Merry Christmas, God Is Still a Delusion

William Lane Craig once again advertised he’s past it last week when he published on the Fox News website A Christmas Gift for Atheists — Five Reasons Why God Exists, demonstrating that he hasn’t upped his game since, well, ever. He is still repeating the same illogical, refuted, lousy arguments. And somehow still thinking atheists are going to fall for it. Other bloggers here have taken it apart in their own way (e.g. PZ and Avicenna). But I’m struck with real sadness that there are still people as smart as Craig who are still convincing themselves with this delusional nonsense. It’s so astonishingly dishonest and irrational. Let me inoculate you.

Let’s Get the Basics Right, Please

First, Craig acts like he doesn’t know (?) that many atheists actually celebrate Christmas. It is not for them “a religious sham,” as Craig claims, but a fun secular holiday entirely based on dead pagan religions. There are no Christmas trees, or day of gift-giving, or flying reindeer porting elves named Santa Clause, or mistletoe, or commands to go caroling, or to gather family on the 25th of December, anywhere in the Bible; in fact, the Bible doesn’t even say Jesus was born in Winter (and indeed Luke’s narrative renders that impossible), whereas the 25th of December was chosen to perpetuate pagan worship of the return of the sun from its wane. In short, there is literally nothing Christian about Christmas. Atheists figured this out decades ago. We’ve been celebrating it as a secular family holiday based on cheer and giving–for quite some time now.

Second, it is either dishonest or outright silly to say “most atheists, in my experience, have no good reasons for their disbelief,” and that all we do (really, he says, all we do) is simply repeat the slogan, “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence!” Hmm. I’m pretty sure the top three reasons atheists are atheists are (1) the world is awash with evil and injustice (natural and human) and there is no superbeing doing a thing about it, (2) the only books claiming to be endorsed by a god are awash with ridiculous ignorance, contradictions, and vile teachings, and (3) if a god existed and cared that we knew it, he would tell us, personally (and, being the only actual god, consistently). I would add (4) the universe is very badly designed for life and thus cannot have been designed for it and then (5) there is insufficient evidence to reach any other conclusion. I’ve summarized the case in Why I Am Not a Christian, in just ninety pages. In his latest attempt to persuade us, Craig offers not a single rebuttal to any point there made. He acts as if none of them ever had been. Yet they are the mainstay of atheist reasoning, not the repeating of the slogan “no good evidence!”

Third, technically, Craig could claim that (1)-(4) might reduce to claiming there is no good evidence–given that they are claims that the evidence we do have entails a vanishingly low probability of any god existing, yet some sort of other hidden evidence could presumably reverse that conclusion. But that is a crucial distinction. Craig goes on to list five things he claims are more likely if a god exists than if one doesn’t (though he makes no attempt to determine how much more likely), things supposedly atheists don’t know about (the “good evidence” they say there isn’t), and therefore those five things “up” the probability that a god exists. But none of those five things respond to the evidence to the contrary, summarized in (1)-(4). He is thus willfully ignoring the evidence atheists actually point to, and then, having pretended none of that evidence exists and we never called any attention to it (!), he offers some other completely different evidence. But even if that evidence were more likely if a god existed, the unlikelihood of (1)-(4) if a god exists could be far greater, leading to a net conclusion that god probably does not exist. Even granting everything Craig says.

Thus, for Craig to ignore what atheists actually say, and pretend we don’t say it, suggests to me that maybe he isn’t really writing this article for atheists, but trying to convince fellow believers not to actually go looking to see what we atheists actually say. Because, like most duped Fox audience members, they will assume surely a Fox News editorial would not lie or conceal facts, but would surely mention the actual reasons atheists are atheists and thus show why atheists (actual atheists) are wrong. Surely it would not try to snow them by leaving out pretty much all the key facts. Yet Craig plays right along with standard Fox News tactics and does exactly that.

It is things like this that convince me Craig is actually a liar. He knows his article is a scam, and misleads any Christian who reads it. He knows it won’t convince any atheist. Because he knows what atheists actually argue, not just about (1)-(4), but about his own five claims. But he doesn’t tell Fox News readers a single thing about any of that. He conceals that knowledge from them.

And that’s dishonest.

e1: Origin of the Universe

Craig’s first item of “evidence” is the claim that the universe began. By which he actually means, space-time began–since the beginning of the solar system no more required a divine engineer than the beginning of the known cosmos: both could well just be naturally inevitable events in a long string of other events. Hence he calls this evidence “an absolute beginning,” to make clear what he means. But this isn’t evidence. It’s a theory. No cosmological scientist says it is an established fact, or even known, that the universe had “an absolute beginning.” So already Craig is trying to sneak in his own nonscientific, creationist “theory” and claiming it’s a fact requiring explanation. That’s dishonest.

He also claims “the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause,” but there is no logical or factual basis for that generalization. As causes only exist in time, time itself cannot even in principle have a cause. Thus his claim that time itself must be like “everything else” in time is simply absurdist pseudophilosophy. I won’t even bother with the vague handwaving about such a cause (if there even was one) having to be either “transcendent” (whatever that means) or “enormously powerful” (measured how?), or his unstated assumption that that transcendent cause must be a thinking, intelligent spirit-mind with super powers. He establishes none of these things. Nor even explains why he concludes any of them follow.

There isn’t any valid and sound argument to any of these conclusions (and Craig has never produced one–he always handwaves at some key point in every case he has made in all his literature on this for decades now): we do not know that time itself ever began; we do not know that, if it had a beginning, it had to have been caused; and we do not know, if it had a cause, that that cause had to be a mind (or even that it could possibly have been a mind, or that it can’t have been an inevitable outcome of absolute nothingness, and thus had to be neither transcendent nor powerful). There is no scientific evidence supporting any of these assumptions of his, nor any logical proofs of them being necessarily (or even probably) true.

That’s what atheists mean when they say there is “no good evidence.” It’s not a mantra. It’s an accurate description of Craig’s own argument.

Sure, Craig likes to pretend he has scientific evidence and logical arguments, but he doesn’t: on his lying about the facts, see Essential Viewing on Godless Cosmology; on his lying about the logic, see my discussion of what actual mathematicians actually say about infinite series (summarized, with citations, in my Reply to Wanchick and my subsequent Conclusion).

So already, e1, Craig’s first item of evidence, isn’t even evidence (but a conjecture), and even if granted, is not “more likely” if a god existed. In fact, a god could just as well have regarded creating any imperfect world an imperfection of himself and thus a perfect god would actually probably, indeed almost certainly, never create any world. Whereas we can posit any number of far simpler things that would have a high or even nearly certain probability of producing an energetic space-time. God being a super-powerful all-knowing perfect intelligence is in fact an entity with maximal specified complexity–he’s the most complex mind conceivable, and thus among the most complex causes conceivable. Whereas with extremely simple entities (like a minimally-propertied quantum vacuum) we can fully explain an energetic time-space beginning. There are certainly more possibilities like that than we even know. (See 20 Questions.)

So there is no way to get God to be more probable here, and e1 is not more probable with God anyway–in fact, it’s arguably less so–so there is no argument here for a god at all.

And this isn’t new. Craig has been told these things. Again. And again. And again. Does he revise his arguments? No. He just repeats the same old arguments and pretends they’ve never been refuted. He even conceals those refutations (concealing even the fact that they exist) from his readers at Fox News. That is not the behavior of an honest man.

e2: Fine Tuning

Craig’s second item of “evidence” is the claim that the universe has been “finely tuned” to produce life. Which is again not a fact, but a theory. He observes a fact (life is possible in this universe, but not possible in some other imaginable universes) and then merely theorizes that this means the properties of the universe have been “tuned” for such a purpose. In particular he claims “the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range,” but that claim has been refuted–by scientists–again and again.

We actually do not know that there is only a narrow life-permitting range of possible configurations of the universe. As has been pointed out to Craig by several theoretical physicists (from Krauss to Stenger), he can only get his “narrow range” by varying one single constant and holding all the others fixed, which is simply not how a universe would be randomly selected. When you allow all the constants to vary freely, the number of configurations that are life permitting actually ends up respectably high (between 1 in 8 and 1 in 4: see Victor Stenger’s The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning).

And even those models are artificially limiting the constants that vary to the constants in our universe, when in fact there can be any number of other constants and variables, which renders it completely impossible for any mortal to calculate the probability of a life-bearing universe from any randomly produced universe. As any honest cosmologist will tell you. (As well as honest Christians: see Timothy McGrew, Lydia McGrew, and Eric Vestrup, “Probabilities and the Fine-Tuning Argument: A Sceptical View,” in Mind 110.440 [October 2001]: 1027-37.) Yet, all the scientific models we have (which follow from what we do know, and allow all constants to vary freely) show life-bearing universes to be a common result of random universe variation, not a rare one.

We also do not know this is the only universe. There may have been innumerable universes formed and collapsed before transforming into ours, or there may be innumerable universes co-existing with or extending from ours, or both. And we needn’t merely conjecture their innumerability: leading cosmological theories already entail, even from a single simple beginning, the formation of innumerable differently-configured regions of the universe. This is the inevitable consequence of Chaotic Inflation Theory, for example, the most popular going theory in cosmological physics today. But will Craig tell his readers that? No.

In fact, even without presuming Chaotic Inflation, an endless series of universes is already entailed by present science. Most configurations of constants produce either a collapsing universe (which re-explodes, by crunch or bounce, rolling the dice all over again, so those configurations must be excluded from any randomization ratio) or a universe that accelerates its expansion until it rips apart (as its energy density approaches infinity, which results in another Big Bang, rolling the dice all over again, so those configurations must also be excluded from any randomization ratio) or a universe in between (most of which are life friendly). But even universes in between, if all universes are governed by quantum mechanics, then a Big Bang always has a very small but nonzero probability of occurring. Yet all nonzero probabilities approach 100% as time increases. So even a universe that just coasts along or reaches a future heat death will inevitably end in another Big Bang (after many billions of trillions of years).

That means every possible configuration of constants–every single possible configuration–ends in a reset, a new Big Bang, which re-randomizes those constants. This means, if quantum mechanics is true in all universes and all Big Bangs randomize constants, then our universe has a probability of existing of 100%. It is that certain even if time had a beginning and is not past-eternal. Then our universe will arise a very long time after the first moment of time, having undergone countless transformations (past Big Bangs). But that means we should assume that’s what happened, since it’s 100% exactly what would happen if all that were true is that quantum mechanics governs all universes (which we have no reason presently to doubt) and the constants of a universe are selected at random in any Big Bang (which Craig must suppose, in order to claim they would only arise at random in the absence of a god). And that’s a much simpler explanation than “a super-amazing spirit-mind did it.”

Indeed, it’s worse than that, since not only does science not have his back, but logic deserts him as well. For we can logically deduce the existence of innumerable universes from positing the single simplest entity imaginable at the beginning of it all: a lawless singular point of space-time with no properties other than the absence of all logically impossible states (which, being logically impossible, one should already assume are absent). And since innumerable universes will explain any apparent fine tuning to a virtual 100% probability, apparent fine-tuning cannot be evidence for a god–since to be so, that tuning would have to be more probable if god existed than if the proposed singularity did, but nothing can be more probable than 100%.

But there is an even worse problem than that. Like he does in general, Craig here engages in selection bias, by only choosing the evidence he thinks supports him, and ignoring all the evidence that refutes any claim of intelligent fine tuning. I’ll just quote myself:

This universe is 99.99999 percent composed of lethal radiation-filled vacuum, and 99.99999 percent of all the material in the universe comprises stars and black holes on which nothing can ever live, and 99.99999 percent of all other material in the universe (all planets, moons, clouds, asteroids) is barren of life or even outright inhospitable to life. In other words, the universe we observe is extraordinarily inhospitable to life. Even what tiny inconsequential bits of it are at all hospitable are extremely inefficient at producing life—at all, but far more so intelligent life ….

One way or another, a universe perfectly designed for life would easily, readily, and abundantly produce and sustain life. Most of the contents of that universe would be conducive to life or benefit life. Yet that’s not what we see. Instead, almost the entire universe is lethal to life—in fact, if we put all the lethal vacuum of outer space swamped with deadly radiation into an area the size of a house, you would never find the comparably microscopic speck of area that sustains life (it would literally be smaller than a single proton). It’s exceedingly difficult to imagine a universe less conducive to life than that—indeed, that’s about as close to being completely incapable of producing life as any random universe can be expected to be, other than of course being completely incapable of producing life. (TEC, pp. 295-96)

[And yet...]

That is exactly what we would have to see if life arose by accident. Because life can arise by accident only in a universe that large and old. The fact that we observe exactly what the theory of accidental origin requires and predicts is evidence that our theory is correct. (TEC, p. 290)

-:-

Because without a God, life can only exist by chemical accident, such a chemical accident will be exceedingly rare, and exceedingly rare things only commonly happen in vast universes where countless tries are made over vast spans of time. Likewise, a universe not designed for us will not look well suited to us but be almost entirely unsuited to us and we will survive only in a few tiny chance pockets of survivable space in it. Atheism thus predicts, with near 100% certainly, several bizarre features of the universe (it’s vast size and age and lethality to life), whereas we cannot deduce any of those features from any non-gerrymandered God hypothesis (while gerrymandered hypotheses all grossly violate Occam’s Razor). [20 Questions]

In short, if atheism is true, we will only ever find ourselves in universes like ours (extremely old and large, extremely hostile to life, but at least barely capable of producing it somewhere at some point eventually), so the universe we observe (including all its apparent fine tuning) has a probability of 100% if there is no god. Whereas if a god created this universe for life, it would far more likely lack these features (it would not need to be extremely old and large, or extremely hostile to life), so the probability of observing the universe we do if god created it is actually very much less than 100%. Our universe is therefore more likely if God does not exist.

So Craig’s claim here is hosed left to right. There is no evidence the universe has to have been “finely tuned” (or was tuned at all), nor any evidence this is or has been the only universe (in fact logic and science sooner argue for there having been countless universes), and yet there is vast amounts of evidence that this universe is very badly designed for life, and in fact only barely hospitable to it and almost never produces it anywhere. See my 20 Questions article (on both fine tuning and bad tuning), but for even more in depth examples, and formalizations of the argument, see my Opening Statement and its Defense in the Carrier-Wanchick debate, and of course my Bayesian demonstration of it in chapter 12 of The End of Christianity. (“Neither Life Nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed”).

To any reasonable person, the case is closed. Yet Craig pretends none of these facts exist, that none of these refutations have been published, and just keeps repeating, unchanged, the same refuted claims, over and over again. And conceals what he is doing from his readers.

e3: Morality

Craig’s third item of “evidence” is the claim that morality wouldn’t exist unless there was a god. This is silly, of course. If humans didn’t create morality, they would have remained savages, and civilization would never have come into existence. Morality is what is mechanically necessary for any social system to sustain itself as a civilization (with all its science, technology, and legal and political and educational systems). Thus, we did not need a god to give morality to us. Like science and technology and legal and political and educational systems, we invented morality because we needed it to accomplish our goals (creating a cooperative society), and without it our society would revert to savagery, and we would no longer have all the things we cherish and need to ensure our survival and happiness.

Just as God did not have to exist for us to invent democracy–or for democracy to be a better way to organize a state–so God does not have to exist for us to invent morality–or for morality to be a better way for us to live. In fact, that simply is what morality is: the best way for us to live, given the physical and biological facts we have been saddled with (such as fragile bodies with persistent needs, in an environment of limited resources of difficult access and constant dangers). In any possible universe in which intelligent life is possible, there will always be some set of behaviors (some set of values and behavioral rules) that is best for that intelligent life to adopt–such that, by adopting it, that life will more easily and reliably sustain its happiness and survival. Therefore, morality will exist in every possible universe in which intelligent life is possible.

Therefore, the existence of morality affords no evidence whatever that a god exists.

That is what atheists mean by “there’s no good evidence.”

But again, it’s even worse. For if morality came from a god, that god would have to believe in adhering to it, which would entail his constantly fulfilling his moral duty to right wrongs and help the helpless. Our world would thus be far better governed, and far more compassionately, by the wisest of judges whom no criminal could escape, and the kindest of stewards who would not allow anything like earthquakes or floods or crippling or lethal diseases. That no such steward exists is proved by the fact that they aren’t stewarding. Thus we can be reasonably certain God, if he exists, is not moral, and thus we can be certain morality does not come from Him (since it clearly can’t come from a being who heeds no morality).

In other words, on the matter of e3 (the existence of morality in the world) the state of affairs is actually vastly improbable if God were its cause–since if God caused morality, he would be morally acting in our world in ways confirming his belief in being honest and compassionate and an advocate for justice and a defender of the victimized and disadvantaged. But God does not. Whereas if humans created morality, then what we would observe is exactly 100% what we do observe: that the only intelligent moral agents acting on earth are humans. Thus, yet again, e3 strongly corroborates atheism, not theism.

That morality is a technology (a technology of social cooperation for life-betterment) also entails it not only exists, but that it is objectively true and empirically discoverable in the same way medicine, engineering, and agriculture are. And just like them, no god is needed to explain why that is, or what it’s content is. My formal demonstration of this is in chapter 14 of The End of Christianity (“Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)”); my less formal but more elaborate explanation and exploration of the fact is in Sense and Goodness without God; and a brief overview can be gleaned from 20 Questions (where we find the same question essentially repeated to pad the list, but where I say additional things for each one: see Q12, Q13, Q14, Q15, and Q16).

Craig simply has no response to this. He just keeps pretending it has never been said, never demonstrated, and never told to him. Again and again. And conceals this fact from his readers.

e4: Jesus

Craig’s fourth item of “evidence” is the claim that “historians have reached something of consensus” (no, they really haven’t: see chapter 1 of Proving History) “that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) “and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact.”

Evidence of what fact? The fact, evidently, that God could not cure malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, or cholera, the leading killers of millions in Palestine when Jesus was supposedly there, and that Jesus performed instead just a few exorcisms and faith-healing acts on a small number of people with no verifiable biological symptoms (things like blindness and paralysis and demonic possession, which can easily be psychosomatic: see From Paralysis to Fatigue), while he assiduously avoided ever even so much as encountering, and certainly doing anything about, the millions perishing all around him from real diseases with prominent physical symptoms. That’s hardly a godlike kingdom breaking into the world. That’s just another Benny Hinn.

Jesus, we’re told, was also ignorant of basic facts of the world (despite it supposedly being his own or his father’s creation), like that washing your hands before eating or preparing food is a good practice and to be recommended, as it would save millions of lives. Instead, Jesus condemned the practice as a baseless human tradition, and evidently advised his followers to stop doing it (Mark 7:1-8). Apparently, no one told Jesus about germs. Jesus likewise predicted he would return from heaven within the lifetime of those present, yet didn’t. It’s been nearly two thousand years, still waiting. That’s a failed promise or prediction. (See “At Best Jesus Was a Failed Apocalyptic Prophet” by John Loftus in The Christian Delusion.) That does not look very probable if Jesus was, or was endorsed by, God. It rather looks exactly like what we’d expect if he wasn’t.

Indeed, all this is pretty well conclusive proof that Jesus was not a god and had no divine backing. Because he couldn’t do anything more than Benny Hinn, a con man. There are many other examples of how the historical evidence proves Jesus (if we assume he existed) was just an ordinary guy who had no special powers or knowledge and neither he nor his followers were capable of any special abilities. I survey a lot of this evidence (which is abundant) in chapter two of The End of Christianity (“Christianity’s Success Was Not Incredible”).

Craig won’t tell Fox News readers about any of that, or any of the facts (and corrections to his own claims) that I just related above.

Of course Craig then goes on to insist the evidence proves Jesus was raised from the dead. But again, only by lying.

For example, he claims “most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty” (this is actually not true: there is no evidence “most historical scholars” agree with that) and that “various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death” (actually, “most scholars” agree various people believed they saw a supernaturally risen Jesus, not that they actually saw Jesus alive again), and that “the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary” (although, again, there is no evidence “most scholars” agree that they had “every predisposition to the contrary”).

Craig says he “can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.” Because, apparently, when primitive religious fanatics from an ignorant era two thousand years ago, whose testimonies we don’t even have, are said to have claimed that a celestial being spoke to them, the only explanation any reasonable person can think of is that, by gum, a celestial being actually spoke to them. Honesty. Does Craig really believe anyone thinks that’s a convincing argument? After decades of his debating this and attempting to evangelize unbelievers? After all that, he still thinks it’s a good argument? Can he honestly believe that’s even a rational way for anyone to think? That the only good explanation is that celestial beings talk to people…but somehow, none of the other thousands of “celestial beings talk to me” claims throughout history are true, yet amazingly, against all natural odds, this one claim is true?

That’s ridiculous. And I cannot believe Craig is still making this argument with a straight face. I am saddened that anyone is making such an argument…all the more that anyone buys it. In reality, there are plenty of better explanations of these facts, as I have summarized in chapter 11 of The Christian Delusion (“Why the Resurrection Is Unbelievable”) and explored in greater detail in three chapters in The Empty Tomb. I will discuss the most important aspect of this (ancient claims of communications with celestial beings and their actual scientific and anthropological and socio-political causes) with considerable citation of the backing science and scholarship in my forthcoming book On the Historicity of Jesus.

Which relates to Craig’s last item of “evidence”…

e5: God Talks to Me…But Not to You, So Shut Up and Believe Me Already!

Craig’s fifth and last item of “evidence” is the claim that God (we’re to assume) talks to Christians…but (we’re to assume) all the people of all the other religions throughout history (paganism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism) who claim God is speaking to them are wrong–yet when Craig says God speaks to him, he alone is right. Because reasons.

Craig says, “down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives,” but that is a classic example of his deceitfully misleading method of argument, selectively omitting all the evidence against him, and smoothing over all the serious problems even with the evidence he is singling out (see the first four chapters of The Christian Delusion, as well as the seventh, and eighth). Because an honest statement would be, “Down through history many people have found a thousand different god-beliefs, from paganism to Hinduism to Islam to Mormonism to Kao Dai, and even atheistic philosophical worldviews, from Humanism to Taoism to Marxism, that have transformed their lives, and this was even happening for tens of thousands of years before anyone had ever heard from any god claiming to be Jesus.”

When we thus look at the evidence without Craig’s deceitful omissions, we can clearly see that he doesn’t have any argument here at all. That people think a celestial being speaks to them (in any fashion), or that a personal philosophy has transformed them, clearly has zero evidential value for deciding it’s true. Otherwise, all religions and transformative philosophies are true, which is logically impossible. And since the logically impossible cannot be true, only one possibility remains: people can convince themselves of anything, and are especially prone to mistakenly thinking a substantial change in the way they see the world is evidence that it’s true. But clearly, it’s not. If their transformative power cannot argue that atheistic Marxism or pagan Hinduism are true, then its transformative power cannot argue that Christianity is true.

The more so when we notice that Christianity consists of hundreds of contradictory sects (e.g. Quakerism is radically different from Evangelicalism, and both are radically different from Catholicism, and all are radically different from Mormonism), so the fact that they all have the same transformative power proves that “transformative power” has no evidentiary value. It proves nothing. It leads people more often to false religions, than it does to true ones. Let me repeat that in case you missed the significance of what I just said: Craig’s “evidence” in this case, the transformative power of strongly convinced beliefs, more often leads to false religions than true ones. It is therefore the worst kind of evidence you can ever cite. For anything.

This is thoroughly demonstrated (and its significance thoroughly drawn out) in John Loftus’s book The Outsider Test for Faith. But the basic point is simple: if there are at least a thousand false but transformative religions (as Craig must believe, since he deems all non-Christian-Evangelical religions to be false), and only one true one (as in fact there can only be one truth), then a religion being transformative virtually guarantees that it is false–in fact the probability that it will be false is, by Laplace’s Rule, 99.7%. In other words, almost 100%.

Craig certainly will never tell Fox News readers that.

Conclusion

The good thing is that Evangelical Christians tend to be very passionate people and want to believe in something. If they would only put aside the lies, omissions, and distortions promulgated by their own well-paid con-men for a moment and reexamine their worldview in light of what the actual philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence is today, then they, too, would find Christmas worth celebrating…as what it actually is: a once pagan and now secular holiday invented by human beings for their own enjoyment and good. Then they can maybe go one step further and exit their dangerous delusion, and stop hating people and voting to take away their rights or to perpetuate injustices against the disadvantaged, and instead start actually caring about their fellow human beings, and the truth, for a change. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful Christmas present for us all?

-:-

Special Note: I will be away from my blog for over a week to celebrate Christmas and spend time with my wife, Jen, and friends. Expect extra-long delays in clearing the moderation queue; and I might have nothing to post next week. Have a happy holiday!

Comments

  1. Félix Desrochers-Guérin says

    So even a universe that just coasts along or reaches a future heat death will inevitably end in another Big Bang (after many billions of trillions of years).

    I just wanted to point out that given the numbers mentioned in that link, “many billions of trillions of years” is an incredibly fucking huge understatement. Even replacing the implied multiplication in “billions of trillions” by an exponentiation doesn’t get you anywhere near 10^(10^56), let alone the other two even more ludicrously huge numbers.

  2. Burp Gnu says

    A step-by-step breakdown of Craig’s argument is like a step-by-step breakdown of a comic book story line. “Superman couldn’t make time go backward by flying around the earth faster than the speed of light! That makes no sense!”

    Of course WLC’s arguments are specious. But people who want to be convinced by them enjoy them, and those people will never, ever come here to puzzle through your analysis, and go “I never thought of it like that! Maybe I’m not so convinced after all.”

    He is preaching to the choir, but so are you. Which means you have to do something more than say “William Lane Craig is a moron!” Of course he’s a moron. Nobody reading your blog needs to be convinced of that. He’s not even a very clever moron. His arguments can’t sustain this sort of rebuttal – they simply aren’t interesting or subtle enough.

    To say something interesting about William Lane Craig or his polemical vaudeville act, you need to hop up one level of generalization, and find something interesting to think about regarding why he makes the arguments that he does, why people who enjoy them find them satisfying, and why this whole mode of argument is fatuous.

    • says

      Superman comics. Lovely analogy. I kind of have to agree. ;-)

      Except I know your “never, ever” claim is false. I have personally met too many people who actually did what you claim no one would ever do. Clearly exposing his bullshit works. It might not work on everyone, but it continually culls a percentage. And in my experience, it culls a higher percentage than he does from atheists (i.e. articles like mine disabuse more people of Craig’s bullshit, than Craig’s bullshit converts atheists to Christianity). And if you know anything about the mathematics of compound interest, you will understand why this guarantees we will win, and Craig will end in the dustbin of history. The only question is how long it will take. It may be longer than you want. But the end result is the same.

      Meanwhile, the “why” questions can’t be answered without actual scientific study of him and his fans. Which they would not submit to. Speculation beyond that is largely idle.

    • says

      Oh, Richard, I’d love to see statistics on that (your disabusing vs. Craig’s converting). I know…most likely they don’t exist. It’s just one of those curiosities, you know? I started reading Craig’s “On Guard” last week (it’s been very, very painful to read) and it made me wonder how many atheists do actually end up being convinced by that crap. I ask largely because what bothers me most about Craig is the assertions he makes that he doesn’t back up (probably even more so than the straw person arguments of atheists). So, when I see you or him making claims about the effectiveness of your arguments, I have to think, “Evidence?”

      If nothing else, I can feel better as polls come out showing the number of nonbelievers increasing. So, I would hope that means we’re doing something right (while recognizing that correlation does not imply causation).

    • says

      your disabusing vs. Craig’s converting

      Look at all the public data there is: Evangelicals are shrinking, atheists are increasing.

      Craig is losing.

      The internet is the most likely causal factor identified so far. Why would the internet be having that effect?

      Evidence.

      Arguments like Craig’s can no longer hide from being exposed. The truth can no longer be concealed.

    • kev says

      I have a few friends who love Dr. Craig and they always ask me to watch his debates. When I start arguing specifics using the outline in Dr. Carrier’s books they usually just ask me to read Craig’s books. I’ve read Reasonable Faith but they refuse to read Dr. Carrier’s book. I think they often bring up his arguments and retreat because deep down they are afraid of the sorts of arguments Dr. Carrier uses. I’m going to start gently bringing up arguments of my own and see how it goes. I think there is a chance that they will change.

    • Howard Bannister says

      and those people will never, ever come here to puzzle through your analysis, and go “I never thought of it like that! Maybe I’m not so convinced after all.”

      Fun story! That is almost exactly how I was de-converted.

      Hmmm.

    • Mikael Smith says

      I have personally posted many of Richard’s posts to Christian friends, that has made somekind of argument that Richard has debunked.

    • wakarimasen says

      Kev,

      You said, “I’m going to start gently bringing up arguments of my own and see how it goes.” Raising arguments is more likely to make people defensive and find more reasons (e.g., Craig’s sermons and books) to confirm their delusional beliefs.

      A more effective approach is to ask them how a person could know that their particular holy book (or religious experience) is true when millions (if not billions) of other people around the world firmly believe a different holy book (or religious experience) is true. They will likely say that they just know their own belief is true. Then you might ask them why they think different people have different beliefs/experiences that they are sure are true, the idea being to respectfully lead them to being open to the idea that they themselves could be mistaken.

      BTW, this is the approach Peter Boghossian recommends in his book “A Manual for Creating Atheists.”

    • says

      There is a lot more in Boghossian’s book on the matter of one-on-one deconversion strategies that’s worthwhile (his book is not applicable to mass media strategies, though, or to strategies with other objectives like inoculation or commiseration rather than deconversion), but the premiere book for making and defending the argument and approach you just described is John Lofts, The Outsider Test for Faith (whose title is actually the name of the very argument you just described). Just FYI.

  3. Azuma Hazuki says

    I hate this son of a bitch, and now, finally having absorbed enough philosophy to demolish his arguments all alone, I finally know why. He lies. If his religion were true and his God real, he would not have to lie. They would stand up to the most devastating atheist arguments unscathed.

    Personally, while I am not an atheist, my conception of God is completely unlike his…and I find his unsophisticated, unworthy, and outright blasphemous.

  4. Giuseppe says

    Certainly your gift for Christmas for your readers is to prove that Tacitus did not mention the Christians of Christ but the Chrestiani of Chrestus.

    I think I can imagine the core of your proof (argument of the extreme unlikelihood of coincidence).

    The Great Fire of Rome (64 CE) was a unique event, and yet the same, exact sequence of events is repeated with the Fire of Nicomedia (303 EC), with apparently the same victims, the Christians of Christ.

    As if the same guy twice won the lottery.

    Too unlikely to be a coincidence, then, by definition, is not a coincidence (your typical sentence)

    So Tacitus tells about Chrestiani followers of the ”impulsore Chresto”, not of Jesus of Nazareth, with Chrestus different from Christ. And the unlikely coincidence-that-is-not-a-coincidence exists only in the mind of a careless Christian interpolator.

    I am arch-sure that I am right, unless there will are very surprises!

    Congratulations in advance and good end of year

    Giuseppe

    • says

      That isn’t quite valid as an argument. The Nicomedian fire story could just be based literarily on the Tacitean story. And in fact it most probably is. So one needs a bit more to conclude that this means there were no Christians in Tacitus’s account. I lay out what that something more is in my Vigiliae Christianae article (forthcoming; I will also be reproducing it, with VC‘s permission, in an anthology soon to be out). And I am just summarizing and building on the work of prior scholars who already did this in peer reviewed journals. Alas, neither will be out in time for Christmas. ;-)

  5. Kieren says

    Willy Craig – *just* good enough with words and too far down the road (which he was drawn to in the pursuit of friends in school, per his own dinner talk which I attended out of curiosity) by the time he realised (as he must have; he seems quite intelligent to me) that it was all bulldust, that he had few better options than to make pre-Copernican obscurantism his living … There’s a nice, big market of gullible consumers out there, for anything that even ostensibly (to the non-critical) makes their faith seem ‘reasonable’ … I mean, how else could even an arse-hat like Ray Comfort rake in so much dough?! Just imagine how much Willy – whose apologism is relatively complex/difficult to refute (relatively, I said) – must be pulling in … !!!! $$$$ !!!! Disingenuously wealthy; not the first of their ‘faith’ to be, and won’t be the last … I mean, even Joyce Meyers lives in a multi-home estate; you don’t even need to be clever to do it; just know how to feed the monkeys a few bananas and press their feel-good buttons. Dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb!! PS – so hanging for your new book; and have a great Saturnalian break!! ;D

  6. snowman says

    >>That morality is objectively true and empirically discoverable in the same way medicine, engineering, and agriculture are.
    >>My formal demonstration of this

    Why do you say this nonsense as though on behalf of atheists? You make real atheists look as bad as Craig does when you assert these ridiculous claims on our behalf. (And, again, you do NOT have a formal demonstration of what you claim, you have simply attempted one that no one accepts except you.)

    >>we invented morality because we needed it to accomplish our goals

    So it is now utilitarian and invented. And yet odd how you think it somehow “objectively true”. Oh, right, because you assume…

    >>that simply is what morality is: the best way for us to live, that life will more easily and reliably sustain its happiness and survival

    Seriously, you don’t know that that is simply one definition – e.g., morality is doing what is RIGHT, for example, not what makes us happy – and that you have inserted these arbitrary and amorphous values yourself there then claimed to have “found” them??? -why not duty before happiness? happiness meaning exactly what? And why happiness as long as you aren’t happy being illiberal? Etc… It’s laughable.

    C’mon, Richard, you don’t speak for atheists. It’s embarrassing to atheists this stuff you claim on our behalf. We don’t need your acceptance and rewriting of religious morality as something that is true given some ridiculous assertions. Just state that these are your beliefs, why and, most of all, stop this ridiculous claim that you’ve “formally” proven them.

    If you want to be an atheist, go all the way, not this half-hearted holier-than-thou feel-good nonsense.

    • says

      Ah, that racist, sexist, homophobic, reactionary, dishonest, lazy, amoral liar, and advocate of criminal activity and defender of the sexual harassment of women, snowman (possibly a sock puppet for Thunderf00t), is back.

      He hardly deserves a response, but just because it’s amusing to show people what a fool he is:

      So [morality] is now utilitarian and invented. And yet odd how you think it somehow “objectively true”.

      Medicine is utilitarian and invented. And also objectively true.

      Snowman isn’t smart enough to realize that’s not a contradiction. He also is too lazy to think through the very analogy I used, before foolishly saying such a thing as he just did.

      …you do NOT have a formal demonstration of what you claim, you have simply attempted one that no one accepts except you

      I do have such a formal demonstration. Published under peer review. Snowman still to this day, after almost a year, refuses to even look at it. Yet he believes he can critique or reject a syllogism he has never seen and refuses to look at.

      This is snowman SOP.

      Likewise his pretending I have never written extensively on the question of how we operationally define happiness in any system of moral goals. Ignoring everything I’ve written, and then pretending I never answered the question, is also snowman SOP.

      The only thing missing from his comment here is one of his stock egregious lies so easily proved to be lies it’s embarrassing. This time he just pukes a bunch of cantankerous opinions with zero supporting evidence or argument. But, hey, that’s also snowman SOP.

      Merry Christmas everyone.

    • Rain says

      snowman sounds like he has a big snow chip on his snow shoulder. Calm down a little next time! Think things through a little more.

    • EnlightenmentLiberal says

      @snowman
      You misunderstand what “objective” means in context. You incorrectly understand something to be objectively true if it does not rely on fiat axioms. However, all sane, rational, and non-trivial belief systems rely on fiat axioms.

      Do this thought experiment. Give me any true mundane claim, such as “I am sitting on a chair”. I will ask you “How do you know that?”, and you will then explain how you know that. That explanation is what we call a justification. A justification is an informal argument for a claim which has premises which themselves are vulnerable to the question “How do you know that?”. If you then apply basic math graph theory, you quickly arrive at the conclusion that either your justification graph has cycles, e.g. circular reasoning which hopefully we can discard out of hand, or endless regresses of justifications, which again hopefully we discard with out of hand because the knowledge of any human is finite, or your graph has nodes – claims – which lack justifications. This is what I mean by a fiat axiom. In terms of the belief system itself, it’s completely arbitrary. If it wasn’t completely arbitrary, then it was reached by circular reasoning.

      Now, what does the word “objective” mean? Consider another usage of the word in terms of sports judging. We commonly say that the rules for judging soccer are objective, and the rules for judging figure skating are subjective. What do we mean when we say this? We mean that all reasonable people who has been taught the rules for soccer will come to the same conclusions when judging a soccer game. That’s the definition of objective. Whereas for figure skating, it can be shown that even the most professional of judges cannot come to the same conclusion on the same figure skating event, and that is why it is called subjective. Of course, this is not black and white. This is merely a matter of degrees. Sometimes disagreements happen when judging soccer, and the scores of figure skating are not completely random.

      When we say something is objectively true, it is always in the context of a particular judging system, whether that is implicit or explicit. When you say that some material fact of our shared reality is objectively true, this is in the context of evidence based reasoning and science. Evidence based reasoning and science is a judging system like that of soccer; all reasonable people who understand and apply the rules will generally come to the same conclusion.

      However, why should we use the rules of evidence based reasoning and science in order to judge whether some material fact is true or not? Because “it works”? How do you define “works”? You define “works” in terms of inductive reasoning and the scientific method, which means that definition is circular. The value that we should use evidence based reasoning and science is unjustifiable (in the usual formal description of a rational person’s beliefs).

      Getting to my point now. We can talk about moral facts. How do we determine if some moral fact is true or not? We need some judging system to determine what moral facts are true, and what moral facts are false. Generally, when a lot of people say that something is “good”, this is in the implicit context of humanism. Humanism provides that judging system for determining what moral facts are true and what moral whats are false. (Note that Dr. Carrier and I disagree here. AFAIK, he argues that moral facts are reducible by definition to properly sophisticated self-interest. AFAIK, he does not recognize the usual distinction between imperative claims and descriptive claims ala Hume.)

      Your second problem is that you probably consider that it is self-evident to have the value that we should use evidence based reasoning to decide questions of material fact, but you do not consider it self-evident that we should use humanism to decide questions of moral fact. I have no logical recourse because we are arguing over axiomatic claims. However, I can note that you are fundamentally mistaken when you think that science is on sturdier logical ground than humanism. Both are completely unjustifiable (in the usual formal description of most people’s beliefs). However, I have little time for any person who does not accept either. I would label the first as (colloquially) insane, and I would label the second as (colloquially) psychopathic.

  7. Kingasaurus says

    —”And somehow still thinking atheists are going to fall for it.”—

    Richard, I have a hunch that Craig really doesn’t expect atheists to fall for anything. His message seems like a rear-guard action, an attempt to shore up the convictions of wobbly believers who may privately hold some doubts about one thing or another. He’s basically a guy whose arguments sounds smart on the surface to people who don’t know any better, and gives them a reason to say to themselves, “There’s nothing wrong with my Christian beliefs, because some really smart-sounding people with smart-sounding reasons agree with me.”

    They don’t need proof of their beliefs to remain Christian, they just need enough seemingly intelligent people assuring them that their beliefs aren’t ridiculous.

    • says

      Which is why we should keep telling them the truth–or forcing them to admit they can only avoid hearing that by refusing to listen what we have to say. Either way, cognitive dissonance will worry their souls.

  8. hexidecima says

    In addition to religion being nothing more than myth, we also have the myth that WLC is smart at all. There is nothing to demonstrate this as a fact. He lies repeatedly and intentionally, which is always amusing since his religion purportedly says its god hates lies and liars. He can come up with nothing new, only the same old baseless claims. WLC might be loud but smart? That’s appears to be no more true than his god’s existence.

  9. robotczar says

    I have taken you to task for some of your comments on other topics, but I must say that you are spot on with your rebuttal of Craig’s “evidence”. It is sad that time must be wasted responding to such mindless drivel. You have the patience of Job (sorry) to do so with such detail. Your frustration comes out at times, but it is so appropriate.

  10. Michael Borland says

    As luck would have it, just in time for Christmas, I released an app called “Does God Exist?” It allows anyone to use Bayes’ theorem to compute the probability of God existing. The user is first asked to define their God’s nature (loving, indifferent, evil) and power (limited, unlimited). It then takes the user through a series of factual observations, then asks her to assess the “consistency” of those observations with the existence and non-existence of God. In the end, the probability is computed and presented as a rating between 0 and 7 stars. Obviously, a “motivated” user can get whatever answer he wants, but I think there will be quite a lot of cognitive dissonance in doing so.

    I assume the prior probability of God is 0.5. I know it is generous, but it I doubt it will matter in the end.

    If this app proves reasonably popular, I’m thinking to write similar apps for evolution (“Did we evolve?”) and climate change (“Is the Earth warming?”).

    The app is free to use, but supported by ads. I noticed that most of the ads are from religious organizations, which is rather ironic.

    http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=borland.doesgodexist

  11. says

    Ever since I read this objection, it’s seemed like a show-stopper for the fine-tuning argument to me: The idea is that the specific values for the physical constants of our universe were very unlikely to appear by chance. That is, the a priori probability was low. This implies that out of the sets of possible values for the constants, the values that enable life comprise a very small subset. (If not, what does “low probability” mean?)

    Now, I can readily apprehend how you’d form such an argument (correct or not) if you assume that any values you can plug into the equations (and remain mathematically coherent) are possible, but it sounds like a very large and unwarranted assumption to leap to. Surely, in order to calculate even in ballpark OOM terms (“one in eight”, “a hundred to one”, ” a quadrillion to one”) what the a priori odds of our universe were, you need a model. How do you know the possible ranges of the variables in the equation? Does WLC have a mathematical description of the parameters of universe construction showing the possible outcomes, the dependence or independence of variables, and probability distributions?

    As far as I understand (which I admit is not at all far!), it’s a worthwhile and very interesting question to ask why the constants have just the values that they do, but is the question really sufficiently well understood to even assign probabilities? If it is, and if there are layman-accessible references, I should be very interested to hear of them!

    To my (very limited) understanding, it seems that “The physical constants are within this very limited range of possible values; how unlikely is that?!” is rather like saying “I rolled some dice and came up with a sum of exactly 312 — how unlikely is that?!” without bothering to specify how many dice there were, how many sides they had, whether they were fair or loaded, and whether or not I was allowed to re-roll.

  12. davidct says

    I tend to be a null hypothesis sort of heathen. When Craig states that atheists only have a “no evidence” argument he is getting ahead of himself. He is actually making the assumption that this God thing has been defined in some meaningful way. It has not. For me to be asked to evaluate the evidence for or against something undefined is premature. Craig’s arguments suggest that some cosmic consciousness with the ability to act in the natural universe. He then does a sort intellectual soft shoe shuffle to equate this with the Christian God character. I assume this comes to him through revelation. When he can be more specific about what this God thing is then is the time for an atheist to worry about the evidence. If he means the God of the Bible, I still have to ask – Which one?

  13. gshelley says

    Do you have any thoughts as to why he is so highly regarded? Are his actual scholarly works much more rigorous and intellectually honest (this seems hard to believe), or is it something else? Is he just the “best of a bad lot”?

    I remember reading mere Christianity years ago, after repeatedly seeing some of the arguments in internet discussions. I had thought that Lewis was probably being poorly paraphrased and that if I read his actual arguments, they might not be convincing, but they wouldn’t be so obviously terrible, but it turned out they were basically circular reasoning, arguments from ignorance and special pleading. I have no idea why he is well thought of, so it isn’t necessarily that tCraig has made good arguments.

  14. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    His only argument that comes close is the first one.

    I think the real problem is rather different to the one you raise. Science can’t give an ultimate original cause. It can rule out some bogus ones but Science can’t distinguish between zero, one or many Gods or provide any indication of their nature.

    Logically, creation is a necessary act for a creator God but there are no other necessary acts. It is not even necessary for ‘God’ to survive the process.

    The fact of creation only allows us to conclude that ‘zero, one or many creator Gods of unknown nature might have existed at the moment of creation’, which is pretty close to no conclusion at all.

    The problem with Craig’s argument is that he makes the leap from ‘zero, one or many creator Gods of unknown nature could exist’ to asserting that one particular Creator God with very specific properties and a very specific history is running everything.

    The term ’cause’ is problematic as you point out. But I don’t think you claim that time before the big bang is necessarily meaningless is correct. Physics does not give meaning to times prior to the big bang. But that does not mean that they are meaningless in a theological context.

    If we take the absolute minimum criteria for a creator God it would be ‘that which is responsible for the event of creation’. Which allows us to use existence to ‘prove’ the existence of God but only by reducing the criteria for God-hood to essentially nothing.

    Craig is not inviting us to conclude the existence of just any God, he is very intent on one specific God, the old testament one. His argument is essentially.

    1) Existence => Something to explain
    2) ‘God’ is the explanation by definition
    1+2) Existence => Yahweh [+ God the son + God the holy spirit]

    Thats quite a gap. The same argument can be used to prove the existence of the great green arkulseizure which is no less preposterous than the old testament God.

    Historically, the priests have resorted to three different classes of argument to persuade the rest of the population to let them mooch off them. The first and most direct argument was the argument of material benefit, the Gods must be propitiated with the correct sacrifices via the priestly classes or bad things will happen. It was not belief that is rewarded, it was participation in a magical transaction.

    When that scam stopped being quite so effective it had to be reinforced with the idea that questioning the unsupported assertions of the priests leads to everlasting damnation. Which was a much more effective scam but one that resulted in Europe living in a state ignorance and poverty for a thousand years.

    The third argument is that God explains all that is not otherwise explained but demands an explanation.

    An argument that attempts to show the existence of God but tells us nothing of the characteristics of God is telling us nothing at all. Its like a ‘proof’ of the historical Jesus that accepts every claim made in every gospel is made up. We know that there was a ‘historical Jesus’, plenty of tombs from the period have names that are consistent. If we don’t stipulate that a historical Jesus has to have at least some elements from the gospels the demonstration means nothing.

    • says

      Science can’t give an ultimate original cause.

      Just FYI, never say science can’t do something. Every time anyone has said that, science has proved them wrong. Again and again and again and again. It’s a losing bet.

  15. says

    Even if we ignore the possibility of multiple universes or accept the fact that a life sustaining universe can only be possible within a very narrow range of fundamental physical constants, the fine tuning argument has one fatal flaw central to its argument. That is in order to establish the probability of any event occurring, a prediction has to be made before the event occurs in order to analyse the probability of any outcome. Therefore to establish that a fine tuned universe for life to exist is highly unlikely due to probability, we would have to establish that before the dice were rolled, the emergence of sentient being able to comprehend the existence of the universe was a pre-established purpose. What evidence is there of that?

  16. Matthew S. North says

    Ah yes, Slick Willy continues with his Lying for Christianity apologetic bullshit. He never lets facts, truth, or reality get in the way when it comes to defending his Christian delusion. I’ve watched most of his debates on YouTube, many of them more than once, and in all of them he’s thoroughly dishonest. I’m convinced he knows damn well he’s spinning an intricate apologetic canard but in a creepy, Orwellian, doublethink kind of way. It shows how infected he is by the virus of religion. In all of his writings, speeches and debates he’s mainly speaking to pious Christians, trying to bolster their faith against those mean old rationalists. His arguments are only impressive to those Christians. What I hate most about him is his smugness. I remember an interview he did once where he charged scientists with hubris. I thought to myself, ‘Fuck you asshole, you’re the personification of hubris!’.

  17. GGDFan777 says

    Richard you said:
    “We actually do not know that there is only a narrow life-permitting range of possible configurations of the universe. As has been pointed out to Craig by several theoretical physicists (from Krauss to Stenger), he can only get his “narrow range” by varying one single constant and holding all the others fixed, which is simply not how a universe would be randomly selected. When you allow all the constants to vary freely, the number of configurations that are life permitting actually ends up respectably high (between 1 in 8 and 1 in 4: see Victor Stenger’s The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning).”

    I think your response here is simply false, see specifically:

    http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/fine-tuning-and-the-myth-of-one-variable-at-a-time/

    You complain about WLC not telling his readers about opposing views, however why don’t you yourself mention criticisms that have been launched against Victor Stenger’s work? See:

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1112.4647v2.pdf
    http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/Fine-tuning/Stenger-fallacy.pdf

    With respect to your views on probability theory and fine tuning, see:

    http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/probably-not-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-1/

    http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/what-chance-looks-like-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-2/

    • says

      …criticisms that have been launched against Victor Stenger’s work…

      Answered (and exposed as stock fallacies) in Stenger’s work that I cited. You need to keep up with the times.

      With respect to your views on probability theory and fine tuning, see…

      The Barnes pieces don’t even respond to my argument. You would know that if you read my argument yourself. This is a fallacy called red herring: make a series of completely irrelevant points, around selective quotations of an argument, and claim to have answered that argument. Did you really fall for it? (His second article relies more on the fallacy called straw man: selective quoting, and irrelevant claims made against things I didn’t say or that ignore what I did say.)

    • says

      Bollocks.

      “Answered (and exposed as stock fallacies) in Stenger’s work that I cited. You need to keep up with the times.” Those are critiques of Stenger’s book. Obviously, they aren’t answered in that book. My reply to Stenger’s further criticisms, if you want to get up to date, are here: http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/in-defence-of-the-fine-tuning-of-the-universe-for-intelligent-life/.

      Also, what the hell kind of “stock fallacy” is the objection: three quarters of your equations are wrong! Stenger presented 8. He botched 6. Do you think any scientific paper would be published if the referee objected that 75% of its equations were wrong? Talk about ignoring an argument.

      Selective quotations: look how long my quotations are! I had to type those bastards out. I’ve all but quoted the entire relevant section of the article.

      Red herrings and straw men: Carrier claims in his article that he will prove his claim “with … logical certainty”. Where is the mathematical formalism? For the fine-tuning argument, it’s in footnotes 22 and 23. If I answer that, then I’ve answered the central argument of the article. And I did here (http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/what-chance-looks-like-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-2/) under the heading “Bayes’ Theorem Omits Redundancies”. I’ve responded to his central claim, and shown that many of his examples (e.g. the poker game, the firing squad, the lottery) draw incorrect conclusions, demonstrating his lack of competence in probability theory.

      Look at this blog post: http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/christmas-tripe-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-richard-carrier-part-3 . An entire paragraph is quoted, analysed sentence by sentence, argued to be false. If I’m wrong then show where and cite your sources. Where are the straw men? Which comments are red herrings and why? How did I selectively quote? What did I miss? Put up or shut up.

    • says

      Just because you claim to be responding to x, doesn’t mean you actually did. That’s my point. You can make all sorts of claims you want, it doesn’t make them correct. You just ignore the things we say, quote mine, and handwave about a different point. Over and over again. And then claim to have proved something.

      A classic example is you wasting tons of time on a footnote that explicitly says the conclusion reached there is ignored in the article! No shit. Yet you seem to think addressing it relates to the article!

      Another classic example is building a straw man (“getting dealt a royal flush twenty times in a row”), show it is absurd, then declare what I said false, even though what I said would have gotten the same conclusion (had I used the same premise). That’s a straw man. Then in the process you ignore the point I actually made with the example you incorrectly think I’m challenging.

      All this will be obvious to anyone of sense who reads my actual work in context, and not your quote-mined, straw-manned shreddery of it.

    • says

      You’re either reading the wrong footnote or a liar. The sections in question … From page 294 (of my edition):
      ____________________

      [We] will only ever find [ourselves] in a finely tuned universe whether it was designed or not. The fact of their universe being finely tuned can never tell them anything about how it got that way … This conclusion cannot be rationally denied: if only finely tuned universes can produce life, then if intelligent observers exist (and we can see that they do) then the probability that their universe will be finely tuned will be 100 percent (22).

      [Skipping to footnote 22 ... page 409]:
      22. In other words, P(finely tuned universe | intelligent observers exist) = 1, so if “intelligent observers exist” is established background knowledge (and it is) then P(finely tuned universe | ~NID.b) = 1 (see following note).
      ____________________

      This is a summary of your main reply to the fine-tuning argument in your article, and in the blog post above, starting with the sentence “… we will only ever find ourselves in universes like ours …”. Your article goes on:
      ____________________

      Always. Regardless of whether a “finely tuned universe” is a product of chance, and regardless of how improbably a chance it is (23).

      [Skipping to footnote 23 ... page 409]:
      This is undeniable: if only a finely tuned universe can produce life, then by definition P(finely tuned universe | intelligent observers exist) = 1, because of [two justifications. I agree with this section]. Collins concedes that if we include in b “everything we know about the world, including our existence”, then p(L | ~God & A life-bearing universe is observed) = 100 percent (Collins, Blackwell). He thus desperately needs to somehow “not count” such known facts. That’s irrational.
      ____________________

      The remainder of footnote 23 is a reply to Collins’s argument, discussing how the probabilities are dependent on what one puts in b. It doesn’t refer back to the main text. You say that *his* calculation is irrelevant, not yours. I’m happy to write out the rest of the footnote if required. [Also, by the axioms of probability theory, there cannot be any dependence of the posterior on the background/evidence split. So that whole discussion is wrong. See here: http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/bayes-theorem-what-is-this-background-information/ . But I digress.]

      The purpose of these long quotations of your article is to show that:
      a) The footnotes do in fact claim to be a formalisation of the main point of your article regarding fine-tuning. It is exactly the point with which to conclude your fine-tuning comments in this blog post. It is your “100 percent expected on atheism” slogan.
      b) Nowhere in the footnotes does it say that the conclusion is ignored in the article. (Were you thinking of footnote 20, regarding the multiverse? I addressed that footnote in part 1 of my critique only in so far as it revealed an inconsistency in your approach to probability theory. Regarding your response to fine-tuning, it’s 22 and 23 that I’m interested in.)

      If I’ve missed something, quote me a line number and a page number from your article. Write out the quotation. Show the context. Let’s see it.

      The “twenty royal flushes” example is not an attempt to represent your argument, so cannot be said to misrepresent your argument, so cannot be a straw man. Rather, it is a counterexample, a reductio ad absurdum. As follows:
      1. If your principle “if the evidence looks exactly the same on either hypothesis, there is no logical sense in which we can say the evidence is more likely on either hypothesis” were valid, then twenty royal flushes in a row is not evidence of cheating.
      2. Twenty royal flushes in a row is evidence of cheating.
      3. Thus your principle is not valid.

      Further, since a lot of your article stands by this principle, a lot of your article falls with this principle.

      You’ve admitted premise 2. So our disagreement is over premise 1. I deny that you “would have gotten the same conclusion had I used the same premise”. Twenty royal flushes in a row “looks exactly the same on either hypothesis [fair or cheating]” … it’s just cards on a table, either way. Thus you should conclude that “there is no logical sense in which we can say the evidence is more likely on either hypothesis”. That seems a straightforward consequence of your reasoning. Where is the misrepresentation? Where is the straw man?

      The correct principle is this: if the probability of the evidence (the likelihood) is the same on either hypothesis, then the evidence does not help us choose between the hypotheses. (i.e. posterior = prior). This follows from Bayes theorem: http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/10-nice-things-about-bayes-theorem/). But that principle is not the same as yours, and would make “how improbable a chance [a finely tuned universe] is” very relevant to fine-tuning and the probability of NID.

    • says

      This is the same scam you keep pulling. Change what you are talking about, as if that responds to what someone said.

      I was talking about your critique of note 20. In which I conclude “we don’t need this hypothesis, so I will proceed without it.” Your method is to ignore my actual arguments, make bogus claims of inconsistency, do the math wrong, and then claim my arguments fails. Arguments you never actually address. Yet repeatedly claim to have.

      You make completely different errors in your treatment of note 23. It’s simply impossible to observe a lifeless universe, so p(~e) = 0, which entails P(e)= 1 for all observers. You have no valid argument against that. And all your handwaving to try and avoid that conclusion is just desperate.

      As to the royal flush’s example, it can’t be a counterexample when I would have gotten the same result you did using that changed premise. That only confirms the method I used. That you don’t even grasp that is precisely my point, and why you can’t even understand what my arguments are.

    • says

      He hasn’t really. That’s the point. Barnes is something of a kook. He claims to be responding to arguments he doesn’t even articulate correctly or even appear to understand. And he does it at excruciating length.

    • says

      * “P(e)= 1 for all observers. You have no valid argument against that.” Here it is. Again.

      1. From Bayes’ theorem one can show that, for any A, B, C, T:

      p(B|A) = 1 does not imply that p(T|ABC) = p(~T|ABC) (1)

      2. Applying this to fine tuning, let

      f = finely tuned universe
      o = observers exist

      then, from (1)

      p(f | o) = 1 does not imply p(NID | f.o.b) = p(~NID | f.o.b)

      3. Thus, I can admit that “p(finely tuned universe | observers exist) = 1″ and still conclude that

      p(NID | f.o.b) >> p(~NID | f.o.b).

      There it is. That’s my argument: “P(e)= 1 for all observers” does not prove that “the fact of [our] universe being finely tuned can never [us] anything about how it got that way”. The proof of (1) is in my part 2, in the section “The Firing Squad Machine” and following. If the argument is invalid, then show me where.

      * Footnote 20: You want to talk about that, fine. I addressed that footnote in part 1 of my critique only in so far as it revealed an inconsistency in your approach to probability theory. That you don’t discuss the multiverse further in the text is irrelevant to my point. Your discussion of the multiverse doesn’t treat probabilities as frequencies, going against your own interpretation of probabilities. I never claimed that it was your main argument. (I said 130 words about that footnote, 4% of the post. Hardly “tons”.)

      * “[You] Do the math wrong”. Them’s fighting words to a physicist. You’d better be able to back them up. Where?

      * “I would have gotten the same result you did using that changed premise”. I understand that you think that, but you haven’t argued for it. Why is that sentence true? I don’t think it is, for this reason: Twenty royal flushes in a row “looks exactly the same on either hypothesis [fair or cheating]” … it’s just cards on a table, either way. Thus you should conclude that “there is no logical sense in which we can say the evidence is more likely on either hypothesis”. Where have I gone wrong?

      You’ve made all manner of allegations against me: red herring, straw-manned shreddery, quote mining, irrelevant claims, ignoring arguments, scam, doing the math wrong, bogus claims, something of a kook. Enough. I’ve given my argument above. What’s your reply?

    • says

      p(B|A) = 1 does not imply that p(T|ABC) = p(~T|ABC)

      Huh? No one argues that. This is the kind of nonsense I am talking about. You don’t even understand my argument, and aren’t even replying to it,

      p(f | o) = 1 does not imply p(NID | f.o.b) = p(~NID | f.o.b)

      Ditto.

      3. Thus, I can admit that “p(finely tuned universe | observers exist) = 1″ and still conclude that

      p(NID | f.o.b) >> p(~NID | f.o.b).

      And you “can” conclude that God is a complex fungus and lives at 32 Privet drive, Essex, UK.

      The fact that a conclusion is logically compatible with a fact does not make that conclusion sound.

      I never claimed that it was your main argument.

      You also never mentioned that the note itself says its result is not used in my argument.

      (You also don’t there mention that that note’s argument has a formal demonstration online, but that’s less misleading.)

      I understand that you think that, but you haven’t argued for it.

      You did. Your argument is identical to what mine would be had I started with the same premise.

      It’s your inability to see that (repeatedly) that makes your rebuttal clueless.

      Twenty royal flushes in a row “looks exactly the same on either hypothesis [fair or cheating]”

      But is an event that belongs to a different reference class.

      (You don’t seem to realize that all prior probabilities are the posterior probabilities of previous equations, thus all reference classes can be converted to likelihood ratios and vice versa. Your inability to grasp that defines your entire line of argument here, and makes it look like you don’t know what you are talking about.)

    • says

      * (I take it that P(e)= 1 and p(f | o) = 1 are synonymous in this context.) Does your essay argue this:

      “p(f | o) = 1 for all observers” shows that “the fact of [our] universe being finely tuned can never [us] anything about how it got that way”.

      That seems to be the argument on page 293-4. It’s just after you make that conclusion at the end of page 293 that you say near the top of page 294 that “This conclusion cannot be rationally denied … the probability that [intelligent life's] universe will be finely tuned will be 100 percent.” Then comes footnote 22 and 23.

      * If fine-tuning doesn’t tells us anything about NID vs ~NID, then the evidence leaves those hypothesis with roughly equal probabilities. Formally, we would write this as:

      p(NID | f.o.b) = p(~NID | f.o.b)

      (or perhaps leaves us with posteriors equal to their priors, p(NID | f.o.b) / p(~NID | f.o.b) = p(NID | b) / p(~NID | b). It makes no difference to my argument if I make this generalisation.)

      * Thus, I take your argument to be that,

      p(f | o) = 1 implies p(NID | f.o.b) = p(~NID | f.o.b)

      * If that’s not your argument, then what are you trying to prove from p(f | o) = 1? After all, that’s a likelihood, not a posterior. What effect does p(f | o) = 1 have on the probability of NID? p(f | o) = 1, therefore what? Give your answer in probabilistic notation.

      * “You also never mentioned that the note itself says its result is not used in my argument.”

      I wasn’t critiquing your argument in that section, or even in that post, so that fact is irrelevant. It does nothing to change my point, or to salvage your inconsistency with finite frequentism. Heck … I’ll edit the post to put it in, if you’re that worried. It changes nothing.

      * “You also don’t there mention that that note’s argument has a formal demonstration online”. Nope. Neither Sober nor Ikeda and Jeffreys attempt the argument of your footnote 20, that “it is effectively 100 percent certain an infinite multiverse exists.” They attempt arguments closer to your footnote 22 and 23. Quote me a section if I’m wrong.

      Also, if you’ll remember a previous comment back-and-forth of ours, I don’t think that Ikeda and Jeffrey’s have proven anything relevant to the fine-tuning argument since they don’t consider the effect of changing the laws of nature. (http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/terms-and-conditions-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-ikeda-and-jeffreys-part-1/).

      * You say that “your argument is identical to mine” and then argue *against* the main premise of my argument, that Twenty royal flushes in a row “looks exactly the same on either hypothesis [fair or cheating]”. Make up your mind.

      * “But is an event that belongs to a different reference class.”

      What event? Different to what? There is only one event in question – twenty royal flushes.

      Your principle “if the evidence looks exactly the same on either hypothesis, there is no logical sense in which we can say the evidence is more likely on either hypothesis” doesn’t mention reference classes. All that matters, according to you, is whether the evidence looks the same. Why now bring up reference classes? (Also, if you’d read part 1 you’d have read my critique of the whole idea of reference classes as infinitely plastic and thus useless. This is not my invention. It is so standard it has its own wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference_class_problem .)

      * “all prior probabilities are the posterior probabilities of previous equations”.

      Learn to use probability terminology correctly, please. Don’t talk about the probability of an equation.

      In any case, false. The posterior is the probability of a theory with respect to everything we know, EB. The prior is the probability of T with respect to B only. The prior *might* be the posterior probability with respect to what we knew at some previous time (i.e. before we knew E) but this is not required by Bayes theorem. Bayes theorem is an identity; it knows nothing of mere labels like “prior” and “posterior”. This is important, so I’ll quote from Jayne’s “Probability theory”, page 87.

      “But we caution that the term ‘prior’ is another of those terms from the distant past that can be inappropriate and misleading today. In the first place, it does not necessarily mean ‘earlier in time’. Indeed, the very concept of time is not in our general theory (although we may introduce it in a particular problem). The distinction is a purely logical one; any additional information beyond the immediate data D of the current problem is by definition ‘prior information’. …

      Old misconceptions about the origin, nature and proper functional use of prior probabilities are still common among those who continue to use the archaic term ‘a-priori probabilities’. The term ‘a-priori’ was introduced by Immanuel Kant to denote a proposition whose truth can be known independently of experience; which is most emphatically what we do not mean here. X denotes simply whatever additional information the robot has beyond what we have chosen to call the data.”

      * “all reference classes can be converted to likelihood ratios and vice versa”.

      And vice versa? Really? Suppose a scientist is trying to evaluate the posterior probability of General Relativity (GR) vs Newtonian Gravity (NG), given the evidence of the perihelion shift of mercury (E). He computes the likelihood ratio, p(E | GR . B) / p(E | NG . B).

      According to you, he can convert this into reference classes. What are the corresponding references classes? Is he counting the number of universes in which the perihelion shift occurs due to general relativity, and comparing to the number where it occurs due to Newtonian gravity? Does this calculation bring into existence universes governed by GR and NG? After all, “probability measures frequency”, or so you say. When a scientist compares GR with NG, what are the reference classes?

      Bayesian’s don’t usually talk about reference classes. That’s more of a frequentist thing. What probability textbook did you learn from? (Not a rhetorical question.)

    • says

      Wow. This is just weird. None of your remarks make any sense.

      * If fine-tuning doesn’t tells us anything about NID vs ~NID, then the evidence leaves those hypothesis with roughly equal probabilities.

      If the evidence consisted solely of fine tuning, that would be correct. But alas, my chapter adduces a lot more evidence than that, all of it supporting ~NID over NID. This is another example of you simply not even getting the argument correct and thus making completely strange and irrelevant remarks against it.

      After all, that’s a likelihood, not a posterior.

      Hence the section on determining the prior, and the paragraphs about the likelihood ratio lowering the probability of NID rather than raising it, none of which use fine tuning by itself as evidence against NID.

      Again, you are completely ignoring almost the entire argument, and in result making completely strange and irrelevant remarks against it.

      * “You also never mentioned that the note itself says its result is not used in my argument.”

      I wasn’t critiquing your argument in that section, or even in that post, so that fact is irrelevant. It does nothing to change my point, or to salvage your inconsistency with finite frequentism. Heck … I’ll edit the post to put it in, if you’re that worried. It changes nothing.

      How can an argument I don’t use being incorrect have any effect on the argument I do use? (And that’s before we even get to the point that the unused argument isn’t incorrect, but it’s moot even if it is, a point you still, after all this time, egregiously fail to acknowledge or grasp.)

      * “You also don’t there mention that that note’s argument has a formal demonstration online”. Nope. Neither Sober nor Ikeda and Jeffreys attempt the argument of your footnote 20, that “it is effectively 100 percent certain an infinite multiverse exists.” They attempt arguments closer to your footnote 22 and 23. Quote me a section if I’m wrong.

      Huh? When did I claim that argument came from or had anything whatever to do with Sober et al.? Once again you seem to have some sort of fictional argument in your head that you are attacking, which bears no similarity to the arguments I actually made. Once again, more completely strange and irrelevant remarks.

      Also, if you’ll remember a previous comment back-and-forth of ours, I don’t think that Ikeda and Jeffrey’s have proven anything relevant to the fine-tuning argument since they don’t consider the effect of changing the laws of nature.

      Which is another example of you not even grasping their argument. You seem pathologically incapable of understanding any argument you rebut. You don’t understand Stenger, or me, or Sober et al. It’s wild. This is a lot like arguing with a box that spouts random sentences and then claims to have thereby defeated you.

      * You say that “your argument is identical to mine” and then argue *against* the main premise of my argument, that Twenty royal flushes in a row “looks exactly the same on either hypothesis [fair or cheating]”. Make up your mind.

      Wow. You really don’t know what you are talking about. When b and e are swapped, so a prior is swapped for a posterior, the effect of changing the event (and thus the reference class) is effected at the prior probability, not the likelihood. Thus, when you query the posterior probability that twenty royal flushes is by design and not chance, the fact that such an event has a vastly lower prior probability than a single royal flush produces the conclusion favoring design. My own argument entails this. That you can’t even grasp that is astonishing and really leads me to lose all confidence in your ability to understand the math.

      What event? Different to what? There is only one event in question – twenty royal flushes.

      Gosh golly. Precisely my point.

      Now, how often does that kind of event happen in family games of poker as a result of fair draws relative to cheats? The ratio is very different than it is for a single royal flush, why, golly, isn’t it?

      That’s the effect of changing the reference class, and the consequent effect of that in changing the prior. One could do it the other way around and get the same result (as I demonstrate for the poker analogy in Proving History). You don’t show any sign of understanding this (that a reference class, and thus a prior probability, is the posterior probability of an implied previous equation).

      Your principle “if the evidence looks exactly the same on either hypothesis, there is no logical sense in which we can say the evidence is more likely on either hypothesis” doesn’t mention reference classes.

      Only when the prior does not alter that conclusion. You seem to be confused about that. I address the question of the prior separately. You seem unaware of how the two arguments only work together. Failing to grasp this, you pretend they were meant to operate apart, and then criticize the result. Which is called a straw man. In doing this you, quite conspicuously, ignore note 31.

      And with that I’m done. I’m not going to continue spending time on this conversation. You have consistently failed to correctly grasp anyone’s argument you aim to argue against. And you make only strange and irrelevant arguments against them. This is a waste of anyone’s time.

    • says

      One more question. I won’t make any claims. I’ll even make it multiple choice. Just give me your main argument against fine-tuning in probability notation.

      Let
      o = intelligent observers exist
      f = a finely tuned universe exists
      b = background information.
      NID = a non-terrestrial intelligent designer exists.

      Here’s the question.

      1. In probability notation, what follows about the posterior probability of NID from the fact that p(f | o) = 1?

      Multiple choice:

      a) p(NID | f.o.b) / p(~NID | f.o.b) = 1

      b) p(NID | f.o.b) / p(~NID | f.o.b) = p(NID | b) / p(~NID | b)
      (Does this follow from footnote 29?)

      c) p(NID | f.o.b) / p(~NID | f.o.b) = p(NID | o.b) / p(~NID | o.b)
      (if o is part of b, is this option equivalent to the previous one?)

      d) p(NID | f.o.b) / p(~NID | f.o.b) is independent of p(o | ~NID) – the probability that a life permitting universe would exist by chance. Thus, even if p(o | ~NID) << 1, this fact is irrelevant to the posterior probability of NID.

      e) Some of the above. Please specify.

      f) None of the above. Please answer in probability notation.

      _______________________

      Ok .. I lied. A few more quick questions. Again, no claims, no accusations. Most are yes/no.

      2. If o is part of b (footnote 22), am I allowed to separate b into the part that contains o and the rest? In other words, can I write

      b = o.b'

      where b' doesn't contain or imply o?

      3. Is Bayes' theorem an identity? That is, can I apply the formula

      p(x | yz) = p(y | xz) p(x | z) / p(y | z)

      to *any* propositions x, y, and z? Or are there certain types of propositions to which Bayes' theorem does not apply?

      4. What is the general, formal, probability-notation version of the statement “if the evidence looks exactly the same on either hypothesis, there is no logical sense in which we can say the evidence is more likely on either hypothesis”? Is it

      if p(e | h1.b) = p(e | h2.b), then p(h1 | e.b)/p(h2 | e.b) = p(h1 | b)/p(h2 | b)?

      5. In Footnote 3 and 21, when your article refers to "a formal demonstration", it refers to Ikeda and Jeffreys', and Sober's articles. This is what I thought you had in mind for footnote 20 about the multiverse. Footnote 20 itself doesn't mention to any formal demonstration. What "formal demonstration online" should I be reading in support of footnote 20?

      6. What is your favourite probability textbook? What should I read to learn about how to properly use reference classes and why probabilities measure frequencies?

    • says

      In probability notation, what follows about the posterior probability of NID from the fact that p(f | o) = 1?

      Depends on the prior probability and the probability threshold, as explained in the chapter you claim to be critiquing. Both of which I include in my argument, both of which you keep ignoring.

      If o is part of b (footnote 22), am I allowed to separate b into the part that contains o and the rest?

      You can’t if o is “I think therefore I am.” Because it is impossible for you to not observe o in that case (as otherwise you would not exist, or not be conscious and thus not capable of making any observations at all). Hence “I think therefore I am” entails o. If no one was (and thus no one could observe anything), then by definition observers don’t exist. Which is the case in lifeless universes. But the probability of observers being in those is exactly zero. So you can never find yourself in such a situation. Thus P(~L|o) = 0, which entails P(L|o) = 1.

      To think of it another way, b is impossible if there is no o, because “background knowledge” only exists when o exists. Thus, you can never have a b that lacks o, any more than you can have a set of all natural numbers that lacks the number two.

      This is why “I think therefore I am” is undeniable root knowledge–it’s probability of being false is zero for anyone knowingly saying it. Not virtually or nearly zero. Actually zero. Hence it is not susceptible to Bayesian disconfirmation. It is either 100% true (and therefore, o) or 100% false (and therefore, ~o). (See Epistemological End Game)

      Thus, obviously, in the absence of a deity, P(~f|o) = 0.

      But since, necessarily, P(~f|o) = 1 – P(f|o), then when P(~f|o) = 0, then necessarily, P(f|o) = 1. There is no getting around this.

      What “formal demonstration online” should I be reading in support of footnote 20

      If you are interested (again, it is not relevant to the chapter you are claiming to critique, since that note explicitly says the analysis in that note is nowhere employed in that chapter), it’s rather famously here, which was cited and linked in the article you are now here commenting on and supposedly had read (but evidently not, which is a trend with you: you never seem to actually read the articles you critique, and when you do, you never correctly understand them).

      What should I read to learn about how to properly use reference classes and why probabilities measure frequencies?

      Are you claiming probabilities do not measure frequencies? (It is rather startling that you are asking me why that is…you don’t know?)

      As far as reference classes, start on Wikipedia–and if for some strange reason you are still skeptical of the often expertly written articles on mathematical matters there, follow their bibliographies. For example, start here. Or for a good formal paper on the subject, here.

    • says

      * You still haven’t answered the question. Which of the options is it? I think it’s b). I’ve gleaned this from footnotes 23, 23 and 29. I am willing to be corrected. Option b) depends on the probability p(NID | b), as requested. Whether a certain probability amounts to a compelling case depends on the probability threshold, as you explain in footnote 31. I agree with you that Dembski’s threshold doesn’t apply to the universe itself. Not having any problem with that claim, I haven’t discussed it.

      * At no point have I questioned that p(f|o) = 1. I accept that that is true. You do not need to convince me of that. I’m not trying to get around it. I just want to know what it proves about NID.

      * Consider these two statements:
      A: 2 + 2 = 4
      B: I know that 2 + 2 = 4

      o = an intelligent observer exists.

      Obviously, o follows from B. Does it follow from A? If it doesn’t, then there are things that I know who’s *content* doesn’t imply that I exist. These things could go into b’.

      Note: I’m not denying that o is true. It is. Certainly. I’m asking if it follows from the *content* of each thing I know. I maintain that it doesn’t. “I exist” does not follow from “2+2=4″.

      * Regarding your discussion of p(NID | b), you say:
      – “We must define the claim being tested: NID exists” (pg 280)
      – “What is the prior probability of NID? … We’re really asking how frequently are things we point to (in all our background knowledge) the product of NID?”

      But, surely, if there is one thing in our background knowledge that is the product of NID, then NID exists. Even if that thing is outnumbered a trillion to one by ~NID things, one known NID-made thing is enough to set p(NID | b) = 1, not 1 in a trillion. So p(NID | b) isn’t the *frequency* of NID-made things. Discuss.

      * I’ve clicked every link on this page, and searched the HTML source – I can’t find a link to the post “Ex Nihilo Onus Merdae Fit”. Did I miss it?

      * The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy lists 6 classes of interpretations of probability theory: classical, logical, subjective, frequency, propensity, best-system. While all agree that frequencies can inform probabilities, only one asserts that probabilities measure frequencies: frequentism. And even then, hypothetical frequentism states that probabilities are what the (limiting) frequencies would be in a hypothetical infinite set of trials. The restriction to frequencies of known cases is called “finite frequentism”.

      So your assertion that probabilities measure frequencies is highly controversial. Frequentism is usually distinguished from Bayesianism. The turf war between these two factions is practically legendary. XKCD can joke about it: http://www.xkcd.com/1132/ . Note that the frequentist is the butt of the joke. Frequentism is losing the war. Ed Jaynes says in his textbook “Probability theory”, “[A] probability is not the same thing as a frequency”.

      There are an awful lot of mathematicians and scientists claiming that “probabilities do not measure frequencies”. They’re called Bayesians. Even Wikipedia knows this: “In contrast to interpreting probability as the “frequency” or “propensity” of some phenomenon, Bayesian probability is “a quantity that we assign theoretically, for the purpose of representing a state of knowledge”.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_probability

      In fact, the “good formal paper” you link to (http://sydney.edu.au/law/slr/slr_33/slr33_3/SLRv33no3Franklin.pdf) says: (pg 546-7)

      “The (objective) Bayesian theory of evidence (also known as the logical theory of probability) aims to explain what sort of thing evidence is. … Given a fixed body of evidence — say in a trial, or in a dispute about a scientific theory — and given a conclusion, there is a fixed degree to which the evidence supports the conclusion …

      “That view contrasts with, for example: … Frequentism and propensity interpretations of probability,
      which believe that all probabilities are about relative frequencies”.

      In case you missed it, the paper you cited argues that, according to (objective) Bayesianism, which it explains and defends, probabilities do not measure frequencies.

    • says

      You still haven’t answered the question. Which of the options is it?

      I am not going to answer irrelevant questions.

      I agree with you that Dembski’s threshold doesn’t apply to the universe itself. Not having any problem with that claim, I haven’t discussed it.

      That’s cheeky. Are you now talking in a circle? You keep ignoring the role of prior probability in this discussion. And that note contains a crucial point about priors that explains why your “twenty royal flushes” argument is a straw man. And still you don’t see it. Astonishing. This is like talking to a wall.

      At no point have I questioned that p(f|o) = 1. I accept that that is true. You do not need to convince me of that. I’m not trying to get around it. I just want to know what it proves about NID.

      It proves that f cannot be evidence of NID. Because you can’t get a likelihood higher than 1, and the only way for any e to be evidence for any h is for the likelihood of e on h to be higher than the likelihood of e on ~h.

      That alone does not refute NID. It just means you can never use f to argue for NID. Exactly as explained in my chapter.

      * Consider these two statements:
      A: 2 + 2 = 4
      B: I know that 2 + 2 = 4

      o = an intelligent observer exists.

      Obviously, o follows from B. Does it follow from A?

      There are no observers in A. There can be universes in which A is true and ~o. But no observer can ever observe that outcome. Because those universes lack observers. By definition. That’s the point. So you are asking pointless questions here.

      Meanwhile, B entails o. You cannot have B and ~o. Therefore you cannot separate B from o. Any set that contains B contains o by logical necessity. Get it?

      But, surely, if there is one thing in our background knowledge that is the product of NID, then NID exists.

      To the same probability of that one thing, certainly. Can you point to one? If not, then as I said, “so far, that frequency is zero” (p. 282). We then have to evaluate what its highest prior can be (since we cannot presume it is actually zero). I then do that. If there were a confirmed case of NID, I wouldn’t have to do any of that and my chapter would be written very differently indeed. But we have to attend to things as they actually are. Not as you would wish them to be.

      If we had any confirmed cases of NID, then the analysis would depend on reference classes exhibiting NID, e.g. if we were visited by aliens (not secretly but publicly) then the reference class in which NID has a high prior would be things those aliens could plausibly do (and whether that included originating and evolving earth life and creating the universe would depend on what facts are known about those aliens, and/or evidence of coincidences of correlation, hence p. 283, a page you seem to be ignoring). We would then not be talking about whether NID exists, but whether that agent created the universe or originated earth life or meddled in its evolution. Hence my chapter would be completely different were that the case. But it’s not the case. So it’s moot.

      This is an example, BTW, of you not understanding my argument.

      I’ve clicked every link on this page, and searched the HTML source – I can’t find a link to the post “Ex Nihilo Onus Merdae Fit”. Did I miss it?

      I see this is my error. It’s in the God Impossible link (so you should have found it had you read that; so you just confirmed to me you didn’t). But the link after that was supposed to go to it directly, but I evidently duplicated the previous URL instead of put in the correct one. So I’ve corrected the error. Apologies.

      In case you missed it, the paper you cited argues that, according to (objective) Bayesianism, which it explains and defends, probabilities do not measure frequencies.

      Do you agree with them? That’s what I’m asking.

      (If you want to know why they are wrong, see Proving History, pp. 265-80. But already their discussion of reference classes is self-evidently a discussion of frequencies. You should have noticed that.)

  18. GGDFan777 says

    Also, in defense of the impossibility of an actual infinity I would like to point to an article by philosopher Casper Storm Hansen of the University of Aberdeen called “New Zeno and Actual Infinity” which can be found here:

    http://core.kmi.open.ac.uk/download/pdf/5849860

    Abstract:
    In 1964 José Benardete invented the “New Zeno Paradox” about an infinity of gods trying to prevent a traveler from reaching his destination. In this paper it is argued,contra Priest and Yablo, that the paradox must be re-solved by rejecting the possibility of actual infinity. Further, it is shown that this paradox has the same logical form as Yablo’s Paradox. It is suggested that constructivism can serve as the basis of a common solution to New Zeno and the paradoxes of truth, and a constructivist interpretation of Kripke’s theory of truth is given.

    • says

      That paper doesn’t defend the impossibility of an actual infinity. It simply proposes that one paradox can be solved by rejecting the possibility of an actual infinity. Not that it has to have a solution (don’t forget, paradoxes sometimes are just true: that’s the point of much transfinite mathematics, it simply is paradoxical, because our intuitions relate to finite arithmetic…as Russell pointed out, a paradox need not be false if you can’t prove it logically impossible, and transfinite paradoxes can’t be proved logically impossible). Nor that that (denying actual infinity) is the only logically possible solution (that paper does not create any strict lemma of alternatives, it merely selects two to compare). So that gets Craig nowhere.

  19. GGDFan777 says

    You also claim that:
    “As causes only exist in time, time itself cannot even in principle have a cause. ”

    But you give no argument to show that a timeless cause is impossible, moreover Craig has written many articles defending the coherence of God being the cause of the space-time manifold.

    Moreover, you seem to be contradicting yourself since in another comment on the kalam argument you yourself have written the following:

    “Time as such is timelessly present (there is no distinct time at which “time” exists, and there is no point in time where time doesn’t exist), and thus can be a timeless effect, and thus can have a timeless cause. Inded, by definition time can only have a timeless cause, since unless time has existed forever (which would refute Kalam), or can begin without a cause (which would refute Kalam), the only kind of cause it could ever possibly have had is a timeless cause.”

    So which is it? can time have a cause or not?

    • says

      Time itself cannot have a temporal cause. It can have an ontological cause, but once you are talking about ontological causes, the rule “everything has an ontological cause” ceases to have empirical support (in the way “everything [in time] has a temporal cause” does). This is a fallacy of term switching Craig often engages (using “we have evidence everything has a [temporal] cause, therefore everything has an [ontological] cause,” which is a fallacy of equivocation). A temporal cause is by definition something that precedes the effect in time. If there is no preceding time, there cannot be a preceding cause, any more than you can stand north of the north pole.

      This is why Craig uses the term switching fallacy, and handwaves and switches one type of cause for another in the middle of an argument and hopes you don’t notice. I actually discuss this explicitly and in some detail in Sense and Goodness without God (III.3.5, pp. 83-96).

      Moreover (as I also discuss there), an ontological cause also exists in time–it just happens to share the same point in time as what it causes to co-occupy that point. Otherwise, that which exists at no time, does not exist (by definition: that which exists nowhere, does not exist anywhere). And nothing can exist before time. Because that would entail there is a time before time, which is a logical contradiction (or violate Ockham’s Razor by inventing two times to explain one; and then you are stuck explaining what caused the first time; and so on). Craig’s handwaving about God somehow being able to exist nowhere and at no time is nonsense. But he has to do that, because once you notice that an ontological cause co-occupies the spacetime of the thing caused, it no longer follows that the cause has to be transcendent–indeed, you cannot have “nothing” when the cause exists at the same point in time there is supposed to be nothing. Unless the cause itself is nothing.

      From that point on, nothing goes well for Craig’s argument.

  20. timberwoof says

    Except for the part about how it’s true,

    “It is things like this that convince me Craig is actually a liar. He knows his article is a scam, and misleads any Christian who reads it. He knows it won’t convince any atheist. Because he knows what atheists actually argue, not just about (1)-(4), but about his own five claims. But he doesn’t tell Fox News readers a single thing about any of that. He conceals that knowledge from them.”

    appears to be slander. If he were to prosecute this case, WLC would have to become aware, in a court of law, of the arguments you make in support of the atheist conclusion and in rebuttal to his points. No matter the outcome of the case, he’s smart enough to know that he would never again be able to use those arguments, for if he did, then he would be a liar.

  21. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’m pretty sure the top three reasons atheists are atheists are (1) the world is awash with evil and injustice (natural and human) and there is no superbeing doing a thing about it, (2) the only books claiming to be endorsed by a god are awash with ridiculous ignorance, contradictions, and vile teachings, and (3) if a god existed and cared that we knew it, he would tell us, personally (and, being the only actual god, consistently). I would add (4) the universe is very badly designed for life and thus cannot have been designed for it and then (5) there is insufficient evidence to reach any other conclusion. I’ve summarized the case in Why I Am Not a Christian,

    Pedantics mode engage:

    Actually, all of that really doesn’t have to do with the general god question. It’s instead narrowly tailored to one very specific god hypothesis, that there is a powerful and good creature who cares about human affairs. (Sometimes some people call such a creature “god”.) 1, 2, and 3 just show that there is not a sufficiently powerful, good, caring god. 4 shows that there probably isn’t even a clockmaker god who intended for the creation of life. 5 is just a repeat of the earlier conclusions.

    The arguments “for atheism” are: (1) there is no compelling evidence for any sort of interfering god at all, nor even some sort of first-cause god, (2) there is compelling evidence that there are no abridgments of ordinary physics to influence specific aspects of human affairs, e.g. there are no miracles, and thus we have positive evidence against a certain class of interfering gods, and (3) we can extend the previous argument by an extrapolation of inductive reasoning that there are no miracles anywhere in our shared physical reality, and thus there are no interfering gods.

    What you gave are not good arguments for atheism. What you gave are good arguments that even if some powerful creature matching the description of the god in the Christian bible exists, it is a dick, and you should not worship it. If the TV show Stargate SG-1 taught me anything, it is that the proper reply to being confronted with powerful evil creatures calling themselves gods is not to bow down and worship, but to blow them up. Nuke god! (Technically, we should try persuasion first, but if that fails and they continue in their mischief, then nuking may be appropriate.)

    • says

      That’s not true. As I explain in Sense and Goodness without God (IV.2.3, pp. 273-75), a dick god would also be doing things that would make himself known. One has to instead posit a Cartesian Demon, which fails as a hypothesis on prior probability alone (the ad hoc complexity of any Cartesian Demon hypothesis is so vast there can never be any reason to believe one exists, even if one does).

    • EnlightenmentLiberal says

      What? You can’t see the possibility of a malicious child playing with ants in the box? Do the ants know of the child? No.

      Perhaps there’s a little bit of sick and twisted in me, and I can see the possible enjoyment of just f’ing with people and toying with them, but never really letting them on. Surely yes this leaves evidence, but maybe such flimsy and unreliable evidence that the Christians of today put forth.

  22. brianpansky says

    I’m pretty sure the top three reasons atheists are atheists are

    really? i thought that “no good evidence” was pretty much the top. it is for me, and from what i’ve seen, a lot of others.

    meanwhile #3 is something i also count as highly important, yet i rarely see it as a top reason that many other atheists use…

    ah well, this is a great post and i’m enjoying it (i’m not done yet!).

  23. Cryptomaniac says

    I saw Charlie Rose interview Alan Rusbridger, Chief Editor of Britain’s Guardian, along with Jeanine Gibson, Chief Editor of Guardian US. In that interview, both editors strongly emphasized to Charlie and everyone watching that every single story based on NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden (PBUH) gets run past NSA officials to see if they want them to withhold any from publication, but the NSA has hardly EVER responded, “Yes withhold that one please”. On the contrary, they clear nearly all of them. A few that they didn’t clear actually got published anyway after the editors decided NSA’s reasoning wasn’t strong enough, but otherwise they comply with those NSA requests.

    But this is what really grinds my gears: While the POTUS, the White House as a whole, Congress, the Senate, NSA/CIA/FBI and probably even NRA officials past and present, and other higher-level people continuously push the line that “the USA has been and still is being harmed by the revelations of Ed Snowden (PBUH),” and “Ed Snowden (PBUH) is a national traitor who must be arrested and jailed”, NO ONE bothers to mention this TINY detail that the NSA *affirmatively* clears nearly everything.

    Sorry for all the irrelevant-seeming detail, but I had to spell it out because the exact same type of criticism applies to those who argue tête-à-tête with William Lane Craig: no one ever bothers to mention that ALL his arguments, which are so abundantly facile anyway, have been well DESTROYED countless times both in public and in his face, and so therefore WLC is clearly fundamentally dishonest in continuing to repeat those debunked claims.

    Those debates aren’t in Parliament, and they aren’t on family viewing hour – call the SoB out as a bald-faced L-I-A-R and do it with video evidence playing on a big screen behind his head. Don’t be nice to him, he isn’t nice, or honest, himself. Take good old Al Franken’s approach when naming books: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them”, and “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Liar and Other Observations”. He wasn’t trying to be funny. He wasn’t even taking license of any description, he just CALLED IT because he knew people would hear him.

    Why doesn’t someone call out WLC like Al Franken would if he still had an appropriate platform?

    If anyone wants to offer a better justification for not calling a spade a spade and a duck a duck than tired old “Political Correctness”, I’d love to be enlightened. It seems like such a huge lost opportunity to me – an opportunity to humiliate the SoB in a way that goes absolutely viral.

  24. says

    e2: Fine Tuning
    Craig’s second item of “evidence” is the claim that the universe has been “finely tuned” to produce life. Which is again not a fact, but a theory.”

    We critique Believers for confusing theory with conjecture, so it’s important not to do that. Given that his position has been debunked, it can only be called a hypothesis.

    But I know what you meant.

  25. Kimpatsu says

    For we can logically deduce the existence of innumerable universes…

    Excuse me, Richard, but don’t you mean “logically INFER”? (I.e., inductive, not deductive reasoning.) Surely the nature of universes as we understand them is our narrowing to the best logical inference; our conclusions are not formed by Aristotelian syllogisms. Max Pigliucci might take you to task on that point.

  26. Cioran says

    It’s my impression that the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Fine Tuning Argument are in logical conflict, and so one cannot present both as evidence for God. One must choose one or the other. The KCA holds that metaphysical naturalism is metaphysically impossible. God is the reason why anything exists at all, fine-tuned or not. No God, no universe. But since God is metaphysically necessary, under KCA, it’s up to him whether to create a universe or not. But no universe, under KCA, can exist without God. Fine-tuning, OTOH, relies upon comparing the alleged prior probabilities of a universe fine-tuned for life existing under metaphysical naturalism, vs. such a universe existing under God, and tries to argue that a universe fine-tuned for life is more likely on the hypothesis of God than the hypothesis of undirected natural processes. Thus FTA, to be coherent at all, must concede the metaphysical possibility of metaphysical naturalism, which KCA cannot concede. Thus you can’t hold both claims since they are mutually contradictory. If you support KCA you repudiate fine-tuning and if you support fine-tuning you repudiate KCA.

    Also, it might be noted that fine-tuning is inconsistent with intelligent design. If an intelligent designer is needed to fiddle complex organisms into existence since evolution can’t do the job, this contradicts fine-tuning. But if the universe is fine-tuned for life, no intelligent designer is needed.

    The Kalam Cosmological Argument also runs afoul of the claim of Aquinas that the universe need not have a beginning in order for God to exist; in the universe is infinitely old, the Aquinas variant holds that it must be upheld by god, even if god did not create it since there was no creation event. But since Kalam says that everything that begins to exist must have a cause, it follows that under Kalam’s reasoning, if the universe did not begin to exist, then it need not have had a cause.

    Finally, although I think this is a great piece, I’d quibble a bit with one part of your interpretation of the fine-tuning argument. FT. doesn’t require that the universe be packed with life; or indeed that it have any life in it at all. The modest form of the claim is that certain parameters are fine-tuned to allow life to exist even in principle; on this modest claim, it is conceivable that a universe fine-tuned for life could exist even if it had no life in it, but that life could not exist even in principle in universes in which the parameters were not fine-tuned.

    • says

      The modest form of the claim is that certain parameters are fine-tuned to allow life to exist even in principle; on this modest claim, it is conceivable that a universe fine-tuned for life could exist even if it had no life in it, but that life could not exist even in principle in universes in which the parameters were not fine-tuned.

      That’s not relevant to my point. A designer making a universe for life would still be more likely to produce Aristotle’s universe (which was 100% inhabited and inhabitable), whereas a universe that became life-producing by accident would (to a probability near 100%) look exactly like ours.

      Making “excuses” for why a designer would design a universe to look exactly like a universe that wasn’t designed does not rescue the hypothesis, because it requires adding an enormous ad hoc supposition (and a bizarre and self-contradictory one at that) about the strange motives of the designer (e.g. that he intended to deceive or was too stupid to know that would be the effect of what he was doing), which greatly reduces the prior probability (by as much or more as any gain in probability produced by the better fit with evidence), so it gains no net probability. Hence any such gerrymandered hypothesis must be rejected by Ockham’s Razor for the same reason as all Cartesian Demon hypotheses are.

  27. Solastalgic says

    “…It’s a theory.” & “…unscientific, creationist “theory”…”.

    Perhaps need to be a little more careful or definitive with your use of the word – theory.

  28. Raucous Indignation says

    There are moments in my life when I believe that I am erudite and have clarity of thought.

    And then I read your blog.

    Bah! Humbug!

  29. says

    I hope I am not banned from all your blogs, like I am from your atwill one, they are kinda fun.

    Yeah I kinda agree with them being led by “Well paid con men”, but there is a movement of energy with the pulse wave created from the shift in the sun/earth positioning associated with the solstices, that deserves celebration and a ritual to funnel that energy.

    ALL in all I am glad you got addressed Craig, He seems nice but makes my head shake in wonder when he tries to apologize for the criminal religion of Christianity, rather it was meant to be that way or not.

  30. Jerry Russell says

    Hello Richard,

    Your arguments about Jesus seem strangely unresponsive to what Christians actually say. Specifically:

    Jesus performed instead just a few exorcisms and faith-healing acts on a small number of people with no verifiable biological symptoms (things like blindness and paralysis and demonic possession, which can easily be psychosomatic…

    Lazarus was dead for four days, but had “no verifiable biological symptoms” when Jesus raised him from the dead by talk therapy for his psychosomatic illness?

    That’s just another Benny Hinn.

    The article you link says that Benny Hinn claims to cure cancer and AIDS. Again, those aren’t normally considered as diseases with no biological symptoms, nor does medical science normally seek to cure them by psychoanalysis, much less laying on hands.

    It also says that numerous news agencies have investigated his claims and found that he is indeed a charlatan, as you say. But we don’t have any similar reports about Jesus from ancient eyewitness reporters, so the comparison fails again.

    “various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death” (actually, “most scholars” agree various people believed they saw a supernaturally risen Jesus, not that they actually saw Jesus alive again)

    Arguing about what “most scholars” think is pretty much beside the point. John 20 makes it perfectly clear that at least in that author’s view, the apostles saw Jesus alive again in the flesh after his resurrection.

    Evangelicals go on to claim that such a concretely realized and historically referenced and non-allegorical statement is pretty much unique in ancient literature, and as far as I know that’s a true fact. And I’m saying that as a non-specialist — so if you can prove me wrong about that, Richard, I’d be delighted. You can even keep calling me crazy, as long as you tell me things I don’t know.

    • says

      Lazarus was dead for four days

      Verified by a medical specialist, no doubt.

      You need to read up on the scam literature. The way stories get exaggerated in the retelling, and the way miracles like resurrections are staged by village shamen, is legend. And conforms exactly to the Gospel pattern.

      Had Lazarus been beheaded, then we might start to have something. If we didn’t already know John made the story up (John turned the fictional Lazarus of Luke into a real Lazarus, and made him central to a story all previous versions of which had never heard of him).

      cancer and AIDS. Again, those aren’t normally considered as diseases with no biological symptoms

      Yes, they are. It is easy to claim you have either, when you don’t. Unlike, say, claiming to be missing your arms and legs or eyes, or to have a sucking chest wound, or high grade fever.

      But we don’t have any similar reports about Jesus from ancient eyewitness reporters, so the comparison fails again.

      False analogy. There were no investigators available. Crimes don’t cease to occur simply because no one is around to catch them. To the contrary, that’s when crimes most especially occur.

      Had there been a Lucian of Samosata around in Galilee when Jesus was plying his wiles, we’d have what you ask for. But alas he wasn’t, so we don’t.

      We don’t, in fact, have any eyewitness accounts–not even from gullible believers.

      That tells you all you need to know. Imagine if Benny Hinn were as fortunate as that!

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      Great conversational comebacks from those obviously false statements you initially made, to a much more nuanced and correct position. No, I don’t think you’re a crackpot or insane because you exhibit a pattern like this.

      I think we’re pretty much on the same page here, except that I’m not sure that the Jesus miracles are entirely explained as typical shamanic magic tricks, or stories “exaggerated on the retelling”. The Christian apologists always insist that there’s something special and unique about the Lazarus story, and Jesus’s resurrection in the flesh.

      I’ve watched these Christian vs. skeptic debates for years, and never seen any skeptic come up with a specific example from the ancient literature, of anything that really is on the same level as these gospel stories. You tell me to go “read up on the scam literature” and I’m sure there’s a lot of reading I could do, but a more specific reference would be helpful.

  31. Lion IRC says

    You say WLC uses “…the same illogical, refuted, lousy arguments.”

    If they are so illogical why do they demand 4,600+ words from you in reply.
    If they are already refuted, your lengthy blog response seems redundant.
    If they are lousy, your talents are wasted. Why not find a better Christian Apologist to tackle.

    Happy holy days err… I mean holidays.

    • Slimy Man says

      So just because a lengthy response was given, that means the argument being countered must have been somehow logical..? Dr. Craig makes a habit of boldly assuming that the premises of his arguments are true. The trouble is, the premises he assumes tend to involve very deep concepts (e.g., the universe has a cause; if the universe has a cause, that cause must be God). The depth of the topics referred to in the premises demands lengthy responses.

      As for saying it is a waste of time to refute claims that have already been refuted; surely you can see an issue here. Dr. Craig makes the same arguments despite them being refuted constantly in debate and in-print. If we rest on the existing refutations, what is to stop Dr. Craig from continuing to assert his faulty arguments? The more commonly good refutations arise, the more likely it is that people will see them and give them some thought. That really isn’t a difficult idea to understand…

      As for the last point – and as Dr. Carrier said – there are no better apologists. Further, spreading knowledge is never a waste of one’s talents.

  32. Stuart says

    According to Victor Stenger, the Universe isn’t particularly fine tuned for life. Stenger’s contribution completely changes the debate. Up til now, it has been assumed by some that fine tuning isn’t evidence for design because we could only live in a universe that is fine tuned for life, so the fact that we observe fine tuning isn’t surprising.

    First, we have to distinguish between a life-supporting universe that requires fine-tuning and a life-supporting universe that does not require fine tuning. We know that we must live in a life-supporting universe but we don’t necessarily know that we live in a life-supporting universe that requires fine tuning. It seemed until recently that our (life-supporting) universe did require fine tuning but that is now up for debate.

    The fact that there is now a debate about fine tuning provides an excellent opportunity to put the design hypothesis to the test. If Stenger is right then the evidence clearly argues against design. But if Stenger is wrong then the evidence must argue for design because Stenger would then have shown how the evidence could have ruled out design but didn’t.

    • says

      You mean a new one? If so, then no, haven’t seen that. But his trend is to ignore what I actually say and argue against irrelevant points or points I didn’t make, so I’m not very concerned. But do please post the URL here–and the more so, if there is anything in it you genuinely think I should respond to, point out which thing that is.

  33. phichipsiomega17 says

    It’s a comment that was put “under moderation” by you. Also, he’s been responding quite well to your criticisms. The appeal to “straw-man” only goes so far.

    • says

      Then you don’t know how he is duping you. (Or you are a sock puppet and thus actually just him.)

      Again: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

      Granted, maybe he doesn’t do this on purpose. Maybe he’s just crazy and can’t actually comprehend any of the arguments he is responding to and genuinely believes the arguments he is responding to are arguments we actually made. But then, he’s duping you as well as himself.

      Either way, there is no reason to bother reading or replying to someone who never, even after many, many attempts, ever gets your argument correct so as to actually rebut it. It shows he lacks the ability even to do that. So it’s highly unlikely he ever shall.

  34. phichipsiomega17 says

    OK. I’m not a sock, and despite the barrage of links, you seem to not acknowledge the comment he made to you on January 27th that deals with your most recent one on the 22nd.

    As for the rest of your comment, I’d appreciate if you could drop the polemics about other people who don’t agree with you, unless you expect polemics against you.

  35. says

    “Craig’s fifth and last item of “evidence” is the claim that God (we’re to assume) talks to Christians…but (we’re to assume) all the people of all the other religions throughout history (paganism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism) who claim God is speaking to them are wrong–yet when Craig says God speaks to him, he alone is right. Because reasons.

    Craig says, “down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives,” but that is a classic example of his deceitfully misleading method of argument, selectively omitting all the evidence against him, and smoothing over all the serious problems even with the evidence he is singling out (see the first four chapters of The Christian Delusion, as well as the seventh, and eighth). Because an honest statement would be, “Down through history many people have found a thousand different god-beliefs, from paganism to Hinduism to Islam to Mormonism to Kao Dai, and even atheistic philosophical worldviews, from Humanism to Taoism to Marxism, that have transformed their lives, and this was even happening for tens of thousands of years before anyone had ever heard from any god claiming to be Jesus.” Unquote

    Craig must be a very biased person about Christianity and against other religions.

    The One-True-God ( definitely not Jesus who never died on the Cross and never resurrected from the physical dead and never ascended to heaven); did talk to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad 1835-1908 and I quote from him:

    “The Speaker (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) is Honored with Divine Converse”

    “I would be guilty of doing great wrong to my fellow beings if I were not to declare at this stage that divine bounty has bestowed upon me the status which I have just defined and has honored me with the kind of converse the features of which I have just set out in detail, so that I should bestow sight upon the blind and should guide the seekers of the One Who has been so far lost, and should give to those who accept the truth the good news of that holy fountain of which many speak but which few find.

    I wish to assure the listeners that the God, meeting with Whom is the salvation and eternal welfare of man, cannot be found without following the Holy Quran.

    Would that the people were to see that which I have seen, and were to hear that which I have heard, and should lay aside mere tales and should run to the truth! The cleansing water which removes all doubt, that mirror through which that Supreme Being can be seen, is converse with the Divine that I have just mentioned. Let him whose soul seeks the truth arise and search.

    I tell you truly that if souls are charged with true seeking and hearts develop true thirst; people would search for that way and would seek that path. How can that way be discovered, and how can the intervening veil be removed? I assure all seekers that it is Islam alone which conveys the good news of that path. All other people have since long sealed up divine revelation. Be sure, however, that this seal is not imposed by God, but is an excuse that is put forward by man on account of his privation.

    Be sure that as it is not possible that we should be able to see without eyes, or should be able to hear without ears, or should be able to speak without a tongue, in the same way it is not possible that without the help of the Quran we should be able to behold the countenance of the True Beloved. I was young and am now old but I have not encountered anyone who has quaffed the cup of this visible understanding except out of this holy fountain.

    Page 206-207

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf

    Thanks and regards

  36. says

    “The good thing is that Evangelical Christians tend to be very passionate people and want to believe in something. If they would only put aside the lies, omissions, and distortions promulgated by their own well-paid con-men for a moment and reexamine their worldview in light of what the actual philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence is today, then they, too, would find Christmas worth celebrating…as what it actually is: a once pagan and now secular holiday invented by human beings for their own enjoyment and good. Then they can maybe go one step further and exit their dangerous delusion, and stop hating people and voting to take away their rights or to perpetuate injustices against the disadvantaged, and instead start actually caring about their fellow human beings, and the truth, for a change. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful Christmas present for us all?”

    I agree with you.

    The Christians need to reform their religion.

    They should disprove the mythical creed invented by Paul, scribes and the Church and follow Jesus and Mary in their true and core teachings and acts.

  37. Scott Scheule says

    Jeffrey Lowder has commented on your exchange with Barnes at Secular Outpost. He has a signficantly higher appraisal of Barnes’s critiques than you seem to, rightly or wrongly.

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