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But Mr Craig…!

William Lane Craig has a piece on the Fox News website in which he claims to cut through all the slogans and refute all of the arguments of atheists to conclusively demonstrate the existence of his god. These must be real humdingers to wrap up the whole debate, so I read them…and now I have a few questions.

1.  God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.  Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

But Mr Craig! Where’s the math? I know you don’t like any kind of evidence and are a being operating on pure logic, but you could at least provide the mathematical foundation for your assertion. You know your holy book just baldly states that a god did it, with no backing rationale, right? It makes for a very unsatisfactory explanation. There’s no meat to it.

And don’t you think it’s a bit of a leap to jump from a necessary first cause (which I don’t necessarily grant you) to the conclusion that it required an “unembodied mind”? Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe, no brain needed.

2.  God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life.  That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range.  There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature’s laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

But Mr Craig! The universe isn’t finely tuned. The overwhelming bulk of it is inaccessible to us, and even on this one planet we inhabit, 70% is underwater, vast swathes are icy wastes or deserts, and those toasty warm damp tropics, which are otherwise paradisial, are heaven for parasites and diseases. You even admit this yourself when you say our nature requires an environment that falls within an “incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range”. Do think that range is everywhere?

Also, without other universes to compare, you can’t claim that ours has optimal parameters. Don’t you also claim the existence of a heaven which is perfect? Therefore, we can obviously see that the Earth is a much inferior place.

3.  God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

But Mr Craig! Atheists do have an objective source for morality: ourselves. I can strive to create a society which provides a good moral framework that makes me happy, keeps my family safe and productive, builds communities and nations that work cooperatively, and just generally makes life better for my species over the long run. I don’t need a god to do that. And besides, your god doesn’t provide moral guidance to anyone.

And yes, people can have different objective moral values. For instance, a person could decide that the well-being of a broader spectrum of organisms than just one species is an important value, and dedicate themselves to maintaining life everywhere it exists. I can respect that. It doesn’t take a god to acquire that moral code, just an appreciation of beauty and a greater empathy.

4.  God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact.  Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave:  God raised Jesus from the dead.

But Mr Craig! Does your god also provide the best explanation for how Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse, or how Odin lost his eye, the divinity embodied in every noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, how Breatharians can live without eating, or how the Amazing Randi did that really amazing card trick?

Does your god blind you to the possibility that there are better explanations? Say, that the entire story of the empty tomb was a legend invented well after the fact, or that if there were a tomb, a Roman surgeon had the body stolen for the purposes of his anatomical studies, or that a bear dragged the corpse away for a little snack? There are many simpler and explanations, and it seems to me to be a bit of a deficiency on your part that you can’t think of them.

5.  God can be personally known and experienced.  The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.

But Mr Craig! Every god-believer claims that about their god, not just yours. Atheists do not deny that believers experience subjective psychological phenomena that can affect how they see the world. What we deny is that there is an objective, external super-being that is diddling their brains or making the moon orbit the Earth or making people healthy if they beg hard enough. You’re avoiding addressing the nature of the phenomenon that is “experienced”, which is ultimately the whole question, so your little essay completely misses the mark.

I guess I’m still an atheist.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Same old WL Craig dreck. It’s a rehash of arguments so old that some of them predate xianity.

    1. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    There is no such thing. So much for god.

    You moral values and duties change and quite rapidly. Many times they even get better.

    The bible is about the worse place to find moral values. Slavery was OK, in Exodus you could sell you kids as sex slaves for a few bucks, polygamy and sex slaves were honored, and stoning people to death for trivial offenses and noncrimes was mandating.

    Anyone following an OT lifestyle today would be doing multiple life sentences in prison. Warren Jeffs tried it and got life + 20 years.

  2. raven says

    Craig lying:

    Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, …

    OH NO, not the empty tomb lie again!!! Craig always pulls this one out. It’s just an obvious lie from someone with little intellectual capacity.

    1. What empty tomb? This whole mythology comes from a book known to be largely or mostly fiction.

    2. It isn’t true at all that most historical scholars think jesus is what is in the bible. They all agree the NT is mostly fiction and argue over which might not be fiction.

    If xianity was true, xians wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

  3. says

    Why aren’t the zombies who unearthed themselves when Jesus left the tomb walking around today? After all, there were no guns to double-tap them back then.

    Craig is a disingenuous, lying, nasty man.

  4. raven says

    God can be personally known and experienced.

    Which gods? There are thousands, all of whom had their fervent followers at one time.

    This is another false statement. Xians only make up 28% of the population. There are 42,000 and growing xian sects with more sects and whole new religions being made up yearly.

    Millions of Americans claim god speaks to them. This god says different things to all of them.

    Oddly enough, the two most common things god says are, “send money to my prophet” and “vote for the Tea Party”.

  5. Usernames are smart says

    Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples,

    Nope, nope, nope and nope. You have to read the Bibble, Mr. Craig, in order to understand what “happened.”

    Matthew 28:2 – the women never go into the tomb, but talk to an Angel outside and then leave.

    Mark 16:5 – the women enter the tomb and see “a young man sitting”

    Luke 24:3-4 – the women enter the tomb and see two men “in shining garments.”

    John 20:11-12 – Mary (only) enters the tomb and sees two angels.

    So, therefore we can conclude that the tomb contained the unknown, a young man, two men or two angles, simultaneously and exclusively. In other words, an animal consisting of the body of a lion, paws that refreshes, a tail told by idiots and the head of a fox.

  6. gussnarp says

    Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning.
    False. The scientific evidence strongly suggests that the universe was in a particular state at a particular point in time and then it changed. It says nothing about the universe before this point in time, certainly not that it didn’t exist at all.

    …bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries…

    Ah, there’s your problem, right there. Arguments presented by philosophers are not evidence.

    Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

    No. This conclusion would not follow from the premise, even if the premise were not false. Why is that the only thing that fits the description? Why must it be an entity at all? You’re essentially arguing that the only thing you can conceive of that could have caused all this is the God that Christians constantly tell us we can’t conceive of. Your failure of imagination is not an argument.

    Nor does any of this suggest that the petty, weak, immoral god who can’t defeat iron chariots and demands blood sacrifice and slaughters his people out of spite repeatedly until he suddenly changes his mind about the whole thing but can’t do anything about it without murdering his own son, who is him, is the explanation.

    God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil.

    What would you guys do if you didn’t have Hitler to point to as the locus of all evil, the proof of objective immorality (not so much morality), and the justification for war? But no, depending on your definition of “objectively evil”, I do not recognize that.

    God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

    Historical facts…resurrection. There’s your problem. There are none in evidence by any reasonable standard.

    God can be personally known and experienced. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.

    I can create that with drugs. Or with the proper lighting, sound, and music. Your mental state is not evidence for anyone else, but enjoy it.

  7. Great American Satan says

    Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe, no brain needed.

    This connect in my mind to a sentiment that keeps popping into my brain lately. Before brains evolves, spines did. Why that shape? So they could fit in a mindless fucking worm, whose only purpose was to eat, shit, and reproduce.

    When someone like WLC flagrantly shows off how faulty the human brain is, it reminds me we are ambulatory digestive systems with an overdeveloped sensory organ that has an inflated sense of its worth at the front end.

    -

  8. sonofrojblake says

    1: God provides NO explanation for the origin of the universe. “The universe” = all that exists. IF God exists THEN he cannot be an explanation for his own existence. If he’s other than “the universe”, then he doesn’t exist.

    2. If the universe were “tuned” other than it is, we would not be present to comment on its parameters. Therefore, it is no surprise that, since we are here, the parameters suit us. This is no more remarkable than the water contained in a cup turning out to be cup-shaped.

    3. There are no objective moral values and duties. I don’t think I need elaborate on this.

    4. There is no historical consensus on the “facts” presented.

    5. Mental illness transforms lives. Brain injury transforms lives. To the objective observer, those who personally know and experience God are indistinguishable from people whose brains are not functioning correctly.

    I guess I’m still an atheist too.

  9. mnb0 says

    Sorry, PZ, as much as I dislike WLC, yours is bad criticism.

    1a. Philosophy doesn’t use math and WLC specifically mentions it. Philosophy of religion, WLC’s profession, doesn’t derive arguments from any holy book.
    1b. “Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe, no brain needed.”
    No anus needed either as that mind is immaterial. WLC is a dualist, like every christian.

    2. The fine-tuning argument says that all the natural constants are chosen such that they enable the existence of intelligent beings like Homo Sapiens. You’re fighting a strawman.

    3. “Atheists do have an objective source for morality: ourselves”
    The very definition of subjective is “ourselves”.

    Disclaimer: this doesn’ mean WLC is right on any point. It means that you’re good at science, but s**k at philosophy.

  10. Usernames are smart says

    typo-ridden to prove my point, I tell you! — Great American Satan (#11)

    Goddidit!!!!

  11. Great American Satan says

    @mnb0@13 – PZ grokked that, fool. He specified an unembodied anus, and who are you to tell us what an unembodied anus is or is not capable of?

  12. Blattafrax says

    Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause

    It’s sad that someone pretending to be an educated person can have so little knowledge. In this instance, of quantum physics.

    Things do pop into being without a cause continuously and observably. There’s no obvious reason why the Universe couldn’t have done so as well.

  13. gussnarp says

    You’d think that WLC would stop trumpeting this stuff as if it were some brilliant new argument. The sad part is that these really are their best arguments and that they’re all old and dusty and long since refuted.

  14. rabbitscribe says

    “Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus… carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms…”

    No they haven’t.

  15. raven says

    or how Odin lost his eye…

    OH NO!!! Not again.

    PZ is going all WL Craig on us.

    Odin did not lose his eye. He pulled it out himself. And it isn’t lost. He knows exactly where it is, at the bottom of a magic well.

    Well atheists, what can you expect? LOL

  16. gussnarp says

    Damn, I had a blockquote error up there at number 9. Everything before the word “False” should be in quotes.

  17. raven says

    You’d think that WLC would stop trumpeting this stuff as if it were some brilliant new argument.

    It’s all they have. Some of those are so old they predate the existence of xianity.

    WL Craig, Strobel, Mcdowell, Plantinga etc.. are the best the xians have produced. And they are idiots.

    Not that it matters. These fallacies and lies aren’t aimed at converting people. It’s to reinforce the faith of the xians.

  18. robro says

    Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe, no brain needed.

    OK, this is my new operative theory of the origin of the universe. Not Intelligent Design which has always been obvious malarky…I mean what sort of intelligence would design this mess. But the Poop Theory explains everything.

    As for the “fine-tuning of the universe,” I read an interesting piece in SciAm a year or so ago delving into this. A great deal is made of “if you changed one parameter” then the universe falls apart. However, the author pointed out that if you changed several parameters, then things might work just fine.

    God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

    Hahahaha…first we need some historical facts about Jesus. Basically we have none. The Gospels aren’t biography or factual. The only extra-Biblical reference to Jesus I’m aware is Josephus and the authenticity of that passage is questioned, Christian monks having been the keepers of his work for so long.

  19. stevem says

    re “fine tuning”:
    Always makes me recall the “puddle” argument by Adams, Douglas. The puddle wonders why this hole it is in fits it so perfectly, the hole must have been made specifically for the puddle himself, therefore God did it.
    The error of the puddle’s “logic” applies just as well to Craig’s “logic” and the strong anthropic principle itself. If things were “tuned” a little differently, we wouldn’t be here at all to notice it, and that things could be better. That is a confusion of cause and effect and assigning the effect to be the cause of the cause. Just because those parameters had to be just-so in order for us to exist, doesn’t mean those parameters were adjusted to those values so we _would_ exist. I.E. Those values are what they are, because we are here, if they were different we wouldn’t be here, not that something made those parameters those value so that we would be here, they are those values because we ARE here to see them. But then someone like Craig will let their “logic” get all twisted around in endless circles trying to reason that out and then just give-up and say “God did it”.

    Re “infinite regress”:

    “everything has to be caused by something”, so the Big-Bang, where the whole universe just spontaneously pops into existence is forbidden, so God caused the universe to exit. All us “atheists” will shout, “Well. then, where did Gawd come from, who caused Gawd to exist????” To which the only answer is “God is beyond physics, only physics asks for a cause, the number one rule of physics is ’cause to effect’. Only God is beyond physics, He created physics to let the universe run itself so He doesn’t have to control every bit of it all the time. Only someone beyond physics is even capable of being the first un-caused cause, so therefore God Exists! QED, only fools deny it, how can you athiests[sic] be such fools? Listen to us, we are trying to teach you the TRUTH, open your eyes, we’ll reveal the TRUTH to you.” “We KNOW because God Himself has told us the TRUTH and told us to share it with you.” <fabblegab, fabblegab >
    [It is too easy to get lost in the nonsensical "mind"set of the evangidiots.]
    Is that Fox’s definition of “Balance”? To give the nuts equal time on the air to “balance” reason and facts; with nonsense and fantasy?

  20. robro says

    stevem @#24

    Is that Fox’s definition of “Balance”? To give the nuts equal time on the air to “balance” reason and facts; with nonsense and fantasy?

    well, duh…

  21. george gonzalez says

    Regarding argument (2) , about the physical constants being “fine tuned”, chance is a perfectly good explanation. There is no cost to there being a bazillion universes, each one with perhaps a random value for the physical constants.

  22. ChasCPeterson says

    Philosophy of religion, WLC’s profession, doesn’t derive arguments from any holy book.

    No, of course not, they are instead derived per anum.
    (and I think you missed Craigs #4?)

    No anus needed either as that mind is immaterial. WLC is a dualist, like every christian.

    Well, that clears everything up! The uberMind is simply immaterial. QED.
    (hey, wait, maybe the uberAnus is a metaphor…)

    Homo Sapiens

    Homo sapiens. Your way is wrong and ignorant.

    you’re good at science, but s**k at philosophy.

    lol. Asterisks for the word ‘suck’? You must be j*k*ng!

    Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe…the Poop Theory explains everything.

    On the Origin of Feces
    (not original)

  23. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    apologies to gussnarp who got to some of this first:

    Given the scientific evidence … and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning.

    I’ll give you the absolute beginning just to see where the argument goes, esp since I concede that there is likely evidence that does bear on the topic, but that I haven’t critically examined that evidence. Arguments from philosophers on the origins of the universe that predate Hubble are worthless, but the fact that good or bad philosophizing exist doesn’t change my willingness to grant an absolute beginning.

    Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause,

    Um, no.

    How do yo know this? How many universes popping into existence from s cause have you observed? How many nothings have you observed?

    And, as someone more astute than I has pointed out, if there is nothing, if no possible cause exists, then there would be no forces to constrain that nothing in such a way that universes couldn’t pop out uncaused.

    How do you have gravitational law in a nothing – I’m saying that you may lack mass in an area and thus not have measurable gravity, but if you’re in this universe, “gravity” still exists, the law still exists, and low and behold space has a background energy: it’s never nothing.

    If there really was “nothing” there are no laws because there is nothing that can force a constraint on anything which does appear.

    there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence.

    If “nothing” could contain physical laws and still be nothing, you’d be right. But you aren’t.

    This entity must therefore be enormously powerful.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa.

    Were we talking about realities or were we talking about entities?

    Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa.

    Only an unembodied mind can be very powerful? As far as I know Churchill and Hitler both had bodies, and they were pretty powerful.

    Oh! your objection is that no embodied mind has ever been seen creating a universe?

    Well no disembodied mind has ever been seen doing that either, so where’s the basis for your claim, even IF reality = entity, which it does not.

    =======
    WLC, may I ask where you got your degree in casuistry? Because it was obviously a very, very fine institution and I’m wondering if they offer any degrees in Law.

  24. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    and, more…

    God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life. That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range.

    “incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range”

    Well, it’s good to see that WLC has disproved the existence of heaven, since any minute tinkering with existence would lead to a catastrophic decline in livability.

    OTOH, hell is a rather more likely possibility now, innit?

    Hmmm, WLC’s cosmology includes infinitely many hells, but no heaven? That sounds about right.

  25. erik333 says

    @13 mnb0

    1a. Philosophy doesn’t use math and WLC specifically mentions it. Philosophy of religion, WLC’s profession, doesn’t derive arguments from any holy book.

    They certainly don’t derive them from reality. Did you see number 4, btw?

    1b. “Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe, no brain needed.”
    No anus needed either as that mind is immaterial. WLC is a dualist, like every christian.

    But that could never, ever, be used in an argument for the existence of god as it is a purely metaphysical claim pulled straight from the ass with no supporting evidence. Rather, given the effects of brain damage, we have very strong evidence there is no such thing.

    2. The fine-tuning argument says that all the natural constants are chosen such that they enable the existence of intelligent beings like Homo Sapiens. You’re fighting a strawman.

    Agreed, the “fine tuning argument” tries to argue that the universe is “fine-tuned” dispite the fact that it obviously isn’t, by focusing merely on the constants in certain mathematical formulas rather than what an omnipotent god (which Craig thinks caused the universe) could do (we have no idea). It’s an argument from ignorance and deception.

    3. “Atheists do have an objective source for morality: ourselves”
    The very definition of subjective is “ourselves”.

    Agreed, no such thing as objective morals could possibly exist. Even with a god it’s still subjective.

    Disclaimer: this doesn’ mean WLC is right on any point. It means that you’re good at science, but s**k at philosophy.

    He rarely is. The logical fallacies are so blatant that the most reasonable assumption is that he is a liar and a fraud. Either that or he is just an incredibly stupid psychopath.

  26. Alverant says

    Ever notice how many of these arguments can be applied to any religion and how nothing really equates the “God who made everything” with the “god of the christians” except a name. It’s like equating the George who won against the redcoats with the George who invaded Iraq based on fictional evidence and saying they were the same person.

  27. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Chas:

    I’m no latin expert (as I proved the other day with my misunderstanding of deserere), but wouldn’t it be

    “ex anum”?

    Or at least, shouldn’t the “per” be “ex” since I’m never sure about the anum (except to say that I’m sure it’s not “annum” or “anno” or Remus, though the last makes a certain amount of sense).

  28. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    *Brings a box of presuppositional deodorizer to help clear the stench of grade f apologetics*

  29. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    The logical fallacies are so blatant that the most reasonable assumption is that he is a liar and a fraud. Either that or he is just an incredibly stupid psychopath.

    Fallacy of the excluded middle.

  30. Daryl Carpenter says

    It seems a counter-intuitive thing to say of an apologist like Craig – considering that most of us believe he lives in a fantasy world – but the answers he offers show what he fundamentally completely lacks: an imagination. He simply can’t comprehend anything that doesn’t fit his narrow Christian worldview.

  31. says

    “God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.”

    Which god, exactly? And why that one and no other?

    “God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe.”

    Allah? Ahura Mazda? Brahma?

    “God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.”

    Dionysos? Priapus? Set?

    “God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.”

    WHAT historical facts, exactly? What corroborating evidence exists?

    “God can be personally known and experienced.”

    In exactly the same way that one can personally know and experience any of the dozens of gods in current use.

  32. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Any one who can write

    I think Martin Luther correctly distinguished between what he called the magisterial and ministerial uses of reason. The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel like a magistrate and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel…. Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter. [Reasonable Faith, 1994]

    can be dismissed as having nothing of value to say on the truth of anything, let alone christianity.

  33. says

    I’m kind of surprised the fine tuning thing even comes up anymore. It’s based on the mid-20th century idea that tweaking a universal constant would unravel the universe as we know it – stars wouldn’t form so heavy elements wouldn’t exist, etc. That’s still valid, but according to an article I read in Discover or Scientific American maybe 5-8 years ago, it’s far too narrow a criteria. Because it turns out there are a lot of ways to tweak reality and still get a universe that might be able to support the kind of life we’re familiar with.

    If I’m remembering correctly:

    – Changing one constant will wreck your world, but there are scenarios where multiple changes can balance each other out and there’d still be planets
    – Removing one or more known forces and then tinkering with the others can also lead to a potential life-bearing universe
    – We can imagine new forces which don’t exist in our universe but simulations show could lead to life-bearing universes as well

    So while it’s true that there are probably an infinite number of universes in which we couldn’t exit, there’s a good chance there’s also an infinity of possible worlds where WLC could still be a slick-talking moron.

  34. erik333 says

    @38 Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Oh, I never purposefully implied he might not be a psychopath. But I think his success as a liar and a fraud puts limits on how stupid he could be.

  35. waldteufel says

    William Lane Craig is way overrated as any kind of serious thinker. He’s nothing more than a glib lying apologist with no ideas of import. That Fox presents this clown as a deep thinker speaks volumes.

  36. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    No slam at you, erik333.

    I was just having fun trashing the rubbish produced by WLC.

    And, yes, I agree that for a number of definitions of “stupid” WLC can be excluded from having that quality.

    His self-centered argument [to the point where he can argue, merely to preserve his ideological comfort, that a genocide was a good thing for all involved save the poor, poor people who had to run the Amalekites through] and pay-to-bray business model certainly are consistent with both psychopathy and dishonesty, though, as you’ve said. And I maintain that for certain definitions of “stupid” WLC might as well have his picture next to the dictionary entry. (How long will that joke work with all dictionaries being on line these days?) So I’m not fussed about standing behind the content, despite your well-taken statement regarding certain of WLC’s faculties.

  37. erik333 says

    @42 drl2

    There are two problems even then:
    1) We have no idea how to assign probabilities to the constants.
    2) Even if we could, it’s still not an argument until you can demonstrate this outcome was intended.

  38. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’ve always found fine-tuning arguments supremely silly. Like stevem @24, I’m reminded of Douglas Adams’ puddle story.

    What is extra amusing is that the Higgs mass indicates that our universe might* actually be unstable**. Where’s your fine-tuning God now, WLC?

    *If the Standard Model holds up to very high energies, which it probably doesn’t. But still.
    **Well, metastable. But it could blow any second!

  39. Randomfactor says

    Where’s your fine-tuning God now, WLC?

    Preparing to use vacuum instability to bring about the End Times.

  40. grandolddeity says

    Ford. Chevy. Dodge. Pick your favorite brand.

    I am stunned by brand loyalty. No matter how rediculous the comparisons.

    WLC is, simply, a defective and broken brand. With adherents. They’ll pump the dollars into a piece of sllit that can’t be fixed before they’ll admit it’s a piece of shllit.

  41. Azuma Hazuki says

    Craig seems to fancy himself a modern-day Aquinas, minus the Catholicism of course. I find his arguments, however, even weaker than the Five Ways (except where they restate them, where they are identical and thus no stronger or weaker).

    Also, he’s not saying anything really new here, and the salient features of his arguments are bare assertions, question-begging, and (hardest to spot and therefore most insidious) fallacies of equivocation, composition, and/or division.

    1. God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe. Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

    This is usually called the Kalaam Cosmological Argument, and it has been broken nine ways from Sunday by much better and smarter people than me, like Dan Barker. Here’s the problems I see with it at a glance:

    – “The universe” is not a thing in itself; it is a concept, a set that brackets all things. Even if we are charitable and assume he means more than the observable physical universe here, this still holds. This is a reification fallacy.

    – Bare assertions. Why must it be so? Why couldn’t the Universe just have appeared from nothing? Saying it can’t, but that something complex and powerful enough to create all existence can, is special pleading and dangerously close to question-begging

    – Craig is being sneaky here with his use of the word “cause.” One needs philosophical background to spot this (I needed it pointed out to me by TheoreticalBullshit on Youtube), but there are four kinds of causes in Aristotelian philosophy: formal, final, material, and efficient. When most of us use the word “cause” we mean an efficient cause, an agent that acted to cause something. A material cause is something different; for example, the material cause of a marble statue is simply marble.

    Notice that the Kalaam, and Craig here, very carefully do not state efficient cause but simply cause. A material cause could satisfy this as well. Since he means efficient cause here, or wants us to take that meaning, he is begging the question; the conclusion is being sneakily shoehorned in as a premise.

    2. God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life. That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range. There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature’s laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

    “Fine-tuned.” You keep using that phrase, Dr. Craig. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Bluntly put, if the universe were fine-tuned for intelligent life, why is it ninety-nine-point-eighty-hojillion-nines percent of it is near-absolute zero, radiation-blasted, airless, sprawling vacuum?!

    This doesn’t deserve a more thorough rubbishing, but if people wish it, simply observe what life does exist, and think about the properties of any putative designer. Evil, incompetent, malicious, intoxicated, insane, or just plain not giving a fuck would fit. Omnibenevolent and omniscient and omnipotent wouldn’t. There is a giraffe’s recurrent laryngeal nerve with your name on it, Dr. Craig. And a set of embryonic dolphin teeth. And bats with solid bones. And millions and millions of humans with lower-back pain.

    3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    This has got to be the worst of the lot. It deserves a good, mocking, ripping teardown. Anyone with an iota of training in moral philosophy will be taking more piss out of this one than a nightsoil carter’s truck.

    – Fallacy of equivocation. “Objective” is taken here to mean “existing outside any mind” rather than “susceptible of evaluation by more minds than the originator.” Aside from not having proven that such things as free-standing moral facts outside minds exist — and how could he as a Divine Command Theorist? — he is equivocating here.

    – He is also committing a God of the Gaps fallacy. He can’t explain how morals arise, therefore goddidit. This is Juggalo apologetics; fuckin’ morals, how do they work? From now on I am going to imagine him and his crew wearing ICP makeup.

    – As it so happens, we do have an explanation for not only how morals arise and sustain themselves, but why we have both human universals (murder is bad) and cultural differences (polygamy is sometimes acceptable, sometimes not). Craig, of course, couldn’t find his scientific ass if he had a GPS, and anyway he is committed to defending his beliefs at all costs, so the point is moot here. He is not arguing in possession of all the facts, and he refuses to get the facts. He is Not Even Wrong (TM). Do chimpanzees and other higher primates, which clearly show moral behavior and reasoning, get judged in front of the Great White Throne? Are there, even now, the souls of evil chimpanzees screeching and flailing in a lake of hellfire?

    – Ahh, Divine Command Theory, the laziest “moral” system in existence! I would very much like Dr. Craig to explain, without begging the question, how objective moral facts can exist in the greatest mind of all. That is the definition, nay, the Platonic ideal, of subjectivity, in the sense that they are contained in the mind or “essential nature” (call it what you wish, it is no different) of God. DCT can be unpacked and ripped to shreds.

    – For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

    4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact. Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Not this tripe again! Your Bible can’t even agree on who saw the empty tomb, Paul mentions nothing of this, the author of Hebrews seems to be talking about a cosmological set and setting, and the entire passion drama has been found on a Babylonian tablet dating to 700 BC!

    Who’s to say this isn’t a later addition? The Gospels we have don’t appear on the scene until after 150AD (and I strongly suspect Irenaeus of Lyons is the author of John…), the writers make bizarre mistakes of geography and custom no Jew of the day would make, and the early manuscripts are written in insanely high-sounding Greek which no illiterate Aramaic-speaking fishermen could possibly know.

    Not to mention they get quite a bit wrong about Old Testament propechy, quote at least one non-existent or non-canon book as scripture, screw up a Hebrew reading to get TWO donkeys out of one, and last but not least completely botch the timing of the End Of The World (cf. Mat. 10:23).

    I realize comparative mythology, text criticism, or indeed anything any serious Bible scholar is concerned with are not Dr. Craigs’ areas of expertise, but he should really do the research before flapping his foodsucker.

    As to “would the disciples die for a lie?” argument, well, just ask any suicide bomber. Er, you can’t, since they’re a 50-foot-wide circle of fine organic chutney, but you know what I mean.

    5. God can be personally known and experienced. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.

    Personal revelation proves nothing. He should go to a sanitarium sometime and ask how many Jesuses (Jesii?) they have in there. He is elevating his senses and memories to the level of God, and committing idolatry, blasphemy, and self-worship with them.

    A few days ago, I came up with something I am tentatively (and somewhat arrogantly, I know) calling “Azuma’s Law,” this being “All apologetics eventually reduces to presuppositionalism” and its corollary “All apologetics has a dependence, sometimes hidden, on an Ontological Argument.”

  42. Azuma Hazuki says

    I have a very long post, so it’s going to be broken into several pieces. PZ, please pardon the length of them!

    Craig seems to fancy himself a modern-day Aquinas, minus the Catholicism of course. I find his arguments, however, even weaker than the Five Ways (except where they restate them, where they are identical and thus no stronger or weaker).

    Also, he’s not saying anything really new here, and the salient features of his arguments are bare assertions, question-begging, and (hardest to spot and therefore most insidious) fallacies of equivocation, composition, and/or division.

    1. God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe. Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

    This is usually called the Kalaam Cosmological Argument, and it has been broken nine ways from Sunday by much better and smarter people than me, like Dan Barker. Here’s the problems I see with it at a glance:

    – “The universe” is not a thing in itself; it is a concept, a set that brackets all things. Even if we are charitable and assume he means more than the observable physical universe here, this still holds. This is a reification fallacy.

    – Bare assertions. Why must it be so? Why couldn’t the Universe just have appeared from nothing? Saying it can’t, but that something complex and powerful enough to create all existence can, is special pleading and dangerously close to question-begging

    – Craig is being sneaky here with his use of the word “cause.” One needs philosophical background to spot this (I needed it pointed out to me by TheoreticalBullshit on Youtube), but there are four kinds of causes in Aristotelian philosophy: formal, final, material, and efficient. When most of us use the word “cause” we mean an efficient cause, an agent that acted to cause something. A material cause is something different; for example, the material cause of a marble statue is simply marble.

    Notice that the Kalaam, and Craig here, very carefully do not state efficient cause but simply cause. A material cause could satisfy this as well. Since he means efficient cause here, or wants us to take that meaning, he is begging the question; the conclusion is being sneakily shoehorned in as a premise.

    2. God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life. That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range. There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature’s laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

    “Fine-tuned.” You keep using that phrase, Dr. Craig. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Bluntly put, if the universe were fine-tuned for intelligent life, why is it ninety-nine-point-eighty-hojillion-nines percent of it is near-absolute zero, radiation-blasted, airless, sprawling vacuum?!

    This doesn’t deserve a more thorough rubbishing, but if people wish it, simply observe what life does exist, and think about the properties of any putative designer. Evil, incompetent, malicious, intoxicated, insane, or just plain not giving a fuck would fit. Omnibenevolent and omniscient and omnipotent wouldn’t. There is a giraffe’s recurrent laryngeal nerve with your name on it, Dr. Craig. And a set of embryonic dolphin teeth. And bats with solid bones. And millions and millions of humans with lower-back pain.

  43. Azuma Hazuki says

    3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    This has got to be the worst of the lot. It deserves a good, mocking, ripping teardown. Anyone with an iota of training in moral philosophy will be taking more piss out of this one than a nightsoil carter’s truck.

    – Fallacy of equivocation. “Objective” is taken here to mean “existing outside any mind” rather than “susceptible of evaluation by more minds than the originator.” Aside from not having proven that such things as free-standing moral facts outside minds exist — and how could he as a Divine Command Theorist? — he is equivocating here.

    – He is also committing a God of the Gaps fallacy. He can’t explain how morals arise, therefore goddidit. This is Juggalo apologetics; fuckin’ morals, how do they work? From now on I am going to imagine him and his crew wearing ICP makeup.

    – As it so happens, we do have an explanation for not only how morals arise and sustain themselves, but why we have both human universals (murder is bad) and cultural differences (polygamy is sometimes acceptable, sometimes not). Craig, of course, couldn’t find his scientific ass if he had a GPS, and anyway he is committed to defending his beliefs at all costs, so the point is moot here. He is not arguing in possession of all the facts, and he refuses to get the facts. He is Not Even Wrong (TM). Do chimpanzees and other higher primates, which clearly show moral behavior and reasoning, get judged in front of the Great White Throne? Are there, even now, the souls of evil chimpanzees screeching and flailing in a lake of hellfire?

    – Ahh, Divine Command Theory, the laziest “moral” system in existence! I would very much like Dr. Craig to explain, without begging the question, how objective moral facts can exist in the greatest mind of all. That is the definition, nay, the Platonic ideal, of subjectivity, in the sense that they are contained in the mind or “essential nature” (call it what you wish, it is no different) of God. DCT can be unpacked and ripped to shreds.

    – For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

    4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact. Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Not this tripe again! Your Bible can’t even agree on who saw the empty tomb, Paul mentions nothing of this, the author of Hebrews seems to be talking about a cosmological set and setting, and the entire passion drama has been found on a Babylonian tablet dating to 700 BC!

    Who’s to say this isn’t a later addition? The Gospels we have don’t appear on the scene until after 150AD (and I strongly suspect Irenaeus of Lyons is the author of John…), the writers make bizarre mistakes of geography and custom no Jew of the day would make, and the early manuscripts are written in insanely high-sounding Greek which no illiterate Aramaic-speaking fishermen could possibly know.

    Not to mention they get quite a bit wrong about Old Testament propechy, quote at least one non-existent or non-canon book as scripture, screw up a Hebrew reading to get TWO donkeys out of one, and last but not least completely botch the timing of the End Of The World (cf. Mat. 10:23).

    I realize comparative mythology, text criticism, or indeed anything any serious Bible scholar is concerned with are not Dr. Craigs’ areas of expertise, but he should really do the research before flapping his foodsucker.

    As to “would the disciples die for a lie?” argument, well, just ask any suicide bomber. Er, you can’t, since they’re a 50-foot-wide circle of fine organic chutney, but you know what I mean.

    5. God can be personally known and experienced. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.

    Personal revelation proves nothing. He should go to a sanitarium sometime and ask how many Jesuses (Jesii?) they have in there. He is elevating his senses and memories to the level of God, and committing idolatry, blasphemy, and self-worship with them.

    A few days ago, I came up with something I am tentatively (and somewhat arrogantly, I know) calling “Azuma’s Law,” this being “All apologetics eventually reduces to presuppositionalism” and its corollary “All apologetics has a dependence, sometimes hidden, on an Ontological Argument.”

  44. Azuma Hazuki says

    3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    This has got to be the worst of the lot. It deserves a good, mocking, ripping teardown. Anyone with an iota of training in moral philosophy will be taking more piss out of this one than a nightsoil carter’s truck.

    – Fallacy of equivocation. “Objective” is taken here to mean “existing outside any mind” rather than “susceptible of evaluation by more minds than the originator.” Aside from not having proven that such things as free-standing moral facts outside minds exist — and how could he as a Divine Command Theorist? — he is equivocating here.

    – He is also committing a God of the Gaps fallacy. He can’t explain how morals arise, therefore goddidit. This is Juggalo apologetics; fuckin’ morals, how do they work? From now on I am going to imagine him and his crew wearing ICP makeup.

    – As it so happens, we do have an explanation for not only how morals arise and sustain themselves, but why we have both human universals (murder is bad) and cultural differences (polygamy is sometimes acceptable, sometimes not). Craig, of course, couldn’t find his scientific ass if he had a GPS, and anyway he is committed to defending his beliefs at all costs, so the point is moot here. He is not arguing in possession of all the facts, and he refuses to get the facts. He is Not Even Wrong (TM). Do chimpanzees and other higher primates, which clearly show moral behavior and reasoning, get judged in front of the Great White Throne? Are there, even now, the souls of evil chimpanzees screeching and flailing in a lake of hellfire?

    – Ahh, Divine Command Theory, the laziest “moral” system in existence! I would very much like Dr. Craig to explain, without begging the question, how objective moral facts can exist in the greatest mind of all. That is the definition, nay, the Platonic ideal, of subjectivity, in the sense that they are contained in the mind or “essential nature” (call it what you wish, it is no different) of God. DCT can be unpacked and ripped to shreds.

    – For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

    4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact. Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Not this tripe again! Your Bible can’t even agree on who saw the empty tomb, Paul mentions nothing of this, the author of Hebrews seems to be talking about a cosmological set and setting, and the entire passion drama has been found on a Babylonian tablet dating to 700 BC!

    Who’s to say this isn’t a later addition? The Gospels we have don’t appear on the scene until after 150AD (and I strongly suspect Irenaeus of Lyons is the author of John…), the writers make bizarre mistakes of geography and custom no Jew of the day would make, and the early manuscripts are written in insanely high-sounding Greek which no illiterate Aramaic-speaking fishermen could possibly know.

    Not to mention they get quite a bit wrong about Old Testament propechy, quote at least one non-existent or non-canon book as scripture, screw up a Hebrew reading to get TWO donkeys out of one, and last but not least completely botch the timing of the End Of The World (cf. Mat. 10:23).

    I realize comparative mythology, text criticism, or indeed anything any serious Bible scholar is concerned with are not Dr. Craigs’ areas of expertise, but he should really do the research before flapping his foodsucker.

    As to “would the disciples die for a lie?” argument, well, just ask any suicide bomber. Er, you can’t, since they’re a 50-foot-wide circle of fine organic chutney, but you know what I mean.

  45. Azuma Hazuki says

    3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    This has got to be the worst of the lot. It deserves a good, mocking, ripping teardown. Anyone with an iota of training in moral philosophy will be taking more piss out of this one than a nightsoil carter’s truck.

    – Fallacy of equivocation. “Objective” is taken here to mean “existing outside any mind” rather than “susceptible of evaluation by more minds than the originator.” Aside from not having proven that such things as free-standing moral facts outside minds exist — and how could he as a Divine Command Theorist? — he is equivocating here.

    – He is also committing a God of the Gaps fallacy. He can’t explain how morals arise, therefore goddidit. This is Juggalo apologetics; fuckin’ morals, how do they work? From now on I am going to imagine him and his crew wearing ICP makeup.

    – As it so happens, we do have an explanation for not only how morals arise and sustain themselves, but why we have both human universals (murder is bad) and cultural differences (polygamy is sometimes acceptable, sometimes not). Craig, of course, couldn’t find his scientific ass if he had a GPS, and anyway he is committed to defending his beliefs at all costs, so the point is moot here. He is not arguing in possession of all the facts, and he refuses to get the facts. He is Not Even Wrong (TM). Do chimpanzees and other higher primates, which clearly show moral behavior and reasoning, get judged in front of the Great White Throne? Are there, even now, the souls of evil chimpanzees screeching and flailing in a lake of hellfire?

    – Ahh, Divine Command Theory, the laziest “moral” system in existence! I would very much like Dr. Craig to explain, without begging the question, how objective moral facts can exist in the greatest mind of all. That is the definition, nay, the Platonic ideal, of subjectivity, in the sense that they are contained in the mind or “essential nature” (call it what you wish, it is no different) of God. DCT can be unpacked and ripped to shreds.

    – For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

  46. ChasCPeterson says

    “ex anum”?

    That’s probably a better translation. My Latin is limited to actual terms of art in biology and medicine, which ‘per anumis and, afaik, ‘ex anum‘ isn’t. But it’s true that the medical use of p. a. usually (always?) refers to going in rather than out.

    [I once published a paper showing that aquatic turtles cannot drink through their cloacas--not my hypothesis--and some fucking copy editor changed per anum to per annum after I'd already corrected the proofs. Made me look foolish and pissed me off no end.]

  47. Azuma Hazuki says

    3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    This has got to be the worst of the lot. It deserves a good, mocking, ripping teardown. Anyone with an iota of training in moral philosophy will be taking more piss out of this one than a nightsoil carter’s truck.

    – Fallacy of equivocation. “Objective” is taken here to mean “existing outside any mind” rather than “susceptible of evaluation by more minds than the originator.” Aside from not having proven that such things as free-standing moral facts outside minds exist — and how could he as a Divine Command Theorist? — he is equivocating here.

    – He is also committing a God of the Gaps fallacy. He can’t explain how morals arise, therefore goddidit. This is Juggalo apologetics; fuckin’ morals, how do they work? From now on I am going to imagine him and his crew wearing ICP makeup.

    – As it so happens, we do have an explanation for not only how morals arise and sustain themselves, but why we have both human universals (murder is bad) and cultural differences (polygamy is sometimes acceptable, sometimes not). Craig, of course, couldn’t find his scientific ass if he had a GPS, and anyway he is committed to defending his beliefs at all costs, so the point is moot here. He is not arguing in possession of all the facts, and he refuses to get the facts. He is Not Even Wrong (TM). Do chimpanzees and other higher primates, which clearly show moral behavior and reasoning, get judged in front of the Great White Throne? Are there, even now, the souls of evil chimpanzees screeching and flailing in a lake of hellfire?

    – Ahh, Divine Command Theory, the laziest “moral” system in existence! I would very much like Dr. Craig to explain, without begging the question, how objective moral facts can exist in the greatest mind of all. That is the definition, nay, the Platonic ideal, of subjectivity, in the sense that they are contained in the mind or “essential nature” (call it what you wish, it is no different) of God. DCT can be unpacked and ripped to shreds.

  48. consciousness razor says

    3. “Atheists do have an objective source for morality: ourselves”
    The very definition of subjective is “ourselves”.

    Are you actually suggesting there aren’t any facts about ourselves, our subjective experiences in particular? Who knew? You couldn’t name one, haven’t you tried, or is your cryptic little “definition” pretty much useless as a guide to what facts are in the real world?

  49. Azuma Hazuki says

    - For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

    4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact. Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Not this tripe again! Your Bible can’t even agree on who saw the empty tomb, Paul mentions nothing of this, the author of Hebrews seems to be talking about a cosmological set and setting, and the entire passion drama has been found on a Babylonian tablet dating to 700 BC!

    Who’s to say this isn’t a later addition? The Gospels we have don’t appear on the scene until after 150AD (and I strongly suspect Irenaeus of Lyons is the author of John…), the writers make bizarre mistakes of geography and custom no Jew of the day would make, and the early manuscripts are written in insanely high-sounding Greek which no illiterate Aramaic-speaking fishermen could possibly know.

    Not to mention they get quite a bit wrong about Old Testament propechy, quote at least one non-existent or non-canon book as scripture, screw up a Hebrew reading to get TWO donkeys out of one, and last but not least completely botch the timing of the End Of The World (cf. Mat. 10:23).

    I realize comparative mythology, text criticism, or indeed anything any serious Bible scholar is concerned with are not Dr. Craigs’ areas of expertise, but he should really do the research before flapping his foodsucker.

    As to “would the disciples die for a lie?” argument, well, just ask any suicide bomber. Er, you can’t, since they’re a 50-foot-wide circle of fine organic chutney, but you know what I mean.

  50. says

    .. 1. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    Slavery. There is a lot in the bible to refute the point that god is the explanation or origin for moral values. Slavery is only one such point but IMHO its a biggie. And you only need one such lesson to devastate the contention that god is the explanation for moral values. Because if you need morality learned outside the bible to interpret which moral values in the bible are genuine and which are open to interpretation than you are by definition not getting your moral values from the bible.

  51. Azuma Hazuki says

    - For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

    4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact. Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave: God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Not this tripe again! Your Bible can’t even agree on who saw the empty tomb, Paul mentions nothing of this, the author of Hebrews seems to be talking about a cosmological set and setting, and nearly the entire passion drama has been found on a Babylonian tablet dating to 700 BC!

  52. Azuma Hazuki says

    (cont. from #52)

    – For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

  53. Azuma Hazuki says

    - For that matter, if Dr. Craig thought God told him to rape and kill, would he? He may object that God would never tell someone to do that, but if he does he has a short memory…as he is on record publicly defending the atrocities in Numbers 31:17-18, which say precisely this. Also, by making a claim either to defend or attack this, you are implicitly invoking an extra-God moral yardstick. Want to know where morals come from, Billybob? Look at the part of you that instinctively revolts when you consider the idea of God telling you to kill and rape. That is where morals come from.

    – Oh, so morality is part of God’s essential nature? Sorry, the Euthyphro Dilemma can’t be escaped by pushing it back a step. Is what is moral moral because it is part of God’s nature, or is it part of God’s nature because it is moral? Where does God get his morals? If morals are simple divine commands, God is supra-moral…or, a-moral

    There’s more, but my teeth are grinding, so I’ll leave off it for now. All I’ll say is DCT makes for moral retards, and I wouldn’t trust this slimy sunnuvabitch with a piggy bank.

  54. consciousness razor says

    Here are two videos with John Hawthorne, a philosopher at Oxford, talking about fine-tuning and Bayesianism. (I left out the short Q&A sessions after both, but they’re easy to find from there, if you’re interested.)

    #1 & #2 The first is mostly setting you up to understand some of the background concepts. The meat of it’s really in the second video.

    Or if you don’t care and just want the headline: the fine-tuning argument is still bullshit. That has not changed.

  55. cartomancer says

    Oooh, another chance to do Latin grammar!

    “per anum” and “ex ano” are both correct. “per” takes the accusative, “ex” takes the ablative. The former would be “through the arse”, indicating passage, the latter “out of the arse”, indicating place of origin.

    But whatever you do, don’t confuse anus (long initial syllable, second declension masculine), meaning an arsehole, with anus (short initial syllable, fourth declension feminine), meaning an old woman.

  56. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Chas:

    Ouch.

    I really feel for you. Not at all the same, but in a political piece, I talked about wearing a “Dyke” pin (just like that, I wrote it). In the final, unreviewable edit, it was changed to “labrys”.

    I was talking about a pin with the word “Dyke”. So that error didn’t go out to all the world, for thousands to *possibly* think I’m an ignorant idiot. But it was quite clear that this older lesbian assumed that because I was too young to be politically active in the 70s and 80s lesbian movements (without appropriate parental role models, which I didn’t have) that I only vaguely recognized important political symbols used in lesbian culture and, even then, was too apathetic to find out that the symbol in question had a name. Moreover, it is nearly certain that she thought I had no idea about the political ramifications of using dyke instead of lesbian. The level of ignorance and arrogance I would have to possess to have written what I did while being so ignorant as to make all the mistakes this editor had to believe I was making would have been astounding.

    But that was no bar to her thinking I was that ignorant and arrogant. Argh.

    Worse, although it’s pretty unlikely, that piece was also published elsewhere, with the ” ‘Dyke’ pin” phrase intact. Since the correct version was published first, it’s possible that others would see that as a CD approved correction (or even CD made connection b/c people assume that the words after your name are yours). Then those people might come to the same conclusions as the editor. Unlikely, but nevertheless a possibility about which I was concerned.

    So just one person’s confirmed really, really bad opinion of me vs. thousands of possibly bad opinions of you, but it came up during editing as well, so it resonated.

  57. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @cartomancer:

    I’m calling on you for all my latin needs now.

    I was very hesitant to say “ex ano” but knew I had run across “ano” as anus and “anum” as anus, but the later only on prescriptions. I wasn’t at all clear that the difference was a grammatical thing and not merely a (different version of the word that was more frequently used in certain contexts) thing.

  58. michaellatiolais says

    Anyone who has any respect for WLC after reading this has serious problems:

    You might insist, “But how do you know that your experience isn’t also spurious?” I’ve already answered that question: the experience of the Spirit’s witness is self-authenticating for the person who really has it. The Spirit-filled Christian can know immediately that his claim to the Spirit’s witness is true despite the false claims made by persons adhering to other religions.

    That’s from his book, “Reasonable Faith.”

  59. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Ex ano would be correct for rendering ‘out of an anus’. Ex anum would mean ‘outside of the anus’ as in external to it or apart from it.

  60. ChasCPeterson says

    “per anum” and “ex ano” are both correct. “per” takes the accusative, “ex” takes the ablative.

    thanks!
    (No wonder it’s a dead language.)

    [As dead as dead can be.
    It killed the Roman Empire
    And now it's killing me!]

  61. Azuma Hazuki says

    @60/Michael Latiolais

    Hence “Azuma’s Law” (All apologetics devolves into presuppositionalism). Craig will never admit it, but he’s not examining his underlying assertions here, and they do recurse back to presup-style thinking.

  62. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Ok I see cartomancer did a better explanation above. While I think ex + the accusative would have the meaning I propose, I had a look through my old Gildersleeve and Lodge, and ex + accusative doesn’t seem to be a classical construction.

  63. gussnarp says

    @michaellatiolais #60: I truly wish that more of them would just stick to that argument. Sure, it’s utter crap in light of the evidence from neuroscience, not to mention fallacious, but it’s fundamentally honest. That’s really why these guys believe. It’s why Ray Comfort believes (assuming any of them truly believe and aren’t just pious frauds and charlatans). And it defies the very notion of what they spend most of their time doing. It says that there is a True Christianity™ that convinces you through personal experience and implies that any other form of belief, such as that based on all their other arguments, is false. I can accept that they believe in God because of some personal, mystical experience. I can accept that they fail to see why calling that “self-authenticating” is circular reasoning as well as being at odds with neuroscience because it can be very hard to be critical of the things that go on inside your own brain, as opposed to externally verifiable evidence. I can also realize that they’re fundamentally wrong. But at least they’re not trying to convince people with evidence they ought to know is unconvincing.

  64. neuroguy says

    The thing is, all these arguments are trivially invalid. It isn’t even necessary to delve into modern cosmology, quantum physics, etc., to attempt to refute the metaphysical and scientific assumptions upon which they are based.

    1. If the universe has an absolute beginning in time, it does not follow it popped into existence without a cause. Something “popping” into existence implies a time before its existence. However, there is no “before” the universe at t = 0; it’s like asking what’s North of the North pole. Furthermore, even if the universe were created its creation only requires finite, not infinite, power, and thus one cannot reason from the existence of a creator to the existence of an omnipotent God.

    2. The probability of the existence of any specific given combination of physical constants is undefined, given an infinity of possible universes. How does it change the calculation if, say, the range of a given constant suitable for intelligent life were made 10^3 as large? Beyond this, it does not suffice to show the existence of such a universe (e.g. with intelligent life) is unlikely, given God not existing. It is necessary to show the existence of such a universe is more likely if God exists, which Craig does not even attempt to do.

    3. Craig glibly confuses the existence of an objective morality with how that morality can be determined with some clever twisting of words (he says “what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm” not “what basis is there for affirming any supposed set of objective moral values”). If morality means acting a manner which results in increasing human well-being, then whether a given action increases human well-being or not is an objective fact about the world, even if atheists need to do more than merely consult a holy book to try determine the existence of that fact. The same argument applies for any other definitions of morality one might wish to use (other than Divine Command theory of course). To make a parody of Craig’s argument, if God revealed the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem in a holy book long before it was found by mathematicians, there would indeed have been a difference between believers and non-believers in whether Fermat’s Last Theorem was affirmed, but not in the objective truth or falsehood of the theorem itself.

    4. Again, it needs to be shown not just that the evidence on display (e.g. empty tomb, reports of appearances of Jesus after death etc.) is unlikely assuming no God, but that it is more likely assuming the existence of God. This Craig has failed to do. On the face of it (even assuming God exists) it is much more likely the empty tomb is a result of someone stealing the body of Jesus than God raising Jesus from the dead. If we go to exhume someone and the body isn’t there, what would we assume?

    5. Definitely the silliest. Plenty of Christians have claimed to have found a personal acquaintance with God through Jesus, but where is the argument that it is more likely their claim is true rather than that they have been deceived.

  65. says

    It must be time for the annual year-end Pagan Festival. Let’s roll out all of the tired old delusions just. one. more. time.

  66. Rey Fox says

    I’ve already answered that question: the experience of the Spirit’s witness is self-authenticating for the person who really has it.

    I do believe in fairies, I DO I DO!

  67. imnotspecial says

    Craig is right on for his already convinced audience at Fox. They will just love it to have their beliefs confirmed by such a great apologist. The Bible is right again. Only the fool says to his heart that there is no god. We need to repent and then the holy spirit will visit us, just like he has visited them.

  68. julial says

    Azuma @63

    Hence “Azuma’s Law”

    I like that law. It is perilously close to my “basic argument.”
    My “basic argument” is phrased as: “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
    Either we agree on axioms and methods of theorem derivation or we don’t.
    If we do, then we’ll agree on outcomes. If not, then we won’t. Working backwards from there, if we disagree on outcomes, we must have disagreed on axioms and methods (which are also axioms.)
    And, of course, my axioms are True. Yours not so much.

  69. grumpyoldfart says

    The headline for the WLC article is, A Christmas gift for atheists — five reasons why God exists, but I have the feeling that WLC doesn’t give a stuff about the atheists. I think he is directing the article at believers; telling them what they want to hear.

  70. Azuma Hazuki says

    @71/Julial

    I know it’s kind of presumptious of me to call it that :( Especially because someone could say “Hazuki, you didn’t point out anything really new,” as you did.

    Can I claim trademark on the specific formulation of it though? :lol:

  71. stevem says

    re neuroguy @66:

    2. The probability of the existence of any specific given combination of physical constants is undefined, given an infinity of possible universes.

    And isn’t that his very point? That IF there are an INFINITY of possibilities, the probability of any particular combination is infinitesimally small? “QED, Goddidit!”
    Everything else you say is correct, I don’t mean to apologize for Craig’s blathering, just nit-picking one small piece of your counter-argument. Sorry for channeling Craig.

  72. peterh says

    ” In other words, an animal consisting of the body of a lion, paws that refreshes, a tail told by idiots and the head of a fox.”

    So refreshing to find an allusion precisely fitted to the topic rather than the cliché-ridden ‘sacred’ texts.

    “Finely tuned…” We find the Universe finely tuned because, in the words of Zaphod’s analyst, “Ziz is what we find.”

  73. Sastra says

    God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe… there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

    You can’t point out too often how important it is that an ‘explanation’ be less controversial, elaborate, and surprising than the the thing it is supposed to explain. We have no evidence for a “transcendent, unembodied mind” powerful enough to create matter and energy simply by willing it so. And — oh yes — performing this action while “outside of space and time.” There is nothing plausible about this.

    That is, it’s not plausible if you approach our understanding of “mind” from a scientific perspective. If you think of our own minds as magical forces which exist nowhere, have no history of development, and perform spooky actions at a distance then sure, the transcendent, unembodied mind will seem eerily familiar. The ghost in the machine turns into the ghost in the universe and everything is satisfactorily “explained” because the explanation circles around what we care about: ourselves.

    Craig has been using the same 5-Point Argument for his entire career. He occasionally swaps one of his points for another one — iirc he might get rid of the personal experience and use NDEs instead — but it’s otherwise the same tired debate strategy. It’s often successful not because it’s good, but because it runs over so much territory and it sounds good. That’s all it has to do.

  74. billgascoyne says

    These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them.

    And just how are we supposed to know the difference between a subjective (fill in the blank) that everyone agrees on and an objective (fill in the blank)?

  75. Azuma Hazuki says

    @76/Sastra

    NDEs are not good ground for a Christian apologist. I’ve put considerable study into them and come out with several observations:

    1) They are very culturally-determined. Hindus report seeing Lord Yama, and being told “oops, no, wrong person” and getting shoved back into their bodies. Christians see Jesus. Tibetan Buddhists see the tutelary dieties, the peaceful and wrathful ones, as described in the Bardo Thodol. There is a case of a Christian who said he was pursued by Yamatuts, which are servants of Lord Yama in Burmese Buddhism…who, unsurprisingly, was a missionary in Southeast Asia at the time!

    2) The vast majority are extremely positive, and often contain specific messages such as “It doesn’t matter that you’re gay” or “What you do is important, not what you believe.” There are some neutral and a very small minority of unpleasant ones, including some religious people seeing a literal fire-and-brimstone hell, but based on the sample sizes, I suspect these are due to a) unresolved issues and b) culture again.

    3) A fair number are completely nonsensical. Some kids, IIRC, have reported talking to…Mario. As in, the chubby plumber with the hot hands and thick Italian accent.

  76. nich says

    I’ve heard the objective moral values thing before and often the Holocaust is cited as something we all agree is objectively evil. But if that is true, then why the fuck did/does it happen? If we all know these things are so wrong, why do they happen every few decades? Far from being an objective wrong we all know must be avoided, they seem to be a depressingly common feature of humanity. Rape too. Theft. And why do we appear to recalibrate our objective moral compass so often? And why does that moral compass point north in America, east in Europe, south in Africa and west in the Middle East? And what would stop an all powerful being from flipping the rules on their head? It’s its universe. What if it got bored one day and decided that not-genocide was immoral and had us start ethnically cleansing the shit out of each other and had pompous windbags like Craig pen stupid articles about how even atheists know that allowing Mormons to exist is an abomination? Or is there a morality to which even an omnipotent god is subject?

    Oh well, back to my original reason for reading this: hitting refresh with scotch and glass in hand as I wait to knock one back every time some dunderhead comes along and has a written orgasm over ZOMG what a great fucking debater Craig is. Seems to be a feature of any comment thread having to do with WLC.

  77. tsig says

    The fine tuning argument is just the Texas sharpshooter argument on a large scale.

    Getting morals from an entity that killed off 99.999… of the human race doesn’t seem wise.

  78. tbp1 says

    I’m sure I’m not the only here who figured out pretty good refutations of Mr. Craig’s points by the time they finished college, if not in fact high school.

  79. tsig says

    Latin is a dead language

    As dead as dead can be

    It killed all the Romans

    And now it’s killing me

    All are dead who spoke it

    All are dead who wrote it

    All will die who learn it

    Oh Latin let me be.

  80. nich says

    tsig @80

    Getting morals from an entity that killed off 99.999… of the human race doesn’t seem wise.

    Ugh…if I recall WLC had a reprehensible rebuttal to a point similar to the point you make above. I won’t dignify it by linking to it, but google WLC genocide and tellingly it is the top result. Apparently putting Canaanite kiddos to the sword is a-ok because god bought them all X-boxes in the afterlife. Or some shit.

  81. imthegenieicandoanything says

    The rubes and assholes really eat up this horseshit – he knows his audience, for sure!

    I only hope he has no non-rube, non-asshole relatives who feel they have to share oxygen with him at Christmas. He’s the kind of guy Gandhi might give a poke to while viewing the body, just to be sure the tiresome shit was really dead.

  82. unclefrogy says

    what ever all the because reasons the religious apologist use to try to justify it they are arguing a belief they have is true. By daffynition it has little to do with reason so why do they feel that they need to continue? Who are they trying to convince since their arguments only work on the ignorant?
    uncle frogy

  83. Azuma Hazuki says

    @83/Nich

    And that is ANOTHER example of Craig’s ignorance of history, religion, and myth. There WAS no idea of heaven or hell in the Israelite consciousness at the time. People who died went to Sheol, period.

    Besides, he has still to answer what was evil about babies and young male children but good about virgin girls…

  84. says

    @41 quoting WLC:

    Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.

    …and that, children, is why I never made it as a fundamentalist. I always had this funny idea that “truth” by definition was that which stood on its own two feet against arguments and evidence, and that you lose the argument the moment you have to resort to “Because I said so!” Of course, in Craig’s book that just means I was never a Real True Christian[tm].

    And more WLC from @60:

    ….the Spirit’s witness is self-authenticating for the person who really has it.

    Yeah, and the “witness” provided by perturbed brain chemistry or damaged neurology is also “self-authenticating”. When my (now-late) mother was hallucinating and paranoid from the high doses of L-dopa necessary when her Parkinsonism got bad, I’m sure it was very “self-authenticating” to her. Sufficiently powerful delusions are difficult to escape from because the only instrument we have for verification — our cognition — is the very thing that is lying to us.

    This guy is supposed to be an apologetic powerhouse?

  85. chigau (違う) says

    I, for one, am happy that Goode Olde Englishe doesn’t have any of that acusablative stuff.
    lalala /(-_-)\lalala

  86. scienceavenger says

    The most amazing thing to me about WLCs arguments is how he can think there can exist both an established historical miracle-working and risen Jesus AND atheists. No wonder so many like him speak as though atheists are unreasonable people. From his POV, they are unreasonable by definition.

  87. Rey Fox says

    I think he is directing the article at believers; telling them what they want to hear.

    That’s why it’s on Fox News. That’s also why the smarmy swipe at atheists is in there.

  88. Azuma Hazuki says

    @84/I’mTheGenieICanDoAnything

    Doesn’t he have an atheist brother Mallory? I imagine it must make for some…interesting holiday dinners.

  89. stevem says

    To me [so what], Craig is just trying to “rationalize” his own misguided beliefs, to “justify” that what he believes is absolutely right and everybody else is too “ignorant” to see the TRUTH. And so he is just trying to Enlighten everybody because he KNOWS. Not diagnosing Craig, but doesn’t that kind of delusion come under one of the categories in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders? Maybe I’m taking it too far; to suggest such a thing, maybe I’m suffering a different DSM malady, but then, so on and so on. What else is there to say. Thinking HE is just “suffering a psychosis*” is my only insulation from trying to engage him in any kind of debate, to try to show him just how fractally wrong he is. I’ve said too much (i.e. incoherent B.S.), going away now, to the corner to listen to all the rest of you engage in more meaningful discourse.

    * def’n: psychosis := “[...] involving a “loss of contact with reality”.

  90. says

    @25:

    You know what beings that can be personally known and experienced don’t typically need? Elaborate logical proofs that they exist.

    I like that!

  91. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    No.

    What you list, stevem, doesn’t constitute a DSM-IVtr or DSM-5 diagnosis. If it constituted a DSM diagnosis ever, it would have had to be in the DSM (1, though obviously it wasn’t called that when published).

    I can’t believe it actually constituted a diagnosis even there, however, because as it was primitive and crude, it wasn’t necessarily *imprecise*. In fact, many of the early diagnoses had too much precision (a lot of freudian explanation of what was going on crept in, so although the freudian part might have been presumed in practice, technically if you had a behavioral diagnostic criterion that *wasn’t* the result of a Freudian cause, there would be a number of diagnoses in which that criterion would be considered – formally – unmet. Again, in practice the Freudian cause might be presumed, but since we no longer do that, even for some of the more vague definitions of disorders encompassing delusional behavior, what you are talking about would be insufficient).

  92. haitied says

    I don’t know why he gets paying speaking gigs anymore, they could licence any recording of his speech at any point and play that instead. It’s always the same exact shit, over and over. How droll.

  93. says

    @93: Some years ago I read an essay (which my Google-fu is not strong enough to locate now), possibly by Albert Ellis, identifying religion *as* a psychosis. As I recall, I felt that the author was pushing the bounds of the meaning of both “religion” and “psychosis” to make his point, and really being a bit simplistic about the whole thing.

  94. robro says

    inch @#83

    Apparently putting Canaanite kiddos to the sword is a-ok because god bought them all X-boxes in the afterlife. Or some shit.

    No doubt Craig and his ilk believe that’s what happened, and I’ve read some of their appalling defenses of genocide as a result of their “literal” reading. However, there’s no archeological evidence of a Conquest of Canaan, much less any such horror.

    More importantly, Joshua/Judges are clear that not all Canaanites (whoever they might have been) were killed. For example, as it says in Judges 1:21, “The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” (my emphasis) If “to this day” isn’t just a literary convention and these writings were collected/redacted during the Persian/Hellenistic periods (widely held view by scholars) or even later (as argued by quite a few), then it would be easier to defend it as just the normal bellowing and self-aggrandizement of autocratic kings (e.g. the Maccabees) of that era lauding their mythical ancestors.

  95. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    As I recall, I felt that the author was pushing the bounds of the meaning of both “religion” and “psychosis” to make his point, and really being a bit simplistic about the whole thing.

    IIRC, the DSM does describe delusion thinking that fits the religious to a tee…except they added “socially acceptable”, which effectively excludes religion, but not leprechauns….

  96. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Waffling tripe like this is written entirely for the purpose of reassuring wavering believers battling bouts of cognitive dissonance, not convincing atheists or non-Christian believers.

  97. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What? Now these people are dissing leprechauns? For shame…

    Yeah, and there’s a Hallmark Movie with little people (never seen, but heard as high pitched laughter) who harass a bachelor business man until he listens to the local pub owner, a single female, and leaves their woods alone by moving the resort to cleared ground….This is Hallmark…Sounds of matrimony in the air….But they Redhead watches….

  98. Ichthyic says

    Some years ago I read an essay (which my Google-fu is not strong enough to locate now), possibly by Albert Ellis, identifying religion *as* a psychosis.

    your google-fu is indeed weak sauce.

    Religion and Psychosis

    take your pick.

  99. Ichthyic says

    OK, this is my new operative theory of the origin of the universe. Not Intelligent Design which has always been obvious malarky…I mean what sort of intelligence would design this mess. But the Poop Theory explains everything.

    yup.

  100. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Ichthyic:

    wouldn’t you have to have an embodied colon?

    Craig has made it clear that he believes that minds generally, including his, can exist without bodies.

    So I think the Craig argument would be that shit can be produced absent a colon: and he’s actually closer to convincing me of that one.

  101. Ichthyic says

    shit can be produced absent a colon: and he’s actually closer to convincing me of that one.

    nicely done.

  102. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    Quite apart from all the counters to the fine-tuning argument presented here, it always strikes me that that’s an incredibly low bar to set for a supposedly omnipotent being. I mean, you don’t have to be divine to create life that happens to be adapted to the environment around it; hell, amoebas and Xians do that every day. Any divine being worth its salt would create life which thrives in an environment in which it is physically impossible for such life to exist. Show me the sun people, Yahweh, and then we can talk.

    Until then, I remain,

    Yrs. in atheism,

    etc.

  103. congaboy says

    Lawrence Krause ripped Craig’s universe a new black hole in a series of debates/discussions in Australia. He called Craig a liar to his face and ripped his so called logical syllogisms to shreds.

  104. sugarfrosted says

    @105. Yeah and on top of that, there are actually subdisciplines of math and philosophy that are very muddled. Model theory is a subset of logic is considered philosophy and math. The philosophers who study model theory do in fact use mathematical methods, if they didn’t they wouldn’t really be doing anything.

  105. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So, is this that sophisticated theology we’ve been hearing about for so long?

    Yep, about as sophistimaticated as it gets. Presume your imaginary deity and inerrant babble. Wave hands while mumbling bullshit, and finally arriving at your presuppositions as conclusions. Voila, the uneducated masses bow…..

  106. says

    Sorry, I’m still stuck on mnb0’s #13:

    1a. Philosophy doesn’t use math and WLC specifically mentions it.

    If philosophy makes a claim about a discipline that does use math (say, physics), it would behoove the philosopher to be conversant in that discipline. If those claims involve bits of the discipline that make great use of math (such as the amount of energy required to kick-start a universe), it’d be most excellent if that philosopher could provide some kind of rigor to the argument. Say, by actually using the discipline and the math required to back their bald-ass assertions up.

    Here’s the deal: if you make an absolute assertion about something that requires math, you have to use math to back up that assertion. What’s the minimum amount of energy required to kick-start a universe? If a non-physical mind exists, how much energy can it be expected to possess?

    Then there are other factors to consider as well, such as other possible sources that might wield the power required to kick-start a universe (such as quantum fluctuation within an existing superstructure, creating a universe with energy that totals zero, but due to local effects, looks like a lot of free energy).

    Philosophy doesn’t mean “license to make shit up without knowing a damned thing about the shit you’re making up.” Yet that seems to be the entire argument mnb0 is presenting.

    WLC’s “proofs” are ancient and outdated weak-sauce on a batch of greasy cold fail-fries. But mnb0’s critique of PZ’s shredding* of WLC’s proofs just represents philosophy as a useless, shriveled appendix of thought. And I don’t believe that is the truth.

     

    * Which is, admittedly, flawed. Or probably more likely, half-assed. But face it: that’s one-half of an ass more than WLC deserves.

  107. robro says

    Ichthyic

    And we’ve wondered all these years why everyone has an anus. Now we know it’s so each of us can experience god’s creation first hand.

  108. says

    robro:

    And we’ve wondered all these years why everyone has an anus. Now we know it’s so each of us can experience god’s creation first hand.

    Holy shit.* You’ve just started a a whole new religion, the Church of the Holy Oriface.

    I bow to you, Pope Hole the First. I am Cardinal Colon, the First Disciple.

    Now let’s start reeling in the cash.

     

    * Yeah. Intended.

  109. mykroft says

    This reminds me of a web series I’d love to see American Atheists produce. It would be titled, “How to argue with an atheist”. Picture an older gentleman who looks like the epitome of distinguished old Christian authority figure. On a regular basis, have him explain in a video on how a good Christian should be able to argue with an atheist.

    As an example episode, the “expert” discusses the problem of arguing with an atheist spouting scientific and provable facts. The old gent points out how the Discovery Institute handles this problem. They take a recent scientific paper and argue how it disproves evolution. The old man points out that while the papers cited, if read correctly, actually state the opposite of that argument, most will not know enough about the details to dispute what the Discovery Institute was claiming.

    At the end of each video, the old gent says that while some people might call it lying, he prefers to call it “creative misinterpretation”. Besides, if you do lie it is OK, because you’re lying for Jesus.

    This approach could be used to point out how Behe keeps making the same arguments, even after his arguments have been scientifically evaluated and disproven again and again. Or it can focus on a specific argument creationists use (many to choose from), providing the counter argument as something one might hear from a knowledgeable atheist. Each episode ends with the same refrain, “It’s OK, because you’re lying for Jesus.”

    While this would be a parody of the arguments the religious use against atheists, it would show the underlying attitude that in essence, they truly believe lying is OK because they are lying for Jesus.

  110. brianpansky says

    some people might want to note that “objective morality” isn’t really terminology that gets used. try “moral realism”. and note the difference between it and “ethical subjectivism”.

    of course someone can say that they objectively DO have a subjective position (i guess?). but that is answering a different question (that question could be “DO you have subjective values”).

    however, the meta ethical question is something different, such as: “what are morals?” or stuff like that.

  111. chigau (違う) says

    Picture an older gentleman who looks like the epitome of distinguished old Christian authority figure.

    For some reason, I’m picturing Richard Dawkins.

  112. robro says

    Avo, also nigelTheBold @#119

    Credit for this remarkable insight should go to PZ who first expounded the Poop Theory in the OP.

  113. brianpansky says

    as i often do, i re-read my brilliant point and…well maybe i shouldn’t be so lazy next time.

    to clarify, i’m mostly responding to consciousness razor @53, and PZ. I think it is obvious that craig must be talking about the meta ethical question.

    and most of my understanding comes from google searches. and wikipedia:

    ethical subjectivism (which correctly identifies divine command theory as a form of ethical subjectivism)

    moral realism

    and meta ethics.

  114. Azuma Hazuki says

    I wish someone would engage him in debate, comprehensively tear him down, and either in Q&A or directly on stage, rip into him for being such a horrible waste of oxygen…and point out what a morally reprehensible being he is as well.

    It occurs to me that most of the people who can state the science behind these things, evolutionary origins of morals and evolutionary epistemology, kind of suck as philosophers and debaters. I’m a weird hybrid of the two, with an unfortunate “jack of all trades, mistress of none” end result (plus horrible anxiety means I’d spill my spaghetti all over the debate lectern…).

    Why do intelligent people lose debates with wankstains like this anyway? Is there something about the debate format that favors his argumentation style (over substance)?

  115. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Is there something about the debate format that favors his argumentation style (over substance)?

    Most debates are rhetoric for the believers. They aren’t formal debates where the judges are looking more at what is said, not how it is said. Unlike the true believers. They are reenforced in their belief by WLC and sincere rhetoric.

  116. robro says

    Azuma @#125

    I wish someone would engage him in debate, comprehensively tear him down, and either in Q&A or directly on stage, rip into him for being such a horrible waste of oxygen

    True, but if debate would have done the trick, we wouldn’t have been having these discussions for the last couple of hundred years. Besides, there is no debating preachers. They may call it a debate, but they are just proselytizing.

  117. Azuma Hazuki says

    But he suuuuuuucks! I’ve read things by Plantinga and they legitimately made me think and re-assess my worldview. They’re still wrong, but i needed it pointed out to me by very intelligent, trained philosophers how they were wrong. With Craig’s stuff, on first exposure I was already sceptical and it took only a few months of self-education to trash it.

  118. says

    robro:

    Avo, also nigelTheBold @#119

    Credit for this remarkable insight should go to PZ who first expounded the Poop Theory in the OP.

    Uhm, no.

    PZ declared his revelation of the miracle of creation. That is big, I agree — Moses big.

    You, however, have shown us the path to redemption and salvation. That is Jesus big. And while my math is pretty rusty, I’m pretty sure Jesus > Moses.

    All hail the Holy Excrement!

    And keep sending those checks.

    (You know you get a cut, right? That mansion ain’t gonna buy itself.)

  119. says

    Azuma Hazuki:

    I’ve read things by Plantinga and they legitimately made me think and re-assess my worldview.

    Plantinga is like the card shark/stage magician who can do some pretty nifty slight-of-hand that leaves you grinning and contemplating how he pulled it off. He still smuggles his conclusions in on his assumptions, but he does it in a way that leaves you breathless and wondering.

    With Craig’s stuff, on first exposure I was already sceptical and it took only a few months of self-education to trash it.

    That’s because WLC is a hack, a three-card monte huckster who is so ham-handed (see what I did there?) with his tricks, you can see “Jesus” stamped on the back of every card. He doesn’t so much smuggle his conclusions in with his propositions. It’s more he builds his propositions out of his conclusions, and then blames the audience for a lack of appropriate response when his tricks fall flat.

  120. Azuma Hazuki says

    @130/Avo

    Please tell me more about Plantinga. Something about his “reformed epistemology” smells bad, and I can rip his free will defense apart unassisted, but he’s still in an entire different league from Craig and Bruggencate and Hovind and people like that.

    Also, speaking of presups, I have found that van Til, and Bahnsen, and Clark, run the argument quite differently from “Sye-clones” and am not sure if I’m missing something or not in how to defeat them. Do you have insight into presup?

  121. says

    I’m kind of surprised the fine tuning thing even comes up anymore.

    Wow, 131 comments in and noone has mentioned Victor Stenger yet, who dedicated a whole (albeit somewhat technical for mine) book to the fine-tuning fallacy. There is also the text from a talk about this he gave in Denmark a few years ago that Jadehawk, me and David M attended IIRC to be found here.

  122. Ichthyic says

    Please tell me more about Plantinga.

    It’s still crap, but it has a nuanced stench to it.

    really, I can say that in all accuracy.

  123. Ichthyic says

    There is also the text from a talk about this he gave in Denmark a few years ago that Jadehawk, me and David M attended IIRC to be found here.

    or, for those interested that never saw it, you can watch him destroying WLC in this video.

    note that, according to the students, supposedly WLC actually “won” that debate.

    I always found that conclusion laughable, and I wept for the students that concluded such.

    also goes to show the value of a debate in determining truth value, which anyone who had ever seen Gish… gallop could easily tell you.

    debates are entirely worthless to resolve serious issues. Nobody would even ask for one if they really understood how they work.

  124. says

    God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    This coming from the doting imbecile who last year told the public that the Sandy Hook school shooting was God’s reminder of what Christmas was all about.

  125. says

    @ Avo, also nigelTheBold #130

    I’m pretty sure Jesus > Moses.

    Not as a archetypal (mono-)Mythic Hero, according to Joseph Campbell. The whole Moses narrative ticks far more boxes than Jesus’s (who is, nevertheless, no slouch), therefore: Jesus < Moses… QED.

    @ Piotr Gasiorowski #136

    God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    This coming from the doting imbecile who last year told the public that the Sandy Hook school shooting was God’s reminder of what Christmas was all about.

    You forget that God’s Morality is not human morality. Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi , and all that.

    Humanity doesn’t come into it further than its having to display complete obedience to His law, and precise following of religious rituals. If anything, display and ritual is at the heart of everything. One can be bad-to-the-bone in a social or humanist sense, but as long as you are precise in ritual, you are a better man¹ than the next.

    ¹ ie: Penis-haver. This is also a requirement. And being Jewish.

  126. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    This is Juggalo apologetics; fuckin’ morals, how do they work? From now on I am going to imagine him and his crew wearing ICP makeup.

    Azuma Hazuki, you are my new hero.

  127. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil.

    This point refutes itself, does it not? Leave aside for a moment that there are plenty of anti-semites out there who believe fervently that the Holocaust was a good thing; the mere fact the holocaust happened means morals are subjective. Hitler believed he was doing a good thing; he certainly didn’t see himself as evil. If he thought it was evil he wouldn’t have done it. But the rest of the world, apart from the minority mentioned above, do believe he was evil. That in and of itself proves the existence of subjective morality, doesn’t it? Or am I talking nonsense?

  128. Snoof says

    Hitler believed he was doing a good thing; he certainly didn’t see himself as evil. If he thought it was evil he wouldn’t have done it. But the rest of the world, apart from the minority mentioned above, do believe he was evil. That in and of itself proves the existence of subjective morality, doesn’t it? Or am I talking nonsense?

    The standard response is a naked rejection. “No, Hitler knew what he was doing was wrong, he was just doing it to spite God/out of pride/because he was corrupted by the Devil” or some such bullshit.

  129. randay says

    What provides the best explanation of god or gods? Lane says, “Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.” in relation to the origin of the universe. What is the best explanation for an “unembodied mind” and what does “mind” even mean in that context? That even seems to go against Lane’s professed belief in the Bible. Isn’t it said that man was made in God’s image? What image is that?

  130. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    @Snoof

    Ah. Sometimes I forget how illogical religion can make people. You’d think I would have learned by now.

    Never the less, it makes sense to people who use logic, does it not?

  131. maryt1 says

    «”God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.”» No. The the best explanation is that our universe arose spontaneously from nothing. There’s evidence that supports this hypothesis. As Lawrence Krauss once said «If our universe arose spontaneously from nothing at all, one might predict that its total energy should be zero. And when we measure the total energy of the universe, which could have been anything, the answer turns out to be the only one consistent with this possibility» (1)

    «And don’t you think it’s a bit of a leap to jump from a necessary first cause (which I don’t necessarily grant you) to the conclusion that it required an “unembodied mind”? Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe, no brain needed.» I agree, it’s a bit of a leap. And no, there’s no such thing as an unembodied mind (as far as I know).

    «God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe.» I don’t think Craig can claim that, because if the fine-tuning of the universe was true, it could be easily explained by the existence of a multiverse combined the anthropic principle. And if the multiverse includes all possible universes, then our universe would be inevitable, and the fact that we observe it would be inevitable. I don’t know if that’s true, but is an alternative explanation and isn’t worst than a god. And if there’s no such thing as a unembodied mind, how can it be an explanation for the fine-tunning of the universe? It can’t.

    «But Mr Craig! Atheists do have an objective source for morality: ourselves.» It is as objective as it can be in a world like ours – it’s not objective. There’s no objective morality, but instead a “subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties”, which even Craig admited that can be explained by Evolution and social conditioning. Yes, as atheists our souce of morality is, in general, ourselves.

    Sorry, Craig, but I’m still an atheist too.

    Ref.:

    1. Lawrence Krauss (2010-09-08). “Our Spontaneous Universe”. Wall Street Journal. (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703946504575469653720549936)

  132. consciousness razor says

    brianpansky, #121 & #124:

    however, the meta ethical question is something different, such as: “what are morals?” or stuff like that.

    to clarify, i’m mostly responding to consciousness razor @53, and PZ. I think it is obvious that craig must be talking about the meta ethical question.

    He’s actually just yapping about his deity. That’s all he ever does. He has very little to talk about when it comes to ethics, except ludicrously bad things like defending genocide when a god commands it.

    Anyway, we’re all subjects, which is to say we all experience things from a certain point of view. Obviously, ethics is about subjective experiences like ours, which doesn’t imply it is something we ought to call “subjective,” certainly not in the sense that we are. If there weren’t any subjects, of course there wouldn’t be ethics (or at least not anyone to think about it); in other words, our own existence is necessary for it, while the existence of a god isn’t, because although a god is a subject, we and others like us don’t need a god in order to exist (a point I don’t think I need to argue again here for now).

    I think there’s a lot of confusion about this in some people: they mix up what we individually know about ethics and our varying and changing experiences in different situations (sometimes our competing interests), with what is actually the case about whether an action is harmful or beneficial to someone in a particular situation. I just don’t understand what you could be saying if you claimed nothing is actually the case. There are always some kind of consequences which will occur, no matter what we do or don’t know about them. So we ought to think about what we ought to do; and being ignorant, stupid, confused, disagreeing with one another, doing something wrong — all of that is certainly possible and none of it changes that we are real, factual objects in some completely factual condition and we’ve taken some factual actions which will have some particular, factual effect on the world. And we’re part of the world: the way we experience it (as causing pain and pleasure, for example) isn’t just some airy, arbitrary piece of nonsense anyone gets to invent out of whole cloth. It’s just absurd to think of it as arbitrary — people actually do suffer, enjoy themselves, become successful in something, etc. They’re not making that shit up. It isn’t “just somebody’s opinion” that a person’s starving or that they have more money than they’ll ever need. Those are all facts, as far as I can tell. So what’s the deal? Why exactly am I supposed to be wrong about some of this? Or is there something else I’m supposed to have said?

  133. michaellatiolais says

    I can’t say that I’ve seen anything from Plantinga that I found any more insightful than WLC. About the best thing I can say about him is that his silly formulation of the Ontological argument finally allowed me to use a computer programming analogy to refute bad theology. :)

  134. vaiyt says

    This is Juggalo apologetics; fuckin’ morals, how do they work? From now on I am going to imagine him and his crew wearing ICP makeup.

    *steals SO HORD*

  135. Wylann says

    I’m just going to highlight this rather brilliant bit of Avo/Nigel’s comment @117:

    If philosophy makes a claim about a discipline that does use math (say, physics), it would behoove the philosopher to be conversant in that discipline. If those claims involve bits of the discipline that make great use of math (such as the amount of energy required to kick-start a universe), it’d be most excellent if that philosopher could provide some kind of rigor to the argument.

    These philosophers are usually the first to start screaming about anyone who does philosophy without a degree. (We’ve seen multiple cases of this here and at Coyne’s blog.) I’m not going to go dig, but I wonder if our friend mnbo here has ever made that particular argument….

  136. brianpansky says

    @145
    consciousness razor

    It’s just absurd to think of it as arbitrary — people actually do suffer, enjoy themselves, become successful in something, etc. They’re not making that shit up. It isn’t “just somebody’s opinion” that a person’s starving or that they have more money than they’ll ever need. Those are all facts, as far as I can tell. So what’s the deal? Why exactly am I supposed to be wrong about some of this? Or is there something else I’m supposed to have said?

    hmmm, you are having difficulty with the concepts somewhere, but i’m not sure where.

    it is a fact that a person is starving. it is my personal subjective values that we should therefore help them. values aren’t totally arbitrary, because values can be shaped by our common biological brains and stuff, and lots of us have similar empathy for suffering. saying we should help them is my ethics. saying that my personal values (and everyone’s as well) are subjective is my meta ethics.

    hope that helps a bit.

  137. brianpansky says

    * putting the word “my” in “my meta ethics” might seem confusing here. to clarify, i’m pretty sure that ethical subjectivism is a fact, and moral realism is incoherent superstition.

  138. says

    Is there something about the debate format that favors his argumentation style (over substance)?

    The rhetorical element was mentioned. The audience gets to judge, and many of them are, of course, biased to ignore the logic and evidence. The Gish Gallop was brought up, and with it, what I like to call “hiding behind the clock.” It generally takes longer to tear apart a baseless assertion or a logical fallacy than it does to spout a stream of them, and more formal debates have time limits on rebuttals. Similarly, there’s just so much cumulative evidence in science’s favor we can’t hope to present it all. For all the talk of “sophisticated theology,” I think the subject is far too simple to be equated with a scientific discipline, but just right to be sound-bite-sized.

    I came up with “hiding behind the clock” when some troll asserted that we should have an oral debate, “where there’s no place to hide.” Of course, debating online in text is generally more transparent since without a time limit, we can take as long as we want deconstructing the theists’ folly. We can also post links to previous deconstructions a la Talk Origins’ Index to Creationist Claims, cite specific studies, or demonstrate that they’re misrepresenting a study by providing a link to it.

    Of course, we’ve seen plenty of theists deceptively edit spoken debates, so that’s another place to hide.

  139. David Marjanović says

    (No wonder it’s a dead language.)

    Uh, German still does the same thing, in spades. :-) (Just with fewer cases.)

    While I think ex + the accusative would have the meaning I propose

    I think you’re thinking of extra, as in extra ecclesiam (accusative!) nulla salus.

    “Maybe it required an unembodied anus to poop out the universe”

    All hail Cloacina!

    Gives a whole new meaning to cloaca maxima…!

    3) A fair number are completely nonsensical. Some kids, IIRC, have reported talking to…Mario. As in, the chubby plumber with the hot hands and thick Italian accent.

    Super Mario!?! I’d love to see a reference for this! :-)

    (“[...] the new gods, the gods of our own making”, as mentioned at the end of Godzilla vs. Cthulhu.)

    I’m sure I’m not the only here who figured out pretty good refutations of Mr. Craig’s points by the time they finished college, if not in fact high school.

    To be fair, I didn’t figure out Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle on my own. :-)

    ancient and outdated weak-sauce on a batch of greasy cold fail-fries

    Day saved.

    Why do intelligent people lose debates with wankstains like this anyway? Is there something about the debate format that favors his argumentation style (over substance)?

    Absolutely. Debates establish who the better rhetor is, not whose arguments are better.

    That’s exactly why scientists and mathematicians – and, to my knowledge, philosophers – don’t hold debates with each other. See comment 134: debate is whatcha put on de hook to catch de fish.

    That’s because WLC is a hack, a three-card monte huckster who is so ham-handed (see what I did there?) with his tricks, you can see “Jesus” stamped on the back of every card. He doesn’t so much smuggle his conclusions in with his propositions. It’s more he builds his propositions out of his conclusions, and then blames the audience for a lack of appropriate response when his tricks fall flat.

    Thread won.

    a talk about this he gave in Denmark a few years ago that Jadehawk, me and David M attended IIRC

    We did.

    The standard response is a naked rejection. “No, Hitler knew what he was doing was wrong, he was just doing it to spite God/out of pride/because he was corrupted by the Devil” or some such bullshit.

    …which, of course, falls apart as soon as you have any idea of what’s in Mein Kampf.

  140. David Marjanović says

    I came up with “hiding behind the clock” when some troll asserted that we should have an oral debate, “where there’s no place to hide.”

    + 1

  141. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @BronzeDog:

    I think the subject is far too simple to be equated with a scientific discipline, but just right to be sound-bite-sized.

    Yeah, riffing on this:


    Scientists and skeptics and empiricists like me are trying to explain reality. The acolytes of the most sophisticated theology are trying to explain god.

    What, precisely does it say about our respective arguments that the acolytes have yet to find a sound bite so small it cannot digest all of god, while the empiricists describing reality cannot reduce it to such negligibility?

  142. neuroguy says

    @139:

    Leave aside for a moment that there are plenty of anti-semites out there who believe fervently that the Holocaust was a good thing; the mere fact the holocaust happened means morals are subjective. Hitler believed he was doing a good thing; he certainly didn’t see himself as evil. If he thought it was evil he wouldn’t have done it. But the rest of the world, apart from the minority mentioned above, do believe he was evil. That in and of itself proves the existence of subjective morality, doesn’t it? Or am I talking nonsense?

    Yeah, you’re missing something here. Let’s see if putting it this way helps:

    Leave aside for a moment that there are plenty of religious followers out there who believe fervently the world is only 6,000 years old. The mere fact that there are those promoting “scientific” creationism means scientific truth is subjective. Ken Ham and Kent Hovind think they are right; they certainly don’t see themselves as wrong. If they thought they were wrong they wouldn’t be doing it. But the rest of the world, apart from the minority mentioned above, do believe they are wrong. That in and of itself proves the existence of subjective scientific truth, doesn’t it?

    No. Morality and scientific truth are matters of objective fact, no matter how much any given individual or individuals may be mistaken about them.

  143. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @neuroguy:

    You’re right to point out that Thumper’s statement *on its own* (which was the question on the table) does not prove subjective morality, only subjective knowledge of morality.

    But if the right answer to a moral question exists somewhere to which no human mind has access, that does not create objectivity.

    One might as well say that a perfect chair exists because of Plato’s forms. The question here is not “perfect” but “exist”.

    Don’t ask in what sense existing morality can be objective. Ask rather, in what sense can objective morality be said to exist.

  144. consciousness razor says

    it is a fact that a person is starving. it is my personal subjective values that we should therefore help them.

    No, it’s a reasonable thing to do, and just saying the words “personal subjective values” isn’t saying a damn thing about why you’re doing it. And who’s “we”? No one else is the same person as you, so who is supposed to share your personal view on things? Why would “we” do that? Is there any reason?

    There are clear, non-personal reasons why you ought to help them. You could feel the same way they can, and you don’t want a world in which that sort of thing is the case. Tomorrow it might be you, or you might need some other kind of help from that person or someone else who was grateful for what you did. So you can empathize with them and help them and cooperate with them. You can respect their capacity to think about their own actions, and that they personally experience pain and pleasure in much the same way you do, so you treat them accordingly.

    I just used the word “you” a whole lot; and what matters here is not whether you, brianpansky, are perfectly reasonable and ethical in everything that you do. I’m sure you aren’t, just as I’m not. Instead, it makes a whole lot more sense to be considering what an ideal person would do. Or in other words, to make it clear that it’s not being claimed there’s an actual ideal person located out there somewhere, rationality itself dictates that we ought to act this or that way. And despite using a word like “dictates,” rationality isn’t literally speaking and isn’t a person either. But if you keep asking “why, why, why?” all the way down, you eventually get to the point where rationality is the only thing left. Which is not any kind of problem: I think it’s self-explanatory in all the ways that count, so we can very comfortably stop there.

    * putting the word “my” in “my meta ethics” might seem confusing here. to clarify, i’m pretty sure that ethical subjectivism is a fact, and moral realism is incoherent superstition.

    You must be pretty sure of that, since you’ve given no argument for it whatsoever.

  145. ChasCPeterson says

    Morality and scientific truth are matters of objective fact

    Wrong, on both counts, I think.
    A goal of science is to approach ‘objective fact’ as closely as possible, and we are probably closer now than in the past, but to suggest that today’s scientific ‘truth’ is equivalent to ‘objective fact’ is to be unclear on the whole concept.
    As for ‘morality’, it’s so obviously subjective that I don’t even know what to say.

  146. says

    Azuma Hazaki

    Please tell me more about Plantinga. Something about his “reformed epistemology” smells bad,

    It’s presuppositional nonsense. It relies on the existence of god being axiomatic, just like all apologetics.

    and I can rip his free will defense apart unassisted, but he’s still in an entire different league from Craig and Bruggencate and Hovind and people like that.

    No he isn’t. He makes functionally identical arguments, which share identical flaws.

  147. Stephen Wicklund says

    >>>”Does your god blind you to the possibility that there are better explanations? Say, that the entire story of the empty tomb was a legend invented well after the fact, or that if there were a tomb, a Roman surgeon had the body stolen for the purposes of his anatomical studies, or that a bear dragged the corpse away for a little snack? There are many simpler and explanations, and it seems to me to be a bit of a deficiency on your part that you can’t think of them.”

    Craig specifically responds to the legend theory. The other two are obviously unlikely. (I think you would agree that there’s less than 0.1% chance for either of the other two scenarios you propose to have occurred)

    Yes, there may be other explanations. But Craig has dealt with every major one proposed up till now, and he does have some warrant, from this, to infer that there are no good naturalistic explanations. Some have spent months of their life on developing such naturalistic theories, but in the end they also have turned out implausible.

    This doesn’t prove a supernatural intervention by any means, but it does increase the probability of it, and that’s all that’s needed for it to count as a live argument.

  148. says

    Stephen:

    This doesn’t prove a supernatural intervention by any means, but it does increase the probability of it, and that’s all that’s needed for it to count as a live argument.

    There has yet to be a single example of a verifiable supernatural intervention in the history of man. Naturalistic explanations have consistently supplanted the supernatural ones. Why would you think this time would be any different?

  149. neuroguy says

    @158, @160:

    You are conflating epistemology with ontology.

    But if the right answer to a moral question exists somewhere to which no human mind has access, that does not create objectivity.

    One might as well say that a perfect chair exists because of Plato’s forms. The question here is not “perfect” but “exist”.

    If the right answer to a moral question exists, the moral question has an objective right answer, whether or not any human mind has access to it, just like the truth or falsity of Fermat’s Last Theorem. I don’t see what Platonism has to do with this. It is an objective fact whether or not any given human act under consideration adds or subtracts from human well-being. Why concede this part of the debate to theism?

    Right now, no human mind has access to whether we live in a multiverse or not, whether the multi- or universe is temporally bounded, etc. Cosmologists have lots of theories but lack the means to do the necessary experiments. Nevertheless if you do not agree that the presence of absence of a multiverse is an objective fact even though we do not know which one is the case, then there’s really no hope of further discussion.

    A goal of science is to approach ‘objective fact’ as closely as possible, and we are probably closer now than in the past, but to suggest that today’s scientific ‘truth’ is equivalent to ‘objective fact’ is to be unclear on the whole concept.

    Is the amount of exactly how closely science approaches objective fact itself an objective fact, or not? And if not, there is no refutation of creationism, or even geocentrism for that matter. Who is to say Ken Ham’s science isn’t closer to the truth?

    Look, PZ’s blog is primarily a science blog, and one of the primary postulates of science is there are objective facts about the world which science can discover.

  150. samgardner says

    How is it that these people can look at evolution and see “just a theory” that’s riddled with holes, but then they see an argument like “The universe must have started, therefore God” and think that’s fine???

    “I think you would agree that there’s less than 0.1% chance for either of the other two scenarios you propose to have occurred)”

    I disagree. I think there’s much more than a 0.1% chance, and that you’re simply inventing that number. And besides that, even if it’s .1% that’s one in a thousand?

  151. neuroguy says

    This doesn’t prove a supernatural intervention by any means, but it does increase the probability of it, and that’s all that’s needed for it to count as a live argument.

    No, not really, unless we can get some handle on exactly how much the posterior probability is increased by and to. Maybe this increases the posterior probability of supernatural intervention in this particular case from 10^-20 to 10^-18, but that hardly makes it a compelling explanation.

    Because, the prior probability is so low. Do we have any evidence of God raising anyone else from the dead? If so, how many others? A naturalistic explanation with only a prior probability of 0.1% is, in fact, MUCH more probable.

  152. consciousness razor says

    Stephen Wicklund:

    Craig specifically responds to the legend theory. The other two are obviously unlikely. (I think you would agree that there’s less than 0.1% chance for either of the other two scenarios you propose to have occurred)

    Suppose that’s right. What do you think is the probability of the resurrection? Higher than 0.1%???

    That’s laughable.

    Yes, there may be other explanations.

    This is not some novel possibility that you’ve just started speculating about. There certainly are other explanations. Not maybe. Definitely.

    But Craig has dealt with every major one proposed up till now, and he does have some warrant, from this, to infer that there are no good naturalistic explanations. Some have spent months of their life on developing such naturalistic theories, but in the end they also have turned out implausible.

    This doesn’t prove a supernatural intervention by any means, but it does increase the probability of it, and that’s all that’s needed for it to count as a live argument.

    What are you saying has increased the probability of it? The fact that Craig is satisfied with his own arguments?

    Has Craig (or you) even listed every major naturalistic proposal about the resurrection account somewhere? We could start with that, then see whether he’s refuted a single one of them. If it in fact is all of them, that (if it were true) would still only tell us it is as yet unexplained. The fact that unexplained or even inexplicable things sometimes happen doesn’t imply anything about the nature of those things, much less that they are specifically supernatural in origin.

  153. consciousness razor says

    Whoops, the second blockquote above wasn’t supposed to be there. It should just read as me saying this:

    “Suppose that’s right. What do you think is the probability of the resurrection? Higher than 0.1%??? That’s laughable.”

  154. says

    Stephen Wicklund #162

    Craig specifically responds to the legend theory. The other two are obviously unlikely. (I think you would agree that there’s less than 0.1% chance for either of the other two scenarios you propose to have occurred)

    Au Contraire. The use of executed criminals for anatomical observations and grave-robbing to obtain samples for same have both got multi-millenia histories throughout Eurasia. Similarly, the Syrian Brown Bear is endemic to the region, and such animals are well known to lair in caves and consume carrion. Admittedly, the bear scenario is rendered less likely by the boulder being replaced, as there’s little reason a bear would do that.

    Yes, there may be other explanations. But Craig has dealt with every major one proposed up till now,

    No, he hasn’t. The simplest and most obvious naturalistic explanation is entirely consonant with the story as presented in the bible (the only source for any of this) is that some person or persons absconded with the body in the night. This assumes that there is any truth whatsoever at the bottom of the biblical account, and assumption that is no more warranted than assuming that the king of Thebes was torn apart by the women of the city, who’d been driven to madness by Dionysus. There is precisely as much evidence for this occurrence as there is for the empty tomb, or indeed the existence of such a person as Jesus of Nazareth at all.

    and he does have some warrant, from this, to infer that there are no good naturalistic explanations. Some have spent months of their life on developing such naturalistic theories, but in the end they also have turned out implausible.

    This doesn’t prove a supernatural intervention by any means, but it does increase the probability of it, and that’s all that’s needed for it to count as a live argument.

    No, he hasn’t. There is zero evidence of any ‘supernatural’ intervention having occurred anywhere, ever, and an empty grave really, really doesn’t count. Grave robbery has a long tradition.

  155. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @neuroguy

    If the right answer to a moral question exists, the moral question has an objective right answer, whether or not any human mind has access to it, just like the truth or falsity of Fermat’s Last Theorem. … It is an objective fact whether or not any given human act under consideration adds or subtracts from human well-being.

    Right now, no human mind has access to whether we live in a multiverse or not, whether the multi- or universe is temporally bounded, etc.

    Sigh. I realize I was insufficiently clear.

    I should have said that

    if the right answer to a moral question exists somewhere to which no human mind – past, present or future, in fact or in theory – has access, that does not create objectivity.

    I thought “no human mind” was sufficiently all encompassing to include future minds and theoretical minds deployed in your refutation of my point.

    I may not have been completely clear, but you haven’t refuted the point I indented to make at all. The existence or not of a physical thing certainly is amenable to an objective answer, whether we are aware of the answer or not.

    Your problem is that you use terms like “human well being” without any seeming awareness of the problems of that phrase.

    How, precisely, is embarrassment measured against shame? How much shame equals one unit of depression? If one breaks a leg, but then stays home to mend it and misses getting crushed by a landslide that kills one’s friends, is human well-being enhanced by the broken leg? Why or why not? Is human well-being vastly penalized by the broken leg b/c the people killed in the landslide were gone relatively quickly, with relatively little pain and fear, but now the person with the broken leg gets to suffer the emotional agony of loss?

    You don’t have a definition of human well being. Until you have an objective definition of human well being, you cannot possibly have an objective metric of consequentialist morality, such as you propose.

    Moreover, you’re stuck in consequentialism which, while certainly my preferred ethical framework, has its problems and is not universally admitted to be the single ethical standard. Intention-measures of evil are omitted. If I blow up a plane, killing many, but one child on that plane would have grown up to kill even more, have I done good? Strict consequentialism says yes. Your metric “increasing human well-being” says yes.

    And yet I acted with an intent that could hardly be more evil.

    I’m not certain I’ve got all the answers, but I can tell your certainty fits best in a cocked hat.

    Why concede this part of the debate to theism?

    Who says I’m conceding anything to theism? I don’t believe that objective morality exists. Period.

    Theists more often than not only assert the existence of OM, they rely on it as a premise to attempt to prove god. In this case, I’m not conceding the fucking premise. You are. If there are places and times where theistic arguments rely on subjective morality, I will articulate the limits of confidence in SM, but concede that I think the case is very strong that it exists and I may be willing to grant it as a premise, depending on what I think of the honesty of my conversation partner. But that situation is not this one, so why are you after me for conceding the premise? (as if that’s even a bad thing: granting a premise can be a great way to watch an argument come of the rails if the premise is debatable but the logical argument is crap)

    =============
    @Steven Wicklund

    (I think you would agree that there’s less than 0.1% chance for either of the other two scenarios you propose to have occurred)

    No. I don’t grant this at all. Why should I?

    Are you going to argue that the vast majority of tombs go without interference from animals?

    Fine, but that’s not what we’re arguing about. We are specifically arguing about an open, empty tomb, and the reason we’re arguing about it is that contained within, only just recently, was the body of a reviled criminal with no wealth, who was nonetheless thought a prophet by some.

    How may cases of a cult leader’s open tomb have you investigated?

    Why should we presume that a fresh body in an open tomb, the body of someone known to have died, would be ignored by local wildlife? Well, there would have to be appropriate wildlife in the area, but there was.

    So what, then, in the case of unguarded fresh meat, in a trafficked but non-urban area near a large human settlement 2000 years ago, makes it clear that there’s less than a 0.1% chance an animal took the carcass as meat?

    you really think that in all the times in human history where a fresh corpse went mysteriously missing from its open place of rest, the number of godly resurrections exceeds that number of animal dinners?

    I could not imagine a more daft argument.

  156. CJO says

    Stephen Wicklund @162:
    Craig specifically responds to the legend theory.

    In this piece? No he doesn’t, unless you mean his equivocating appeal to “most historical scholars”.

    And there’s extremely good reasons to believe that the Empty Tomb pericope is the invention of the author of Mark, taken over with modifications by the other evangelists. For a clear demonstration of this, compare Mark 16:1-3:

    1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
    2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
    3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away ythe stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

    and Matthew 28:1:

    Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

    In the previous chapter, Matthew has introduced into the story an apologetic novelty: the Roman guard detail at the tomb. But this forces the author not only to add material to Mark, but to contradict his source as well. Because if there had been a guard, the women in Mark would have known that there would be no chance of entering the tomb or handling the body, as we are told they are planning to do. With the addition to the story in Matthew, the motivation of the women in Mark is incoherent. So he removes it, sending his women on an errand rather to “see” the tomb.

    The whole of the account in Matthew of the burial and resurrection is riddled with such internal difficulties and implausibilities. Consider 28:11-15, the summation of the apologetic device of the guard, wherein the Jewish authorities bribe an entire cohort of Roman soldiers to confess to falling asleep on duty, that is, to commit mass suicide.

    Without even getting into the many inconsistencies and contradictions exposed by comparing the versions of the account in Matthew and Luke, it’s easy to see that we are dealing here with elaborated fictions and that the authors of these texts were not interested in passing along historical data, but have carefully crafted the narratives for theological and apologetic reasons.

  157. brianpansky says

    @159
    consciousness razor

    …sigh.

    and here i thought what i said would clear things up enough that there wouldn’t be any disagreement.

    No, it’s a reasonable thing to do, and just saying the words “personal subjective values” isn’t saying a damn thing about why you’re doing it.

    there were certain things i was trying to state clearly, but the details of why i do things is not one of the topics i was trying to explore. i was trying to state the *distinction* between facts, ethics, and meta ethics.

    now you say it is the reasonable thing to do. i would modify this by saying “it is the reasonable way to accomplish my own desires”.

    And who’s “we”? No one else is the same person as you, so who is supposed to share your personal view on things?

    i want other people to help me accomplish my goals.

    i think there is more i could say here, but it’s taking too long to finish writing, and i have school studying to do.

    There are clear, non-personal reasons why you ought to help them. You could feel the same way they can, and you don’t want a world in which that sort of thing is the case. [...]

    actually sounds fairly personal. also, it’s still based on my own desires.

    I just used the word “you” a whole lot; and what matters here is not whether you, brianpansky, are perfectly reasonable and ethical in everything that you do. I’m sure you aren’t, just as I’m not. Instead, it makes a whole lot more sense to be considering what an ideal person would do.

    what is an ideal person? someone who is in accordance with my personal desires?

    “ideal” sounds like a value judgement. or do you mean “omniscient” or something?

    Or in other words, to make it clear that it’s not being claimed there’s an actual ideal person located out there somewhere, rationality itself dictates that we ought to act this or that way. And despite using a word like “dictates,” rationality isn’t literally speaking and isn’t a person either. But if you keep asking “why, why, why?” all the way down, you eventually get to the point where rationality is the only thing left. Which is not any kind of problem: I think it’s self-explanatory in all the ways that count, so we can very comfortably stop there.

    i’m pretty sure if you keep asking why why why all the way down you get something more basic than rationality. rationality is only a tool, and is helpful to accomplish my personal *desires*.

  158. consciousness razor says

    Crip Dyke, #170:

    Your problem is that you use terms like “human well being” without any seeming awareness of the problems of that phrase.

    How, precisely, is embarrassment measured against shame? How much shame equals one unit of depression? If one breaks a leg, but then stays home to mend it and misses getting crushed by a landslide that kills one’s friends, is human well-being enhanced by the broken leg? Why or why not? Is human well-being vastly penalized by the broken leg b/c the people killed in the landslide were gone relatively quickly, with relatively little pain and fear, but now the person with the broken leg gets to suffer the emotional agony of loss?

    All of these assume there is some scale, relating one thing to another, although given what else you’ve said, I’m not sure you actually believe there is such a scale. It’s as if you’re doubting the soundness of mathematics itself, but then what you do to try to demonstrate that is just give us a bunch of difficult equations to solve. If you’re not expecting valid solutions, then you should say so. But even if we came back with solutions, you could still say you’re not satisfied with them, yet still not say why you’re not satisfied with them.

    You don’t have a definition of human well being. Until you have an objective definition of human well being, you cannot possibly have an objective metric of consequentialist morality, such as you propose.

    neuroguy’s specific proposals don’t need to be correct. There just needs to be the potential for some such proposal, which someone could know more about, and that it’s something for which terms like “knowledge” and “truth” and “validity” can reasonably be applied. You’re flatly denying that there could be anything like that in a naturalistic universe, for reasons which are entirely obscure to me, not simply that one person specifically has something about it wrong. We’re going for the big fish here, not little ones like me or neuroguy.

    Who says I’m conceding anything to theism? I don’t believe that objective morality exists. Period.

    Look at it this way. Nearly all people, if not everyone, behave as if certain actions really are good or bad. You do too, despite all your talk. Why is that? If you claim that this simply cannot be true in a naturalistic universe, for some unknown reason, you’re inviting them to go with their intuitions by not giving an alternative explanation. You have to at least say why it’s wrong, not just find a thousand different ways of asserting the same thing. So this is a twofer: you’re giving them a reason to be a theist if they’re unconvinced, and if somehow you do convince them, a reason to be a nihilist. Either way you end up with more people who are somewhat more deluded and assholish than they were before. Or else what you’re saying is completely ineffectual. I don’t see how this is a winning strategy.

    brianpansky, #172:

    what is an ideal person? someone who is in accordance with my personal desires?

    Not necessarily. Your desires might be wrong, and you might not be an ethical person in every conceivable way. That is a possibility. How would you try to account for that in your subjective account? Is it that anything you happen to desire must be good? Are you incapable of wanting the wrong things?

    “ideal” sounds like a value judgement. or do you mean “omniscient” or something?

    A hypothetical person who is rational and ethical. Again, no such person exists. Whether or not they’d need to be omniscient, if there is something to know about, then you’re saying ethics concerns the truth and matters of fact.

  159. brianpansky says

    @173
    consciousness razor

    what is an ideal person? someone who is in accordance with my personal desires?

    Not necessarily. Your desires might be wrong, and you might not be an ethical person in every conceivable way. That is a possibility. How would you try to account for that in your subjective account? Is it that anything you happen to desire must be good? Are you incapable of wanting the wrong things?

    simply assuming moral realism in your statements won’t convince me of moral realism (i’ll have to check if i’m guilty of doing this as well). or are you advocating for some moral realism? not sure. also, the wiki articles aren’t always as clear as i want them to be…

    also, i’m reading this as:

    “Your desires might not be the ones i have, and you might not be my idea of an ethical person in every conceivable way. That is a possibility. How would you try to account for that in your subjective account? Is it that anything you happen to desire must be desirable to me? Are you incapable of wanting the things i don’t want?”

    everything is completely easy to account for from my view.

    now, i really do need to study for my test…maybe we could pick this up in an off topic thread tomorrow when i’m done.

  160. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @consciousness razor:

    All of these assume there is some scale, relating one thing to another, although given what else you’ve said, I’m not sure you actually believe there is such a scale. It’s as if you’re doubting the soundness of mathematics itself, but then what you do to try to demonstrate that is just give us a bunch of difficult equations to solve. If you’re not expecting valid solutions, then you should say so.

    All of these assume that those insisting on objective morality are depending on a scale. Neuroguy argues that aggregate human well being can be known, and that knowing it is the tricky but necessary step in finding the objectively correct answer to a moral/ethical problem.

    I’m saying neuroguy is using junk science, and that in any scientific field, we would insist on knowing the coefficients of comparison between shame and embarrassment, as well as having Fujita-Pearson Scale of emotional devastation against which the coefficient-corrected shame and embarrassment impacts could be compared.

    neuroguy shows no evidence of any operational definition of “human well being” and if he did have one, how would we know it was objectively the correct definition of “human well being”? Moreover, he shows no evidence that it’s even **possible** to have a definition of human well being that encapsulates all we need to know for moral decision making.

    His framing of morality as entirely consequentialist is a case in point. Again, other things being equal, consequences are exactly what make an action moral or not, but we don’t live in a world were you have a lot of actions where ceteris paribus applies. Calling 911 in X situation might be moral, and we might say formulate something that says it’s moral. It might even really be the best of a bunch of bad options if someone horrifically violent is armed and threatening. But there will always be extra details – details beyond that. The model can be relentlessly complicated and still fall short of capturing all possible details relevant to ethics. In this case, we could conceive that the caller reasonably wants police help, but also knows that the in this small town at this time the person likely to show up is an ex-lover that doesn’t deal well with this man. In effect, the caller is creating a situation in which one or both are likely to be injured or killed. If we imagine that the caller is happy about this, what then the ethics of it? If the caller is happy about this, but the thought process that leads to that happiness is that someone is sure to get hurt, and this way it’s someone that the caller believes deserves the pain?

    If there is an objective morality, then there must be a finite list of factors, of variables, to analyze. These must be comparable in some way, with correcting coefficients, etc. The equation becomes endlessly complex, and isn’t satisfyingly covered by looking at consequences only.

    In short, neuroguy’s conception of objective morality is inadequate and incoherent, and attempts to side step these problems by simply saying that if we don’t know the answer, an answer still exists.

    Prove to me that an answer exists, first.

    This is what I’m saying. neuroguy – and others – are insisting that morality exists, and it can be objective.

    I’m saying that just because “objectivity” is a real thing and “morality” is a real thing, that does not mean that “objective morality” actually exists.

    If the answers exist, I’ll grant my ignorance of them does not render them unobjective (or biased, if you prefer, but in this philosophical case, I believe unobjective is better).

    So go ahead. Prove the answers exist. Prove that there is such a thing as an objective metric of “human well being” such that we can (or could, if you prove an objective metric exists, but that we can’t access it) judge the rise and fall of it. Then you are fee to assert that actions which cause those rises and falls can be objectively said to be moral/ethical or immoral/unethical.

  161. brianpansky says

    Who says I’m conceding anything to theism? I don’t believe that objective morality exists. Period.

    Look at it this way. Nearly all people, if not everyone, behave as if certain actions really are good or bad. You do too, despite all your talk. Why is that? If you claim that this simply cannot be true in a naturalistic universe

    i think the word “moral”, “ethical” “good”, “bad” etc are not well defined in this conversation.

    like what does “really are good or bad” mean? depends on the definition of good and bad. but careful, any particular definition for them is a set of ethics, not meta ethics! (and this discussion is about meta ethics). so you have to either concede that the only definitions for those words are personal values (ethical subjectivism, i think) or describe how one set of values can be more “real” than another (moral realism).

    taboo your words, people!

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/nu/taboo_your_words/

  162. brianpansky says

    @175
    Crip Dyke

    His framing of morality as entirely consequentialist is a case in point.

    also notice, Crip Dyke, consequentialism is ethics, not meta ethics. thoug i guess establishing that set of ethics to be the objective ones would answer the meta ethical question kinda maybe.

    also, please note that a metric of human well being still does not establish that we “objectively should” try to increase it.

    i’m pretty sure “objective values” is just an oxymoron.

  163. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    So this is a twofer: you’re giving them a reason to be a theist if they’re unconvinced,

    Okay, here you’re just being incoherent. “If they’re unconvinced” would mean that what I was saying might, hypothetically, convince them the theist argument is wrong.

    In what possible world is an argument that, if accepted as true, contradicts your opponents’ argument, one that will

    concede this part of the debate

    Seriously? I have to respond to this?

    Sigh. I guess I do.

    and if somehow you do convince them, a reason to be a nihilist.

    No. If I’ve taken the theists’ position, then if I convince them, they have a reason to be a theist.

    Duh.

    Either way you end up with more people who are somewhat more deluded and assholish than they were before. Or else what you’re saying is completely ineffectual. I don’t see how this is a winning strategy.

    If I my tentative conclusion about the subjective nature of morality is correct, then if I convince them, they are by definition less deluded.

    I am not currently arguing for them to be more or less evil, I am currently arguing only that evil is determined through a process that is not objective unless and until you have an objective definition of evil. neuroguy tries to sidestep that by saying evil is a diminution of human well-being, but that begs the question, what is a diminution of human well-being? Is there a definition? Even if there was, could there be evil that doesn’t diminish human well-being? Someone intending to commit an evil crime who ends up enhancing it? Is that even evil? Well, not according to the human well-being scale, but if we’re talking about the human well-being scale my decision to drive my uncle to the store that ends in his horrible demise as a meteor strikes the car is exactly as evil as the demise of my uncle resulting from a dropped chainsaw during my look-at-me-I’m-juggling-chainsaws-over-my-passed-out-uncle routine.

    is there an objective way to say that intent and recklessness have no bearing on the definition of evil, that it is consequence only?

    if not, then those I convince are in fact less deluded.

    How to make them better people is a subsequent conversation.

    But I should think it would be obvious that whether my arguments are effective or not in a given context – even whether my arguments are *desirable* in a given context – is a different fucking question from whether or not I have conceded to theists from the get-go.

    So can we now please stop the ridiculous and insulting

    CD is conceding the argument to theists, which means that if the audience believes CD that they will think the theists are wrong

    trope?

    Pretty please?

  164. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    also notice, Crip Dyke, consequentialism is ethics, not meta ethics. thoug i guess establishing that set of ethics to be the objective ones would answer the meta ethical question kinda maybe.

    yeah, that’s in my point about virtue ethics and intention. I probably wasn’t clear enough.

    also, please note that a metric of human well being still does not establish that we “objectively should” try to increase it.

    meh. I think that is implied in the metric itself. If it doesn’t measure something we should increase, then in what way would it be a metric of human well being?

    That, of course, is an argument from ignorance, but I’m trying to be generous to them. I don’t really lose anything in the argument by insisting on a definition of human well being whose increases and decreases measure (one dimension of) the morality of an action than I do insisting on a definition of human well being and then a proof that its increases and decreases measure (one dimension of) the morality of an action.

    I think it’s functionally equivalent, but if I’m missing something, maybe you’ll tell me.

  165. consciousness razor says

    brianpansky, if you’re a solipsist, you can save us all the trouble by stopping this conversation with yourself at any time. Go do your homework or whatever. I don’t actually give a fuck about the many marvelous ways you can transform my words into something completely different from what I said.

    Crip Dyke:

    Moreover, he shows no evidence that it’s even **possible** to have a definition of human well being that encapsulates all we need to know for moral decision making.

    What kind of evidence? All you would need to do to support your claim that it’s **impossible** is to show what the **contradiction** is. I don’t see a contradiction in it anywhere. If you actually meant physical impossibility rather than logical possibility, then what are the relevant physical laws or conditions? If there’s some other kind of “impossibility” I don’t know about which means something like “I’m just blowing this out of my ass,” you’d probably need to explain that as well.

    Look, I’ll save you time: your claim that it’s impossible is simply wrong. It happens, so I won’t make a big show of it anymore and we can move on. Do you think you could also be wrong about the existence claim as well? It isn’t clear what exactly you think it would take to “prove” nihilism is false. For one thing, I’m not inclined to make a big stink about “human well-being” in the first place, because I think morality doesn’t need to be constrained to our species. But what exactly do you think you’re asking for when you’re asking for a “metric” that I’m supposed to use? Do you think I’m supposed to be measuring units of “well-being” and giving you the data? If I don’t do that, is it that anything else must be irrelevant? What exactly do you point to for the existence of “health units” — video games, maybe? But aren’t those fictional?

    If there is an objective morality, then there must be a finite list of factors, of variables, to analyze. These must be comparable in some way, with correcting coefficients, etc.

    And as I just implied, it’s a lot like our concept of “health.” The bits and pieces are all fine, but as a whole it’s very hard to quantify. That doesn’t mean it’s incoherent or that there can be no such thing. And it doesn’t mean that there could only be such a thing if there were a god, but it just so happens to be that there isn’t a god.

    The equation becomes endlessly complex, and isn’t satisfyingly covered by looking at consequences only.

    Why aren’t they sufficient? What else does there need to be? You talked some about “extra details,” but aren’t those further consequences which weren’t accounted for in X, when we said X ceteris paribus was true?* If they’re not that, then what are they? Who says we’re limited to knowing about our proposition X, instead of the actual physical state of the world in any given place or time, whatever that may be? How exactly do you think things happen in the real world, if some things aren’t a consequence of some physical event or another?

    *Again: if you’re saying any such thing could have a truth value, you’re not a nihilist anyway. You’re just confused, maybe about the label or something.

  166. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Let’s start over, CR.

    I am a-objective morality.

    neuroguy has not put forward the idea that we ought to consider the possibility of objective morality, he has asserted that there is an objective morality.

    The burden of proof is on neuroguy to show that objective morality exists. He hasn’t even shown something like, “If objective morality exists, then X consequence logically follows, therefore we have a testable possibility that objective morality exists”. Then I could argue against his proof (if I felt so inclined).

    But he’s just balls-out asserting that there’s objective morality and isn’t this obvious, when, no, it’s not obvious.

    Moreover, when someone says, “I’m going to prove god”, it’s an entirely reasonable question for the rhetorical opponent to say, “Please define god before you start.”

    Neuroguy hasn’t defined objective morality, except to say it’s this other thing that is also undefined.

    God is Allah is not a definition of god. Objective morality is the measurements provided by a human-well-being-meter is not a definition of objective morality.

    I’m asking for some definitions before we start. I was asking neuroguy, but if you wanna do this, you can feel free to provide them.

    therefore,

    Look, I’ll save you time: your claim that it’s impossible is simply wrong. It happens, so I won’t make a big show of it anymore and we can move on.

    is wrong as I’ve not made a claim that it’s impossible. I’ve merely pointed out that neuroguy hasn’t done the basics necessary to begin a conversation.

    I’ll happily participate in trying to prove something logically impossible once there’s a defined something under discussion. Otherwise, anything I say can point out problems with what I believe might be neuroguy’s approach, but neuroguy can simply define the problems away with, “well it doesn’t mean that, so that argument doesn’t apply”.

    I was attempting to demonstrate not the impossibility of objective morality, but the shoddiness and incompleteness of neuroguy’s posts on the topic.

    I thought this was clear since far from asserting impossibility, I said:

    Prove to me that an answer exists, first.

    I would not have been open to him proving one of his premises, that if proven would render sound his valid argument for objective morality, if I believed that it was impossible.

    You would have seen me say, “you can’t prove this”. I note that I said nothing of the kind.

    As for

    Do you think you could also be wrong about the existence claim as well?

    Fuck yeah I could be wrong.

    Why don’t you define objective morality so we can give the idea a test?

    Why aren’t they sufficient? What else does there need to be? You talked some about “extra details,” but aren’t those further consequences which weren’t accounted for in X, when we said X ceteris paribus was true?* If they’re not that, then what are they?

    In the context of a philosophical debate over ethics, intention is not included as a consequence. They aren’t sufficient because the meta-ethical question of which ethical system might fully contain an objective ethical system has not been answered. It just hasn’t.

    Neuroguy is using consequentialism without taking on the possibility that other ethical systems contain an objective morality, much less whether those ethical systems’ objective moralities might be in conflict with his proposed objective morality.

    hell, it’s question begging, since the theists are starting with objective morality that is non-consequentialist.

    How did neuroguy get to consequentialism? Why did he limit it to consequentialism? We don’t know.

  167. Rob Grigjanis says

    CD @181:

    I was attempting to demonstrate not the impossibility of objective morality, but the shoddiness and incompleteness of neuroguy’s posts on the topic.

    I thought this was clear…

    FWIW, I thought that was perfectly clear.

  168. says

    Azuma Hazuki, way back at #131:

    Please tell me more about Plantinga. Something about his “reformed epistemology” smells bad, and I can rip his free will defense apart unassisted, but he’s still in an entire different league from Craig and Bruggencate and Hovind and people like that.

    That’s basically it. His “reformed epistemology” is nothing more than a somewhat glitzy “god of the gaps” for epistemology. It’s an essential foundation for presuppositionalism, yet rests on identifying weaknesses in epistemology that don’t necessarily exist, and then winnowing alternatives until only God remains. His discussion of epistemology is nuanced, though, and he really does have a good grasp on the fundamentals of understanding. I’d say his Warrant: The Current Debate is worth a read, if you are interested in modern understanding of epistemology.

    Also, speaking of presups, I have found that van Til, and Bahnsen, and Clark, run the argument quite differently from “Sye-clones” and am not sure if I’m missing something or not in how to defeat them. Do you have insight into presup?

    Sorry. I’m a complete amateur in the philosophy world. I’m not familiar enough with van Til, Bahnsen, or Clark to have a real recommendation about that. In general, presuppositionalism is all about trying to smuggle in the concept of God via epistemology. In general, it’s all about identifying the weakness in epistemology they are exploiting, and showing how the argument begs the question. In many cases, they try to synthesize a hole in epistemology (“logic requires an objective Truth”) and then trying to use God-plaster to fill that hole. That’s what I look for when arguing with presups in general.

    I which I could give some more specific tools for battling students of van Til, Bahnsen, or Clark. van Til has been on my reading list for almost a decade, and I’ve not gotten around to him.

  169. neuroguy says

    Interesting posts.

    I was attempting to demonstrate not the impossibility of objective morality, but the shoddiness and incompleteness of neuroguy’s posts on the topic.

    Sorry, I’ll try to do better… But some of the “refutations” are just plain silly.

    Neuroguy hasn’t defined objective morality, except to say it’s this other thing that is also undefined.

    God is Allah is not a definition of god. Objective morality is the measurements provided by a human-well-being-meter is not a definition of objective morality.

    Yes it is. It might not be a definition of objective morality you agree with, because you think objective morality “should” be something else, but it is a valid definition. Denying this is as silly as to deny that the definition of “length” as the measurement provided by a yardstick is not a definition of objective length.

    if the right answer to a moral question exists somewhere to which no human mind – past, present or future, in fact or in theory – has access, that does not create objectivity.

    You know what? I agree with this. Sort of. No human mind – past, present, or future, in fact or in theory, has access to the right answer of what is five divided by zero. This “right answer” isn’t objective. But it isn’t objective because it doesn’t exist. So in order to get any farther here we need to know exactly what we are talking about when we say “the right answer to a moral question”. And that is what I am trying to do.

    Now I define morality as that which increases human well-being. I insist that human well-being is something which is objective, even if measuring it is very difficult. Ergo, I conclude that morality is objective, as objectively human actions increase human well-being or they do not.

    This syllogism is clearly valid: Morality is that which increases human well-being, human well-being is objective, therefore morality is objective.

    So, refutations must show this is unsound. Arguing about what morality is defined as is arguing semantics. If you define morality as something else, you know what, I might actually agree it’s not objective, depending on what it’s defined as.

    Arguing that human well-being is not objective is, I think, the topic that “professional” philosophers can publish 24-page articles in International Journal of Intellectual Snobbery in, but in reality nobody really thinks the well-being of Jews during the Holocaust was only “subjectively” worse in Auschwitz and Dachau.

  170. anteprepro says

    This argument recurs like clockwork. And I’m sure it is just what Billy Lane loves to see happening. Handwringing debates over vague and garbled terms like “objective” and “morality”. Terms that people could argue about and hairsplit over for months on end. Debating endlessly about what constitutes objectivity and how examples X, Y, and Z fall in respect to “objective” vs. “subjective”. Shouting on and on about how “morality definitely means THIS” when morality is really just a fucking mess, with a suite of practical and impractical definitions that differ enough to matter. The objectivity debate is a mostly pointless distraction. The morality debate is a headache, and also a distraction, but a more important one worth tackling. But I suppose that participating in that debate is better than just constantly chuckling about the pratfalls of Mr. Craig, so I can’t complain too much.

  171. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    This “right answer” isn’t objective. But it isn’t objective because it doesn’t exist.

    This is why I said we shouldn’t be concerned with whether existing morality can be objective, but whether objective morality can exist.

    I highlighted the problem of existence earlier for a reason. I’m glad we appear to be on the same page. Let’s see how we do going forward.

    in order to get any farther here we need to know exactly what we are talking about when we say “the right answer to a moral question”. And that is what I am trying to do.

    Oh, good! So we’ll get some “exact” definitions of morality?

    Now I define morality as that which increases human well-being.

    yep. we got that.

    I insist that human well-being is something which is objective, even if measuring it is very difficult.

    and here I do not grant this premise. I don’t think you’ve provided a definition of human well being. B/c you haven’t, there is effectively no definition of “increasing human well being” which means there is, effectively, no definition of morality.

    What is this **exactly**? Are you talking about the prevention of human pain? The elimination of the desire to hurt others? The eradication of shame? Or are you talking about the presence of sufficient calcium bone-density? Or abundant joy? What is human well-being? If we were all plugged into the matrix, our bodies unspeakably used and far from healthy, entirely unaware that our lives are lies, but 51% of people would register general satisfaction with their life experience in the matrix, would we have net human well-being?

    I don’t have any idea what you mean by human well-being. I have a reasonable quasi understanding of health, (not sufficient to be an objective understanding of health, but I have a number of reasonable ideas about what that might mean) but I have even less of this concept here.

    Ergo, I conclude that morality is objective, as objectively human actions increase human well-being or they do not.

    Of course you do.

    This syllogism is clearly valid: Morality is that which increases human well-being, human well-being is objective, therefore morality is objective.

    So, refutations must show this is unsound.

    Yep. We’re totes in agreement…save for one little thing:

    The burden of proof. You’re making an assertion in favor of objective morality. That assertion cannot be proved true without proving not only objective human well-being, but that objective human well-being isn’t a universal constant, that it is impacted by our actions, and that the impact of our actions on human well-being create changes of that net number that could, at least in theory, be compared in ways that give us an answer about whether the changes are positive or negative and the magnitude thereof (magnitude would be necessary to evaluate the morality of denying someone a moral favorable option while nonetheless permitting one favorable option).

    If this is possible in theory, then that information is knowable and objective morality can be said to exist.

    You “insist” on your premise. I say you haven’t demonstrated a first effort to tackle the premise, so I am unable to investigate the really interesting part of what’s going on here – your short argument is clearly valid and I have no problem with that. But it’s no more interesting than me saying

    Now I define morality as that which increases human well-being. I insist that human well-being is something which is subjective and not effectively measurable, even in theory. Ergo, I conclude that morality is subjective, as human actions increase or decrease human well-being only in subjective senses.

    I don’t assert that, but I could. And we would be in exactly the place we are with your argument.

    One interesting thing way in which you could limit your argument is to create special cases. We can measure someone is alive or dead. We can measure calorie and nutrition intake, and even make determinations about what level of calorie intake is unsustainable for a given metabolism. We can say operationally define as “evil” or “immoral” causing death or causing starvation. Then we can say that the grandparents and parents of people I know were objectively worse off – on these measures – in the Nazi death camps.

    And I think an objective case could be made that being alive is better than being dead, and that having a sustainable calorie intake is better than not. We can certainly agree that for certain operational definitions of evil, objective answers exist.

    But the existence of one or many agreements between us for the objective good or ill of a specific act does not make the moral enterprise in toto objective. I, frankly, believe it is a mess of objective and subjective parts, but by the nature of the definitions of objective and subjective, it is my tentative conclusion that morality as a whole is subjective.

    If you want to banish any attempt to prove your premise to the pages of the IJIS, that’s fine. There’s nothing more for us to discuss, but we don’t have to have this conversation.

    The downside for you is that your “proof” remains mere “insistence” as long as no attempt is made to demonstrate your insistent premise that such a thing as “human well being” can be objectively defined, known, measured, and compared.

    This is not a refutation of your argument. This is saying what I said at the beginning: your argument is incomplete. I will no longer call it shoddy. Before it seemed you weren’t even aware of how it might be incomplete. Now I think we’re definitely on the same page and your use of the word “insist” reveals that you are very clear about what’s unproven.

    So I think we should both walk away happy unless and until you write a 24 page article for IJIS.

    But if you do, please point me to it.

  172. Rob Grigjanis says

    neuroguy @184:

    I insist that human well-being is something which is objective, even if measuring it is very difficult I have no idea how it could possibly be measured.

    FTFY

    You’re simply asserting that human well-being is objective. OK, so how could you define it without using any subjective criteria?

    As for your Holocaust reference: Saying that the Great Wall of China is longer than my backyard fence might be something we can all agree on, but it doesn’t help much actually defining length.

  173. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    But I suppose that participating in that debate is better than just constantly chuckling about the pratfalls of Mr. Craig, so I can’t complain too much.

    anteprepro, you are a wiser Turing Machine than I.

  174. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @rob Grigjanis:

    As for your Holocaust reference: Saying that the Great Wall of China is longer than my backyard fence might be something we can all agree on, but it doesn’t help much actually defining length.

    To be fair, I think the Moh’s hardness of your fence definitely indicates it is shorter than the Great Wall of China.

    And if you agree that your fence is shorter, then obviously we have a shared, objective definition of length!

  175. consciousness razor says

    Crip Dyke:

    Yep. We’re totes in agreement…save for one little thing:

    You agree that it’s valid. All you have to do is say which premise you think is false. Or say that none of them are false. The rest of what follows is just … I don’t know what it is.

    But the existence of one or many agreements between us for the objective good or ill of a specific act does not make the moral enterprise in toto objective. I, frankly, believe it is a mess of objective and subjective parts, but by the nature of the definitions of objective and subjective, it is my tentative conclusion that morality as a whole is subjective.

    Well since you’re being so insistent on definitions today, what does “the nature of the definitions of objective and subjective” mean? And I actually want to know, if it’s composed of parts which are one or the other (or maybe some parts are a sort of blend), what makes you say the whole is like the subjective parts, not like the objective parts, not actually a messy blend of the two, and not something completely different from all of the above? Lots of stuff in the real world is messy or something we’re confused about, so something seems really tempting about those last two options, even though I don’t think they make an especially promising theory at least as they are now. I figure “well, you see, it’s really complicated” or “it’s really confusing” probably aren’t the end results of a fruitful investigation, no matter what the topic.

    One very simple question, because I don’t think your line of thought is going anywhere. I give you an unambiguous moral proposition. I say “doing X is good,” for some unambiguous X. Here’s the question: is that the sort of proposition which can be true or false? If so, you’re a realist. Whatever else you might want to say about it, however you want to expand on it or clarify it or say something else about the nature of ethics or epistemology or human beings or whatever, that’s what this boils down to. Is it true or false, or is it neither? And if it’s neither, what is it?

  176. brianpansky says

    maybe i’m just confused, but…

    i started on meta ethics, the discussion of what morality itself is.

    it seems CR changed it to ethics by saying stuff like:

    There are always some kind of consequences which will occur

    i tried to correct this.

    and then CR seems to have moved it to an even lower level. some kind of “sub ethics” where we are asking questions about whether my desires fit with CR’s particular set of ethics:

    Your desires might be wrong, and you might not be an ethical person in every conceivable way.

    see? seems all over the place. i’ll have to check if i was also all over the place…

    and where the hell did you get solipsism from in this discussion, CR?

  177. consciousness razor says

    if by “realist” you mean “moral realism”, then that is incorrect.

    I’m perfectly fine with this description from your 2nd link:

    Ethical subjectivism stands in opposition to moral realism, which claims that moral propositions refer to objective facts, independent of human opinion; to error theory, which denies that any moral propositions are true in any sense; and to non-cognitivism, which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all.

    I guess I could’ve qualified it by saying that I meant “truth” not in the sense of being an opinion a person has, but I didn’t think I would need to quibble about something like that. Obviously, if you have an opinion, it’s true that you have that opinion. What would that matter? That doesn’t imply it’s a “true proposition” in the normal sense of the word “true,” as in “it isn’t simply my opinion that this is the case; it actually is the case.”

    Realism, for that matter, isn’t opposed to “relativism,” which is a common misconception. Some of the discussion above seemed to suggest otherwise. I think of it this way: we don’t worry that electromagnetic and gravitational fields vary in different parts of the universe. Of course, the laws themselves seem to be consistent everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that matter or charge is therefore uniformly distributed. Those are describing two very different things, so to say that both are true is obviously not a contradiction.

    ——

    I also wanted to share this debate about morality and theism, between WLC and Shelly Kagan, a philosopher at Yale. WLC says all the same old bullshit, but I think Kagan’s part makes it worth watching.

    I meant to link this before, to show David Marjanović that reputable philosophers do occasionally have debates. With scumbags like WLC, no less!

  178. Anri says

    neuroguy @ 184:

    This syllogism is clearly valid: Morality is that which increases human well-being, human well-being is objective, therefore morality is objective.

    Ok, it seems very easy to me to cause really strange results with this formulation, but maybe I’m just being simple minded: a successful voyeur (that is, one who is not caught) is performing a moral act – their well-being is increased (they are happier) and no-one’s well-being is reduced in comparison.
    Note that this is not just a morally neutral act, but a positive moral act… refraining from spying on someone would fail to improve the voyeur’s well-being and would therefore be less moral by your metric.

    Please let me know what I’m missing about your view of morality.

  179. consciousness razor says

    myself:

    Of course, the laws themselves seem to be consistent everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that matter or charge is therefore uniformly distributed.

    It’s probably better to say that it’s in the nature of being a physical law that it is consistent everywhere. If the laws as we know them turned out not to be consistent, we’d try to find something else which is, because that new thing would be law-like (at least as far as we could tell). But I don’t mean to derail here. It’s just an analogy anyway.

  180. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @CR:

    You agree that it’s valid. All you have to do is say which premise you think is false.

    Wow. you couldn’t figure out where I specified that? This is from the comment to which you responded:

    neuroguy: I insist that human well-being is something which is objective, even if measuring it is very difficult.

    ME: and here I do not grant this premise. I don’t think you’ve provided a definition of human well being. B/c you haven’t, there is effectively no definition of “increasing human well being” which means there is, effectively, no definition of morality.

    I invited neuroguy to prove that premise. I don’t expect him to because he thinks it’s a topic for a 24 page article in a fictitious hoity-toity journal. His choice.

    If you want to support the premise, then we can finally evaluate the argument.

    ========

    One very simple question, because I don’t think your line of thought is going anywhere. I give you an unambiguous moral proposition. I say “doing X is good,” for some unambiguous X. Here’s the question: is that the sort of proposition which can be true or false?

    here’s my answer in the form of a question:
    I give you an unambiguous proposition. I say, “doing X is slartibartfaasticle” for some unambiguous X. here’s the question: is that the sort of proposition which can be true or false?

    The answer is: it depends on the definition of “slartibartfasticle” which is a word for which I’ve never seen a clear definition that was accurate and neither over inclusive nor under inclusive.

    I’ve never seen a clear, accurate definition of the term, “good” which is neither over inclusive nor under inclusive. Therefore, I do not currently believe in objective morality. I believe if something is undefined, one cannot possibly know whether or not it exists. Not knowing its nature or its existence, one cannot objectively – even in theory – evaluate how actions affect “good”.

    Therefore, ***so long as “good” remains undefined*** it will always be subjective.

    1. Good is undefined P
    2. Anything undefined is not subject to evaluation of truth claims Axiom
    3. Good is not subject to evaluation of truth claims. C

    ====================================

    Well since you’re being so insistent on definitions today, what does “the nature of the definitions of objective and subjective” mean? And I actually want to know, if it’s composed of parts which are one or the other (or maybe some parts are a sort of blend), what makes you say the whole is like the subjective parts, not like the objective parts, not actually a messy blend of the two, and not something completely different from all of the above?

    Objectivity requires the absence of subjectivity. The nature of those definitions is that they are antonyms in the same sense as “absent” and “present” or “empty” and “full” (well, really, “not empty”).

    What I am saying is that it may be possible to make sound objective arguments for certain things being “good” or “ill”/”evil”.

    Imagine a canister for each of these special cases. Each canister that meets these special criterion is empty of subjectivity. Therefore, we are calling each of these objective cases.

    If I am right that “good” is undefined, we find, however, that we can’t do this with all moral questions, even if (as is not guaranteed, but seems likely to me) we form enough of a partial definition to agree on those special cases. For these other questions, subjectivity enters: these canisters contain varying degrees of subjectivity.

    If morality is the set of answers to all moral questions, each contained in a canister, then we can have a bunch of canisters, some full, some empty and visualize a “mix” of objectivity and subjectivity in this way. However, when trying to define morality, since morality includes all the canisters and since at least one canister contains subjectivity, then we have subjective morality. Morality includes subjectivity = morality is subjective.

    To see the exclusive nature of objectivity/subjectivity, wikipedia, for one example, says this about subjectivity:

    It is the collection of the perceptions, experiences, expectations, personal or cultural understanding, and beliefs specific to a person. It is often used in contrast to the term objectivity, which is described as a view of truth or reality which is free of any individual’s influence.

    the stanford encyclopedia of philosophy online says this:

    The objectivist sees his inquiry as a process of detection, his judgments aiming to reflect the extension of the truth predicate with respect to a certain subject; the subjectivist sees his inquiry as a process of projection, his judgments determining the extension of the truth predicate regarding that subject.

    it is clear that here, too, the terms are mutually exclusive. But if any part of the definition of good is subjective, then judgement determines the extension of the truth predicate regarding the subject of “good”.

    note that “extension of the truth predicate” in Stanford’s phrase, does not negate the possibility of islands of objectively determined truth relations within a broader, subjectively defined sea. If the area of the sea is subjective, the area of the sea + the islands is subjective, even if the area of the islands is non-subjective.
    ==================
    Now to come back again to your “one very simple question”.

    Under the definitions of subjective and objective, we have to refine your question to “is that the sort of proposition which can be objectively true or false?

    And here I answer yes – it **can be**.

    But for objective morality to be true, you need to clarify further. The question to which you really want my answer is this: “Is that the sort of proposition which must by its nature be objectively true or false?”

    Here I answer no – it is not impossible that the truth or falsity of a moral question is subjective.

    And yet, I remain open to being convinced. You can try to come up with a definition of good – in this case, since it depends on the definition of human well being, that would need to be defined, too. In the presence of objective definitions, it becomes **possible** that objective morality exists.

    The repeated failure to come up with a definition of morality, however, of good or of evil, makes me lean hard toward thinking that at least some moral questions exist such that good and/or evil can only have the extent of their truth predicate determined subjectively.

    ==========
    Metaphorical aside, not to be taken as illustrating the nature of the task of determining special cases to be good: Finding some things true but not being able to evaluate others as true or false could be the case if we found it was impossible to precisely define the defining criterion. It might be possible to paint a white bullseye on an off-white wall, while the off-white paint is still wet in such a way that we can tell that the center is definitely in the bullseye, but shots farther out may or may not be, with no objective way to tell.

  181. consciousness razor says

    The answer is: it depends on the definition of “slartibartfasticle” which is a word for which I’ve never seen a clear definition that was accurate and neither over inclusive nor under inclusive.

    How could you know it wasn’t accurate, if you don’t know what it means? Apparently, given your other arguments, you don’t actually think it is undefined or utterly meaningless, as “slartibartfasticle” is supposed to be. You think it just isn’t sufficiently defined, in some set of cases for which you haven’t drawn a clear boundary — not much of a claim for me to work with, honestly. But why would it be something like a definition which varies or which makes the difference, instead of the facts about different situations? Those might be the “extra details” we were discussing before.

    I’m going to stress again that what is certainly not relevant right now is whether anyone knows what the objective truth is, or what the Real, True Definition™ of “good” is, which holds always and everywhere and that you won’t have a fun time trying to deconstruct. If no one knows, or will never have any way of knowing, what the truth is about some particle in Jupiter’s atmosphere, let’s say, that does not mean there is no fact of the matter about that particle. It simply and very clearly doesn’t. One is about our epistemological condition, the other is about the actual fact of the matter (the ontological state, the way things are). And the claim, you remember, is that there are actual facts. That’s why I’m not bothering to attempt an answer: because there would be no point in it.

    I’m also trying to sort out how you’re making the association between subjectivity and a lack of definition or clarity. How are those supposed to be connected? For myself, I think my own experiences are definite, in a reasonable sense of the word, provided that I’m not drunk or in some other altered state of course. They are something in particular. Like a lot of things, they’re hard to put into words or describe fully (at least without wasting my time), but I’m not seeing how you get from being somehow unclear to being subjective. I don’t get how being unclear (if that’s the case) is supposed to indicate or even be suggestive that an individual has projected a judgment or whatever. It just seems like a weird leap to make, and I don’t know what else to say about it.

  182. randay says

    Let’s imagine that Craig’s “transcendent unembodied mind” exists. So what? Explain what powers it has and by what means it uses them to effect its desires. How did it create the physical universe? What would morals for a small insignificant species like ours mean to it? Furthermore, how does that make either the physical or the moral objective? At best they are just the arbitrary decisions of that mind. Or if objective, what criteria did this mind use?

    If there are intelligent alien species(almost certainly there are)on other planets, did this transcendental mind prescribe the same morals for them, or did it experiment to try out others and see which worked out the best according to its criteria?

    Craig says that its commandments are such objective morals. In the Big 10, only three have anything to do with what we mean by human morality: thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not bear false witness. The rest is hogwash. Praising the Lord is unrelated to morality and neither is the thought crime of coveting.

    Excuse me if I have taken someone else’s points, but I didn’t read thoroughly all the nearly 200 posts. I think Cripdike makes a good point in #168 though.

  183. rayndeonx says

    Just some brief thoughts:

    1. To me the most outstanding issues with the kalam is that (a) I don’t think that atemporal causation is coherent and (b) atemporal agency is on even shakier ground than that. I know Craig’s used the argument of the two sorts of immaterial objects known (abstract objects vs minds), but I think that argument rests on a false dichotomy, particularly given that I don’t think substance dualism is coherent. It also further increases the argumentative cost of the kalam – W.L. Craig will need to defend substance dualism on top of a defense of the aforementioned issues. Also, his argument rests on some controversial assumptions about time – namely that time is A-theoretic. Many philosophers of time do not think A-theory is correct – many theists in fact don’t even think A-theory is theologically acceptable.

    Another issue I perceive is that many confuse intuitions regarding coming to exist with beginning to exist. We might express the former that something comes into existence at some interval of time to the extent that there are prior intervals of time at which that thing failed to exist. We might express the latter that something begins to exist at some interval of time to the extent that there are no prior intervals of time at which that thing exists. These two properties are coextensive for almost all times – except the first interval of time, if there was one. But here they diverge and people treat the universe existing as if the universe “popped into existence from nothing” – there was no prior state of nothing. To say that the universe began to exist is simply to say that there is a first interval of time which is not preceded by any prior intervals of time. But we need to avoid reifying nothinginess and engaging in an illicit quantifier shift here – saying that there wasn’t anything that preceded the universe doesn’t mean that there was a state prior to the universe such that that state was “nothingness.” It’s like the joke with R. Smullyan : “What’s better, a ham sandwich or eternal happiness? Clearly a ham sandwich, because a ham sandwich is better than nothing and nothing is better than eternal happiness. So a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness.” By parity of reasoning, saying that there wasn’t anything that preceded God’s existence is to say that there was a nothingness out of which God popped out of. This is an outstanding conceptual confusion in this issue. This is also related to some other stranger views Craig has, about God changing from atemporal to temporal.

    2. I think Craig’s way of formulating the FTA is awkward. See R. Collin’s version of the FTA as it is much clearer. However, this discussion is mostly old hat. There is of course the classic normalizability objection (perhaps made even more pressing in terms of counterfactual laws, not merely counterfactual constants), but I think the most pressing concern is that the FTA is clearly just a version of the contingency argument. We take it that there are physical laws with physical constants taking such and such values such that those values cry out for explanation. But clearly it can be no use to say that there is such and such being with such and such desires and such and such powers such that it desires such and such physical laws with such and such physical constants – the existence of that being would likewise cry for explanation. To break the regress of fine-tuners, we’d have to appeal to such a being having been necessarily existent. There’s a few issues with this: (a) if the argument depends on God’s being necessarily existent, then fine-tuning is irrelevant and superfluous. A necessarily existent being is guaranteed to exist. Fine-tuning does nothing. (b) when we evaluate over the space of possible worlds, it doesn’t seem like we can construct any coherent probability measure. D.K. Lewis said that the number of possible worlds was at least of Beth-2 cardinality – there aren’t really coherent probabilities to dole out there. We’ll leave aside issues with the question of whether theism can even function as an explanatory hypothesis – see G. Dawes’ book on that issue.

    3. I’ve become convinced of moral error theory recently, so I don’t think there are any such facts to explain. But I don’t think there is any meaningful sense in which God can ground moral facts, any more than God can ground mathematical facts – on nonnaturalist views, moral facts necessarily obtain and so no recourse is needed to explain their obtaining – they are guaranteed to obtain. On naturalist views, moral facts are either irreducibly moral yet natural facts or are reducible to nonmoral natural facts. And of course, one can also poses Euthyphro-style objections on the level of divine nature. So I don’t see moral arguments as being that promising. W. Morriston has a nice paper on some of the problems of the view that God grounds moral facts.

  184. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I’m going to stress again that what is certainly not relevant right now is whether anyone knows what the objective truth is,

    yes, we happily agree on this, provided that there is objective truth. What we’re arguing about is whether we know enough right now to say that there is an objective truth corresponding to an answer for each moral question.

    or what the Real, True Definition™ of “good” is, which holds always and everywhere and that you won’t have a fun time trying to deconstruct.

    I’m not trying to have a fun time, and in fact am not. There are interesting things going on, but I’m too stressed for fun. (stress from other sources, not this)

    Also, I will concede that there doesn’t need to be one definition of truth that can be said to apply always and everywhere.

    However, there must be a definition that applies – and that is capable of being evaluated in a true/false manner – at each and every point in space and time, however many definitions are required to accomplish that.

    If morality is ever undefined, then it is not truth apt. So, no, we don’t need one concise definition. We could have many discrete definitions and morality would just be the set of all those – like the containers I used metaphorically above.

    But there has to be one definition for each and every point in space-time. It could even be a multi-layered definition – [if you're at this point in space-time AND you're facing east, apply this rule, otherwise, apply this rule, unless you are currently thinking about monkeys, in which case if you are also facing west, apply this third rule, but if you are thinking about monkeys and facing any other direction than west or east, then apply this 4th rule] – but it still has to be one definition of good, not multiple different definitions of good or we could not evaluate (even in theory) the objective truth of morality for that point.

    But all this presupposes a definition at all exists. If no definition exists, then all this is out the window.

    Also, if morality is to be objective, the definition must be objective. None of the rules or sub rules or definitions at any space-time can be subjective or you cannot characterize morality as independent of individual experience. It’s only dependent in certain circumstances, but dependency exists, no matter how small you wish to make it.

    If no one knows, or will never have any way of knowing, what the truth is about some particle in Jupiter’s atmosphere, let’s say, that does not mean there is no fact of the matter about that particle. It simply and very clearly doesn’t. One is about our epistemological condition, the other is about the actual fact of the matter

    yep. I’ve been clear on that the whole time. Where have you been? What have I said to make you think i didn’t mean it all those times when I agreed with this type of statement above?

    And within this understanding, it is clear that if we didn’t know the definition of “good” or of “morality” but we could prove somehow that it is constrained within the limits of objectivity – that whatever the definition was, it **had** to be an objective one in principle – we wouldn’t need an individual definition to test for objectivity. We could concede that morality is objective without knowing the definition of morality.

    So, when I pushed for the definition so I could evaluate it, I suppose I could have hedged:

    Either give me a definition whose objectivity I could test OR provide a proof that morality is constrained to objective definitions.

    I’m also trying to sort out how you’re making the association between subjectivity and a lack of definition or clarity.

    I’m talking about subjectivity because you and neuroguy are talking about objectivity, they are concepts which clarify the limits of each other. I’m talking about lack of definition because neuroguy was insisting that morality is objective, and you are critiquing my critique of neuroguy (and I think but am not sure that you believe morality is objective), but the syllogism which neuroguy uses to “prove” this requires that a premise be known to be true. But the premise is undefined. If it is undefined, it is impossible to evaluate as true or not true – it is not “truth apt”.

    I’m talking about undefined because the proof doesn’t reveal itself as sound or unsound until we have definitions.

    I’m talking about subjectivity because the entire point of the conversation is objectivity vs. non-objectivity, and within the objective/subjective framework, everything that is non-objective is subjective. It’s a useful place to explore when considering, as you and neuroguy wish to do, objectivity.

    I’m connecting the two only in the sense that we are talking about whether something is subjective or objective in a context where we cannot yet make any conclusions because we’re waiting for definitions to test.

    I’m not seeing how you get from being somehow unclear to being subjective. I don’t get how being unclear (if that’s the case) is supposed to indicate or even be suggestive that an individual has projected a judgment or whatever. It just seems like a weird leap to make, and I don’t know what else to say about it.

    You’re missing the possibility “I don’t know”.

    i’m not saying that if we don’t hash out an objective definition today then morality is likely subjective. I’m saying that if there is no such thing as an objective definition, then you can’t possibly have an objective morality. Given that, one can start to believe (as have I) that morality is either subjective or simply not truth-apt because we consistently fail to prove the existence of any objective definition. Just like when gods are consistently asserted, yet consistently fail to be proven, one does not take that as proof of a universe without gods, but one starts to be suspicious of any new god hypothesis.

    in the presence of an objective definition, we could evaluate it to see if it was the right objective definition. If it was we would have both an objective def and the obj def. We’d be flying high. But we could also have a partial definition that meets enough criteria that even though we don’t know how to fill in all the details, we can see that it is comprehensive enough to handle all moral questions. Then if it only admitted objective answers, we wouldn’t have the def, but we would still have proved obj morality

    So I’m not making any leap from morality being unclear to morality being subjective. I’m accepting neuroguy’s syllogism, noting that it fails if we don’t have an objective definition of human well-being, asking for such a definition, and hearing nothing back.

    Then I’m giving a general reflection on things I’ve read and heard. I’m honestly communicating that I’ve seen a lot of attempts to define morality, and none of them have been very convincing without being vague enough to encompass things that are decidedly not truth-apt statements. I’m admitting that I’m open to being proven wrong, but that I lean a certain way.

    In response, i’m really not hearing anything from you that is attempting to provide a foundation for evaluating the objectivity of any definition of human well-being. (or some other definition of good).

    You can question me all you want, but I didn’t put a definition of good on the table. Neuroguy did.

    We both – neuroguy and I – agree that he left a major premise entirely unsupported.

    So on the face of it, it seems very reasonable for me to continue to say that the case for objective morality is not proven, and that in its absence I lean toward subjectivity (although I could have opted for a lean in the direction of non-cognitivity, I have not yet).

    Where is your fundamental disagreement with neuroguy, who considers his key premise unproven and only with study in hoity-toity journals?

    Because if you consider this proven, you disagree with him, not just me. And I’m not going to make neuroguy’s case for him.

    Will you be providing 1) a de novo proof of objective morality, or 2) a first proof of neuroguy’s assertion that human well-being is objective fact, objectively measurable, objectively comparable, objectively changeable, and objectively affected by human thought and/or action?

    I’d find such a proof very interesting to consider, but I’m not just accepting the bald assertion that morality is objective.

    finally, re: slartibartfaasticle:

    How could you know it wasn’t accurate, if you don’t know what it means?

    my point: thank you so much for making it. Without a definition of good, we can’t know if moral statements are accurate or not – they are not amenable to truth claims; they are not truth-apt.

    There would be no right answer because there would be no answer at all because the truth value of an incoherent, undefined statement is unevaluable, even in theory.

    If this is the case, you cannot possibly have objective morality – in fact, you don’t have any kind of morality b/c you don’t have a definition of good.

    this is where we’re stuck with neuroguy’s syllogism.

  185. rayndeonx says

    Re PZ’s post:

    Craig does have an argument that the first cause has to be a mind, but it’s not on the Fox article. He has two basic arguments. The first is that since the cause has to be immaterial (since it is the cause of all matter and spacetime), and there are two known immaterial objects – abstract objects and minds – and since abstract objects are acausal, the immaterial first cause must be a mind. I think this is a false dichotomy for many reasons, but it is not accurate to say that Craig does not have arguments that the first cause is a mind. It does of course upgrade the ideological cost of his argument to include substance dualism – a claim that the intended audience of his argument is probably going to reject. The other argument has to do with that only an agent can break out of static mechanical conditions, but I think James Still diagnoses Craig to be lapsing into several confusions there.

    Re: some of the earlier posts…

    Plantinga’s work in the 60s – 80s is pretty good. He had a nice analysis of modality and (what I found) as a pretty creative way of trying to combine Fregean and Millian theories of names. While I’ve admittedly grown less enthusiastic with some of his stuff in the 90s and onward, I would recommend him over Craig. But it is definitely not accurate to say that Plantinga’s understanding of Reformed epistemology boils down to presuppositionalism. He is not saying, among other things, that you have to be a Christian to make sense of knowledge. He’s simply trying to vindicate – what he takes to be – a Reidian commonsensical view of justification. Namely, that it seems that we can say we know a lot of things, even if we cannot given internalistic justification of them. Keep in mind that Plantinga is an externalist and that what makes a belief warrant is not purely internal to the agent on his view. That said, my favorite contemporary Christian philosopher of religion has been and continues to be Peter van Inwagen. Check him out.

  186. erik333 says

    @200 Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    *cheer*

    But there has to be one definition for each and every point in space-time. It could even be a multi-layered definition – [if you're at this point in space-time AND you're facing east, apply this rule, otherwise, apply this rule, unless you are currently thinking about monkeys, in which case if you are also facing west, apply this third rule, but if you are thinking about monkeys and facing any other direction than west or east, then apply this 4th rule] – but it still has to be one definition of good, not multiple different definitions of good or we could not evaluate (even in theory) the objective truth of morality for that point.

    It’s kind of telling that in order to even have a chance to rescue objective morality, you have to redefine it for each moral agent individually. Only when it’s indistiguishable from subjective morality for the outside observer is the notion even slightly viable, just at the point of unfalsifiability does it rise again to fight anew.

  187. Azuma Hazuki says

    @201/RayndeonX

    You make my head hurt, in a good way :) That is very heavy material and many things I’ve never heard of before. The world is vast!

    So, about Plantinga, how do you knock out his “reformed epistemology?” I’ve read some of it and it seems…not to be saying very much honestly. He’s a weird one; he’s much less of a scumbag than Craig or Hovind, and is someone I respect.

  188. Nick Gotts says

    If no one knows, or will never have any way of knowing, what the truth is about some particle in Jupiter’s atmosphere, let’s say, that does not mean there is no fact of the matter about that particle. – consciousness razor@197

    But we can know what the truth conditions are, concerning many specific statements about that particle, even if there is no way anyone could ever know whether they hold. With regard to morality, unless and until someone comes up with a convincing account of the truth conditions for “X is good”, we are in a completely different situation than for statements about physical reality.

  189. neuroguy says

    @184:

    Ok, it seems very easy to me to cause really strange results with this formulation, but maybe I’m just being simple minded: a successful voyeur (that is, one who is not caught) is performing a moral act – their well-being is increased (they are happier) and no-one’s well-being is reduced in comparison.
    Note that this is not just a morally neutral act, but a positive moral act… refraining from spying on someone would fail to improve the voyeur’s well-being and would therefore be less moral by your metric.

    Please let me know what I’m missing about your view of morality.

    It’s possible to cause strange results with any formulation. But I’m much less troubled by this than with what I can do with purely subjective morality: Hitler was right, the Jewish menace to a strong German state had to be crushed by any means necessary, and after all, Jewish bankers financing World War I were responsible for getting Germany into this mess in the first place. And who are you to say he was wrong: he was actually there, at the time, on the scene; and you’re just writing things from your armchair 75 years after the fact.

    As for your silly little “gotcha” scenario: I would like to know precisely why you would find voyeurism to be immoral, if not for the same reason as myself. Human well-being is decreased when rights are violated, even when the person whose rights are violated is ignorant of the fact at the time. (Of course you can argue with this, but my burden is not to show this true, but show at least one scenario where voyeurism is immoral under my framework. And, if you don’t believe this, then I guess you think the only thing the NSA did wrong was get caught…)

    @200:
    Yes, I agree, the 2nd premise in my syllogism was technically “unproven”. My post was not intended to be a rigorous proof (and no, BTW, I do not have any papers currently under review at the IJIM). However, I did provide strong reasons why we should believe it to be true. I’ll leave the rigorous discussion of this (as well as other weighty issues such as why we should reject solipsism or reject brain-in-a-vat scenarios) to the IJIM.

    What we’re arguing about is whether we know enough right now to say that there is an objective truth corresponding to an answer for each moral question.

    That’s not what I’m arguing about. The existence of an objective morality does not depend on there being on objective truth corresponding to an answer for each and every moral question we can come up with. I’m perfectly willing to concede that sometimes such truth isn’t available (ontologically speaking, not just epistemologically). Just like the existence of an objective mathematics does not depend on there being an objective truth for every math problem we can come up with (there isn’t; what is 5 divided by 0, or what is 0 to the 0th power). However objective morality exists if there is an objective truth corresponding to an answer for even one moral question we can come up with.

    So is any one here seriously prepared to argue that it is not an objective fact that the Third Reich and the Holocaust decreased human well-being? Most everyone would take this as self-evident. If you don’t, well then time to submit your paper to the IJIM.

  190. Nick Gotts says

    But I’m much less troubled by this than with what I can do with purely subjective morality: Hitler was right, the Jewish menace to a strong German state had to be crushed by any means necessary, and after all, Jewish bankers financing World War I were responsible for getting Germany into this mess in the first place. – neuroguy@205

    1) This is an argument from consequence, and thus invalid. Even if the non-existence of objective morality would have consequences I, or most people, consider bad (which I don’t concede), that would not be a valid argument for the existence of objective morality.
    2) There was no Jewish menace to a strong German state, and Jewish bankers financing WWI were not responsible for Germany’s problems. These are matters of empirical fact, about which Hitler was simply wrong, not matters of morality. The example is instructive, because it shows that even without assuming the existence of an objective morality, we can rationally criticise particular moral judgements; in this case, on the grounds that they depend on errors of empirical fact.

    So is any one here seriously prepared to argue that it is not an objective fact that the Third Reich and the Holocaust decreased human well-being?

    No, but the choice of “decreases human well-being” as the criterion for something being morally wrong is a subjective one: it is not mandated by any facts.

  191. Nick Gotts says

    A side-note to my #210. We can’t be certain that the Third Reich and the Holocaust decreased human well-being. Suppose we are under observation by ultra-powerful and ultra-sadistic aliens who intended to subject all human beings to centuries of agony ending in extinction, but refrained because they found the spectacle of human-inflicted genocide so amusing, and are hoping to see more of it. If you adopt as the criterion of “good”, increasing human well-being, you make the badness of the Third Reich and the Holocaust contingent on an indefinite range of facts.

  192. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I’m perfectly willing to concede that sometimes such truth isn’t available (ontologically speaking, not just epistemologically). Just like the existence of an objective mathematics does not depend on there being an objective truth for every math problem we can come up with (there isn’t; what is 5 divided by 0, or what is 0 to the 0th power). However objective morality exists if there is an objective truth corresponding to an answer for even one moral question we can come up with.

    If we’re not trying to learn something about morality generally, if you’re just saying that you believe it’s extremely likely a case K exists in which an objective answer A exists, I’m perfectly willing to concede that it is extremely likely.

    But your conclusiong earlier said that:

    Ergo, I conclude that morality is objective,

    If in all of mathematics you could only find one answer that was objective and, without working every problem, along your search to find that one you found thousands upon thousands where the answer was non-objective (either subjective or non-cognitivist), would it be fair to say,

    “Ergo, I conclude that mathematics is objective”?

    I don’t think so at all. The writing of your statement is the writing of a general statement, not a specific case.

    As your statement is reformulated, I agree this is extremely likely. the best case is probably

    1. it is objectively better to be alive than dead
    2. being dead or alive is a state-change that is amenable change as a result of human action.
    3. being dead or alive is measurable.
    4. someone causes death (a negative change) without benefiting in some way,
    5. so we are not placed in a regime where difficulty in comparing measurements will confound our assessment of morality. We can just assess previous situation + dead = worse
    6. We needn’t know the starting condition either since we’re specifying that the killer gained nothing (likewise, no one else gains from the murder).
    7. There is now a single case in which an objective moral answer can be said with some certainty to exist.
    8. Statistics tell us that there are enough murders that this scenario must come close enough to describing real murder at least once in human history.
    ===========

    This is what we’ve got.

    It’s not a case that “morality is objective”.

    It’s a case that, “probably at least once in history, morality was objective for a moment in a particular place where a particular choice was made”.

    If you read the Stanford definitions above, (I admit they are a difficult slog), then you know that subjectivity requires individual experience to know how to evaluate the full range of truth values for something. It doesn’t mean it requires individual experience in every case.

    So what you have is an objective moral question and answer contained within a larger framework that is not likely objective – certain special cases (divide by zero) being non-cognitivist, and many, perhaps nearly all of the remainder, being subjective questions is perfectly consistent with this one objective result.

    In other words, we still don’t know anything generally about morality, and a general statement about morality was the question on the table.

    I guess I’m done.

  193. neuroguy says

    Is there really that much of a knee-jerk reaction against objective morality, as though its existence would imply the existence of God? Theists such as WLC may claim such but they are flat wrong.

    @206:

    This is an argument from consequence, and thus invalid.

    It is not. Formally it is structured thus:

    1. If objective morality does not exist at all, ever, then we cannot say, with a very high degree of certainty, that what Hitler did was morally wrong.

    2. We can say, with a very high degree of certainty, that what Hitler did was morally wrong.

    3. Therefore, at least in this case, objective morality exists.

    You may argue against premise 1 or premise 2 all you like, but the syllogism is certainly valid.

    (Contrast with a a fallacious argument from consequence, in which premise 2 would read: 2. If we cannot say, with a very high degree of certainty, that what Hitler did was morally wrong, this is totally unacceptable, as we have now accepted all manner of violence in society.)

    No, but the choice of “decreases human well-being” as the criterion for something being morally wrong is a subjective one: it is not mandated by any facts.

    No, it is how I defined being morally wrong. Or, in other words, you are arguing semantics. Is this how you argue with theists? “Your choice of a maximally perfect being as the criterion for God is a subjective one, not mandated by facts.” No, that’s how they define God.

    If you mean something else by morality, then we’re talking about something else, which I may or may not agree is objective. Specifically, if your definition of morality is “how humans ought to act” full stop, then I will say it is not only not objective, but also meaningless, without stipulating WHAT it is humans ought to act in order to accomplish. It’s like asking for the area of a square without telling me the length of a side.

    @207:
    No, and we can’t be ABSOLUTELY sure either that a deceitful God didn’t fake evidence to make us think the world is much older than it actually is “to test the faith of believers”. However the ultra-sadistic alien ploy is here as desperate as the deceitful God of creationists.

    @208:

    If we’re not trying to learn something about morality generally, if you’re just saying that you believe it’s extremely likely a case K exists in which an objective answer A exists, I’m perfectly willing to concede that it is extremely likely…

    So what you have is an objective moral question and answer contained within a larger framework that is not likely objective – certain special cases (divide by zero) being non-cognitivist, and many, perhaps nearly all of the remainder, being subjective questions is perfectly consistent with this one objective result.

    All you’re doing here is arguing semantics then, with a fallacy of composition built in – you’re assuming that if there are many moral questions we can come up with which don’t have objective answers, that the “framework” is not objective – while I’m simply defining the “framework” as only those questions which do have objective answers.

  194. consciousness razor says

    Crip Dyke

    yep. I’ve been clear on that the whole time. Where have you been? What have I said to make you think i didn’t mean it all those times when I agreed with this type of statement above?

    You keep pushing for someone to give you all the answers, even though you say you’ve been “clear” that someone knowing it (at least to your satisfaction) is irrelevant. If that doesn’t happen, then what? You don’t quite say explicitly that a non-realist theory is correct if people don’t satisfy every condition you come up with (assuming those were even sufficient), but you have your “leaning” and no argument at all to support it, which is apparently supposed to be enough.

    I’d find such a proof very interesting to consider, but I’m not just accepting the bald assertion that morality is objective.

    If you’d find it interesting, there’s a whole lot of philosophical literature on the subject. Maybe you could check it out some time to see how many “bald assertions” there actually are. In the actual literature. Not whatever happens to be posted on a particular blog a few days before Christmas. But if you do that, you’d probably want to forget about your quest for a “proof,” because that’s the sort of request a creationist would make.

    How could you know it wasn’t accurate, if you don’t know what it means?

    my point: thank you so much for making it. Without a definition of good, we can’t know if moral statements are accurate or not – they are not amenable to truth claims; they are not truth-apt.

    But you said that you do, so that evidently isn’t your point. This is your claim: “I’ve never seen a clear definition that was accurate and neither over inclusive nor under inclusive.” If that’s supposed to be a true statement, then you can’t also truthfully say that you have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re actually trying to make several different points, but together they aren’t coherent. Make it a little less scattershot, and this sort of bullshit is less likely to happen.

    erik333:

    It’s kind of telling that in order to even have a chance to rescue objective morality, you have to redefine it for each moral agent individually. Only when it’s indistiguishable from subjective morality for the outside observer is the notion even slightly viable, just at the point of unfalsifiability does it rise again to fight anew.

    It’s just been one of Crip Dyke’s conceits that a “definition” is the sort of thing which would need to vary. I don’t think that makes any sense, but anyway, please don’t confuse that with the claim I’m making.

    Nick Gotts:

    But we can know what the truth conditions are, concerning many specific statements about that particle,

    Many or all? If we don’t have them all, I don’t think some will be satisfied that we know enough. Not that it matters what we know….

    With regard to morality, unless and until someone comes up with a convincing account of the truth conditions for “X is good”, we are in a completely different situation than for statements about physical reality.

    You think that something being good isn’t a statement about physical reality? What other kind of reality is it about? Or is not about anything? I take it that a statement is true if its contents correspond to something in the world. So what does it correspond to?

    This is an argument from consequence, and thus invalid.

    In ethics, appealing to consequences doesn’t render an argument invalid. So your conclusion doesn’t follow as easily as you seem to think. Sometimes, consequences are exactly the sort of thing we ought to be taking into account, because there is a very solid justification for it.

    Does it actually make any sense whatsoever to say that, ethically speaking, it isn’t true that the Nazis were some of the evilest fuckers in modern history? No, I don’t think it does. If you want to bite that bullet for the sake of whatever-the-fuck, go right ahead. I don’t think anyone’s taking it seriously anyway. But if they did, I think you’ve neutered all discussion about ethics (a bad consequence, I would say), for no particularly good reason.

  195. Nick Gotts says

    neuroguy@209,

    Why do you have to argue so dishonestly if you really believe your position to be a strong one? My “This is an argument from consequence” was quite explicitly a response solely to your:

    But I’m much less troubled by this than with what I can do with purely subjective morality: Hitler was right, the Jewish menace to a strong German state had to be crushed by any means necessary, and after all, Jewish bankers financing World War I were responsible for getting Germany into this mess in the first place. [Emphasis added]

    You quite clearly were making an argument from consequence there, and pretending you weren’t won’t wash.

    No, but the choice of “decreases human well-being” as the criterion for something being morally wrong is a subjective one: it is not mandated by any facts.

    No, it is how I defined being morally wrong. Or, in other words, you are arguing semantics.

    *chuckle*
    I’m arguing semantics? When your sole point here is to insist on the distinction between “X is my criterion for being morally wrong” and “X is how I define morally wrong”. OK, then, your definition of morally wrong is subjective, and not mandated by any facts. As it happens, I would not agree with it. I think we ought to take into account the interests and preferences of other sentient beings.

    With regard to your syllogism, I do indeed take issue with premise:
    (2) We can say, with a very high degree of certainty, that what Hitler did was morally wrong.
    I do not consider “Hitler was morally wrong” to have a truth-value outside specific, and subjective, frameworks of ethical judgement – without defining what you mean by “morally wrong” (in effect introducing new premises and making this an intermediate deduction), it does not hold – and those additional premises are, so far as I can see, inevitably subjective: no-one is obliged by any facts about logic or the world to assent to them.

  196. consciousness razor says

    Nick Gotts:

    I do not consider “Hitler was morally wrong” to have a truth-value outside specific, and subjective, frameworks of ethical judgement – without defining what you mean by “morally wrong” (in effect introducing new premises and making this an intermediate deduction), it does not hold – and those additional premises are, so far as I can see, inevitably subjective: no-one is obliged by any facts about logic or the world to assent to them.

    The way I interpret this, you’re saying rationality doesn’t oblige someone to be morally good or try to fulfill their moral responsibilities. I’m going to be charitable and guess we’re not assuming a sociopath is an example of a rational person, who would be expected to understand and feel such a rational obligation (since that would plainly contradict the evidence), so it’s clearly irrelevant that they wouldn’t assent to it (as is probably true for some of them). So what kind of rational person is there, who wouldn’t be so obliged?

    As an aside, I agree with you that sentient agents generally, not just human beings, are moral agents. So when I say “person” in this context, you can assume I don’t just mean humans.

  197. neuroguy says

    @211:

    You quite clearly were making an argument from consequence there, and pretending you weren’t won’t wash.

    Oh come on, now you’re the one arguing dishonestly. I clarified my position and it was very definitely not an argument from consequence.

    I’m arguing semantics? When your sole point here is to insist on the distinction between “X is my criterion for being morally wrong” and “X is how I define morally wrong”. OK, then, your definition of morally wrong is subjective…

    If you think morally wrong should be defined as something else then you are arguing semantics. That’s what arguing semantics is, what terms mean. But that’s fine. You still haven’t told me what your definition of morally wrong is. However, you come close below…

    With regard to your syllogism, I do indeed take issue with premise:
    (2) We can say, with a very high degree of certainty, that what Hitler did was morally wrong.
    I do not consider “Hitler was morally wrong” to have a truth-value outside specific, and subjective, frameworks of ethical judgement

    And you don’t see the problem with this? In other words, according to you, all morality is completely uncorrelated from any objective fact about the world and only has truth-value inside “subjective frameworks of ethical judgment”? And just what gives those frameworks their truth-value? Another meta-framework? And what gives that its truth value? It’s like turtles all the way down. For you, the reason you don’t define morality is simply because it doesn’t exist.

    I would argue however that “subjective frameworks of ethical judgment” actually occur within a human brain, and therefore correspond with objectively real configurations of neurons and neuronal connectivity, etc. I would then argue that anyone with a “subjective framework” with a truth-value of “false” to the proposition “Hitler was morally wrong” is suffering from a severe psychopathology.

  198. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Consciousness Razor:

    I’m starting to resent your behavior in this thread. This objective/non-objective thing didn’t start with me. It started with neuroguy who said:

    Morality and scientific truth are matters of objective fact, no matter how much any given individual or individuals may be mistaken about them.

    in #157. I praised neuroguy for correctly dismantling the assumption that subjective morality is proven by virtue of subjective knowledge of morality – confusing ontology with epistemology.

    Since then, **I’ve** been the one accused of confusing ontology with epistemology, when I was the one clearly disentangling them instead of, as neuroguy, simply asserting my pet moral theory as fact.

    And it goes on and on. In fact, being accused of confusing ontology and epistemology was the first comment neuroguy directed toward me when any fair reading of my #158 was clearly not only understanding the difference, but agreeing with neuroguy that Thumper had made that error. Somehow I had become – in neuroguy’s mind – guilty of the exact opposite of what I was doing.

    What happened almost immediately after that? I was accused of “conceding the argument” on objective to morality to theists – by declining to accept objective morality without proof and, simultaneously, declining to accept Thumper’s invalid proof of subjective morality.

    I make clear from the get go that I’m staking a position of humility, one of open uncertainty, while disputing the arrogant assumption of having solved one of the thornier problems of philosophy in human history which neuroguy displayed in the quote I reproduced near the top of this comment.

    My position?

    I’m not certain I’ve got all the answers, but I can tell your certainty fits best in a cocked hat.

    I then clearly refute, still in #170, the incoherence of calling me out for “conceding a point” while insisting that if I am believed, the theist is disproved.

    Your response?

    neuroguy’s specific proposals don’t need to be correct. There just needs to be the potential for some such proposal, which someone could know more about, and that it’s something for which terms like “knowledge” and “truth” and “validity” can reasonably be applied. You’re flatly denying that there could be anything like that in a naturalistic universe,

    which was, of course, bullshit.

    Quote a flat denial that such a thing is possible. you can’t fucking do it. You made it up and lied about it.

    I attempt to refocus the conversation that started with wild, overweening confidence on the part of neuroguy, continuing my stance of open uncertainty:

    I’m saying that just because “objectivity” is a real thing and “morality” is a real thing, that does not mean that “objective morality” actually exists.

    If the answers exist, I’ll grant my ignorance of them does not render them unobjective.

    So go ahead. Prove the answers exist. Prove that there is such a thing as an objective metric of “human well being”

    And where do we go from here? What productive direction shall we try next?

    you CR, in #180:

    All you would need to do to support your claim that it’s **impossible** is to show what the **contradiction** is

    and at that point, I was almost ready to tell you to go jump in a lake for lying about my position again, when I’ve been clear, and I’ve repeated myself frequently.

    Is there anything helpful in 180, or are you just gonna make shit up the whole time?

    If there’s some other kind of “impossibility” I don’t know about which means something like “I’m just blowing this out of my ass,” you’d probably need to explain that as well.

    Look, I’ll save you time: your claim that it’s impossible is simply wrong. It happens, so I won’t make a big show of it anymore and we can move on.

    Nope, nothing helpful.

    First, the one who ex ano makes up a claim that I’ve asserted the impossibility of objective ethical answers dances on the grave of the “error” that I’ve never made…while engaging in a bit of auto-back patting for humbly not dancing on the grave of my errors.

    …let me, right now, take time out to dance on the grave of your error – as stupid and ludicrous as it was – to defend neuroguy’s original accusation of “conceding the point” by saying that if people believed me, they would disbelieve the people to whom I had conceded the point. Such monumental, arrogant incoherence, and I didn’t demand a fucking concession from you. I demanded that you stop defending the idea, and you did, and I let it go. But I’m dancing now. Look at me dance. What a deep and wide grave this is to contain an error of such obvious internal consistency. I could boogie for hours and not reach all the corners of this dirt floor.

    Wait, where was I? Were you continuing to make shit up about me, or were you done with your arrogant assertions that i kicked this off with, and maintained the discussion by, arrogant assertions?

    Do you think you could also be wrong about the existence claim as well?

    oh, holy hell. Not done, I guess. And what the fuck is this existence claim you keep saying I’ve made? Quote it please, or just admit you’re a fucking liar.

    If you had reading me at all, instead of hard binding a Hong Kong newspaper and slapping “Crip Dyke’s Argument” on the dust jacket, you might have remembered any number of statements like,

    I’m not certain I’ve got all the answers, but I can tell your certainty fits best in a cocked hat.

    Is there any line, any line at all, in your 180 worth the fraction of a second it takes to read?

    It isn’t clear what exactly you think it would take to “prove” nihilism is false.

    WTF? When did proving nihilism false enter this picture? Have I said word one about nihilism? This is a ***failing*** on y part that I haven’t included specific falsifiability criteria **in this thread** for a topic not under discussion?

    you have the most bass-ackards ideas about how conversation and argument should go that I’ve seen since someone said that if you concede the point your opponent’s argument will be falsified in the eyes of the audience.

    Oh, wait, that was you in this thread. Figures.

    No wonder I was frustrated and went for a reboot in #181.

    I wonder what happened after that?

  199. consciousness razor says

    What happened almost immediately after that? I was accused of “conceding the argument” on objective to morality to theists – by declining to accept objective morality without proof and, simultaneously, declining to accept Thumper’s invalid proof of subjective morality.

    If it’s true that morality* is objective or real or factual, then you obviously are conceding the argument to theists who make such claims. If it’s true, you will not be refuting it by making false claims that it’s subjective or nonexistent or incoherent or whatever. I have no idea what you think the problem is with this. Maybe the pronouns weren’t clear — I figured conceding to “them” referred to theists.

    *Note that this only concerns evaluations which are genuinely moral or ethical, not just anything normative whatsoever. We can safely partition off aesthetic normativity, for example, as a topic for another day. Neuroguy made an interesting point above about this which shouldn’t be discounted. Your other subjective “containers,” if there’s any merit to them, might not be the kind of thing we’re talking about. I don’t think the “single drop of subjectivity” criterion is reasonable anyway, but this is also a good reason to rethink it.

    But you want proof? Okay, I guess. I’ve tried to describe a lot of things about morality which indicates it is factual or truthful in nature, evidence (not logical proof) which points in that direction. A lot of that hasn’t been dealt with yet. I guess we could try starting over.

    Quote a flat denial that such a thing is possible. you can’t fucking do it. You made it up and lied about it.

    Okay, here’s a quote:

    Moreover, he shows no evidence that it’s even **possible** to have a definition of human well being that encapsulates all we need to know for moral decision making.

    Then this:

    is wrong as I’ve not made a claim that it’s impossible. I’ve merely pointed out that neuroguy hasn’t done the basics necessary to begin a conversation.

    What makes you think it’s necessary to begin a conversation by giving “evidence” of the lack of a contradiction, where none is readily apparent? It would be basic I guess, but I still don’t get what kind of evidence you could possibly be talking about. And if one isn’t readily apparent, the burden ought to be on you to show a contradiction, if you think that’s worth doing or if you’ve already found it, not expect it to hang over the conversation like a dark cloud until “evidence” of the consistency is demonstrated somehow. Maybe you weren’t strongly suggesting that it’s impossible, but I don’t think you can fairly accuse me of having “made it up and lied” when your line of thought is this incoherent. If it’s my mistake, then I’ll admit that I still don’t understand where you think that was supposed to lead, if not exactly where I said.

    WTF? When did proving nihilism false enter this picture?

    If I’m proving moral realism’s true, I’m proving moral nihilism is false. That’s when it entered.

  200. Rob Grigjanis says

    Crip Dyke @214:

    hard binding a Hong Kong newspaper and slapping “Crip Dyke’s Argument” on the dust jacket

    Nice one.

  201. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    First, I thought I had clearly conceded that

    Moreover, he shows no evidence that it’s even **possible** to have a definition of human well being that encapsulates all we need to know for moral decision making.

    was something that I had clarified. I did not intend to assert impossibility, merely to say – as I clarified – that neuroguy hasn’t even **begun** the work of demonstrating an objective measure of human well being. He used the verb “insist”. He can insist all he likes, That does nothing to demonstrate his argument.

    Nonetheless, read it closely – it clearly, clearly does not say “x is impossible”. At maximum, it implies that I won’t bother considering the possibility of a thing’s existence until I know that such a thing *might* exist.

    But that isn’t really what I meant to say. it was sloppy of me – the one point I’ve regretted in this whole damn thing, and you are astute to pull it out.

    however, **how fucking astute do you have to be to cease ascribing a claim to me which – even in your reading – I’ve disavowed with your next quoted comment**?

    moreover, how do you take that quote and stretch it as far as you did in the first place, even without the clarification, when all over the thread I’ve been very carefully saying that I’m uncertain, that neuroguy was making the dramatic claim, that I’m open to argument.

    And through it all, I still never made the impossibility claim. I said something from which you inferred it, and we both know it didn’t mean that.

    yes, I poorly phrased that. But it was nothing but it was pretty fucking careless reading to stretch it out of shape to begin with, it was willfully blind to ignore all the counter-evidence that was much more explicit than that statement, and it was downright dishonest to keep it up after the clarification that was so obvious even you could find it.

    ==============

    But really, let me skip ahead, because I was done with this thread as, per neuroguy, the original claim that “morality is objective” was reworded to be “it is very likely that there is at least one objective moral answer corresponding to a specific moral question that occurred, is occurring, or will occur, at some point in space-time”. I personally don’t think neuroguy’s bit about one objective answer is at all consistent with the phrase “morality is objective”, but he issued the clarification, i think it’s a reasonable statement, I was done -despite your jumping in the middle.

    But then you said this:

    It’s just been one of Crip Dyke’s conceits that a “definition” is the sort of thing which would need to vary. I don’t think that makes any sense, but anyway, please don’t confuse that with the claim I’m making.

    Find the fucking quote. You made this up whole cloth.

    I was pushing for a definition to test for objectivity. Others suggested it might be possible to prove that any definition or definitions of morality were constrained to be objective even if we did not yet know what that definition/ those definitions is/are.

    I agreed, and laboriously conceded that you can have as many definitions as you like for as many points of space-time as you like, but reminded them that expanding the number of definitions doesn’t mean that we have objective morality if *some* definitions are objective and others aren’t. You have to show objectivity for every definition, whether that’s one or a myriad.

    So I conceded that you, if you wish, may multiply your definitions or characterize them in ways that allow them to be checked for objectivity **without** fully providing a definition.

    I **never** said that

    a “definition” is the sort of thing which would need to vary.

    Again, find the fucking quote.

    Before I go, let me add one more:

    It isn’t clear what exactly you think it would take to “prove” nihilism is false.

    WTF? When did proving nihilism false enter this picture?

    If I’m proving moral realism’s true, I’m proving moral nihilism is false. That’s when it entered.

    And if you’re proving objective morality true, I’m supposed to provide separate falsifiability criteria for each and every alternate theory of morality?

    Because, I’ve got news for you, you don’t prove creationism by falsifying evolution.
    You don’t prove Shinto by falsifying Buddhism.
    You don’t prove peanut butter by falsifying chocolate.
    You don’t prove objective morality by falsifying other available theories of morality – whether just nihilism or whether you disprove all the other theories of morality ever devised.

    you prove objective morality by proving objective morality.

    I’ve already agreed the proof is valid.
    neuroguy and I have already agreed on the premixe which needs support.
    You have a clear next step in your argument – which, hey, isn’t my fucking job, but there ya go, I’ve helped.
    Why are you criticizing me for failing to provide something that has nothing to do with the argument on the table? Especially when it was neuroguy’s table to begin with and you appear to have bought it, and i ain’t doing nothing but playing the cards you’re dealing.

    Criticizing me for not providing falsifiability criteria for a proposition that, if disproven, wouldn’t make your case anyway – that’s just gratuitous potshoting.

    But really, I maintain my open, humble stance. My point about definitions being needed for human well being were well taken by neuroguy. He quite easily understood that I wasn’t asserting impossibility. He took the proof as far as he wanted to, and then – not having the time or inclination – retired from the fray.

    you’re picking at the language of someone who is asserting nothing and seem to think that by disproving something else – something I’ve not asserted – you will gain in the argument.

    Seriously, what’s your problem. Get some thinking done.

  202. David Marjanović says

    The most glaring problem with Plantinga is that he has clearly never heard of evolutionary epistemology. Well, either that, or he’s a creationist and thinks if he ignores it really hard, it’ll go away…

    The most glaring problem (among several!) of the Kalam “Argument” and all other “first cause” “arguments” is that uncaused causes happen all the fucking time, which has been known for close to a hundred years. Radioactive decay, for instance, is never caused, and neither is the “vacuum pressure” that in turn causes the Casimir effect.

    I meant to link this before, to show David Marjanović that reputable philosophers do occasionally have debates. With scumbags like WLC, no less!

    Well, that’s like PZ debating with a creationist. It’s not done as a method to make publishable discoveries.

    2) There was no Jewish menace to a strong German state, and Jewish bankers financing WWI were not responsible for Germany’s problems. These are matters of empirical fact, about which Hitler was simply wrong, not matters of morality. The example is instructive, because it shows that even without assuming the existence of an objective morality, we can rationally criticise particular moral judgements; in this case, on the grounds that they depend on errors of empirical fact.

    QFT!

  203. Azuma Hazuki says

    @218/David M

    The most glaring problem with Plantinga is that he has clearly never heard of evolutionary epistemology. Well, either that, or he’s a creationist and thinks if he ignores it really hard, it’ll go away…

    I remember now, a long time ago, reading about this here on Pharyngula. The gist of it was that, all else equal, the evolutionary explanation was far more powerful with regards to explaining not only why and how our reasoning works, but why and how it doesn’t, as well as predicting and explaining specific modes of failure, in contrast to “Hurr durr ate from da tree of knollidge an’ got stoopider hurr durr fallen world hyurrrrrk.”

    (Seriously, how the fuck does it escape these clownshoes that the result of eating from the tree that grants knowledge of good and evil was “total depravity of the senses and morals?!” Can Yahweh not even make a fucking fruit tree which works as advertised? …and did I just punch a new hole in Calvinism? o_O)

    The most glaring problem (among several!) of the Kalam “Argument” and all other “first cause” “arguments” is that uncaused causes happen all the fucking time, which has been known for close to a hundred years. Radioactive decay, for instance, is never caused, and neither is the “vacuum pressure” that in turn causes the Casimir effect.

    Not to be nitpicky here, but how do we know these are uncaused? I’m not very good at physics beyond low-undergrad level, but couldn’t someone say there was at least a material if not an efficient cause in “the laws of how the universe works” for these?

  204. Rob Grigjanis says

    David Marjanović @218:

    Radioactive decay, for instance, is never caused, and neither is the “vacuum pressure” that in turn causes the Casimir effect.

    Huh?

  205. Rob Grigjanis says

    OK, I think I get David’s point now. The Casimir effect and radioactive decay are vacuum fluctuation effects. He’s probably referring to a counterargument to Aquinas’ uncaused cause argument.

    Pairs of virtual particles are created (and annihilated) all of the time, in vacuum, out of literally nothing, with no prior cause. This contradicts Aquinas’s premise. (Whether this is a valid counterargument is debatable. The Casimir effect is poorly understood; it is nondeterministic but statistically predictable. If this is a valid counterargument, then you could equally say that the fact that your coin flip turned up heads rather than tails is also a valid counterargument.)

    Except, of course, the argument assumes that the vacuum is literally nothing, which it isn’t. The fluctuations are an integral part of it.

  206. rayndeonx says

    @Azuma Hazuki,

    One of the more promising lines of criticism would be something like James Sennett’s and Tyler Wunder’s work on universal sanction. Also, there are some problems with Plantinga’s proper function account, particularly in the case of God’s knowledge. Plantinga says that God has warrant in an analogical sense, but I think that move breaks down on analysis. The basic problem is that Plantinga’s account requires that warrant is provided by properly functioning cognitive faculties, where proper function is secured in terms of a “design plan” (this is compatible with the idea of an unguided evolutionary “design plan”) – but of course, there is no being or process such that God’s cognitive faculties are in accord with a design plan. Then, it isn’t the case that God could have warrant. This alone suffices to be incredibly problematic because presumably God’s beliefs do have warrant, but not on Plantinga’s account will they have warrant. The issues don’t end there however. If God doesn’t have warrant, then we are at a loss to take God as an adequate designer of our cognitive faculties to secure warrant for our beliefs. So probably we don’t have warrant for our beliefs. But presumably many of our beliefs do have warrant – it would be somewhat odd for a Reidian to adopt an epistemology that ends up contradicting common-sense epistemology! So there may be an argument that Plantinga’s view here is untenable.

    @Rob Grigjanis

    I don’t know if the existence of effects like the ones you mention serve to refute Aquinas’ First Way or Second Way. First of all, unless I am mistaken, such and such decay being genuinely uncaused and random depends on particular interpretations of QM and which interpretation of QM is “correct” is by no means a settled or uncontroversial question.

    Secondly, the article you link to does not correctly represent Aquinas’ First Way or Second Way. Aquinas never argued that everything has a cause. I don’t think any cosmological arguments I am aware of proceed from the idea that everything has a cause. He argued that every change from potency to act is mediated by an external agent. However, he had arguments why this chain of movers could not regress infinitely and so there must exist a first external agent who completely lacks all potency.

    It is important to understand that the sense of dependency in the First Way and the sense of causation in the Second Way is in terms of essentially ordered dependence / per se causes. These are dependency relations or causal relations in which there needs to be continuing existence of the thing to sustain the effect. This is contrasted from accidentally ordered series or per accidens causes. For instance, a grandmother gives rises to a mother who gives rise to a daughter. The grandmother may die but of course the daughter can continue existing. This is an accidentally ordered series. But Aquinas takes the example of a hand moving a staff moving a stone – if the hand were to wither, the staff would cease moving and so too would the stone. There is a simultaneous dependence upon the movers, just as song depends on the sustained existence of a singer. It is a species of hierarchical / vertical causation, rather than horizontal causation. Consequently, Aquinas could view something like the Casimir effect as fundamentally dependent upon the vacuum and its properties as such effects can occur at all inasmuch the vacuum and so forth exist in the first place. It is important to not confuse Aquinas’ cosmological arguments with cosmological arguments like the kalam, which argue from horizontal causation.

    In any case, my main misgiving with the argument is that I don’t see why if something is composite in terms of potency and act that it needs an external mover. There are also of course some nasty problems involving Pure Act, which is the conclusion of the First Way. Suppose Pure Act exists. Among the properties of Pure Act we can deduce is that Pure Act necessarily exists – it exists in all possible worlds. But there is no distinction between what Pure Act is and what Pure Act does – in other words, since Pure Act lacks all potency, every property it could have it does in fact have. So, if Pure Act could have actualized such and such world, it has in fact done so. This means that the only possible world is the actual world – you get outright modal collapse. And this view is untenable for both philosophical and theological reasons. For a good article on some of the problems with divine simplicity, check this out.

  207. Rob Grigjanis says

    rayndeonx @222:

    such and such decay being genuinely uncaused and random depends on particular interpretations of QM

    Fluctuations are a property of quantum field theories. If a theory predicts an effect, or (the probability of) an event, I don’t see how you can call the effect/event ‘uncaused’. One of my favourite physics answers (‘here’ being a physics forum);

    “What causes it”… you must be new here.

    :)

  208. David Marjanović says

    Not to be nitpicky here, but how do we know these are uncaused? I’m not very good at physics beyond low-undergrad level, but couldn’t someone say there was at least a material if not an efficient cause in “the laws of how the universe works” for these?

    Ah, you’re proposing hidden variables. :-) That does not go well.

    The Casimir effect is [...] nondeterministic but statistically predictable.

    So is radioactive decay and everything else involving quantum fluctuations. That’s normal. The point is that statistics, dealing in probabilities, is all you can do; you cannot make all-or-nothing predictions. You can figure out the half-life of a radioactive nuclide in great detail, but you have no hope of telling when exactly any particular nucleus will decay, and you can’t make it decay or prevent it from decaying.

    Except, of course, the argument assumes that the vacuum is literally nothing

    It does no such thing. The point is just that virtual particles aren’t made from previously existing particles.

  209. Rob Grigjanis says

    The point is just that virtual particles aren’t made from previously existing particles.

    They’re ‘made’ from existing fields, which are always there. Hence, field theory.

  210. anteprepro says

    “Something can’t come from nothing!”
    “But virtual particles can arise in a vacuum!”
    “But a vacuum is still something”
    “THEN WHAT THE FUCK IS ‘NOTHING’!?”

    As someone who once aspired to be a philosopher, I really hate philosophy sometimes. Too many word games.

  211. Azuma Hazuki says

    @232/David M:

    …ow. My poor thinkmeats. The concepts in that article make sense, but the math is utterly beyond me.

    How am I assuming hidden variables, though? All that article seems to say is local hidden variables are incompatible with QM. I don’t understand how asking a reasonable question (“what is the cause of radioactive decay?”) equates to postulating hidden variables.