I’m looking forward to Sam’s debate with WLC, but at the same time I’m slightly apprehensive. In the spirit of this thought, I was wondering if anyone else had thoughts on WLC’s five arguments?
I foresee Dr. Craig borrowing heavily from Blackford’s review of Harris’ book, and quote-mining liberally to undermine Sam’s rather fringe ideas about morality. Given the problematic foundation of his thesis, most notably the lack of any serious research on the science of morality, do any of you feel this could be a sticky situation for Sam until such research manifests?
I have also looked at the Kalam Cosmological Argument:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause
and it seems to me to commit the fallacy of equivocation in premises one and two. Isn’t he confusing physical causation with the formulation of existing matter into a new identity? Is there actually any evidence that physical matter ‘begins to exist’ on a regular basis, and would then be considered caused? An H2O molecule may ‘begin to exist’ in the sense that the new form of existing matter has attained a new identity, but can it actually be said to have ‘begun to exist’ in the sense he is claiming the universe ‘began to exist’? or are they, as it seems to me, two very different types of beginning, thus committing the above named fallacy?
I’ve also found premise two, in and of itself, problematic in the use of the word ‘begin’. Since time supposedly started with the big bang, does it even make sense to say the universe ‘began to exist’? Couldn’t it be said that, since at no time was the universe NOT in existence, it is then eternal (timeless definition)? Wouldn’t there need to be a moment prior to the existence of the universe, logically entailing the presence of time, to enable the use of the word ‘begin’ and ‘cause’?
I’ve heard his response to this objection in a debate against the Atty. Eddie Tabbash, where he claims cause and effect can be simultaneous with the analogy of a bowling ball and cushion. While Tabbash’s reply to this was rather weak, It seems that Craig’s response nullifies his argument for a ‘personal’ cause, which he justifies with the chain of causality, and would then leave him with nothing but his subjective ‘this is not an argument’ argument from personal experience with which to bridge the deism-theism gap. Perhaps forcing him to grapple with the inherent contradictions between his arguments could be the key to crumbling his house of cards.
Finally, his response to the POE. He claims that the argument presupposes the theist’s position, but it then ignores the important theological nuances of the salvation defense. Once here, most of his opponent’s allow the muddy water to stagnate until closing remarks, where Craig reasserts the salvation defense as somehow solid by virtue of it being ignored. Personally, I think this is a mistake of his opponents. If they were to quickly reach this supposed stalemate and press for an actual argument, not just speculation, that would connect the dots between tsunami, starvation, and salvation (as most dead children are unable to convert to christianity, according to a poll I just made up), I think Craig would be left flopping about on dry land like a fish out of water.
I also think Craig pushes hard on most of his opponents for arguments AGAINST the existence of God, and I think most of them ignore a very strong point: arguments like the POE, failures of cognition to explain revelation, and inconsistencies in the supposed ‘changeless’ nature of God are themselves arguments against the existence of such a being. If god is supposed to be all-loving, and all powerful, wouldn’t the existence of evil be, in and of itself, an argument against the existence of a being with these attributes? It seems like the salvation defense is a total non-sequitor unless the main focus of this being is the afterlife, which then calls this entire vale of tears into question as arbitrary and unnecessarily crude (Hitchens handles this beautifully in his debate with Craig, and in his book The Portable Atheist).
TL;DR: I think craig’s arguments are beatable, but I *think* the key is to out-organize him. Craig’s one weakness is his numerous speaking engagements; the internet is an unrestrained glimpse at his playbook, and I hope Sam puts organization above eloquence.
When are they debating and what is the proposition?
No one has EVER made an argument from deism to ancient anecdotal theistic miracles more plausible than the mountain of empirical evidence for mistake, delusion, and agenda. This, along with his argument for absolute morality proving the existence of god (which is just a fallacy of [desired] consequence coupled with appeals to emotion) need to be shaved from his 5 point attack he displayed in the Krauss debate (and others). They’re just not up to snuff.
April 8th, “Is good from God”
It looks like I wasted my time on that post, as it’s not going to be a standard debate about the general god question. Sam appears to be going for heart of the matter (his book was the first clue), striving for an objective Freud put down in The Future of an Illusion when he said, “the relationship between civilization and religion must undergo a fundamental revision.” He was referring to the oft-repeated question of how to be good without a god (or the god), and emphasizing the problem of a society whose morality is founded upon a system of reward and punishment arbitrated by a deity that the society loses faith in (supposedly chaos ensues). Of course, if society is able to divorce moral philosophy from the mythical foundations it allegedly rests upon, in the same manner as natural philosophy did from it’s own mystic background, the widespread rejection of a supernatural ‘law-giver’ won’t engender the appeals to moral chaos coming from all different faiths in a dazzling display of ecumenicism. A ‘science of morality’ is one option, harnessing the power of the scientific method and bringing it to bear on the search for a reasoned foundation for establishing The Good that philosophers talk about.
Or perhaps he is echoing Einstein from a letter written in 1950 to a minister,
“The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgement and action”
and undermining the argument from moral authority before it gets off the ground. From there, the question of whether a god exists loses quite a bit of urgency, and many of the secular objections to religion flutter away like dead leaves.
This is exactly the topic I have been trying to get him to debate WLC about. Craig even cited Harris in the Krauss debate last week and I want to hear them get down on moral realism. Can’t wait!!!!
Craig will no doubt go down the same ol’ road of ‘morality without god is relativistic.’ Assertassertassert. As you said, he will borrow from all the criticism Harris has received on ‘this side’ from Blackmore, Coyne, Pigliucci, et al.
All I can say is that I really hope he does better than Krauss did perceptionwise.
If you haven’t seen it already, check out Shelly Kagan’s debate with Craig. It took some very interesting turns in the discussion period in the latter half, and Craig was stuck with the same tired assertions you’re talking about, but they had to have sounded hollow even to his ears at the time.
I have not and I definitely will- thank you. I did get to see Eddie Tabash speak and meet him once though. Great guy. I really enjoyed his position paper on the CFI website:THE TRUE MEANING OF “SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE” (long version) Check it out if you haven’t already. He is very concise and quotable.
Definitely will. HERE is the link for that kagan-craig discussion(right-click and save link as). Enjoy!
Thanks so much, as the only other one I found was by drcraigvideos on youtube, who has recently blocked me- no ad hominem, no swearing, I was stunned. I emailed him privately- no response. Another person PE’d me who was also blocked said he does that all the time. I am challenging other christians in that forum (who are replying to my comments, so I know who they are on youtube) to rebuke him for it. I’d bet even Craig would rebuke him. Anyway thanx for the link.
Too funny, I’ve been blocked by him as well. Cycled through a few accounts just to get my point across, even got a few to stick, but he finally blocked them all. Dissent is not an option in his worldview, disagreement constitutes dissent, and apparently calling someone stupid means you win the argument. Quite frustrating.
So I find the Yuoutube version of the Harris/Craig debate about a half hour after the debate, just to see what people are saying and I find one posted by “exposedatheists.” Just like before, it’s mostly Christians commenting- in fact one of the commenters is drcraigvideos. I rebut what he says, along with a few others, then I write, almost as and aside: “you can’t block me here drcraigvideos!” One minute later “exposedatheists” blocks me- just for writing that! I, as I did last week, emailed some of the Christian commenters there if, considering my comments, they thought that was justified, and they ALL said it was unfair. One Christian even literally said it was probably because of the force of my well thought out arguments (and this commenter had rebutted MY post). I’m not tooting my horn- actually, this has never happened to me in the past and it is a disturbing trend. There are some smart theists who can hold their ground, but they are hard to be found these days.
This guy posted all 9 parts, no censorship. How did you think the debate went?
They kind of talked past each other, but I was actually glad for it, as the best strategy against Craig is not to stay on the defensive and get caught up in rabbit trails. Craig almost always goes first and picks topics strategically, so he can (and does) often say, “I don’t have to prove this/that/and the other…” (and he is technically right most times). In the Harris debate, he tried this, but the epistemological questions AND the questions of behavior of OT Jehovah DID have bearing upon the ontological question (concerning the equivocation of god’s “goodness”), so he belied their value and relavence. Harris made the implication (which he should have expounded on) that I think is one of the best arguments against Christianity: god’s goodness is incoherent.
Jeremy Beahan argues about the incoherence of god’s goodness by first asking us to consider Yahweh’s documented behavior in the bible: Does god kill? Is god “Jealous”? Does god take from one person and give it to another against their will? Did god send lying spirits, false prophets, and delusion? (All breaking Commandments.) He then asks if we will concede that god cannot sin (i.e. is there an action that god can do, that humans cannot do, that is not morally justified? Obviously NO).
As Beahan then puts it (paraphrased), “God’s goodness is not just different in MEASURE- it’s not like he gave us these standards and we just don’t live up to them as well as he does; his standard is different IN KIND.” So the BEST we can say- the only thing you can actually assert, is that *he has the ability to be morally ambiguous to us and yet SOMEHOW, IN SOME WAY UNKNOWN TO US, can still be considered the greatest good*. If you consider that what is really praiseworthy in this assertion is *Yahweh’s capability to still be good while appearing morally ambiguous*, is that really praiseworthy? If one claims that this is why we must trust God’s will unquestionably, even when we don’t understand it, how can one ever praise God for His goodness unequivocally if we don’t know whether or not something is good?
I need to revisit Craig’s so-called “knock down argument” against Harris. It was a version of ye olde utilitarian maximizing criticism, no? I think it was, ‘if psychopaths are happy, is their “well being” to be counted on the peaks of the moral landscape as well?’ There are different approaches to tackling that. Harris seemed to take Mill’s reply to that and say that the overall good ALSO includes the awareness of the one victim who provides good for the five (the hospital scenario) against her will… and therefore he and we should reject it (the ethical weight of appropriating the organs of the one for the five has consequential implications for imposing an uneasiness upon society that far outwieghs the good of the five). Unfortunately, Harris did not gather that rebuttal and present it as a rebuttal to Craig’s framing of it as a “knock down,” which lets theists think he has done their job for them and it went unrebutted. Unless I understood it wrong on the first pass. What do you think?
I’ve got that Kagan debate link on my destop and am hopefully going to listen to that on my days off coming up. I also found this: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=392 and this: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=50 and can’t wait to see Craig v. Ehrman, Price, Carrier, and Keith Parsons. They turn my stomach though as much as I enjoy them- I guess I can’t detach as much as I should. It’s fun, but grueling, like riding on rollercoasters for hours.
Agreed on the goodness of god, thats a concept that cannot be simply asserted via definition. I had a couple other objections, namely how Craig tried to reframe the entire debate question. According to the title, it was ‘Is good from god?’ Craig then attempted to change the entire debate into ‘prove that a perfectly moral being isn’t perfectly moral.’ He completely ignores the fact that The Good is here, with humans, and this perfectly moral being is…somewhere out there, and absent a link between the two, he hasn’t answered the question. He didn’t address what this perfectly moral being has divinely commanded, or how it relates to us (i.e. is it’s morality intelligible to humans).
It seems that a lot of people get sucked into the topic Craig made up, and forget the topic of the actual debate, the topic that Sam stuck to. As a result, like you said, they appear to be talking past each other, with Craig constantly trying to show how Harris isn’t playing in Craig’s tidy little sandbox.
Favorite line from Sam: “Once again, we have hit philosophical bedrock with the shovel of a stupid question.”
Golden eggs from this guy
Yeah, the distinction between absolute and objective morality is untenable. At best it is objective- you cannot reify it any more than that so that it is ‘floating out in space somewhere.’ It only exists between two or more people (one could argue that it exists between different selves temporally and/or dualistically, but the point is that it requires at least SOME human agency, right?).
Haha- yes that was a salient quote. My fave quote was when he said (paraphrased) “I guess I need to remind everyone here that Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice” hehe
Second fav: “You may have noticed that Craig has a habit of rewording his opponent’s arguments in ways that they did not make them” (or something along those lines). Completely true, if you have listened to his other debates, and totally captured the rebuttal that preceded this comment. Craig reworded every point Harris made in that particular exchange.
Definitely. And I don’t know how much is not understanding and how much is disingenuous tactic, but I imagine that he has them comfused anyway!