Friday, December 14, 2012

What Do Philosophers Really Think About Arguments for the Existence of God(s)?

Over at Uncommon Descent there's a recent post praising the "noted philosopher" William Lane Craig [Noted philosopher William Lane Craig responds to the American Humanist Association “Kids without God” web site]. They link to an article by Craig posted on The Washington Post website a few days ago: Humanism for children.

Here's what William Lane Craig has to say about the existence of god(s).
For example, why think that naturalism is true? The last half century has witnessed a veritable renaissance of Christian philosophy. In a recent article, University of Western Michigan philosopher Quentin Smith laments “the desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s.” Complaining of naturalists’ passivity in the face of the wave of “intelligent and talented theists entering academia today,” Smith concludes, “God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”

This renaissance of Christian philosophy has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in arguments for God’s existence based on reason and evidence alone, apart from the resources of divine revelation like the Bible. All of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene.
It seems to me that most philosophers are rather soft on their theist colleagues. They tolerate, and even praise, many Christian apologists who masquerade as philosophers. I'm thinking specifically of Alvin Plantinga but there are many others.

So, here's a question for you philosophers out there. Is Craig correct? Is it true that most philosophers defend arguments for god's existence based on "reason and evidence alone"? Is it true that philosophy departments have sunk to this level?

Here's an example of Craig's philosophical arguments for the existence of god(s) from his debate with Christopher Hitchens on "Does God Exist." You can skip the first 12 minutes. Craig starts at 12:50. Remember, the question I'm asking isn't whether his conclusion is correct (it isn't). It isn't whether his arguments are bad (they are remarkably bad). It's whether most philosophers respect his arguments and grant that they are legitimate and sound philosophical arguments.

YouTube

Note: The other day I was having lunch with a bunch of people from CFI Canada and a group from UTSA (University of Toronto Secular Association). The topic of debating creationists came up and William Lane Craig was a good example. My position—with due respect to Christopher Hitchens—is that you should not debate people like Craig because they simply don't play fair. They use their rhetorical skills to avoid any serious discussion of the issues. I've posted some examples on: Why Reasonable People Should Not Debate William Lane Craig.

UPDATE: Vincent Joseph Torley has a Ph.D. (2007) from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne (Australia). He posted a defense of William Lane Craig on Uncommon Descent: Larry Moran asks: “Do philosophers take William Lane Craig’s arguments seriously?”]. His best argument is ...
If people write a lot about your arguments, that’s a pretty reliable sign that you’re highly respected in your field. I think we can safely assume, then, that Professor Craig’s arguments for the existence of God are taken seriously by philosophers, whether or not they agree with Craig.
I find it interesting that someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy would use such an argument. I guess it's useful for explaining why so many people write about Michael Behe, Bill Dembski, and Jonathan Wells. It must be because they are "highly respected in their field." It's the only possible explanation.


82 comments:

  1. I'm not a real philosopher - I just play one on my blog.

    I see these proofs of existence of God as based on sleight of hand.

    The philosophers that I read are mainline analytic philosophers in epistemology and philosophy of science. The ones I have been reading seem to mostly avoid arguments such as those of W.L. Craig. Presumably, they see nothing to be gained by arguing against him.

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  2. Being able to reason God into existence--without requiring the Bible--was essentially what drove the medieval philosophers from Augustine and Boethius to Abelard and Aquinas. These were really smart, talented, and lucky people (lucky not to be peasants, slaves, or dead) who understood that Christian faith needed to be based on something besides just the Bible. Otherwise, what would prevent someone from preferring Judaism, Roman polytheism, or Islam?

    Most of the folks I know who do religious philosophy either post to or read the blog Prosbolgion.

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    1. ... who understood that Christian faith needed to be based on something besides just the Bible. Otherwise, what would prevent someone from preferring Judaism, Roman polytheism, or Islam?

      Uh, what? Those other religions are not based on the Bible, so your question makes no sense.

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    2. the question makes perfect sense, for exactly the reason you think it doesn't. You need to read it again.

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    3. If it's ONLY the bible then it reduces to "because this holy book says so." Naturally that argument can be made for any religion with some holy writ.

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  3. The answer is no. Don't be fooled by Craig, most philosophers think these arguments are no good at all. As you can see here most philosophers are atheists. One cannot be an atheist and affirm that an argument for God's existence is sound.

    They are legitimate philosophical arguments, and they've been addressed countless times.

    (http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl)

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    1. Not exactly true. If there is a sound argument for god but also a sound argument against god then you run into a situation much more worth your time: arguing about how likely the premises are for each argument.

      I'm going to assume you meant that there's a logically sound argument with premises that are effectively 100%. Without any flaws in the logic that should make it impossible to present a similar case against with certain premises so you would have to accept the existence of a god (if intellectually honest.)

      I don't expect anyone to come up with such an argument. Not only because the topic has been thoroughly explored already but also because apologists tend to focus on smoke and mirrors so they don't have to do something difficult/impossible like that.

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  4. They use their rhetorical skills to avoid any serious discussion of the issues.

    They also like to engage in the Gish Gallop.

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  5. My position—with due respect to Christopher Hitchens—is that you should not debate people like Craig because they simply don't play fair. They use their rhetorical skills to avoid any serious discussion of the issues.

    One of my waking fears is that I, for some reason, agree to publicly debate a theist and end up losing badly due to inability to counter rhetoric. But as for Hitchens, I imagine his opponents would be forgiven for having a nervous breakdown at the prospect of debating him. He was a marvel to watch in action.

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  6. I remember reading a piece by the philosopher Michael Martin where he made the case for the huge gap between the classical arguments for the existence of God and what people believe God to be. That is, if the arguments were perfectly sound, you still wouldn't get something remotely resembling modern theism.

    Likewise, I've read the philosopher Georges Rey pointing out that none of the arguments establish a psychological being - why should an "unmoved mover" have a mind any more than have liver function?

    As for a philosophical take on the arguments themselves, the philosopher Tamas Pataki argued that the traditional arguments were poor and thought so by most philosophers since Hume and Kant.


    My thinking (as a layman) is that I wonder why it is there are such wildly different and abstract musings if the standard arguments were good enough. Why would there be any need to talk in incomprehensible abstracts without saying anything concrete if the standard arguments worked just fine? Why would people describe God as the "grounding of being" or talk about god using mystery-mongering words like transcendent or ineffable? It seems that the intellectual push away from the standard conception of God and the standard arguments for God by learned believers is as compelling a rebuttal to Craig's position as possible.

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  7. I happen to have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and I've been investigating the philosophical arguments for God's existence for the past 30 years. The short answer to your question is that most academic philosophers are atheists or agnostics, but a sizable minority are theists. Not many philosophers accept Craig's kalam argument for the existence of God (which was first formulated by Muslim philosophers 1,000 years ago), but they do take it seriously, and it's probably more discussed than any other argument at the moment. See here for what The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says on the subject:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/#5

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    1. I understand the interesting discussions about the cosmological argument and I can enjoy such discussions as much as anybody. (It helps to have a few beers.) But ultimately you have to decide whether the argument is sound or not. If is it, then we all need to start worshiping god.

      My problem with cosmological arguments is the same one that was raised one hundred years ago; namely, in what way does the conclusion solve the problem? The "problem" is to explain the cause of the universe once you concede that it is finite. (I don't.) The answer is to postulate that god did it.

      But if everything has a cause, what is the cause of god? And if god is infinite, then aren't you admitting that some things can be infinite?

      Do philosophers really think that people will be persuaded that god exists because they can't refute the cosmological argument? Don't they realize that this is just apologetics that's gone off the rails and into the world of pseudointellectual entertainment?

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    2. You really should just leave philosophy and philosophers alone. The fact that so many scientists accept evolution and so many of them come with silly complaints arguments that are far beyond their intellectual level has convinced me that there is a real difference between being a scientist and actually having sense.

      Leave the profession of thinkers be and stop making a fool of yourself.

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    3. Interesting, Dr. Moran. First you say you understand the cosmological argument used by Dr. Craig, but then you make the mistake of asking what is the cause of God since everything that exists has a cause. The premise is "everything that BEGINS to exist has a cause."

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    4. @Jeffrey Osborn,

      The premise is "everything that BEGINS to exist has a cause."

      I understand the premise. IF you assume the premise and, IF you assume that the universe had a beginning, THEN you can conclude the universe had a cause.

      I don't accept the premise and I don't know if the universe had a beginning, therefore I don't know if the universe had a cause.

      And if it did, I still left with the question of whether that "cause" had a cause or not. There is nothing about this argument that helps me resolve any questions about ultimate causes and there's nothing that suggests anything about god(s).

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  8. Most philosophers do not think these are good arguments, but what scientists like Larry and Lawrence Krauss do not seem to get is that in philosophy the debate is over the nature of the arguments not the conclusions. We treat an argument as potentially good, and try to see what is going on under the hood, as it were. Nearly every philosopher is a theist or an atheist or whatever because they have accepted a particular argument chain, but that doesn't mean that they dismiss out of hand other pathways in the argument chains on offer out of hand because they do not lead to the conclusion they personally hold, unlike, it seems, scientists who write on this matter. This may be a cultural or professional difference in the ways philosophers and scientists approach topics.

    In short, an argument can be interesting even when, and sometimes because, it leads to a false conclusion. Finding out what arguments suppose and require is a kind of pathology of reasoning we engage in.

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    1. ha ha, John, s'okay. At least your 'pathologies' come on the cheap, unlike the billions spent to find one lousy Higgs boson. ;)

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    2. @John Willkins

      I teach a course with Chris DiCarlo using his book How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Asking the Right Questions.

      A good part of the course is about how to recognize a sound argument. I appreciate sound, logical, arguments, especially if the conclusion is not what I want to believe.

      That's NOT what my question is about. I was wondering why there are so many "well-respected" philosophers who make unsound, logically indefensible, arguments. You would think that such philosophers would be drummed out of the field, or at least openly criticized.

      Most philosophers do not think these are good arguments ...

      That's the answer I expected. Many scientists would agree with you.

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  9. Could you suggest who these well respected philosophers are, Larry? If they aren't Plantinga (who is respected for his epistemological work on warrant), Craig, or other apologetic theists, I do not know them. And those arguments are criticised, roundly and often. But there is no orthodoxy of philosophical opinion, so who in the hell would drum them out? That would undercut philosophical debate and have a chilling effect anyway.

    And a point to make: most of what is taught as "critical thinking" is as much philosophy as high school chemistry is biochemistry. What I see of that book on Amazon doesn't encourage me much.

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    1. "But there is no orthodoxy of philosophical opinion, so who in the hell would drum them out?"

      In an ideal world, sane people who don't believe in and promote religious fairy tales or other woo under the guise of "philosophy".

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    2. First, when you say ...

      ... most of what is taught as "critical thinking" is as much philosophy as high school chemistry is biochemistry.

      I have to agree. But I still think we should teach basic chemistry before learning biochemistry and I still think we should teach the basics of logic and reasoning as a fundamental part of critical thinking. The logic and reasoning part of philosophy is the most important discipline and students need much more exposure.

      Second, the silence of philosophers in the face of what I think are really silly arguments is astonishing. Let me remind you of Sober's talk last may [The Flying Spaghetti Monster Steals Meatballs (What's the Purpose of Philosophy?)].

      Following his talk, a bunch of highly respected philosophers sat around discussing whether a really deceptive, all-powerful, god(s) could guide evolution without us being able to detect him/her/it (The answer is "yes," what other answer could there be?)

      John, what do you think of John Haught? Is he a well-respected philosopher? [see: John Haught in Kitzmiller v Dover ] If so, what do you think of his performance in a debate with scientist Jerry Coyne [Haught vs Coyne: "Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?"] [Haught vs Coyne: The Q&A]?

      And what do you think of the reasons why Haught tried to block publication of the video [Haught vs Coyne: The Letter]?

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    3. My experience of the Critical Thinking Brigade of Guards is that they misunderstand what critical thinking means. In my experience they take critical thinking to mean thinking up critical (in the sense of negative) things to say about things they object to for ideological reasons, as opposed to thinking critically (in the sense of a coherent and logical appraisal) about the arguments and evidence for things irrespective of what one would like to be true.

      A good example of this is here

      http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2012/mastering-scientific-mumbo-jumbo/

      where a supposed "Foundations of Science" course with an emphasis on critical thinking, appears to be more of a psuedosceptic indoctrination exercise. Consider for example the following, from the blurb

      "The course will offer multiple types of media and exercises to give students experience applying critical thinking to different scenarios involving pseudoscience, such as psychics, homeopathy and ghosts."

      The first point to note is that they already know the "correct" answers here even though, at all cases (I will examine two), mainstream science has pretty much refused point blank to investigate and, in the one case where some reasonable research has been done (psychic functioning) the evidence obtained is actually rather good. See here for example

      http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/extraproof.html

      where the conclusion about the scientific evidence for psychic functioning says " Had skeptics said some 40 years ago that all we wanted was reasonable quality replicated research, we might now be having to eat our words."

      So the actual science says "hmmn, puzzle" where the critical thinking course knows "pseudoscience".

      And then we come to ghosts. Given that the entire scientific understanding of what ghosts might be, if anything, is contained within the following brackets ( ), it is hard to see what the scientific community could say other than, ghosts, well, a lot of people report seeing them but we've never really studied the subject at all because the phenomenon, whatever it is, can't really be brought into the lab (Michael Persinger's potentially related preliminary research aside), and so we leave the issue open, if, perhaps, unlikely due to current metaphysical presuppositions about the nature of reality which, that being said, have taken a bit of battering from physics. Not the critical thinkers though, they know the answer and they will teach you it by rote so that you can critically think like they do.

      The point here being, of course, not that psychic functioning is real, or that ghosts - ie, the spirits of dead people, are interacting with the world of the living, but that this course starts out with a non-scientific answer (all these things are pseudoscience), and an answer that actually runs counter to what little evidence there is in order to ensure that people leave with those correct answers tucked underneath their arm. But one could nail such answers to a fencepost and one could, if one was so inclined, take the fencepost to be a sound critical thinker, but one would be wrong - even if the answers did, after appropriate investigation, turn out to be the correct ones.

      This, incidentally, is one of the advantages of a lot of philosophy where there is no right answer. There, on account of that, it really is the thinking, rather than the assumed answer, that has to do the work. No wonder many here don't like the idea.

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    4. Had I not had an interest in dealing with apologetes trying to make a philosophical case for their religion, I would never have heard of John Haught, as he is a theologian, not a professional philosopher. I have never heard a philosopher discussing any arguments he presents. Even in the areas he publishes. Occasionally he will be linked or cited as an example of philosophical theology, but no, he is not a mainstream philosopher like Davidson, Lewis or Putnam.

      You seem to be cherry picking the discussion. As to Sober, this is a perfectly legitimate thought experiment, as I have argued before (and, as I have said, published on). Philosophers will do these conceptual thought experiments routinely (look up "swampman" sometime). It is not the same thing you are complaining about.

      Again, you tar a whole discipline because of the way those outside the profession behave. And even if there are some philosophers who do what you do not - a priori - like, shall I tar biochemistry because of Behe?

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    5. John S. Wilkins says,

      As to Sober, this is a perfectly legitimate thought experiment, ...

      Maybe it is but how new is it? Is Sober the first one to think of it in 2012? Is it true that Most modern philosophers have never heard of this thought experiment before and that's why Sober was invited to give it at a very prestigious meeting?

      Come on, John, this is such an old argument that surely we don't have to pay attention to it any more. Besides, the argument works just as well for Flying Spaghetti Monsters as it does for god(s). Why should it only apply to god(s)? Is that logical? Do any philosophers use this thought experiment to make a case for the Devil and an evil, immoral world? Why not?

      Again, you tar a whole discipline because of the way those outside the profession behave.

      Sorry, John Haught was an expert witness at the Dover trial so I naturally assumed he was a philosopher of science. Are any of the other names I mentioned outside of philosophy?

      .... shall I tar biochemistry because of Behe?

      You should, if a large number of biochemists seemed to hold Behe in high regard for presenting good arguments even if they don't agree with them. Or if they claimed that Behe was just presenting thought experiments in order to make biochemists see another side of the argument. And if a substantial percentage of biochemists (say 25%) advanced similar arguments then you would have every right to question the rigor of the discipline.

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    6. Psychics, ghosts, and homeopathy seem to have a good few proposed mechanisms. They get dismissed fairly quickly when the effects can't rise above background noise/placebo effect more than very rarely (which is expected statistically anyway.)

      This leaves two scenarios: these concepts present absolutely zero positive reasons to believe them therefore you shouldn't; these concepts present observable phenomena even if we lack explanations for them.

      The second doesn't really require them to be observable in laboratory conditions so it is rather damning if we haven't managed to find it.

      There is one other important trait to look for in these claims- what is even supposed to be there? As is often the case with supernatural claims the supposed phenomenon often has a lot of popularity even when defined such that there is no phenomenon that anyone could have ever observed. If ghosts are not caught on film, do not cause electrical disturbances, do not move physical objects around, do not manifest to loved ones, and so on, then what DO they do? Are we really just labeling them uncertain because they are defined in an elusive manner but managed to claim a place in the public's heart?

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  10. Hi Larry,

    I only have a B.A. in philosophy, so I'm certainly no specialist in the field. However. I've learned enough to know that philosophers have discovered throughout history that an apparently refuted argument can often be resurrected, by re-examining the premises to see if some other interpretation of them is plausible and results in a different conclusion. This is true not only in regard to philosophy of religion, but to every branch of philosophy. So arguments that were out of favor yesterday may find new life and popularity today. That seems to be what is happening to some extent in the philosophy of religion.

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    1. "That seems to be what is happening to some extent in the philosophy of religion."

      Well, a polished turd is still a turd.

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  11. See what you put in your update, Larry. Is that an example of your critical thinking? Let us examine it, with a critical eye:

    Firstly, it misrepresents the point inasmuch as Vorley is clearly talking about academic journals via google scholar and not, for example, blog posts. Thus his point is reasonable: if your argument is regularly being discussed in professional journals then the argument, and thus you as a professional, are being accorded some reasonable level of respect.

    Secondly, you cite your misrepresentation as his "best argument", which is a cheap rhetorical trick made doubly (halfly?) cheap because it's your misrepresentation rather than the actual argument.

    And thirdly, you then compound the misrepresentation with your stuff about Behe et al, by pretending (by implication) that Craig being talked about is the same as Behe et al being talked about a lot on blog by the likes of you.

    Thus you lie about what he said, you reinforce your lie by a false comparison, and you present your lie as his "best argument". As someone once said, red herrings, straw men and wild geese are the only fish, flesh and fowl in these woods.

    I sincerely hope that if you submitted such deceptive nonsense as your wrote above as coursework for the course you teach you would give it the F it deserves.

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    1. Let's check out some names in Google Scholar.

      William Lane Craig: 2,480
      Michael Behe: 2,690
      Jonathan Wells: 1,400
      William Dembski: 1,720
      Bozo the Clown: 956
      Mickey Mouse: 27,800
      Lee Harvey Oswald: 6,540
      Rush Limbaugh: 10,500
      Chewbacca: 1,590
      Adolf Hitler (sorry): 74,400
      Jesus Christ (sorry): 881,000
      Flying Spaghetti Monster: 491
      Santa Claus: 39,900
      Eliott Sober: 3,180
      David Hull: 4,730
      Richard Dawkins: 22,100
      Stephen Jay Gould: 19,900
      James D. Watson: 5,250
      Francis Crick: 17,100
      Christopher Hitchens: 6,510
      Daniel Dennett: 13,900
      Sam Harris: 3,100

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    2. Again you misrepresent the argument (and my argument) which has numerous strands to it. His point is not, as you lied, that if one is talked about one is respected. His point is that when you check up on Craig's argument via, e(f)g, google scholar, and when you see the list of journals he has published in

      "Astrophysics and Space Science, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, The Journal of Philosophy, The International Philosophical Quarterly, The American Philosophical Quarterly, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophia, Synthese, Erkenntnis and International Studies in the Philosophy of Science",

      and when you check The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article and find him mentioned 50 times, and when you find paragraphs like the following in relevant books published by the Cambridge University Press,

      "… [A] count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about Craig’s defense of the Kalam [cosmological] argument than have been published about any other philosopher’s contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence…. The fact that theists and atheists alike “cannot leave Craig’s Kalam argument alone” suggests that it may be an article of unusual philosophical interest or else has an attractive core of plausibility that keeps philosophers turning back to it and examining it once again."

      you have to conclude that the man's views are being treated widely, and with respect, in the relevant professional literature.

      Thus your silly response is just more deceptive point-missing nonsense to try to prop up your original deceptive point-missing nonsense.

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    3. And my point is this ....

      Remember, the question I'm asking isn't whether his conclusion is correct (it isn't). It isn't whether his arguments are bad (they are remarkably bad). It's whether most philosophers respect his arguments and grant that they are legitimate and sound philosophical arguments.

      Note that I fully admit that many other philosophers respect and admire William Lane Craig. I suspect that's especially true of other Christian apologists and religious philosophers in general. I'm well aware of the fact that he publishes in many philosophical journals and popular magazines.

      My question was whether MOST philosophers respect and admire his arguments and whether there really has been a "resurgence of interest in arguments for God’s existence based on reason and evidence alone."

      ... you have to conclude that the man's views are being treated widely, and with respect, in the relevant professional literature.

      Yes I do admit that. In fact I assumed that was true. What I want to know is how wide is "widely" and what the hell are philosophers thinking when they "respect" his silly arguments.

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    4. But my point wasn't about that. My point was about your deceptive update where you misrepresented Torley's argument three times in about as many sentences. And MY question was whether that was an example of your critical thinking? A question to which your response was to misrepresent the argument in the same way again and then change the subject.

      Re your last question about what the hell are philosophers thinking? They're thinking.

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    5. Torley said,

      However, I will point out that if Moran had wanted to find out whether Craig’s arguments were respected or not, there were several easy avenues of investigation open to him. He could have consulted Google Scholar and typed in “William Lane Craig” which yields 2,480 hits, including citations.

      I responded to that argument.

      Torley said,

      Larry Moran could have also checked the online list of Professor Craig’s publications, which includes 30 books, as well as over 100 articles.

      Publishing 30 books and 100 articles in various magazines and journals does not mean that you are highly respected in your discipline.

      Torley said,

      If Moran had wanted to know whether Professor William Lane Craig’s arguments for God’s existence were still taken seriously by scholars, he could have consulted the article on the Cosmological Argument in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He would have found an entire section devoted to the Kalam cosmological argument, which Craig defends. He would also have found that Craig is cited no less than 51 times in the entire article – more than any other philosopher.

      I'm not questioning whether Craig is well-known for his defense of the cosmological argument. I'm also not questioning the fact that many theistic philosophers think he's wonderful.

      Torley then says,

      If people write a lot about your arguments, that’s a pretty reliable sign that you’re highly respected in your field. I think we can safely assume, then, that Professor Craig’s arguments for the existence of God are taken seriously by philosophers, whether or not they agree with Craig.

      Let me ask YOU, Luther, whether the fact that people write a lot about Craig's arguments means that he is respected by the majority of philosophers in his field? Explain your logic.

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    6. Luther writes, 'I sincerely hope that if you submitted such deceptive nonsense as your wrote above as coursework for the course you teach you would give it the F it deserves.'

      My suspicion, Luther, is that if any Fs are given in the course, they go to those who dare to espouse theist views, as from what I can tell this 'critical thinking' course could more accurately be described as a course in atheism.
      It is taught by two strident atheists, one of whom, the host of this site, has written (to you):
      ' I think it's very hard to be a good critical thinker and still believe in god(s). '

      and furthermore, according to Larry, uses the book 'How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass, etc.' by fellow instructor, Chris DiCarlo. Regarding which, according to different reviews of the book on Amazon:

      "Make no mistake, the author is not simply splitting the difference. He comes down very heavily on the side of methodological naturalism. In providing the supernatural answers he shows how they come up short." (this is from a 4 star review),
      and
      ' The author goes through his entire presentation to the end that I can argue--are you ready for this-- against my religious friends.' (from a 1 star review, which also informs us about the author 'calling his most sternly religious opponents a terrible phrase, having to do with where their heads purportedly reside--also a clear, and unnecessary ad hominum attack.') Clearly a man after Larry's own heart.

      I would like to know what OTHER texts the course uses, because if this is the main text, the course, rather than being one which teaches students to think logically, appears to be a blatant attempt to promote an atheistic worldview.

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    7. That's what I would imagine happening. The fact is that virtually the whole critical thinking "movement" for want of a better word, is actually aligned with certain positions, or end points, rather than with any actual process of thinking, or getting there. The discussion above and below being a case in point. That being said, I would say Larry is one of the better practitioners in that most others I have encountered are completely and utterly shameless.

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    8. andyboerger said:

      "I would like to know what OTHER texts the course uses, because if this is the main text, the course, rather than being one which teaches students to think logically, appears to be a blatant attempt to promote an atheistic worldview."

      What's wrong with promoting an atheistic worldview, especially when it comes to scientific endeavors? Is it better to promote totally ridiculous, impossible, religious fairy tales? Is believing in and promoting that crap "logical" and a matter of "critical thinking"? Should a scientist like Larry teach or condone the teaching of illogical, religious bullshit?

      Tell me andy, what the fuck good are your fairy tale beliefs? Of what use are they? What is logical about them? Do they feed anyone or cure diseases or contribute to advances in technology or solve crimes or help to preserve endangered organisms or improve weather forecasting or answer any questions about anything that actually exists?

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    9. twt, a course that purports to teach its students to think critically should not be agenda-driven, period.
      I think the reason(s) why that is so should be obvious and self explanatory.

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    10. So teaching people to discard fairy tale religious beliefs (and other biases) so that they can think logically/critically while doing scientific research is somehow a harmful agenda?

      What you obviously don't understand is that discarding belief in imaginary gods and the fairy tales that accompany them REMOVES a blinding, mind numbing bias. It doesn't add a bias. Removing a religious bias helps to open a person's mind to be able to think clearly, logically, and critically. Oh sure, a person may have other biases (monetary, egotistical, etc.) but the one that you think should be allowed or encouraged in science is the theistic bias. How does a theistic bias help science? How does it help people to think logically/critically?



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    11. @andyboerger,

      A good part of our course is about the conflict between science and religion. My part of the course is on the evolution/creation controversy and the goal is to sort out the rational arguments from those that don't stand up to analysis (on both sides).

      Students have to write a critique of Jonathan Wells' arguments in "Icons of Evolution" and the emphasis is on recognizing the difference between good arguments and not-so-good arguments. We try hard to teach students how to avoid confirmation bias and how to recognize when personal biases interfere with real life decisions.

      The idea is to have a course that's NOT just promoting a particular worldview and that's why we make known our potential biases right from the start. We encourage students to discuss whether nonbelief in some or all gods is a real bias.

      Do you honestly think that if a critical thinking course were taught by Christian fundamentalists it would be better? What if it were taught by Muslims, Hindus, or Roman Catholics?

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    12. LM asks, "Do you honestly think that if a critical thinking course were taught by Christian fundamentalists it would be better?"
      No, of course not. But neither do I consider that question to be a valid defense.

      As for "Muslims, Hindus or Roman Catholics", let's first both acknowledge that there are many different kinds of people. I think it is very possible that SOME Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, etc. could do a better job.
      They would need to be people who continually question their own beliefs, struggle with the tenets of their religion, etc, and are tolerant of those who think differently. If someone, such as a student, were to have completely rejected their faith and become atheistic, they should be able to say, 'well, I can certainly understand why that seems the right choice for you'. They should not be people who quickly resort to ad hominems, lump whole groups of people together, or make sweeping assumptions about people based on their beliefs.
      They would need to be respectful, tolerant, and above all self-critical. If they meet these requirements, I think it is quite possible that they could conduct a better course.

      Ideally, such a course would be conducted by an atheist AND someone like I wrote about above. Having a hair's breadth between the ideas of two co-instructors may not be the best approach.

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    13. twt writes, "what the fuck good are your fairy tale beliefs? Of what use are they? What is logical about them? Do they feed anyone or cure diseases or contribute to advances in technology or solve crimes or help to preserve endangered organisms or improve weather forecasting or answer any questions about anything that actually exists?"

      Do you see the logical fallacy here? You are pitting science against religion. The opposite of religion is atheism, not science. You have no evidence that religious people weren't involved in the scientific studies that led to the curing of diseases, advancing technology, solving crimes, helping to preserve endangered organisms, improving weather forecasting, etc.
      Hopefully, if you were to take Larry's course, he would help you to see how your conflation of two separate things is blinkering your perspective.

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    14. andyboerger said:

      "As for "Muslims, Hindus or Roman Catholics", let's first both acknowledge that there are many different kinds of people. I think it is very possible that SOME Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, etc. could do a better job.
      They would need to be people who continually question their own beliefs, struggle with the tenets of their religion, etc, and are tolerant of those who think differently."

      "...people who continually question their own beliefs, struggle with the tenets of their religion, etc,...", That doesn't make sense. If they're continually questioning their own (religious) beliefs, struggling with the tenets of their religion, etc., their so-called "faith" is weak or non-existent, but if it's "their religion" and "their own beliefs" and their "faith" they're religious, whether they "question" it or not. And if they're continually bouncing back and forth between "faith" in their religious beliefs and questioning their religious beliefs they sure aren't very good at critical thinking.

      "If someone, such as a student, were to have completely rejected their faith and become atheistic, they should be able to say, 'well, I can certainly understand why that seems the right choice for you'. They should not be people who quickly resort to ad hominems, lump whole groups of people together, or make sweeping assumptions about people based on their beliefs.
      They would need to be respectful, tolerant, and above all self-critical. If they meet these requirements, I think it is quite possible that they could conduct a better course."

      First of all, you're assuming an awful lot, such as the existence of a student who sheds their "faith" and then quickly resorts to ad hominems, lumping whole groups of people together, or making sweeping assumptions about people based on their beliefs. Actually, it's people of "faith" and especially people who have just become religious (i.e. "born again") who are much more likely to do those things, and if anyone should be "respectful, tolerant, and above all self-critical" it's them and all other godbots who claim to have all of the morality.

      And what about you andy? Are you "respectful, tolerant, and above all self-critical"? Don't you ever quickly (or otherwise) resort to ad hominems, lump whole groups of people together, or make sweeping assumptions about people based on their 'beliefs' or lack thereof?

      "Ideally, such a course would be conducted by an atheist AND someone like I wrote about above. Having a hair's breadth between the ideas of two co-instructors may not be the best approach."

      How would adding an 'instructor' with "faith" in religious fairy tales make a course in 'critical thinking' better, especially when the course relates to critical thinking in scientific pursuits? How can a person who has the deluded bias of "faith" in religious fairy tales legitimately and honestly 'instruct' students about critical thinking? You really don't understand what science and critical thinking are.

      Tell me andy, if someone were to say to you that they support genocide, infanticide, conquest, world destruction, bigotry, rape, slavery, and animal sacrifice, would you respond with 'well, I can certainly understand why that seems the right choice for you'? Would you be respectful and tolerant of their beliefs? Have you read the bible and the koran lately?

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    15. What would it matter if religious people were involved? The question that matters would be: were 'fairy tale beliefs' involved in pushing the boundaries of knowledge?
      Answer seems to range between "no" and "not in any positive way."

      Delete
    16. andyboerger said:

      "twt writes, "what the fuck good are your fairy tale beliefs? Of what use are they? What is logical about them? Do they feed anyone or cure diseases or contribute to advances in technology or solve crimes or help to preserve endangered organisms or improve weather forecasting or answer any questions about anything that actually exists?"

      Do you see the logical fallacy here? You are pitting science against religion. The opposite of religion is atheism, not science."

      Unless you or someone else can provide scientific evidence for "God" and the associated fairy tales, religion has no business in science, and scientists who have religious beliefs have to ignore (compartmentalize) those beliefs if or when they're doing science. Essentially they must become atheists when doing science. You should notice that credible scientists don't put 'God-did-it' into their scientific papers and books or teach that 'God-did-it' in their classrooms even IF they have religious beliefs outside of their scientific pursuits. Some religious people are trying to cram their non-realistic religion into science, and science is about understanding reality so, in that sense at least, science is the opposite of religion. Scientific methods are contrary to belief in religious fairy tales. They must be in order to be positively productive.

      "You have no evidence that religious people weren't involved in the scientific studies that led to the curing of diseases, advancing technology, solving crimes, helping to preserve endangered organisms, improving weather forecasting, etc.
      Hopefully, if you were to take Larry's course, he would help you to see how your conflation of two separate things is blinkering your perspective."

      See what Shoku said. And no scientist or anyone claiming to be a scientist or anyone else has ever cured a disease, advanced technology, solved crimes, helped to preserve endangered organisms, improved weather forecasting, etc., directly and scientifically due to their religious beliefs. If even just one atheist has ever done those things it proves that religious beliefs are not necessary. And, there are lots of examples of religious beliefs getting in the way of scientific/technological and societal pursuits and solutions.

      You might as well argue that people who believe in little green men from Mars have cured diseases, solved crimes, etc. A religious or other wacky bias does not belong in scientific thinking or research. Religion is in far too much stuff already and it should stay out of science. Science is a method, an observational, experimental, evidence based method of searching for, discovering, understanding, and producing knowledge about nature. Religion doesn't search for, discover, understand, or produce knowledge about nature. It just makes shit up.

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    17. @Shoku;
      You seem to have missed the point. With your point, I don't disagree. However, twt wrote:

      "So teaching people to discard fairy tale religious beliefs (and other biases) so that they can think logically/critically while doing scientific research is somehow a harmful agenda? "
      IOW, he is defending a (hypothetical; not necessarily LM's) critical thinking class that actually goes beyond critical thinking instruction and is in fact promoting atheism.
      My point was that religious people have been involved in nearly all the scientific studies that have yielded benefits to mankind. Hence, no need for a 'critical thinking' course that is little more than a front for converting people to atheism.

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    18. twt writes,
      'First of all, you're assuming an awful lot, such as the existence of a student who sheds their "faith" and then quickly resorts to ad hominems, lumping whole groups of people together, or making sweeping assumptions about people based on their beliefs.'

      You are the one making the assumption, as nowhere in my writing did I say the student would do any of those things. What I wrote was, 'If someone, such as a student, were to have completely rejected their faith and become atheistic' - period. Beyond that I made no mention of the hypothetical student. You filled in the rest.

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    19. andyboerger asserted:

      "My point was that religious people have been involved in nearly all the scientific studies that have yielded benefits to mankind."

      Can support your claim? Since it can be reasonably said that every scientific study that has ever been done has yielded benefits to mankind (if for no other reason because some knowledge was gained) you're going to have to come up with evidence that shows that nearly all the scientific studies that have ever been done had religious people involved in them, and of course involved in a way that actually matters.

      And can you also provide evidence that shows that religious beliefs directly, positively, and scientifically contribute to nearly all (or any) scientific studies?

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    20. andyboerger said:

      "IOW, he is defending a (hypothetical; not necessarily LM's) critical thinking class that actually goes beyond critical thinking instruction and is in fact promoting atheism."

      Are you claiming that mixing belief in religious fairy tales into scientific thought allows for or even encourages critical thinking?

      In what way does the elimination of belief in religious fairy tales go "beyond" critical thinking?

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    21. andyboerger dishonestly said:

      "You are the one making the assumption, as nowhere in my writing did I say the student would do any of those things. What I wrote was, 'If someone, such as a student, were to have completely rejected their faith and become atheistic' - period. Beyond that I made no mention of the hypothetical student. You filled in the rest."

      Oh really? Here's the most relevant part of what you said:

      "If someone, such as a student, were to have completely rejected their faith and become atheistic, they should be able to say, 'well, I can certainly understand why that seems the right choice for you'. They should not be people who quickly resort to ad hominems, lump whole groups of people together, or make sweeping assumptions about people based on their beliefs.
      They would need to be respectful, tolerant, and above all self-critical."

      The people you're referring to and all of your points certainly do include your imagined "student".

      You should just admit that what you're actually asserting is that when Larry or anyone else encourages or 'instructs' students or anyone else to shed (if they have it) the bias of believing in religious fairy tales so that they can be much more likely to be able to think critically (especially in regard to scientific pursuits) they (the students or others) will quickly resort to ad hominems, lump whole groups of people together, or make sweeping assumptions about people based on their beliefs, AND that they will then become disrespectful, intolerant, and above all NOT self-critical. That is what you think, isn't it? (I'm being generous with the word "think".)

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    22. twt, what is it with you? Can you read?
      What I wrote was that the teacher would have to be someone who doesn't do the things I wrote about. I did not indicate that atheists are like that.
      YOU are like that, obviously. But I have been able to have respectful disagreements with many atheists on this very forum. To name a few, Negative Entropy, Piotr, Arek, Shawn, etc. So I have no reason to a.) lump all atheists together, or b.) assume that all atheists lump all people together. Or use ad hominems, etc. Such has not been my experience. Fortunately, I do not use you as my measure for how 'all' atheists behave. If I were to use you as a measure of nearly anything, I would be doing the utmost disservice to whatever I was measuring.

      I never expected that anyone who can read a paragraph would imagine that I was doing anything other than describing what a competent teacher who can teach a critical thinking course would need to be like.
      So as to your writing,
      'You should just admit that what you're actually asserting is that when Larry or anyone else encourages or 'instructs' students or anyone else to shed (if they have it) the bias of believing in religious fairy tales so that they can be much more likely to be able to think critically (especially in regard to scientific pursuits) they (the students or others) will quickly resort to ad hominems, lump whole groups of people together, or make sweeping assumptions about people based on their beliefs, AND that they will then become disrespectful, intolerant, and above all NOT self-critical. That is what you think, isn't it? (I'm being generous with the word "think".)"

      I categorically deny it. You are wrong.

      You have a tendency to make up for people you disagree with what they are saying. For example, when I used the quote by Einstein, 'god does not play dice with the universe', you completely misconstrued it. In a way that I imagine no other person on this site would have. Larry himself admitted to knowing EXACTLY what I meant by using it.

      So you are no authority on what I assert.

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    23. Well then andy, if atheists and atheism aren't your enemy, why do you constantly complain about atheists and atheism? Why do you bring up atheists and atheism at all if you're just trying to be a tone troll?

      Delete
    24. twt, please reproduce a quote of mine where I 'complain about atheists and atheism'. Since, according to you, I do it 'constantly', that should be very easy.

      Once you have done so, we can discuss.

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    25. furthermore, twt, since you are so sure that I constantly complain about atheists and atheism, I should ask: why do YOU think I am against atheism, since you obviously believe I am?
      You are good at putting 'assertions' in my head that I never noticed before, so this should add to my further self-education.

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    26. Oh. Come. On. You know damn well that you are against atheism and that you complain about atheists and atheism. There are many examples but just one is your recent remark (in another thread) about Steve Oberski. I'm not going to waste my time looking for others right now but they are there for anyone who feels like going through your comments.

      "...why do YOU think I am against atheism, since you obviously believe I am?"

      I think you're against atheism mainly because you like to believe that there are magic spirit-gods and such things and because you think that most or all atheists are amoral, uncouth, unimaginative, disrespectful meanies. You also don't like it when atheistic scientists or science supporters speak out against religious/political people and their dominionist agendas who are impeding science and trying to replace it (or at least certain parts of it) with their fairy tale dogma.

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    27. boy, twt you really, as in realllllly, don't get it. That put down of steve was not a put down of atheism at all. Unless you actually think that just by becoming an atheist a person automatically becomes smarter. And if you DO think that, you are even more foolish than I imagined.
      No, wait. That's not possible.

      I am not against atheism at all. I think it is a perfectly viable way of approaching this universe, world, human society, etc. Just as I think theism is.

      There's no point in arguing with your second paragraph. Like I wrote above, you realllly don't get it. Everything I wrote about steve oberski applies equally to you. A fool who imagines that just because they don't believe in god they are some how intellectually superior. Puleez.

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    28. furthermore, twt, I myself was an atheist for a good fifteen years, give or take. And was not particularly a better, nor worse person.

      So all your really bizarre fantasies about what I imagine atheists in general to be like?
      Why, it's horse shit.

      Or perhaps unicorn shit.

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  12. I think the point Torley makes is perfectly reasonable. So yes, in a case such as this (narrowly construed), with the kinds of details Torley gives providing the context, one can reasonable say that there's not much more to having one's argument respected and taken seriously that having these particular types of people write these particular types of things about it in these particular types of places and in these particular types of ways.

    My assessment of your error, then, were I appraising your argument as part of some hypothetical philosophy course, is that you are taking a prima facie reasonable general description which ignores the details (which is OK in itself), but then you are picking something else that falls under that same general description but which lacks those critical details, and so would not fall under a more specific/relevant description, in order to generate an invalid counterexample with a seemingly conflicting conclusion, but which, since it isn't a well matched example due to the missing details, isn't really counter at all. In short, you've generated a disanalogous case via a general description which you illicitly treat as an analogy. It's a common rhetorical tactic but that doesn't make it right.

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    1. So, Luther, are you a god zombie like craig? Do you support craig and his belief that slaughtering people (by his so-called god or commanded by his so-called god) is a good thing?

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    2. No and no. And I'm not a prick, like you, either. Next!

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    3. Let's stop quibbling about semantics and rhetorical tactics and cut to the chase.

      Do you, Luther Flint, think that MOST philosophers admire and respect the arguments from pure reason for the existence of god(s)? Do they teach them in introductory philosophy classes as examples of sound arguments that are widely accepted or do they mostly teach how they have been refuted and challenged?

      In your opinion. is it true, as Craig claims (quoting Quentin Smith), that "God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments."

      Finally, in your opinion, does the average philosopher watch the videos of Craig's debates and come away with nothing but praise, admiration, and respect for the logic of his position?


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    4. I don't believe that you're not a god zombie of some flavor Luther, especially after reading some of your articles on your website. It's obvious to me that you're just another 'I ain't no ape' IDiot-creationist, at least in the sense that you believe that some immaterial, supernatural "active manipulator" or some such thing intentionally and purposefully created life and its diversity. You may not use the same terms as IDCs usually do but you essentially push the same sort of woo and, like IDCs, your bald assertions (which I'm sure you think of as 'philosophy') are mostly just the bashing of science, scientists, evolution, and the ToE and are devoid of any "scientifically respectable" alternative. Your articles show that you are massively ignorant about the fact of evolution and the theory of evolution and that you don't even know what a scientific theory is yet you have the nerve to pontificate about what is "scientifically respectable".

      All anyone needs to read to see how ignorant you are about evolution and the ToE is your article entitled "Evolution: A View from the Wicked", and no, I'm not defending Dawkins. I'm referring to your misconceptions about evolution and the ToE, which are obviously based on your lack of education and your desire to see a supernatural entity (god) involved in everything. Many of your other articles reinforce what I'm saying. You really don't have a clue.

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    5. Larry, let's cut to the real chase and not the wild goose one you so want to send us on. My point was that you badly mischaracterised Torley's argument in your update. And that you did this, and the way you did this, is ill-befitting a self-styled champion of critical thinking. And to call such an appraisal "quibbling" is also bizarre given what critical thinking is about - ie, don't butcher your opponent's argument being rule one.

      Re your points about Craig: God is not dead in academia, and there is something of a resurgence within philosophy. Is Craig massively respected worldwide, no, but virtually nobody is. What do philosophers think about his arguments - as with almost everything in philosophy, they think a lot of different things. You most certainly will encounter such arguments in most philosophy courses though because they're very famous, and I think they are generally treated with admiration (though respect is probably a better word) on account of that. Unsure whether Craig's particular treatment of them will figure in many courses. And of course most philosophers won't come away from a video of Craig's thinking "what a fantastic guy" - philosophers rarely think such things. Nonetheless, as I've said, Torley's points are reasonable, even if has used 11 eggs in a ten egg pudding.

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  13. @The Whole Truth I know you don't believe I'm not a God zombie. That's because fanatics like you cannot accept that someone might have doubts about one of your articles of faith because you believe it so fanatically, and part of that fanaticism, and what shows it is fanaticism, is that fact that you cannot accept it can be doubted by anyone except for religious reasons even when they have just told you it isn't that at all.

    As regards 'a view from the wicked', I have had many people tell me I am wrong, but nobody yet has been able to point out a single wrong thing about any of it. Nobody yet has really tried! Instead, most, like you, have just ranted and raved about how wrong it is and told me I'm religiously motivated - I'm not (but you still won't believe that because you're not very well).

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  14. Larry, could you outline the evidence that suggests that your research is respected in your particular academic field? It would be a useful comparison in the context of your post.

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  15. Hi Professor Moran,

    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. You wrote:

    "The 'problem' is to explain the cause of the universe once you concede that it is finite. (I don't.) The answer is to postulate that god did it.

    "But if everything has a cause, what is the cause of god? And if god is infinite, then aren't you admitting that some things can be infinite?"

    In reply: the cosmological argument does not claim that everything has a cause. Rather, it claims that some things have properties that require an explanatory cause, in order to account for them. For the kalam version of the argument, the relevant property is that of having a beginning; for the modal version (which I prefer), it's contingency. By contingency I mean: (i) a thing's having arbitrary properties that it doesn't have to have (think of my example of a circle that happens to be red); or (ii) a thing's being composed of parts that don’t have to hold together. For such things, the question, "Why is it this way and not some other way?" is a legitimate one.

    The multiverse, according to the latest scientific research, had a beginning. It also has arbitrary properties – its initial conditions and fundamental constants – that could be otherwise. And it is made up of parts that can be separated from one another. So on either version of the argument, it requires an explanation.

    The next vital step in the cosmological argument is that an infinite regress of explanations fails to explain anything. At some point we have to come to a stop in our demand for explanations. We don't need to specify what the Ultimate Explanation is at this point. But we can say that whatever the Ultimate Explanation is, It doesn't have separable parts or arbitrary physical properties, and It doesn't have a beginning. It either stands outside time, or exists at all times.

    The tricky part of the cosmological argument is showing that this entity must be some sort of Intelligent Being. There are various ways that philosophers argue for such a Being. The most direct is Robin Collins' fine-tuning argument, showing that even a multiverse would still need to be fine-tuned (see my post). So there must be some sort of Intelligence outside it. Such an Intelligence could legitimately be called God. It’s an agent, it has no beginning, and it doesn't require a causal explanation, because nothing outside it keeps it together.

    Someone might object that all the intelligent beings we know of have beginnings and are composed of separable parts. But there’s no reason why an intelligent being has to be fragile or have a beginning in time.

    Philosophers disagree about the cosmological argument, not because they reject the logic of the argument because they don’t accept the premises. The real problem here is conflicting metaphysical intuitions. Some philosophers think quantum fluctuations undermine our intuition that things don’t just pop into existence without a cause (it doesn't: the quantum vacuum isn't “nothing”). Other philosophers (like the late Bertrand Russell) think that a contingent multiverse could just exist as a “brute fact.” Some philosophers are happy with infinite regresses. Others think the idea of a disembodied intelligent agent makes no sense. And so on. The disagreement isn't about the logic of the argument, however; it's about the truth of the premises. Hope that helps.

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    1. So basically you're saying that if existence can be summarized as a finite list of causes and effects then there had to be a first cause, and this is the root cause of all things that require more than one term to describe.

      The arbitrary properties bit is lacking in justification and the unstated premise turns the rest of it into a tautology.

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    2. V said:

      "The next vital step in the cosmological argument is that an infinite regress of explanations fails to explain anything. At some point we have to come to a stop in our demand for explanations."

      Making up gods doesn't explain anything at all.

      "We don't need to specify what the Ultimate Explanation is at this point. But we can say that whatever the Ultimate Explanation is, It doesn't have separable parts or arbitrary physical properties, and It doesn't have a beginning. It either stands outside time, or exists at all times."

      Someone can "say" all that but that doesn't make it true. And who's "we"?

      "The tricky part of the cosmological argument is showing that this entity must be some sort of Intelligent Being."

      Yep, that would be "tricky", to put it mildly.

      "There are various ways that philosophers argue for such a Being. The most direct is Robin Collins' fine-tuning argument, showing that even a multiverse would still need to be fine-tuned (see my post)."

      Neither Collins nor anyone else is "showing" any such thing, and your choice of the word "direct" could use an explanation.

      "So there must be some sort of Intelligence outside it."

      So you're jumping to a baseless assumption?

      "Such an Intelligence could legitimately be called God."

      Such an alleged intelligence is an illegitimate figment of some peoples' imagination, and could just as easily be called Fifi the pink unicorn.

      "It’s an agent, it has no beginning, and it doesn't require a causal explanation, because nothing outside it keeps it together."

      Like the tooth fairy?

      "Someone might object that all the intelligent beings we know of have beginnings and are composed of separable parts. But there’s no reason why an intelligent being has to be fragile or have a beginning in time."

      Is there a good reason to believe that something described as a "being" is a non-fragile, beginning-less, part-less "God"?


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  16. Hi Professor Moran,

    Just a quick comment. You asked whether the fact that people write a lot about Craig's arguments means that he is respected by the majority of philosophers in his field. In philosophy there are various schools of thought, with fundamentally different views on important issues. A philosopher might well regard the views of another school as "wacko" but nevertheless respect the proponents of that view for their logical consistency and coherence in defending their views, anticipating objections to their views and responding to those objections.

    Let me give you an example: David Lewis's controversial view that all possible worlds actually exist and are just as real as this world. I think most philosophers would regard this view as utterly crazy, but Lewis himself was greatly admired for his ability to articulate his view, formulate it with mathematical rigor (e.g. in the way he describes some possible worlds as being closer to ours than other worlds) and defend it against objections. He's even said to be the third-greatest philosopher of the 20th century, after Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell: see http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2009/03/lets-settle-this-once-and-for-all-who-really-was-the-greatest-philosopher-of-the-20thcentury.html .

    Craig certainly isn't in the same league as Lewis, who gets 43,800 hits on Google Scholar (although some of them appear to be some other guy with the same name). Nevertheless, he is accorded a certain grudging respect for his tenacity, his consistency and his ability to articulate his views and respond to objections to them, even by many philosophers who regard religion as bunk.

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    1. Here's his interesting take on "what Christmas is really about":
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TYHd2F3vnL4

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  17. Laurence, I looked through the post and your comments and have yet to find a premise of Dr. Craig's that you demonstrate as being remarkably bad. Can you kindly point out which premise of Dr. Craig's that you find remarkably bad and why? I'd like to see more showing and less telling.

    The only thing resembling this was the "what caused God" question when this misunderstands the first premise for a necessary being never begins to exist. The argument merely says that "whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence." V is correct. The cosmological argument does not claim that everything has a cause.

    You spend a lot of time talking about critical thinking, logic, reason etc., but instead, I'd like to see critical thinking, logic and reason applied to the current argument or any of Dr. Craig's arguments that you find remarkably bad. I get that the point of your post was if Dr. Craig is respected in academia, but to make such a dismissive claim about every single argument he's made, one piece of evidence would be nice.

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    1. Paul - isn't the problem with Craig's first premise is that he is equivocating the meaning of the word 'cause'? Our experience of cause and effect takes place entirely among pre-existing matter and energy. The word has no meaning outside of the existing universe. If the universe does have a starting point ex nihilo - the concept of cause and effect simply does not apply to this unique one-off event.

      Thus, Craig is just making an unfounded assertion that matter and energy coming into existence is the same as matter and energy interacting.

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    2. T-Time - If the universe did have a beginning "point" as the science suggests, then it would have a cause of its existence. Simply because we have no epistemological frame of reference for this doesn't negate its ontological reality. From what I've seen, most individuals don't argue with the first premise but the second, although you're free to do so. But you'll have to provide an example of something that began to exist without a cause. Do you have one?

      I'm still interested in Laurence demonstrating an argument of Dr. Craig's as being remarkably bad. And saying Plantinga is not a philosopher...that's just silly.

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    3. Paul, LM has not written that 'Plantinga is not a philosopher'.
      What he wrote was

      'It seems to me that most philosophers are rather soft on their theist colleagues. They tolerate, and even praise, many Christian apologists who masquerade as philosophers. I'm thinking specifically of Alvin Plantinga but there are many others.'

      In other words, he is saying that Craig, not Plantinga is masquerading as a philosopher, and Plantinga is tolerant of him and those like him.




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    4. I don't see sufficient support for the claim that creation ex nihilo requires a cause. Are you claiming that it requires a cause simply because we use the word creation to describe it?

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    5. andyboerger - I'm failing to see your point. Laurence said Alvin Plantinga masquerades as a philosopher but is a Christian apologist. Saying someone is masquerading as a philosopher is akin to saying they are not a philosopher, which, again, is just silly in Plantinga's case.

      Shoku - unless you can demonstrate anything that comes into existence uncaused, out of nothing, then yes, creation ex nihilo requires a cause. Lawrence Krauss has tried but all he's done is merely redefined the term "nothing" to include something meanwhile calling it nothing. See David Albert's criticism of Krauss - http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=2&

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  18. Paul - I think the problem is that the concept of things being 'caused' to 'exist' is limited to changes in states of matter and energy within our universe. You make a table exist by reworking pre-existing tree material, for example. The point of the Kalam argument is where did matter and energy come from? You cannot cause nothing to become something, you can only cause something to become something else. That's just a limit to the concept of causation. To try to say that causing a table to exist is the same as causing existence to exist is an equivocation fallacy.

    Maybe this is clearer if you reword the premise from "All things that begin to exist" to "all things that begin to exist ex nihilo". Where we have lots of examples of the former, we have at best one example of the latter. They are not the same thing, but Craig treats them as if they are.

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  19. T-Time - Whether something begins to exist ex nihilo or otherwise matters not since the point of the argument is that everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence. Note the word "everything." This includes the universe and there is no special exemption for it. To say this is a qualitatively different type of cause doesn't take away from the reality that the universe still began to exist and still necessitates a cause of its existence. So unless you have a good argument for the eternality of the universe, we can safely argue the universe did begin to exist. While you and I cannot cause nothing to become something, the Standard Big Bang Model does suggest the universe did come into existence ex nihilo. Are you rejecting the standard model? From Barrow and Tipler - "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo." (The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, 1985, p. 442).

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    1. Paul - I think we are halfway to agreement if you can see that there is a qualitative difference between cause and effect within an existing universe and the universe existing at all.

      Going back to your original question about where Craig is making a bad philosophical argument, my contention is that in the Kalam argument Craig is making essentially an analogy between cause and effect with existing matter and existence itself. But his argument relies on taking this not as an analogy, but a direct transferable claim about causality. This is equivocation and fallacious.

      For the record, I suspect that the reality of universal origins is likely very different from our common experience - similar to how physics operates differently when moving near the speed of light or when dealing with quantum particles. I don't propose to know what that might be, but I do know that arguing from analogy is a insufficient tool to come to any conclusions.

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    2. Paul Boyer said:

      "So unless you have a good argument for the eternality of the universe, we can safely argue the universe did begin to exist."


      What if someone were to use something like this for their argument?

      "The Big Crunch

      If there is enough matter in the Universe eventually gravitational forces will stop its expansion. When this happens gravity will cause the universe to reverse its direction and begin to collapse under its own weight. This phase of the Universe's life is known as the Big Crunch.

      Eventually all of the matter in the Universe will collapse into a super dense state and possibly even collapse into an unimaginably massive black hole. Some theorize that the Universe could collapse into the same state that it began as and then blow up in another Big Bang. In this way the Universe would last forever but would continually go through these phases of expansion and contraction, Big Bang and Big Crunch and so on..." (notice the "last forever" part)

      I'm not claiming that that's the way it is but it is possible, and to me it's a lot more reasonable an idea than believing in and promoting any of the sky daddies or mommies that people have cooked up. Besides, a Big Bang-Big Crunch universe is hardly the only argument that could be used against religious fairy tales.


      The above quote is from here:

      http://www.windows2universe.org/the_universe/Crunch.html

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    3. T-Time - We’re dealing with matter, not ontology in the Kalam. The only qualitative difference is whether this matter is pre-existing or is created ex nihilo. But at the end of the day, it’s still matter, so there’s no equivocation. This is why I think you’re on safer ground arguing for the universe being eternal than to argue for an equivocation between existing matter and matter created ex nihilo. Nowhere in the Kalam does Craig make an argument from ontology or even suggest it. The question the argument forces us to address is if the universe began to exist at some “point” in space/time history. From what we know of science, the universe did begin to exist. Are you rejecting the standard model?

      As far as physics operating differently when moving near the speed of light or when dealing with quantum particles, you’d have to demonstrate how this looks practically. Some have tried to argue that in quantum mechanics, anything can pop into existence uncaused, out of nothing. Except virtual particles, if they are real (and that’s a big if) do not come out of nothing. The quantum vacuum is actually a sea of fluctuating energy with a physical structure and can be described by physical laws. So in other words, this is not an example of something being caused out of nothing or something coming into being without a cause. Is this what you had in mind when you were referring to quantum particles or were you referring to something else?

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  21. Paul Boyer said:

    "T-Time - If the universe did have a beginning "point" as the science suggests, then it would have a cause of its existence. Simply because we have no epistemological frame of reference for this doesn't negate its ontological reality. From what I've seen, most individuals don't argue with the first premise but the second, although you're free to do so. But you'll have to provide an example of something that began to exist without a cause. Do you have one?"

    Are you one of the people who asserts that it's okay to suggest or flat out insist that "God" is infinite and didn't have a beginning and a cause, but it's not okay to suggest that the universe (without "God") is or could be infinite and/or without a cause? In other words, does "God" get a free pass when it comes to a beginning and a cause? And speaking of evidence, where's the evidence for any "God" that anyone has ever cooked up?

    "I'm still interested in Laurence demonstrating an argument of Dr. Craig's as being remarkably bad."

    I'm not Laurence and of course he can answer for himself but I'd say that everything that spews from craig's mouth is a remarkably bad argument. The guy is an arrogant loon.

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