Monday, June 25, 2007

William Lane Craig's worthless apologetics

A recent episode of The Things That Matter Most featured William Lane Craig speaking on the subject of "Is God Real or Imaginary?" Of course, being a theist, Craig posits that God is real. Fine, but what follows disgusted me to no end, as Christian apologetics are wont to do.

About 9 min into the show, Craig tries to explain why he feels Dan Barker's journey to atheism is wrong. He seems to think the problem lies in a rigid belief that the Bible is inerrant, and once that rigid position is broken it is more reasonable to believe that the Bible may be wrong here and there than to cross over to the 'Dark Side' known as atheism... "The Bible is not an accurate record of what God is like, that the ancient Israelites in writing these narratives got it wrong about God." OK. If the Bible is wrong about God, how can he even speak about God in an authoritative way? If the Bible is NOT inerrant, then you must pick and choose what you want to believe and there is no basis which is not arbitrary! This is just nonsense. His suggestion that this is an argument against the inerrancy of the Bible and not the existence of God is correct, but he doesn't go to the obvious conclusion that if the Bible is wrong here and there, and you do not know exactly where or how many of these places there are, you have to throw the whole thing out. In fact, Craig throws the Old Testament out, but as we'll see, he arbitrarily claims that the New Testament is okay.

Telve minutes in, Craig answers the questions of God committing genocide. "God is not bound by the same moral duties we are. Our moral duties are established to God's commandments to us, that in virtue of being commanded to do this or that that we have certain moral obligations or duties.... So it would be wrong for me to whip out a gun and shoot somebody for no reason at all. But if God wants to strike me dead right now that's His prerogative.... But when God commands the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanite clans they are acting as God's moral agents under his command and so I feel that God has the right to command them to do something which in the absence of a divine command would have been wrong... it becomes their moral duty." So, God says do as I say, and not as I do. God should set an example for His creatures!!!! At the very least, God should do His own dirty work. Especially if he doesn't want His creatures going around doing the things that under ordinary circumstances He wouldn't want them to do! Does anyone out there understand this idiocy? It gets better: "Moreover God had good reason to give this command. He waited for 400 years while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt [Blogger's note: there is no extra-biblical record of the Israelites being slaves in Egypt.] until the Canaanite nation was so wicked and so debauched that it was right for divine judgment." Why kill them then? What happened to free will? God couldn't wait to judge each as they died? The whole argument collapses under its own inanity. "He used the armies of Israel as His instrument of judgment upon these clans in Canaan known that ultimately their extermination would be better for Israel in the long run, they wouldn't be contaminated by their influences, that these persons were deserving of judgment. And in the case of innocent people who might have been killed that even in their case God has the right to give and take life as He sees fit." Is this compatible with a kind, loving God? I think not.

I find it interesting that there are no provisions in any penal code I know of that allows one to be found not guilty by reason of God! Paul Hill claims he was commanded by God to kill abortion providers, yet he was executed for his crimes. But, if it's in the Bible it's not only okay, but mandatory! This is the most disgusting apologetics! I could barely get through this bullshit. It's SICK!

Now for the punchline: "the [Canaanite] children, by being killed are really, in one sense, better off if we believe that children go to heaven, as I do, than they would be allowing them to live on in the circumstances in which they were." I've said it many times: religion allows the expansion of our limits on what morality normally allows to the point of atrocity. It assuages our consciences in order to rationalize committing the most terrible crimes. Remember, Hitler assuaged his own guilt by claiming he was doing God's work. Craig's spear would have been the most soaked with Canaanite blood had he been there, I'm sure. How noble a warrior he would have been, sending babes to Heaven!

And who said God commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites? Somebody wrote it, presumably the victors! Who says they wrote the truth? Remember, the Bible is not inerrant.

The rest is the normal fatally-flawed First Cause arguments and stuff that I've blogged about before, so I go into that here. Craig claims that the weight of scientific evidence is on his side, and you can predict my reaction to that crap.

He deals with morality at about 21 min. He feels that an evolutionary basis for morality is an illusion, something that serves only to help in perpetuating the species: "But there's nothing about this [evolutionary] morality that makes it really objectively true; it's really just an illusion. And in that case the rapist or the pedophile or the homophobe or the racist doesn't really do anything wrong when he goes against the herd morality. He's just acting unfashionably, and there's no [ultimate] moral accountability." He's right. It is just an illusion, but one that makes living in social groups possible! Being moral because it is God's commandment just makes morality arbitrary and no more objectively true!!!!

About 33 min. in... "... I don't think that ultimately the belief that God exists is based upon evidence I think that it is primarily based upon the witness of God's Holy Spirit." Huh? You mean it is primarily based on, as David Hume would say, "sophistry and illusion." This is bunk. "...Anyone who, at the end of his life, ultimately rejects God or the Gospel of Christ... doesn't do so on lack of evidence... He does it because he deliberately ignores or suppresses the testimony and work of the Holy Spirit in his heart." There it is. That inability for the theist to get their mind around the idea that that feeling of the 'Holy Spirit' is purely in their own minds, that as an atheist I can categorically say that no such feeling exists in me. Never did, never will. The human psyche can do some amazing things, and we interpret them in ways which are not always valid. For instance, near death experiences can seem very real to those that experience them, but the fact that such experiences can be reproduced in subjects subjected to high g-forces in centrifuges points to a less than supernatural explanation.

I said in a recent blog that we are not like the Amish, who don't have any use for things like cell phones. It's not that we atheists do not have any use for deities, it's that we see no reason to believe that there are any deities at all! For some reason, theists can never get their minds around this. Like the great Laplace said to Napoleon, "I have no need of that hypothesis." Theists, get it through your skulls: I do not deny a god I know somewhere deep down exists, but simply take the null hypothesis that God does not exist because there is no reason to accept the hypothesis that God does exist. The burden of proof is always on the one positing existence, and no one has ever made even a promising case for God's existence.

As to the New Testament's validity (ca. 46 min): "...the drift of New Testament scholarship in the last 50 years or so has be solidly in the direction of confirming the accuracy of the New Testament records of the life of Jesus. I think that most scholars would say that we can treat the gospels very seriously as historical sources for the life of Jesus of Nazareth."

I had tears streaming from my eyes from laughter at hearing this! Oh, my! What scholars has this guy been reading?!?!? I think that the FACT that there are NO contemporary sources of the Jesus myth should be a clue to the story's validity, and not a supportive one at all either. That NONE of the Gospels was written anywhere near the time of his supposed time on Earth. We don't even have a clue as to their authorship! What is this guy smoking? The Gospels themselves significantly disagree with each other!

Throughout the show, the commentators seem to revere this guy (who I had never heard of before) and say that Dawkins and Harris don't have any right to go against such great minds as Craig, Einstein and Hawking. Let's get one thing straight: Craig is no great mind. I was appalled and disgusted at his ridiculous idea that sending kids to God is okay and if I actually believed in doing debates I would take him on any day. From everything I heard on this show I deem him to be a mental lightweight espousing the most idiotic apologetics. Second, I don't think that Einstein and Hawking are exactly in agreement with an Abrahamic god. We really don't know exactly what these two actually think (thought), but I can assure you they reject the Abrahamic god every bit as much as I do. Third, to cast Dawkins as being outside of the company of Einstein and Hawking would greatly underestimate the influence of him. Harris won't be far behind, and he is very young to have so much influence in his own right.

I really do like Lael Arrington, one of the hosts of the show. We email each other back and forth, not necessarily about the show. I have always applauded their choice of guests. How many radio shows with a decidedly Christian slant would invite the likes of Dan Barker and Sam Harris as guests? But religious people do have a blind spot when it comes to applying logic to their own beliefs, something that I've spent my whole life doing.


Jason said...

Shamelessly Atheist said:

the commentators seem to revere this guy (who I had never heard of before)...

Let's get one thing straight: Craig is no great mind.

William Lane Craig is one the leading philosophers of religion and one of the leading philosophers of time (Quentin Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Western Michigan University)

On Craig's Time and Eternity book professor Smith also says:

It is a rewarding experience to read through this brilliant and well-researched book by one of the most learned and creative thinkers of our era. (Quentin Smith)

As a scientist doing theoretical research in gravitational physics and quantum cosmology, I [find] Dr. Craig's thoughtful [work] highly interesting. He has carefully given arguments defending several different viewpoints for each of the many issues about time that he discusses... (Don N. Page, Professor of Physics, University of Alberta)

William Lane Craig, Talbot’s renowned research professor of philosophy, is “one of a kind.” He’s good at addressing large general audiences and taken very seriously by people who work in metaphysics. He writes for good journals and speaks at the American Philosophical Association. (Dean Zimmerman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University)

William Lane Craig is Christianity's #1 living apologist. Wake up, fellow Atheists! Get your head out of your ass long enough to be able to see clearly what the hell is happening here. If we expect Christians to be honest about anything, we as a group need to be honest as well, and honestly face the fact that Craig is kicking our collective ass and we're apparently too dumb (as a group) to even know it! (Mark Smith, Contra Craig Website: HERE

William Lane Craig is arguably one of the finest Christian philosophers of our time. (Ravi Zacharias)

He is simply the finest Christian apologist of the last half century and his academic work justifies ranking him among the top 1% of practicing philosophers in the Western world. (J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology)

Yep, you're absolutely right. Craig is definitely not a great mind.

Shamelessly Atheist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamelessly Atheist said...

Wow. Argument from Authority. Quoting from a bunch which share the same delusion. I'm duly unimpressed.

So, tell me. Is genocide then acceptable under some circumstances? Anyone that thinks so is truly deluded as Hitler was. Good luck with that.

If Craig is the best that apologists can offer, atheism has a bright future indeed.

Anonymous said...

Considering Smith doesn't even believe in God, it's an odd authority toappeal to :p He said that while he was dismissing Craig's argument

Anonymous said...

What if you are wrong? I will leave to you ponder that.

benjaminchew110478 said...

Hi Shamelessly Atheist.

Agree with you there, but I guess what is upsetting is that William Lane Craig is a very very skilled debater.

A lot of atheists who watch his debates agree that he almost always wins his debates.

He has skewed Bart Ehrman (agnostic textual scholar), slaughtered Christopher Hitchens (who doesn't know how to engage in a proper debate) and bashed Richard Carrier.

I guess even if on paper some of his (Craig) arguments don't hold water, he is a consummate showman on the debating stage.

It is detrimental to the atheist/non-religion cause if atheists continually lose to people like Craig in debates. No wonder Richard Dawkins refused to debate Craig (I believe he knows he will lose).

Sigh. Just some thoughts.


Shamelessly Atheist said...

I couldn't care less how good a debater Craig is. It lends no credence to the validity of his position, and he is demonstrably wrong.

I am one of those that believes that debating apologists only inflates their egos and becomes something to put on their resumes. I have no interest in giving asshats like Craig any perceived credence, nor does Dawkins. Debates are a meaningless forum that presents nothing new and serves to sway no one. They are the ultimate Red Queen, running in place but going nowhere.

Shamelessly Atheist said...

What if you are wrong? I will leave to you ponder that.

@Anonymous: Wow. Never heard that one before. What on earth makes you think I haven't thought about that? Pascal's Wager is an incredibly flawed argument. Who says you got the right god?

One can only draw conclusions based on the best available evidence, and the "what if I am wrong" thing should NEVER become part of the decision making process!

Anonymous said...

"if the Bible is wrong here and there, and you do not know exactly where or how many of these places there are, you have to throw the whole thing out"
that's not how historians work. historians operate on the presupposition that despite errors, inaccuracies and contradictions, a source can still contain nuggets of truth which can be mined to form a historical core. these nuggets are assessed by criteria including independence of the source, explanatory scope and power, degree of ad hoc-ness or multiple attestation. to reject the entire bible because the gospels provide conflicting accounts of the number of women who approached jesus' tomb on the third day for example, is historically irresponsible and philsophically, commits the fallacy of guilt by association.

"I think that the FACT that there are NO contemporary sources of the Jesus myth should be a clue to the story's validity, and not a supportive one at all either"
historians do not believe that contemporaneity of a source is related to its reliability. the roman historian tacticus for example, wrote of many events in his annals to which he was not contemporaneous such as the death of tiberius which happened 20 years before tacitus was born. nonetheless, tacitus is regarded favourably by historians because his writings are attested to in other ancient works.

"God should set an example for His creatures"
"God should do His own dirty work"
now can you present philsophical arguments for these statements?

"But, if it's in the Bible it's not only okay, but mandatory!"
well no, that's not right. the bible does not entirely consist of divine commands. it's entirely possible for example, that the canaanite story was included in the bible to show the depths that humanity could sink to and that, in cases where a civilisation has degenerated into widespread debauchery and immorality, god can act to wipe them out.

"Hitler assuaged his own guilt by claiming he was doing God's work"
that's not the same as god giving a divine command himself.

"Remember, the Bible is not inerrant"
as i said in my earlier point, the bible may have errors but it can still be historically useful.

"Being moral because it is God's commandment just makes morality arbitrary and no more objectively true"
craig's argument is that by having god as a transcendant anchor point, it allows morality to have an objective basis in reality. that is to say, morality is ontologically possible.

"The human psyche can do some amazing things, and we interpret them in ways which are not always valid."
then how sure can you be sure of your own sensory experience? how certain can you be that you are not a brain in a jar somewhere and that your life is a virtual reality simulation? the truth is, we cannot get 'outside' our senses and therefore, are rational to trust them in the absence of contrary evidence.

"The burden of proof is always on the one positing existence"
no, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. so if you claim god does not exist, then you must show some evidence for it.

Anonymous said...

I started to read your article to finaly recieve a rational atheist response, but we get the same conjecture layden non sequidor bs. First of al the bible by definition is a collection of individual books written by individual authors from different times in different places in which Christians believe are inspired. When historians judge the bible, theyjudge thebible on a book by book basis, so it logically follows that is completely possible that some books in the biblecould potentially errant with out dismissing thebelief set. What you said isbrewed. From the common amateur mistake of treating the bible as one big book and not for what it is, but nice try

Anonymous said...

Furthermore there are over a half dozen non biblical contemporary references to Jesus of Nazareth, that's more than governor of Palestine at the same time, so i guess the real question would be, outside of radicalconspiracy theory authors what well respected historian are you getting your info from? Wait thst was just another classic empty atheist claim. I also noticed how u implied the classic eurothryo dilemma, wow thst proposes a false dichotomy, because God's nature is the good, so it is objective and made knowable because we are made in the image of god. Even better the reason Craig has never lost a debate is because he is RIGHT, not because of debate skills. Let's use ockams razor approach, the simplest argument that carry the largest explanatory scope is best, if1 hour and 30 min of back and forth isn't enough time to state your case in a convincing way, well then your case isn't very good Now is it. So if atheists continually lose to Craig it's not because of their lack of skills, it's because there WRONG

Shamelessly Atheist said...

Anonymous: Yet you can not name these contemporary sources (please don't say Josephus or Tacitus - neither was contemporaneous). Nor do I think of the gospels as a single narrative. A parallel reading of the gospels clearly shows that the authors of Luke and Matthew copied Mark verbatim except where their theologies differed. They are not independent accounts, and even the first was written a number of decades after Jesus supposed crucifixion. This is not at all controversial in
biblical scholarship.

As I told a previous commentor, I couldn't care less at how good a debator Craig is. Used car salesmen make great debators, I'm sure. Craig does well in debates because he uses the tactic of bombarding his opponents with apologetic arguments as if it is then up to his opponent to refute them. In other words, he disingenuously tries to shift the burden of proof onto his opponents. A good tactic, but not a valid argument. What matters is the substance of the arguments, not how well someone puts the or responds to them in a debate setting. And, no. Craig's arguments are pathetic.

For instance, the premise of his beloved Kalam Cosmological argument is patently false. There ARE uncaused events. For instance, radioactive decay. And apologetic arguments carry no weight with me. Give me evidence, or go away in shame.

Your refutation of the Euthyphro Delemma is simply awful - it doesn't even deal with it, since if god's nature is good, then you are skewered on one of the horns of the dilemma. This is the same mistake Craig makes in his 'refutation' of the problem of evil. Saying god represents perfect goodness makes the word 'good' meaningless - god is defined a priori to be good. But this is invalid, since the characteristic of good is a judgement based on a comparison of action with a set of values. It can not be assigned a priori. This is equivalent to god saying what is good - good is then arbitrary, not objective. Try again.

In summation, your objections are utterly lacking in any substance and will thus be ignored.

And, please- learn how to spell things non sequitur....

Good luck to you, though.

Bozo said...

I'm with you on a few things. First and foremost, I agree that WLC is a hack, and his philosophical arguments are full of holes. However, those holes are filled very neatly by his faith in god, so I think he literally is 100% convinced that he is speaking the truth.

Regarding him winning a lot, I absolutely agree it is to do with his debating skills. In his opening speeches, he says things like "I plan to focus on 2 contentions" and then, if his opponent does not structure his entire case on these exact points, he claims that his opponent has failed to make any case at all. It's actually a very bullying approach if you ask me, and I think he is quite a rude person. If his opponent makes a 20 minute speech and raises some excellent points, he will often latch onto a tiny piece of dubious logic (why do atheists try and exaggerate so much) in an attempt to discredit their case, and thus gain a kind of intellectual superiority.

That said, if you look at his debates on youtube, they're virtually identical, even going back to the old days when he had a beard (lol). I'd really like to see someone like Dan Barker debate him on the existence of God. If Dan did some research on WLC's debating tricks, and came prepared with a valid demolition of each and every one of his 5 "proofs" (kalaam, morality, fine tuning, jesus' resurrection, personal experience), I think WLC would be floundering.

The best I've seen though was WLC vs Snook. Snook was actually able to see through the faulty logic, and tear down all 5 arguments. The result was quite amusing, with WLC still going over his same prepared rebuttals "and what about the argument of fine tuning? all he said was.... um..... (shuffles papers).... um..... that some.... scientist.... got something ... um... wrong..... um....".

Anyway, I quite like watching these debates, regardless of who has the superior public speaking abilities. You really only need to hear WLC present his own arguments to realise the fallacies they are riddled with.