Craig’s “5 ways”

Everyone knows of Aquinas’ five ways to prove the existence of God, but I think people are less familiar with William Lane Craig’s five arguments for the existence of God… Actually, most people probably have about as superficial an understanding of Aquinas’ arguments as they do of W.L. Craig’s arguments, but I digress. In what follows I will try to speak to objections typically brought up in response to Craig’s arguments.

William Lane Craig is renowned for his careful debating style, and is often recognized as one of the foremost champions of Christian apologetics today. Typically in a debate he will begin by sketching out 5 arguments in twenty minutes which he thinks constitute good reasons to believe that God exists. After having listened to countless debates in which he participated, and as I’ve followed his podcasts “Reasonable faith” and “Defenders“, I have come to have such an appreciation of his work that I am convinced that, while I do not agree with Craig about everything (philosophers seldom do, even if they are related as teacher and student), I do think that the five reasons he typically provides are, in fact, good arguments to think that God exists. Critics, of course, have responded to his arguments and interacted with them, but often they have done so so superficially that I am tempted to roll my eyes every time I hear the very same objections to the premises of his arguments (or else worse, the objections to what people mistakenly think his arguments claim) which have been resolutely answered by Craig, being brought up time and again. Recently I invited a few people to take a closer look at Craig’s debate with the late great Christopher Hitchens and to tell me what they think of Craig’s arguments. Richard Tulloch has responded with many of the objections which are often raised by those who, through no fault of their own, are simply not familiar with the answers which are constantly provided by W.L. Craig on his website, through his books and newsletters, and above all in his podcast “Reasonable Faith“. Therefore, here, I will attempt to deal with these objections and answer precisely why the typical objections either reflect philosophically shallow comprehension of the nuance and force of his arguments or else why they fail to comprehend the arguments altogether. It is worth noting at this point that obviously Craig does not rely on only five arguments, but rather often employs different arguments in various debates – usually sticking to five at a time (thus in one debate he may use the Ontological argument, whereas in another he would use in its place a Leibnizian Cosmological argument, etc). However, the five arguments which are most commonly used by Craig, and which Richard Tulloch has objected to, are the same which I have in mind to address in what follows. In what follows all the quotations with which I interact are provided by Tulloch, but I am not intending to answer to him alone, but I intend to answer to a broader audience; namely, all the people who would have objected in similar fashion.

First, the Kalam Cosmological argument is one of Craig’s seminal arguments as much of his professional work has been on this particular kind of cosmological argument. It generally runs as follows:

  1. Everything which begins to exist has a cause, and
  2. The Universe began to exist, and
  3. Therefore the Universe has a cause.
  4. If the universe has a cause then that cause must be other than the universe (thus, not physical or spatio-temporal).
  5. The only two things which are spaceless and timeless in the sense required are personal minds or platonic forms.
  6. Platonic forms are causally effete, and therefore cannot cause anything.
  7. Therefore a personal mind which is spaceless and timeless is the only possible cause of the universe to begin to exist.
  8. A personal mind possibly can cause the universe to begin to exist, and
  9. Therefore, a personal mind did cause the universe to begin to exist

Premise 1 is uncontroversial unless one rejects Leibniz’ Principle of Sufficient Reason, which is becoming a more popular move only because it is now widely recognized by philosophers that if one accepts the Principle of Sufficient Reason it entails logically and inescapably that God exists. Premise 2 is usually defended in two ways: first by an appeal to the logical incoherence of an infinite past, and second by an appeal to the best and most current scientific and cosmological theory which exists. Now, while I have come to think that Craig’s argument for the impossibility of an infinite past is overstated (though I still tend to agree that it is a good argument, it isn’t quite as strong as he seems to think) I do adamantly think that the weaker argument from science is, for what it is worth, very good. Generally philosophers like to avoid scientific theories because they change so easily and so often, but all things considered I think that Craig has managed to appeal to a cosmological model of the universe which has continued to the present day to be supported by all the scientific ‘tests’ one can plausibly imagine. Here is Tulloch actually challenges both the first premises at the same time:

I’m not a physicist, but I understand from Lawrence Krauss, Niels Brene and others that it’s not so well established that nothing can come into being without a cause. On the contrary, at a sub-atomic level, it seems to happen with regularity, and there’s a lot we don’t yet understand about how dark matter works.

Here, there are two common mistakes which Tulloch is, and many others along with him are, making. The first is the equivocation of the term nothing. Sometimes scientists will talk about ‘nothing’ in terms as though it were something precisely because what they are referring to (for example a vacuum flux of energy) is something. This is the problem – according to Big Bang Cosmology the universe did not arise from a vacuum in the same way that a particle is observed to arise out of a vacuum without any apparent cause, because a vacuum would not exist prior to the big bang. In the strictest metaphysical sense, ‘nothing’ which is in any way a feature of the universe, such as dark matter, existed prior to the universe beginning to exist. When philosophers say ‘nothing’ they don’t mean ‘something which we call nothing’ but rather they mean strictly ‘not anything’. This mistake is very often made by those who are scientifically literate to some degree, but are philosophically illiterate and cannot distinguish between ‘something’, like a vacuum in which there appears to be nothing and some-things (particles) arise and disappear again, and literally not anything. It doesn’t matter what we know about how dark matter works, its irrelevant because ‘dark matter’ didn’t exist prior to the big bang.

The second mistake is to think that quantum theory can really license the claim that the Principle of Sufficient Reason is falsified. This is perhaps more excusable since it isn’t very easy to negotiate one’s way through this issue, which takes a particularly good literacy in both philosophy and science. However, if the Principle of Sufficient Reason is accepted as a constraint on all science (let alone all human reasoning) then it seems that a scientific theory which violates it is not really intelligible. Moreover, for science to say that there is no cause cannot be interpreted to mean that there is no cause philosophically (that is to say, ‘actually’), but that there is no cause scientifically (which is to say, observably).

It’s possible that we will some time discover that there is a good, natural, physical reason why there must be ‘something rather than nothing’.

The only physical/natural reason which is possible is that the universe must necessarily exist, such that it cannot not exist. However, it can not exist, therefore it is not the case that the universe must necessarily exist. Moreover, the Universe obviously cannot cause itself to exist, since it would have to exist in order to be able to cause anything. Finally, all the scientific evidence at this point demands that a scientifically inclined individual accept that the universe began to exist, and thus does not exist necessarily.

If in the meantime we accept that something did cause the Universe to pop into existence, I’d have little problem in calling that something ‘God’ if it suits. We don’t have another word for it and all of us feel a sense of wonder when we contemplate its mystery and vast power. It still begs the old chestnut, ‘Where did God come from? If he’s created himself or always existed, why not cut out the middle man and just say the universe created itself or always existed?’

First, to ask where God came from is an old question only in the sense that it has been asked by people for a long time, but not in the sense that it hasn’t been answered by philosophers definitively for just as long. To conceive of God as “That than which nothing greater can be conceived” is to conceive of a God whose existence is logically necessary. In other words, if God exists, then God exists in all logically possible worlds, such that there is no logically possible world in which God does not exist, which means that there is no coherent picture of the world which includes ‘a God which does not exist’. Finally, pay careful attention to the premises of the argument from 4-9; Craig gives a very good argument for supposing that this thing is approximately what we mean by ‘God’. Granted, it doesn’t quite prove ‘the Trinity’ or anything, but it does establish a spaceless timeless personal mind which created the world out of nothing and so on – that establishes quite a lot.

Despite some effort, I can’t quite get my head around this, but I understand that by definition a singularity is an event which cuts us off from what’s on the other side of it. We can’t influence it and we have no evidence to examine about it. I think you’re quite right that absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence, so why can’t we just say, ‘There’s an absence of evidence of what preceded the observable universe so we just don’t know’ ?

To say that there isn’t anything conclusive and then to be content with agnosticism with respect to a question is not typically scientific or empirical. The argument, of course, is organized in such a way that it is intended to appeal to a scientific and empirical audience. If somebody is content with saying that science never proves anything (which is technically true) and therefore we simply don’t know, then the argument isn’t for them. Rather, the argument is for somebody who is willing to follow the best scientific evidence where it leads, no matter where it leads. Finally, the Singularity can be hard to understand, but I think a good way to begin is by comprehending that there was nothing ‘prior’ to the big bang in any temporal sense, since space and time came into existence at that singularity. In the strictest terms possible, the Universe did not have a material cause. The only kind of cause it could have had in principle is an efficient cause – which can only be ‘God’.

It’s a big jump from accepting that the universe had a beginning and a physical cause to ascribing a human-like personality to that God creator, and to believing that it takes a human-like interest in our existence, let alone in our dress-codes, sexual behaviour and how we spend Sundays.

Notice that the argument does no such thing. The argument doesn’t establish that any religious conception of God is accurate insofar as it implies something other than that which the argument minimally aims to establish: the existence of a timeless spaceless personal mind of unfathomable power which created the universe from nothing (not anything). Let us not blur the lines between philosophy and religion just because the word ‘God’ evokes a lot of emotions positive or negative. Let us just stick with the arguments and see where they lead.

It seems far more probable to me that any gods who are concerned with human behaviour have been invented by human cultures, for the useful purposes of explaining the natural world, giving hope to those who are having a bad time, binding the tribe together and keeping deviant and youthful members in line. (With the invention of the surveillance camera this last purpose became less essential.)

I don’t think this is quite as obvious as you seem to think it is – probably because I can imagine more worlds on which God does not exist (I’m speaking broadly and provisionally, even if I don’t think such worlds are coherent I can pretend for the sake of argument that they would be) and no such concept arises in the human mind, than I can imagine worlds where God does exist and the concept does not arise in the human mind. However, putting aside arguments between Deism and religious forms of Theism, this point may beg the question altogether. I could demonstrate that, as I have tried to do in conversation with bookclubbabe in my comments on the post I composed in memory of Hitchens, but this is now way far afield from addressing the argument Craig presented at all.

The second argument is the Teleological argument which Craig presents. This argument runs with the following premises:

  1. The Universe itself has physical constants and quantities which are fine tuned to allow for the evolution of intelligent life.
  2. This fine tuning must be due to either chance, necessity, or else design.
  3. This fine tuning cannot be due to necessity, since there is no physical/scientific or philosophical reason why the constants and quantities are as they are, and it is easy to imagine other universes with different constants and quantities without contradiction.
  4. This fine tuning cannot be due to chance, since the odds against the universe having the precise constants and quantities which it has is so unfathomably unlikely that this unlikelihood cannot be reasonably faced.
  5. Therefore, the universe was designed for the evolution of intelligent life
  6. If the universe was designed then it must have had a designer (since this is what we entail when we use the word ‘design’)
  7. Therefore, the designer of the Universe – call it ‘God’ – exists.

Most often there are two responses to this argument. The first makes the mistake of confusing complexity with specified complexity – for instance, if I am playing cards and I am dealt a hand of 3 of hearts, 4 of hearts and 8 of spades, I have been dealt an extremely unlikely hand. However, there can be no design-inference here, since that kind of complexity does not qualify as ‘specified complexity’. However, in the case where I am dealt an equally unlikely winning hand a few deals in a row, it wouldn’t take much intelligence for people playing the game with me to recognize that the game is rigged. Imagine that I were to win the card game this way approximately 10 billion times. You are now starting to get an idea of what kind of specified complexity qualifies the universe as ‘finely tuned’ for the result of ‘the evolution of intelligent life’. Another response is to say that since we are already here, we already knew before setting out our inquiry altogether that the universe was able to support our kind of existence, and thus it shouldn’t be surprising for us if we found that our universe does support our kind of existence. This and other ways of expressing the anthropic principle simply fail at this point to be a good response. We should not be surprised to find that our universe is a universe which can plausibly allow for the evolution of intelligent life, but we SHOULD be surprised that it is such a universe given the incomprehensible unfathomable unlikelihood of it being such a universe.

Hitchens pointed out the wastefulness of the exercise; the common destruction of galaxies and the extinction of species, not to mention the understanding that the entire Universe is en route to eventual annihilation.

Craig obviously answered to each of these points. I agree with Craig that efficiency is only possibly valued by a being with limited time or limited resources. Also, the fact that this universe is coming to its eventual end isn’t the end of the story on religious Theism – God did not intend the universe to last forever, and it isn’t important whether it does (in fact, he  plausibly designed it with the purpose that it wouldn’t – at least that is often implies in Theistic religions). Moreover, it completely fails to address the argument about design, since human beings design things all the time which are intended to serve only some given purpose and then be discarded. Even if Hitchens were right that the creator of a universe which doesn’t support sentient life forever (and it is hard for me to see that he even ‘Could’ be right about this, but for the sake of argument) should be indicted, so be it – even if the Designer is evil, it would still be the case that the argument establishes that the Designer exists.

Other responses are often just as weak, such as the appeal to a multi-verse hypothesis. Since there is no scientific or empirical reason for supposing that a multi-verse exists, it cannot be scientifically or empirically defended (see here). Moreover, those who appeal to it are attempting to appeal to something which violates Occam’s Razor in order to avoid the simpler solution that one single uncaused cause of the universe exists as the universe’s designer.

How can we possibly be sure that we are not merely the by-products of some other heavenly purpose, if indeed there is any purpose at all? Why can every other galaxy, solar system and species be wantonly wasted for no discernable reason, while we alone merit special consideration? We’re going to be destroyed ourselves eventually, so perhaps the true favoured planet is somewhere else, or yet to be born.

If the real truth were that the Universe had actually been created and fine-tuned by God for the benefit of the super-intelligent helium-breathing Zoggians on planet Qxytt in Galaxy R566U, we incidentally developed homo sapiens on Planet Earth could still feel it was all about us.

Yes, but notice that the Teleological argument doesn’t tell us what God’s purpose was beyond the universe allowing for the evolution of intelligent life (perhaps he designed to cause untold pain and suffering and that, he thought, was the best way to do it). It doesn’t matter, the argument would still prove what it was intended to prove.

The third argument was the argument from the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The argument here is often terribly misunderstood and clumsily dealt with because of its nuance, and perhaps because it is a two-tiered argument which people aren’t often able to recognize. The basic argument for the resurrection is predicated on the following facts:

  1. Jesus of Nazareth was put to death
  2. Jesus’ tomb was found empty
  3. The disciples and enemies of Jesus had experiences in which Jesus of Nazareth appeared to them.
  4. The Disciples began to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead despite having every possible predisposition to the contrary

The argument then is simply this: the best explanation of these facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead. That is to say, each of these facts is so well established that hardly anybody engaged in the world of biblical criticism denies any one of these facts, and these facts are best explained by God raising Jesus from the dead. There is absolutely no naturalistic explanation for these facts which exist such that it is superior to the explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead in terms of  explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, degree of ad-hoc, etc. Therefore there is no ‘plausible’ naturalistic alternative. Therefore, plausibly, God raised Jesus from the dead; the best explanation of the facts surrounding Jesus of Nazareth imply that he was supernaturally raised from the dead by God.

The second argument then takes over:

  1. Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead by God
  2. But, that entails that God exists
  3. Therefore God exists.

How good is this argument? Well, on the one hand, this argument is only as plausible as its premises. However, it is a deductive argument, which means that if one accepts these premises, the conclusion necessarily follows. There are three ways to disagree with this argument: First, one can provide a plausible naturalistic explanation for the facts which scholarship recognizes to be beyond reasonable contest. Second, one could reject one or more of the facts which nearly every authority recognizes (Seriously, there is less controversy around these facts in the field of Biblical criticism and historiography than there is in science about evolutionary biology – and that’s saying something). Or else finally, one can say that there is no other plausible naturalistic explanation for the facts which they know of, but they can submit that it is still more likely that one exists which they do not know of than that the supernatural explanation is true. All three avenues have serious problems. First, there just IS no plausible naturalistic explanation which anybody has ever been able to provide – and this is often even admitted in debates. Second, the facts are very well established. Finally, the third alternative reflects a sort of philosophical or epistemological bias and naivety.

Finally, Tulloch, you say:

The evidence for the physical, literal resurrection is sketchy and contradictory (I like Bishop John Shelby Spong’s writing on this) but that was not the point of this debate, so I’ll leave it aside, as Hitchens did.

I highly recommend, if you’re going to disagree with the argument for the resurrection, that you at least find better reasons than the ones Spong has courted. For instance, Richard Carrier has better reasons. In either case, however, I take it that these haven’t stood up to scrutiny. See, for example, Craig’s debate about the resurrection with Spong here, and Craig’s debate with Carrier here.

Since this argument is usually not addressed, often because it is misunderstood, I will leave it to the reader to find out more about the argument, since each of the premises are very firmly established. However, very quickly, I will say that the old Humean position that miracles are always extremely unlikely is itself regarded by most philosophers today as an “abject failure” insofar as good arguments in epistemology go. I have already done a whole post on miracles and epistemology, so I will not rehearse everything which is provided in that post here.

Moving to the fourth argument: The Moral argument.

THIS argument is so terribly misunderstood that it frustrates me (I must admit) every single time I hear objections to it which reflect a failure to have come to terms with it at all. The argument is rather simple, and nuanced. Here it is:

  1. In the absence of God, Objective moral values and duties cannot exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist
  3. Therefore God exists.

Notice the argument isn’t about religion at all, and it isn’t about epistemology either. It doesn’t claim that one must believe in God to be moral, it doesn’t claim that without a belief in God a culture will be morally depraved, – it doesn’t claim any of these things! I wonder sometimes how carefully people are even listening to the argument when it is given.

It claims that objective moral values and duties which are binding and real independent of whether ANYBODY believes them or not cannot exist without some ontological grounding – however, there is no logically possible grounding for morality except in God. Most intelligent Atheists will at this point object one of two ways. They will either be happy to say that objective moral values and duties do not exist, or else they will try to suggest the Euthyphro dilemma. However, the Euthyphro dilemma is not a real dilemma and can be dissolved with an appeal to the normative theistic view that God’s nature isn’t just good, but rather that goodness is just God’s nature. One can see Craig’s podcast here for more.

Talk of how atheists can be good moral persons, and love and care for people, be kind to others, and so forth is just completely and utterly irrelevant. It is almost amusing to see that the first thing Hitchens tries to do is defend himself against the charge that he is immoral, or that atheists cannot be just as moral as religious people. Who cares? Craig and other defenders of this argument would readily and happily admit that atheists are moral persons and that they can be more moral than religious persons – that’s got nothing whatever to do with the argument! The argument is about Metaphysics, not about Epistemology.

Finally, for those who say that objective moral values and duties do not exist, Craig has argued that for any argument against the reality of moral values and duties which are objective and which we seem to encounter in our ‘moral experience’, he can create a parody of that argument which would establish that the physical world encountered in our ‘physical experience’ does not exist. I think that’s a point which is worthy of note.

The fifth argument is from belief in God being properly basic.

The fifth argument is, in one sense, supposed to be a ‘good reason to think God exists’ but is not supposed to be a persuasive argument in the usual sense, which is why Craig says it isn’t “really an argument for the existence of God”. That said, it is an argument from epistemology.

If one is acquainted with the debate in modern epistemology then they will know that almost all models of epistemology have failed save for something like Naturalized Epistemology or classical Foundationalism. Foundationalism begins with beliefs which are self-evident or self-justifying and attempts to move from these justified beliefs to other beliefs which are inferential and justified. If one is a foundationalist, then one has basic beliefs, and some of those beliefs are properly basic. A properly basic belief is a belief which one is justified in maintaining quite apart from any good arguments. For example, there are no good arguments against the following:

We can’t prove that the Universe was not created ten minutes ago, and that we have been implanted in it complete with a set of false memories of what we had for breakfast. It seems unlikely, but then it would seem unlikely, wouldn’t it?

However, we are justified in believing that the universe is as old as our experience of it indicates. Similarly it is hard to see any good arguments to think that other minds exist other than ‘my own’. However, we believe it based on experience. In the absence of a defeater (that is, some good reason to think that we are wrong) we are justified in maintaining such properly basic beliefs as ‘the external world exists’ and ‘other minds like me exist’ and so forth. The argument then turns to its religious applications: the argument says that for a person who has a distinct and clear experience of God and thus naturally comes to believe in God based on their experience is as justified in maintaining that belief in the absence of a defeater as anyone normally is for any other properly basic belief.

I think there are problems with Craig’s argument here, since I think to take this religious epistemology to do all the work he says it can do in his book technically inclines one to a more protestant anthropology as opposed to a Catholic one – but I digress. I take it that his point insofar as the existence of God is concerned is a good one (I don’t accept the extension to religious dogmas being knows as properly basic).

I do suspect that, although it’s totally unconvincing to non-believers, this Holy Spirit within is the most fundamental reason behind Craig’s personal world view. Although he can try to make all sorts of rational, logical arguments to support the existence of God, the real reason he believes is that he ‘feels in his heart that it’s true’.

I think that may be right, just as you (presumably) believe that other minds exist, and will continue to believe that no matter what good reasons I could give for believing in solipsism.  However, to be fair to Craig, he was not raised Christian, he is a convert, he has been deeply influenced by good arguments, and he would likely want people to judge his arguments rather than him. He was once asked during a debate with Victor Stenger at the university of Hawaii how he could know he wasn’t being unbiased; he candidly responded saying [paraphrase] “well, I can’t! One of the few insights of postmodernism (and it doesn’t have many) is that none of us are unbiased… But all we can do is do our best – I’m doing the best I can to be honest and to present good arguments, etc.”

He is quite right.

The attachment to the belief is emotional, rather than rational. I believe, TJ, that you are a convert to Christianity and I would be interested to know whether your conversion was a result of hearing reasoned arguments or of feeling something inside and enjoying the experience and the fellowship of other Christians.

First, there is a false dichotomy between a belief being retained for emotional or rational reasons. I have tried when I was younger and more naive to free myself of all emotional attachment and just assess arguments. Ultimately this process was in one sense a failure, and in one sense a success. The process was a failure because it cannot be done, as I discovered to my chagrin. It was a success because through it I learnt a lot, and I also became a Catholic (a convert). I maintain that my reasons for believing what I do are rational in a strong sense (in the philosophical sense where ‘rational’ is the opposite of ’empirical’). As much as I would like to say, however, that it was merely the arguments which swayed me, that simply isn’t true – I really did feel a strong inner conviction that Christianity was true, and that Catholicism in particular was the fullness of that truth. I am not ashamed of that admission though, since I think there is no good reason why one cannot allow emotions to play a role alongside rational argument in bolstering strong and justified convictions.

To Mr Hitchens, and to me, and to others who have somehow missed out on the emotional connection to the belief, this Holy Spirit business is just so much ‘white noise’.

Yes, that’s completely to be expected. The argument in one sense was only there to provide people who do have what they take to be an experience of God with an additional good reason to believe in God which comes before any of the arguments. In a sense, even if a theist had no good arguments to believe that God exists, a theist would still be well within her epistemic rights to believe that God exists given this experience of God. The argument was only intended, beyond that, to set in perspective how sincerely and strongly the theist is convicted that God exists, and also as an invitation to people to consider searching their hearts to see what they might find if they bothered to explore this dimension of the human experience which has, as of yet, remained uncharted territory for them.

I think I’ve said just about everything I wanted to cover. At this point I want to greatly and sincerely thank Richard Tulloch for giving me the opportunity to speak to many of the most common criticisms of Craig’s arguments all at once. I expect that further comments may appear, and I would welcome them from anybody. I also want to make clear that my annoyance or frustrations, and sometimes perhaps my tone, were not a reaction to Richard’s interaction with the arguments, which I invited him to share out of curiosity. Rather, I thank Richard for allowing me to have an excuse to speak to objections which I feel have continued to circulate far beyond their expiration date.

As a final note, I want to post some links for everybody’s convenience which pertain to these arguments.

First, Craig’s podcasts on the Kalam argument:

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/Kalam_Questions_and_More.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/More_Objections_to_Kalam.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/Even_More_Questions_Kalam.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/Gods_Omniscience_and_Kalam.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/Debate-on-the-Kalam-Argument.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/Best_of_Kalaam_Cosmological.mp3

On the Teleological argument:

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/20040620TeleologicalArgumentPart1.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/20040704TeleologicalArgumentPart2.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/20040711TeleologicalArgumentPart3.mp3

On the Moral argument:

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/20040718MoralArgumentPart1.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/20040725MoralArgumentPart2.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/20040801MoralArgumentPart3.mp3

http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/Defender_podcast/20040808MoralArgumentPart4.mp3

Some resources and debates on the Resurrection of Jesus:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAxPHWF8aec&feature=fvst

http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/audio.htm#WilliamLaneCraig

Enjoy.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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10 Responses to Craig’s “5 ways”

  1. BATMAN says:

    I really enjoyed reading about the Moral argument. I frequently run into atheists who ask me if they aren’t moral because they don’t believe in God. You answered them very well. Hopefully some of them will read this.

  2. Thanks again for taking all this so seriously, Tyler,

    I feel slightly guilty that I’m not putting as much into it as you are, but it’s your blog after all. I do find the discussion stimulating and enjoyable.

    When we first met in cyberspace you invited me to outline the things I found unconvincing in Dr Craig’s 5 arguments. This I did as best I could and the full text of what I wrote is to be found in the comments section of your blog post here. https://thirdmillennialtemplar.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/the-great-christopher-hitchens/

    (If anyone apart from you and me is interested in this discussion, they’re welcome to join in.)

    Unfortunately I seem to have misunderstood Dr Craig, though through no fault of my own, I’m pleased to hear!

    You know I’m not literate in philosophy. I’m not familiar with Aquinas’s five ways (perhaps everyone except me is, though I suspect I’m not alone), and I’d never heard of Dr William Lane Craig until you brought him to my attention. I watched his debate with Christopher Hitchens, but I haven’t yet read his books, heard his podcasts or visited his website.

    But neither have I seen or read anyone else’s critique of his arguments; my scepticism was based purely on listening carefully to what I thought he was saying in that one debate.

    I find it interesting that some of the objections I raised after watching that debate were the same ones others have raised and which Dr Craig has had to refute time and time and time again. He sounds much misunderstood.
    I’m a professional children’s author, screenwriter and playwright.

    It’s my job to make my stories comprehensible and compelling, to communicate my ideas clearly, make my characters sympathetic or despicable as required, make dramatic moments hit home and make jokes which get laughs from a crowd. In doing all this I must take into account the age and background of my readers and audiences.

    Naturally I don’t always succeed, but if people time and time again misunderstand me, I quickly accept that rewriting is required. If a joke doesn’t get a laugh, it needs to be reworded or cut from the show.
    It’s fine if people disagree with my ideas or my opinions, but if they misunderstand a point I am trying to make, I regard that as my problem, not theirs. If one or two people don’t get a joke, that’s only to be expected. We don’t all find the same things funny. But if in performance after performance a substantial proportion of the audience is confused, I know I have to do something about it.

    If Dr Craig finds that time and time and time again he has to refute the same old objections as they roll in from various independent sources, he should perhaps consider why the argument he made in the first place is not clear and convincing to so many, even though he may find it trivially easy to follow it himself.

    Of course he has his supporters, you among them, who apparently do understand what he’s saying. But it seems that many of us don’t.

    There are various possible reasons why things could have gone off the rails:

    (1) the case he is trying to make is totally indefensible (unlikely, since he has his supporters who profess to understand him and find his arguments convincing)

    (2) the matters he is discussing are so complex that only well-read theological philosophers understand them (quite possible, I think)

    (3) the language he is using in his explanations is insufficiently clear to laymen (certainly true in my case)

    (4) those who claim they don’t understand him are either prejudiced or idiots (I hope I’m neither)

    Maybe you can think of some other reasons why otherwise intelligent well-intentioned people still think much of what Dr Craig is saying sounds like white noise or nonsense.

    May I give a few samples from your response which, try as I may to make sense of them, sound like utter gibberish to me…’platonic forms are causally effete’, ‘When philosophers say ‘nothing’ they don’t mean ‘something which we call nothing’ but rather they mean strictly ‘not anything’, ‘it does establish a spaceless timeless personal mind which created the world out of nothing ‘.

    Yes, I know that in the debate I watched Craig was talking in front of a theologically-literate audience, not a general public, but since the existence of god is something which concerns all human beings, it would be nice if most human beings could at least comprehend the arguments.

    Sorry if I sound stupid. This is the first time I’ve ever put finger to keyboard to become involved in a discussion of this sort.

    But there’s no point in eye-rolling frustration from you or from Dr Craig. It’s like the teacher who moaned, ‘I taught my class that chapter a dozen times and they still didn’t learn it.’

    *****************

    We seem to have a little problem in the definition of God.

    You suggest that God is ‘that beyond which nothing greater can be conceived’. Well sure, if you like. It’s an abstract idea, and I have no doubt at all that the IDEA of god exists.

    Forgive me if I say it sounds a bit vague and airy-fairy though, and for me it’s verging on the white noise. Most believers (probably most are less well educated than you or Dr Craig) mean something rather more specific when they talk about God.

    My Concise Chambers dictionary defines god as: ‘superhuman being, an object of worship. The Supreme Being of monotheistic religions, the Creator; an idol; an object of excessive devotion.’

    Those last two definitions seem unnecessarily value-laden. My dictionary is 20 years old, and usage may have shifted.

    I checked some other dictionaries, and found ‘Supreme Being’ cropped up regularly, as did ‘ruler’:

    “the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe”, “one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs”…
    To most believers of most religions, a god is a more than an abstract concept or a disembodied intelligence.

    He or she is a being, with a human-like personality, involved in the creation of the physical universe, taking a personal interest in human behaviour, occasionally suspending the laws of nature, rewarding virtuous human action and devotion, listening to and sometimes answering prayer, punishing wrongdoers and, according to many religions, ensuring life after death for some or all human beings.

    If god were just some concept ‘beyond which nothing greater can be conceived’, which may or may not take an interest in us, there’d be little reason for any of us taking any interest in him. I certainly wouldn’t.

    *****************

    On the burden of proof.

    Craig says, ‘You can’t prove atheism is true. You can’t prove God does not exist.’

    No, Hitchens couldn’t and I can’t. I don’t see any need to. If there is no god, I don’t need to do anything about it, or change my behaviour in any way at all.

    If however there is a god, believers suggest that it would be a good idea for me to put in some work to get on the right side of him. I should not only behave well towards my fellow man, but also do some public or private worship, maybe support a religious institution with my time, effort and money, instruct my children in the best way to please or not offend him and, if I’m really devout, be prepared to kill and be killed for my beliefs.

    It could be quite an onerous commitment, so it’s only fair to ask that there be some pretty solid evidence that he (1) exists (2) cares how I spend my life and (3) can deliver on his promise of giving me a good deal in this world or the next, and (4) will make me feel happy if I believe in him.

    Just existing won’t do it for me. I’d like some guarantees on points (2) and (3) as well. (4) is optional – I feel reasonably cheerful most of the time anyway.

    *******************

    I entered this discussion because I am interested in what makes intelligent, articulate, educated people like you, Tyler, Dr Craig and various well-educated Muslims and Mormons of my acquaintance, prepared to believe and justify belief in things which seem to me to be arrant nonsense.

    Why would thinking people believe in sex with virgins in heaven, or Noah’s Ark, or in Joseph Smith’s miraculous golden tablets and the lost tribe of Israel turning up as Native Americans?

    Dr Craig has clearly done some reading about cosmology and, unlike many believers, accepts that the universe was not literally created in six days, a few thousand years ago. He’s done some interpreting in the light of recent scientific discoveries.

    So why would he get into this exchange during the Hitchens debate…?

    Hitchens asks: ‘You believe that Jesus of Nazareth caused devils to leave the body of a madman and go into a flock of pigs who hurled themselves down the Gadarene slopes into the sea?’

    I expected Dr Craig to respond, ‘What a silly question! Thinking Christians no longer regard such stories as literally true – we know they’re legends of the sort that commonly surround charismatic leaders.

    ‘There is still much we don’t understand about the causes of psychiatric illness, but possession by demons can reasonably be ruled out. Exorcism is something done by charlatan evangelists on late night TV shows, before they sell their DVDs to the desperate and the gullible.

    ‘The Legion story is true insofar as it shows how Jesus invited the mentally ill, along with lepers and tax gatherers, to come unto him and treated them with respect and kindness. This was extraordinary and radical in a society that habitually chained up or ostracised such people. Jesus’ inclusive approach and calm, powerful presence may very well have had positive psychological and even physical effects on those he met . His example should still inspire us today.’

    Instead Dr Craig professed to accept the gospel version of the Legion story as historical, and illustrative of Christ’s divine authority over the powers of darkness. My jaw metaphorically hit the floor.

    Then I realised Hitchens already knew what the answer to his question would be and had posed it to discredit Craig in the eyes of mental health workers and those of us who quite like pigs.

    A cheap shot maybe, but it got me interested in Dr Craig.

    *******************

    Finally, a little anecdote which may be irrelevant to the above discussion, but maybe not…

    I took my five year old grandson into St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Saturday. We were in the neighbourhood and the church bells were ringing for a wedding.

    The nativity scene was still on display, left over from Christmas. I pointed out Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, with an ox and an ass, some chickens, hay and a butternut squash, shepherds, wise men and an angel with folded wings looking over it all.

    ‘Where’s God?’ the grandson whispered. His friend M has a Christian family and has told my grandson that he talks to God.

    ‘The baby Jesus is God,’ I whispered back.
    He looked at me scornfully. ‘A baby can’t be God!’

    It was a reminder that we are all born atheist. It’s the default position until someone explains something else to us in language we can understand.

    Thanks again for taking all this so seriously, Tyler,

    I feel slightly guilty that I’m not putting as much into it as you are, but it’s your blog after all. I do find the discussion stimulating and enjoyable.

    When we first met in cyberspace you invited me to outline the things I found unconvincing in Dr Craig’s 5 arguments. This I did as best I could and the full text of what I wrote is to be found in the comments section of your blog post here. https://thirdmillennialtemplar.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/the-great-christopher-hitchens/

    (If anyone apart from you and me is interested in this discussion, they’re welcome to join in.)

    Unfortunately I seem to have misunderstood Dr Craig, though through no fault of my own, I’m pleased to hear!

    You know I’m not literate in philosophy. I’m not familiar with Aquinas’s five ways (perhaps everyone except me is, though I suspect I’m not alone), and I’d never heard of Dr William Lane Craig until you brought him to my attention. I watched his debate with Christopher Hitchens, but I haven’t yet read his books, heard his podcasts or visited his website.

    But neither have I seen or read anyone else’s critique of his arguments; my scepticism was based purely on listening carefully to what I thought he was saying in that one debate.

    I find it interesting that some of the objections I raised after watching that debate were the same ones others have raised and which Dr Craig has had to refute time and time and time again. He sounds much misunderstood.
    I’m a professional children’s author, screenwriter and playwright.

    It’s my job to make my stories comprehensible and compelling, to communicate my ideas clearly, make my characters sympathetic or despicable as required, make dramatic moments hit home and make jokes which get laughs from a crowd. In doing all this I must take into account the age and background of my readers and audiences.

    Naturally I don’t always succeed, but if people time and time again misunderstand me, I quickly accept that rewriting is required. If a joke doesn’t get a laugh, it needs to be reworded or cut from the show.
    It’s fine if people disagree with my ideas or my opinions, but if they misunderstand a point I am trying to make, I regard that as my problem, not theirs. If one or two people don’t get a joke, that’s only to be expected. We don’t all find the same things funny. But if in performance after performance a substantial proportion of the audience is confused, I know I have to do something about it.

    If Dr Craig finds that time and time and time again he has to refute the same old objections as they roll in from various independent sources, he should perhaps consider why the argument he made in the first place is not clear and convincing to so many, even though he may find it trivially easy to follow it himself.

    Of course he has his supporters, you among them, who apparently do understand what he’s saying. But it seems that many of us don’t.

    There are various possible reasons why things could have gone off the rails:

    (1) the case he is trying to make is totally indefensible (unlikely, since he has his supporters who profess to understand him and find his arguments convincing)

    (2) the matters he is discussing are so complex that only well-read theological philosophers understand them (quite possible, I think)

    (3) the language he is using in his explanations is insufficiently clear to laymen (certainly true in my case)

    (4) those who claim they don’t understand him are either prejudiced or idiots (I hope I’m neither)

    Maybe you can think of some other reasons why otherwise intelligent well-intentioned people still think much of what Dr Craig is saying sounds like white noise or nonsense.

    May I give a few samples from your response which, try as I may to make sense of them, sound like utter gibberish to me…’platonic forms are causally effete’, ‘When philosophers say ‘nothing’ they don’t mean ‘something which we call nothing’ but rather they mean strictly ‘not anything’, ‘it does establish a spaceless timeless personal mind which created the world out of nothing ‘.

    Yes, I know that in the debate I watched Craig was talking in front of a theologically-literate audience, not a general public, but since the existence of god is something which concerns all human beings, it would be nice if most human beings could at least comprehend the arguments.

    Sorry if I sound stupid. This is the first time I’ve ever put finger to keyboard to become involved in a discussion of this sort.

    But there’s no point in eye-rolling frustration from you or from Dr Craig. It’s like the teacher who moaned, ‘I taught my class that chapter a dozen times and they still didn’t learn it.’

    *****************

    We seem to have a little problem in the definition of God.

    You suggest that God is ‘that beyond which nothing greater can be conceived’. Well sure, if you like. It’s an abstract idea, and I have no doubt at all that the IDEA of god exists.

    Forgive me if I say it sounds a bit vague and airy-fairy though, and for me it’s verging on the white noise. Most believers (probably most are less well educated than you or Dr Craig) mean something rather more specific when they talk about God.

    My Concise Chambers dictionary defines god as: ‘superhuman being, an object of worship. The Supreme Being of monotheistic religions, the Creator; an idol; an object of excessive devotion.’

    Those last two definitions seem unnecessarily value-laden. My dictionary is 20 years old, and usage may have shifted.

    I checked some other dictionaries, and found ‘Supreme Being’ cropped up regularly, as did ‘ruler’:

    “the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe”, “one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs”…
    To most believers of most religions, a god is a more than an abstract concept or a disembodied intelligence.

    He or she is a being, with a human-like personality, involved in the creation of the physical universe, taking a personal interest in human behaviour, occasionally suspending the laws of nature, rewarding virtuous human action and devotion, listening to and sometimes answering prayer, punishing wrongdoers and, according to many religions, ensuring life after death for some or all human beings.

    If god were just some concept ‘beyond which nothing greater can be conceived’, which may or may not take an interest in us, there’d be little reason for any of us taking any interest in him. I certainly wouldn’t.

    *****************

    On the burden of proof.

    Craig says, ‘You can’t prove atheism is true. You can’t prove God does not exist.’

    No, Hitchens couldn’t and I can’t. I don’t see any need to. If there is no god, I don’t need to do anything about it, or change my behaviour in any way at all.

    If however there is a god, believers suggest that it would be a good idea for me to put in some work to get on the right side of him. I should not only behave well towards my fellow man, but also do some public or private worship, maybe support a religious institution with my time, effort and money, instruct my children in the best way to please or not offend him and, if I’m really devout, be prepared to kill and be killed for my beliefs.

    It could be quite an onerous commitment, so it’s only fair to ask that there be some pretty solid evidence that he (1) exists (2) cares how I spend my life and (3) can deliver on his promise of giving me a good deal in this world or the next, and (4) will make me feel happy if I believe in him.

    Just existing won’t do it for me. I’d like some guarantees on points (2) and (3) as well. (4) is optional – I feel reasonably cheerful most of the time anyway.

    *******************

    I entered this discussion because I am interested in what makes intelligent, articulate, educated people like you, Tyler, Dr Craig and various well-educated Muslims and Mormons of my acquaintance, prepared to believe and justify belief in things which seem to me to be arrant nonsense.

    Why would thinking people believe in sex with virgins in heaven, or Noah’s Ark, or in Joseph Smith’s miraculous golden tablets and the lost tribe of Israel turning up as Native Americans?

    Dr Craig has clearly done some reading about cosmology and, unlike many believers, accepts that the universe was not literally created in six days, a few thousand years ago. He’s done some interpreting in the light of recent scientific discoveries.

    So why would he get into this exchange during the Hitchens debate…?

    Hitchens asks: ‘You believe that Jesus of Nazareth caused devils to leave the body of a madman and go into a flock of pigs who hurled themselves down the Gadarene slopes into the sea?’

    I expected Dr Craig to respond, ‘What a silly question! Thinking Christians no longer regard such stories as literally true – we know they’re legends of the sort that commonly surround charismatic leaders.

    ‘There is still much we don’t understand about the causes of psychiatric illness, but possession by demons can reasonably be ruled out. Exorcism is something done by charlatan evangelists on late night TV shows, before they sell their DVDs to the desperate and the gullible.

    ‘The Legion story is true insofar as it shows how Jesus invited the mentally ill, along with lepers and tax gatherers, to come unto him and treated them with respect and kindness. This was extraordinary and radical in a society that habitually chained up or ostracised such people. Jesus’ inclusive approach and calm, powerful presence may very well have had positive psychological and even physical effects on those he met . His example should still inspire us today.’

    Instead Dr Craig professed to accept the gospel version of the Legion story as historical, and illustrative of Christ’s divine authority over the powers of darkness. My jaw metaphorically hit the floor.

    Then I realised Hitchens already knew what the answer to his question would be and had posed it to discredit Craig in the eyes of mental health workers and those of us who quite like pigs.

    A cheap ad hominem shot maybe, but it got me interested in Dr Craig.

    *******************

    Finally, a little anecdote which may be irrelevant to the above discussion, but maybe not…

    I took my five year old grandson into St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Saturday. We were in the neighbourhood and the church bells were ringing for a wedding.

    The nativity scene was still on display, left over from Christmas. I pointed out Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, with an ox and an ass, some chickens, hay and a butternut squash, shepherds, wise men and an angel with folded wings looking over it all.

    ‘Where’s God?’ the grandson whispered. His friend M has a Christian family and has told my grandson that he talks to God.

    ‘The baby Jesus is God,’ I whispered back.
    He looked at me scornfully. ‘A baby can’t be God!’

    It was a reminder that we are all born atheist. It’s the default position until someone explains something else to us in language we can understand.

    • I apologize so much for how late this response comes, I had been composing responses in the past and I felt either dissatisfied with them or more often I felt that they simply weren’t complete enough – I never actually managed to complete a response in one sitting, so I have a growing number of drafts in response. As a full time honours student I find it difficult to keep up sometimes with everything I have to do. Perhaps what I’ll do this time is just respond in smaller instalments and hopefully over time I’ll have answered to your satisfaction. I do warn that if you respond asking more questions, I can’t make any promises – that said I want to invite you, if you care to give me the time of day after such a rude period of silence, to take seriously what I have to say in response.

      I think your point about not being a professional philosopher, and as such not understanding Craig, along with the complimentary point that the particular areas of confusion or points of misunderstanding were rather common, is well received. There are a few things I can say by way of response to this. First of all, I may be exaggerating when I say that these are common – what I meant by common is simply that I’ve heard them before, but not that the majority, or even a substantial minority, of people listening to Craig come away with these particular objections. As a secondary point, I think it is precisely the rampant philosophical illiteracy which best accounts for the ‘common’ confusions which you, in company with others, have expressed. In other words, although I do not think that it takes a doctorate level background in either philosophy of theology to understand his arguments, I do think that those without philosophical aptitude, along with certain prejudices or intellectual tendencies, may be more likely to have certain similar misunderstandings. For instance, somebody who is scientistic is less likely to recognize the danger in vicious circularity (since scientism, it seems to me, is circular and self-defeating on most if not all accounts). I think I smell some of that scientistic attitude in some of your comments, but I’ll tease those out later to demonstrate this point.

      To be clear, I am not charging anyone (least of all you) with either stupidity or shallow prejudice. However, I think that in many ways it is the horrific state of education in the areas of critical thinking, especially when applied to anything like Naturalism or even more strictly scientism, which is reflected in the misunderstandings I tried to speak to in the above post.

      In other words, most people can and do understand the arguments Craig presented, even if superficially at first (that is, without an appreciation for the nuance of the argument’s articulation). Eye-rolling is definitely out of line on my part; I should always be ready to calmly explain and clarify arguments which I think have some value if and when those arguments are misunderstood.

      Concerning the definition of God – The definition which religious people have is certainly wider than the definition of God reflected in philosophical argumentation. However, what the philosopher means by God is not different from what the religious person means by God, since everything the philosopher means by God, the religious person also means by God. The definition of a ‘god’ in the vocabulary of religious studies, or even colloquial English, is just not (as is often the case) reflective of the more specific concept which philosophers and theologians employ when constructing proofs for God’s existence. For example, the philosopher’s definition of God would be satisfied even if God did not create the world (see, for instance, Aristotle or Spinoza).

      You are quite right to say that if God were nothing more than “That than which nothing greater can be conceived” it would be the case that there is no reason for human beings to concern themselves with him. Or, perhaps more softly, since even Aristotle would say that knowing about God is an intellectual good for science (knowledge), at least praying and such religious expressions are without justification. Religious people believe more about God than the philosopher does, but the point is just that the religious believer does not believe anything less than the philosopher.

      On the burden of proof: See my post on “Atheism and the burden of proof”: https://thirdmillennialtemplar.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/atheism-and-the-burden-of-proof/
      Note that Craig even accepts inductive arguments against the existence of God. The point wasn’t that Hitchens can’t prove the existence of God, the point is rather that he didn’t even try.

      Also, as for your four prerequisites for religious belief, I would like to make two points. The first is that one doesn’t need to be religious to believe or admit that God exists. Second, reasons for being religious are available, but that was just not the topic of the debate between Craig and Hitchens. Very quickly, I would say that Christians offer Jesus Christ, along with his death and resurrection, as an affirmation of God’s care for humanity along with his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises. A case would need to be elaborated here, but I think one can make good existential arguments for religion in general over any kind of bland Deism.

      Concerning your point about why intelligent people believe such wild things, I think I can say a few things in response. The first is that it is not often appreciated just how wild Naturalism as a worldview is, not only existentially but in all the mundane ways in which any worldview can be wild; it is counter intuitive, it seems to strain credulity on several points, etc. One has to appreciate that one does not have an option between a ‘reasonable’ world view and a wild world view – the answer to the biggest questions are awe-inspiring either way. Either death is the end or it is not the end. Either we are alone or we are not alone. There is no default reasonable position.

      However, obviously there are some belief systems which strain credulity more than others. I think many of the points you identified are points which I would gladly agree seem to be unreasonable beliefs. I would also point out that the majority of Catholics don’t believe most (or any) of those things, and since Catholicism is the largest ‘denomination’ of Christianity in the world, and since Christianity is the largest religion in the world – if my math is correct – it is exaggeration to say that these beliefs are reflective of ‘most believers’ in the world. Craig is not an exception to the rule in Christendom or in the wider world of monotheistic religion, or even in the wider world of religious belief.

      I’ll answer more when I get home, since the battery is now running low and I should study some Logic on this train ride.

      More later.

      • More on concerning intelligent beliefs: You go on to say that you were surprised that Craig admitted the existence of demons, along with the reality of possessions in the human experience, etc. I think the fact that your jaw hit the floor is an excellent example (I almost could not have asked for a better one) of the way you have uncritically adopted scientistic naturalistic presuppositions as a matter of modern intellectual custom. However, not only are there no good reasons to accept those presuppositions, but there are good reasons to think that they aren’t true, and that accepting them uncritically stifles good sober critical thinking.

        Notice, however, that Craig was rather candid about the fact that the brownie points Hitchens was trying to rack up at this point in the debate had absolutely nothing to do with the arguments. Hitchens was indeed trying to discredit Craig – but to my mind, and to the minds of most people including intelligent atheists, Craig responded in such a way that elicits respect, since he is being consistent, and his response evidences the fact that he has reflected on these issues carefully. Moreover, he doesn’t just adopt modern scientistic beliefs. It is jaw dropping to me that people think that once one is well educated one will inevitably hold to enlightenment presuppositions – there are very good reasons for rejecting almost all such presuppositions.

        I have used that word (scientistic) several times as though it was a dirty word, and perhaps I should say a word about why it is. Scientistic beliefs are beliefs not based in science, but where answers are sought in science to questions which science cannot answer in principle. For instance, a solution to the problem of death (salvation), or the key to world peace, etc. More formally, a belief is scientistic when it proposes that the only meaningful answers which exist must be found in the scientific enterprise. In fact, if you’re up for a laugh, check this short video out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkBD20edOco

        Hopefully that helps to press the point a little.

        Concerning the Baby Jesus remark, and how we are all born atheists. I think if you mean by Atheist simply one who lacks a positive cognitively meaningful commitment to the proposition that God exists, we are all born atheists in the same sense as we are born without mathematical beliefs. However, if you mean for a moment to suggest that the belief in God is not as innate as mathematical beliefs I would invite you to take a look at the literature on this point. I have quoted some of the material for my blog previously. Not only are design inferences innate in general (which Dawkins has insulted Craig in a debate once by suggesting that most children grow out of that as they grow up), but the belief in the supernatural is also innate. Some psychologists have even sought to exploit this fact and use it to argue that if they can explain how the belief in God arises in man it can be discounted (which is classic Genetic fallacy).

        Perhaps you should have said “we are born without religious beliefs” however even here I think there are good reasons to accept that human beings are naturally disposed towards religion (which explains why it is a universal human phenomenon). So, I think the anecdote you offer, as cute as it was, betrays a set of presuppositions and prejudices which you adopt, and I would politely and candidly (I hope) suggest that you ought to review those presuppositions and prejudices.

        Thank you for your patience, and I hope you don’t mind that these two responses have been as succinct as possible. If at any point my tendency to speed through came off flippant or rude in any way, please give me the benefit of the doubt: I intended no such thing.

        God bless.

  3. Whoops! Sorry this went in twice by accident. Feel free to edit it if you can. Cheers, Richard

  4. Dirichlet says:

    > It was a reminder that we are all born atheist.

    I’ve seen this assertion thousands of times and it never ceases to puzzle me. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but it seems to me that it is at its best a truism, and outright hyperbole at its worst.

    First off, the equivocation on the meaning of the word “atheist.” There is a world of difference between rejecting the existence of God and not having an idea of God at all. The former is what is commonly understood as “atheism,” as the atheist usually *does* have an idea of God (often weird and unorthodox, but that’s another topic), but decides to dismiss His existence.

    A crude analogy: suppose that I am an 18th century Englishman who has seen plenty of swans; in my mind, swans are white, and from my (and my fellow Europeans’) experience, there is no such thing as a black swan, so I reject their existence. Now suppose that I am a 13th century Mayan (there are no swans in Central America): what am I to say about the existence of an animal that isn’t even in my mind? Rejecting a position requires that I have some knowledge (not necessarily precise) of what that position entails.

    But then, let’s assume that the term “atheist” is broad and flexible and includes those who don’t even have an idea of God, including newborn humans. That doesn’t have much moral or even practical content. We are also born languageless, pantshitters, weak, incapable of surviving without external assistance and oftentimes rude and even racist. That something is innate does not necessarily imply that it is good or desirable.

  5. Wayne says:

    Richard, did you find this response satisfying to your points of contention or just more philosophical wordsmithing by a Craig wannabe ? Why can’t these guys just land somewhere without all the egoic beating around the bush and double talk? ” too busy in my academic persuits ” ” rampant philosophical illiteracy ” ” those without philosophical aptitude, along with certain prejudices or intellectual tendencies ” on and on……he hasn’t thrown me under the bus yet, but he’s on his way. I’m certainly all that he describes in quotes and then some. Unintelligent, unschooled, odd fellow indeed and I don’t proof read well at 2:30 in the morning.
    Only worthy oppositional intellects need apply. ” What say you to my invitation to this experiment (the experiment of considering in an intellectually rigorous open and honest way whether the claims of Christianity are true) ? ” it’s up to you to decide whether to take me up on it, whenever you’d like, and if ever you dare ” … And interfere with your double honors bachelors degree obligations ? Dreams of a phd in both theology and philosophy ? How ever do you find the time for such wordy dialogue on this blog?
    I’m not a very nice guy am I? I’m impolite, arrogant , ( as your are) egocentric, ( as you are ) and apparently intolerant . I also can be convinced of nothing in your metaphysical construct without real proof. Not inductive stealth or quotes from the sacred book or your baseline assumptions about the historical Christ. You can’t prove he even existed at all! Maybe a cynic in the Hellenistic tradition at best and then a memeplex from there on out. Paul invented Christianity. What’s the difference between him and Joseph Smiths inventing mormonism? Just 1800 years separation of facts. Smith was easy, the artifacts are so current. Christendom a little harder, but the onion is being pealed back well enough for real rationalist to put the contrived puzzle back together.
    Most of this blog is about ego and ones invented story of ones ” self “. I say there is no there out there. I agree with the rationale presented in Richards first postings where a Craig response from Tyler was forthcoming and now that I’ve read it, I have no desire to get into the arena with Tyler and play the game. I have work to do. I need to get back in the studio. So many paintings and so little time you know. Big show coming up. Every one is just turgent with anticipation for what I have to say next!
    Respect to you Richard for your lucid thoughts and you as well Tyler for sticking to your guns so to speak….humble me please, I need to be taken down a notch or two for my own good or salvation.

    • You’re a little all over the place, aren’t you? That’s ok. You said “I’m not a very nice guy am I? I’m impolite, arrogant, egocentric and apparently intolerant” to which I would respond that if you are, then that’s all the better for making the discussion interesting. I note that you call me some of these things as well (such as arrogant or egocentric) which I’m not sure how you could know. In any case, I want to be clear that I have not, and will not, belittle your intelligence or undervalue the worth of what comments you decide to make. I know nothing about you, and I will do my best not to assume anything about you, or at least do my best to stop any assumptions about you from leaking out into my comments.
      Richard Tulloch, (interestingly the writer of the Bananas in Pyjamas television series), hasn’t been on this blog for a long time now, as far as I know (at least he stopped interacting with any of it a long time back), and this thread you’ve decided to comment on is actually relatively old.
      Given your comments, it is difficult to know where to begin, but maybe the best place to begin is with the existence of God. What do you think about the arguments for the existence of God typically offered by Theistic philosophers such as Craig, Copleston, Pruss, Plantinga or others? What do you think about my arguments, such as the modal-cosmological argument I outline on the blog? I consider such arguments to be probative, and so I think we can prove to a rational deductive certainty that ‘God exists’ is true, where ‘God’ is understood to be ‘a maximally great being’ or ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived’. Since this just is proof, or at least championed as proof, I think we should start here. What do you think about this?

  6. Wayne says:

    ” I have no desire to get in the arena with Tyler and play the game ” Practice your craft with others.

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