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Standing up to William Lane Craig

Lately, William Lane Craig has been demanding that Richard Dawkins debate him, and has gotten quite insistent lately as he tours England. I don’t see the point in anyone debating Craig: he’s a nobody who has contributed nothing to the intellectual world; he’s a professional debater and apologist, a rhetorical gunslinger for Christ, and there’s no purpose to enaging him (I know Hitchens took him on…but Hitchens has been our rhetorical gunslinger). Dawkins is a top-flight evolutionary biologist and a masterful craftsman of the English language. I don’t think there’s even anything interesting to discuss with Craig. So Richard Dawkins has taken the time to explain why he refuses to debate William Lane Craig. It’s a terrific put-down. I’m going to have to steal from it next time that importuning dweeb Vox Day starts pestering me to debate him.

I was pleased to see that one of Dawkins’ points was one that is not made often enough: William Lane Craig is a nasty, amoral excuse for a human being.

Comments

  1. Myron says

    “…which belies the original claim that nothing is uncaused.”

    Once again: Craig’s original claim is not that nothing is uncaused but that nothing that has a beginning is uncaused!

  2. Ing says

    @Difav

    It’s simple. Myron says that material explanations fail (whatever) so either the universe is eternal or some non-material transcendent explanation exists. He claims this can only be a spiritual cause. I contest that once we delve into this murky pool one with enough imagination can conjure up any number of hypothetical new categories other than spiritual. Always existent transcendent material objects was my guess. It could also be Phlarfooxual objects, which are like spiritual ones but differ in many fine and important details. They’re closer to Moxual objects or Galyfriadalekian objects really.

  3. Ing says

    Once again: Craig’s original claim is not that nothing is uncaused but that nothing that has a beginning is uncaused!

    And there’s only one uncaused thing that has no beginning, right?

    Is this band-aid a Sponge Bob or a Superman one?

  4. Ing says

    Once again: Craig’s original claim is not that nothing is uncaused but that nothing that has a beginning is uncaused!

    And it still violates it’s first cause which asserts that the universe MUST HAVE A BEGINNING.

    This type of logic puzzle got old for me ages ago

  5. Ing says

    Seriously WLC’s arguement stripped of all the nonsense boils down to

    The Universe needs a creator
    The only creator is God
    God exists

  6. Myron says

    BronzeDog says:
    What does “transcendent” mean in this context?
    What does “spiritual” mean in this context?
    What does “abstract” mean in this context?

    1. “transcendent” = “extraspatiotemporal” (or at least “extraspatial”)
    2. “spiritual” = “nonphysical + mental + active”
    3. “abstract” = “nonphysical + nonmental + nonactive”

  7. John Morales says

    Myron the chew-toy:

    Once again: Craig’s original claim is not that nothing is uncaused but that nothing that has a beginning is uncaused!

    Thanks, Myron!

    (It’s fun when you can tauntingly warn someone, and they go ahead anyway :) )

  8. Ing says

    2. “spiritual” = “nonphysical + mental + active”

    Self contradictory Mental is physical.

    And you’re going to go into a dualism attempt to refute…which presupposes a spiritual which turns this into a big begging the question.

    You’re boring.

    abstract” = “nonphysical + nonmental + nonactive”

    Goddamn it, abstract IS something that is mental. How can you be so wrong on basic principles?

    “transcendent” = “extraspatiotemporal” (or at least “extraspatial”)

    Jesus fuck…you expect your physics to be taken seriously when you are operating without relativity?

  9. says

    Always existent transcendent material objects was my guess. It could also be Phlarfooxual objects, which are like spiritual ones but differ in many fine and important details. They’re closer to Moxual objects or Galyfriadalekian objects really.

    I’m rather fond of flarschnikity things. They’re inherently more gobatastic than mere spiritual things, so the have more explanatory power.

  10. Ing says

    I’m oddly reminded of a scene from a comic I picked up at comiccon where characters are constantly questinging the main protagonist’s math because he’s using a system that has 5 cardinal directions and a bunch of new number’s he’s made up. His system maps to reality in that verse but it seems like gibberish to everyone because he hasn’t had the time to take them through the steps he took to prove that there are 5 dimensions and why infinity-1 is a useful constant.

  11. Ichthyic says

    Once again: Craig’s original claim is not that nothing is uncaused but that nothing that has a beginning is uncaused!

    LOL

    so, given our charitable interpretation, equating that with meaning “causal”, he’s just wrong.

    using it with your interpretation means the argument is entirely circular.

    “things that are caused, were caused.”

    fucking inane.

  12. Ing says

    Isn’t it odd that WLC’s arguments, despite being logical constructs, fall apart without his presence? It’s almost as if it’s personality rather than rationality that makes them sound viable

  13. Ing says

    @Ichthyic

    What if it was something that was non-linearly chronological/causal? Therefore it had an event that caused it some time, but it’s time symmetric and radiated both into the future and into the past becoming eternal?

  14. says

    1. “transcendent” = “extraspatiotemporal” (or at least “extraspatial”)
    2. “spiritual” = “nonphysical + mental + active”

    Your definitions are self-contradictory and/or nonsense that have yet to be demonstrated as real.

    For “transcendant”: Existing outside of space and time doesn’t sound terribly meaningful. It makes for good sci-fi technobabble, though.

    For “spiritual”:

    “Mental” is material. Mental processes occur in a material brain.

    Assuming that “physical” means “material,” that would mean that it does not have an observable effect. If it’s active, that implies that it has observable effect. These two characteristics of “spiritual” are opposites.

    abstract” = “nonphysical + nonmental + nonactive”

    You’re defining it as not real and/or inherently irrelevant to our universe from the sound of it.

  15. says

    Why anyone would want to debate William Lane Craig is beyond me. I’ve listened and read a number of his debates, Craig is a professional apologist and knows how to argue to win debates. For example, in a debate with Massimo Pigliucci, he had no trouble in taking the charge of a non-sequitur as being a concession to the validity of the arguments. Later in the same debate, he claimed that any instance of evil by God in the bible was the atheist taking it out of context.

    If you want to hear what Craig thinks, there are countless debates up online already. But what purpose does it serve anyone to debate with him? It’s not arguing for what’s the most reasonable intellectual position, it’s arguing with a skilled apologist about a belief that is to be reasonable – so far as reason can support it. Craig is a very good debater, but he’s not there to try to give a fair account. He’s there to defend the belief in Jesus as the saviour. When one of Craig’s usual 5 arguments is an appeal to knowing God through the revelation of the holy spirit, it’s a sure sign that the discussion is more show than intellectual rigour.

  16. John Morales says

    Kel,

    … it’s a sure sign that the discussion is more show than intellectual rigour.

    This no less:
    Nothing can cause anything to begin to exist which is eternal in the sense that it has always existed (and that all of its existence is temporal existence).

  17. says

    In terms of Craig’s stock standard arguments:

    1. Why there is something rather than nothing – why can’t something be the default state of things? Isn’t God something?
    2. What caused the universe – presumes the universe had a cause, and positing a personal cause is taking something part of the material universe that he wishes to explain.
    3. Fine tuning – has same problems as the design argument that Hume pointed out 250 years ago; neglects that our existence is just as much a product of those same laws as everything else in the universe; an argument from ignorance.
    4. Objective morality is absurd without God – assumes there’s objective morality; assumes that God makes it make sense; euthyphro dilemma.
    5. Jesus resurrected – the accounts don’t overcome the problem of miracles; not being able to give a satisfactory account of the resurrection doesn’t mean that a resurrection took place, again it’s an argument from ignorance.
    6. Warranted belief – beliefs shape interpretations, that a believer in UFOs has an alien abduction experience doesn’t mean aliens; it’s a case of affirming the consequent when hypothetical P is justified by experience Q.

    Why won’t Craig debate me? Is it because he’s afraid of my awesome logic skillz?

  18. Ichthyic says

    What if it was something that was non-linearly chronological/causal? Therefore it had an event that caused it some time, but it’s time symmetric and radiated both into the future and into the past becoming eternal?

    uh…

    yeah, that’s about the size of it.

    ;P

    where’s my flux capacitor when I need it?

  19. A. Noyd says

    Rasmus (#232)

    The good news is that everyone is going to heaven to hang out with Jesus after they die, including atheists.

    Proof: Heaven is a period in your experience compared to which no greater period can be conceived…

    Shit, I’d hate to hear the bad news then. All the periods in my experience have so far been terrible what with the cramping and bloating.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    dtbts (#440)

    try reading some of craigs work with an open mind

    By “open,” I presume you’re suggesting we literally take hacksaws to our skulls because I don’t see how any amount of philosophical charity will make Craig’s bullshit suddenly sound reasonable.

  20. Ravi says

    Ah I pity you lost souls. Both the fiery atheists and the misguided yahweh believers.

    It is all so very obvious to me but why cant you guys see that?

    I do have to agree with craig and his supporters that there is an uncaused cause for this wonderful universe. Evidence and logic necessitates such a conviction. So thats where you blind godless immoral atheits are wrong. You can never see reason can you?

    But what is the point of an intelligent designer if he is not also of some use to us?

    Our scriptures indicate that this intelligent designer is absolutely fabulous. He painted this world in all the colours of the rainbow and why there is even a rainbow that you can see during rainy days. Surely, does this not bring about an inner conviction that the true god is not that old yahweh but our very own ‘Longpole-Tightbottom’ ?

    My god performs countless miracles like curing people of diseases and turning straight people gay – but demanding proof for it would be blasphemy againt god. There are after all,people who dress in pink. This is proof enough for us, the chosen ones.

    I am one of the chosen people for I have a great taste in arts and an impeccable flair for fashion. My God works in mysterious ways and at the end of our life, all good people would reach the great Fairy land. All good women would turn into men as they have served the purpose of breeding more men. The fairy land will be filled with men for all tastes – twinks, bears, chippndalish hunks in brown,white,black and yellow.

    Those who dont believe in my God would be sent to the hell of BSDM. Heavenly fairies would come down to enjoy the slaves in bondage in turns for a break from heavenly pleasures; After all eternity is a pretty longtime. In case you are wondering, bad women would end up in this hell but would be made to manufacture all the necessary leather and metal quipments needed for hell.
    You see, our holy book explains everything.

    So unless you enjoy being tied-up and force fucked, you better believe in Longpole-Tightbottom. Because that is what my holybook says.

    Christians have long misrepresented the cardinal event of crusifiction and resurrection of our prophet Yeshu(whom they wrongly call Jesus).

    Yeshu was crusified to represent the sin of the non-believers and the cross symbolises the sufferings in the BSDM hell. (Of course Yeshu was only tied up and not really nailed to the cross as you claim against clear scientific evidence. Eminent historians agree that ancient Romans quite enjoyed BSDM revelry).

    The staged death and resurrection are metaphors for the fact that all men – even those with a ‘dead’ penis and ‘empty tomb’ would be able to ‘rise’ again in the fairyland full of virility.

    Not understanding this great mystery, the christians preach blasphemy as the gospel of truth. I surely wish they end up in hell; You know why..

    Perhaps I should kill myself to go to heaven sooner…

    *******

  21. consciousness razor says

    What if it was something that was non-linearly chronological/causal? Therefore it had an event that caused it some time, but it’s time symmetric and radiated both into the future and into the past becoming eternal?

    Uh what? I don’t think I’m that drunk … maybe just drunk enough for philosophy. Does anything that we know of work like that? I don’t know how you’d talk about a “cause” in that case, but maybe it would make sense if there were more than one time-like dimension.

    BTW, I guess you could say something is “becoming eternal” if it starts existing at some time and never ceases to exist after that (in one “direction” only — personally I’ve only ever needed the one). Of course you’d never know that, because it would take an infinite amount of time to know, or knowledge about everything that can and will happen to that system. Otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense to me. I guess when I’m sober, that probably won’t change. :)

  22. Matt Penfold says

    Well an electron moving forward in time is also a positron moving backwards in time.

    Of course that is real physics, no matter that it seems very odd.

  23. consciousness razor says

    maybe just drunk enough for philosophy

    Matt Penfold:

    Well an electron moving forward in time is also a positron moving backwards in time.

    Of course that is real physics, no matter that it seems very odd.

    I know, but that doesn’t seem like the same sort of “cause” Ing is taking about. I know the whole “causation” idea is flawed anyway, definitely too drunk/tired to address it, but do physicists think of that as an event propagating forward and backward in time or just as a kind of symmetry?

  24. KG says

    1. There are no observed examples of uncaused events. (The few alleged counterexamples don’t hold water.)
    2. There are numberless observed examples of caused events.
    3. Therefore, it is highly probable that all spatiotemporal events are caused. – Myron

    1 is either false, or unfalsifiable in principle, according to its interpretation, as explained to you numerous times. Of course, the equivocation between the two interpretations is not accidental: similar equivocations seem to underlie all alleged proofs of a creator god’s existence.

    Even if 1 were sound, 3 would not follow. However many swans I have observed and found to be white, it does not become highly probable that all swans are white.

  25. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Somewhat past the point, but risking being dogpiled, the article that Richard dawkins wrote in The Guardian wasn’t his cleverest moment. Personally I think that he should have just ignored WLC…
    However, if he was going to say why he wasn’t interested, I’d have thought that bringing up WLC’s, um, apparently rampant dishonesty when debating as the prime issue.
    Yes, I’m aware that the whole agreeing with biblical genocide thing is really fucked up, but Prof D has debated/appeared on panels with various religionists who think this too so he may look a little bit hypocritical!

  26. says

    Even if the universe had a cause, why does the cause have to be personal? If as the argument goes, we are contingent things that rely on prior causes, then doesn’t that rule something akin to out out on the same grounds? The huge assumption in such arguments is that there can be such thing as an immaterial transcendent personal cause, when all personal causes we know are neither immaterial nor transcendent. So even if Craig’s standard formulation of Kalam holds (that the universe must have a cause), it by no means follows that the cause is God – indeed we have good reason to think that such causation is merely a product of contingent material causes.

  27. consciousness razor says

    The huge assumption in such arguments is that there can be such thing as an immaterial transcendent personal cause, when all personal causes we know are neither immaterial nor transcendent.

    They’re all contingent too in our experience. Just what it would mean to be an intelligent, personal agent, if there were nothing else in existence to be intelligent about or be aware of or act upon? It wouldn’t even be boring, “existing” like that forever. There’s just no way for a person to think at all without time passing and something happening before the person thinks about it. It takes a whole lot of nonsense to turn “intelligence” on its head like that and pretend it exists in some Platonic realm way out there “outside space and time” in our souls or some cosmic teapot or something.

    As for “immaterial” and “transcendent,” those are probably code for “scientists are big mean poopyheads” and “I want to feel special.”

  28. Eric says

    “Even if the universe had a cause, why does the cause have to be personal? If as the argument goes, we are contingent things that rely on prior causes, then doesn’t that rule something akin to out out on the same grounds? The huge assumption in such arguments is that there can be such thing as an immaterial transcendent personal cause, when all personal causes we know are neither immaterial nor transcendent. So even if Craig’s standard formulation of Kalam holds (that the universe must have a cause), it by no means follows that the cause is God – indeed we have good reason to think that such causation is merely a product of contingent material causes.”

    Kel, Craig gets from the conclusion proper of the KCA, viz. ‘the universe has a cause,’ to the notion that the cause is identified with ‘god’ (or, that minimally the cause of the universe shares many of its properties with what we all understand by the term ‘god’) by way of a conceptual analysis of what a cause of the universe must be. So, if the universe comprises all of space, time, matter and energy (a conception that obviously includes ‘the multiverse’ as well, should there be one), the cause of the universe (and remember, that the universe has a cause is not an assumption or a supposition, but the conclusion of his argument) mut be immaterial and eternal. Since it brought everything into existence, it must be very powerful. Further, since an eternally existing impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions for X would entail an eternal X, if the cause of the universe were such, the universe would be eternal. But, the second premise of the KCA attempts to show, on both scientific and philosophical grounds, that the universe had a beginning, so the question is, how can we get a temporally finite effect from an eternally existing casuse? Craig argues that the answer is plausibly that the eternal,immaterial and exteremely powerful cause of the universe is also personal. That’s how (in a very basic and oversimplified explanation) Craig gets from the conclusion of the KCA to a personal god.

    Now whether you think this ‘works’ or not, Craig is presenting an argument, and he’s not committing any obvious logical fallacies. You may dismiss his methodology (but be prepared to pay the consequenses — think about it), or you may reject one of his premises, but let’s not fall into the trap of pretending that Craig isn’t doing some serious philosophy here. Philosophers in part show respect for their colleagues’ work by taking the time to disagree with it in print (bad work is simply ignoreed in general), and Craig’swork here has reveived a lot of attention from very good philosophers publishing in very respectable academic journals. I’m not arguing that Craig is the man, or that all his arguments are sound. What I’m arguing is that the view of Craig as a scholar (and as a person) that dominates this thread is as wildly distorted as the views one might find of Dawkins on a young earth creationist thread. Honestly, it’s that uninformed and that bad.

  29. KG says

    So, if the universe comprises all of space, time, matter and energy (a conception that obviously includes ‘the multiverse’ as well, should there be one), the cause of the universe (and remember, that the universe has a cause is not an assumption or a supposition, but the conclusion of his argument) mut be immaterial and eternal. – Eric

    Utter crap of course. The claim that the (material) universe must have a cause depends on the premise that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Yet such a claim* can only be based on our experience of the spacetime in which we find ourselves; the “multiverse”, if there is such a thing, could be eternal, or it could be could be chock-a-block with causeless entities. So even if, contrary to fact, the first part of Craig’s argument were sound, the second part would still be the usual theological bilge.

    *Which doesn’t hold in any non-question-begging sense, as already discussed, but that’s not the point here.

  30. says

    Craig argues that the answer is plausibly that the eternal,immaterial and exteremely powerful cause of the universe is also personal.

    And I’m arguing that is blatant anthropomorphism, and we should be sceptical of any attempt to put something like us (as contingent beings) as being anything remotely resembling the necessary cause the argument gets to.

    Don’t care how much Craig can dress it up, it’s still anthropomorphising.

  31. Eric says

    “Utter crap of course. The claim that the (material) universe must have a cause depends on the premise that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Yet such a claim* can only be based on our experience of the spacetime in which we find ourselves; the “multiverse”, if there is such a thing, could be eternal, or it could be could be chock-a-block with causeless entities. So even if, contrary to fact, the first part of Craig’s argument were sound, the second part would still be the usual theological bilge.”

    Unfortunately, this sort of thing is par for the course here. You dismiss as ‘utter crap’ my admitted sketch of Craig’s move from the conclusion of his KCA to god, all the while being blithely unaware of the fact that Craig has addressed what you apparently take to be an obvious response to this move (that Craig in his ignorance must have missed) *in great detail*. As I’ve said many times now, *you’re already online* — why not even *attempt* to inform yourself before posting such incredibly stupid criticisms? As I said, this is like hearing a YEC say, in response to Dawkins, “Oh yeah, but if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys? Never thought of that one, did you?” Simply pathetic.

  32. Eric says

    “Don’t care how much Craig can dress it up, it’s still anthropomorphising.”

    Kel, read it again.

  33. Se Habla Espol says

    Up around #465, Myron gives us WLC’s “logic”, in a nutshell. I’ve marked it up, just a little.

    1. There are no observed examples of god-uncaused events. (The few alleged counterexamples don’t hold water.)
    2. There are numberless observed examples of nongod-caused events.
    3. Therefore, it is highly probable that all spatiotemporal events are nongod-caused.

    Looks to be the same premise structure and same logic.
    Haven’t Myron and WLC given us the long-sought ‘proof’ that his gods don’t exist in the universe?
    Well, perhaps we need to invoke the indistinguishability of “ineffective” vs “non-existent”.
    (Yes, I know that my version is just as spurious as the Myron/WLC version. I’d like to challenge them to present arguments against the construction.)

  34. consciousness razor says

    So, if the universe comprises all of space, time, matter and energy (a conception that obviously includes ‘the multiverse’ as well, should there be one), the cause of the universe (and remember, that the universe has a cause is not an assumption or a supposition, but the conclusion of his argument) mut be immaterial and eternal.

    Wrong. That the universe has a cause is an assumption in this case. I quote wiki’s outline of his version of the argument:

    William Lane Craig has formulated the argument as follows:[20]

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    4. This cause is the God of Classical Theism, and is a personal being, because He chose to create the universe.

    First, note premise #2. How does Craig come to that premise, as conclusion of another argument? [continuing with wiki]

    With two sub-sets of arguments.

    First sub-set of arguments

    Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:

    1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
    2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
    3. Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

    The first premise there is an assumption, pulled out of his ass, a bare assertion if I’ve ever seen one. Note that if “God” were an actual infinite, it likewise cannot exist without the typical special pleading from Craig. As stated, it’s not narrowed down to physical events, so presumably this is a general statement about all logically possible entities or events.

    For some reason, he thinks he needs to “reason” his way through this mess again, as if one “proof” wouldn’t be enough.

    Second sub-set of arguments

    Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition:

    1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.
    2. The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
    3. Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

    Again, even when he fills out the argument in his own bullshit words, the first is just a bare assertion. And he’s certainly no mathematician. So were’ back where we started. Where’s the evidence supporting premise one, or premise two in the main Kalam argument?

    Now, going back to this idea that since the universe (or multiverse) is physical, this aspect we can’t fully explain about the physical world must be “non-physical.” That’s just an argument from ignorance, and the idea of the “non-physical” doesn’t even make sense by itself. Any time it’s been explained to me, it hasn’t seemed to mean anything at all. You may feel free to explain it sensibly if you’re capable.

    but let’s not fall into the trap of pretending that Craig isn’t doing some serious philosophy here

    It’s a trap!

    Sorry, still tipsy. Most serious philosophers would disagree with the quote above, but I’m not a philosopher. If I’m not mistaken, arguments from authority are fallacious. (If I am mistaken, then I have it on good authority that my arguments aren’t fallacious.)

    I’m not arguing that Craig is the man, or that all his arguments are sound.

    That’s not saying much. How many of his arguments are even valid?

    Honestly, it’s that uninformed and that bad.

    Inform us, then. Enlighten us.

  35. Matt Penfold says

    Eric,

    The mistake you are making, and that WLC makes, is that you both think nature has to conform to your philosophical position on how it should work.

  36. Eric says

    “Inform us, then. Enlighten us.”

    I’ve tried, and you relied on — wikipedia. Says it all, eh?

  37. consciousness razor says

    I’ve tried, and you relied on — wikipedia. Says it all, eh?

    No, it doesn’t, and you’ve said nothing of substance.

  38. Matt Penfold says

    Eric,

    Have you ever looked at the Kalam Cosmological Argument ?

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence

    Why did he bother going beyond step one ? He cannot support that claim, and so it fails.

    Also, he is sneaky and tries to get god into the universe by claiming god is eternal. This just shows his ignorance of cosmology. In some cosmological models the universe itself is regarded at eternal, although that is not how it is put. Rather time is a property of the universe.

  39. says

    An actual infinite cannot exist.

    That’d be irrelevant, anyhow. A finite being can’t ever know that something is infinite through observation. You can do an inductive mathematical proof, but you cannot – even if ‘god’ were observable – you wouldn’t be able to determine its love was infinite because even if you spent forever you’d never know if the end of its love was just around the next corner.

  40. says

    BTW, another problem with ‘god’: you can’t say that ‘god’ loves us or is good or any statements about how ‘god’ thinks or feels, because a being that is so much more powerful and intelligent than we are could effortlessly fool us. ‘God’ could potentially be infinitely deceptive.

  41. Rasmus says

    The huge assumption in such arguments is that there can be such thing as an immaterial transcendent personal cause, when all personal causes we know are neither immaterial nor transcendent.

    And the underlying assumption is that it’s possible, using for example the English language, to exhaustively and objectively classify all the possible causes of a universe into classes such as physical, abstract, personal, etc.

    A personal being outside of time and space may sound exotic, but you see, it’s the only remaining possibility, so by proof of exhaustion the existence of the universe actually proves that it’s possible.

    It’s a bit like saying that ice cream can be either chocolate, strawberry, caramel or fairy-dust sprinkled ambrosia with bits of unobtanium and then proceed to argue that the ice cream you have in your freezer isn’t brown enough to be chocolate, not red enough to be strawberry and not viscous enough to be caramel, so therefore by proof of exhaustion fairies are real.

  42. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Errr, isn’t a problem word “existence” in the first place? It means something very different between existing in our universe of space/time and existing in a metaverse (which is where WLC’s god would have to “exist”).
    The formulation of the first line of WLC’s argument “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” conflates these. He means something very different for god’s existence than the universe’s existence. Without even getting into the realms of quantum weirdness, *cough* “begins” *cough* there are definitions that are rather murky.
    I’m not a philosopher, or any sort of scientist. Am I missing something?

  43. Ing says

    Uh what? I don’t think I’m that drunk … maybe just drunk enough for philosophy. Does anything that we know of work like that? I don’t know how you’d talk about a “cause” in that case, but maybe it would make sense if there were more than one time-like dimension.

    That’s my point. It’s as plausible as the eternal God but doesn’t have the supernatural “spiritual” category. Insisting that it HAS to be spiritual is a crime worse than ignorance. It’s unimaginative.

    An actual infinite cannot exist.

    Except it can. In fact all of our integers in our base 10 number system can be seen as infinite converging series.

    1=.9999 when you divided both sides by 3.

    You might as well say that radioactivity is impossible since decay is by half life rather than incremental steps thus we’d never run out of radiation!

  44. Rey Fox says

    Those who dont believe in my God would be sent to the hell of BSDM.

    You had me right up to here.

  45. KG says

    You dismiss as ‘utter crap’ my admitted sketch of Craig’s move from the conclusion of his KCA to god, all the while being blithely unaware of the fact that Craig has addressed what you apparently take to be an obvious response to this move (that Craig in his ignorance must have missed) *in great detail*. – Eric

    Since the first part of Craig’s argument is garbage, and since Craig is known from independent evidence to be an ignorant idiot (he is a “Fellow” of the Discovery Institute’s “Center for Science and Culture”), I have no intention of wading through any more of his crap. I was responding to what you said, which is, as I noted, complete bilge. If you wish to present a revised version, I will consider it.

    A further demonstration that the “Kalam cosmological argument” is a bunch of dingoes’ kidneys:

    The first premise is:

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

    What is supposed to make this plausible as a premise is the (claimed) absence of counterexamples. Now in fact there are such counter-examples under any non-question-begging interpretation, but supposing there were not. Now consider this claim:

    1a. Every agent begins to exist.

    If we accept 1a, of course, it immediately follows that God does not exist. In the case of 1a, there are no putative counterexamples such as virtual particles: all the agents which we know of have indeed begun to exist. Craig himself would claim there is only one* counterexample: God – but it is precisely God’s existence that is in question. If Craig’s argument were sound, it would lead to a disproof of 1a. But at best (i.e. even if the proposed counterexamples to 1 could be rejected), that argument relies on a premise, 1, which we have no better reason to believe than we do to believe 1a, which leads to the opposite conclusion.

    *Or maybe he’d say there are simultaneously 1 and 3, or some such rubbish; but at any rate none of the agents generally admitted to exist are counterexamples.

  46. ACN says

    Myron,

    Once again: Craig’s original claim is not that nothing is uncaused but that nothing that has a beginning is uncaused!

    1) You’re being very silly about the 1st premise of the Kalam. Please, inform me what I can measure or detect in the lab, in principle or in practice, when an excited atom of hydrogen will spontaneously emit a photon and transition to the ground state. THERE IS NOTHING. Quantum mechanics predicts the decay, predicts that it will have a characteristic lifetime, and subsequently, with an ensemble of identically prepared excited hydrogen atoms you will be able to predict what the histogram of the lifetimes will look like, but you WILL NOT be able to say any event CAUSED a particular transition. In fact, the decay is predicted to be exponential, and because of the memory-less property of the exponential distribution, no matter how long a state has lived for, it’s additional lifetime is still the characteristic lifetime. These decay events are not caused by anything. (except in the technical sense that spontaneous emission appears to be stimulated emission stimulated by vacuum fluctuations, themselves unpredictable. And even if you COULD measure the precise value of the vacuum fluctuations, and I don’t think you can in principle, you still only have a link between the background and the atomic transition that looks like a rate.)

    2) The whole fucking argument is a giant compositional error anyway. We have two premises, the first of which tries to infer necessary causality on the universe on the basis of observations of necessary causality of various parts. “being caused” is relational, and cannot be transposed from the parts to the whole as if by magic. The second premise, that the universe began to exist, draws inference between the things in the universe and the universe itself. For this to be valid, and the universe to be said to have “began to exist” in the same sense that we might talk of any the various parts we observe to have “began to exist”, you have to presuppose a realm beyond the universe within which the universe has to reside or be contained.

    Such a realm is unproven, without a shred of evidence, and usually dubiously logically coherent. The Kalam is begging the question hardcore.

  47. says

    The origins of the universe have no greater theological implications than the ignorance of thunder. While the loud rumble must mean the gods are brawling on Mt. Olympus, it would be silly to speculate about the identity of those gods.

    William Lane Craig’s “arguments” concerning the existence of a god are nothing more than a fatally flawed epistemology powered by grand and exalted ignorance. His speculations concerning the meaning of the existence of the universe are on a par with ancient tribes awed by the sound of the gods engaging in fisticuffs. He smuggles his conclusions in his premises, such as “Everything that begins to exist has a cause.” (While I won’t go into all the flaws with this premise, I will say that “begins” is a statement about temporal relationships, and time “began” with the universe.)

    And while I’m quite sure he’s written volumes on his rationalizations for his belief in a god, I am certain about one thing: claiming his god is exempt from cause because it never began provides the same exemption for other, non-teleological explanations. As the eternal existence of an intentional entity is almost infinitely improbable, and the existence of an eternal metaverse is only highly improbable, I know where I’d place my bets.

  48. says

    I saw “Scott Pilgrim VS The World” on cable the other day, and ever since then, whenever one of WLC’s fanboys says we don’t get his brilliant philosumosophy because we don’t have open minds, or just didn’t read it right or whatever, I hear it being whined by Scott Pilgrim. In a dorky hat.
    “No! you’re reading it WRON-N-N-NG!”

  49. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    WLC seems to have a horde of fans yelling at everyone who shows no respect for his deepities, I want that, too – it’s really convenient.

  50. co says

    Now whether you think this ‘works’ or not, Craig is presenting an argument, and he’s not committing any obvious logical fallacies.

    Yes, he is, and you conveniently state this immediately beforehand:

    Craig argues that the answer is plausibly that the eternal,immaterial and exteremely powerful cause of the universe is also personal. That’s how (in a very basic and oversimplified explanation) Craig gets from the conclusion of the KCA to a personal god.

    That (Craig’s argument, not your reading of it) is complete loose-stool-water, _even_given_all_of_Craig’s_loose-stool-water_presumptions_. The conclusion doesn’t follow logically whatsoever.

  51. says

    Alex, all you have to do is end every paragraph you write with something like “…and the atheists STILL can’t come up with an answer for that!” and watch the fanboys start rolling in.

  52. says

    Don’t lie about trying, Eric. Every post of yours I read was a transparent attempt to stall and bluff your way out of providing evidence. You somehow put a lot of effort into being lazy.

  53. says

    co:

    The conclusion doesn’t follow logically whatsoever.

    And the premise is insupportable, anyway. It’s not very plausible that the eternal, immaterial, and extremely powerful cause is intentional in any way, let along a personal way.

    They (Craig and his sycophants) go on about the lack of an example of a non-caused existence, but they overlook their own lack of evidence — a non-evolved intelligence. Yet they assert their god is intelligent and eternal, with no beginning. The argument rests entirely on imbuing their god with precisely the qualities necessary to fullfil both the creation of the universe, and their own presuppositions of a Biblical god.

    As there are other, non-teleological explanations for the existence of the universe (though none have provided an hypothesis yet), these additional attributes that transform the universal cause from a natural medium to a supernatural medium are superfluous. They are there simply for the sake of the conclusion. This is blatant question begging, and complete and utter metaphysical bullshit. However cleverly disguised this might be, I find it hard to believe that other philosophers take this shit seriously.

    I’ve heard WLC is the best Christian apologist alive today. That’s a sad state of affairs, if all he can do is dish up warmed-over argument from ignorance with a question-begging demi glace and a side of strawman.

  54. lazybird says

    Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

    As I understand it, nothing actually began to exist. Everything that now makes up the universe already existed in the initial singularity. The big bang was more of a redistribution, in a different form, of what was originally in the singularity.

  55. fastlane says

    *sigh* I was trying to stay out of this, and maybe someone else caught this little dishonest slip:
    Eric @428:

    See what I mean? I said that I could go on and on with references to the quality of Craig’s work among scholars, and you replied by suggesting that I couldn’t.

    No, what was said was this:
    raven:

    Craig is a nobody in the intellectual world. And that includes philosophy. What he is, is a routine, garden vareity Liar for jesus, a fundie xian propagandist.

    To which you replied with some standard pablum that even mean atheists like Hitch will say when they are going to debate someone.

    The important part, though is that Bronze Dog, @407, asked you this:

    So, then, Eric, give us something WLC has said that has some substance. I’ve certainly seen nothing more than a particularly vicious fundie so far.

    To which you replied with vague suggestions to go look something up. (even one link would have been nice, since you say it’s so easy to find…) It’s that whole being even a little bit polite thing.

    Then you changed the subject claiming that because some people were willing to sully their reputations by debating WLC, then everyone should aquiesce to the whining and do the same.

    When I did go on, you accused me of name dropping! As I said, irrational Craig hatred dominates here, the facts be damned.

    Well, that because you were asked to provide an example of something WLC said that actually had some substance, not for a bunch of name dropping, even if they are by atheists. You’ll note that many of us don’t automatically agree with someone just because they are or make the claim to atheism. Arguments by authority rarely work around here.

    ravi@522

    Perhaps I should kill myself to go to heaven sooner…

    The only intelligent thing you said in that entire word salad. Glad I could help.

    Oh, and Myron, you still haven’t addressed why you lied about being an atheist. Far be it for me to tell the pharyngula horde what to do, but I would like to recommend any post addressed to Myron at least include this.

    Alex, I’ll sign up to be in your horde. It’ll have to be part time, though, what with being part of the pharyngula horde, horde of evil athiests, horde of commieislamofascistetc. liberals, I only got so much time in the week. Unless of course, I become master of the horde of time travelling hordes…. I may be on to something here. To the secret EAC lab!!

  56. Myron says

    “W. E. Johnson…drew a distinction between two types of cause. He called the one transeunt causation (going across), and the other immanent (remaining within). Transeunt causation is the more ordinary sort of causation, when one thing brings about something in another particular (or sustains something, as when supporting something or keeping it in existence) and it can be argued that it is the only sort of causation there is. But I think that immanent causation is also actual. Spontaneous emission from an atom of uranium 235, radioactive decay, might be such a case. It is spontaneous because not produced by causal action from outside the atom. It doesn’t matter that probability rules in this emission case. Probabilistic causation is causation when the law ‘fires’. Does the ‘spontaneous’ suggest that there is no causation here? Well, it obeys a probabilistic law so why should it not count as a case of the uranium atom causing one of its constituent electrons, say, to be emitted?”

    (Armstrong, D. M. Sketch for a Systematic Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. p. 57)

    It is very well arguable that even though cases of radioactive decay, i.e “spontaneous” disintegrations of atomic nuclei accompanied by the emission of particles or radiation, may not have a transeunt cause, they do have an immanent cause: the atomic nucleus’s indeterministically self-manifesting disposition (power) to decay. This intrinsic disposition (or propensity) is the causal ground of the disintegration of the nucleus.

    Truly causeless events would be ones lacking both transeunt and immanent causes, i.e. ones that are causally ungrounded by not being manifestations of any dispositions inherent in spacetime.

    Here’s the argument whose soundness I reject, because I reject the first premise:

    1. All causation is transeunt causation.
    2. Cases of radioactive decay have no transeunt causes, i.e. they are not caused by external events.
    3. Therefore, cases of radioactive decay are causeless.

    P.S.: This is my last comment in this thread! Have a nice day!

  57. says

    Myron, one problem I definitely see in your talk about causation is that you seem to assume that phenomena are controlled or restricted by the words some humans use to describe them.

    That would explain why you act like you can use nonsense words like “spiritual” to force something to exist or that you can force natural phenomena to behave under false restrictions by using a narrow definition of “material.”

    Language is neither inherently complete nor correct. It’s easy to make up words for things that don’t exist or apply a false description to something that does exist. There are also lots of things that exist or might exist that we don’t have words for.

    I’ve made up words for various things before. “By definition” for those words only applied to the imaginary worlds I invented them for because I am the “god” of that imaginary world who defined how it operates.

    Unless you’re going to claim that the universe’s source code was written in English and that some objects in that source code were defined by your particular use of those words, “by definition” has no power. Unless you can point out a real world event that you want to label as spiritual, I see no reason to accept it as a meaningful word.

    The really annoying part is that you’ve demonstrated that you have nothing to stand on even if we were to be charitable and agree that all currently known “material” things have a cause. That still leaves god hypotheses with no foundation in the real world. You can’t put “I don’t know” in an evidence locker.

    Inventing nonsense definitions for words without evidence for their applicability to the world does not help you. You’re making up fake rules we don’t agree with, and then you use nonsense words to make exceptions to your own fake rules. You’re trying to define the universe so that you win. The universe has shown, time and again, it doesn’t care about human definitions. That’s why I take the pragmatic stance that we change our definitions and descriptions to match what we observe in the universe.

  58. ACN says

    Monsieur, a menu for my compatriot.

    You’re not missing much, it’s hardly word-clam-chowder :)

  59. says

    … irrational Craig hatred dominates here…

    I’d just like to chime in to point out that irrational Craig hatred, while theoretically possible, is statistically improbable…

    … yes, odds are: if you hate Whosits and his ilk, the odds are actually pretty good that you’ve a pretty good reason.

    (/In other news, my apologies I missed so much of this. But the formerly widely-ignored armchair was on Letterman.)

  60. says

    I take it Eric isn’t going to challenge my understanding of fallacious appeals to authority and therefore concedes.

  61. says

    He’ll probably object when he comes back and argue that That Guy, PhD says unnecessary appeals to cherry-picked anti-consensus authorities are perfectly, logically valid, therefore we should be ashamed of ourselves for questioning That Guy’s wisdom, asking for the direct evidence, and daring to think that scientific methods can be practiced by anyone, including such lowly, common filth as ourselves.

  62. fastlane says

    fastlane, Ravi posted a few times in one of the “Why I Am An Atheist” threads. I’m pretty sure his post was meant as a parody.

    Dammit, a victim of Poe’s law again. I thought I recognized the name, but I haven’t been lurking around as much lately. Where apologies are in order, consider them sincerely extended.

  63. says

    Now whether you think this ‘works’ or not, Craig is presenting an argument, and he’s not committing any obvious logical fallacies. You may dismiss his methodology (but be prepared to pay the consequenses — think about it), or you may reject one of his premises, but let’s not fall into the trap of pretending that Craig isn’t doing some serious philosophy here.

    If a theist finding God in the logic is serious philosophy, then philosophy is in a bad way. Don’t you find it just a little suspicious that the ultimate cause of everything happens to, by argument, be personal? What the heck is an immaterial person anyway? Might as well talk about earthquakes being caused by non-spatial mountains.

    And it’s not like this mistake hasn’t been made before. Newton appealed to a creator God to explain how the solar system could have formed, and Paley appealed to a creator God to explain the design of life (to give a couple of examples). We know now that the organisation of the solar system is something that stems from gravitation, and the complexity of life comes naturally. Indeed the only time it’s appropriate to talk about personal causation, despite all the attempts to put personal causation into the universe, is when dealing with actual persons. In other words, we have minds that think in terms of causal agency and we often project it where it doesn’t belong.

    So when someone says the universe has a personal cause, and an immaterial transcendent and infinite first cause at that, you’re damn right I’m going to be suspicious of it being yet another attempt to shove intuitive thought patterns onto that which is not yet explained. An immaterial person is an incoherent proposition, and positing an immaterial person is so obvious an anthropomorphism that I’m surprised any thinking person takes the notion seriously. But, I know, serious philosophy and all. Non-philosophers like me should cower at the thought of all the ink that has been spilled over such musings, and my crude attempts to explain it in terms of psychology probably do little more than to highlight something intellectually negative about the new atheism.

    I mean, what seems more likely: that a believer is projecting that same sense of agency that we’ve done since the dawn of our species, or that there really is such agency “and this all men know as God.”? Serious philosophy, my arse!

  64. Ichthyic says

    @consciousness razor, 523:

    Uh what? I don’t think I’m that drunk … maybe just drunk enough for philosophy. Does anything that we know of work like that?

    it was a joke, son.

    ya missed it.

    She was mocking the use of jargon to try and maintain an untenable position.

  65. says

    As I said, irrational Craig hatred dominates here

    I contend that my hatred of Craig is rational, as it stems from reading him and listening to his debates. He’s the kind of sophist that makes me worry for his safety at zebra crossing, lest black and white are found to be at odds with his God.

  66. Rich Woods says

    #203:

    Mobile Suit Gundam

    I must be feeling my age. I first tried to work out what this translated to from Latin, before realising that it was a pop culture reference.

    *stealthily knocks candles off birthday cake*

  67. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

    This harks back to Aquinas’s first three Proofs of God, which can be summarized thusly:

    1. Contingent, non-self-existent, changing beings exist.
    2. Their existence implies the existence of other beings upon whom they depend for their existence and their change.
    3. The sum of contingent, non-self-existent, changing beings upon which any given being depends has a first member.
    4. This first member, a necessary, self-existent, unchanging being, must exist. Ex nihilo nihil fit (Nothing comes out of nothing).

    Let’s consider ex nihilo nihil fit. It’s an assumption. What happens if we consider it to be wrong:

    1. Contingent beings exist.
    2. Their existence implies the existence of other beings upon which they depend for their existence.
    3. Because no necessary being exists at least one otherwise contingent being does not depend for its existence on another being.
    4. Because this being is not necessary, its existence must be explained somehow.
    5. The only explanation is that it simply comes into existence.

    Therefore, ex nihilo nihil fit is false.

    Actually if we look at both sets of arguments we see a whole lot of question begging. A universe with a first being requires that at least this first being simply came into existence. However, to assume ex nihilo nihil fit guarantees the conclusion in advance. By definition, the first being cannot be caused by another being. If it were, it would not be the first being of the chain. However, to assume that the first being must be caused (which is what ex nihilo nihil fit amounts to) is to assume that a necessary being must exist. This is the very issue in question.

  68. Ichthyic says

    btw, I’m really getting sick of all these WLC fanboys claiming he uses no logical fallacies.

    HE DOES.

    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2011/06/william-lane-craig-and-logical.html

    besides which, even if his arguments WERE flawless logic, in and of themselves (and they aren’t), they still start with FAULTY PREMISES.

    I could make a perfectly logically constructed argument for the existence of flying unicorns.

    excepting the very premise that imaginary constructs by definition don’t exist.

    likewise, I can create a definition for a deity that would not conflict with any SPECIFIC scientific claim, but then that’s just it: I MADE IT UP.

    WLC blatantly invents the premises he chooses to start with, then claims that since the logic that flows from these is sound, the premises must be too.

    this is fucking ridiculously false, and he’s been called on it many many many times.

  69. somuchless says

    A post from the comment section following Dawkins’ article:

    “Many academics are willing to debate with Professor Craig – just this last Monday atheist philosopher Dr Stephen Law debates him in front of a 1700 strong audience at Westminster Central hall (I was hsoting the debate) – audio here http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable

    Tonight he will face the BHA’s Andrew Copson and Arif Ahmed at the Cambridge Union. Professor Peter Millican debates him in Birmingham on Friday and Peter Atkins the following week in Manchester. Programme here: http://www.premier.org.uk/craig

    Indeed Peter Millican, a well respected Oxford philosopher, is chairing the Sheldonian event where Dawkins has refused to accept the invitation. In Dawkins’ absence a panel of atheist, agnostic and beliveing acacemics will respond to Craig’s critique of the God Delusion.

    The atheist popularisers also seem to take Craig seriously:

    Christopher Hitchens said at his debate with Craig “I can tell you that my brothers and sisters in the unbelieving community take him very seriously. He’s thought of as a very tough guy: very rigorous, very scholarly, very formidable. I say that without reserve, I don’t say it just because I’m here… Normally I don’t get people saying, ‘good luck tonight and don’t let us down’ but with him I do.”

    Sam Harris said of Craig during their debate “He is the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into my fellow atheists”

    Finally, Dr Daniel Came, an atheist Oxford philosophy academic, wrote to Dawkins stating that his refusal to debate with Craig was “Apt to be interpreted as cowardice”

    Stop the ad hominems and excuses Richard and engage with the arguments Craig is here to present.”

    Who is Dawkins consulting with if these guys have heard of him?

  70. says

    In one way, it should be a compliment. Craig can get up on stage and argue that a man raising from the dead is the most plausible explanation for something that is, at best, supported by eyewitness testimony. Heck, he can write in all sincerity that killing infants is a good thing since they get to go to heaven – lesser people would think that there’s something gone horribly wrong in their reasoning.

    He’s very good at making the implausible seem superficially plausible. And even better, he knows how to make his opponents stumble and bluster on stage, and always has an out or a gotcha line up his sleeve. All those things make him an intimidating debate opponent, but they don’t make for someone who is going to be thought highly by his opponents. Call that irrational hatred if you want, it seems perfectly justified to me.

  71. says

    If only WLC gave them something with meat to copypasta. Unfortunately, all they’ve got is the usual bland filler of baseless endorsements.

    Where’s the beef?

  72. Ichthyic says

    @somuchless

    looks like the jacket from a book cover.

    Stop the ad hominems

    Five bucks says you don’t even know what an ad hominem even is.

  73. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s pathetically transparent.

    Just like all the falsehood in his arguments…

  74. says

    Ichthyic:

    Five bucks says you don’t even know what an ad hominem even is.

    Sure I do. It’s when you put your butler up for sale in the Sunday personals.

    It’s not very nice.

  75. says

    Isn’t it amazing that “serious philosophy” and ancient myth-making are remarkably similar in their outcomes…

  76. Ing says

    @Kel

    I protest because I am a fan of moral philosophy and think that it is a big part of humanism, transhumanism, blah blah blah.

    I think raising some hypothetical situations and thinking about the moral implications is highly important.

    I don’t think that is at all the same as disguising post-hoc band-aids as high thought.

  77. KG says

    somuchless,

    Dawkins has explained why he will not debate Craig: because Craig is a disgusting apologist for genocide – and Dawkins is therefore unwilling to share a stage with him. Others may choose differently, or may not be aware quite how vile Craig is, but I don’t see that any decent person could fault Dawkins’ decision.

  78. Ing says

    @Kel

    Whoa, hit refresh and comments disappeared!

    Mainly: Philosophy in the sense of rationalizing things into existence is pointless and boring.

  79. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Mainly: Philosophy in the sense of rationalizing things into existence is pointless and boring.

    Which is why I much prefer conclusive physical evidence. Back to lurking on this thread.

  80. says

    I was just surprised to find anyone defend such anthropomorphising as “serious philosophy”. I mean, it must be great that the expression of their cognitive processes that has gone so awry throughout the history of thought just happens to fit the ultimate origins of the universe, but I just can’t help but feel that once again this projection of agency to explain the unexplainable is another unjustified anthropomorphism. I’m sure there’s probably a very good philosophical reason why it is that immaterial personal causation exists, and it’s just that ancients got it wrong with respect to wind and mountains, Newton got it wrong with respect to the solar system, every ID proponent has got it wrong with respect to life on earth, but when it comes to the origin of the universe there’s the interventionist deity who came down to Earth to die for our sins… But I’ll happily engage in scientism in order to dismiss it.

    I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Serious philosophy, my arse!

  81. Ing says

    @Kel

    I guess my point was that outside of morals/ethics I can’t see a topic that Philosophy can be helpful in addressing.

  82. says

    I guess my point was that outside of morals/ethics I can’t see a topic that Philosophy can be helpful in addressing.

    I like John Wilkins’ take on the role of philosophy: “philosophy is what you do when the facts do not fix the solution.”

  83. says

    I tend to see use in philosophy for teaching logic and the philosophy of science, which I’d argue is essentially the most successful branch of philosophy. Knowing why you need to use blinding, controls, and such is important, so you can watch for non-standard difficulties instead of just doing experiments by rote procedures.

    The rest tends to be moral and ethical philosophy and a sort of ‘history of thought’ class. Knowing the weaknesses with other philosophies probably helps prevent a person from falling into the same mental traps.

  84. Eric says

    “I was just surprised to find anyone defend such anthropomorphising as “serious philosophy”.”

    Kel,again, that’s not what Craig is doing here.

    Remember, the conclusion of the KCA is, “The universe has a cause.” Now Craig defines the term ‘universe’ to comprise *all* space, time, matter and energy, and moves on from there to a conceptual analysis of what sort of properties a cause of the universe must have. The issue you keep raising concerns the ‘personal’ nature of the cause, right? And your claim is that Craig is endowing the cause of the universe with the properties of an agent arbitrarily, or as a matter of preference, or only to fit with his particular Bronze age myth, right? Well that’s simply wrong. Here, again in a nutshell, is Craig’s reasoning.

    The cause of the universe is, remember, eternal (this is a logically prior conclusion of Craig’s conceptual analysis of what a cause of the universe must be like, and it follows from the fact that time is a property of the universe that is the effect of this cause), and the second premise of the KCA defends the notion that the universe is temporally finite. Now this presents us with an obvious puzzle: How can an eternally existing cause bring about a temporally finite effect?

    Before we consider this, remember also that Craig’s conceptual analysis of the notion of a cause of the universe concludes that the cause must be immaterial (since the universe comprises all matter and energy, and we’re talking about the cause of all matter and energy). Now one possibility here that we can rule out immediately is an abstract object (or objects), since they are by definition causally inert.

    Having ruled out abstract objects, we continue with the question, “How can we get a temporally finite effect from an eternal cause?” It seems obvious that if the necessary and sufficient conditions for X obtained eternally, X should obtain eternally. Take Kant’s example of a ball resting on a chair and causing a depression in its cushion: If the chair and ball existed in this relation eternally, the cushion would be depressed eternally. In the case before us, however, we have to explain how the effect could be temporally finite while its necessary and sufficient condition is eternal. So how can we explain this result?

    Here’s one important distinction to keep in mind: When we think about causation in our everyday lives, we distinguish mechanistic causes from agent based causes. Hence, we distinguish the mechanics of the bomb from the motivations of the terrorist who set it off.

    Now Craig’s argument here is premised on the notion that it’s possible that minds can exist immaterially. Note, it’s not premised on the notion that minds *do* exist immaterially, but on the notion that there’s no incoherence involved in the idea. Further, it seems plausible to conclude that the notion of an immaterial and eternal mechanistic explanation is incoherent. And remember, we’ve already ruled out abstract objects. Hence, we’re left with agent causation, and with the notion that it’s possible for an immaterial mind to exist. Note too that positing an immaterial mind as the agent that caused the universe helps resolve the problem we were faced with, since it inserts the notion of ‘choice’ as a possible explanation (though obviously in an analogous sense, since it would have to involve an eternal choice to bring about a temporally finite effect — a difficult but not contradictory notion). From this sort of reasoning, Craig concludes that the cause of the universe is plausibly personal.

    As I said, this is a sketch of Craig’s reasoning, as I understand it. I’m no expert on Craig, so by all means refer to his works if you want a detailed treatment of his argument. All I’m attempting to do here is help you see that there’s quite a bit more than mere ‘anthropomorphising’ going on here. And again, I’m not saying that his reasoning here is rationally coercive, or airtight, or immune to reasonable criticism. All I’m saying is that agree or disagree, he’s doing a lot more work here than you’re willing to give him credit for.

    Re: a link to Craig on Dawkins (a request made in response to my answer regarding what Craig has done that’s of any substance), go to his website, reasonablefaith.org and download “Response to Richard Dawkins’s Book, The God Delusion” (you may have to register to access the audio files). It’s short (just over thirty minutes), but, frankly, Dawkins’s “central argument” isn’t exactly difficult to refute conclusively. So, if you take Dawkins’s book TGD to say anything of substance, then surely a solid refutation of his central argument is, well, something of substance.

  85. says

    Kel,again, that’s not what Craig is doing here.

    Sure it’s not, it’s just pure coincidence…

    So how can we explain this result?

    The answer, obviously, is to take the finite, temporal, and material causation that is personhood, strip out everything but the personhood, and say that it was personal causation.

    When we think about causation in our everyday lives, we distinguish mechanistic causes from agent based causes.

    Agent based causes are only able to be causes because of the mechanics of our bodies. If we didn’t have this elaborate cellular structure that we call our bodies, there wouldn’t be any agent based causation. That’s the point, Eric. Agent based causes is as much a contingency of this universe as anything else in it.

    Hence, we distinguish the mechanics of the bomb from the motivations of the terrorist who set it off.

    It’s those immaterial transcendent terrorists we need to watch out for, and especially the destructive power of non-spatial bombs…

    Hence, we’re left with agent causation, and with the notion that it’s possible for an immaterial mind to exist.

    Actually, what we’re left is not having an answer. We don’t know that an immaterial mind is possible, let alone a coherent thought. We certainly don’t know how it is you can have personal causation without time by which to experience it.

    From this sort of reasoning, Craig concludes that the cause of the universe is plausibly personal.

    So if I follow your argument correctly, while it might appear as if Craig is taking his teenage acceptance of Christ as his personal saviour and applying the wilfulness principle to the beginning of the universe to get God, in reality it’s that since we know that personal causation is distinct from mechanistic causation that personal causation is plausible as the origin of the universe. Furthermore, while it would appear that personal causation is merely a cognitive heuristic for understanding the interplay of complex information-processing physical systems, since we distinguish between one and the other in everyday situations it’s plausible to conclude that something personal causation is applicable as a possible cause. And despite the illusion of personal causation as being something material finite contingent beings do inside the system, those are impossible outside of space and time so it must be that the personal causation must be immaterial, transcendent and infinite.

    All I’m saying is that agree or disagree, he’s doing a lot more work here than you’re willing to give him credit for.

    To quote Michael Shermer: “Smart people are very good at rationalizing things they came to believe for non-smart reasons.” I agree that Craig has done a lot of work in making that argument, but doesn’t stop the notion of an immaterial, transcendent, infinite, personal cause being anything other than a rationalisation of an intuition about agency that has otherwise been long abandoned in the pursuit of knowledge. The question is, did Craig start with Kalam and work his way to God, or did Craig start with God and work his way through Kalam?

  86. John Phillips, FCD says

    An actual infinite cannot exist

    Who says? For one thing, our mid level existence, where what we can see of the actual universe is pretty limited without help, i.e. instrumentation, and our understanding, even with the scientific method, i.e. the only method that has managed to give us models at least having a relationship with reality, is also limited.

    For another, as our individual existence and even that of our universe is understood to ultimately be finite, it is just not possible to do anything more than speculate about the possibility of there being or not being anything infinite. Thus the above quote has no obvious claim to accuracy or relevance, well not unless we accept “‘cos yet another apologist says so” as valid.

    Thus the rest of any argument reliant on that quote as its starting point can be thrown straight out the window. Ultimately, it’s just self-serving theist bafflegab, colour me surprised. To quote Hitchens, “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof”.

    Don’t you just adore all of these sophisticated theological arguments reliant on nothing but assertions, question begging and a big helping of bafflegab. Do they think to wear us down with this constant repetition and defense of the indefensible. For they haven’t come up with any really new arguments in the last few hundred years, just tried polishing the previous turds a bit.

  87. says

    Eric, you keep telling me that contrary to my assertion, Craig is not projecting our sense of agency onto the universe, but then you say this:

    Here’s one important distinction to keep in mind: When we think about causation in our everyday lives, we distinguish mechanistic causes from agent based causes. Hence, we distinguish the mechanics of the bomb from the motivations of the terrorist who set it off.

    Which is exactly the kind of thinking that I’m saying Craig’s engaging in. And because it’s part of our everyday thinking, applying it to questions well outside the scope of everyday thinking is going to come off as being absurd. Even in our everyday lives, this kind of thinking has is often used where it doesn’t apply. That really should be enough to caution us against applying it to the problem of what caused the universe, let alone if it is even a coherent thought to begin with.

  88. Ing says

    Eric wants us to give WLC credit for his wacking off because of the impressive volume of his emissions. Seems silly to me.

  89. says

    Note, it’s not premised on the notion that minds *do* exist immaterially, but on the notion that there’s no incoherence involved in the idea.–Eric

    How is that not incoherent? It appears, rather, that it is an incoherent idea.

  90. says

    So many theists willing to state that a mind can be immaterial, yet no theist is willing to remove their brain to show that it is the case.

  91. says

    So many theists willing to state that a mind can be immaterial, yet no theist is willing to remove their brain to show that it is the case.

    Removing his brain for the night might be something for WLC to consider in order to up the ante in future debates against furniture that Dawkins is not sitting on. I doubt not having a brain would make the debate go any worse for him.

  92. KG says

    Now Craig’s argument here is premised on the notion that it’s possible that minds can exist immaterially. Note, it’s not premised on the notion that minds *do* exist immaterially, but on the notion that there’s no incoherence involved in the idea. Further, it seems plausible to conclude that the notion of an immaterial and eternal mechanistic explanation is incoherent. And remember, we’ve already ruled out abstract objects. Hence, we’re left with agent causation, and with the notion that it’s possible for an immaterial mind to exist. Note too that positing an immaterial mind as the agent that caused the universe helps resolve the problem we were faced with, since it inserts the notion of ‘choice’ as a possible explanation (though obviously in an analogous sense, since it would have to involve an eternal choice to bring about a temporally finite effect — a difficult but not contradictory notion). From this sort of reasoning, Craig concludes that the cause of the universe is plausibly personal. – Eric

    What a steaming pile of bovine excrement. The KCA is based on a claim that because we have no examples of causeless existence beginnings (a claim that is either false or vacuous depending on how it is interpreted, but let’s allow it for the sake of argument), nothing can begin to exist without a cause. Yet the above line of “reasoning” is replete with assumptions that things of which we have no examples – immaterial minds, agent causation that is not supervenient on material causation, minds which have no beginning – could exist. By exactly the same move that supposedly got the KCA off the ground, we could conclude that such things cannot exist. The obvious conclusion is that this is an invalid deduction: the fact that we know no examples of X does not mean it is impossible for X to exist.

  93. KG says

    All I see here is irrational hatred of a man you know literally nothing about except, “Dawkins doesn’t like him” and “Dawkins claims that Craig is an apologist for genocide.” – Eric@392

    I missed this barefaced lie. Like many others here, I had already read Craig’s apologia for genocide before this stupid stunt of his. Hatred of Craig is the healthy reaction of a normal human being – atheist or religious believer – to that kind of vileness.

  94. says

    Note, it’s not premised on the notion that minds *do* exist immaterially, but on the notion that there’s no incoherence involved in the idea.

    But even if an immaterial mind is not an incoherent idea, an immaterial mind is at a disanalogy to the minds that are at the crux of personal causation as we know it. If we’re appealing to personal causation as we use it every day, then the further we get away from what makes for personal causation the weaker the argument. At some point, calling it personal causation would be to misidentify what it is as it would have none of the hallmarks of personal causation.

    Talking about the nutritional content of a gold apple would be an absurdity, for even if regular apples have nutritional content and a golden apple is like a regular apple in shape, we don’t expect gold to have nutritional value because it’s like an apple in some way. An immaterial mind might not be incoherent, but if an immaterial mind doesn’t have neurons firing by which to do information processing, then in what sense is it going to be causally powerful like our minds?

  95. Eric says

    Kel,good: At least now you’re actually taking aim at Craig’s argument by targeting the notion that an immaterial mind is a candidate for the cause of the universe the KCA concludes with. You still insist, in addition, on questioning his motivation in formulating this argument, but this is as relevant as my questioning your atheistic motivations in formulating your argument here (which is to say not at all, at least as far as the arguments themselves are concerned). But at least you’re now engaging with his arguments.

    I do find it interesting, however, how enthusiastic you are in your treatment of Craig as a moral agent when you discuss his “defense” of genocide, and how equally enthusiastic you are in your repudiation of the notion of agents as causes! If you’re right on the latter point, your former point is meaningless. If agents are to be understood in terms of mechanisms, then there ultimately is no ‘Craig’ on whom you can unleash your disapprobation. When a soda machine takes your money without dispensing the soda, you don’t argue with it, and you don’t lecture it on the immorality of stealing; you kick it. It’s blatant inconsistencies like this that lead most of us to reject the New Atheism as shallow, uncritical, uninformed and, ultimately, just plain silly.

  96. consciousness razor says

    Eric

    I do find it interesting, however, how enthusiastic you are in your treatment of Craig as a moral agent when you discuss his “defense” of genocide, and how equally enthusiastic you are in your repudiation of the notion of agents as causes! If you’re right on the latter point, your former point is meaningless. If agents are to be understood in terms of mechanisms, then there ultimately is no ‘Craig’ on whom you can unleash your disapprobation.

    No. Just say “no” to presuppositions, vehemently to idiotic ones like yours. This is too easy. If agents are to be understood in terms of mechanisms, then Craig is to be understood as an agent (understood in terms of mechanisms).

    Also, as an aside, if there are non-agents, then it is not the case that this term “Craig” must not refer to anything which exists. That we ought not unleash disapprobation on them is both irrelevant to whether we can do so and to the original question of whether a specific entity (not Craig, but a deity) exists. If you weren’t so utterly confused about everything else, I wouldn’t even bother mentioning this.

    No one here is denying agents cause things if those agents exist. How do they cause things? It is either possible or impossible to answer. The only agents I know of are material organisms, who evolved such mechanisms over a very long period of time. It is possible to say how they cause things. However, without even more idiotic assumptions, “immaterial agents” have no inherent causal mechanism whatsoever. So, an “immaterial agent” is a contradiction in terms, because it is causally inert and agents aren’t, unless the requisite properties are also stipulated which do not contradict with being immaterial. Simply slapping the label “agent” on something doesn’t give it all those properties you wish it would have, much less prove (or make it more possible or plausible) that such an entity exists.

    The whole point is that you should be trying to explain a phenomenon, not “prove” the “existence” of some Frankensteinian non-entity by adding ever more word salad and sophistry. What phenomenon are you trying to explain? If it isn’t already known to be directly related to something psychological or ethical, personhood is almost certainly irrelevant. You’re importing all of that garbage because “Goddidit” is the answer you want to arrive at, but that’s completely unfounded when we’re talking about the fucking origin of the universe. When did those terms enter the argument? Only once you assumed them.

    When a soda machine takes your money without dispensing the soda, you don’t argue with it, and you don’t lecture it on the immorality of stealing; you kick it.

    What if I don’t kick it? Maybe I go find the janitor (an agent) who might have the key and give me the soda if I explain the situation. If the janitor’s grumpy, I might have to argue with him or her.

    Anyway, that’s entirely irrelevant to whether both non-agents and agents are capable of causing effects in the world. The problem is that you’ve assumed an additional entity is necessary to explain something, and further assumed it is an agent because there are no known non-agents which are suitable to explain it. Then, to top it off, you assume additional properties which do not jive with any other entity known and widely agreed to conform to our notion of “agent.” When all this is pointed out above, this irrelevant nonsense is your objection? Quite pathetic.

    It’s blatant inconsistencies like this that lead most of us to reject the New Atheism as shallow, uncritical, uninformed and, ultimately, just plain silly.

    Ha! They’re “inconsistent” because they don’t take to all your bullshit. Though you’re wrong about most everything you’ve said here, I think you may be on to something, as to why there aren’t more (new or old) atheists in the world.

  97. KG says

    If agents are to be understood in terms of mechanisms, then there ultimately is no ‘Craig’ on whom you can unleash your disapprobation. – Eric

    Don’t be more of an idiot than you can help, Eric. If my pocket calculator gives incorrect results, I can judge it to be faulty: it is a purely physical mechanism and a device which performs a particular function either correctly or incorrectly (but it is, of course, conforming to the laws of physics whather it functions correctly or not). It’s a matter of different levels of description; this is a rather elementary philosophical point, but one you have evidently not yet grasped. Similarly, a human being is a purely physical mechanism and a subject of experience capable of moral judgements, with which I may disagree and which I may even find detestable.

  98. Eric says

    Thanks for proving my point, KG and Consciousness Razor.

    Of course, KG is just fattening his already impressive record of logical, factual and rhetorical misses, which includes,

    “The KCA is based on a claim that because we have no examples of causeless existence beginnings (a claim that is either false or vacuous depending on how it is interpreted, but let’s allow it for the sake of argument), nothing can begin to exist without a cause.”

    No, it’s not ‘based on’ this claim, though this claim (and the reasoning behind it) is used as ancillary support for the notion that the first premise of the KCA is in fact based on, viz. nothingness (proper) has no properties. As Morriston has pointed out, the first premise of the KCA is synonymous with the notion that nothing comes from nothing (and don’t go on to confuse this with the ‘nothing’ of physics, which is quite a something). If you want to deny the first premise of the KCA, you’re committing to something worse than magic (as Craig often points out), and worse than miracles. If you think that the mere possibility of miracles that the theistic view of the world must brook undermines science proper, then imagine what a denial of the first premise of the KCA (properly understood) would do to it!

    While I’m on the apparently inexhaustible topic of KG’s ignorance, let’s look at another gem:

    “Don’t be more of an idiot than you can help, Eric. If my pocket calculator gives incorrect results, I can judge it to be faulty: it is a purely physical mechanism and a device which performs a particular function either correctly or incorrectly (but it is, of course, conforming to the laws of physics whather it functions correctly or not). It’s a matter of different levels of description; this is a rather elementary philosophical point, but one you have evidently not yet grasped.”

    Think hard for a moment, KG. What are you committing yourself to here? Not merely to the notion of ‘function,’ but to the much more theologically rich notion of a *proper* function. Proper functions are not merely on a ‘different level of description’ from mechanistic functions; indeed, they differ in kind. In fact, they are largely indistinguishable from Aristotelian final causes when you examine them rigorously enough. KG, the Aristotelian — who knew?

    Consciousness Razor’s material is even worse than KG’s, so I’ll let it speak for itself.

  99. KG says

    Eric,

    The KCA is based on a claim that because we have no examples of causeless existence beginnings (a claim that is either false or vacuous depending on how it is interpreted, but let’s allow it for the sake of argument), nothing can begin to exist without a cause. – Me

    No, it’s not ‘based on’ this claim, though this claim (and the reasoning behind it) is used as ancillary support for the notion that the first premise of the KCA is in fact based on, viz. nothingness (proper) has no properties. – Eric

    Craig’s first premise is:

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its
    existence.

    What is it based on? Craig’s positive argument for that premise is, simply, a “metaphysical intuition”:

    Premiss (1) strikes me as relatively non-controversial. It is based on the metaphysical intuition that something cannot come out of nothing. Hence, any argument for the principle is apt to be less obvious than the principle itself. Even the great skeptic David Hume admitted that he never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something might come into existence without a cause; he only denied that one could prove the obviously true causal principle. With regard to the universe, if originally there were absolutely nothing-no God, no space, no time-, then how could the universe possibly come to exist? The truth of the principle ex nihilo, nihil fit is so obvious that I think we are justified in foregoing an elaborate defense of the argument’s first premiss.

    Or to put it another way, the argument from personal incredulity, plus an argument from authority.

    Of course, pre-Einstein, Craig would have had a “metaphysical intuition” that space and time are absolute, and that a particle cannot follow multiple paths. So, of course, would Hume. “Metaphysical intuitions” are a very poor guide in the area of fundamental physics.

    The way Craig formulates the possibility that the universe had a beginning but no cause is faulty: it is not true that in such a case there was “originally” nothing, as he says. “Originally” already implies time. What there would have been, if time is quantised, is one or more events without a predecessor. But mathematical systems in which some events have no predecessor, but do have a sequence of successors, are easy to design and study: there is nothing inconsistent in the notion at all.

    Now Craig is quite obviously aware how worthless this “argument” is, because following the shameful paragraph I have just quoted, he then argues that particle pair production is not like the beginning of the universe – but what is the point of this if not to establish that the latter cannot be causeless because we know of no other similar events, i.e. no other absolute beginnings? (Of course we don’t, because all the events we know of occur within spacetime – so the observation that we don’t is vacuous.) Craig then discusses the idea that the universe could originate in a quantum fluctuation, and ends this discussion as follows:

    That whatever begins to exist has a cause would seem to be an ontologically necessary truth, one which is constantly confirmed in our experience.

    Now “ontologically necessary truth” is just flapdoodle, meaning nothing more than “I can’t imagine otherwise” – it was an “ontologically necessary truth” that simultaneity was independent of frames of reference before relativity; and that a particle has an exact position and momentum before quantum mechanics. The only significant content to that sentence is therefore that “whatever begins to exist has a cause” is “constantly confirmed in our experience”. So when you clear away all the appeals to authority and personal incredulity, all Craig has is precisely what I said. But so, much more clearly, is it “constantly confirmed in our experience” that all agents have a beginning.

    Think hard for a moment, KG. What are you committing yourself to here? Not merely to the notion of ‘function,’ but to the much more theologically rich notion of a *proper* function. Proper functions are not merely on a ‘different level of description’ from mechanistic functions; indeed, they differ in kind. In fact, they are largely indistinguishable from Aristotelian final causes when you examine them rigorously enough. KG, the Aristotelian — who knew? – Eric

    Stone the crows. I didn’t think even you were that stupid Eric. Of course a pocket calculator has a proper function, because it was designed. But that, of course, is not relevant to the analogy I was drawing, which was simply to point out that one entity may require different levels of description when we consider it from different viewpoints or at different scales. I could just as easily have used the example of any organism – say a tree growing in a forest, where no-one planted it or intended it for anything. Now you and I will agree, I think, that the tree is alive: it differs in an important way from rocks, tables, etc. (What is more, we can sensibly ask and answer questions about the function of the roots, or the stomata, or a particular enzyme, because trees have been shaped by evolution – though not of course designed – to survive and reproduce.) But by exactly the same idiocy you claim an agent cannot be an agent if it consists entirely of material processes, presumably you would say the same here, that there must be some immaterial woo-woo that makes the tree alive, and makes these questions pertinent? Come on, Eric, are you a vitalist? But even if you are, let’s now consider a rock. Now the rock is hard, Eric: you can’t make a dent in it with your finger. But you know, Eric, that atoms and the particles they are made of are not hard (nor, of course, are they soft). So, where does the hardness come from, Eric? Another type of special immaterial woo-woo? No, I don’t think so Eric: it comes from the way those particles it’s made of interact with each other, and with other particles in the rock’s surroundings. Just like life, Eric, and just like agenthood.

  100. says

    Kel,good: At least now you’re actually taking aim at Craig’s argument by targeting the notion that an immaterial mind is a candidate for the cause of the universe the KCA concludes with.

    I’ve been targeting that notion the whole time, is your issue is that I said Craig was projection rather than making the general case for projection?

    I do find it interesting, however, how enthusiastic you are in your treatment of Craig as a moral agent when you discuss his “defense” of genocide, and how equally enthusiastic you are in your repudiation of the notion of agents as causes! If you’re right on the latter point, your former point is meaningless.

    Two things. First, at no point did I deny that agent causation existed. “Agent based causes are only able to be causes because of the mechanics of our bodies. If we didn’t have this elaborate cellular structure that we call our bodies, there wouldn’t be any agent based causation. That’s the point, Eric. Agent based causes is as much a contingency of this universe as anything else in it.” It sounds like I accept the existence of agent based causation. My notion was that immaterial atemporal agent causation was the incoherent one, that without our bodies and brains and time through which they act, agent based causation becomes meaningless.

    Second, whether or not I can adequately formulate a reply to Craig doesn’t mean his position becomes any less reprehensible. The best you can do is say I’m inconsistent, meanwhile Craig is still saying that slaughtering babies is a good thing.

  101. says

    My whole contention was that a) Craig was putting agent causation where it doesn’t belong, and b) stripping away everything that makes agent causation in order to do so. How did you get that I’m denying agency from that?

  102. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    The notion of causality requires priority. The notion of priority requires time. As far as we know, time is unique to our universe. It doesn’t make sense to reference causation outside of the universe. It is a category error.

  103. consciousness razor says

    Consciousness Razor’s material is even worse than KG’s

    I think that would be quite a compliment, coming from you, but you’re too kind. I’d say KG’s is at least as “bad” as mine, if not much “worse,” so as with all of your unevidenced blather: citation needed.

    so I’ll let it speak for itself.

    Good. No more bullshit from you would be for the best.

  104. says

    Looks like while I was relaxing this weekend, Eric turned into Myron, playing some of the same games with nonsense words, but with the agency of conscious beings instead of just causality.

    As far as I’m concerned, to speak of “immaterial” things is still to speak of nothings.

  105. Ing says

    Kel,good: At least now you’re actually taking aim at Craig’s argument by targeting the notion that an immaterial mind is a candidate for the cause of the universe the KCA concludes with.

    Oh look Kel got a apple from teacher. Aren’t you glad to be part of Professor Condescendingfuck’s homeroom?

    I do find it interesting, however, how enthusiastic you are in your treatment of Craig as a moral agent when you discuss his “defense” of genocide, and how equally enthusiastic you are in your repudiation of the notion of agents as causes! If you’re right on the latter point, your former point is meaningless.

    With this “dishonest” “defense” I think we’re done with Eric.

  106. says

    Oh look Kel got a apple from teacher. Aren’t you glad to be part of Professor Condescendingfuck’s homeroom?

    I’m not quite sure what Professor Condescendingfuck has anything to do with it, but I do find it interesting that objection was what I initially pointed out was the same objection as I argued later on. What changed between #529 and #608?

    Furthermore, reading back through those posts, how the fuck did Eric think that I repudiated agents as causes? The 2nd half of #610, as far as I can see, is one huge straw man!

  107. says

    For Eric – my references to personal causation between #529 and #608.

    #529
    The huge assumption in such arguments is that there can be such thing as an immaterial transcendent personal cause, when all personal causes we know are neither immaterial nor transcendent.

    #533
    and we should be sceptical of any attempt to put something like us (as contingent beings) as being anything remotely resembling the necessary cause the argument gets to.

    #571
    Indeed the only time it’s appropriate to talk about personal causation, despite all the attempts to put personal causation into the universe, is when dealing with actual persons.

    #599
    The answer, obviously, is to take the finite, temporal, and material causation that is personhood, strip out everything but the personhood, and say that it was personal causation.

    Agent based causes are only able to be causes because of the mechanics of our bodies. If we didn’t have this elaborate cellular structure that we call our bodies, there wouldn’t be any agent based causation. That’s the point, Eric. Agent based causes is as much a contingency of this universe as anything else in it.

    #608
    But even if an immaterial mind is not an incoherent idea, an immaterial mind is at a disanalogy to the minds that are at the crux of personal causation as we know it.
    [emphasis added]

  108. says

    The best case I can out of Eric’s argument is that the kind of personal causation I’m talking about doesn’t give the personal causation as we desire it to be. In effect, by taking away personal causation as some metaphysically-irreducible causation, I’m taking away what it means to be morally accountable.

    I’m trying to be charitable here, Eric, help me out.

  109. Eric says

    “I’m trying to be charitable here, Eric, help me out.”

    I appreciate that, Kel, but no need, it’s my fault: I misunderstood you, though you were clear enough. (You get used to seeing certain objections so many times that you sometimes read them into places they’re obviously not, upon a more careful reading, being made.)

    Now I take the issue you’re raising to be this: Do our observations of how concepts are instantiated constrain the concepts themselves by establishing their necessary conditions? I take you to be saying that the notion of immaterial persons/agents/minds is incoherent because we never observe immaterial persons/agents/minds. Let’s call this the strong objection. Either that, or the fact that we never observe immaterial persons/agents/minds somehow makes using the notion in an explanation of some phenomenon suspect. Let’s call this the weak objection. (Note, I’m referring not to the relative strength of these two possible claims, but to their scope.) Would you agree with one of those characterizations of your fundamental objection?

    If so, I think that a few objections can be raised here.

    (1) Our observations don’t seem to establish the logically necessary conditions of a concept. We can conceive of things we could never observe, and these concepts don’t seem to be contradictory at all. In other words, if you’re taking the stronger position, then you seem to be confusing physical possibility with logical possibility.

    (2) If you’re taking the weaker objection, then it seems to me that we have to examine the particulars of each case, so the question is, does Craig make a good case that the immaterial cause of the universe is plausibly personal, even though in your judgment we never observe immaterial persons?

    (3) Finally, remember that Craig would argue that we have good reasons for concluding that immaterial persons can exist since, as a substance dualist, he thinks that each one of us is in part an immaterial person. Hence, your objection should be understood as just that, viz. as an objection that moves the debate on to new ground, and not as a refutation of any kind.

  110. says

    …does Craig make a good case that the immaterial cause of the universe is plausibly personal, even though in your judgment we never observe immaterial persons?

    Most certainly not. “Immaterial” is a big part of what makes it incoherent.

    Finally, remember that Craig would argue that we have good reasons for concluding that immaterial persons can exist since, as a substance dualist, he thinks that each one of us is in part an immaterial person

    A hypothesis that breaks down under the science of neurology: Damage to the brain correlates very, very, consistently with changes in behavior and ability. The use of monism in the form of materialism has much higher explanatory power of human thought while dualism has done nothing.

    The materialist hypotheses are continuously being tested, showing a living field while dualism and parapsychology have stagnated.

  111. consciousness razor says

    Do our observations of how concepts are instantiated constrain the concepts themselves by establishing their necessary conditions? I take you to be saying that the notion of immaterial persons/agents/minds is incoherent because we never observe immaterial persons/agents/minds. Let’s call this the strong objection. Either that, or the fact that we never observe immaterial persons/agents/minds somehow makes using the notion in an explanation of some phenomenon suspect. Let’s call this the weak objection. (Note, I’m referring not to the relative strength of these two possible claims, but to their scope.) Would you agree with one of those characterizations of your fundamental objection?

    I’d say mine is neither, to be precise, but a combination of different aspects of the strong and weak objections. The concept of an immaterial mind is incoherent; and even if some idea like it could someday be coherently described, without observational evidence that such a thing exists and has predictable relationships with other things in existence, the mere notion of an immaterial-whatever cannot be used in an explanation. And I’ll emphasize that it’s not just they’re suspect, but that you wouldn’t be explaining anything about the real world. You’re just talking about an abstract concept which has no basis in observed reality.

    When I think of the number two, of course that’s a very useful abstract concept which can explain things, but I can observe all sorts of things in the real world which align precisely with my idea and with which everyone else can rationally agree upon as consistent and verifiable. Observing groups of two non-abstract entities isn’t off-limits, nor do I want it to be because I hold that idea special and exempt from criticism. Now let’s say I make up some other “number” and call it “eleventyJebus” (in numerals “111*#^&”) which doesn’t correspond to anything in any legitimate mathematical system and which doesn’t have any real-world application as a number or as any kind of generic abstract concept. In that case, it’s utterly incoherent and there’s no point even talking about it. Maybe someday a great mathematician will find a use for this broken, idiotic concept of mine, but that’s not the state of our knowledge today if we’re being honest with ourselves.

    (1) Our observations don’t seem to establish the logically necessary conditions of a concept. We can conceive of things we could never observe, and these concepts don’t seem to be contradictory at all. In other words, if you’re taking the stronger position, then you seem to be confusing physical possibility with logical possibility.

    Nope. You don’t get to pretend all fictional entities are non-contradictory if some are non-contradictory.

    (2) If you’re taking the weaker objection, then it seems to me that we have to examine the particulars of each case, so the question is, does Craig make a good case that the immaterial cause of the universe is plausibly personal, even though in your judgment we never observe immaterial persons?

    As I said, those aren’t exactly my objections, but I’ll answer the question: no, Craig’s isn’t convincing. However, the way he presents his case may seem fairly strong if one had already believed the premise-like conclusion and the endless stream of conclusion-like premises.

    (3) Finally, remember that Craig would argue that we have good reasons for concluding that immaterial persons can exist since, as a substance dualist, he thinks that each one of us is in part an immaterial person. Hence, your objection should be understood as just that, viz. as an objection that moves the debate on to new ground, and not as a refutation of any kind.

    Why bother refuting such nonsense? Since the concept is incoherent and goes against mountains of evidence, the burden is on him to make his silly case for substance dualism, or rally the troops, or love Jesus, or whatever it is he thinks he’s doing.

  112. KG says

    I would not describe the concept of an “immaterial mind” as incoherent in the strongest sense i.e. self-contradictory (I’ll be very interested if anyone can demonstrate otherwise); but we have absolutely no idea how such a concept could be instantiated. Moreover, if it is “immaterial”, how could a mind have any effect on our actions, which take place in the material world? In any case, it is absurd to think that the notion of an “immaterial mind” can be employed in any candidate explanation of anything without it first being explained how such a thing could exist, and how it could have any effect on the material world.

    Now it is true that we don’t understand either how infinite time could already have passed, or how it could have a first instant; but in these cases at least we know where to look: to the attempts to unify quantum mechanics with general relativity. In the case of the “immaterial mind”, OTOH, what we have are better and better reason to believe that all the minds we know about, those of people and other animals, can be explained in purely material terms.

  113. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    In any case, it is absurd to think that the notion of an “immaterial mind” can be employed in any candidate explanation of anything without it first being explained how such a thing could exist, and how it could have any effect on the material world.

    Inevitably, such an explanation would beggar the meaning of the word “exist”. If something that is immaterial can be said to exist, what can’t be said to exist?

  114. says

    @Bronze Dog

    As far as I’m concerned, to speak of “immaterial” things is still to speak of nothings.

    I agree. Minds need material things to work. To propose that a mind could work without any material things doing that work is ludicrous. As KG put it, it is up to Eric and WLC to argue how an immaterial rock could be hard if it lacked the materials that make it hard. The whole notion of immaterial minds is just as incoherent as the notion of immaterial rocks.

  115. says

    My perspective in a nut shell:

    1) I’ve seen no evidence of conscious design in the universe as a whole. Conscious design is generally limited to items created by humans and other animals.

    2) Causality, from what I know, is not as simple as we middle world humans instinctively perceive it to be. We shouldn’t arrogantly believe universe will conform to our instinctive expectations. We use science precisely because the universe often behaves counter-intuitively, especially when dealing with things outside the middle world of medium objects, medium speeds, and medium energy.

    3) There is still no reason I’m aware of to invent the categories of “immaterial” or “spiritual” things, which are generally negatively defined: They’re defined as not being another category.

    4) Even if these negative categories are accepted, there is still no reason to shove a randomly chosen mythical being invented by ancient, superstitious humans into those categories.

    5) Even if we start assuming that some kind of exotic entity created the universe, there are currently no reasons to assume it resembles a human or a human-described god except arrogance and wishful thinking.

  116. Ing says

    (3) Finally, remember that Craig would argue that we have good reasons for concluding that immaterial persons can exist since, as a substance dualist, he thinks that each one of us is in part an immaterial person. Hence, your objection should be understood as just that, viz. as an objection that moves the debate on to new ground, and not as a refutation of any kind.

    …No it is a good fucking refutation because his logic is ‘I believe there is immaterial persons because I believe there are immaterial persons’. It’s taking a highlighter to the big blinking screaming unstated premise and it completely invalidates the argument.

  117. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Finally, remember that Craig would argue that we have good reasons for concluding that immaterial persons can exist since, as a substance dualist, he thinks that each one of us is in part an immaterial person. Hence, your objection should be understood as just that, viz. as an objection that moves the debate on to new ground, and not as a refutation of any kind.

    Craig assumes souls exist, he defines souls as immaterial parts of humans, therefore he assumes other immaterial creatures can exist. Craig also assumes his god, while primarily immaterial, can manifest itself in the material world so essentially his god is just like humans, at least in material/immaterial existence.

  118. Ing says

    Craig reminds me of the show ancient astronauts.

    “this obvious sculpture of a bee…if we assume it’s really a design of a air plane and add a motor, wheels, and propeller to it really flies! Therefore aliens!”

  119. says

    Bronze Dog:

    The use of monism in the form of materialism has much higher explanatory power of human thought while dualism has done nothing.

    The materialist hypotheses are continuously being tested, showing a living field while dualism and parapsychology have stagnated.

    Just, but just because it’s ineffective, unsupported by evidence, and has no explanatory power doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    Yes. That was snark. You can recognize it by the gold spots.

  120. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Hmmm…I’m wondering if Eric can ever recognize a presupposition argument. Preuppositon arguments for his imaginary deity appears to be his forte. But then, they are always wrong. Honest inquiry stars wiht the concept that the deity doesn’t exist, and looks for evidence, preferably physical, that supports the idea.

  121. Eric says

    “Hmmm…I’m wondering if Eric can ever recognize a presupposition argument. Preuppositon arguments for his imaginary deity appears to be his forte.”

    NoR, first, as I said previously, these are Craig’s arguments, not mine. I disagree with Craig on many points (e.g. substance dualism). I’m not so much defending his arguments here as I am defending him as a serious and competent philosopher. (Incidentally, here’s an interesting question for all of you: I can think of literally dozens of atheistic philosophers of religion whom I recognize as competent, serious andrigorous philosophers; can you name *any* theistic philosophers of religion whom you concede are serious, competent and rigorous?)

    Second, Craig is decidedly not a presuppositionalist, so I have no idea what you’re talking about. I suspect that presuppositionalism (which I do not defend) is perhaps the only thing in the whole ‘does god exist’ discussion that’s even more poorly understood than just what constitutes a’god of the gaps’ argument! Presuppositional arguments for god’s existence follow Kant’s transdendental argument, which, *very* briefly, goes like this: P; G is a necessary condition of P; therefore, G (where P is something we uncontroversially accept). So the idea is, if you accept P, you’re presupposing G; hence the term ‘presuppositionalism.’ Now as I said, I’m not a presuppositionalist, but presuppers do not, as many atheists seem to think, simply ‘presuppose god’ (which I took to be the implication of NoR’s ‘criticism’).

  122. Eric says

    “If you have to use logical fallacies to support your conclusion, you’re acting incompetently as a philosopher.”

    Well, we all commit the occasional fallacy, but in general I agree.

    I’d love to know just which one of Craig’s arguments you think is most obviously fallacious. Be specific: Formulate Craig’s argument, tell me what fallacy he commits, and tell me precisely where and how he commits it. (This should be interesting. Dennett was the respondent to one of Craig’s talks, and he said that while he thinks that Craig relies too easily on premises that seem plausible, he concedes that he can see nothing wrong with the logic of Craig’s arguments: “What Professor Craig has shown us is how the arguments go, and how,if you start with a bunch of initially very plausible premises, and in each case he says,’Look, this is a very plausible premise, I don’t see how this could be false, this, boy this just stands to reason,’ and then you pursue it and pursue it, **and he does that, as near as I could see I have no quarrels with the relentless development he puts on those premises**, but we end up at really remarkably implausible conclusions.”

  123. Eric says

    Whoah, I didn’t expect the link to bring the video up like that. Sorry. Anyway, the quote is from 4:10 on.

  124. says

    If you’re trying to claim that Craig’s being competent as a philosopher, provide us with at least one competent argument of his.

    We’ve already been over several arguments that involve special pleading, arguments from ignorance and incredulity (god of the gaps), and false (or, at best, unsubstantiated) premises to name a few. So far, I know of zero Craig arguments that are logically valid, despite repeatedly challenging the people who defend him to name a single competent argument. From what I’ve seen, Craig has done nothing to significantly distinguish himself from the standard issue apologists.

  125. says

    First: I’ll note that you’re shifting the burden of proof. I’m simply asking for one competent, logically valid argument he’s made.

    Second: If I picked out the first fallacious argument I saw from WLC, I suspect you’ll accuse me of only going after low hanging fruit.

    Third: You’re still stalling and bluffing your way out of answering earlier challenges.

    Fourth: Here’s a link to an earlier bit of the thread. If those are not WLC arguments, or are his weakest ones, show me some of his best stuff. Don’t hold back on my account.

  126. Eric says

    “First: I’ll note that you’re shifting the burden of proof. I’m simply asking for one competent, logically valid argument he’s made.”

    You have it exactly backwards, which doesn’t bode well for your understanding of the supposed fallacies you think Craig commits. I don’t think that any of his arguments are fallacious, though I concede that one can reasonably debate whether they are sound. So, my position is that I don’t see any logical fallacies in Craig’s main arguments, and your position is that every one of his arguments is fallacious. The onus, my friend, is clearly and uncontroversially on you to identify precisely what fallacy Craig commits, and precisely where and how he commits it. So, will you now provide me with that example?

  127. Eric says

    “Up until #646, I actually thought Eric was trying to argue in good faith.
    Now I realize he’s not.”

    See my last comment on who has the onus of proof here. I mean, just think about it for a moment:

    Jones: Craig’s arguments look logically valid to me.

    Smith: Are you crazy? Every one of them is fallacious.

    Jones: Hmm, that’s interesting — maybe I’ve missed something. What fallacies is he guilty of, and where does he commit them?

    Smith: Nice try to shift the burden of proof! You have to prove to me that his arguments aren’t fallacious!

    Now I hope that that’s obviously ridiculous, right?

    Second, I’d rather not look at previous comments because the best approach, it seems to me, is to have those who think they see logical fallacies to point out *precisely* what they take to be the clearest and most obvious example, and to identify the fallacy and show exactly where and how Craig commits it.

  128. says

    So, my position is that I don’t see any logical fallacies in Craig’s main arguments, and your position is that every one of his arguments is fallacious.

    That is a very clear and very deliberate straw man. My position is that I know of no logically valid, competent arguments made by WLC. That is a null hypothesis. I have been challenging you numerous times to falsify it by providing one example.

    The onus, my friend, is clearly and uncontroversially on you to identify precisely what fallacy Craig commits, and precisely where and how he commits it. So, will you now provide me with that example?

    In that post you quoted in your response, I linked to a comment someone made about an assertions WLC supposedly made. One of them was a false dichotomy, that either someone is a theist or a reductionist. It is possible to be both, and it is possible to be neither.

  129. says

    Eric, I don’t think the strong or weak objections capture what I’m arguing. So I’ll give a couple of alternate objections:

    Strong objection: Personal cause is necessitated on aspects of persons, so to talk about personal causes requires those aspects. It would be like trying to talk about the transportation capacity of an immaterial car, or the nutrition of a gold apple. Yes, cars have the quality of being able to transport, but it’s that cars have certain properties to be able to do so. Take away the physical aspect of the car, then you take away its capacity to transport. Likewise, an apple made out of gold might have the shape of the apple, but it doesn’t have the structure that allows for it to act as nutrition. Similarly, a person that doesn’t have a body and a brain and spacetime for the body and brain to move through in order to act… you’ve removed everything that personal causation is, yet you expect it to still be a cause?

    Weak objection: The further one gets away from describing a personal cause, the less it makes sense to call it a personal cause. The analogy gets weaker and weaker the less that it has in common with the description, until it gets to the point of being misleading. What makes for a personal cause without anything like a person causing it? If it’s like a person in some ways but not others, then which of those ways make it personal?

  130. says

    Here’s another fallacy I’ve been heavily harping on that I should probably break down for Eric and Myron. WLC probably invoked similar arguments.

    “Immaterial” is fallacious because it involves special pleading and circular logic/question begging.

    From what I’ve seen argued here, “Immaterial” things are defined as being exempt from material causation because someone defined them as being exempt from material causation.

    It’s asking us to accept a definition without a demonstrable example to justify making that definition in the first place.

  131. Eric says

    “My position is that I know of no logically valid, competent arguments made by WLC. That is a null hypothesis.”

    Before I respond, let me get this straight: You’re not claiming that any of Craig’s arguments are in fact fallacious, but that you don’t know any that are valid?

    Wow.

    Anyway, I’ll bite. (Before I do, we both know that you’re either disingenuous or irresponsible here: disingenuous if you’re now trying to say that you haven’t claimed that any of Craig’s arguments are in fact fallacious, and irresponsible if you’re in fact ignorant of Craig’s arguments, yet willing to judge his abilities as a philosopher.)

    Remember, the issue we’re now discussing is whether I can provide an example of and argument that Craig defends that is not *fallacious*. Here’s an uncontroversial example, i.e. his moral argument:

    (1) If god does not exist, objective moral values doe not exist.
    (2) Objective moral values do exist.
    (3) God exists.

    Now that is uncontroversially a logically valid modus tollens. You may disagree with both of his premises, but that’s *irrelevant* as far as the present issue is concerned. I’ll add that his formulations of the KCA and the argument from contingency (AfC) are also uncontroversially logically valid.

    KCA:
    (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    (2) The universe began to exist.
    (3) The universe has a cause.

    Again, you may reject one or both premises, but that’s undeniably a logically valid argument.

    AfC
    (1) Affirms a relatively uncontroversial version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, viz. everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its nature, or in a cause external to it.
    (2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is god.
    (3) The universe exists.
    (4) the explanation of the universe is god.
    (5) God exists.

    Again, you may disagree with the premises of the AfC, but it’s undeniably logically valid.

    (Although we’re not talking about the truth of the premises here, I’ll add that the apparently weak premises in these arguments — (2) in the AfC, (1) in the moral argument, and (2) in the KCA — are very robustly defended by Craig. I’ll further add, since this seems to be a point of confusion among many Craig critics, that Craig doesn’t claim that his premises can be proven to be true; rather, he claims, following Mavrodes, that they’re more plausibly true than their negations, and that premises that satisfy this minimum standard are good premises. So, he’s not claiming to know with certainty that everything that begins to exist has a cause — and remember, his use of the term ’cause’ here is not limited to a post-Humean stripped down version of efficient causation — but that it’s more plausibly true that everything that begins to exist has a cause than it is that some things begin to exist uncaused, i.e. from literally nothing.)

    “In that post you quoted in your response, I linked to a comment someone made about an assertions WLC supposedly made. One of them was a false dichotomy, that either someone is a theist or a reductionist. It is possible to be both, and it is possible to be neither.”

    As I pointed out in post #392, Craig has never made such an argument. If you can provide we with a source, I’ll check it out. All I could find was a website by a Craig critic with an unimaginably poor reconstruction *by the critic* of Craig’s moral argument. Craig, to my knowledge, has never argued such a thing.

  132. says

    My position is that I don’t care about whether or not Craig is considered a competent philosopher, I just care whether or not he has any competent/valid/substantive arguments for god because I’d want to know if anyone had competent arguments for god.

    I suspect everything else in your straw man is the result of you projecting your epistemological authoritarianism onto me. It’s the evidence and logic of the arguments that matter, not the person making them.

    Remember, the issue we’re now discussing is whether I can provide an example of and argument that Craig defends that is not *fallacious*. Here’s an uncontroversial example, i.e. his moral argument:

    (1) If god does not exist, objective moral values doe not exist.
    (2) Objective moral values do exist.
    (3) God exists.

    (1) is a non-sequitur.
    (2) has not been demonstrated.
    (3) is a non-sequitur since it relies on (1) being true.

    And yeah, I have been reckless about saying “valid” when I should type “sound” or “cogent” but if this argument is uncontroversial I really don’t see the truth value in it, since it doesn’t demonstrate the existence of any god, much less any specific god.

    Oh, and just so you know, divine command theory seems pretty damn subjective to me, since it all depends on the feelings of one arbitrarily chosen entity picked for no reason at all to determine moral rules.

  133. Eric says

    “(1) is a non-sequitur.
    (2) has not been demonstrated.
    (3) is a non-sequitur since it relies on (1) being true.
    And yeah, I have been reckless about saying “valid” when I should type “sound” or “cogent” but if this argument is uncontroversial I really don’t see the truth value in it, since it doesn’t demonstrate the existence of any god, much less any specific god.”

    First, I said that the argument is uncontroversially valid.

    Second, (1) is an implication, not an argument, so while it can be false, it’s simply nonsense to call it a non sequitur.

    Third, what you must mean to say is that the argument is a non sequitur, not that the conclusion is a non sequitur (again, the conclusion can be false, but it cannot itself be a non sequitur). However, as I’ve already said — and as should be clear to anyone who knows what a modus tollens is — the argument is logically valid, so the conclusion does follow from the premises.

    Fourth, the notion that an argument can be a non sequitur because it depends on the truth of a premise is absurd, and shows that you have no idea what a non sequitur is.

    I’m sorry, but as your last post clearly shows, you’re simply not well acquainted enough with the basics of logic and philosophy to judge Craig or his arguments. I see no more point in continuing this conversation with you than an educated evolutionist would see in continuing a conversation with a creationist who insists that “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” is a decent objection to evolution.

  134. says

    It sounds like you’re saying it’s okay to make assertions and draw conclusions from them that are valid for highly technical reasons, but have no relation or application to the actual world.

    That sounds like a way to make philosophy irrelevant to the real world.

  135. says

    Let’s try this:

    1) If unicorns didn’t exist, grass wouldn’t be green.
    2) Grass is green.
    3) Unicorns exist.

    This seems exactly as valid as that argument for god, but whatever adjectives you want to attach to it from a “philosophical” context, I doubt you would find this a convincing argument for the existence of unicorns.

  136. says

    Craig makes a lot of dodgy arguments, but the epitome of Craig’s sophistic prowess is claiming that the problem of evil proves God’s existence. I mean, claiming that only with God that objective morality exists, or that Jesus rose from the dead based on the fact that no-one can come up with a better explanation for the empty tomb are both worthy candidates, but turning the problem of evil on its head is the work of a very clever man indeed.

  137. consciousness razor says

    (1) If god does not exist, objective moral values doe not exist.
    (2) Objective moral values do exist.
    (3) God exists.

    Second, (1) is an implication, not an argument, so while it can be false, it’s simply nonsense to call it a non sequitur.

    What bullshit. It’s quite trivial to equate this or any such premise with a logical argument establishing it as a logical implication. Stating an implication is just a shorthand way of stating a more rigorous and drawn-out argument which would establish the alleged implication between the terms. Craig does that himself with this very premise, in various debates I’ve seen, which you should know if you’re so well-acquainted with his work.

    I agree it doesn’t necessarily follow that objective moral values don’t exist if a god does not exist. If one defines “objective moral values” such that they are identical to or derived from the existence of a “god,” then this is a tautology or circular (depending on how it is formulated). Note that there are several options here, to justify the implication with an argument: it could be that these words mean the same thing, or there could be a strong correlation, or specific a causal relationship, or some other logical reason why this implication holds because of the meaning of the terms themselves. It also takes an argument to make a case that his conception of the terms, “god” and “objective moral values,” are consistent with themselves and with one another. If they aren’t, then nothing valid is implied by them — in short, it doesn’t follow. You don’t get all of this for free, just because you call it an “implication” and can’t or don’t want to justify it.

  138. says

    That the argument is logically valid is the least interesting thing about it.
    1. Either God exists or 2+2=5
    2. 2+2=4
    3. Therefore, God exists
    Is perfectly logically valid, but no-one in their right mind would say it’s a valid argument. That Craig can put together a false premise into a syllogism hardly is testament to Craig’s philosophical skills.

  139. Eric says

    “That the argument is logically valid is the least interesting thing about it.”

    I agree, but logical validity was the only issue I was addressing. Review the anti-Craig posts on this thread — what do you see? Charge after charge that his arguments are *fallacious*. They’re not. Whether they’re sound is another issue, of course, but they’re not fallacious. Remember, what I set out to respond to here was what I saw as rather stupid and uninformed Craig bashing, and the ‘but all his arguments are fallacious’ charge struck me as one of the most obviously false of all the Craig bashing themes.

    “What bullshit. It’s quite trivial to equate this or any such premise with a logical argument establishing it as a logical implication. Stating an implication is just a shorthand way of stating a more rigorous and drawn-out argument which would establish the alleged implication between the terms. Craig does that himself with this very premise, in various debates I’ve seen, which you should know if you’re so well-acquainted with his work.”

    I see Consciousness Razor knows as little about how arguments actually work as most Craig critics on the internet do. See, as an implication, it’s only a proposition, and it’s literally nonsense to claim that a proposition is a non sequitur. (I wouldn’t be going on about this if you hadn’t stupidly tried to defend it.) What you’ve now done is confused (a) the fact that premises in arguments are (we hope) defended, and that therefore each premise is itself a conclusion of sub-arguments, with (b) the nature of an implication as a proposition. Might it be the case that the argument Craig uses to defend the premise, “If god does not exist, objective moral values do not exist” is a non sequitur? Sure, but the proposition itself is not a non sequitur. But then, we’re back to the onus of proof issue: Could you please demonstrate just where Craig goes wrong *logically* (the issue is, after all, whether he’s guilty of a non sequitur here) in his defense of that first premise of his moral argument? (Please don’t claim to have done so already with the absurd ‘tautology or circular’ BS you went on with in your last post. Please show some familiarity with the arguments Craig uses to defend the first premise of his moral argument, and show me from there exactly what fallacy he commits, and precisely where and how he commits it.)

  140. says

    Eric, the term “fallacious,” in informal settings such as this, can mean the premises are unsound. You’re conflating the philosophical use of the term “fallacious” with the casual use. That doesn’t make our Craig-bashing incorrect. It just means we’re bashing him on his unsound premises, and not the trivially-correct logic that follows.

    We’re not talking pure logic here. We’re talking about the pure manufacturing of his premises to support his conclusion a god exists. Take any one of his logical arguments, and examine the premises; each is formulated to support his conclusion. This was amply illustrated by Bronze Dog in #658. This is a form of question-begging, which is sophistry at best.

    And this doesn’t even take into his account the conflation of a “personal agent” with a “personal god.”

    If this is the actual state of philosophy today, I’m re-examining my assumption that philosophy is of any use whatsoever.

  141. says

    I agree, but logical validity was the only issue I was addressing. Review the anti-Craig posts on this thread — what do you see? Charge after charge that his arguments are *fallacious*. They’re not.

    I’d be surprised if anyone would think that fallacious arguments are merely constricted to the ability to construct valid syllogisms, rather most people I’d imagine would be talking about the many informal fallacies that make his arguments fallacious. I really think most people here would identify a faulty argument as one that contains a healthy dose of special pleading (Craig’s case for the resurrection) or contained a false premise (Craig’s moral argument) over whether or not the argument was denying the antecedent.

    As far as I can see, Eric, if you’re only addressing the validity of the presentation, then you’re missing the complaints of most people here. I could be wrong, and they really could think that Craig has made an elementary error in constructing a syllogism, but the principle of charity leads me to think that the problems are more with the content than the structure. In other words, I think you’re straw-manning the views of people here.

    But I could be wrong. :)

  142. Matt Penfold says

    Is Eric still convinced that he can reason his way to understanding reality without bothering to look out of the window ?

  143. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Charge after charge that his arguments are *fallacious*. They’re not.

    They are fallacious, because the premises and definitions are fallacious. That is what the horde has been telling you. Not necessarily the logic if the premises are accepted, which we don’t since they are false. When the fault lies with the premises, it is a presupposition argument, trying to define the desired conclusion up front, making the rest of the argument essentially false mental masturbation.

  144. says

    Deductive arguments have the conclusion built into the premise. So being able to formulate an argument so that the premises reach the specified conclusion should really be a formality. The validity of the premises is almost always going to be the measure of the argument, and that’s where most people are putting in their $0.02 – at least as far as I can tell.

    Maybe the criticisms of Craig seem unfair because they’re being measured unfairly… ;)

  145. says

    Reading up on WLC’s defense of his premise that a god is necessary for objective morality, I note at least two incorrect assertions. The first is that “free will” is a meaningful term, and is predicated on a non-physical mind. The second is that the naturalistic assumption that mind as an emergent property of the brain reduces us to puppets (or, as others have said before, zombies). Both assumptions are related, but constitute two separate incorrect assumptions.

    He also claims that, if humans are extra-special snowflakes, we’re just animals, and animals have no moral obligation. He gives tacit admission that social constructs provide a framework for morality, but then asserts that powerful people are then under no obligation to behave morally. He ignores the inconvenient fact that many powerful people do not behave morally. He also does not address the fact that being powerful does not obligate one to behave immorally, or that these social constructs benefit everyone, and so everyone has an incentive to behave morally.

    He attributes a “moral nature” to the personal agent that created the universe.

    He asserts an objective morality exists, but supports this only with appeals to emotion. Further, he denies without support that naturalism can provide an objective morality. He does this by overloading the term “objective” to mean, “outside humanity,” which necessitates an external agent. He smuggles the concept of god in the term “objective,” thereby begging the question.

    And so on.

    His premises are based entirely on the assumption that a god exists, and is has a “moral nature” (whatever the fuck that means). He uses these unfounded assertions to fabricate his “God is necessary for objective morality” premise. It seems to me that his use of a god in fabricating the premise is a form of question-begging, as that premise is used for the conclusion that a god exists.

  146. says

    As I read further, it appears he comes out and states that social constructs can provide a moral framework. He dismisses this, it seems, because it’s not “objective,” for his unreasonable value of “objective.” It seems to me, if there is a set of behaviors that best benefits humanity, that’s an objective rubrik for morality. It might not be the only rubrik by which you can judge morality: for instance, you might define morality as “causing the least intentional harm to other individuals,” and that’s an objective standard.

    Yet he denies there is any other possible objective standard for morality, other than an ill-defined “moral nature” attributed to his personal god.

  147. Eric says

    “As far as I can see, Eric, if you’re only addressing the validity of the presentation, then you’re missing the complaints of most people here.”

    Kel, this is just a very small selection of quotes from posts on this thread that specifically address the issue of the logical validity of Craig’s arguments, and that seem to distinguish, quite clearly, validity from the truth or falsity of the premises and so on.

    #103: “Sigh. Craig does not have explicit and well-structured arguments. He has facile fallacies and facile falsehoods…Craig is quick and dishonest. So let him “debate” in print, so that each and every fallacy and falsehood can be addressed–and undressed and shown for the bald-faced misrepresentation it really is, and what that makes him.”

    #355 “A sound argument is a sound argument is a sound argument. A fallacy is a fallacy is a fallacy.”

    #537 “That’s not saying much. How many of his arguments are even valid?”

    #553 “Yes, he is [committing obvious logical fallacies], and you conveniently state this immediately beforehand:”

    #576 “btw, I’m really getting sick of all these WLC fanboys claiming he uses no logical fallacies.”

    #642 “If you have to use logical fallacies to support your conclusion, you’re acting incompetently as a philosopher.”

    #651 “My position is that I know of no logically valid, competent arguments made by WLC.”

    I think I clearly was addressing a criticism that was raised on this thread, and I only addressed it because it struck me as one of the most obviously false criticisms. Now if you want to raise the issue of informal fallacies, be my guest. However, I’ve found that informal fallacies are notoriously poorly understood online. Many people treat them as if they’re deductive fallacies by pointing to structural similarities only, and are apparently unaware of the fact that an argument can have the form of an informal fallacy and still be perfectly legitimate (e.g. composition arguments are not fallacious when the property at issue is expansive, or appeals to authority are not fallacious when the authority is a legitimate authority, etc.). In other words, the context is vitally important when assessing whether an informal fallacy has been committed. So, if you think Craig is guilty of any informal fallacies, please present his argument as he formulates it, tell me what informal fallacy he commits, tell me precisely where he commits it, and most importantly, explain why it’s fallacious in that context. This is the hard work Craig criticis almost never bother to do.

  148. says

    Eric:

    #537 “That’s not saying much. How many of his arguments are even valid?”

    Again, in an informal setting, a valid argument requires valid premises. This is still a good question.

  149. says

    Eric, it’s sounding more and more like you’re retreating into defending aspects of Craig’s arguments that no one cares about: You’re being a stickler about the exact definitions used in philosophy while ignoring the general ideas behind the criticism.

    Let’s say Craig’s perfectly valid in the way you suggest, regarding a lack of formal fallacies with deductive logic…

    Where’s the beef? Without referring to the evidence of the real world, pure deductive logic is circular if it’s consistent. From the looks of it, you can choose to define something in a self-consistent manner and treat certain assumptions as true to arrive to any conclusion you desire. Switch out some positives and negatives, and you can arrive at opposite conclusions.

    A good, attentive fiction writer can make internally consistent fantasy worlds. That sort of attention can make it easier for readers to suspend disbelief, but “the writer said so” doesn’t work for real life.

    Defining things, giving assumptions, and deducting conclusions in a vacuum is exactly as irrelevant to us as the internal consistency of fictional worlds. Some people might find it fun to think and argue about, but it has no impact on the truth of this world.

    If that’s what makes a “competent” philosopher, you might as well hand out degrees for Star Trek fandom.

  150. Ing says

    So is everyone else going to ignore how Eric defended Craig’s Defense of genocide before by attacking atheist immorality?

    Cause if not I will. Eric is a fucking asshole.

  151. says

    Bronze Dog:

    Defining things, giving assumptions, and deducting conclusions in a vacuum is exactly as irrelevant to us as the internal consistency of fictional worlds. Some people might find it fun to think and argue about, but it has no impact on the truth of this world.

    It does affect the cognition of those who believe it true, to the point you have douche cookies like WLC defending abhorrent (though fictional) atrocities, because he treats his vaunted objective morality as if it were real.

    That’s the only reason I take WLC seriously. He provides a mental framework that is broken with respect to reality, but is accepted by many people. This abnormal belief causes much harm as people adhere to fictional morality, trusting in the rightness of a fictional god.

  152. says

    Refutation of WLC’s “proof of a god by morality:”

    P1. If God exists, objective morality exists.
    P2. If objective morality exists, there will be no disagreement concerning the set of actions that are considered moral.
    P3. There is much disagreement concerning the set of actions that are considered moral.

    C1. Objective morality does not exist.
    C2. God does not exist.

    Fuck. Being a philosopher is a lot easier than I thought.

  153. says

    Yeah, back on the genocide. Why should we accept a definition of god and an objective morality that permit genocide? Why not accept a definition of god and morality that prohibit genocide? Both definitions are equally valid and equally arbitrary if you’re working in the ether. It’s just historical accident that the permissive definition of god and objective morality ended up being popular enough for philosophers to use it in examples.

    Personally, for logic exercises that involve spotting formal fallacies in deductive logic, I’d much rather the textbooks refer to examples involving stuff like “all dogs are mammals, not all mammals are dogs” using much better understood entities, and use something like “widgets” for vague entities whose definitions can be changed enough to cause confusion. Using “gods” in such logic examples serves only to give a false veneer of legitimacy to pseudophilosophers who try to demonstrate the “truth” of something by playing word games with disputed or false premises.

  154. KG says

    So, if you think Craig is guilty of any informal fallacies, please present his argument as he formulates it, tell me what informal fallacy he commits, tell me precisely where he commits it, and most importantly, explain why it’s fallacious in that context. This is the hard work Craig criticis almost never bother to do. – Eric

    See my #615:

    What is it [the KCA’s first premise) based on? Craig’s positive argument for that premise is, simply, a “metaphysical intuition”:

    Premiss (1) strikes me as relatively non-controversial. It is based on the metaphysical intuition that something cannot come out of nothing. Hence, any argument for the principle is apt to be less obvious than the principle itself. Even the great skeptic David Hume admitted that he never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something might come into existence without a cause; he only denied that one could prove the obviously true causal principle. With regard to the universe, if originally there were absolutely nothing-no God, no space, no time-, then how could the universe possibly come to exist? The truth of the principle ex nihilo, nihil fit is so obvious that I think we are justified in foregoing an elaborate defense of the argument’s first premiss.

    Or to put it another way, the argument from personal incredulity, plus an argument from authority.

    I then go on to explain why these arguments are fallacious in this context:

    Of course, pre-Einstein, Craig would have had a “metaphysical intuition” that space and time are absolute, and that a particle cannot follow multiple paths. So, of course, would Hume. “Metaphysical intuitions” are a very poor guide in the area of fundamental physics.

  155. says

    Well worth the repeat, KG.

    It also demonstrates the problem with reasoning in a vacuum: The universe is not required to behave the way we expect it to. You can’t state an assumption as a given and proceed to a conclusion from there. If we could do that, we wouldn’t need to experiment or record observations to see if our conclusion turns out to be an accurate prediction.

    In other words, Craig and many apologist friends are working backwards. I have every reason to suspect they started with the conclusion their god exists and generated assumptions and premises specifically to arrive at the conclusion they wanted.

  156. consciousness razor says

    Might it be the case that the argument Craig uses to defend the premise, “If god does not exist, objective moral values do not exist” is a non sequitur? Sure, but the proposition itself is not a non sequitur.

    Eric, are you going to be wanking here for much longer? I’m not at all confused about that, but thanks for admitting your little diversion here was pointless. Speaking casually (unless inane bullshitters like you come along to muddy the waters), I think saying that gets the point across just fine. Technically, it should’ve been in reference to how it is argued, based on what the terms in the proposition mean and how they relate to one another. So the fuck what? If you want to count that as a technical foul, be my guest; but you should check out the scoreboard, if you ever manage to find your way into the game.

    But then, we’re back to the onus of proof issue: Could you please demonstrate just where Craig goes wrong *logically* (the issue is, after all, whether he’s guilty of a non sequitur here) in his defense of that first premise of his moral argument?

    I figure if you had known how to defend the argument non-fallaciously, you would’ve done so; but since you can’t seem to accept that Craig makes invalid arguments, your only recourse is more wanking about irrelevancies to distract yourself (not me) from that fact.

    So what’s left to do? Right, you want me to talk about this:

    If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
    Objective moral values do exist.
    Therefore, God exists.

    *YAWN*

    Variations on a theme:

    -If Poseidon does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
    -If Satan does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
    -If pecan pie does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
    -If objective moral values do not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

    One could just as easily make up any number of arbitrary propositions like these to get an equally meaningful result, since the theistic version is also lost somewhere in fantasy-land.

    Look, theists can define their terms however they like. If they want to make vacuous, baseless statements about their imaginary friends, they can do so to their hearts’ content. My only request is that they do their wanking in private (unless there is consent from all parties involved, where legally permitted) and not in front of children.

    However, if one doesn’t make the same unfounded assumptions as theists do, about what objective moral values are (if they exist), what kind of values a god logically implies (if any), or which particular god exists (if any), then there’s no reason to think the premise makes any sense at all. It’s not true or false, just meaningless. Since we don’t know anything about them (which includes theists, despite their constant bullshittery), we have no basis for claiming there is any sort of connection between them. If we did know, it could be true or false; but we don’t, so it’s plain old nonsense. And that’s it. We’re done. I, for one, am going to move on with my life, now that I’ve wasted my time trying to explain to an idiot why idiocy is idiotic.

    Now, sure, like I said, if you do make a boatload of crazy assumptions about stuff you obviously don’t know, then squint really hard, it might look like just fine. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to see how it could be the case; but that may be because it’s too ridiculous for me to think about for very long.

  157. says

    Now if you want to raise the issue of informal fallacies, be my guest.

    Eric, my contention is that other people are raising the informal fallacies – even in all those comments I don’t see anything there that suggests that people think Craig is making the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Principle of charity – do you really think that all the people would be making the mistake you accuse them of when a slightly different interpretation would make more sense? Indeed, this is what the people who you are accusing of being wrong are telling you they meant and you still maintain your interpretation.

    So, if you think Craig is guilty of any informal fallacies, please present his argument as he formulates it, tell me what informal fallacy he commits, tell me precisely where he commits it, and most importantly, explain why it’s fallacious in that context.

    Throughout this thread I have done so. But okay, I’ll give you one.

    1. If God doesn’t exist, objective moral values do not exist.
    2. Objective values do exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Craig’s argument has multiple flaws. The first is that Craig is making a false premise, (1) makes a faulty link between God and objective moral values. Why can’t it be Unicorns instead of God? Why not Brahman? Why does God need anything do with morality at all? After all, morality evolved. It’s interesting that notions like murder being wrong are things that would make good evolutionary sense to be counted as wrong. The second is that Craig makes a false dichotomy between universal objective moral values and nothing, leading to him showing an apparent absurdity between Michael Ruse dismissing such morality then later condemning a heinous act. This also leads to some equivocation, especially when he tries to establish (2) by appealing to “knowing” it being wrong.

    I’m really surprised you needed me to highlight one particular argument when we were previously having a discussion of the merits of the KCA.

  158. Ing says

    If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
    Objective moral values do exist.
    Therefore, God exists.

    Logical problem of not definign your terms. What does Objective moral values mean? the phrase means NOTHING to me as an outsider. To Craig they seem to mean “the subjective values an authority called Jesus has and enforces upon us with threats”…which seems hardly objective or moral.

    To me the only useful definition could be “given a met of moral axioms to be the prime goals, what set of actions maximizes the desired outcomes of those goals”. From there you can look upon history and make judgments based on what would lead to good returns, thus have an objective moral system even though the premises would be subjective (duh they have to be…they’re opinions/desires).

  159. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If God *citation needed for full and falsifiable definition* does not exist, objective moral values *citation needed for full and falsifiable description and necessity* do not exist.
    Objective moral values do exist *citation needed for conformation of assertion, with falsified evidence*.
    Therefore, God exists *physical evidence, not mental wanking, required*.

    That is why WLC’s philosophy has terminal holes in it. And by citation, not the philosophical or theosophical literature, but to reality, like the peer reviewed scientific literature, or sociology literature.

  160. Eric says

    “I’m really surprised you needed me to highlight one particular argument when we were previously having a discussion of the merits of the KCA.”

    Kel, but you’re actually making my point, for in your purported examples of the informal fallacies you include, you didn’t establish a single informal fallacy!

    The first issue you raised, viz. whether the first premise of his moral argument is true or false, has nothing whatsoever to do with informal logic. But that aside, you’ve asked, why does Craig claim in that premise that there’s a link between morality and god, and not, say, unicorns? I have to ask you, Kel, since I think I have good reasons for concluding that you’re honest, are you at all familiar with Craig’s defenses of this premise? I mean, all you’re doing here is questioning it (which is fine in itself) — you’re not actually engaging at all with Craig’s defense of it, which is odd when the whole context of this discussion is what, if anything, is wrong with Craig’s arguments! In other words, you seem to be completely unfamiliar with Craig’s defense of this premise.

    “After all, morality evolved. It’s interesting that notions like murder being wrong are things that would make good evolutionary sense to be counted as wrong.”

    Again, you’re just making an assertion here. You’re not actually engaging with any of Craig’s arguments on the matter (i.e. evolution and morality), which he addresses in detail.

    “The second is that Craig makes a false dichotomy between universal objective moral values and nothing”

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Surely, either there are moral facts, or there are not. That’s not a false dichotomy. You seem to think that Craig does not recognize other possibilities, e.g. moral systems that are not objective or universal, but he does. Indeed, he spends much time discussing these possibilities, and explaining what he takes to be wrong with them. So, again, you’re not engaging his arguments at all, and you’re decidedly not demonstrating that he’s committed any informal fallacies.

    “This also leads to some equivocation, especially when he tries to establish (2) by appealing to “knowing” it being wrong.”

    Here you have suggested that he’s committed an informal fallacy, but I have no idea where you think he’s committed it, and why you think he’s committed it. Can you clarify?

    “So is everyone else going to ignore how Eric defended Craig’s Defense of genocide before by attacking atheist immorality?”

    Ing, I’m quite certain that you didn’t understand a word of Craig’s so called defense of genocide (assuming you’ve even bothered to read it, which is itself dubious). It never ceases to amaze me to find atheists who decry religious folks for taking ‘make believe’ stories seriously, but who then go on to construct an elaborate and obviously fictional narrative concerning their own rationality, education and reasoning abilities. (I’m not putting everyone here in that category, but Ing certainly seems to fit there quite well.)

    Incidentally, I notice that no one has answered my earlier question: I can name dozens of atheistic philosophers whose works defending atheism I take to be highly competent, serious and rigorous; can any of you name even one theistic philosopher whose work you take to be competent, serious and rigorous?

  161. Ing says

    Oh and the fact that we, unlike you, aren’t self deluded enough to hold contradictory ideas in our head and accept when we are convinced by reasoning doesn’t make you superior. It makes you an idiot.

    If there was an argument for God that was compelling we’d accept it.

    DUH

  162. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If there was an argument for God that was compelling we’d accept it.

    All philosophical arguments I have seen are presupposition arguments. They aren’t honest inquiries. But then, nowadays, honest inquiries start with the null hypothesis of non-existence, just like the gnu atheists do. That takes away the taint of presupposition, which you, Eric, have been painted with for year…

  163. Brownian says

    I can name dozens of atheistic philosophers whose works defending atheism I take to be highly competent, serious and rigorous;

    But not compelling, since you’re not an atheist. I’m sure they highly value your meaningless praise.

    can any of you name even one theistic philosopher whose work you take to be competent, serious and rigorous?

    I know you can’t comprehend not having a faith-based positions, numbnuts, but if I found a work on theism to be competent, serious and rigorous, I’d find it compelling, and I’d be a fucking theist.

    What are you, thick?

  164. Brownian says

    Like seriously:

    If you read a number of works outlining a position in a manner that that you consider “competent, serious and rigorous” and your response is “Well, those were certainly some competent, serious and rigorous arguments, but I’ll stick with the position I already hold”, then what is the point of having read them? To say that you’re well read?

  165. Eric says

    “Oh and the fact that we, unlike you, aren’t self deluded enough to hold contradictory ideas in our head and accept when we are convinced by reasoning doesn’t make you superior. It makes you an idiot.”

    “I know you can’t comprehend not having a faith-based positions, numbnuts, but if I found a work on theism to be competent, serious and rigorous, I’d find it compelling, and I’d be a fucking theist.
    What are you, thick?”

    Wow, this is very telling! You people don’t even understand what it means to view a defense of a position you disagree with as competent, serious and rigorous! Amazing! My friends, you’d better stop priding yourselves on being rational! I’m honestly shocked! I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so sure of everything I believe that I couldn’t even concede that the reasons others adduce to defend positions I ultimately reject are sometimes serious, competent and rigorous! Wow, you are what you most despise: A bunch of darn fundamentalists! (I’m not talking about everyone here, of course, but certainly about those who think it’s ridiculous to say both (1) I disagree with you about X and (2) your position on X is rational, competently defended, rigorously developed and a serious option. In my judgment, if you’ve never reached this point, about any issue, you’re surely half educated at best, not at all seriously reflective, and almost certainly a blinkered child of your age and place, utterly and blithely unaware of your many intellectual, cultural, historical and personal limitations.)

  166. says

    Same as everyone else: If I knew of a single convincing argument for being a theist, I’d be a theist. I’d be shouting it from the mountaintops, bringing up that argument every time the topic was discussed.

    You don’t get to play wishy-washy polite company political correctness games when you’re looking for truth. It’s pointless to praise people’s efforts if their product doesn’t work. If you’re in an argument, you run the risk of a bruised ego.

  167. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    In case some of you don’t know Eric’s history, he has been periodically, say every six months or so, even before I started posting here just before crackergate, trying to show a philosophical proof of his imaginary deity that wasn’t a presuppositional argument, just like his latest inane attempt to piggy back on the famously refuted WLC. We gave him a chance about 18 months ago to prove his case, and at the end, it was we couldn’t disprove his imaginary deity, which was irrelevant, since he had to prove his imaginary deity, which was utterly and totally relevant. Preferably with solid and conclusive physical evidence, which he didn’t have, and still doesn’t. So what we have in Eric is a failed philosopher, who can’t recognize a presup argument when he sees it, if the conclusion is what he wants. (I know I wouldn’t want to take a class from such a dishonest person.) I wouldn’t take anything he has to say without a grain of salt the size of Montana. He is that deep into denialism where his imaginary deity is concerned, and is, at best, a fourth rate philosopher…

  168. says

    Eric:

    Wow, this is very telling! You people don’t even understand what it means to view a defense of a position you disagree with as competent, serious and rigorous! Amazing!

    What, was there a fire sale on exclamation marks?

    While you present a nice series of ad hominem dismissals in that lovely and excitable paragraph, you haven’t shown even a single inclination to understand our issues with WLC’s philosophy (and, to a certain extent, the practice of philosophy as a whole).

    Answer this: does WLC’s philosophical framework in any way establish the actual existence of an actual god? If so, how?

  169. Eric says

    “We gave him a chance about 18 months ago to prove his case, and at the end, it was we couldn’t disprove his imaginary deity, which was irrelevant, since he had to prove his imaginary deity, which was utterly and totally relevant.”

    LOL I have never said anything of the sort. I challenge you to provide a link to any post, on any blog, in which I’ve said anything as patently stupid as, “Well, since you can’t disprove god’s existence, I’ve made my case.” Indeed, you can’t produce a single quote from any post I’ve ever written, here or anywhere else, that even implies such a thing.

  170. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    LOL I have never said anything of the sort. I challenge you to provide a link to any post, on any blog, in which I’ve said anything as patently stupid as, “Well, since you can’t disprove god’s existence, I’ve made my case.” Indeed, you can’t produce a single quote from any post I’ve ever written, here or anywhere else, that even implies such a thing.

    Eric, liar and bullshitter, nobody cares what someone without honesty and integrity like you do says. They care about your results, and you failed by the standards of Pharyngula. Not your inane standards, the standards of your betters and more intelligent folks. What part of that do you have trouble with? Oh, yes, you aren’t the last word, the folks you argue with have it…

  171. says

    In case some of you don’t know Eric’s history, he has been periodically, say every six months or so, even before I started posting here just before crackergate, trying to show a philosophical proof of his imaginary deity that wasn’t a presuppositional argument, just like his latest inane attempt to piggy back on the famously refuted WLC. We gave him a chance about 18 months ago to prove his case, and at the end, it was we couldn’t disprove his imaginary deity, which was irrelevant, since he had to prove his imaginary deity, which was utterly and totally relevant. Preferably with solid and conclusive physical evidence, which he didn’t have, and still doesn’t.

    I figured there’d be something like that in his past. Minor amusement points for trying to emphasize some kind of technical validity in the ivory tower word games of ye olde thought experiments.

    Funny thing about definitions that comes to mind: When you’re in the ivory tower, you can make definitions up out of in thin air and play thought experiments, word games, and build elaborate block towers with imaginary objects. Once you get into the real world and start doing science, assumptions and premises can be torn to shreds by real, existing things you never imagined because the universe isn’t limited to your imagination.

    Knowing about stuff like quantum mechanics and relativity, I’m pretty confident that sitting in that ivory tower is a waste of time.

  172. Eric says

    “While you present a nice series of ad hominem dismissals in that lovely and excitable paragraph, you haven’t shown even a single inclination to understand our issues with WLC’s philosophy (and, to a certain extent, the practice of philosophy as a whole).”

    I’ve addressed a number of issues already, and have shown that they’re premised on misunderstandings of either Craig’s work or of basic logic.

    I’ve also said that you can of course reject Craig’s premises, and that even Craig would tell you that he doesn’t claim to have proven them. (Of course, he’d go on to say – quite correctly — that no, or almost no philosophical ((or historical, scientific, political etc.)) argument that reaches a substantive conclusion can satisfy this requirement.) But if you want to claim that you’re doing more than merely raising an objection, e.g. that you’re refuting his argument, then you have not only to reject his conclusion, but to show, say, that he makes a logical error, or relies on a false premise, or that his explanation isn’t as plausible as some other explanation. In other words, you can’t just do this:

    Post# 678: “Refutation of WLC’s “proof of a god by morality:”
    P1. If God exists, objective morality exists.
    P2. If objective morality exists, there will be no disagreement concerning the set of actions that are considered moral.
    P3. There is much disagreement concerning the set of actions that are considered moral.
    C1. Objective morality does not exist.
    C2. God does not exist.
    Fuck. Being a philosopher is a lot easier than I thought.”

    Now sure, I get that this post was in part jocular, but unfortunately, not much more than this sort of thing has been going on here.

    “Answer this: does WLC’s philosophical framework in any way establish the actual existence of an actual god? If so, how?”

    I depends on what you mean by ‘establish.’ If you mean ‘prove’ in the strict sense, then no, of course not. Craig would agree with me here. We simply don’t get this sort of strict proof in philosophy — or in science, history, economics, politics, etc.

    I like to use politics and morality as examples here. You can’t prove that your political and moral views are true, but you impose them, to some degree, on other people everyday: In politics, we vote for candidates who will put in place policies that we support, and that others will be forced to comply with, whether they accept them or not, and we judge others according to our own moral views daily in ways that affect our personal and professional interactions with them. Further, we think we’re acting rationally when we reach our moral and political judgments. We try to persuade others that our position is right, and we advance reasons to defend our positions. Those who disagree with us do the same sort of thing. Now here’s the important point: Not only can’t you prove (in the strict sense) that your moral and political positions are true, *but you cannot, I contend, defend any one of them with an argument that’s both logically valid and consists of premises that are more plausibly true than, say, the premises Craig defends in his KCA*. I’ve presented this challenge to a number of people, in a number of settings, and no one has been able to provide me with that moral or political argument.

    Now notice that your moral and political judgments affect others everyday, so if you want to attack belief in god on grounds that it’s both irrational or unjustified and affects how people act, vote etc. then moral and political judgments should be subjected to the same standards. So, can any of you provide me with an argument that defends a particular moral or political position that uses premises that are as plausibly true as the premises of Craig’s KCA?

    So, what’s the point of all this? You asked me if Craig’s arguments ‘establish’ the existence of god, and my answer is, they don’t prove god’s existence (as I said, almost no argument outside mathematical and logical arguments deal with such proofs), but they do provide good grounds for concluding that god exists, and for acting on that conclusion — grounds that are minimally as good as those we adduce to conclude that some moral or political conclusion is true, and for acting on it.

    Were you expecting something different? If so, why? If you can answer that question in light of the response I just gave, you’ll understand the whole ‘does god exist’ debate/dialogue much, much better, whether you remain an atheist or not. And that’s all I ever hope to accomplish in these discussions.

  173. says

    Eric:

    Indeed, he spends much time discussing these possibilities, and explaining what he takes to be wrong with them.

    What he finds wrong with them is, essentially, “They do not support the conclusion I desire.”

    I’ve read his explanations of what he finds wrong with them. His defense amounts essentially to, “Those are not true moral frameworks, as they can change depending on the society,” and so on. He basically goes to great length to show all the weaknesses of morality that is not divinely revealed, while simultaneously ignoring the way morality actually works in the real world.

    Can rich and powerful people do immoral things and get away with it because they are rich and powerful? Yep. Does morality change depending on the society? Check. Are there things that are generally considered universally moral? Yes — those very same things that are required for a functioning society are generally considered universal.

    And so on.

    So, his description of the things that are wrong with a non-revelatory morality basically describes the way morality works in reality.

    His arguments amount to rationalization, a belittling of anything that contradicts his premises, and an inflation of anything that supports them. While he may present logically-sound arguments, they don’t in any way reflect reality.

    Then he essentially dismisses the most glaring flaw in his own argument. I outlined it in #678, in my little facetious foray into the murky and higgledy-piggledy realm of philosophy. If there were a divine moral absolute, there would be a universal conception of what is moral. It’s as simple as that.

    As it is, even the religion with which he was indoctrinated (surprisingly and against all odds, the same religion supported by his philosophy) can’t agree on morality. Funny, that: even people nominally adhering to the same moral authority can’t agree on what’s moral.

    So, while his moral argument may be internally consistent, it isn’t consistent with observable reality.

    And that looks like a big old chocolate fail-cake with cream-cheese fail frosting, to me.

  174. says

    Eric:

    Now sure, I get that this post was in part jocular, but unfortunately, not much more than this sort of thing has been going on here.

    So, what was illogical about it? The premises are based on WLC’s own arguments. The observation that folks can’t agree on morality is certainly not controversial. The conclusions seem pretty airtight.

    Where’s the fallacy?

    Were you expecting something different? If so, why? If you can answer that question in light of the response I just gave, you’ll understand the whole ‘does god exist’ debate/dialogue much, much better, whether you remain an atheist or not. And that’s all I ever hope to accomplish in these discussions.

    No. It’s pretty much what I expected: the false equivalency of WLC’s arguments and scientific theories is fairly telling. It’s the failure to present an epistemology that is as demonstrably effective as the epistemology of science that is WLC’s failure, and yours in this case.

    That is, science has an effective method for comparing premises and conclusions against reality itself, rather than setting for mere trivial internal consistency. Any epistemology that doesn’t have a method for measuring premises against observed reality is simply nothing more than flights of fantasy.

    So, the fact you attempt to diminish the demonstrable effectiveness of the epistemology and practice of science, while attempting to attach WLC’s philosophy remora-like to the reputation of that epistemology, basically indicates you don’t care about the congruence of philosophy with reality.

  175. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    eric wrote:

    …but they do provide good grounds for concluding that god exists, and for acting on that conclusion — grounds that are minimally as good as those we adduce to conclude that some moral or political conclusion is true, and for acting on it

    Which god? How would you know if you (and/or he) were wrong?

  176. Eric says

    “So, the fact you attempt to diminish the demonstrable effectiveness of the epistemology and practice of science, while attempting to attach WLC’s philosophy remora-like to the reputation of that epistemology, basically indicates you don’t care about the congruence of philosophy with reality.”

    Are you mad? How in the world did you get the notion that I’m ‘diminishing science’ from that post? All I said was that science doesn’t deal with proof, in the strict sense of the term. PZ actually agrees with me here: I seem to recall that one of his pet peeves is when people confuse evidence with proof. So, if you have an issue with me regarding anything I’ve said in my last post about science, you have an issue with PZ (and Hawking and Dawkins and a host of other scientists) as well.

    The rest of your post is equally ridiculous and doesn’t even attempt to engage with a thing I wrote.

  177. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Are you mad? How in the world did you get the notion that I’m ‘diminishing science’ from that post?

    You fail once more to acknowledge reality and science, and anything that might refute your sophistry. End of story. You are one sorry dishonest philosopher. Never send us any reprints of your long-winded dissertations, unless you want to give us a good belly laugh at your expense. That is what you have been doing for years. Giving us good belly laughs, as we laugh at your sophistry…

  178. says

    Eric:

    Are you mad? How in the world did you get the notion that I’m ‘diminishing science’ from that post?

    From this:

    I’ve also said that you can of course reject Craig’s premises, and that even Craig would tell you that he doesn’t claim to have proven them. (Of course, he’d go on to say – quite correctly — that no, or almost no philosophical ((or historical, scientific, political etc.))

    This appears to be an attempt to say, “Of course WLC’s arguments can’t prove a god, but science doesn’t prove anything either.” Which is trivially true, but there’s a huge gulf between what science can demonstrate, and what WLC’s arguments can demonstrate. They simply aren’t even playing the same game.

    The rest of your post is equally ridiculous and doesn’t even attempt to engage with a thing I wrote.

    Yes, it does.

    Here, let me rephrase what I wrote as a question: do you believe that the premises of a philosophical argument should reflect reality, if that argument purports to say something about reality? That really gets to the heart of the issues I have with WLC’s arguments.

    But please, at least disprove my syllogism, since it’s so simple, and on-par with everything else presented here. That seemed to directly address what you posted.

  179. Eric says

    “Which god? How would you know if you (and/or he) were wrong?”

    This is another common criticism that Craig addresses all the time. In the post you’re responding to, I was discussing the KCA. Now Craig will tell you that the KCA doesn’t get you to the god of Christianity, but then, that’s not what it’s supposed to do. That’s like rejecting contemporary evolutionary theory because it doesn’t demonstrate how life began — well, yeah, that’s because it’s not supposed to. It deals primarily with speciation, not abiogenesis. However, it may provide some insights on abiogenesis, just as Craig would argue that his KCA tells us something about the nature of god.

    Remember, Craig claims to be making a cumulative case argument when he defends the existence of god, so different arguments deal with different considerations.

  180. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    eric has once again reminded us of the fact that apologetics don’t exist for the purpose of convincing people to start believing in god/s; they’re intended soley to keep those faithful who are having doubts from losing their faith entirely – assuaging the cognitive dissonance as it were.

    Hence the unneccessary complexity – which is, of course, completely at odds with why the vast majority of believers choose to believe what they believe; ask any of them if their faith stems from anything even vaguely resembling the contorted sophistry of WLC and his ilk and they’d probably ask you if you were joking.

    It’s all about making you twist and turn so much that you’d rather just not bother thinking about it any more, and instead keep going to church on Sunday.

  181. says

    A new syllogism.

    1. If God is a myth, then Craig’s arguments are fallacious.
    2. God is a myth.
    3. Therefore, Craig’s arguments are fallacious.

    And yes, Eric, I am familiar with Craig’s defence of his first premise. Also, that I didn’t name which fallacy Craig was committing, I believe I established that Craig’s argument about personal causation contained a bare assertion – namely that personal causation can be immaterial, transcendent and atemporal.

  182. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Eric, you are a proven liar and bullshitter, time to pack it in for another few months. You have nothing cogent left to say, and you never did. You are just trying to defend the indefensible. Nothing by WLC proves your imaginary deity and you know that if you a person of honesty and integrity. That is only done with conclusive physical evidence, and you can’t provide any, like an eternally burning bush or equivalent. We both know that. So, save yourself a lot, and I mean a lot, of embarrassment at your stupidity again, and fade into the bandwidth.

  183. says

    Putting a name to a fallacy doesn’t really make the case for the fallacy; making the case for the fallacy shouldn’t necessitate putting a name to it.

  184. Eric says

    “You fail once more to acknowledge reality and science, and anything that might refute your sophistry. End of story.”

    What science do I reject? What well established scientific theory do I reject? Where do I reject the phenomenal utility of scientific methodologies in their proper domain? Where have I confused the boundaries of that domain to defend my ‘sophistry’? As always, NoR, you’re big on charges and small on reasons. Is it true that you’re a Molly winner?! I’m amazed at how low the standards must be.

  185. says

    Eric:

    Where do I reject the phenomenal utility of scientific methodologies in their proper domain?

    And which domain would that be?

    And in other domains, what epistemology do you employ to sift that which is congruent with reality from that which is not?

  186. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    eric wrote:

    Remember, Craig claims to be making a cumulative case argument when he defends the existence of god, so different arguments deal with different considerations.

    Which is like trying to argue that, because you can take any one leg of a four-legged table away without it falling over, you must therefore be able to take all four of the legs away and get the same result.

    Fine in principle; problematic (to say the least) in reality.

  187. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Eric, quit lying and bullshitting to yourself, then you quit lying and bullshitting to us. Science says there is no immaterial conscientiousness. Prove otherwise by citing the peer reviewed reviewed scientific literature. Or shut the fuck up as a person of honor and integrity. You can’t have it both ways. Either you are honest or not. Your history of several years say not. Prove otherwise by you actually citing the evidence needed for WLC’s postulates.

  188. says

    Oh, fun, non-overlapping magisteria. Let’s hear it for special pleading under a new name.

    So, what artificially small domain are you going to lay out for science? What other domains are there?

  189. Eric says

    “Eric, you are a proven liar”

    Where, NoR, is the proof?

    “A new syllogism.
    1. If God is a myth, then Craig’s arguments are fallacious.
    2. God is a myth.
    3. Therefore, Craig’s arguments are fallacious.”

    That’s fine, Kel, but can you defend that second premise as robustly as Craig defends any of his? If not, then what is your point?

    “And yes, Eric, I am familiar with Craig’s defence of his first premise. Also, that I didn’t name which fallacy Craig was committing, I believe I established that Craig’s argument about personal causation contained a bare assertion – namely that personal causation can be immaterial, transcendent and atemporal.”

    Come on now, Kel, that’s not the example you raised in your post (#683). But as I said in response to your claim earlier, the problem here is that you’ve confused an objection with a refutation: All you’ve done is move your ‘debate’ with Craig on to new ground. You have in no way demonstrated either that he’s used a false premise or that he’s committed a formal or informal fallacy.

    “Hence the unneccessary complexity – which is, of course, completely at odds with why the vast majority of believers choose to believe what they believe”

    How is that relevant? I doubt that as many as 1% of the posters here are capable of understanding the mathematics that underlies QM, but they’re perfectly willing to use the computer. I doubt that as many as 1% of all the posters here have a well developed understanding of political theory, but they vote nonetheless and affect the lives of millions of Americans (and of people all around the world). And so on.

  190. says

    That’s fine, Kel, but can you defend that second premise as robustly as Craig defends any of his?

    Easily, considering Craig’s defences aren’t really that robust. If you have to misrepresent authorities to carry your case… (and yes, Craig does this. e.g. Bart Ehrman complains about this in his debate with Craig. Stenger calls out Craig for misrepresenting Hawking. Pigliucci calls Craig out for misrepresenting Ruse.)

    Will do it later tonight.

  191. Brownian says

    Wow, this is very telling! You people don’t even understand what it means to view a defense of a position you disagree with as competent, serious and rigorous! Amazing! My friends, you’d better stop priding yourselves on being rational! I’m honestly shocked! I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so sure of everything I believe that I couldn’t even concede that the reasons others adduce to defend positions I ultimately reject are sometimes serious, competent and rigorous! Wow, you are what you most despise: A bunch of darn fundamentalists! (I’m not talking about everyone here, of course, but certainly about those who think it’s ridiculous to say both (1) I disagree with you about X and (2) your position on X is rational, competently defended, rigorously developed and a serious option. In my judgment, if you’ve never reached this point, about any issue, you’re surely half educated at best, not at all seriously reflective, and almost certainly a blinkered child of your age and place, utterly and blithely unaware of your many intellectual, cultural, historical and personal limitations.)

    I am as a child.

    So where is your god?

    Why does he hide?

    Why does he require a PhD in sophistry and rhetoric to discover?

  192. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Remember, Craig claims to be making a cumulative case argument when he defends the existence of god, so different arguments deal with different considerations.

    If most of Craig’s arguments are fallacious, then his cumulative case is almost certainly going to be fallacious.

    Craig missed his calling. He should be a snake-oil salesman. He’s got the flim-flam patter, the looks-good-at-first-glance, the fast shuffle down perfectly.

    Never mind, Craig is a snake-oil salesman, only he’s selling The Big Guy In The Sky instead of patent medicines.

  193. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Another way of looking at eric and WLC’s approach: if you get enough ‘ifs’ and ‘coulds’ (i.e. if what I claim is true, then it could means god exists, and if a god exists that god could be the one I advocate for) and add them together eventually you’ll get a ‘does’.

    Which – again – is fine for philosophical meanderings; for determining the existing of a being, the truth of which has actual consquences in the real world, however, it’s really not enough. Hence why, as I noted before, apologetics is less about conversion than it is about retention – unless someone already has an emotional attachment to the god-concept, they won’t be moved by it at all.

  194. Brownian says

    Oh, now I understand.

    It was all just a game so that you could call us fundamentalists.

    Very well done, Eric.

  195. says

    While I’d love to stick around and watch Eric move goalposts all night, I have to go to bed. I have much reality-based reasoning to do tomorrow, so this fun-time fantasy hour has to come to a close for me tonight.

    I do look forward to Eric’s refutation of my syllogism at #678, and his description of these other non-scientific domains, and the outlining of the epistemologies by which we come by knowledge of those domains. Also, I’m eager to read his rationalization for premises which do not reflect reality as a basis for a philosophical argument that claims to say something about reality. I suspect it will hinge on equivocating over the definition of “reality.”

    That should all be a hoot.

    G’night, all.

  196. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    eric wrote:

    How is that relevant? I doubt that as many as 1% of the posters here are capable of understanding the mathematics that underlies QM, but they’re perfectly willing to use the computer. I doubt that as many as 1% of all the posters here have a well developed understanding of political theory, but they vote nonetheless and affect the lives of millions of Americans (and of people all around the world). And so on.

    Except if I have doubts about how my computer works, they would be allayed when I pressed a button and the computer did what it was supposed to. If I had doubts about political theory, they would be allayed when a bill went through the house and became law.

    What equivalent means of validation can you provide for the existence of your god that’s so straightforward?

  197. Eric says

    “I do look forward to Eric’s refutation of my syllogism at #678″

    Nigel, you’re kidding, right?

    “Refutation of WLC’s “proof of a god by morality:”
    P1. If God exists, objective morality exists.
    P2. If objective morality exists, there will be no disagreement concerning the set of actions that are considered moral.
    P3. There is much disagreement concerning the set of actions that are considered moral.
    C1. Objective morality does not exist.
    C2. God does not exist.
    Fuck. Being a philosopher is a lot easier than I thought.”

    The argument obviously falls apart at P2, which is obviously false. This is another confusion Craig often addresses when he considers criticisms of his moral argument: You’ve blatantly confused moral ontology with moral epistemology. To make the problem a bit more obvious, consider the following premise:

    P2′. If there are objective facts about the natural world, there will be no disagreement concerning the causes, activities and structures of natural phenomena.

    Why should moral facts, and what follows from them, be any more obvious to us than physical facts, and what follows from them? Does the fact that there is a ton of disagreement among scientists demonstrate that there are no objective facts about the real world? Wouldn’t you agree that we reason about moral considerations? And wouldn’t you agree that we don’t all reason perfectly? If so, then it’s obvious that we’re not all going to agree about what is and isn’t moral, and about what we should and shouldn’t do, if there are moral facts. (In all seriousness, this very basic distinction, and the reasoning behind it, is one of the first introduced in a 101 level moral philosophy course.)

  198. Eric says

    “Except if I have doubts about how my computer works, they would be allayed when I pressed a button and the computer did what it was supposed to. If I had doubts about political theory, they would be allayed when a bill went through the house and became law.”

    Pressing the button on your computer may increase your confidence *that* it works, but it would do nothing to help you understand the complex mathematics of QM that undelies its working. You seem to have missed your own point! ;)

  199. says

    Eric:

    The argument obviously falls apart at P2, which is obviously false.

    Ah! But according to WLC, moral epistemology is based on the Bible. As this epistemology outlines the moral ontology, there should be agreement among those who recognize the Bible as the revelatory moral document WLC claims it is.

    So, P2 is not obviously false. Further:

    P2′. If there are objective facts about the natural world, there will be no disagreement concerning the causes, activities and structures of natural phenomena.

    Among most phenomena, this is true. The objective facts are discoverable using the epistemology of science. For almost all statements about the observable, objective natural world, one of the following statements would be applicable:

    1. There is universal agreement among the scientific community
    2. There is great agreement among the scientific community, though certain less-supported competing hypotheses have not been dismissed entirely
    3. There is great agreement that fundamental understanding eludes us, but there are several competing hypothesis that are viable
    4. There is great agreement in the scientific community that we are ignorant on the subject, with only the vaguest outline of the scope of the subject.

    You can quite neatly put almost all scientific statements in any of one of those boxes. That is, the objective nature of reality allows assessment of the epistemic standing of any naturalistic claim. In that way, P2′ is, in fact, correct.

    P2 is an assertion along the same lines. If there were a objective morality, there would be a framework by which you could judge the epistemic standing of any morality claim.

    WLC claims this is the Bible, which is far more tractable than mere reality. Why, then, is there such disagreement among those who adhere to the Bible?

    And yes. I lied about going to bed. I had intended to, so it’s not a lie. But I just had to see if you were going to argue the obvious falseness of P2.

  200. says

    Eric:

    Why should moral facts, and what follows from them, be any more obvious to us than physical facts, and what follows from them?

    Just to be perfectly and absolutely clear on this:

    Because, according to WLC, the Bible is the document of the objective moral code. How much more obvious could it be, as it’s written down for us?

  201. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    eric wrote:

    Pressing the button on your computer may increase your confidence *that* it works, but it would do nothing to help you understand the complex mathematics of QM that undelies its working. You seem to have missed your own point! ;)

    Only one of us missed the point, eric – and it wasn’t me. I know you’re not stupid, so you’re therefore being deliberately obtuse. If something can be demonstrated to be true, it doesn’t matter if someone previously doubted it because they don’t understand it; the demonstration renders their ignorance moot.

    Per my example: if I doubted QM, my doubt would be rendered moot by seeing the QM-powered computer work – since acceptance is not contingent on understanding.

    Now, let’s see you do the same with your god…

  202. Eric says

    “Ah! But according to WLC, moral epistemology is based on the Bible.”

    Hmm, you *must* inform Craig about this!

    (From Reasonable Faith): “As far as moral epistemology is concerned, I can appeal to all the same mechanisms, such as moral intuition and reflection, by means of which humanist thinkers are confident that they accurately discern the good and the right. In fact, the Bible actually teaches that God’s moral law is “written on the hearts” of all men, so that even those who do not know God’s law “do naturally the things of the law” as “their conscience bears witness to them” (Rom.2.14-15). If that is the case, a theist’s moral epistemology need not differ broadly from a humanist’s own moral epistemology.”

    Now I wasn’t surprised at all that you completely messed up Craig, but this did surprise me:

    “P2′. If there are objective facts about the natural world, there will be no disagreement concerning the causes, activities and structures of natural phenomena.
    Among most phenomena, this is true. The objective facts are discoverable using the epistemology of science. For almost all statements about the observable, objective natural world, one of the following statements would be applicable:
    1. There is universal agreement among the scientific community
    2. There is great agreement among the scientific community, though certain less-supported competing hypotheses have not been dismissed entirely
    3. There is great agreement that fundamental understanding eludes us, but there are several competing hypothesis that are viable
    4. There is great agreement in the scientific community that we are ignorant on the subject, with only the vaguest outline of the scope of the subject.
    You can quite neatly put almost all scientific statements in any of one of those boxes. That is, the objective nature of reality allows assessment of the epistemic standing of any naturalistic claim. In that way, P2′ is, in fact, correct.”

    Um, how in the world is P2′ consistent with 2 or 3?! 2 and 3 suppose the very disagreement that P2′ disallows! I have no idea how you missed that.

  203. says

    Science has a habit of converging towards one answer as a topic is studied with the scientific method. The limiting factor is availability of obtainable evidence. This is consistent with the idea that there is an objective reality that we’re getting more accurate about how it works as the evidence is brought in.

    Theism has a habit of diverging away from any sort of consensus. The more theists think about gods, it results in increasingly numerous hypotheses, many of which are mutually exclusive, and so far, I’m unaware of a method for cutting down the number of hypotheses except the scientific method. When competing god hypotheses collide, they’re more likely to settle matters with weapons, rather than evidence or logic. When they’re more amicable, it’s usually an agreement to disagree with no conclusion.

    Divergence usually suggests there’s no objective reality to the subject. It’s certainly one of the reasons I disbelieve in parapsychology, “supernatural” entities, so-called “alternative medicine,” and the like. They never show signs of progress towards consensus, except temporary ones when popular fiction brings certain hypotheses to the limelight for a few years.

  204. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Bronze Dog wrote:

    The more theists think about gods, it results in increasingly numerous hypotheses, many of which are mutually exclusive, and so far, I’m unaware of a method for cutting down the number of hypotheses except the scientific method.

    Which is one heck of a stumbling block – well, for anyone who’s intellectually honest, that is – since, unless you come (as most theists do) to your belief via indoctrination as a child, you have to try and choose one from the thousands available, which – if you were doing it properly – would take rather a long time.

    Funny; you’d think an omnipotent god who cared about such things would be able to manage an unambiguous message, wouldn’t you?

  205. says

    …unless you come (as most theists do) to your belief via indoctrination as a child, you have to try and choose one from the thousands available, which – if you were doing it properly – would take rather a long time.

    To date, the reasons I’ve heard for atheists converting to theism involve them committing logical fallacies: Arguments from incredulity/ignorance (I don’t know how X happened, therefore magic man done it), bandwagon fallacy (lovebombing usually involved), appeals to force (Pascal’s Wager), wishful thinking, and so on.

    None of them involved systematically testing numerous god hypotheses, usually just one of the locally popular hypotheses. As far as I can tell, it’s more like fashion than something that would involve objective truth.

  206. says

    Is it true that you’re a Molly winner?! I’m amazed at how low the standards must be.

    Because an open, free, democratic election is such a low standard?

  207. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Aratina Cage wrote:

    Because an open, free, democratic election is such a low standard?

    Well, we all know what the bible has to say about democracy, don’t we? Funny how when Christians like to claim their religion is responsible for all the good things in modern society they seem to gloss over that particular aspect…

  208. says

    Wowbagger,
    :) Yeah, that whole divine authoritarian king thing in the Bible and the sin/saving thing really don’t allow for good things like democracy. I also chuckled a bit when Eric wrote this right after taking a swing at Nerd’s winning of the OM award:

    I doubt that as many as 1% of all the posters here have a well developed understanding of political theory, but they vote nonetheless and affect the lives of millions of Americans (and of people all around the world).

  209. says

    If not, then what is your point?

    My point is that making a logically-sound syllogism is in no way doing serious philosophy, and I’m still surprised that you’re defending such an asinine argument as Craig’s moral argument; worse still that you’re chastising others over it. But I do think the case for God being a myth is pretty overwhelming, and I stand by my argument in the same way if I replaced God and myth with astrology and nonsense, and a pro-astrologer with Craig. The case can be made to such a degree that it’s beyond reasonable doubt, putting it into a syllogism and defending the logic of that seems an asinine way to go about it.

    But as I said in response to your claim earlier, the problem here is that you’ve confused an objection with a refutation: All you’ve done is move your ‘debate’ with Craig on to new ground.

    At some point, a objection with sufficient grounds is indistinguishable from a refutation.

    To take a parallel, and sadly all too common, example, there are plenty of creationists out there who are adamant that Young Earth Creationism hasn’t been refuted, and will argue at each point where the reasons for evolution aren’t sufficient to reject creationism. I’m sure you’ve heard them – trying to cast doubt on the fossil record, on the capacity for radiometric dating, trying to refute junk DNA or anything that might show imperfect designer, dismissing the geological record, or how old the universe really is. Even when they seem stumped on evidence, they will argue that it’s a test of faith, or something about the limits of human knowledge, or even accuse scientists of fraud. In other words, no matter what Creationists don’t accept anything that would say their belief is refuted. And in the strictest sense, they are right. But any reasonable person would say the case against Creationism is sufficiently refuted, that the evidence overwhelmingly points in favour of an old earth and common descent. Creationism is fallacious, even if I can’t point to anything that would merit complete refutation. It’s unreasonable to such a degree that any thinking person should abandon it on the grounds of unreasonableness.

    What about my objections leave Craig’s arguments untouched? If my objections hold, then it might not strictly speaking refute the KCA, but they should make the KCA more unreasonable to hold than to dismiss. And really, that’s what rational discussion should be, otherwise we’re left with logically consistent nonsense. Might as well be talking aliens building pyramids or nano-thermite bringing down tower 7, because the lack of strict refutation doesn’t mean there’s something there.

  210. Eric says

    “My point is that making a logically-sound syllogism is in no way doing serious philosophy, and I’m still surprised that you’re defending such an asinine argument as Craig’s moral argument; worse still that you’re chastising others over it.”

    When did I ever say it was? If you had actually read Craig, you’d understand that he (like all philosophers) devotes the vast bulk of space to defending the truth of his premises. You seem to be confusing my correction of many of the posters here, i.e. it’s false, as so many of you have claimed, that Craig’s arguments are obviously logically fallacious (and notice that we still lack even one example of an actual fallacy that he commits), with the absurd notion that formulating a logically valid argument is a sufficient condition of doing serious philosophy. I’ve said nothing of the sort.

    Re: chastising you over the moral argument, what I’m targeting — correctly — are the many piss poor understandings of it. I myself don’t defend Craig’s version of the moral argument, but at least I’ve bothered to take the time to understand it before rejecting it.

    “But I do think the case for God being a myth is pretty overwhelming”

    And again, what exactly is that case? That was the whole point, remember — can you defend the premise that ‘god is a myth’ as competently, seriously and rigorously as Craig defends any of his premises? While I respect your intelligence, I sincerely doubt that you can even come close to doing so.

    “and I stand by my argument in the same way if I replaced God and myth with astrology and nonsense, and a pro-astrologer with Craig.”

    I’m sorry Kel, but comparing the two is patently ridiculous. If you honestly think that the case for theism is on the same intellectual level with the case for astrology, then you know next to nothing about it and this conversation is a complete waste of my time until you remedy your ignorance with some serious study.

    “At some point, a objection with sufficient grounds is indistinguishable from a refutation.”

    Well, of course, but the point is, all you’ve done is offer the objection — you’ve failed to come through on the ‘sufficient grounds’ requirement! Honestly, it’s no different than if Craig had looked at your argument and merely said, “Well, we have good reasons for rejecting physicalism about human persons” — full stop. That’s an objection, not a refutation, at least not until he provides those good reasons, and then establishes that they are indeed good reasons.

    “But any reasonable person would say the case against Creationism is sufficiently refuted, that the evidence overwhelmingly points in favour of an old earth and common descent. Creationism is fallacious, even if I can’t point to anything that would merit complete refutation. It’s unreasonable to such a degree that any thinking person should abandon it on the grounds of unreasonableness.”

    I agree. But can you point to any work (or works) that amounts to a comparably strong refutation of theism? I know for a fact that you can’t. So what’s the point of the comparison?

    “What about my objections leave Craig’s arguments untouched? If my objections hold, then it might not strictly speaking refute the KCA, but they should make the KCA more unreasonable to hold than to dismiss.”

    Kel, all you’ve done is raise an objection that emphasizes the point that to accept the conclusion of the KCA, you have to accept the possibility of the existence of an immaterial mind. But for goodness’ sake, Kel, that’s just what Craig takes god to be! In other words, your objection is, “But there can’t be an immaterial mind,” and Craig’s response (rightly) would be along these lines: “Well, then what premise of my argument do you reject, since, as a logically valid argument, it leads to the conclusion that there must be an immaterial mind. Further, you’ve not demonstrated that the notion of an immaterial mind is incoherent, and finally, I believe I have good reasons, in the form of arguments for dualism, for concluding that minds are immaterial.” So no, you’ve not even come close to showing that the conclusion of the KCA is more reasonably dismissed than maintained. When you get a chance, check out a sample of the peer reviewed literature on the argument, both in defense of it and in criticism of it. You’ll find that it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than that.

  211. says

    I’m sorry Kel, but comparing the two is patently ridiculous. If you honestly think that the case for theism is on the same intellectual level with the case for astrology, then you know next to nothing about it and this conversation is a complete waste of my time until you remedy your ignorance with some serious study.

    Wait, you think that theism is somehow less absurd than astrology? Just to be sure, you’re talking about an immaterial timeless person who created everything in it and interferes in the events of humanity as being somehow less absurd than seeing patterns in stars and thinking there’s a causal relationships between the shifting patterns and our shifting lives? To be honest, Eric, both are fucking ridiculous. And if you think I need some serious study while you think that the Jewish appeal to hidden agency is any less ridiculous than any other appeal to unseen forces, then you should really spend some time reading psychology.

  212. Eric says

    Kel, if the two are comparable, then why do we have sundry examples of academics who were educated at and/or who teach at top universities who moved from atheism/skepticism to theism on what they claim are rational grounds, and to my knowlege no examples of such academics moving from rejecting astrology to accepting it on what they claim are rational grounds? That’s just one of many disanalogies, but it targets the rationality of the respective cases rather well. So, why don’t we see any former critics of astrology now openly defending it on rational grounds at Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, etc.?

  213. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    How does Jesus rising from the dead get any less absurd because smart people defend it?

    It doesn’t, but when you believe in imaginary things, you have to grasp futilely at such straws. Typical of theists, who can’t prove their deity, can’t prove jebus existed, and can’t show their babble is anything other than mythology.

  214. says

    And, for the record, I spend way too much time as it is on the question of God. Reading psychology, reading biology, physics, philosophy, etc. And for what? Because fucks like you keep telling me how ignorant I am of it. No matter how much I fucking read, no matter how much I fucking learn, no theist has ever given me even a modicum of credit in terms of understanding their position. I’ve gone to the point of echoing what one theist has said to another, and still I’m labelled completely ignorant.

    I keep reading, I keep listening to arguments, I try to be reasonable (and there I try to read up on cognitive biases and often look for flaws in my own positions) and the best I ever get is that I’m civil – until I say the wrong thing and it’s back to being completely shit ignorant again.

  215. consciousness razor says

    Re: chastising you over the moral argument, what I’m targeting — correctly — are the many piss poor understandings of it. I myself don’t defend Craig’s version of the moral argument, but at least I’ve bothered to take the time to understand it before rejecting it.

    Correct or not, you haven’t actually shown any understanding of it yourself. I haven’t searched of your posts in this thread again; but as far as I remember, you haven’t mentioned any good reasons for rejecting it, mainly just chastised others as you say. Now you could continue to claim you know what you’re talking about and blather on about irrelevant topics, or you could either defend it or explain why you reject it. Since you don’t defend it, what would you say your reasons are for rejecting it? Do you think the first premise is false? Do you think objective moral values exist? Or if you don’t want to answer that, any time you feel like saying something substantive, go right ahead. Please don’t let our alleged “piss poor understandings” get in the way.

    I’m sorry Kel, but comparing the two is patently ridiculous. If you honestly think that the case for theism is on the same intellectual level with the case for astrology, then you know next to nothing about it and this conversation is a complete waste of my time until you remedy your ignorance with some serious study.

    Are you an expert on arguments for astrology as well? At least with regard to astrology, there is overwhelming scientific evidence the objects of “study” exist, with the exception of the causal mechanism between them for which there is absolutely no evidence. With theism, there’s no evidence at all. Since I don’t care about an idea’s popularity or which authorities believe it, this alone suggests astrology is more reasonable. I should also note that lumping all of “theism” together does make it seem quite a bit more popular than it would if we considered any one cult by itself. (I’m not aware of too many splitters in astrology, but I’m sure it has its own.)

    I agree. But can you point to any work (or works) that amounts to a comparably strong refutation of theism? I know for a fact that you can’t.

    How do you know this for a fact? You know all arguments purporting to refute theism?

    “Well, then what premise of my argument do you reject, since, as a logically valid argument, it leads to the conclusion that there must be an immaterial mind. Further, you’ve not demonstrated that the notion of an immaterial mind is incoherent, and finally, I believe I have good reasons, in the form of arguments for dualism, for concluding that minds are immaterial.”

    This is denialism. The notion of an “immaterial mind” has been demonstrated to be incoherent. Not proven, mind you, but the overwhelming scientific evidence is more than sufficient. Indeed, it may be impossible in principle to have any sort of evidence in favor of the idea, or to “disprove” it in general, because of the shifting and incoherent definitions in use.

    Minds aren’t just any arbitrary concept. (They’re also a terrible thing to waste.) All known cases of minds are the functional cognitive states of material systems operating according to physical laws. If there is no way to describe an “immaterial” system like this consistently, which can be observed and verified to work according to predictable rules, then it makes no sense to say it’s a “mind.” So even if we could observe some kind of immaterial stuff, it would also have to work like a mind, which I imagine would be rather more complicated than an immaterial rock or an immaterial thermostat. Of course, all I can do is imagine with this tripe, because it’s all just imaginary. Time to wake up, Eric.

  216. says

    Forget it, Conscious Razor, it’s all a fucking waste of time. In the end, Christians believe that an immaterial eternal immutable omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent deity created them in his image, and that he came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, only to die and resurrect for the salvation of mankind, and if you just believe in him, you will spend eternity in God’s presence.

    Sound completely ridiculous? It’s only because you’re not educated enough!

  217. says

    Eric:

    (From Reasonable Faith): “As far as moral epistemology is concerned, I can appeal to all the same mechanisms, such as moral intuition and reflection, by means of which humanist thinkers are confident that they accurately discern the good and the right. In fact, the Bible actually teaches that God’s moral law is “written on the hearts” of all men, so that even those who do not know God’s law “do naturally the things of the law” as “their conscience bears witness to them” (Rom.2.14-15). If that is the case, a theist’s moral epistemology need not differ broadly from a humanist’s own moral epistemology.”

    So, Craig is saying here that the Bible says morality is written on the hearts of men. He knows this because the Bible says it. What’s the source of his epistemology again?

    Craig has said often that his epistemological basis for morality is the Bible. He does this when he defends the atrocities of the Bible, claiming they are moral acts because they were commanded by his god.

    But, let’s assume this “written on the hearts of men” thing. You’ve dismissed the Bible as a moral authority (at least, you seem to have dismissed it — your weaseling and condescending attitude makes it hard to tell). So, now we have WLC’s “written on the hearts of men,” which I will call wothom.

    If this were true, then the same morality would be “written on the hearts of men.” Now, Craig admits the Christian moral epistemology does not differ from the humanist’s moral epistemology. He does this based on a Bible passage, essentially basing this on the exact thing you just rejected: the Bible as moral authority. But whatever.

    The problem with revelatory epistemologies such as wothom or the Bible as moral authority should be obvious. If it were objectively true, it would have some other unique metric by which to judge its objective truth. This is my point concerning P2′ above. You should at least be able to judge the epistemic standing of any proposition. For instance, you should be able to judge the epistemic standing of statements such as, “Same-sex marriage is bad,” and anyone studying this objective morality should be able to place that statement in the correct bin — universally accepted as true, contingently known to be true, disputed, or unknown. However, this simply isn’t the way of it.

    And so all revelatory moral epistemologies fail. WLC essentially admits this when he then goes on to say his epistemology is essentially indistinguishable from that a humanist would employ.

    If an objective morality were wothom, then that morality should remain constant, and be fairly consistent across cultures and time. Yet this is demonstrably not so. And so P2 still holds. If, on the other hand, morality changed according to the social context, there is no objective morality, other than the bare essentials common to and necessary for all societies. This is demonstrably true.

    If there’s effectively no difference between the humanist and wothom epistemologies, and humanists draw their morality from various natural sources such as social theory, game theory, and so on, then many of the arguments WLC uses to support this objective moral nature are effectively nullified. It’s as if he says, “Matter is composed of wee tiny little fairies. They behave in a way that is indistinguishable from subatomic particles, and so you’d use science to investigate them.”

    His co-option of a working, naturalistic epistemology effectively eviscerates any contention he might have that an objective moral nature is necessary. He of course betrays this argument in his appeal to the Bible as a revelatory source of knowledge (such as his employment of wothom), and especially in his defense of Biblical atrocities as moral actions.

    He basically tries to have his cake and eat it, too.

    Um, how in the world is P2′ consistent with 2 or 3?! 2 and 3 suppose the very disagreement that P2′ disallows! I have no idea how you missed that.

    I missed nothing — it’s you who is missing the point. What part of “epistemic standing” don’t you understand?

    In 2, even those who support fringe hypotheses will admit the greater evidential support for the generally accepted theory. In 3, they will admit there isn’t enough evidence to support one competing hypothesis over another. This is exactly the case in QM today. Ask a loop quantum gravity researcher about the flaws in string theory, and you’ll get a list that essentially matches the list you’d get from a string theorist if you asked the same question. They may have reasons to support one hypothesis over another, but they are in essential agreement over the state of the discipline, and the flaws in each hypothesis.

    This is because there is an objective standard against which all research is held: observable reality. This metric is the same for every researcher.

    This is demonstrably not true of morality. When WLC denies the morality of the homosexual lifestyle, he does so by referring to the Bible. (In fact, Eric, WLC always refers to the Bible when discussing moral issues, putting lie to your defense of him.) However, Rev. John Shelby Spong defends homosexuality as moral. Both of these are well-educated Christians. Both of them are very intelligent. If morality were objective, and that morality were in some way discoverable, and we had the means of objective discovery, it seems they would come to the same conclusion. Or, at least, they would be able to say, “We don’t know which proposition is the correct moral position.”

    If, on the other hand, objective morality is not discoverable, then it effectively doesn’t exist. Further, there is a discoverable morality, although not a purely objective one. It’s based on naturalistic principles, and is discoverable using the scientific method. It changes depending on the desired social outcome, of course, but the epistemic principles are exactly those WLC espouses (but does not practice, it seems).

    In summary: if there is an objective morality, it must be discoverable in a universal way, with universal results. (This is what science does in it’s “domain,” which you still haven’t defined.) Otherwise, it might as well not exist. If, on the other hand, there is no objective morality outside that which is required to support society, then you’ll have some fairly universal morals, with others disputed but defended as “fact.”

    Tell me. Which is closest to observable reality?

    Also, I note you did to me exactly what you accuse us of doing to WLC: dismissing an argument out-of-hand. When we dispute a premise, we’ve merely moved the discussion. When you dispute a premise, it’s wrong.

    Hypocrite, much?

  218. says

    When we dispute a premise, we’ve merely moved the discussion. When you dispute a premise, it’s wrong.

    You’re clearly ignorant and need more education. Then you’d see that Eric is the only one being reasonable here. If you’d only take the time to understand Craig’s arguments then you’d see that you’re being unreasonable…

  219. says

    Eric:

    When did I ever say it was? If you had actually read Craig, you’d understand that he (like all philosophers) devotes the vast bulk of space to defending the truth of his premises.

    As Gödel demonstrated, any sufficiently robust logic system is capable of formulating correct but conflicting statements. This is especially true of language, which is not nearly as precise as logic.

    My little syllogism (of which you appear to have a piss-poor understanding) is an example of WLC’s logical contortions. You can expend a lot of verbiage defending a premise. That certainly doesn’t do anything to establish the truth of the premise. There is only one arbiter of truth: reality.

    Which brings me back to another question you’ve dodged, Eric. Is it reasonable to accept premises with no basis in reality that support an argument that purports to make truth claims about reality?

  220. says

    This is going to bug me all night.

    Kel, all you’ve done is raise an objection that emphasizes the point that to accept the conclusion of the KCA, you have to accept the possibility of the existence of an immaterial mind. But for goodness’ sake, Kel, that’s just what Craig takes god to be!

    My point exactly. Craig takes God to be something that’s not possible.

    And on that latest display of breathtaking ignorance, I bid you all a good night. I’ll probably be back tomorrow to continue to display just how ignorant I am.

  221. says

    Kel:

    You’re clearly ignorant and need more education.

    Oh, I won’t deny that. I am ignorant of much. It just pisses me off when smug little frisbees* like Eric come in pretending to be erudite and open-minded, and then go about doing the exact thing they’re whining about.

    I realize that’s a bit tu quoque. It just pisses me off.

     

    * They spin at a relatively high rate, but are incapable of moving under their own power.

  222. Ing says

    Wow, this is very telling! You people don’t even understand what it means to view a defense of a position you disagree with as competent, serious and rigorous! Amazing!

    I love it how you tell someone exactly what error they’re going to make, and then they go ahead and make it. It makes me feel like The Oracle, just sitting back and waiting for them to pile up the FAIL at my feet as tribute.

    Hey, Genocidedefender. If I thought the position was competent, serious, rigorous and CORRECT, I wouldn’t disagree with it. Unlike YOU we do not work backwards. And shove that “oh look at you affirming the consequence” bullshit. I DID believe WLC’s god and was convinced out of it by competent, serious, and rigorous arguments.

    Unless Eric wants to actually address his defense of genocide, I say we flush the Godbotter

  223. Ing says

    You’re clearly ignorant and need more education.

    We just spent pages with you debating the existence of a sky pixie and you claim someone else is ignorant?

  224. consciousness razor says

    Forget it, Conscious Razor, it’s all a fucking waste of time. In the end, Christians believe that an immaterial eternal immutable omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent deity created them in his image,

    Wait, wait, hold on a second. I was with you there, until you implied it (or he, or whatever) had a penis. I’m not sure how good old Yahweh has an image either, since I thought invisibility was somewhere on the list. *checks infinite list again*

    and that he came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ,

    Hmm, don’t forget about omnipresence: despite being omnipotent, he/it/whatever can’t come or go anywhere. By the way, omnipresence also implies the observable part of Yahweh’s penis is somewhere around 90 billion light years, both length and girth. What a total dick. And given the doctrine of divine simplicity, Yahweh is the very essence of dickishness.

    only to die and resurrect for the salvation of mankind,

    That seems unnecessary. Shouldn’t Yahweh have saved a little bit at a time? Ease your way into it, you know? Being eternal and whatnot, it seems like getting a good head start could’ve avoided this kind of issue.

    and if you just believe in him, you will spend eternity in God’s presence.

    Like I said: total dick. Again, considering omnipresence, that seems to imply those who don’t believe get to go on a field trip outside the universe. I don’t know about you, but that sounds awfully exciting!

    Sound completely ridiculous? It’s only because you’re not educated enough!

    Yes, it does sound completely ridiculous. And I have thought of getting another degree now that you mention it, but I feel too old for that and have my hands full with too much as it is. If that’s the only reason, then I guess it will have to remain ridiculous.

  225. KG says

    Kel, if the two are comparable, then why do we have sundry examples of academics who were educated at and/or who teach at top universities who moved from atheism/skepticism to theism on what they claim are rational grounds, and to my knowlege no examples of such academics moving from rejecting astrology to accepting it on what they claim are rational grounds? – Eric

    Eric’s level of stupidity is surely worthy of a preservation order. Accepting astrology would lead to an academic being almost universally regarded by their peers as completely out to lunch, while accepting theism does not. This is adequately explained without any reference to the quality of the evidence and reasoning supporting each (laughably poor in both cases), by the fact that (in the West) theism has the support of powerful social forces while astrology does not.

  226. says

    This is adequately explained without any reference to the quality of the evidence and reasoning supporting each (laughably poor in both cases), by the fact that (in the West) theism has the support of powerful social forces while astrology does not.

    Very yes. It’s not as short lived as the ephemera of fashion, but it’s the same basic principle. It’s only accepted because it has self-reinforcing popularity.

  227. says

    Eric:

    Kel, if the two are comparable, then why do we have sundry examples of academics who were educated at and/or who teach at top universities who moved from atheism/skepticism to theism on what they claim are rational grounds, and to my knowlege no examples of such academics moving from rejecting astrology to accepting it on what they claim are rational grounds?

    This is an odd combination of argument from authority, and argument from popularity.

    I forget. When you multiply fallacies, does that cause the stupidity to increase, or decrease?

  228. KG says

    I see Eric has not responded to my #680, in which I showed that I had (at #615) both identifed informal fallacies Craig commits, and shown why they were fallacies in the context where they were used.

    In other words, your objection is, “But there can’t be an immaterial mind,” and Craig’s response (rightly) would be along these lines: “Well, then what premise of my argument do you reject, since, as a logically valid argument, it leads to the conclusion that there must be an immaterial mind.

    Srsly? Let’s assume the conclusion of the first part of Craig’s argument, that the universe has a cause. Here’s Craig’s “argument” that this cause must be personal (I’m sure he’s spun this out in more detail elsewhere, but since he puts this on a page entitled The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe , I think we can assume he would stand behind it:

    In fact, I think that it can be plausibly argued that the cause of the universe must be a personal Creator. For how else could a temporal effect arise from an eternal cause? If the cause were simply a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions existing from eternity, then why would not the effect also exist from eternity? For example, if the cause of water’s being frozen is the temperature’s being below zero degrees, then if the temperature were below zero degrees from eternity, then any water present would be frozen from eternity. The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would seem to be if the cause is a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time. For example, a man sitting from eternity may will to stand up; hence, a temporal effect may arise from an eternally existing agent. Indeed, the agent may will from eternity to create a temporal effect, so that no change in the agent need be conceived. Thus, we are brought not merely to the first cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.

    Note first that he’s only claiming this is a “plausible argument”, so it appears Eric has more confidence it it than Craig. But in fact, it is only plausible to one who already believes the conclusion. Without a proper explanation of what “from eternity” is supposed to mean*, how an immaterial agent could exist or choose anything, and what could be meant by an agent that does not change – something utterly contrary to our experience – it’s just a load of drivel. Not even wrong.

    *Craig’s argument against infinite past time (which shows a startling naivity about the reliability of intuition in the area of fundamental physics, but that’s by the way here) would apply to immaterial minds, if there were any, as much as to material things, so that can’t be what he means, but then he slips into language which indicates that it is, as in “a man sitting from eternity may will to stand up”; I deduce that he has no clear idea what he means.

  229. says

    KG:

    I deduce that he has no clear idea what he means.

    I took it to mean he’s presenting a false dichotomy — either everything existed for eternity, in which case it would exist in a steady state; or something must will it into existence, which indicates an intentional agent, a personal creator.

    (It’s important he slip in the word “personal,” as he uses this in his argument for Christianity, though “personal” means two different things in these cases.)

    This disregards several things (hence the false dichotomy). First, there’s the problem of “eternity,” which is incoherent with respect to the beginning of space-time. Second is the exclusion of a continuously dynamic system, such as the evolutionary cosmology espoused by Lee Smolin, and other similar propositions, or spontaneous events that occur without intent. (This will of course lead into a long discussion of how virtual particle pairs aren’t “uncaused,” but that assumes the beginning of the universe was “uncaused” in the exact way virtual particle pairs aren’t. This is, of course, an insupportable position.)

    This completely disregards the pure fantasy of an immaterial, intelligent, willful agent.

  230. says

    I’m in agreement that “immaterial” etcetera minds are an incoherent as an idea, and I think KG’s analogy of an “immaterial” rock having hardness and Kel’s analogy of a golden apple lacking the nourishing qualities of a real apple are rather excellent ways of looking at it:

    By defining a mind “immaterial” or “eternal” or various adjectives theists and other woos are fond of, they’re stripping it of the attributes that make it a mind. If you were to transmute an apple into gold, you’d be taking away all the sugars, proteins, and such that make it nourishing.

    To add a computer analogy to the fray, take away the material components, and you’re taking away all the things that make it operate. If you’re going to posit an immaterial computer, I’d expect a demonstration of such a computer, or at least a description of how you could build one out of reishi particles and chakra networks and how to look for such a computer.

    The same thing applies to minds. With methodological materialism, science has been steadily gaining more and more accurate knowledge about how minds work.

    Speaking of reishi particles, I was a bit amused in a scene in Bleach where a soul reaper (human soul with certain magical powers) waxed speculative about what happens to their ‘heart’ after they die, since, in the Bleach universe, souls are reducible into parts, can die, and will rot away just like material bodies.

    If science in the real world were to discover a soul and start examining them, a lot of dualists would probably add a third layer if those souls were found to be mortal and/or reducible into parts.

  231. says

    The defence of “God is a myth” is still coming, it’s taking a little longer due to Real Life getting in the way.

    Just to outline briefly what my content will be: Humans have invented invisible agency throughout history as a causal explanation; we have minds that think in terms of causal agency; we recognise now that we erroneously attribute all sorts of things to gods; and the particular God that people worship is unfairly privileged by the arbitrariness of historical contingency. Thor is a myth, Helios is a myth, so too God is a myth.

    Inference to the best explanation – we have countless attempts of humans invoking agency to explain the unknown, we have sufficient understanding of human cognition to explain those invocations, yet we have no instances outside our own fleshy persons where it applies, and even with applying it to humans it often goes astray (see: conspiracy theories). The best explanation for all this is that God is an invention of humanity, rather than humanity being an invention of God.

    Will flesh it out over the coming days, depending on how Real Life continues to fuck with me.

  232. Chad says

    One things for sure, if Dawkins thought he could win, he’d debate Craig.

    Pretty feeble excuse :-)

  233. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Chad, if there was solid and conclusive physical evidence for a deity, WLC would lead with that. But he doesn’t, since there isn’t any. The fact that he keeps showing well refuted philosophy with fallacious presupposition premises shows the weakness of his position. Anybody with a working brain can see that. What’s your excuse cricket?

  234. says

    Why should Dawkins degrade himself by sharing the stage with a genocide apologist?

    Why should anyone interested in truth choose to engage in a verbal debate, where Gish Galloped lies have the unfair advantage of hiding behind a clock?

    Truth is so easily put at a disadvantage without strong moderation to prevent the use of dishonest rhetorical tactics.

    Why did you deliberately choose to ignore these very legitimate points, Chad?

  235. says

    Just to add a minor thing: If Chad were a normal person capable of shame, he’d be shouting at the depraved WLC to stay out of public view. WLC is exactly the type of person who normally gets disowned as “not a true Christian” if we were to bring him up ourselves. But now that he’s made a big deal of challenging Dawkins, suddenly he’s embraced as a paragon of Christianity.

  236. hotshoe says

    Is anyone surprised that the despicable christians in Craig’s audience cheered his defense of god’s genocidal orders ?

    Christian terrorists. They should be subject to preventive detention, because they’re proving that they can’t be trusted not to start murdering innocent children in our society. If they start hearing god giving orders to kill …

  237. says

    Actually, I find Craig’s defense of genocide refreshing. Here’s a man who can follow his epistemic dedication to his moral source to its bitter but necessary conclusion. Here’s a man who doesn’t sacrifice moral exigency for social acceptance. Here’s a man who is willing to live with the consequences of his own tortured rationalizations. Here’s a man who…

    Ah, fuck it. Who am I kidding? He defends fucking genocide. And rape. And slavery. As moral.

    And then, just to top it all off with fail-sauce, he claims to be more moral than atheists. Just because we’re atheists.

    Fuck him with a thrice-used porcupine.

  238. says

    In terms of taking Craig to task, what was wrong with my blog post that went line by line through Craig’s defence of genocide?

  239. says

    For me the matter is simple and straight. If you are avoiding a debate, with whatever pompous and verbose argument using behind the scene , you are the looser. If you are giving more complicated argument and attacking the opponents personalty off the arena instead of arguing straight, than there is no chance of any doubt that you are the 100% looser’

    Now with regard to those happy sewage-mouther, whatever side they think they are cheering are actually creating sickness for their own team also. It would be advisable they don’t stand in the crowd. Unhygienic infact.

  240. says

    Still writing my response. So far, 1730 words and about 25% complete. Got a large pile of books sitting next to my desk.

    So it’s coming…

  241. Ing says

    @mr.bignoise

    I challenge you to a debate. Topic: Is Mr.Bignoise a pedophile cannibal rapist liar? I will be arguing in the defensive (ie that Mr. Bignoise Is a pedophile cannibal rapist liar) and you, if you accept, will be arguing in the affirmative in your defense.

  242. says

    In this discussion I’m going to defend two basic contentions:

    I. There are no good reasons to think that theism is true, and

    II. There are good reasons to think that God is a myth.

    Let’s look at the first major contention, that there are no good reasons to think that theism is true. Theist philosophers have tried for centuries to prove the existence of God. But no one has been able to come up with a convincing argument. So rather than attack straw men at this point, I’m going to wait to hear Eric’s answer to the following question: What is the evidence that theism is true?

    Let’s turn then to my second basic contention, that there are good reasons to think that God is a myth.

    Now I’m not claiming that I can prove that God is a myth with some kind of mathematical certainty. I’m just claiming that on balance the evidence is such that God is a myth is more plausible than not. Let me present, therefore, five reasons why I think it’s more plausible that God is a myth than that theism is true.

    1. Creation myths explain why there are gods. Have you ever asked yourself why anything at all exists, or where the universe came from? Typically, theists have said that the universe is the creation of God. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute.

    Creation myths are a part of human culture. Throughout human history, different explanations involving gods and supernatural agency have been passed down through oral and written traditions. Creation ex nihilo is a common feature of many cultures, including ancient Egypt, Hinduism, and many animistic cultures throughout the world.

    Elizabeth and Paul Barber, in their work When They Severed Earth From Sky, talk about the Wilfulness principle. They argue that may seem absurd now to think about a tree falling over than anything other than wind, but wind as its conceived now is a result of thousands of years of data collection parsed through genium minds. To the ancients, how could they have conceived of huge quantities of near-infinitesemal invisible particles acting in accordance with the fundamental forces of nature? Thinking in terms of wilful agents, and invisible agents at that, would be the only possible source of explanation.

    H. and H. A. Frankfort, in their paper Myth and Reality posit: “The fundamental difference between the attitudes of modern and ancient man as regards the surrounding world is this: for modern man the world is primarily an “It”; for ancient man it is a “Thou.” [...] An object, an “It,” can always be scientifically related to other objects and appear as part of a group or a series. In this manner science insists on seeing “It”; hence, science is able to comprehend objects and events as ruled by universal laws which make their behavior under given circumstances predictable. “Thou,” on the other hand, is unique. “Thou” has the unprecedented, unparalleled, and unpredictable character of an individual, a presence known only in so far as it reveals itself.”

    This doesn’t necessarily exclude gods, but it does raise major problems for the idea of gods. The first problem is the sheer abundance of myths, why should we privilege one mythic explanation above any other? Do we accept, as CS Lewis argued in Mere Christianity, that God solely revealed Himself to the Jewish people some 3500 years ago and that the bible is the inspired word of God? That the commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” is the one true instance of a correctly-identified god cautioning against all other imaginary gods?

    Or perhaps, as J.L. Mackie notes in The Miracle Of Theism “The advocate of one religion will now often allow that a number of others have at least some elements of the truth and even, perhaps, some measure of divine authorization.” But this raises the further problem that Mackie immediately elucidates: “Carried far enough, this modern tendency would allow Christian miracles to support, not undermine, belief in the supernatural achievements of stone-age witch doctors and medicine men, and vice versa.” He was talking in the context of miracle reports, but the same principle applies. Lewis advocated a view similar to this, but had the marker of the truth of other religions as his own.

    Though, what would seem the most reasonable assumption, is that none of them are correct. That gods as explanations are sufficiently misguided as to not think of the myths as containing a literal truth about the nature of the beyond. Jerry Falwell claiming that 9/11 was God’s punishment for the ACLU highlights just how it is that people can see God’s hand in nature where there clearly is none.

    The second problem, and the most significant challenge, is how to take prescientific ideas like God in light of modern science. As Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow put it in The Grand Design: “In the first two thousand years of scientific thought, ordinary experience were the basis for theoretical explanation [...] we began to find nature behaving in ways that were less and less in line with our everyday experience and hence our intuition.” Invoking gods seem more and more archaic a thought the more that nature is understood. “Sire, I have no need for that hypothesis”, the words of Laplace echoed today by top scientists of various disciplines.

    Personal causation, too, has come under the lens of scientific inquiry. Personal causation isn’t something removed from the physical, but an expression of it. Without the brain and without the physical systems throughout the body, it would make no sense to talk of personal causation. Thinking is what the brain does, and experiments such as the Libet experiment show that conscious awareness happens after decisions are made in the brain. As Dan Dennett pointed out in his debate with William Lane Craig, personal causation is a special kind of physical causation. Psychologist Stephen Pinker characterises this as “the mind is what the brain does”.

    Even if physical accounts of consciousness are lacking, there are two observational facts that really seal the relation between mind and brain. Observations have shown time and time again a link between particualr brain activity and behaviour/experience. Damage regions of the brain and lose functionaliy. Manipulate the brain and alter experience. Out-of-body experiences can be induced with magnetic fields, as can altering how moral decision making is made. Patricia Churchland has talked of one case where a tumour in a man’s brain resulted in paedophilic sexual urges.

    The second observation is that despite all the research probing the brain, there’s no indication of anything other than brain activity being involved in cognition. Descartes, when he first posited mind-body dualism, identified the pineal gland as the interface between mind and body. Yet with all the possible opportunities to find anything outside the brain, nothing has yet shown up. It may be that there’s something outside the brain, but the evidence is to the contrary.

  243. says

    2. Myth provides the best explanation for invoking God to explain order in the universe. During the last four hundred years, scientists have discovered that what was once thought the domain of the deity has been explained without a mind as the organising force.

    Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientific mind ever to have lived, argued for a divine hand in the ordering of the solar system: “For while comets move in very eccentric orbs in all manner of positions, blind fate could never make all the planets move one and the same way in orbs concentric, some inconsiderable irregularities excepted which may have arisen from the mutual actions of comets and planets on one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this system wants a reformation.” Yet such ordering has now found to be unnecessary, there’s a good understanding of how planets form around a star and how they hold their orbit.

    William Paley, forerunning many intelligent design proponents, argued for design by way of analogy: “Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.” His application of the design argument to biology “every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.”

    But, as we know, this turned out to be spectacularly wrong. The organising force behind biology has turned out not to have any mind-like qualities at all, where function is emergent from the process. The great biologist and science historian Ernst Mayr put it: “Darwin taught us that seemingly teleological evolutionary changes and the production of adapted features are simply the result of variational evolution, consisting of the production of large amounts of variation in every generation, and the probabilistic survival of those individuals remaining after the elimination of the least-fit phenotypes. Adaptedness thus is an a posteriori result rather than an a priori goal seeking.”

    Biologist Richard Dawkins put it rather more poetically: “Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye, It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.”

    Psychologists have noticed a tendency in children especially to see nature in terms of design. The phenomenon, known as promiscuous teleology, where the world is seen in terms of function. We as adults, Bruce Hood argues in Supersense, would have no trouble in seeing how one could walk down a hill, but a child would see the hill in terms of that function. Most children grow out of such thinking by the age of 10, but it can be carried into adulthood and is affected by cultural religious factors.

    In addition to seeing design, it’s well established that people, and children especially, anthropomorphise. Children especially have been observed engaging in egocentric projection that stems to inanimate objects. Yet this point was not lost on philosopher David Hume, who 250 years ago observed: “There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, which which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice and good-will to everything, that hurts of pleases us.”

    It’s well established that people see and attribute agency where there is none. While this doesn’t exclude there actually being agency that fits our preconception, it should set the burden of proof to overcome the inherent biases in our cognitive abilities. Ghosts, gods, aliens, cryptids, conspiracy theories, even the way we treat pets – they are all testament to our mind’s capacity to shape an understanding of reality in very human terms. It may be that there are other agents akin to us out there, but our minds are wired for seeing such agency irrespective of there being such agency.

  244. says

    3. Myth provides the best explanation for objective moral values. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. For example, the late J.L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our time, admitted, “If … there are … objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have … a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.”

    Mackie denied that objective moral values exist. He wrote, “It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution.” Indeed, much of our moral drive is innate. Work by psychologists including Yale professor Paul Bloom has shown that even infants will show a preference for “moral” behaviour, and that we even apply our moral sense to inanimate objects.

    Jerry Coyne sums up the current state of research in ethology: “Despite the notion that beasts behave bestially, scientists studying our primate relatives, such as chimpanzees, see evolutionary rudiments of morality: behaviors that look for all the world like altruism, sympathy, moral disapproval, sharing — even notions of fairness. This is exactly what we’d expect if human morality, like many other behaviors, is built partly on the genes of our ancestors.” Primatologist Frans de Waal “[T]he latest experiments in primatology reveal that our close relatives will do each other favors even if there’s nothing in it for themselves.” And adds: “Mammals may derive pleasure from helping others in the same way that humans feel good doing good.”

    To think that there are any such intrinsic moral values would be absurd. What would such values be? Would anything humans do matter outside the existence of humans? More importantly, how does how we treat each other have anything outside of that interaction? The notion that there’s some value of right or wrong intrinsic to our existence is a very queer one.

    Yet this doesn’t have the fatal consequences that the likes of William Lane Craig suggest it has. As empirical support, one only needs to look at attitudes concerning homosexuality or women’s equality to see how well societies can change without any form of objective moral standard. It simply doesn’t matter whether or not homosexuality is objectively right or wrong; what matters is that attitudes towards homosexuals have shifted in a positive direction without any sort of worrying about such silly notions as moral objectivity. Ethics in scientific research, again an area where ethics plays an important role, yet no concern is given to whether or not it’s objectively wrong to be unscrupulous in research.

    Not having objective moral values doesn’t mean that any action is of equal value, either. One would be perfectly justified in saying rape is wrong without having any notion of objective moral value. The notion of right or wrong is something we impose onto the situation. Most people, I would wager, would be content to say rape is wrong because of the harm it does, or the violation it imposes. And, really, what more ought to be needed? If that isn’t enough, then what is? To come back to J.L. Mackie: “Morality does not need a god as a supreme source of commands or as a wielder of decisive sanctions. [...] There is no good reason for introducing a god even as an essential part of the content of moral thinking.”

    One more problem remains. Even if objective morality exists and is grounded in God, we have good reasons to doubt any claim to objectivity. On a sociological level, moral prescriptions are culturally-contingent. On a psychological level, different people espousing different moralities under the same justification. Believers who think that God is a source of morality tend to think that God’s morality matches their own. From Epley et al. on the results of neuroimaging patients asked this question: “A final neuroimaging study demonstrated a clear convergence in neural activity when reasoning about one’s own beliefs and God’s beliefs, but clear divergences when reasoning about another person’s beliefs. In particular, reasoning about God’s beliefs activated areas associated with self-referential thinking more so than did reasoning about another person’s beliefs.”

    The same problem is encountered as with invoking God for causation or design – even if the beliefs are true they are indistinguishable from a projection of our minds. We have every reason to be sceptical of anyone claiming that they have God’s objective moral truth; because it’s indistinguishable from the illusion of it.

  245. says

    4. Myth provides the best explanation for the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. First, a qualification. I’m not advocating the Jesus myth hypothesis; I don’t particularly care about what historical truth lies at the core of the biblical account. Myth, in this context, should be taken to mean a fiction as we would the claim that Uri Geller bends spoons with psychic powers or that homoeopathic remedies heal through the memory of water.

    Uri Geller was able to convince many people he had psychic powers, demonstrating his “powers” to audiences around the world. There are people who swear that mediums like John Edward have contacted their deceased relatives. People have not only claimed to witness alien aircraft, but have claimed to be abducted as well. Many people have claimed to have seen or felt the presence of ghosts. Eyewitness accounts of cryptids such as bigfoot or chupacabra abound. All kinds of alternative “therapies” have been dubbed miracle cures with no shortage of people willing to testify on behalf of a “treatment”. And so on.

    All these are extraordinary claims. Not extraordinary in the sense that the claims are infrequent, but extraordinary in the sense that they violate how we’ve come to understand the world works. A claim that someone gives a lecture at a given time might be a unique event, but if they’re said to have given two lectures simultaneously in two cities halfway around the world, we have good reason to think that there’s something wrong with the account. People just aren’t in two places at once.

    This is not to say we can rule it out a priori. Perhaps the lecturer has found a means to travel through time and can be in two places at once, or that the lecturer has cloned herself and each clone gave a simultaneous lecture. But those cases have to go up against what we know about how the world works. That people can be mistaken, that people can make up things, that people cannot be in two places at the same time. So if we were to accept an account of that lecturer being in two places at once, we would need very compelling data to be able to overcome the implausibility of such an event.

    Carl Sagan, channelling David Hume, remarked that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. An eyewitness account to bigfoot differs to an eyewitness account of a bear sighting because we know bears to exist. Even if bear sightings are unusual, we have reasons outside of those sightings to suspect that a sighting did happen. If it were a sighting of a creature thought to be extinct, such as the thylacine, we’d have reason to doubt such a sighting. Anecdotal reports might give reason to search an area, but are by no means enough to establish the existence of something thought gone from the earth.

    With all that in mind, it’s time to turn to the accounts of Jesus. Considering the extraordinary accounts of the gospels, there’s very little written about Jesus outside them. For someone who was meant to be God on earth, and performed miraculous events, no pagan writer in the first century even mentioned Jesus.

    Take one account from the Gospel of Matthew: “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” (Mt 27:51-54)

    It’s a curious account to have included in a historical attempt. Yes, earthquakes do happen, but there are no accounts of an earthquake at this time. The dead coming back to life, however, is unheard of and contradicts everything we know about biology. This is good reason to think that the account is fiction.

    But what of the accounts themselves? We’re left without almost all relevant knowledge. Who were the original authors? What were their sources? How many mouths had the accounts of Jesus gone through? What were the motivations of the individuals involved in the eventual outcome? What was lost in translation? Were multiple accounts conflated? We simply do not have much evidence to go on at all other than the accounts claiming the miraculous.

    We have people who lie to promote faith. We have people who use faith for political purposes. We have people seeing God’s hand in a piece of burnt toast. And that’s on top of all we know about human nature, including that people are prone to confirmation bias, embellishment, conflating accounts, misremembering, trusting anecdotes, etc. How are we meant to trust the gospel narratives in light of all we know about human nature, and the near complete absence of any data to assess such claims?

    One approach to get around this problem, and one taken by William Lane Craig, is to take the resurrection as the best explanation of the facts as they stand. It might be implausible, but it’s the only explanation that can give a satisfactory account of the facts as it stands. At best, the lack of a satisfactory naturalistic account just means we don’t know. But given the lack of knowledge of the situation (like any historical account), we can’t hold the facts with absolute confidence. Not being able to come up with a naturalistic account of how Moses and the Egyptian sages could turn staves into stakes doesn’t mean that staves were really turned into snakes.

    The hardest part about any discussion on the historical Jesus is that people have theological reasons for believing in the resurrection. William Lane Craig put it: “[E]ver since my conversion, I believed in the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of my personal experience, and I still think this experiential approach to the resurrection is a perfectly valid way to knowing that Christ has risen. It’s the way that most Christians today know that Jesus is risen and alive.” How objective can one be when acceptance of a claimed historical event is external to that event? Furthermore, when the historical claim of the resurrection is at the centrality of the Christian doctrine: “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain;” (1 Cor.15:17), how can we expect an impartial look at the historical question?

    As Bart Ehrman argues: “But even if these stories were the best sources in the world, there would still be a major obstacle that we simply cannot overcome if we want to approach the question of the resurrection historically rather than theologically.[...] Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past. The problem with historians is they can’t repeat an experiment. Today, if we want proof for something, it’s very simple to get proof for many things in the natural sciences; in the experimental sciences we have proof. But we can’t repeat the experiments in history because once history happens, it’s over. [...] Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past, and by definition a miracle is the least probable occurrence. And so, by the very nature of the canons of historical research, we can’t claim historically that a miracle probably happened. By definition, it probably didn’t. And history can only establish what probably did.”

  246. says

    5. Myth can be immediately known and experienced. In the last 50 years, calls to authorities about UFOs spiked at points in time when there was science fiction about aliens in the popular culture. Particular spikes happened around Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and The X-Files. Yet there’s no hard evidence of any such craft, and the people who spend the most time looking into the sky (amateur astronomers) don’t seem to spot anything at all.

    Crop circles, alien abduction accounts, cattle mutilations, the Roswell incident, secretive government behaviour, ancient architecture – all of these have been taken as part of the alien accounts on earth. Yet despite the preponderance of anecdotal accounts, we have no hard evidence to think that there are aliens among us. All the accounts associated with aliens may or may not have down-to-earth explanations, but the missing ingredient is that none of these accounts have any causal link to aliens. Causally, they are making the mistake of affirming the consequent, the belief that P causes Q, having Q and inferring P.

    Could we make the case for God as separate from the cultural and psychological drive to answer in terms of God? A recent story emerged of a man who became a Christian because his mother won the lottery, yet how can he know that was God? To take a more objective case, how do we know that the origin of life was something God did? The potential P of God’s omnipotence doesn’t mean that the Q of life existing in any way affirms that P. We’re left trying to establish something without any known causal link.

    Furthermore, how can we know that someone who claims to experience God is actually experiencing God? If someone is psychologically disposed to interpreting such experiences in light of God, then what surprise is it that they have an experience of God? William Lane Craig puts it: “If you’re sincerely seeking God, then God will make His existence evident to you.” Why only those sincerely seeking God? The Lord may have his reasons, but the most apparent reason would be that people who are seeking God are psychologically-primed to have a religious experience.

    People who believe in psychics will find people with psychic powers. People who believe in ghosts will be drawn to testimony of ghosts, and even see ghosts themselves. Once a belief is established, we are prone to confirmation bias and ignoring disconfirming information. Indeed, psychologists have shown that disconfirming evidence can made people even more convinced of their own position. Psychologist Leon Festinger, when infiltrating a UFO cult to observe cognitive dissonance, found that disconfirming evidence led to believers proselytising in the aftermath of the failed prediction.

    With confirmation bias, our tendency to anthropomorphise, our capacity for rationalisation, and expectation and interpretation of culturally-laden patterns, what can be salvaged of a personal experience of God? Paranormal investigator Ben Radford, in his search for the origins of the chupacabra, found that the initial description matched with the alien from the film Species, and that the original eyewitness had seen the film only a month prior. The chupacabra is now the third most well known cryptid, with many reported sightings, despite the fairly conclusive fictional nature of chupacabra.

    That people experience God personally who are in a culture where people talk of experiencing God personally is no surprise. As A.C. Grayling so bluntly put it: “The nature of religious belief, the reasons for it, and the reasons for its persistence are all explicable without any need to suppose the truth of any part of it.”

    To wrap it up, I’ll give the final word to Richard Dawkins “If you’ve had such an experience, you may well find yourself believing firmly that it was real. But don’t expect the rest of us to take your word for it, especially if we have the slightest familiarity with the brain and its powerful workings.”

  247. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Bravo, Kel. I believe I’ll be rereading your essay again and again, each time finding something new that I’d missed previously.

  248. says

    Forgot to add a conclusion…

    In conclusion, then, we have yet to see any reasons to think that God does exist, and we have seen five reasons to believe that God is a myth. Together these reasons constitute a powerful cumulative case against the existence of God. Now if Eric wants us to believe theism instead, then he must first tear down all five of the reasons that I gave in favor of God being a myth and then in their place present a case of his own as to why theism is true. Unless and until he does that, I hope that we can agree that God is a myth is the more plausible position.

  249. says

    Erratum:
    “They argue that may seem absurd now to think about a tree falling over than anything other than wind, but wind as its conceived now is a result of thousands of years of data collection parsed through genium minds.”

    That should say: “They argue that it may seem absurd now to think about a tree falling over as anything other than wind, but wind as it’s conceived now is a result of thousands of years of data collection parsed through genius minds.” [emphasis added on corrections]

  250. says

    Afterword

    A note on methodology
    The five talking points above wouldn’t, at least to my mind, represent the greatest case for God being a myth. For example, the moral question and the historicity of the resurrection have interesting points to be made but require extrapolation of things that are off-topic. Without spending time arguing for some form of moral standard, criticising objective moral value as myth can be (and often is) taken as an admission of moral nihilism. Likewise the historical Jesus question is useful to the extent that it can be used to highlight the problem of miracles and the reliability of testimony.

    Perhaps because Craig was the subject at hand, or more likely because I’m a smart arse, it seemed like a good idea to take Craig’s arguments and even some of his words as a template to lay out my case. I found a transcript of one of his debates (with Dr. Tooley) and grabbed out his five standard arguments he normally uses, changing a few words to argue the contrary.

    I also tried to mimic Craig’s argument style, and in particular the way he uses authorities to make his point for him. Generally, I find this tactic deceptive, as can amount to using authorities as mouthpieces for his own case, especially when he does so deceptively. I did try to be fair to those I cited, and in many cases those who I’ve cited have played a part in shaping my position.

    There were a few main points I wanted to hammer home. The first was the cultural nature of belief, and that culture can even go so far as to shape perception of reality. The second was the role of the mind in shaping how we perceive reality, and that gods are explicable psychologically. And the third was that scientific explanation has not only replaced invocations to gods, but shown why the projection of gods is unjustified.

    The case for God being a myth doesn’t prove that no gods are out there, God as we conceive it could exist while our understanding of God could be born out of ignorance and projection. A real alien ship landing won’t stop a lot of what is currently attributed to aliens being anything other than a fiction. There may be a god, but we have every reason to think that God is a mythic construct. If we’re not following reason and evidence to a conclusion, then it’s taking a leap of faith – a leap of faith that’s unjustified given how we treat all other mythic constructs.

    What Craig’s argument proves
    I don’t think it’s an unfair assessment of Craig’s debating strategy to say that he deals in superficial plausibility. His rapid fire elucidation of his cumulative case combined with a similar strategy for each argument themselves makes it seem like he has a very compelling case. It certainly makes it hard to refute in the short time allowed for rebuttal. But does the case have the powerful cumulative nature that Craig claims? I’d contend not.

    Taking Craig’s 5 standard arguments that constitute his cumulative case, only two constitute arguments for theism and only one of those is an argument – as Craig himself admits. There’s a big gap between the cosmological, fine-tuning, and moral arguments, and the monotheistic deity argued for by Craig. One could accept those arguments and be reasonable in rejecting theism. There’s the additional problem of whether the arguments reach the same conclusion – is the designer to account for fine-tuning the same as the creator who brought existence from nothing?

    So the only argument for theism is the historicity of the biblical Jesus, and even then Craig hedges his bet and puts knowing the historicity beyond the argument and into personal experience. Here, I think, there’s a reasonable case to be made that if the argument holds then it’s a powerful case for theism. In the sense of a cumulative argument, however, I can only take the first three arguments as a means to create the case for the possibility of a resurrection. But again, there’s the problem of establishing that Jesus is the creator of something from nothing, or the grounding of objective moral values.

    His final argument about personally knowing God isn’t an argument, and as such doesn’t contribute to the cumulative case. Indeed, the message of the final argument is that one can know it’s all true irrespective of whether there is a case. It seems that one has to follow on arguments 1-4 to establish a theistic God to be justified in 5. But more likely, since this argument is meant to be a means to knowledge of 1-4, any attempt to justify 5 through 1-4 is circular.

    I think there are two approaches one could take with Craig’s case. The first is looking at it as if Craig is trying to make the case for God from the facts about the universe. The second is that Craig’s case depends on that experience of God. And reading through his arguments in a number of debates, I think his case makes more sense the second way. That once one accepts Jesus and experiences the holy spirit, questions about the origin of the universe, morality, and even the resurrection, are explained by God as the best fit.

    So given arguments 1-3 have a gap to theism, I’d argue that Craig’s case either rests on whether the historical evidence for a resurrected Jesus is compelling enough to justify the witness to the holy spirit, or whether the witness to the holy spirit is compelling enough to justify a resurrected Jesus.

    Craig’s use of language
    In Craig’s debate with Dr Tooley, he started off his moral argument this way: ” For example, the late J.L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our time, admitted, [Mackie quote] But in order to avoid God’s existence, Mackie therefore denied that objective moral values exist.”

    Such a statement is incredibly misleading, as J.L. Mackie didn’t make any admission as if it was some failing of his position, rather he said it matter of factly and gave arguments in support of his position. He started out his book Ethics: Inventing Right And Wrong with “There is no objective ethics.” Nor was he holding that position in order to avoid God’s existence.

    Later on Craig argued: “But the fact is that objective values do exist, and we all know it. There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of physical objects.” Again, Craig is posturing through language rather than actually establishing it. His moral argument isn’t so much established as it is appealed to through his sentence structure. “Even Ruse himself admits” is putting the icing on the cake of a wholly misleading argument.

    He did the same thing in his recent defence of the Canaanite genocide: “Emotional outbursts take the place of rational discussion”, “So at most the non-theist can be alleging that biblical theists have a sort of inconsistency [...] It’s an internal problem for biblical theists, which is hardly grounds for moral outrage on the part of non-theists.”, “If the Canaanite tribes, seeing the armies of Israel, had simply chosen to flee, no one would have been killed at all.”

    And on his original article: “Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.” Remember, he is talking about the command to exterminate infants! “Death” in this case was the order from God to slaughter children!

    “I’ve had the pleasure of debating Craig twice, a number of years ago. [...] Apparently, by that time I had gotten a degree in philosophy, I knew much more about his rhetorical tricks and pomposity (“Surely, Prof. Pigliucci does not believe that…” — implying that if I believed it, I was a certifiable idiot).” – Massimo Pigliucci

  251. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Whew, That was quite the series of essays Kel. *Makes note for next Champion of Reason vote*

  252. theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme says

    @ Kel

    Wow, Kel! Great contribution here. Bookmarked for future reference.

    ……………………

    Just one teensy little issue is your use of the word “myth” where I think you actually mean “fable” or “fiction”. {/pedantry}

  253. says

    Myth -
    1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
    2. stories or matter of this kind: realm of myth.
    3. any invented story, idea, or concept: His account of the event is pure myth.
    4. an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.
    5. an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.

    I think that covers it, especially (3) & (4).