Thursday, August 2, 2012

My debate with William Lane Craig finally released on video

Yes, it's finally been posted up. Recorded last October in front of audience of 2,000 (largely, though not entirely Christian) at Westminster Central Hall.

I usually watch any recording of myself with my head in my heads, cringing at what an idiot I am, but actually this went alright, I feel. I did wobble in my first rebuttal, partly because I forgot what I was going to say. But the rest of it goes OK. Especially the Q&A at the end.

The point I make about evidence for the resurrection comes across fairly clearly on the video, to my surprise (I had suspected it was too quick to follow) - and I do think it a very strong point (and also original so far as I am aware). People have also previously complained that the audio recording was poor and I couldn't be heard, but I seem pretty audible on this.

Still, I could certainly have done better. My debating skills are pretty poor compared to Craig's. There are also points I could have added that would have caused him significantly more difficulty, particularly regarding his playing the skeptical card on the problem of evil. Maybe next time, if there is one....

64 comments:

Daniel said...

Dr. Law,

I have just received your book 'The Philosophy Gym' today and found out about this website from the book, and to my astonishment I saw the that the most recent article/blog post was this one concerning your debate with William Lane Craig.

Now, I am more familiar with Dr. Craig's work than with yours, and as such I was relatively familiar with the cosmological argument as Dr. Craig has described in in the past. After reading your first chapter in 'The Philosophy Gym', namely "Where did the Universe come from?", I stumbled twice with the arguments used by the theologian Mathers:

1.) It appears that the classical argument can be more clearly stated as follows and therefore eliminated the need to explain God. I believe this is generally based on the argument of Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz, but they are stated as Dr. Craig has put it:

1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity
of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe is an existing thing.

4. Therefore the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.

Do you agree that this argument from contingency would be better suited than the classical cosmological argument, as it does eliminate the need to have a cause for God, as God in this case is entirely necessary?

2.) Furthermore, I believe that the Kalam Cosmological argument might be better suited to engage with the existence of God in relation to the cause (if it exists) of the universe.

I am fully aware that we are dealing with the opening chapter of an introductory book on philosophical thinking, that my thinking abilities are inferior to yours and that this blog post is not about one of your books, but about your debate with Dr. Craig (but this is my bridge, since I am somewhat aware of the work of Dr. Craig and am currently reading through your book).

I am definitely looking forward to engaging more with your book, the first chapter has already proven to engage my mind.

Sincerely yours,

Daniel F.

Stephen Law said...

Sure, Daniel, the argument can be bolstered or replaced by a different one, but then there are further criticisms of the bolstering/those other arguments, plus other criticisms I don't mention, and so on. The version you present is not the one most punters have come across or thought of, so it would be odd to start with it. As you say, it's an introductory book designed just to start people thinking...

Reasonable skeptic said...

I don't see how morality is objective, there based on our emotions like guilt and gratitude. And just because it's subjective it doesn't mean I can't say rape is wrong, I could say in my opinion rape is wrong.

Laurence said...

I'm curious what you think of Chris Hallquist's argument and evidence that William Lane Craig is dishonest. Link: http://freethoughtblogs.com/hallq/2012/07/27/why-is-craig-so-dishonest/

Peter Byrom said...

I sincerely hope there is a next time Stephen! Though I'm a Christian I definitely find your arguments far more structured and original than many other atheist thinkers! Bravo to you for stepping up and filling Toynbee's place!

MauricXe said...

I thought you smoked him in the Q/A. In fact, I think Craig's worst moments are against well prepared opponents in the Q/A and cross examination periods. Other examples are his debate with Milican and his "discussion" with Kagan.

Where I think you faltered was in (1) the defense of animal suffering and (2) the attack on Craig's moral argument.

I went back through the transcript and you did indeed attack his moral argument. But for some reason, when listening to you, all I get from your defense/attack was "Well Swinbourne thinks so thus Craig is wrong". After reading through the transcript, I think your answer was sufficient but during the debate that was not the impression given. Perhaps you could open
with the reasons why the moral argument fails and then conclude with "indeed Richard Swinbourne agrees (insert what you said here)"


Craig claimed that animals don't actually suffer like humans. You responded with:

"He also made some appeals to… some explanations for animal suffering, which basically were variance of the appeal to laws of nature, which I have already pointed out, you can, you can flip those type… those kinds of theodicy. I am not going to do, I’m not even going to attempt to do so now, but we could do that. So that, that… I think, I think I’ve covered most of the points I wanted to make there."*

I'm not sure what you were getting at with this response.


btw, nice outfit.

*Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-the-craig-law-debate#ixzz22QNu57vs

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Stephen, if you follow through on Laurence's request, I hope you read my more recent posts on the subject, where I try to make my reasons for saying what I do about Craig even clearer:

In this post, I show that the misrepresentations of your views that you complained about in a previous blog posts are part of a pattern for Craig, one that's unlikely to be accidental.

In this post, I show why Craig's presentation of his argument for the resurrection is incredibly misleading if you don't have prior knowledge of Biblical scholarship, and this is not likely to be accidental.

Stephen Law said...

Chris - I've already read those. Very interesting - some jaw-dropping examples. Of course Craig misrepresents and distorts. In a way that's trivially true, because he says there's a good, rational case for his brand of theism when there isn't. The question is, does he knowingly misrepresent? Does he know that his audience are likely to draw false conclusions from what he says? When you stack up the examples in the way you do, that conclusion does look plausible.

Does that make Craig a bad man? Well, he genuinely believes he is in the business of saving souls. He needs to make and keep people believers. It doesn't matter whether the arguments that do this are good or bad, so long as they succeed. Craig knows God won't be turning people away at the gates of heaven saying, "You believe, but only because you fell for the fallacy of affirming the consequent. So it's hell for you." And he knows God won't turn him away either, so long as he really believes. That's quite an incentive to distort and misrepresent. If I believed what Craig believed, I might well distort and misrepresent, and for what I'd consider to be pretty noble reasons. Though I'd probably tell myself that I was working within acceptable bounds of spin, rhetoric, debate rules, and so on.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Basically agree with your 2nd paragraph. Points I made in the post Laurence linked.

Thomas Larsen said...

Out of interest, Stephen, why don't you think sceptical theism is a sound response to the problem of evil?

Stephen Law said...

Hi Tomas, because (i) it's highly counter-intuitive, (ii) inadequately argued for (certainly by Craig), and (iii) has consequences even the theist is unlikely to accept (and I'm not thinking about global or moral skepticism, btw - seems to me Craig's ST undermines his own resurrection argument). I consider ST, as presented by Craig, to be a version of Going Nuclear.

Stephen Law said...

Chris - Just read what you said in Laurence's link. It's good to have a clear example of Craig saying that anyone who presents an atheistic argument without a rebuttal is acting as an instrument of Satan.

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen, you say that sceptical theism is:

(a) Highly counterintuitive. I disagree: human beings simply are not on the same epistemic level that God is said to be on: but even if you were right, so what? Plenty of things are counterintuitive. Evolution of species, the vastness of the universe, and so on.

(b) Inadequately argued for (certainly by Craig). What kind of argument would you expect for sceptical theism?

Take the following example of an argument from suffering against the existence of God:

(1) If God exists, God would not permit any instance of gratuitous suffering in the world.

(2) There is (probably) at least one instance of gratuitous suffering in the world.

(3) Therefore, God does not exist.

Sceptical theism, as I understand it, is merely the position that human beings are not in a good epistemic position to know that (2) is true.

(c) Has consequences even the theist is unlikely to accept. Like what?

Stephen Law said...

Notice that your argument isn't an argument, it's just an assertion. As for the consequence, I mentioned one but won't spell it all out here. Writing a paper on it so will explain later, if you don't mind Tom.

Thomas Larsen said...

"Notice that your argument isn't an argument, it's just an assertion. As for the consequence, I mentioned one but won't spell it all out here. Writing a paper on it so will explain later, if you don't mind Tom."

I'm not quite sure what assertion or argument you're referring to. I look forward to reading your paper!

Steven Carr said...

LARSEN
(2) There is (probably) at least one instance of gratuitous suffering in the world.

Sceptical theism, as I understand it, is merely the position that human beings are not in a good epistemic position to know that (2) is true.

CARR
Really?

Perhaps if I walloped you over the head 10 times with a piece of theological 2 by 4 debating wood, you might come to the opinion that my actions were serving no useful purpose...

And I would respond that your suffering was serving a useful purpose, as it taught how silly theists were to claim that whatever purpose the Holocaust served, it took 6 million Jews to die for that purpose to come about, and that if only 5 million Jews had died, that would have been insufficient to bring about whatever purpose the Holocaust had.

Andrew said...

Dr. Law,

Is it simply the case that you and say Swinbourne differ on the question of God because you weigh the arguments differently?

Steven Carr said...

To be fair to Thomas, I'm sure Thomas Larsen will agree that it was not necessary for all of those 6 million Jews to die in the Holocaust, and that several of them died gratuitously.

A skeptical theist would not be sure of that however, and would deny that any Jews died gratuitously in the Holocaust. Every death served a purpose. Every last one....

il Gaizka said...

I'd like to thank you for the interesting debate.
I really appreciated how you reminded to all to keep the focus on the big picture, in order to avoid the classical dodging consisting in having a generic god that satisfy any premises for its existence and then have a different/specific one to preach.

Finally, hoping not to seem unpolite, i dare to make you an observation. When dr. Craig was talking about animal awerness of pain and evil he himself admitted that this "skill" is limited only to higher primate, that as far I know, are not only human beings. I think you should have pointed out that god seems as usual quite selective and yet irresolute at giving moral responsability to his creatures.

I hope that my English is understandable.
Thanks a lot. Ciao!

Adzcliff said...

So pleased this debate has finally made it to video. I think I remember Stephen once saying how a lack of philosophical awareness/training can sometimes lead to otherwise eminent intellectuals falling foul of professional debating tactics. I didn't see what he meant then, but do now. I particularly enjoyed the sharp Q & A, and how Stephen resisted being subtly ushered on into pseudo secondary arguments, when standing firm at the initial (false) premises was all that was required. I don't know if I was seeing things, but as someone who likes to move the debate along through sleight of mind, Craig seemed to find this genuinely anxiety-provoking.

Would like to have seen some address of Craig's idea of 'accumulative arguments' though. If you ignore the best counter-arguments, you can create an 'accumulative argument' for almost anything??

Stephen Law said...

MauriceXe - I meant to say, sorry, that my ref to reverse laws of nature theodicy was in connection with Craig's attempt to explain suffering in terms of necessary predation, etc. - you can't have x without y, and y without z. Mirror theodicies can be used to explain all sorts of goods in defence of an evil God.

I was not addressing Craig's claim that animals don't suffer in any significant way. That struck me as absurd, and unlikely to convince anyone. Also, Craig's remarkable scientific discovery is actually a claim made by a theologian, not a scientist, in a book specifically trying to deal with the problem of evil. Murray's book cites some scientific facts about neurophysiology in trying to make its case, but it is unreliable even on these if what Craig says is drawn from the book. Check out... http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/11/08/william-lane-craig-and-the-problem-of-pain/

Thomas Larsen said...

Steven Carr, I take it that you believe that there's probably gratuitous evil in the world. Do you claim to know that there's probably gratuitous evil in the world? If so, what justification or warrant can you provide for that claim?

Paul P. Mealing said...

I have to admit that I found Craig's claim that animals don't suffer (like humans do) as outrageous. Also I found his issues with infinity interesting, considering that he believes in an infinite afterlife.

I'm not aware of any contemporary cosmologist who doesn't believe the universe has a finite age. Having said that, the 'no-boundary' model of the universe proposed by James Hartle and Stephen Hawking, conjectures that time might once have been a spatial dimension. To quote John D. Barrow in The Book of Universes: ‘The story of this universe is that once upon a time there was no time.’

Regards, Paul.

Thomas Larsen said...

Paul:

"I have to admit that I found Craig's claim that animals don't suffer (like humans do) as outrageous. Also I found his issues with infinity interesting, considering that he believes in an infinite afterlife."

While I'm not a huge fan of the kalam cosmological argument, I don't see an issue here: an "infinite" future would be a potential infinite, a limit never reached (that is, for any given temporal moment, a finite amount of time would have elapsed since the first temporal moment), whereas an infinite past would be an actual infinite.

Steven Carr said...

Larsen continues to claim there is no reason to think any of the 6 million Jews in the Holocaust died gratuitously.

Were Nazi death camps a case of gratuitous evil?

It appears that a truly religious person would deny that the evil committed by the Nazis was in any way gratuitous...

Indeed, Craig claims that his god had a plan for people sent to death camps, and that becoming a Nazi led to the salvation of people who would not have otherwise been saved.

' Indeed, God may have known that through the guilt and shame of what Heinrich did under the Third Reich, he would eventually come to repent and find salvation and eternal life.

Paradoxically, being a Nazi may have been the best thing that happened to Heinrich, since it led to his salvation.

Of course, one may wonder about those poor people who suffered in the death camps because of Heinrich. But God has a plan for their lives, too,....'

To be a theist is to watch on as horrendous evils are committed and claim that nobody can say that such nightmares are gratuitous....

Peter Byrom said...

Stephen, not sure if this is the right place to ask you this, but it's been on my mind for a while.

I'd like you to clarify something about your Evil God challenge:

It appears to me (correct me if I'm wrong) that you invest a lot in the following train of thought:

"look at all these many, many people who think The Problem of Good disproves Evil God. If they're entitled to think that, then I'm entitled to mirror their logic and argue that The Problem of Evil disproves Good God".

But the most important question, I think, rests upon that "if" statement: **IF** all these people are entitled to use TPOG, then I can use TPOE. Because surely, as a philosopher, the most important thing for you to do is not to just rest upon the number of people who happen to hold a view, but actually analyse whether the view itself is sound.

Say we analysed the actual logic of TPOG and found it didn't succeed in disproving Evil God, all we'd be left with is thousands of people using a bad argument, and your basis for using TPOE would be based upon mirroring a bad argument.

Does that make sense? I'm wanting to check whether you appeal to the masses who happen to use TPOG as justification for your using TPOE. If that is what you're doing, then that seems philosophically insufficient because you wouldn't have checked whether or not all these people are using a good argument (indeed it may even some sort of ad populum fallacy)?

If, on the other hand, you actually do think TPOG is a good argument in and of itself (regardless of how many people use it), from which you can mirror it to TPOE, I'd like to know why that is (after all, people like Bill Craig simply reject TPOG thereby cutting off the attempt to mirror it into TPOE).

Hope that makes sense. Thanks! :-)

Peter

David B. Ellis said...

"I don't see how morality is objective, there based on our emotions like guilt and gratitude. And just because it's subjective it doesn't mean I can't say rape is wrong, I could say in my opinion rape is wrong."

I hate applying the words objective and subjective to the question of whether there are moral facts. That something is subjective (or involves subjective elements) doesn't make it arbitrary. Being in agony is a subjective state....but it's no less true that it's "bad" to be in agony.

MauricXe said...

Thank you :)

Thomas Larsen said...

Steven Carr, I'm curious: can you provide any justification or warrant for the claim that there's probably gratuitous evil in the world?

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Thomas,

You seem to think that infinity is asymmetrical. Mathematically, you can have negative infinities as well as positive infinities.

The reason that Craig’s argument is ‘absurd’, to use his own word, is because he talks about infinity as if it’s a number, when all mathematicians know it isn’t. He says infinity is ‘not real’, therefore, by extrapolation, heaven can’t be real.

As I mentioned in my earlier comment, and contrary to Craig’s talk, there is a ‘no-boundary’ model of the universe, which has no beginning (the Hartle/Hawking model). Craig references Vilenkin, who apparently challenges the ‘eternal inflationary’ model, whereby bubble universes are created indefinitely and could have been in the past. Craig infers that this is ‘settled’, but it’s all very speculative and depends more on mathematics than evidence.

The universe could have come from ‘nothing’, by the way, because the negative energy of gravity balances all the positive energy of light and mass. In fact, Vilenkin is most famous for postulating a ‘quantum bubble inflation' that explains how the universe could have come from ‘nothing’.

Regards, Paul.

Paul P. Mealing said...

I think there are 2 flaws in Craig’s argument. One is the idea that God created suffering so we would come to know God. I find such a God perverse.

The other is the idea that we need God to have objective morality. But who determines that objective morality? Humans determine it, who claim to know the mind of God.

Regards, Paul.

Thomas Larsen said...

Paul, what do you think the distinction between an actual infinite and a potential infinite is? Craig's claim is that the future is potentially infinite, not actually infinite. But if an infinite amount of time has past, we'd have an actual infinite on our hands.

"The universe could have come from ‘nothing’, by the way, because the negative energy of gravity balances all the positive energy of light and mass."

Surely not without a cause to give rise to a varied distribution of energy? (That the sum total of dirt "inside" and "beside" a hole in the ground adds to zero, to use a flawed but hopefully helpful analogy, doesn't imply that the hole in the ground required no digger.)

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Thomas,

I think the term ‘actual infinity’ is a misnomer. What you are talking about is a negative infinity. An infinite regress into the past is just as possible as an infinite future. I don’t find one conceptually more impossible than the other.

I’m not an expert on cosmology, but, from what I’ve read, you don’t need a cause. Quantum phenomena can be acausal or demonstrate ‘downward causation’ as explained by Paul Davies in The Cosmic Blueprint, which, according to Davies, John Wheeler described as ‘backwards in time’. This has been demonstrated in a ‘delayed choice’ experiment.

The reason that the Hartle/Hawking model of the universe appeals to me is because it’s effectively a quantum universe that exists outside of time and evolves into the ‘classical’ universe that we inhabit.

I’m a Platonist in that I think that the mathematics that the universe obeys exists independently of the universe.

If you want to argue that God is the process by which the universe came into being, I can accept that in principle, but that’s not the Biblical God. It’s a God who simply stands for what we don’t know.

Regards, Paul.

The Atheist Missionary said...

I thought I'd share Professor Stephen Maitzen's Moral Skepticism Objection to Skeptical Theism (a forthcoming chapter from What Makes Us Moral?, ed. A. W. Musschenga and Anton van Harskamp (Springer)):

http://philosophy.acadiau.ca/tl_files/sites/philosophy/resources/documents/Maitzen_MSO.pdf

Patrick said...

Thomas Larsen- The simple and obvious problem with skeptical theism, from the Christian perspective, is that it either turns into an instance of special pleading, or else it annihilates Christianity.

If the skeptical theist claims that we are not in an epistemic position to know that gratuitous suffering exists, this seems at least on the face of things to be a specific instance of a general epistemic inability to know things of a general cosmic and otherworldly nature.

But if we can't know such things in general, the resurrection of Christ is not a reliable promise of human salvation.

On the other hand, if we can trust the resurrection of Christ not to be a fraud, then its hard to come up with a reason why that would be so that wouldn't also permit us to make decisions about gratuitous suffering.

Usually Christians just declare that we can know one and not the other, which is an intellectually bankrupt position. Alternately they bite the bullet and claim that we can't know that the resurrection (or any other Christian tenet whether stated or implied) is a reliable promise, but that Christians believe them anyway. Which is also intellectually bankrupt, but for different reasons, and suggests the obvious question: If you're willing to reason that way, why didn't you start there to begin with? Just posit that you have no reason to believe that the problem of gratuitous suffering can be overcome, but declare that you disbelieve it anyway. You'll look crazy to everyone else, but it will save you pointless philosophical effort in getting there.

Daniel Beaton said...

Stephen, great to see this up. WLC is an excellent debater, and has spent a long time doing it, so you held out well considering a tough opponent. The maths stuff was beyond me, but I’m going to analysis his moral arguments and get involved in the discussion. In passing, the thing with WLC is his steps seem reasonable but you are lead to a conclusion that just seems laughable. It’s kind of similar to Xeno’s paradoxes showing that distance cannot be traversed, we know somethings gone wrong but it’s very hard to point out off the cuff.

Thomas Larsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Larsen said...

Sceptical theism oughtn't necessarily lead to general moral scepticism. See "In Defense of Skeptical Theism: A Reply to Almeida and Oppy" by Rea and Bergmann, or Bergmann's "Commonsense Skeptical Theism."

Steven Carr said...

Skeptical theism is the reasoning that we don't know why 6 million Jews had to die in the Holocaust, but we can be sure that whatever purpose it served, it would not have been served if only 5.9 million Jews had been killed.

All those Jews had to die, claim skeptical theists, although they haven't a clue why.

Thomas Larsen said...

Steven Carr, are you implying that the best argument against sceptical theism that you've got is an appeal to my emotional response to the Holocaust? That might pass for an argument in politics. It won't pass for an argument in philosophy.

Stephen Law said...

Thomas - I cannot see that Steven Carr is implying any such thing. He's just pointing out that, according to the ST, God's unleashing or allowing such enormous horror and suffering is entirely justified (but in a way we cannot fathom). The scale of the horror matters, so far as the intuitive implausibility of the claim is concerned. Your emotional response to it is doesn't.

Saying "That's just an emotional argument/response" in response to the PoE is a classic bit Craigian bullshit. The fact that we have an emotional response to a point is irrelevant to whether or not it's correct. The fact that Craig has an emotional response to the thought that Jesus loves him doesn't give us any reason to suppose his belief is false.

Steven Carr said...

I'm simply pointing out the consequences of your beliefs.

You cannot justify saving 1 Jew from the Holocaust, as , according to skeptical theism, there must have been a reason why 6,000,000 Jews died rather than 5,999,999

Steven Carr said...

And, of course, skeptical theism supports Stephen Law's EvilGod

And from the alleged 'refutation' that you linked to - 'The reason is simple:
theists very typically believe that God has commanded his creatures to behave in certain ways; and they also very typically believe that God’s commands provide all-things-considered reasons
to act.'

This provides zero justification for saving any Jews from the Holocaust , as skeptical theists claim that we can see now that there must have been a very good reason for 6 million Jews to die, rather than 5.9 million Jews.

So saving Jews from the Holocaust would have upset your supposed god's plans.

Whatever your alleged god is supposed to have commanded, we can be sure that 'Don't interfere with my plans' is one such command.

Thomas Larsen said...

If a person contends that, since there's (probably) gratuitous evil in the world, God (probably) doesn't exist, it's her responsibility to provide a good argument for the claim that there's (probably) gratuitous evil in the world.

And stating that "all those Jews had to die, claim skeptical theists, although they haven't a clue why" isn't a good argument for that claim.

Thomas Larsen said...

Steven:

"And, of course, skeptical theism supports Stephen Law's EvilGod"

In what way would you say that sceptical theism supports the claim that Stephen Law's "evil god" exists?

"This provides zero justification for saving any Jews from the Holocaust , as skeptical theists claim that we can see now that there must have been a very good reason for 6 million Jews to die, rather than 5.9 million Jews.

Do you have a good argument for this claim?

Steven Carr said...

Thomas Larsen is still committed to the claim that the person who bit off the face of a tourist in New York did not commit any gratuitous evil.

This is nonsense.

Thomas Larsen said...

Steven:

"Thomas Larsen is still committed to the claim that the person who bit off the face of a tourist in New York did not commit any gratuitous evil."

Gratuitous with respect to what?

Stephen Law said...

"If a person contends that, since there's (probably) gratuitous evil in the world, God (probably) doesn't exist, it's her responsibility to provide a good argument for the claim that there's (probably) gratuitous evil in the world."

There's the principle that if something really appears to be so, then it is reasonable to believe it is so, at least until someone comes up with good reason to suppose appearances are unreliable in this case. Theists use this sort of principle (of credulity) a lot (Plantinga and Swinburne, for example). So we can use it here.

So now the theist has to provide the argument for appearances being an unreliable guide to truth. The ball is in their court.

It is also open to the atheist to say they can just see directly that this isn't the kind of world a good/evil god would create. No inference is required. The belief that this is such a world is properly basic. Obviously this observation won't convince you, though. But notice you now have to explain why the atheist is mistaken in holding that belief. If you suppose they are mistaken?

Stephen Law said...

"So now the theist has to provide the argument for appearances being an unreliable guide to truth."

In this context I mean. Various arguments have been tried of course...

Stephen Law said...

I said "Obviously this observation won't convince you, though. But notice you now have to explain why the atheist is mistaken in holding that belief." Perhaps I should have said - "the onus is on you to explain why the atheist is being epistemically irresponsible in holding that belief (that this is not the sort of world a good/evil god would create). If you think they are being epistemically irresponsible."

Thomas Larsen said...

"There's the principle that if something really appears to be so, then it is reasonable to believe it is so, at least until someone comes up with good reason to suppose appearances are unreliable in this case. Theists use this sort of principle (of credulity) a lot (Plantinga and Swinburne, for example). So we can use it here."

Would you say that the principle of credulity, if we accept and apply it to suffering in the world, yields

G: There's probably gratuitous suffering in the world

rather than merely

S: There's a lot of suffering in the world?

If so: why do you think that it's right to affirm G, not merely S, given S and the apparent absence of good defeaters for G? (Moreover, why suppose that theism can't provide any good defeaters for G?)

It's appropriate, also, to ask: gratuitous with respect to what? To the purposes and plans of God on theism?—Can a person be warranted in believing that they (probably) have comprehensive access to God's purposes and plans as they pertain to suffering in the world?

"It is also open to the atheist to say they can just see directly that this isn't the kind of world a good/evil god would create. No inference is required. The belief that this is such a world is properly basic."

In what way do you think G could be a properly basic belief? (If you mean that S is a properly basic belief, I don't see any obvious problem; but S doesn't appear to present a particularly strong challenge to theism.)

Stephen Law said...

There appear to be gratuitous evils because we observe evils for which there don't *appear* to be a God-justifying reasons (the ST just denies that appearance is a reliable guide to reality in this case).

On proper basicality: Why couldn't the belief that there's a lot of gratuitous evil/(good) in the world be properly basic? Why couldn't it be the case that some atheists can just see this is true? Why can't they just see, directly, that this is not the kind of world a good/evil god would create? They don't infer it from appearances?

In much the same way that someone might just see that others have minds, without inferring that they have minds on the basis of outward behaviour, say?

So, you need to explain why such a belief (the world contain gratuitous evil/good, or: this is not the kind of world a good/evil god would create) cannot be properly basic, if you want to explain why such an atheist holds it irrationally because they make a faulty inference. In addition, to support ST, you then also have to show that the inference from appearance to reality (usually licensed by the principle of credulity) is not licensed in this case. The onus is on the you and ST to do that.

So you've been getting things back to front, in terms of onus of proof.

Thomas Larsen said...

"On proper basicality: Why couldn't the belief that there's a lot of gratuitous evil/(good) in the world be properly basic?"

How could the belief that there's a lot of gratuitous suffering in the world be a properly basic belief? What do you think is necessary for some belief to be a properly basic belief for someone?

(I'd rather use the term "suffering" than "evil," since many naturalists affirm moral nihilism and believe that terms like "good" and "evil," interpreted in a moral sense, are nonsensical on naturalism.)

Stephen Law said...

In the same way that my beliefs that my wife has a mind, is a good person, and/or *that's* not the sort of thing my wife would do (looking at tortured child), might be properly basic.

Of course you might deny some of these beliefs can be properly basic. But if the last one might be, then why not "That's not the sort of thing a good God would do"?

I seem to remember Plantinga saying somewhere that the suggestion that atheists can just see that the world is not the sort of world a good god would create (they don't have to infer this) generates a particularly tricky version of the problem of evil.

Stephen Law said...

PS the suggestion that many perceptual beliefs are properly basic is of course a useful way of dealing with skeptical worries re external world. Ditto skepticism re other minds and the past. Theists try a similar tactic in dealing with skepticism about the existence of God - insisting their quasi-perceptual belief is also properly basic (WLC does this). But then how can such theists disallow the same kind of move when used against skeptical theism?

Stephen Law said...

Here's Craig on properly basic beliefs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b7pQ3v4T2A

Notice how everything Craig says here about properly basic beliefs is consistent with the thought that some of us can also just see that this is not the kind of world a good/evil God would create - this too is a properly basic belief of theirs.

In fact, this IS exactly how the world looks to me!

What baffles me is why you can't see it too (Plantinga and Craig say the reason I don't experience their God is that my sensus divinitatis has been corrupted by sin. I say the reason they and you cannot just see this is not the kind of world a good god would create is that your cognitive faculties have been corrupted by religion - which is the more plausible explanation?).

Rob said...

Why are atheists afraid to admit out right that absolute morality is just as ridiculous as the X-tian god?

They afraid it's going to mean an automatic loss of the debate?

Thomas Larsen said...

Stephen:

Oops, sorry for the late response!

"Notice how everything Craig says here about properly basic beliefs is consistent with the thought that some of us can also just see that this is not the kind of world a good/evil God would create - this too is a properly basic belief of theirs."

It's quite unclear that the belief that our world is not the kind of world that God would create is a plausible candidate for a properly basic belief. (How could such a belief be held in a properly basic way by a human person?)

"I say the reason they and you cannot just see this is not the kind of world a good god would create is that your cognitive faculties have been corrupted by religion - which is the more plausible explanation?"

Doesn't this presuppose that some notion of normativity, or proper function, applies to human cognitive faculties?

Stephen Law said...

That the world is such that an GG would not have created it could indeed be a properly basic belief, if it's e.g. perceptual and not based on inference. It seems at least as clear how this belief could be properly basis as that God exists could be properly basic.

The appeal to proper function in your final sentence is smokescreen. The onus on you is to now explain (i) why it does presuppose this, and (ii) why it is a problem for me. You will be in particularly big trouble re (ii) as even of the concept of dodgy cognitive faculties does require the idea that there's a cosmic designer (itself a very dubious claim), that designer does not have to be a good god. So you raise no difficulty for me in any case.

Smilevil said...

Craig says that "we are not in a good position about the claim of Evil God or Good God and the explanation lot of suffering in the world ". Well, that seems to me is a "I don't know" and for him is a fine answer.

I think you can solve the problem about the beggining of the universe with cosmological argument saying the same "We are not in a good position to talk about the beggining of the universe because seems to be a priori answer" and that answer should be fine.

If Craig isn't confortable with the answer and tells you that because you don't know then you agree with him about God creates the universe then you should tell him the same about moral argument "then you should agree with me that God must be evil because you didn't refute it"

For him an "I don't know" is fine, but when is you the you must explain it o r you agree with him or because you didn't refute it then is fine.

Anonymous said...

My name is anonymous. And I really liked the debate. I'd say you did better than others who debated him. The other British person who did well against Craig was Arid Ahmed.

Anonymous said...

Well, Prof Law, I just watched the debate out of curiosity and I thought you basically flunked it, and dodged the hard questions - morality and the cosmological argument. You didn't necessarily need to answer them, but you didn't even get so far as acknowledging their validity, which is absurd.
You seem about as confused as the rest of us. :)
Cheers,
Mark

Godss Cumm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Imaginative Display Name said...

Well, guess I'm naive, way behind the curve etc etc but biological systems tend toward homeostasis. The autonomic system will adjust to cold to avoid positive feedback into hypothermia... At a more sophisticated level the organism, a dog, say, will feel cold and seek shelter. Similarly, I think, if the dog is not doing its bit for the pack, the pack may get aggressive when 'sharing' prey, the dog feels rejected and needs to put in more effort or die.

As organisms get more complex more complex emotions accompany social rejection and so on, a sense of moral obligation arises. This is surely an old argument, and apparently a very poor one according to you, Stephen, if I hear you right in the debate. I'm a little surprised by that and I'm not even trying to rule out the existence of God.