his recent debates at Canadian universities) he is the one challenging their cognitive bias.

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chuck April 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Ayer

You’ve convinced me. You are a fan of Dr. Craig.

1. Admitting data would not sway belief is too close to inventing facts and beneath the realm of scholarship
2. An Imam would believe the angel Gabriel gave the holy revelation to the prophet and would provide an epistemology to support it, does this make him a scholar
3. Craig is not agnostic on evolution. He is a fellow at an institute that looks to deny it in favor of christian dogma. The result leading to America becoming less intelligent.

All of these things are done to influence belief not, to determine the best evidence. All of them point to Craig’s flaccid scholarship.

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Chuck April 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Ayer,

You have convinced me of one thing. You are a fan of Dr. Craig. Good for you, we all need our heroes. I am not convinced however the good doctor is a scholar.

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Darian April 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm

wow all this over WLC

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chuck April 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Well WLC does have sweet hair.

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ayer April 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Ayer,You have convinced me of one thing.You are a fan of Dr. Craig.Good for you, we all need our heroes.I am not convinced however the good doctor is a scholar.  

Ok, but then by your definition about 70% of faculty in academia are not “scholars.” But you are entitled to an idiosyncratic definition if you wish.

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chuck April 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Ayer

I believe that Dr. Craig pursues scholarly efforts to fulfill his primary profession of garden variety evangelical christianity.

And where did you get the 70 % number? Can you provide some substantiation to that claim?

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Hermes April 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Well WLC does have sweet hair.  

Hair? No. It’s the voice. So soothing.

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lukeprog April 13, 2010 at 7:03 pm

WLC is a papa.

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Godless Randall April 14, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Boo hoo! Poor atheists! Big, bad Bill Craig has debate training, and that’s why they can’t even mount a decent response to the same five arguments I’ve been putting out there for 20 years!

seems some people took offense to that. i just laughed. the bright side is that he admits to using the same arguments for 2 decades

i know, i know, that just means they’re good, right? :)

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Da Vinci April 16, 2010 at 8:38 am

Hello Luke,

In your Craig’s reviews post you reviewed Craig vs. Jesseph as followed:

Craig vs. Jesseph
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.

It seems to be in contradiction with what you said about Craig vs. Jesseph debate in this topic.

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lukeprog April 16, 2010 at 10:25 am

Da Vinci,

No, I was quoting Craig here. But I may have to re-read the debate.

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GG April 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

Plantinga’s formulation of the ontological argument is circular.
Saying that God possibility necessarily exists is saying
that God necessarily exists.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHkXeT5U-vs

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Márcio May 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Craig wins because recent scientific discoveries, especially after 1960′s, points to an existance of a Designer, so Craig can follow the flow of science. What is happening now is exactly what happend with Darwin in his time. Darwin had better scientific arguments, but now Craig has better scientific arguments.

Craig doesn’t say what he says because the bible says, but because recent science discoveries points to it. If you disagres, than publish an article and enters the fight against him.

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Márcio May 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

If you think that Platinga’s arguments or any other argument is circular or false or weak, then publish an article about it and enters the fight.

“We just don’t know yet” or “One day we will know this answers” are very weak arguments. I say that this is a way to avoid the conclusions.

“The premises are true, but we don’t like the conclusion and because of this, one day in the future we will know why the conclusion is false, although the premises are true.”

When i see anyone saying one of this phares, for me, is their end in the debate.

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lukeprog May 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Marcio,

You say that Craig has better scientific arguments. I’m not sure how I understand how science can establish that intentional magic is the best explanation for something. Could you explain how you think this works?

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 6:57 am

If there is no plausible naturalist explanation and there is a plausible supernatural explanation, i think we can believe in that. If in the future the natural explanation is more plausible, than the supernatural explanation is discarded.

Against Peter Atkins, Craig list 5 things that science cannot prove, but we all know that it is truth. So if science cannot prove everything, why we can not believe in the existance of the supernatural?

Nowadays we don’t have any natural explanation for what Craig is saying, but we know that science points to the supernatural or maybe to an unknown natural. Maybe in the future science will point to the natural, but right now i don’t think that discarting the supernatural is a good thing to do, because we have nothing besides this right now.

Maybe in the future we will have natural explanations and than we can be certain that God dos not exists, but why believe in that right now?

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Chuck May 21, 2010 at 7:05 am

I guess I would agree with you Marcio if I wanted to use logical fallacies to make an argument.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 7:09 am

For example the fine tunning argument.

We have the CHANCE explanation and the DESIGNER explanation. CHANCE is natural explanation and DESIGNER is probably a supernatural explanation. Which one is more plausible nowadays? I think the the DESIGNER one is more plausible, so why don’t believe in that now?

Maybe in 100 year science will come with another explanation better than CHANCE and the DESIGNER explanation will go down, but without the DESIGNER we have nothing right now, just CHANCE, that is not a very plausible explanation.

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 7:12 am

I say that we should follow the flow of science. If the flows changes, we change to. Ultimately we will go back to the right tracks, because that is what science do.

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Chuck May 21, 2010 at 7:13 am

How do you falsify the designer explanation?

It is a god of the gaps argument.

When more evidence provides a reduced probability for intelligent design then you and your fellow religionists will simply change the criteria for falsification.

How would you falsify your null hypothesis Marcio?

The strength of a theory is in its potential for falsification.

Yours can’t be falsified because it is based on superstition and credulity, not data.

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 7:20 am

But the DESIGNER is based on the fine tuned, not on superstition. I think that the fine-tinning is data.

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 7:23 am

We can falsify the DESIGNER explanation offering a natural explanation that is more plausible.

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 7:25 am

Do you think science will ever be able to present a natural explanation that is more plausible than the DESIGNER? Maybe or maybe not.

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Chuck May 21, 2010 at 7:42 am

The anthropic principle simply reiterates our natural understanding of cosmology and the physical universe and gives the credit to god(s). Your standard of falsifiability is weak. A strong standard of falsifiability extends from the hypothesis itself NOT from a competing idea. You are arguing polemical opolitics NOT science. What evidence would exist to falsify your designer hypothesis. If is is the anthropic principle then that has been already falsified by computer simulations composed by particle physicist Victor Stenger where he has modified ratios of the constants and conditions for life still exist. Like I said you argue from ignorance but like most logical fallacies your cognitive bias keeps you from seeing that.

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 8:08 am

I think that a if a natural explanation is more plausible, than that is evidence for telling that the DESIGNER hypothesis is false. I don’t think that anyone would disagree with this.

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Chuck May 21, 2010 at 8:16 am

I disagree and think your definition of falsifiability is not scientific. You also invited a new logical fallacy – Argument from Consensus.

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 9:11 am

So you think that even if a naturalist explanation is more plausible it can be false and the supernatural explanation be true?

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Chuck May 21, 2010 at 9:17 am

Read this Marcio and get back to me or, continue to dwindle in ignorance, pseudoscience and ID propaganda.

http://science.jrank.org/pages/9302/Falsifiability-Popper-s-Emphasis-on-Falsifiability.html

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Márcio May 21, 2010 at 9:24 am

Actually i think i will just stop. I think that i keep commiting these logical fallacies you are talking about and we are getting nowhere.

I’m realy confused why what i’m saying is illogical, but it clearly is, so i will stop.

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Chuck May 21, 2010 at 9:31 am
lukeprog May 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

Marcio,

‘A Rulebook for Arguments’ is a great place to start.

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Chuck May 21, 2010 at 10:24 am

very helpful.

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Katie's mom May 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I have watched many Craig debates and while I don’t think I have the knowledge to judge whether or not his cosmological argument is good or not, it appears to me that his moral arguments are not convincing. He argues for an objective morality from his God, and even without getting into the Euthyphro dilemma I still don’t get how he can say there is any objective morality that we can have any knowledge of, given that even the followers of this God cannot agree on what these are. Sincere Christians, who all think that they are experiencing the inner witness of the holy spirit cannot agree on what the correct moral actions are on so many issues, for example: capital punishment, abortion, divorce or homosexuality. I’ve often heard him say that we all agree that “some things really are wrong” and yet I don’t know that he would be able to find consensus about what those things are. If there is a God that cares about our moral actions, then why are this God’s instruction so unclear?

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lukeprog May 26, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Haven’t you heard? God is mysterious. :)

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Katie's mom May 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Oh, yeah, the mysterious ways card. I have never been able to understand how people can look at that card and find an answer on it. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I love to play scrabble, but I hate those blank tiles, as they just look blank to me. I’m just not that good at making stuff up.
By the way, thanks for this site. a lot of what you post really stretches my brain and makes it spin around but I quite enjoy it, particularly all of the debates.

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Thom Stark June 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

Hey, Luke, I have a question about Craig maybe you can answer. On the one hand Craig defends an idiosyncratic version of DCT in which God is not subject to the standards of morality that God prescribes for humankind. On the other hand, in approach to the problem of evil, Craig concedes that God requires a morally sufficient reason to allow suffering and evil to exist.

My question is, are these two claims incompatible with one another? I suppose it is possible that although Craig denies that God is subject to the same moral standards God prescribes to us, God is still subject to some other set of moral standards about which we know nothing. If this is the case, do these moral standards exist apart from God? If they do not exist apart from God, how can God be required to have a morally sufficient reason to permit evil?

Do you have any thoughts?

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lukeprog June 11, 2010 at 8:24 am

Thom Stark,

Good question. ‘ayer’ might know; he seems pretty familiar with Craig’s stuff.

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John June 29, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Look..there is a reason why so few atheists have existed since the beginning of man. Its really as clear as day that there is a creator. That truth has to be literally refused to kick God off the throne and sit there yourself. Its all about bias..not reason.

Thats why Craig wins all these debates. Its like the OJ jury. It was very clear he was guilty from the arguments–but the bias of the mostly colored jury refused to believe it.

Your fighting against something that is so blatantly obvious is almost a joke to sit there and debate it. Why do atheists live in science forums? THINK about it. What attaches these few people to the subject of science that they spend their lives mulling over it?

They NEED to constantly reassure themselves they are not going to be judged for their grandiose claims about God. They need to surround themselves with unbelievers, in the same way drug addicts try and get people to do drugs with them, to reassure themselves that they are such outcasts as people think. You know if your wrong your doomed. You boasted and belittled Gods people and his Savior your whole life–you better damn well reassure yourself your right.

Thats the psychology of Atheism. Its so simple to just get on your knees and ask God if Christ will save you but your so wise and have all the answers to how God would act if he were real(which is YOU being god) that you basically have said–God is how I, Me, the great indescribable Me, would do things–any deviation is not God.

God set up the world so its not about arguments. Its not a murder mystery. Its you on your knees like a child begging to be Gods child–something you refuse to do–thats what causes unbelief–not clever arguments. If it was that–only smart people would go to heaven.

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lukeprog June 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm

John,

You’re right that religion appeals to our inborn intuitions and prejudices. That’s why it takes so much work to counter-act them with careful methods like science so we can start figuring out how things really work. Intuitions and feelings didn’t cure polio and get men on the moon. Science did, and science is specifically designed to eliminate and counteract our intuitions.

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Chuck June 29, 2010 at 6:04 pm

John

Are you serious?

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antybu86 June 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Craig is a much better debate than most of his opponents seem to suspect. That isn’t to say that Craig’s arguments are any good, but he knows how to argue in a way that his opponents generally do not.

People seem to forget that logic is only one-third of debate.

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jojo jacob January 28, 2011 at 8:50 am

This is my version of the Kalam Argument.
Everything exists and existed has a cause.
The universe began to exist
So, the universe has a cause
I do not think Craig would be able to rebut this version of KCA. “My” first premise does pass the “intuition” test. He claims that we all intuitively agree with his first premise; Everything which begins to exist has a cause.

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Dragoness August 18, 2011 at 4:40 am

From this quote, Craig sounds like a jerk.

Oh boo hoo. Does atheism Big Bad giving exactly what the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens have dished out for years offend the sensitivities of those who believe people who believe there is a god should have their rights taken away? Well…poor atheists. If you have to resort to insults you can hardly cry foul when you cop the same.

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