Have a peak over here: http://randyeverist.blogspot.com/2011/04/review-of-craig-vs-harris-debate.html#comment-form
If you get a chance, I’m ‘Lee’ in the comments section. Tell me how horribly I’m doing.
Really great job. You are a natural. I just posted there… Well, there went my day off
Still waiting for my posts to be accepted. He’s a clever one! I posted some of the stuff we talked about, plus comments on the comments. Let me know if you see any glaring errors. This is tricky business. I really tried to focus on the pragmatic application of the discussion rather than “winning” by sticking to irrelevant arbitrary rules- not rules of logic or philosophy mind you, but technical rules set by the debate. There’s no reason to think that just because we can back step until we create a version of god that is untouchable by criticism that it has any ontological merit for that reason. In any case, it’s irrelevant, because no gods on earth fit Craig’s/Randy’s description. THAT is the god we should be asking the question about. I would have demanded that the debate be framed as, “Is Good from Yahweh?”
He approves as he responds, probably as an organizational habit (don’t blame him).
I’m chasing my little reductio ad absurdum, I only hope it’s not just a figment of my imagination. I tried chasing the epistemological problems of Divine Command Theory, but he turned it around on me and I was stuck on the defensive.
But if it comes to a draw and you have actual evidence that your foundation exists (i.e. the world and agents), as opposed to… nothing (unless he’s a pantheist), then by OR, his is superfluous.
I’m hoping to reach the finish line without throwing the evidential ‘poo’ in his face, but it’s the ace up my sleeve if it comes to that
I just read your comment. Thats practically philosophical poetry, and I appreciate the high-fives you tossed in for my benefit!
Oh it’s up? Thanks. Any errors that you spotted?
Ugh, I just spent 3 hours replying to youtube theists who were not worth the time. I’m too exhausted to reply today, even though he will probably be the only one who really deserves it.
He’s just not getting it. I think I’m done there.
Alright, I finished the CRAIG/KAGAN DEBATE. Awesome. That’s the first time I really felt that Craig soundly lost, even in perception. Here are my notes. Many of them apply to Randy Everist’s arguments and the Harris debate.
The main thrust of Craig’s argument can be summed up when he says, “…the question here is the deeper question about ‘why adopt the moral point of view?’ and that can’t be a moral answer because you’re asking the question ‘why adopt the moral point of view?’” But theism does not escape- *cannot* escape this implication of question begging by merely asserting that we must push beyond (in my view, sufficient) naturalism to say that ‘the buck [actually] stops here’ with god. In fact, it pushes it *too far back* (i.e. to god and/or ‘cosmic significance”), because it takes us *away* from the *actually relevant sufficient moral machinery inherent in agents and the world* and into the world of empirically inaccessible, rationally superfluous, and therefore irrelevant, supernatural propositions.
Rebuttals to Craig’s points of criticism against sufficiently moral, naturalistic machinery:
VALUES: Values may be veridical or not. Those that are veridical are obviously objective (and is even really tautological to say so). Value is commensurate with its need to fulfill a proposition and can only be intrinsic in this sense. All life has enough contributive possibility to have high amounts of value and so the term ‘intrinsic value’ may be used as an appropriate semantic term in this sense for it. Even if we have caught a murderer and are on the verge of ending their life in a struggle, we may opt to save their life and merely incarcerate them (if that’s possible) because the contributive possibility of their moral turn around and/or a lesson learned by others would have great value personally (to the merciful) and to society (and that is just one reason their life might be spared). Last, as Kagan noted, that there is sometimes conflict between prudential values and moral values does not commit the naturalist to the prudential values as being more reasonable.
DUTY/OBLIGATION: Objective moral duties come from the demands of the moral community in the world, but not just the present community, the historical community. These are further qualified by experts in the relevant fields throughout history, based upon the same kind of *objectively consistent evidence* that we find in science. What are demanded of us as the bare minimum per each imperative are objective facts of what has been determined to bolster well being beyond our opinions (e.g. from behind Rawls’ veil of ignorance).
SPECIESISM: To say that humans are necessarily morally on par with animals belies the necessary inclusion of our mental faculties that other animals do not possess, including the reflexive ability to empathize, the ability to apply verification heuristics, such as the tools of the scientific method: reason, consistency, testing, peer review, parsimony, etc. Reflexive empathetic awareness of the harm it causes other agents and ability to reason are why humans are culpable and animals are not. We have the ability to evaluate harm and compromise less harmful solutions with considerations for mutualism and temporality (i.e. some behavior may be more beneficial in the future). So when we appeal to veridical value propositions via our particular cognitive abilities, along with the tools of reason in an objective framework (and we do have empirically observed heuristics for mutual behavior expectations, such as Game Theory), give us not only the necessary foundational machinery for a moral system, but sufficient machinery; the parts are both necessary and sufficient for a functioning moral engine. Adding a god at this point is like putting an ornament on the hood. If other animals had all of our moral machinery, then yes, they would be part of the moral community too (but as has been shown scientifically, most animals do not have the overwhelming majority of the abilities, probably most importantly, the ability to put ourselves in another agent’s shoes [or paws! ?]). As Peter Singer has argued, some animals have more parts than others and should be recognized as such commensurately on a continuum (and some humans less than others, but there are many issues to consider here, such as whether they *had* the machinery or still have the *possibility to have it again* and more [a huge topic in itself]).
PHYSICALISM/DETERMINISM: Even the most hardened determinist will probably agree that all agents still *causally interact* with the world, so that even the most biased and determined agents will still have an experiential awareness with an agenda to ameliorate suffering it sees and experiences- to bolster its own well being and the well being of others. Because people can suffer and cause suffering, as well as receive and administer aid, a moral system is still relevant, *even with the complete absence of free will*. Because we interact causally, because the real driving force of duty is the prevention of suffering and the promotion of well being (and that this is confined ‘locally’ is enough; making it ‘macro’ doesn’t increase accountability), and because we are not omniscient, free will does not negate moral systems pragmatically. The significance of a causally interactive choice that makes it moral are based upon the actual harm/benefit in itself (e.g. pleasure, pain, gain, loss, etc), plus the *awareness* of it. This is similar to why Jeremy Bentham famously argued for vegetarianism on the grounds that it doesn’t matter whether animals can reason, but whether they can suffer, and whether we can observe our contribution to that suffering as morally wrong. Last, because all of these parameters of our causal agency are confined/defined by the limits of our causal extension (e.g. our body, our group), the legal accountability is applied commensurately pragmatically.
ACCOUNTABILITY IN GENERAL: Moral and immoral behavior*does* ultimately (locally) affect the world in both positive and negative ways that are tangible for most people. There is no eternal accountability to the dead stars (Craig says “for the good of universe”) that will exist after morally capable agents are gone (not to mention that is a complete assumption that nature won’t somehow continue to create moral agents); there is only accountability *between the moral agents* who are able to actually participate and are even required to exist *in order to have* that moral system. It seems to me that just adding more time before or after the fact is like adding more silence before or after a song track and actually does not contribute anything to the song itself.
In the Q&A, Kagan brought up the ‘deathbed confession’ argument in terms of the *cosmic significance* of accountability that Craig requires of naturalists. In the light of Christian theology: even if a person is acts in morally good ways (whether intentionally or by accident) she may still go to hell if she denies Christ at the end of her life (and as we saw with the thieves next to Jesus on the cross, the opposite is true). Therefore, there is no *real* (let alone ‘cosmic’) accountability and Christians who would exploit Jesus’ sacrifice are at least as morally bankrupt as a naturalist who would exploit nihilism. These are the kinds of things that get belied by theists who think that when Craig does well in a debate that focuses on generic or philosophically perfect abstract propositions (e.g. PBT), he is actually winning for Christian theology.
ODDS ‘N SODS: Moral education reinforced by a moral community enhances the recognition and enjoyment of the positive ways we can increase mutual pleasure (for example, knowing that we have ‘tit for tat’ heuristics that compel others to perpetuate our altruism for up to ‘3 degrees of separation’ is inspirational http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2010/03/altruism-has-3-degrees-of-separation.html). That some may get away with immoral behavior or be demoralized by the absence of the grounding of macro-morality in some divine sense is, at best, a prudential argument for morality, not an ontological one, and is really just a fallacy of (desired) consequence for the theist.
My favorite most useful quote from Kagan: “If the question is what’s the explanation of the fact that so many societies have had so many morally appalling moral codes, the answer in part, is it takes a while for civilization to work its way up to recognize moral truth, just as it takes a while for civilization to work its way up to recognize truths in any other domain.”
Anyway, thanks for the link Lee,
This is a great discussion, and I’d like to add my thoughts to it.
Sam could have added a rebuttal to the ontological argument (St. Anslem) for the existence of God that appeared to underly his opponent’s discussion. Kant rejected it because it assumed an unproven bridge between a conceptual world and the real world. While there is no great consensus on this point, it seems to me to be sufficient to call this ontological argument into question.
Plus, there is another rebuttal to Wm. Craig’s assertion that people are attracted to Christianity not because they fear Hell but because of God’s love. If that were so, what the hell does “being saved” mean? Saved from Hell, to be sure. “Are you saved?” is the primary question strangers ask each other if they want to determine if they are also evangelical Christians.
Sam’s presentation was, as usual, brilliant, and we’re indebted to him for it.
I ran out of energy with that Everist fellow. He’s very nice, and I felt myself getting frustrated with the way he *oops* misunderstood my points. I wrote out a few responses, but couldn’t settle on a congenial tone, so decided to let that fox run free, as the saying goes.
Craig’s “false reductionism”, as you saw in this debate and the one with Kagan, was called out in both circumstances. It remains a straw man derived from assuming premises of his own worldview in evaluating his opponent’s conclusions. He conflates values and duties when rebutting Harris(his “knockdown argument”), but gets his panties in a tangle when Harris *apparently* does the same (which I don’t think he does). Eurythypro’s Dilemma remains an issue and I don’t buy Anselm’s attempts to ‘hide the ball’ with The Good in his ontological reconstitution of the argument. Kagan’s concession at the end of that debate, that if you’re looking for morality based upon cosmic significance you won’t find it in atheism, is a damn good one, and doesn’t make atheistic, or naturalistic, morality any less objective for the lack. That’s probably the hardest point to drive home to theists, and may very well be why most theologians accept a priori that this cosmic significance be the clincher for a moral code.
Sam’s view of morality takes it’s cues from J.L. Mackie when he argues (imo rightly) that value is a human and a social construct(requiring consciousness); for value to exist there must be something that values. In this way, to make ‘god’ the ‘something that values’, the issue of god’s existence, and precisely what ‘god’ values becomes immediately relevant. This also ties into Kant’s view that making ‘god’ the thing that values, and human beings mere followers of the law, devalues and corrupts morality(i.e. not doing good for the sake of being good, but to garner reward and avoid punishment). I also liked how Harris phrases the argument that our subjective experience is an objective fact, and these facts can be studied at the level of the brain (as a function of natural processes). This, to me, takes the necessary step from relativistic morality to objective morality. I haven’t heard Dr. Harris give a cogent explanation of his particular brand of determinism, but if it’s anything like Prof. Dennett’s lecture on the implications of determinism on free will (not necessarily compatible-ism), I think Craig again creates an argument out of a misunderstanding.
All in all, most of what I have written here and on Everist’s blog was shamefully unphilosophical in it’s grammar. I’m still working my way through Hitchen’s anthology The Portable Atheist, next up is Harris’ newest book. It’s been amazing cooperating with you on this debate at the very same time that I reach J.L. Mackie, Chapman Cohen, and Bertrand Russell, so thank you, and thank providence.
Arnie: I agree that would have been something worth discussing, but Harris set out with a plan in mind and stuck to it, instead of chasing Craig down every blind alley he whipped up. A detailed response to Anselm would have taken all of Sam’s time, plus some, as it’s easier to put voice to a lie than it is to put a lie to bed. I firmly believe his attacks on the question-begging nature of Craig’s Perfect Being Theology as it (doesn’t) relates to any theology out there, esp. christianity, was far more important than any theists are willing to admit.
“Sam’s presentation was, as usual, brilliant, and we’re indebted to him for it.”
It was, and truly, we are. It’s about time someone told Craig to shove it with his little sand-box style debate tactics and argued the topic. Kagan did it, Tabash started out doing it, Hitchens finished doing it, and I think Ahmed could, if they ever debated, but Harris really set a standard.
@relevance. Thanks for your contribution. I would think you first challenge would be relevant enough and as I’ve said on many sites discussing this debate and now I think Sam Has said it as well, the direction of the debate was not in stone as Craig and Randy and even some atheists are saying (e.g. Luke @ commonsenseatheism). That’s too bad. OF COURSE they could have found an acceptable way to bring in the epistemological questions; we’re talking about “goodness,” and if Craig can qualify it in his criticism of Sam’s poor semantic use of it (as if Sam didn’t know the difference), he’s obviously shown one needs access to the evidence. Everybody criticizing the debate is whining that Sam didn’t spell it all out strategically though, “I’m rebutting/refuting point such and such….’, that is to saying why he ignored Craig’s limiting to the ontological. And what’s important, since this is all DCT, is the difference between ‘grounding’ because of the objective world it creates (and the moral necessity created by it) vs. ‘grounding’ because of the commands. If he chose the first it would be in accord with how secular moral realists (like Kagan) proposed objective moral reality, and we would certainly be-certainly SHOULD be able to TEST this goodness empirically by comparing the gods of the world for coherence. Randy (and presumably Craig, but maybe not) says he grounds it in the latter: the command, but my point of contention in the last 3 page rebuttal (which he still has not posted and replied to, perhaps because I wrote that it was my last attempt there and it is pretty long, so he doesn’t see why he should respond), is that *unless it is grounded primarily in the first way, the way by command is merely authoritarian*. Appeal to Authority (just as a slave or a dog are not necessarily more or less moral by obeying their masters, there has to be reasons for why they would be more moral).
As for you second response, Craig would say he wasn’t talking about strictly the Christian god. Again, I wish it was highlighted that he didn’t represent ANY god in ANY theology on the planet. That might be my main criticism of Harris in this debate. On the topic at hand, I much preferred the Kagan debate for its utility. There, Craig complained as we thought he would about the difference between prescription and description, but all one need show is that humans have needs as they live- we are compelled to act by default, so the urgency is already latent in the need for resolution of what is produced when people interact. So once you have a need, all you need from there is a correct (the most accommodating) answer. If, as Craig would contend, the answer only appeals to the selfishness of the one, then it quite simply isn’t the best or mosaccommodatingng answer and will have commensurate consequences. It’s fairly simple actually, once you get past the fake requirements of theists. As Kagan put it (paraphrased) ‘if you’re going to ask ‘where’s the cosmic significance?’- it’s because you desire and/or are presuming you need cosmic significance.’ But the moral machinery is already there and it IS sufficient. Cosmic significance is superfluous when the urgency and the objective framework are already there. Theists sure do have a lot of presumptions about necessity and just like first cause arguments, live at the edge of knowledge, but they are certainly not anything more than assertions (as Kagan showed, the necessity could be in different places- I would probably say that it exists when two or more people interact. Period.)
@Lee. Me too, though it’s been like a week since my final response and it’s not there yet. You’re absolutely right that “That’s probably the hardest point to drive home to theists, and may very well be why most theologians accept a priori that this cosmic significance be the clincher for a moral code.” As I wrote above, I’m going to try to focus on the fact that unless theists admit the grounding is in the effect of the way the world is changed by god’s goodness objectively (ontologically), the command element is bankrupt.
“to make ‘god’ the ‘something that values’, the issue of god’s existence, and precisely what ‘god’ values becomes immediately relevant. This also ties into Kant’s view that making ‘god’ the thing that values, and human beings mere followers of the law, devalues and corrupts morality(i.e. not doing good for the sake of being good, but to garner reward and avoid punishment)” Both excellent points and yet another example for the introduction of the epistemological question regarding the coherence of god’s goodness by example.
Yeah, I learned a lot from this debate and our discussions too. Thanks for the great conversation. My stack of books is difficult to even look at (in fact it’s been broken up into smaller stacks!). I’m currently writing a paper on the implication of predisposition and strong determinism, formatted as a list of scientific evidence for both (e.g. cognitive biases, the Libet study, genetic evidence, etc.), so I’m focusing on that for a few months (the Blank Slate, The Empathy Gap, and The Illusion of Conscious Will are on deck for that after I finish Thomas Pink’s grueling defense of libertarian FW- UGh), but back to counter-apologetics, I have the Improbability of God coming up and well as Price’s Jesus is Dead and Mackie’s classic as well.