Saturday, February 20, 2016

Refuting William Lane Craig. Again.

I follow William Lane Craig on Twitter. Don't ask me why. I guess it's for laughs. Recently he linked a new podcast episode in which he critiques a conversation between Richard Dawkins and Ricki Gervais talking about science and god. The following is my critique of Craig's critique.

DR. CRAIG: The point was supposed to be that the world mediated to us by modern science is not bleak. But I don’t think that refutes the claim. When we talk about the bleakness of the world that is described solely by science, what one means is that this is a world which exists to no purpose, it will ultimately end in the heat death of the universe as the universe expands into a cold, lifeless, dark, and dilute condition from which it will never re-emerge. It puts a question mark behind the entire edifice of human civilization and accomplishment. All of the things that Gervais mentions as noble and good about humanity are all doomed to destruction in the heat death of the universe. That’s the bleakness of the worldview – of scientific naturalism. It has nothing to do with the fact that one can appreciate the beauty of a mountainside or art or music or something of that sort.

This is a point Craig brings up constantly. Why on earth should the heat death of the universe 10^100 years from now have any effect on me and my life now? Why should a pleasurable day I have with a loved one be at all diminished because a googol years from now the universe will reach maximum entropy? I've never understood this silly religious way of thinking. The edifice of human civilization and accomplishment is not effected one bit due to the heat death of the universe. It's completely and utterly irrelevant. And doing good and noble things only matters to sentient beings. There's no reason why it needs to last eternity to have value. This idea that what we do is meaningless if it doesn't last an eternity is assumed. It isn't a given truth. I see no logical reason why it must be the case. So this is really just Craig espousing his personal opinion of not liking the idea of an eventual universal heat death. It has no effect on me whatsoever and it shouldn't for you. A lot of this way of thinking has to do with Craig's early religious conversion sparked in part by his fear of death. I wasn't raised religious, and so to me, this way of thinking is totally alien. See my religion/heroin analogy and my religious dependence analogy.

DR. CRAIG: Dawkins himself has affirmed that we are just animated chunks of matter so on his own view (this demeaning view that we are just a bag of chemicals on bones) why is that troubling? Because it means that we are not rational free agents. We are just determined. There is no free will. There is no ability to reason rationally. We are just determined in everything that we do by our genetic makeup and the stimuli that we receive through our senses. That is, indeed, discouraging, I think. As Dawkins says in The God Delusion, there is no good, there is no evil, there is just pitiless indifference. We are machines for propagating DNA, and there isn’t anything more to our existence than that. I think that is a very depressing view of human existence.

Us being purely physical entities does not negate us being rational agents. We certainly can't be free in the libertarian sense, of course, but that's not dependent on physicalism at all. Libertarian free will is itself an incoherent concept, even if I grant you that we have non-physical souls for the sake of argument. And none of this, physicalism or not, negates our ability to reason rationally. Our ability to reason rationally is due to our complex evolved brains. Reasoning is dependent on the physical brain as all the evidence shows. And our brains and the thoughts it produces have to be caused by something. Without the brain having a causal relationship with its environment, it can't be rational. Our thoughts either have to have a cause or not. Those are our only two options we're stuck with. If they are caused they are determined. If they are uncaused they are spontaneous and it would only be a mere coincidence that they bore any resemblance to the external world. So far from negating rational thought, a determined universe is a rational one. I can't speak for Dawkins, but when he says the universe is pitiless, I think what he's saying is that from the universe's perspective, it's indifferent. The universe isn't a being; it doesn't care about us. The only thing that can care are living beings, like us. This means that goodness, evil, care, and neglect, are up to us. There is no need for the universe to be pitiful in order for goodness or evil to exist. This is yet another fallacy.

 I know. So much of this interview is just banalities. I don’t even find it interesting. It is just banal talking about these silly truisms that religion can be misused for great atrocities. Well, the same thing is true of atheism. Look at Stalin. Look at Mao. For goodness sake – the atrocities perpetrated in the name of atheism make atrocities in the name of religion pale by significance. So this is uninteresting.

They weren't committed in the name of atheism, they were committed in the name of communism and totalitarianism and plain old ego. Plenty of god fearing leaders have committed horrible atrocities, but we shouldn't immediately blame religion on it. It's only when religion is the direct cause of such atrocities that we should blame religion. For example, if a Christian desperate for money robs a liquor store to get some quick cash, it's illogical to blame Christianity for this. Religion had nothing to do with it. But if a Christian beats up a homosexual because he thinks god hates fags, then you blame Christianity for it. This is common sense to any logical person.

DR. CRAIG: I know! They keep using the word magic! I’m sure they are meaning this in a metaphorical sense – it is magical in the sense of wondrous. They said “amazing.” But it is worse than that. It really is magic that on a scientific naturalistic view of the world, you’ve got these transcendental selves – these consciousnesses – which Gervais thinks have free will. I am not sure what Dawkins’ view is of the self, but in any case if it is totally dependent or supervenient upon the brain and the direction of causal influence is totally from the brain to the consciousness (not from the mind to the brain or the body) – if the direction of causality is asymmetrical (it is just from the body to the consciousness) – then again that lands you right into determinism. While that may be complicated and amazing in that sense (which it is) nevertheless that completely robs human life of any sort of moral significance or, I think, rational decision-making. It just turns you into the bag of chemicals that Dawkins was talking about earlier.

Nothing about being a "bag of chemicals" decreases your moral worth or your rational decision making. There is no logical reason why only people having a soul entails that they have moral worth. I've debated many theists on this and it all always comes down to an assertion. On determinism and materialism, consciousness isn't magic. It's just complex, and something we haven't figured out yet. No soul is required. Physics rules out there being a dualistic kind of soul that Craig believes in. So if you want to understand the world from a scientific perspective like I do, Craig's magical soul is at odds with it. And when it comes to the notion of free will, I just wrote about this recently. In everyday language there is nothing wrong with using phrases like "I chose" or "I made the decision" which seem to assume free will. It's just for practical human communication.

DR. CRAIG: All right. I’ve heard this from other naturalists, too. It doesn’t matter if free will is an illusion because you think you have it. You are under the illusion of acting freely and so you can do nothing else. But of course it matters enormously because if you really don’t have any free will then you are literally deluded. You are the most pathetic of creatures to think that you have free will and are making significant choices when in fact you are not. You are just a machine is all, and your choices have no moral significance. They are not done for rational reasons. I think they have completely stripped humanity of any sort of significance different from that of a worm. It is just a more complicated nervous system. They don’t seem to get the point.

If you know you don't have free will, then it isn't an illusion. It's only an illusion if you think you have it and you really don't and you are unaware of that. That means Craig and co. are living in this illusion. What is knowing that you have no libertarian free will supposed to entail? Not doing anything? That makes no sense. Why does determinism hinder our ability to make significant choices? I see no logical reason for that either. If I assassinate the pope or the president and it was all determined, that's pretty damn significant. Why does determinism hinder the moral significance of our choices? Same thing. Craig is simply coming from a worldview where we must be free in the libertarian sense and our actions must have eternal significance to have any significance. I see absolutely no reason to think that's true. What makes us different from that of a worm is that we're more evolved and have higher levels of consciousness and rationality. We can compose music and art and contemplate and figure out the mysteries of the universe. Worms don't do that. Craig was refuted by Shelley Kagan in his debate with him by this very argument and he still trots this out as if it sticks. 

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, right. It reminds me of what Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist said. People would choose inauthentic existence rather than authentic existence because they can’t bear the heavy burden of freedom and really making significant choices. I can think of nothing that more exemplifies the choice to be inauthentic than what we’ve just heard. Inauthentic existence – I would prefer to operate under the illusion that I have free will and am significant than face the hard facts of what my worldview implies.

But the hard facts do not negate significance on the deterministic and materialistic worldviews. That is just assumed by Craig on his presuppositions that things must be eternal to have any significance. What does Craig think living as a real determinist entails? Does he think one must become fatalistic? That makes no sense to anyone well thought on determinism. We live our lives by making choices because we have to. Things don't just happen on on their own on determinism. Things have causes. Diner is not going to just appear on my table on determinism. I have to go make it. That's what's going to cause it to happen. Craig either doesn't know this or he's purposely fooling his audience to think fatalism is entailed by determinism to poison the well for the determinist or materialist as a firewall against potential deconversions from Christians. Craig is, like most apologists, dishonest.

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