Sunday, October 23, 2011

My remaining notes from the Craig debate

Here are my remaining notes prepared for the debate on God's existence with William Lane Craig. These anticipated Craig's likely responses to my attacks on hos moral and resurrection arguments. I didn't really use this stuff on the night, except a little in Q&A session at the end. Notice I was also ready for the ontological argument.


2. CRAIG’S POSSIBLE DEFENCES OF MORAL ARGUMENT

IF NO GOD, THEN WE’RE NOT SPECIAL. WE’RE JUST ANIMALS, LIKE OTHER ANIMALS. THEY HAVE NO MORAL DUTIES TO EACH OTHER. SO NEITHER DO WE.

It doesn’t follow from the fact that we are animals that we are not special. We can still be, and are, special in all sorts of ways.

Unlike other animals we can write poetry, contemplate the great questions of philosophy, derive a profound sense of meaning and enjoyment from great works of art. We are rational agents capable of reflecting on the moral consequences of our actions.

In fact, it’s this last difference between us and other animals that explains why they’re not morally responsible but we are – why lions can’t murder, but we can.

I’m not insisting this fact is also sufficient to make us objectively morally significant. But Professor Craig has not explained why it isn’t.

IF NO GOD THEN NO OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES BECAUSE – IF THERE’S NO GOD, THEN WE ALL END UP AS DUST, AND THE UNIVERSE ENDS IN HEAT DEATH, SO WHAT DOES IT ULTIMATELY MATTER HOW WE BEHAVE?

This is an obviously fallacious argument. Just because two roads end at the same destination doesn’t entail that it doesn’t matter which one we take. It doesn’t follow from the fact that we inevitably and permanently die that it doesn’t matter how we live. It does not follow from the fact that it doesn’t matter to how the universe ends how I treat you to, that it doesn’t matter how I treat you.

CRAIG SAYS THAT I REJECT BELIEF IN GOD ON THE BASIS OF APPEARANCE, YET WON’T ACCEPT THE EXISTENCE OF OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES ON THE BASIS OF APPEARANCE. I AM IN EFFECT, GUILTY OF A DOUBLE STANDARD.

This is to overlook the fact that the appearance of immense gratuitous suffering, plus the assumption the appearance is reliable, immediately delivers the conclusion there’s no God, while the appearance of objective moral values, plus the assumption that the appearance is reliable, does not immediately deliver the conclusion there is a God. You need the further premise that if there’s no god there are no objective moral values. And that premise is (i) not obviously true, (ii) very widely rejected by moral philosophers, including even Christian philosophers. So, if we’re going to start trusting appearances, appearance is far more of a direct threat to theism than it is to atheism.

In addition, there’s a pretty good evolutionary explanation for why the appearance of objective moral value can’t be trusted.

IF THERE’S NO GOD THEN WE ARE JUST COLLECTIONS OF MOLECULES. WE CAN HAVE NO MORAL OBLIGATIONS TO COLLECTIONS OF MOLECULES.

Craig us here assuming that if we are collections of molecules then that’s all we are. But of course we are much more than that, even on a non-theistic view. We are collections of molecules that can write poetry, contemplate the great questions of philosophy, derive a profound sense of meaning and enjoyment from great works of art. We are also rational agents capable of reflecting on the moral consequences of our actions.

This, many philosophers would say, explains why we are special, why we matter, even if a mere glass of water does not. I cannot see how Professor Craig yet succeeded in showing this view to be wrong.

3. CRAIG’S POSSIBLE DEFENCES OF RESURRECTION ARGUMENT.

I USED A UFO CASE TO ILLUSTRATE THE POINT THAT WE SHOULD EXPECT A FEW BAFFLING, HARD TO EXPLAIN REPORTS TO CROP UP ANYWAY, WHETHER OR NOT THERE’S ANY TRUTH TO SUCH REPORTS. THE SAME GOES FOR MIRACLE CLAIMS. PROF CRAIG HAS ATTACKED MY SUGGESTION BY INSISTING HIS MIRACLE STORY IS NOT VERY LIKE MY UFO STORY.

Well, yes, obviously it isn’t. My UFO reports come directly from first-hand eye witnesses. Craig’s Biblical reports do not. My UFO story involved hard supporting data – a blip on a radar scope. Craig’s story lacks any such hard data. The reports I referred to came from police officers – trained eyewitnesses with no ideological axe to grind. Craig’s reports come via wide-eyed true believers about whom we know almost nothing.

Yes, of course there are differences between the cases. Pointing that out does nothing to undermine the moral I drew.


YOU MAY SAY I HAVE FAILED TO OFFER ANY DECENT ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION OF WHAT WAS REPORTED.

True. But that’s entirely to overlook the fact that I explained why our inability to come up with an intuitively plausible-sounding mundane explanation of such reports doesn’t give us much reason to suppose a miracle happened.

THE DISCIPLES DIED FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVED. THE POLICEMEN DIDN’T.

Sure it may be hard to explain why early Christian would die for their beliefs if those beliefs weren’t true. But followers of even ludicrous new cults often go to their deaths – consider the followers of Heaven’s Gate and Jim Jones.



SECOND REBUTTAL – PART FOUR

4. ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT

It’s possible a maximally great being exists.

…Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

This argument has no force at all against the evidential problem of evil. In fact, ironically, it actually serves to reinforce my conclusion. For if I can use the evidential problem of evil to show there’s actually no god – that the conclusion of Craig’s ontological argument is false - then the validity of the argument entitles me to draw the further conclusion that’s it’s not even possible that god exists!

So my thanks to Professor Craig for furnishing me with an argument that serves actually to amplify my conclusion – allowing me to move from: there’s no god to: necessarily, there’s no god.

FOLLOW UP: I suppose Prof Craig might say: but there’s intuitive support for the first premise that it’s possible that a maximally great being exists. Such a being is conceivable. There’s no logical contradiction involved in supposing such a being exists. And that’s good reason to suppose such a being is metaphysically possible.

But as anyone familiar with developments in philosophical logic over the last half century can tell you, conceivability or imaginability provides no guarantee of metaphysical possibility. For example, though they are actually identical, it seems conceivable that the evening star is not the morning star. Yet, if they are identical at the actual world – and they are - then they’re identical at every possible world in which they exist. So, despite the fact that I can imagine or conceive of them not being identical, it’s not metaphysically possible for them to fail to be identical.

18 comments:

Mike D said...

This is all good stuff, and it just reinforces that I really wish more of Craig's debates would take the format he used with Shelly Kagan. I'm not saying that just because it's one of the few debates where Craig unambiguously got his ass kicked, but because there's more dialogue, and it's more interesting than this formal style which is more like lectures that loosely overlap.

Thomas Larsen said...

"For if I can use the evidential problem of evil to show there’s actually no god..."

I don't see how one could possibly use the evidential problem of evil to show that there is actually no God. The evidential problem of evil, at best, could establish that it is unlikely that God exists, but it couldn't demonstrate the actual nonexistence of God.

And if it's even possible that God exists, then God must exist, according to the ontological argument; it doesn't matter how improbable God's existence is or is not.

Mark said...

I agree with Thomas Larsen above, that the 'evidential problem of evil' doesn't disprove the existence of a God or similar entity. At best, the argument casts doubt on the existence or character of the Christian God.

Since this argument doesn't do what you are claiming it to do, you can't further argue that, therefore, "the conclusion of Craig’s ontological argument is false" and that "it’s not even possible that god exists".

Stephen Law said...

Thomas L., you say: "I don't see how one could possibly use the evidential problem of evil to show that there is actually no God.... The evidential problem of evil, at best, could establish that it is unlikely that God exists, but it couldn't demonstrate the actual nonexistence of God."

Well I aimed to show beyond reasonable doubt there's no God (which is "proof" in a court of law) Realizing that I probably succeeded, you are now moving the goalposts so I only win if I "prove" (what does this mean? beyond all possible doubt?) or "demonstrate' (ditto?) there's no God!

Thomas you say: "And if it's even possible that God exists, then God must exist, according to the ontological argument; it doesn't matter how improbable God's existence is or is not."

I'm afraid you've muddled up epistemic possibility with metaphysical possibility (entirely understandable, of course, as you are not a professional philosopher). It's "possible" that 12 times 12 is not 144 in the sense that for all I know it might not be. But it's actually a metaphysically necessary truth. Pointing out the epistemic possibility of God's existence (as you do above) does not establish it's a metaphysical possibility (that's it's true in at least one possible world that God exists).

[Craig trades on this misunderstanding in his Reasonable Faith book, btw]

The ontological argument, if valid, actually acts as a wonderful amplifier for my conclusion. I was hoping Craig would run it!

Spencer said...

I would very much like to see a re-match debate, one where the format enables more informal dialogue between the participants. The Q & A session, I thought, is really where I felt Stephen Law had both the rhetorical and dialectical edge.

WLC will probably give his comments on the debate this week (either on his blog, Q & A, or both), so please be on the lookout. I can't wait to hear what he has to say.

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen, thanks for your response. It's quite possible that I've muddled stuff up...

The trouble, as I see it, is that you can't leap from the evidential problem of evil, "It's improbable that God exists," to a refutation of the ontological argument, "It's metaphysically impossible for God to exist."

Suppose that you could show the probability of God's existence, on the basis of the whole body of evidence (the way the world is, historical claims, and so on), to be very low—around 0.01, say. That might mean that theists should give up believe in God on an evidential basis (absent, perhaps, immediate personal experiences). But that wouldn't imply that God's existence would be metaphysically impossible, such that there could be no possible worlds in which God existed.

Now, your intention, if I understood it correctly, was to demonstrate the probable impossibility of God by rejecting the conclusion of the ontological argument and working backwards: "God probably doesn't exist; therefore, by reversing the ontological argument, it's probably impossible that God exists." Well, on the basis of that argument (supposing it's valid and sound, and I'm not really convinced), the probability of the possibility of God's existence couldn't possibly be lower than the probability of God's existence, so I don't really see what it could have added to the discussion.

A couple of questions:

(1) Suppose the theist holds to a privation view of evil, such that she sees evil as the privation or absence of good, instead of evil as a diametric opposite of good. How would that affect your "evil god" defeater?

(2) Do you have any thoughts on multiverse theodicies? If, say, the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life can be explained away by chance by reference to a multiverse, why can evil not be explained away by chance? Perhaps God has created every possible universe or world containing more good than evil, or even just some good at all, and we happen to find ourselves in a universe containing quite a bit of evil.

Anonymous said...

Mr Law,

This succinctly demonstrates your confusion:http://douggeivett.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/the-missing-ontological-argument-in-the-craig-vs-law-debate/

thanks

Stephen Law said...

Hi Doug

I’m afraid you’ve muddled up epistemic and metaphysical possibility – which is a bit disappointing if you are a PhD in philosophy, to be honest. The evidential problem of evil aims to establish the epistemic improbability of God. Suppose it succeeds. It can then be combined with a valid Plantingian ontological argument to deliver the conclusion that there’s a high epistemic probability that God is actually metaphysically impossible (exists in no possible world).

There are papers written on this stuff (e.g. Wes Morriston). You should read them!

Stephen Law said...

Hi Thomas

The idea is that if I can show it's epistemically probable that actually there's no God, then the ontological argument, if valid, allows me to draw the further conclusion that it's epistemically probable there's necessarily no God (no God at any possible world). Hence my conclusion is, as I put it, amplified, by the ontological argument.

re privation. This is (i) contentious (many theists reject it. esp. non-Catholics) (ii) implausible for e.g. pain (doesn't seem like a mere absence or privation of something, as blindness is an absence/privation of sight), (iii) insufficiently supported by argument (iv) in any case fails to deal with the problem (why would God create such immense and horrendous privations?)

re multiverse. I don't see why Craig's God would create gratuitous suffering, period. In this world or any other. Neither does he, it seems.

Dan Rodger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Buzz Moonman said...

G'day Stephen

I listened to the podcast of the debate.

I was expecting you to wheel out evil god and it ran very well, much better than I thought it would. I think you won the debate on substance and lost it on style and that you also won the discussion on substance and it was a draw on style. I thought the discussion was more interesting than the debate because at times in the debate I felt like the two of you were debating different topics and someone had cut the two of you together from different debates because you were coming at it from a cunning angle compared to Craig's normal opponents. The debate format would be improved with more discussion and less lecturing, perhaps with a longer discussion and people having one minute at a time to keep down interuptions. In the discussion, Craig had to try to address evil god as opposed to the debate where he spent time trying to bag you for not addressing his empty assertions on cosmology, an objective basis for morality and an alleged ressurection.

I do think that you lost the debate on style. You are in good company there as most people who debate Craig seem to lose it on style no matter that they have better substance. It seems that style does matter as humans do judge books by their cover depsite much advice to the contrary.

Style was important here because you were presenting a new and well thought out idea in evil god. It seems that many of the audience didn't grasp what you were getting at. I've read about your evil god idea in the numerous times you've written on it and I read your debate notes before listening to the podcast. It was just as well that I had because at times I could not hear what you were saying very well. I had my ipod up to max and every word Craig said (and Justin too) was crystal clear. Your speaking level and projection was all over the shop due to poor microphone technique. It was quite annoying at times. I'm not surprised there were people who didn't grasp what you were saying.

I understand that mic technique is not important for drummers, but it is for a philosopher who is engaging in a public debate and trying to get across a clever and new idea. You are on the backfoot with Craig's audience if you are mumbling and stopping and starting and going back and forth and changing your approach mid sentence. You sounded disorganised at times and that superfically reflects on your substance. It shouldn't, but it does with the section of the audience who are sceptical towards you in the first place.

The good news is that it is much easier for you to improve your style than it is for Craig to improve his substance.

I enjoyed listening to the debate and I'm glad you ignored Sir Humphrey's advice and showed that fortune can favour the brave.

Moral Rationalist said...

Hi Dr Law,
I think that your arguments, were by far much more structured and consistent than, "Dr Craig proofs". The way I see it, you illustrated that a possible contradiction will occur (Craig never understood this), if the methods to prove that god is good were used to prove he is evil (P => Q & not Q).
I don't really understand the need to debate Dr. Craig.
His Kalam argument is full of "I can't imagine this, then it must be wrong". And after all, it relies on the ontological argument (Kant objection).
The moral argument, I think can be only used to disprove god's existence. In the form, if god does exist then objective moral values exists. Which by taking the contrapositive, if there is no objective moral values, there is no god.

JOJO JACOB said...

Craig got his ass kicked!!

teetee said...

"This succinctly demonstrates your confusion"

How so?

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen, thanks again for your response. I apologise in advance for what is quite likely going to become an incoherent mess:

Regarding evil as a privation of good (the EPG understanding):

You say that EPG is contentious. Perhaps that is true. But the mere fact that a particular understanding of evil, or good, is contentious says nothing about whether that understanding is true or false. For the Christian theist who affirms the privation view, your defeater is ineffective.

You say that EPG is implausible, and cite pain as an example of something that does not seem like a mere absence or privation of something. Well, what is intrinsically evil about pain? There are plenty of situations in which pain might be seen as a good thing: when we put our hand on a hot burner, for instance, or our foot on a thorn, pain stops us from causing further damage to ourselves.

But when pain leads to degradation or deprivation of life, it takes on moral dimensions; it becomes "evil." Here, it is the privation of a great good, life, that is evil.

You say that EPG is insufficiently supported by argument. I think that's false. On orthodox Christian theism, God is the creator and sustainer of all things that exist, and most take this to include moral facts. Considering the Euthyphro Dilemma, many Christian theists would argue that God's (metaphysically) necessary nature is the definition of good.

I'm sure you don't agree with that view, but it seems to me that you need to set out either:

(a) an argument for why that view would be false given Christian theism, or

(b) an argument for an alternative view of understanding moral facts that would enjoy better intuitive support.

If your "evil god" defeater depends on premises that you provide no argument for and that the Christian theist is not obliged to accept, it is question-begging, and ultimately ineffective.

Finally, you say that EPG is not helpful—even if it were true, it would not deal with the problem of evil. Perhaps, but it would destroy your "evil god" defeater.

You ask, "Why would God create such immense and horrendous privations?" Why should we expect to be able to answer that question? It's all very well to accuse Craig of "playing the mystery card," but surely there's nothing wrong with playing the mystery card per se. At this point, you might respond, "Suppose I were arguing for the existence an evil god, and you brought up the problem of good. If I then said, 'Well, perhaps this evil god has deep and mysterious reasons for permitting so much good in the world,' you'd dismiss this suggestion as absurd—and rightly so."

But I don't reject the existence of an "evil god" on the basis of the amount of good in the world, nor do I think anyone would be warranted in doing so. (Your defeater does seem to assume, by the way, that there's a similar amount of evil in the world as there is good: I dispute that.) Whatever the character of God, we're not in a position (as finite, evolving creatures living on a tiny planet in a vast universe) to discern, let alone understand, the motivations of God.

Instead, I reject the existence of an "evil god" on the basis of (a) the incoherence of such a being in the first place, (b) the complexity of the hypothesis and its solipsistic implications, and (c) the conflict between the "evil god" hypothesis and my own experience of God. Most Christians would probably take a similar approach.

Why might God permit evil? Well, perhaps the best possible world is a multiverse containing many universes, with each universe containing more good than evil overall (or, perhaps, even just some good at all—why should evil have veto power over good?). And God would be entirely justified in actualising that best possible world; perhaps He has, and we happen to find ourselves in a universe containing a significant amount of evil.

Michael Fugate said...

Why is it "logically possible that God (defined as a maximally great being) exists?" Can humans really logically comprehend "maximally great?"

Johnny P said...

I know i have posted this in various places, but I have reviewed the debate on three parts, part one being here:

Part 1 debate review

There is no way, if we ignore the changing of the title to Craig's God, that Craig could have one. It was at least a draw.

JOJO JACOB said...

A maximally great being did not have to "fine- tune" the constants. All logical possibilities were open to him.