Showing posts with label William Lane Craig. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Lane Craig. Show all posts

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Think Carroll Won The Debate

It was a very intense debate Friday night at the Greer Heard Forum between Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig and I have to say I think Carroll decisively won. This isn't due to any sort of atheistic bias on my part, as I think Craig has "won" several of his debates on style and deliverance, but this is due to the fact that Carroll addressed nearly all of Craig's arguments and handsomely refuted them.

The debate relied on a lot of high end physics and cosmology that the average layperson simply does not understand. Thankfully I've become increasingly more knowledgeable about physics and cosmology over the years in large part as a result of debating theists. A frequent topic that came up was the concept of Boltzmann Brains - living physical brains that can spontaneously arise out of the quantum vacuum whose initial entropy states appear to be more likely than the initial low entropy state that our universe had. To refute the issue of the Boltzmann Brain dilemma, one has to have a serious understanding of the science behind it and its philosophical implications - something I think your average atheistic debater has no idea how to address or refute. I know that Dr. Carroll has written extensively on the Boltzmann Brain problem in his scientific papers and other works and he is well equipped to handle accusations that its a defeater for the multiverse.

(On a side note, I just recently signed up for free online classes from the World Science Festival on relativity that will be taught by Brian Greene (see here for details). I would certainly like to have a deeper understanding of the science behind relativity and quantum mechanics, even if it means I may have to face my crippling fear of math. You should check it out.)

Anyway, as far as the debate went, I wish that there was another round of rebuttals and I wish that there was a cross examination period so they could've gone head to head. I think Carroll really could've pressed Craig on some of his misuse of science to support his case for theism, and he could have pressed Craig on the B-theory of time (which Craig actually brought up!) as it is a knock-down argument against the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Craig also made a lot of noise, as he always does, over the idea that the universe "popped" into existence from nothing that he thinks the atheist must believe. Even if one grants the A-theory of time, the universe doesn't really pop into being. The reason why is that this presumes that you somehow have absolute nothing - and then - the universe inexplicably "pops" into existence. But this is not how it works because it presumes time exists prior to the universe. Since time is intertwined with space, from the very first moment of t=0 you have a universe. There is no moment when nothing exists prior to the universe. Therefore, you start with a universe; it doesn't pop into being. It's the same way how you cannot rewind a DVD passed 00:00:00. There is no such time as -00:00:01 on a DVD player. From the moment the DVD starts at 00:00:00 you have a movie. Carroll brought this up during the Q & A but they were not allowed to go back and forth on it.

Overall, it was a very good debate and I think Craig got hammered pretty hard from a physicist who knows the science much better than he does. I wish Sean would engage in many more debates like this one as it turns out he's one of the best debaters on behalf of atheism.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Craig Vs. Carroll Debate

The much hyped Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate is over and although I watched it intensely interested in hearing what the speakers were going to say, I didn't really have many high expectations given that Ken Ham is a ridiculous creationist after all. But tomorrow there is another debate that I think will turn out to be much more interesting. William Lane Craig, who is one of the world's foremost Christian apologists and debaters and Sean Carroll, who is a world renowned physicist and cosmologist will go head to head in what looks like is going to be a great debate.

The debate will be called God And Cosmology, and there will also be a follow up team debate with Craig, James Sinclair and Robin Collins representing theism, and Carroll, Alex Rosenberg and Tim Maudlin representing atheism. I think team debates are an exciting idea from the usual one-on-one format and I would love to participate in one sometime. I'm not crazy about Carroll's selection of Alex Rosenberg to be on his team. Rosenberg's debate with Craig last year ended horribly for him, and Craig whipped his ass. Rosenberg in my opinion is just a horrible debater and I would have chosen someone else on my team if I were Carroll. It could be a weak link for team atheism, but we'll have to see how it goes. Both debates look like they will be extremely interesting and I can't hardly wait. They will be streamed live here.

Meanwhile you can watch this discussion with Sean Carroll and Hans Halvorson at the Veritas forum. Hans seems like a very thoughtful Christian compared to the selection we often have.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

William Lane Craig's Christmas "Gift" To Atheists

What can I say, the man never tires in his quest to evangelize the world into the Christian faith.

In William Lane Craig's recent op-ed on, he rolls out the same 5 tired old arguments for god's existence that he's been using for decades as a "gift" to atheists. It's not like as if many atheists will be on anyway. Most of us non-believers regard Fox News and everything that it does to be a charade, exemplified by their phony annual "War on Christmas," their bending over backwards for the religious right, and their outright lies and manipulations - to name a few. I can't see how any intelligent person, atheist or not, would take Fox News as a serious news organization.

But perhaps that makes it perfect for a person like William Lane Craig. I mean after all, he's first and foremost an apologist, and an apologist is a propagandist, who must lie and distort the facts in order to make their case convincing - in a way just like Fox News! So in Craig's piece, he challenges atheists who he claims "have no good reasons for their disbelief." Um, excuse me? We have plenty of good reasons for our disbelief, and I've recently outlined some of them in my post Why I'm An Atheist. But hey, Craig was only offering us his "experience." I will at least give him some credit that there has been a failure of many public atheists in communicating arguments for atheism properly. This is something atheists need to improve on. But for a person obsessed with atheism, William Lane Craig should have undoubtedly heard all the arguments by now and he's been called out several times on abysmal failures to refute arguments for atheism (like his failed attempt to claim animals do not consciously suffer). I suspect he really just wants to reassure his readers (who haven't researched into the arguments for atheism) that atheists don't have any good arguments in the hope they'll just take his word for it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I'm An Atheist

I've been feeling a bit compelled recently to write about why exactly it is that I'm an atheist and what reasons I have for being one. While I feel that this post was long overdue, an adequate justification for my atheism has been the product of a learning curve several years in the making. I know many others have written posts explaining why they aren't a Christian or why they aren't a Mormon, or a Muslim, etc., but technically I can't write a post like that because I was never myself a member of any religion. What I can do, is justify why I'm an atheist and why I think the naturalistic worldview best describes reality, and so here I want to put into a single post the main reasons why I personally am an atheist, and why I think you should be one too if you aren't already. I apologize for the length.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Is Debating Morality With Theists So Fun? (Hint: Because They're Wrong)

Like Christopher Hitchens, I'm in love with debate, and debating morality with theists is probably one of my favorite debate topics. The reason why I enjoy that debate so much is because I know they're simply wrong on about it. Case in point, theists must simply assert that god is identical to "the good" or moral perfection itself but cannot justify whether god's goodness comes logically prior to any attributes that might constitute god's goodness or not.

Now perhaps I might not be writing here anything that I haven't already done before on numerous other posts, but since the moral debate is one atheists will find themselves confronted with time and time again, it might be worth repeating. When a theists asserts that god is identical to moral perfection he or she isn't doing anything other than playing word games. I can simply define the word "God" as being a synonym of goodness, but I certainly haven't demonstrated that an actual being exists that is ontologically identical with goodness, let alone been able to conflate that being to the deity of a particular religion. All I've done is played words games with you and claimed victory (ha ha!). But it's a premature calculation.

Seriously though, for any theist who does this, the next trick up their sleeve (if they see you're not convinced) is going to be something like, "It is impossible for God to be evil or command something evil, like rape, because God's intrinsic nature is that of moral perfection. God is necessarily morally perfect." The theist here is trying to get all philosophical on your ass: God is necessarily perfect because he can't be any other way. But I still find it hard to palate the idea of how the theist can know or can determine what a perfect moral being is without appealing to some standard that exists independently of such a being. Otherwise, if the being itself is what determines moral perfection, then is it not the case that one can appeal to the logic that what ever that being does or commands is perfectly moral by definition, no matter what that is? How do we determine that god is morally perfect? If god is simply just being defined as such, then following this line of reasoning allows Islamic fundamentalists to stone to death adulterers and jail/execute blasphemers - hardly something we in the West would consider moral.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Ted Haggard's Sexuality Is Symbolic Of The Relationship Between Christianity And Facts

Back in 2006, we all got to witness the spectacular decline of conservative anti-gay Christian pastor Ted Haggard, who it turned out was secretly paying a man for gay sex. I remember what a ride that one was to watch. Watching religious hypocrites fall from grace is first class entertainment for atheists. I mean, what atheist wouldn't want to hear about some ridiculous religious figure turning out to be doing the very thing they spent so much time railing against in the name of their god?

If Haggard's initial fall from grace wasn't enough, we were all further given an encore not long after when it was announced that he was declared "completely heterosexual" after being "cured" of his homosexuality through counseling. It was hilarious because any educated person knows that sexuality cannot be cured or repaired by mere counseling or therapy. Sexuality is innate. All ex-gay therapy can do is teach a gay person how to repress their desires and live in dissonance with themselves. That's all the evidence has ever shown it capable of doing. (See here.)

Ted Haggard's cognitive dissonance on his sexuality forced by his Christian belief that being gay is a sin is symbolic of the kind of cognitive dissonance Christians in general must endure in order to maintain their religious faith with the constant sting of the secular sciences and politics challenging them. Suppressing scientific facts and the moral atrocities of god in order to maintain the faith is a lot like gay Christians suppressing their sexuality. I debate with Christians all the time online and I'm always entertained by the kind of cognitive acrobatics they must deploy in order to maintain that the Bible is the word of god, and that their god is good. I've dealt with so many Christians for example who will deny the evidence for evolution at all costs to the point where they will compromise logic and sanity in order to do so.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Slaughter Of The Canaanites According To William Lane Craig

I'm really enjoying Thom Stark's critique of Paul Copan's book, Is God A Moral Monster?. Copan writes the standard apologetic that you will hear many Christians making who defend the Iron-age morality of the Old Testament, like slavery, polygamy and genocide. Stark's critique, Is God A Moral Compromiser?, is full of really great counter arguments and I think it's a must read for any atheist or critic of the current apologetic espoused by the likes of Copan and Craig and their minions.

It got me thinking about the Canaanite genocide in the Old Testament again with some new insights that I hadn't known before. I've covered the Canaanite slaughter numerous times here and debated it on other blogs. Since William Lane Craig is the loudest Christian apologist, at least in the English speaking world, I shall critique his justification of the Canaanite conquests that he did through his website Reasonable Faith.

I'm going to respond to one Q & A entitled "Slaughter of the Canaanites." As I read it, nearly everything Craig writes makes me want to hurl at my computer screen because of the moral depravity that being forced to defend the barbaric Iron-age literature makes him sink to. Craig makes every attempt to praise Yahweh and Mosaic "morality" to warm the reader up to an image of the Old Testament god and law as being perfectly on par with reasonable moral sensibilities. He writes:

The command to kill all the Canaanite peoples is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Contrary to the vituperative rhetoric of someone like Richard Dawkins, the God of the Hebrew Bible is a God of justice, long-suffering, and compassion.

Well considering that Yahweh commands several genocides after the Canaanite genocide, it isn't actually totally out of his character. The Canaanite conquest is just the first of what will be a series of genocides and that's probably why up until this point in the Bible, it may seem so "at odds" with Yahweh. But the reader of the OT will already have come to understand Yahweh as having been responsible for mass killing the entire planet in Genesis, and mass killing all the first born in Egypt, as well as striking several people dead for rather trivial reasons, so no it is not out of character. What's "at odds" with Yahweh's character, is that with the Canaanites, he's commanding other people to do his mass slaughter, instead of doing it himself. That's so out of character for Yahweh, really.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Was Bored, So I Decided to Pick On Craig (Again)

I've been dry lately for material to write about. Whenever I get like this I always find that criticizing William Lane Craig can be used as filler. I just love tearing apart his arguments. And it pays dividends: If you get into a debate with a theist over god, you are almost guaranteed to hear Craig's arguments get recycled over and over again. Often verbatim. I've been debating this retarded Jehovah's Witness over on the Friendly Atheist's blog and he literally copies Craig's arguments word for word by copying and pasting them because he knows nothing about actual science or philosophy. So it's good to have refutations of Craig's arguments already written so that they too can be copied and pasted in response to the lazy theist who is going to plagiarize someone else's argument. I mean hey, if they're too lazy to write their own argument themselves and resort to copying and pasting, then I'm justified in copying and pasting my response too.

So without further ado.....

I came across a piece Craig wrote in a Christianity Today article from 2008, in which he summarizes his repertoire of arguments for god, so I will use that article as my critique of his arguments.Craig lays out first, as he almost always does, the two versions of the cosmological argument. He's so predictable. Most of you already know the cosmological argument from contingency. I will just dive into my criticism of Craig's justification of its premises. The argument goes as follows:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe's existence is God.

Craig justifies premise 1 with an example:

Imagine that you're walking through the woods and come upon a translucent ball lying on the forest floor. You would find quite bizarre the claim that the ball just exists inexplicably. And increasing the size of the ball, even until it becomes co-extensive with the cosmos, would do nothing to eliminate the need for an explanation of its existence.

I've heard this story used many times to illustrate that the universe's existence needs an explanation. First of all, the analogy is flawed. upon seeing a translucent ball lying on the forest floor, of course we'd ask the question of how or why such a thing exists. But the difference with a translucent ball, and the universe is that we have no known experience with such a thing existing by natural means. All balls that we know of are man made. So we could ask, what is the ball made out of? Plastic? Well we know plastic is man made. But suppose it was made of some unknown substance. It would still have to be made up of atoms. Atoms are matter, and matter is just another form of energy, all of which would go back to the early universe. But now an interesting thought arises. If the translucent ball were shrunk, instead of expanded, to the size of a subatomic particle, like a virtual particle, then it is not at all hard to see how the ball could pop into existence with no apparent cause needed. And when you apply gravity to the laws of quantum mechanics, space and time can pop into existence and whole universes can be born from quantum fluctuations.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Life, the Universe and Nothing: Why is there something rather than nothing?

This is the second debate that William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss had in Australia this past August. This debate topic was about why there is something rather than nothing. Craig used the cosmological argument from contingency to make his case, which I think is a slightly better version of the kalam cosmological argument. They didn't really go into detail over the argument during the discussion, but one thing the contingency argument presupposes is the principle of sufficient reason, which Craig cannot logically prove. He just assumes it. And unfortunately, since Krauss is not a philosopher (and is an outspoken hater of philosophy), he doesn't call Craig out on this. Overall, I think Krauss did a pretty decent job handling the inanity of Craig and his arguments but his ignorance to philosophy and religion weaken him in areas where he could have attacked Craig a lot harder. He at least deserves props just for being able to deal with him for 3 debates in a row.

A few highlights include 29:50 when Craig accuses Krauss of equivocating when it comes to the word "nothing." But Krauss says in his opener that he's using "nothing" to describe the quantum vacuum of empty space that was thought for many years to be absent of anything, and which we now know is actually filled with some 70 percent of the universe in the form of dark energy. A good philosophical argument can be made that it's actually impossible that absolute nothing ever existed, another point Krauss doesn't make because of his ignorance to philosophy. I make that argument here.

At 1:24:30 Lawrence says to Craig that book reviews can be nonsense, like movie reviews, and he is obviously referring to David Albert's critical review of his book A Universe From Nothing, that Craig used in his opening speech. And Craig nods in affirmation.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Religious Belief Is Primarily Emotional, Not Logical

For most people, it's not as if I really need to tell them this, but the primary reason why people come to be religious, besides being indoctrinated into it by culture, is for emotional reasons. They may have either had an emotional reaction to a religious hymn, a religious ritual, or the dramatic retelling of a religious story. Religions are all designed in some way to appeal to that awe and mystery we all feel about the world around us through the use of rituals and stories that create a social cohesion among its believers.

I'm not sure how many people are convinced by many of the so-called logical arguments for god. I suppose an atheist could hear them and become convinced, but without that emotional connection to a particular religion, I don't really see how any of them could get an atheist passed deism. What ultimately pushes a person into a religion is an emotional connection with that religion's teachings, their founder, or the rituals associated with that religion. I had one such reaction to Hinduism when I was in Bali a few years ago. I witnessed a Hindu ceremony in which incense was passed around me with some chanting and I felt this amazing wave of relaxation and calmness come over me. It was as if every drop of tension and anxiety in me had melted away. Had I been a spiritual "seeker" that experience may have converted me. And if something like that had happened to me in a Christian context when I was younger, I might have converted.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yes Dr. Craig, You're Still An Apologist For Genocide

I love pressuring Christians to justify the numerous genocides that god commands in the Bible. They will usually respond with things like, "The Canaanites were wicked and deserving of God's judgement." Or they'll say, "You have no objective moral foundation to call out genocide." Oh right, like being an atheist somehow prevents me from censuring the mass slaughter of ethnic groups, and somehow only theism gives people the ability of condemning it. Sure. Remember, it's the theist here that's defending genocide. Only religion it seems could make a rational person defend mass genocide in this day and age.

So, when it comes to the apologist extraordinaire William Lane Craig, I paid extra close attention to his attempt at justifying genocide when he was called out on it in a debate a few years ago during his 2011 UK tour. His justification was a shocking spectacle into the mind of an apologist trying ever so hard to make sense of mass slaughter. And his numerous other podcasts and written justifications for it just seem to add insult to injury to him.

On a recent Q and A, he attempts once again to explain why the Canaanite conquest was justified. Craig says that a lot of the criticism against him is just heated emotional rhetoric lacking intellectual substance, and that none of it refutes the moral argument for god. Speaking of substance, Craig's justification boils down to this: "God has the moral right to issue such commands and that He wronged no one in doing so." In other words, god can do whatever he wants; he's the boss. If he wants you to commit genocide for him, then so be it. He has the right to do so because he makes the rules. 

This is basically the best Craig has come up with, and it's sad. But he also warns, "If it is the case that God could not have issued the commands in question, that goes no distance toward proving atheism or undermining the moral argument for God; it at most implies a liberal doctrine of biblical inspiration, such that inspiration does not imply inerrancy." So even if we're right that no such commands were ever issued by a perfect god, according to Craig, god and the moral argument are still intact.

Let's examine this.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Argument From Contingency Vs. The Block Universe & The Principle Of Sufficient Reason

William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith sight is such a treasure trove of misinformed logic and bad arguments for the existence of the Christian god, that any intelligent atheist would have a field day picking it apart. On a recent Q and A titled the Argument from Contingency, Craig responds to a question about the argument's potency in light of the B-theory of time which posits an eternal 4-dimensional block universe. Craig rightfully admits that the kalam cosmological argument is basically rendered impotent on a B-theory of time, but says that Leibnizian argument from contingency still packs a punch. (To see the argument from contingency click the link about it above as I will not be dissecting the actual argument here.)

Craig asks: why does this four-dimensional spacetime block exist? He goes on to say that if the naturalist says the block universe just inexplicably exists, he's then committing the "taxicab fallacy." I've heard this fallacy being thrown around before, so let me explain it for you now. From street apologetics we get a definition:

The “Taxi-Cab Fallacy” is committed when one hops in and assumes a certain system of thought or worldview in an attempt to make a particular point but then jumps out of the system of thought when it suits their fancy.

Craig argues that the naturalist "treats the Principle of Sufficient Reason like a hired hack that can be dismissed arbitrarily once one has arrived at one’s desired destination. No, the existence of a contingently existing spacetime requires explanation, too, just as do planets and dogs and periwinkles."

Let's examine his response. First, the naturalist who doesn't hold to the principle of sufficient reason acknowledges that certain facts may indeed be brute facts and at some point there might be something that simply just is. So why should we hold him to the PSR? The PSR is also not a logical law. The theist cannot logically prove that there must be a sufficient reason or cause for everything, they just assume that there does. Second, we don't know if the universe is contingent. It might be possible that every physically or mathematically possible universe exists. It's a theory called the mathematical universe, which is the level-4 multiverse. Now no one knows if this theory is true; it's a possibility. But if every physically possible kind of universe exists, then ours is guaranteed to exist as one of them. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is God A Consequentialist?

Whenever I come up dry for material for this blog I can always turn to William Lane Craig bashing for inspiration. I get such great pleasure from deflating his dubious arguments. His new Q and A has him arguing that god isn't a consequentialist, when the record clearly indicates that he is. You can see the question here, I will focus on his answer below.

Craig starts out making a point he often makes in his writings and in his debates:

... on my view God has no moral duties to fulfill. Moral duties arise in response to imperatives issued by God. Since God does not issue commands to Himself, God has no moral duties. Rather God’s acts must simply be consistent with His perfectly good nature. So consequentialism cannot apply to God, having as He does no moral duties. His actions, such as permitting some evils in view of overriding goods, must simply be consistent with His being all-loving, punishing evil, etc.

If god's actions must be "
consistent with His perfectly good nature," and god's nature is perfect goodness, then why is god admittedly jealous and wrathful? Why can he essentially do what he wants and cause suffering and take life as he pleases? It seems to me that theists like Craig admit that their god is a god who can do whatever he wants because he "does not issue commands to Himself." In that case, if god's actions can violate his own commandments to us - commandments which are supposed to reflect his "perfectly good nature," then god cannot logically be perfectly good and all-loving. In other words, if my commandments are perfect, and I violate my own commandments, I cannot be perfect.

This upends the core of divine command theory since according to Craig, "it grounds objective moral values in God as the paradigm and source of moral goodness." If this supposed source of all moral goodness can act in ways contrary to his own commands of perfect moral goodness, the source cannot be perfectly good. Hence god plays a sort of "do as I say, not as I do" ethic. 

But it seems Craig fails to get this. He says:

God’s having no moral duties does not imply that He can do just anything; rather His actions must be consistent with His own nature.

Let's see what god can do. He can command child sacrifice, genocide, slavery, the killing of adulterers, witches and homosexuals, and he can take his anger out on people for not worshiping him properly and for offering inadequate sacrifices. Sounds to me like god can pretty much "do just anything." If all those things I mentioned above are consistent with "good nature," then I'd hate to see what bad nature is.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

William Lane Craig: Math Proves God Exists!

God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world according to William Lane Craig. He argues:

1. If God did not exist, the applicability of mathematics would be just a happy coincidence.
2. The applicability of mathematics is not just a happy coincidence.
3. Therefore God exists.

Craig made this awful argument during his recent three part dialogue with Lawrence Krauss in Australia earlier this month, (See link to video here). It's so bad to me that I don't even want to waste any real time trying to show how bad it is. But I'm forced to now.

According to Craig, the fact that the universe can be described mathematically proves god exists, because if god didn't exist, it would just be a coincidence that our universe is mathematically descriptive. Now is it just me, or do "professional philosophers" like Craig have a little to much time on their hands? Craig says, "the atheist has no explanation for the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world." Does it need one? This doesn't appear to be a huge issue atheists are wrestling with. It seems to me like Craig is just creating another dilemma to try to erect a cheap argument for theism. Anything physical that exists is going to be able to be described mathematically, either through weight, mass, momentum or velocity. That does not in any possible way prove Yahweh exists.

I've debated with so many theists now over the years that I've come to learn that if you already presuppose your conclusion (i.e. that god exists) you will be able to find any absurd syllogism to try and "justify" it.

Take for example this argument I saw a theist make to justify original sin:

  1. If the doctrine of Original Sin is true, then Christianity is likely to be true.
  2. The doctrine of Original Sin is true.
  3. Therefore, Christianity is likely to be true.
And another one: 
  1. If Original Sin is not true, then any instance of sin must be caused by our moral ignorance (ignorance of what is truly good, ignorance of what is for the best, etc.).
  2. There are instances of sin not caused by our moral ignorance (where we know that what we do is wrong, and we do that which we do not wish to do).
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.

Do you see what's missing here when it comes to the existence of original sin? Let me give you a hint: Evidence! There's simply no evidence that an episode of original sin ever took place. There was no Adam, no Eve, no two first people — nothing derived from the natural sciences confirm that. In fact, all the evidence goes against their existence. The doctrine of original sin must be taken by Christians purely on faith. That's it. There is no valid logic where you can go from saying "There are instances of sin not caused by our moral ignorance" to concluding "Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true." Absolutely no way. Both premises in these arguments are flawed beyond repair, and their conclusions are absurd. 

Imagine me making the following logical argument for atheism:

  1. If god existed, prayer would work.
  2. There are instances of prayers that do not yield working results.
  3. Therefore, god doesn't exist.

Do you see how fallacious and ignorant such an argument is? What Craig is offering us above is logically no better. It tries to draw a huge metaphysical conclusion using really bad and highly contentious premises. Just imagine if a highly educated person like William Lane Craig could be using his talents in other ways, instead of sitting around thinking up of bad arguments like the one he's proposing above. The reason why I spend so much time defending atheism is because it is constantly under attack. If it wasn't, I'd be focused a lot more on political activism on economics, climate change and social issues — things that offer us real tangible results. 

Let's hope this stupid argument never becomes a standard talking point that Craig's minions pick up on like a piece of mud to be hurled at the wall in the vain hope that it sticks. It won't.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

4 Facts That Aren't Really Facts

Until recently I didn't have enough knowledge about the historicity surrounding Jesus and the resurrection to properly critique it. But after reading and watching many lectures and debates on the reliability of the New Testament and the Bible in general, I'm pretty convinced that the case for Christ and the resurrection are founded on little more than pillars of faith on very shaky ground.

But that's not the case according to William Lane Craig. According to him we have firm evidence that Jesus was a historical figure, that he was crucified by the Romans, that his tomb was found empty and that his followers had post mortem appearances of him indicating that he had been resurrected. In his many debates, Craig offers four lines of evidence he calls "facts" to support this story. But are these really facts? I want to spend the rest of this blog critiquing his argument for the resurrection.

Craig's "facts" are as follows:

FACT #1: After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.

FACT #2: On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

FACT #4: The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

In his collaboration with philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist, Craig offers several lines of evidence to support these four "facts," so all the material from him that I will be critiquing will come from that book. 

And before I begin, I first want to say that I resent that Craig insists upon called these claims "facts." I think at best they are reported facts. Actual facts are things that we either know are true by definition, or things that are supported by empirical evidence. None of Craig's "facts" meet any such criteria and it's interesting to note that his only source material to back up his claims is the Bible. That's it. There is no empirical evidence that has been produced to support Jesus' entombment, his resurrection, or even that he actually existed, and until there is, these are not facts and I will not be treating them as such. 

So let's begin by examining "fact" number one:

FACT #1:After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.

Craig supports this claim with 5 lines of evidence. Let me look at each line by line.

1. Jesus’ burial is attested in the very old information (ca. < AD 36), which was handed on by Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth, Greece.

The Pauline epistles were all written in the AD 50s, not in the not AD 30s, but many scholars believe the accounts they describe occurred within a few years after the purported resurrection. Since there aren't any contemporary corroborations, this is speculative. Although Paul mentions that Jesus was buried (1 Cor 15:4), we get no description about whether it was in a tomb or a simple common grave. There is no indication from Paul's writing that Jesus was a physical man who lived and preached to followers. Paul never mentions in his letters that anyone saw Jesus while he was alive; Paul never mentions Jesus' ministry or any of his disciples or anyone having ever met him. Jesus only ever appeared to various people after he died through visions. The Egyptian god Osiris was a spiritual god who was also died, was buried and was reborn. It is not inconceivable that Paul thought of Jesus as a purely spiritual being who died and rose from the dead in the same fashion that many pre-Christian pagan gods in the ancient Near East had. This could have been the early Christian narrative before Jesus was "euhemerized" decades later by the writers of the gospels by having Jesus placed into historical contexts.

2. The burial story is independently attested in the very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel.

Craig here seems to be referring to a document called Q, which is supposed to have been the inspiration of Mark's gospel that was written in about AD 70, 40 years after the alleged crucifixion. We don't know if Q ever existed and there is much debate over it, so Craig appears to be resting this line of evidence on a hypothetical document that might have existed.

3. Given the understandable hostility in the early Christian movement toward the Jewish leaders, Joseph of Arimathea, as a member of the Jewish high court that condemned Jesus, is unlikely to be a Christian invention.

We don't have any records of the members of the Jewish high court at the time of Jesus from any sources. It is entirely possible that Joseph or Arimathea could have been an invention in Mark's gospel in order to place Jesus in a grand tomb as opposed to a common burial. The gospels aren't even congruent about whether Joseph was a member of the high court as Matthew's account states Joseph is simply a "rich man" from Arimathea. (Mat 27:57) Outside of the gospels we have no independent evidence that Joseph of Arimathea existed.

4. The burial story is simple and lacks any signs of legendary development.

Mark's account of the burial is pretty straightforward and simple, but it is merely one detail of an early account of a story that will later go on in the other gospel accounts to contain numerous signs of legendary embellishment. Early accounts of legends are almost always the most simple and straightforward. Then, as the accounts are retold and transcribed they become adorned with embellishment. Peter Kirby on notes, "It is no stretch of the imagination to think that legend makers or fiction writers would be aware that there were and are tombs hewn out of rock and that some of these tombs had benches. This does not make these legends or fictions into history. The only thing that might be remarkable would be if the description of the tomb matched the tombs of the early first century but not the tombs of a later period. However, there are no details about the tomb that could not be provided from the author's experience with tombs in his own time. Indeed, when the author could have specified that the stone sealing the tomb was not round and thus demonstrate knowledge of tombs in the Second Temple period, the author does not do so. The bare description of the tomb hardly improves the credibility of the story."[1]

5. No other competing burial story exists

This is an argument from silence. If there never was a physical burial to begin with but only a celestial symbolic one, and the burial narrative was entirely fictional, written decades later and invented by the writer of Mark, we would not expect any competing stories to exist. Now arguments from silence can be inductively correct. [2] But as Jeff Lowder notes in A Reply to William Lane Craig, "Craig has not shown that the alleged lack of competing burial traditions is unlikely on the hypothesis that some alternative to the Markan tradition is true. Indeed...there is no evidence that the Jewish authorities were even interested in the matter."[3]

Conclusion: I don't think Craig's claims have been able to sufficiently establish the burial of Jesus in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb to be factual. If we had independent Jewish sources attesting to Joseph's existence and position in the Jewish high court, or if we had physical evidence of the tomb, then I think we'd be in a much better position to establish this claim as truth. Although, of the four "facts" Craig is trying to make, I think this one has the most probability of being true.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Craig Meme (Plus Bonus)

OK I cannot resist anymore. Memes are addictive. Here's my first official meme above. Please tell me what you think. It's making fun of my most hated apologist. Use it as you like, spread it, memify it. 

P.S. Here's a bonus below:

William Lane Craig: Evolution Is Evidence For The Existence Of God!

If you ever find yourself in a debate with William Lane Craig and try to use evolution as evidence for naturalism, you can expect him to make the following counter argument below. He's made it in several debates now and it's become one of his all-too-often repeated talking points. This one is transcribed from his debate with Peter Atkins from way back in the 90s:

In their book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Barrow and Tipler lay out 10 steps necessary to the course of human evolution, each of which, each of which is so improbable, that before it would occur the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have burned up the earth. Now it seems to me that if evolution did occur, then it would have had to been a miracle. In other words evolution is literally evidence for the existence of god!

That's right creationists, evolution now is evidence for the existence of god, so stop denying it and embrace full on macroevolution. (Sigh) Craig wants to be able to deny Darwinian evolution and instead support a sort of hybrid old earth creationism/theistic evolution, but just in case that becomes too much of an untenable position, he's carefully made naturalistic macroevolution safe for Christians because it's a "miracle."

So I wonder, is Craig blissfully unaware that everything that happens in our universe is improbable? Every single person born is improbable if we were to try to calculate the mathematical odds of any of us being born. For example, the average man will make about 4.3 trillion sperm cells in his life (200 million per day on average for ~60 years). The only way you could have been born is by a single sperm cell from your father, and a single egg from your mother. Right there the odds of you being born are at least 4.3 trillion to one, or 1 in 4.3 x 1012.

But according to Robin Baker, who wrote the 1996 book, Sperm Wars, only about 1 percent of the sperm cells a man produces actually are involved in fertilizing eggs. These are what he calls, "egg-getters." Most of the other 99 percent of sperm cells are designed to kill off sperm from other men. So if we recalculate, 1 percent of 4.3 trillion is 43 billion. That leaves the odds of you being born from your father at 1 in 43 billion. Not exactly odds you'd want to bet your money on.

For most men the rate of sperm production decreases with age, so let's round that down to about 36 billion egg-getter sperm cells over the average man's lifetime. The average man will have about 2-3 surviving offspring during his lifetime, if we round up to 3, the average chances of you being born are 3 x 1 / 3.6 x 1010  or 1 / 1.2 x 1010.  That's 1 in 12 billion, slightly better than before but remember we're only going back one generation.

If you include two generations, your dad and his dad, the odds of you being born will be 1 /12,000,000,000  x  1 / 12,000,000,000 = 1 / 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or 1 in 144,000,000,000,000,000,000  or  1 / 1.44 x 1020. That's 1 in 144 quintillion in just two generations.

To calculate the odds for 10 generations that would get you (1 / 1.2 x 1010)10 = 1 / 6 x 10100. That's a 6 with one hundred zeros after it. And we've only gone back 10 generations! To give you a sense of how large that number is, the total number of atoms in the universe is estimated at just 1080 which is far lower that the odds of just you being born going back only 10 generations.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Questions For Atheists - Part 7 (Just Curious)

I've finally reached the end of Phil Fernandes' challenging questions to atheists with my intellectual integrity intact and unscathed. The last section of questions seems to be really just a bunch of miscellaneous questions about cosmology and evolution and morality, perhaps his last ditch attempt to damage my intellectual integrity. Considering how far I've come and how all of his questions so far seem to have stemmed from monumental ignorance about the most basic science, I highly doubt they'll be anything here remotely challenging.

1. If caterpillars could talk, would they argue against the cocoon-of-the-gaps with their butterfly friends?

Presumably, if caterpillars had enough intelligence to talk, they'd figure out science and answer this question using the scientific method. They'd be able to observe other caterpillars cocooning themselves after some honest inquiry and not need to resort to fantasy tales of magic. Although, they might have to all suffer intellectually through many years of ignorance until they figured this out, just like how we did.

2. If there was a Big Bang, where did the bullets come from? Who pulled the trigger and who manufactured the gun?

There couldn't have been anyone pulling the trigger given the standard big bang model because it was the beginning of time and thus no events could have preceded it. That's why it couldn't have had a cause.

See more on the cosmological argument here and here.

3. How does science weigh morality? Does ‘goodness’ expand when frozen or rise when heated?

I don't believe like Sam Harris does that you can describe morality strictly in scientific terms. Morality is ultimately in the domain of philosophy, not science. But, that doesn't mean that science has nothing to say about morality. Science can give us empirical answers as to what actions we commit will harm those affected by them. For example, Europeans used to think Africans weren't human and thus weren't entitled to be treated like humans. Science has proven that Africans are just as human as Europeans and as well as all other races. So empirical answers could be given regarding such moral concerns. The same was true about smoking. In the 1940s and 50s, doctors used to recommend their patients smoke because it was believed to be helpful. Then we learned it caused cancer. And after that fact emerged, it would have been immoral for a doctor to recommend their patient smoke, because they would've been knowingly harming their patient's health.

See more on moral arguments here, here and here.

4. If man is just an evolved animal, why have we never observed another species thrilling in the beauty of a sunset or a picturesque mountain view?

I don't see how the fact that man evolved has anything to do with whether animals enjoy sunsets. Maybe they do. Maybe birds enjoy their aerial views as they fly across beautiful landscapes. Maybe chimpanzees enjoy the mountain views from the canopies of their jungle homes. Even if they do not, our ability to enjoy beauty is most likely a byproduct of our evolved consciousness that natural selection embedded into us. And what about those of us who are mentally handicapped who'll never enjoy a sunset or a scenic landscape? Did god purposely screw them over? 

5. While you've most likely heard, “Forever’s a long time to be wrong,” have you ever considered it’s also a “long time to be right?”

If implied in this question is the vague threat of eternal hell fire, then I don't want to allow fear to cloud my mind. To me the best way to construct reality is to educate yourself on the facts as much as possible and follow the evidence where it leads. Any time fear enters the mind, you are bound to start thinking irrationally. I want to know the truth. We all do. If the evidence lead me to religion, I'd go that way. But a close look at the evidence for god and for Christianity and other religions has shown me that they all are based on logic derived primarily from faulty human intuition and leaps of faith aided by confirmation biases motivated by emotion. That's why apologetics ultimately fails. And it only ever succeeds in winning over hearts and minds when it preaches to the vulnerable and uneducated. 

Final Thoughts

Why did I do this? Several reasons. First, I wanted to challenge myself. I think no one should ever get complacent in their worldview for too long, and a good challenge is necessary from time to time. That beings said, Phil Fernandes' questions were hardly a challenged as I consider myself pretty seasoned in the realm of counter apologetics. This shows you how naive he is about his own views of religion, science and philosophy. I'm sure William Lane Craig could've provided much tougher questions.

Second, I did this for other atheists and skeptics out there who may have been hit with one of Phil's questions either online or in person and needed to look it up online to find an answer. If someone in that position hit my site and I was able to provide them with a decent answer that they could also possibly use as a counter argument, I will have considered this a success. As I come across additional challenges on the internets, I will take them head on too. If you have any questions or need me to elaborate on an answer, feel free to ask, and I will try to provide you with a more thorough response. 

Until then, this is your atheist in the city here, keepin' it secular. Over and out.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Short Look At William Lane Craig's "Refutations" Of The B-Theory Of Time

Over at the website Closer To Truth, which is a site about an agnostic who goes around interviewing philosophers and scientists to try to find answers to the biggest and deepest mysteries of the meaning of existence and the universe, there is a profile of William Lane Craig. In it, they summarize his arguments against the tenseless theory of time. I want to quickly address them here.

Craig's done his homework to try to put this theory to rest, but I think he ultimately fails. I'm not going to go into detail here, but I will add a few thoughts how I think each of his refutations are ultimately baseless.

I. Arguments for the Tensed Theory of Time

A. Tensed sentences, which can neither be translated into synonymous tenseless sentences nor be given tenseless, token-reflexive truth conditions, correspond, if true, to tensed facts.

Craig here is making the case that since our language is constructed around tensed perception (e.g. before, during, and after), then it means the tensed theory of time is likely true. But this is baseless. Yes languages make temporal distinctions, but linguistic social constructs like tensed words do not dictate what the ultimate physical nature of time is, and function merely as a pretense to the tensed theory of time. Under a tenseless of time, we can still use tensed language out of convenience and practicality.

B. The experience of temporal becoming, like our experience of the external world, is properly regarded as veridical.

Our perception of all kinds of things are intuitively based on our limited knowledge and our subjective experiences of the world. Craig here relies so heavily on his intuition, as he often does, but science has shown us time and time again that our intuition and perception of reality is not sufficient to understand it. That's why we need science to understand how it really is.

II. Refutation of Arguments against the Tensed Theory of Time

A. McTaggart’s celebrated paradox is based upon the misguided marriage of a tenseless ontology of events or things with objective temporal becoming, as well as the unjustified assumption that there should exist a unique, complete description of reality.

McTaggart's paradox can be summed up with the following argument:

1. Future, present and past are incompatible properties, but
2. in time every event appears to possess them all, and
3. these two propositions entail the contradiction that events have incompatible properties.

I think what Craig may be saying here is that an event's properties are time dependent, as a tensed theory would entail, but that McTaggart is holding a tensed view of events to a standard that is best explained in a tenseless view of events where all events are ontologically equal and thus a completed description of reality is found. My rejection of the tensed view is not based on any paradoxical semantic argument, whether it is well founded or not, it is on the data we get from physics that lean towards the tenseless view being true.

B. The passage of time is not a myth, but a metaphor for objective temporal becoming, a notion which can be consistently explicated on a presentist metaphysic.

But presentism cannot explain the relativity of simultaneity and the equations of special relativity and quantum mechanics. Physicist Paul Davies notes, “Nothing in known physics corresponds to the passage of time.” This is why most physicists and a large percentage of philosophers see time in the tenseless view. "We do not really observe the passage of time" Davies writes, "what we actually observe is that later states of the world differ from earlier states that we still remember. The fact that we remember the past, rather than the future, is an observation not of the passage of time bit of the asymmetry of time."*

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Refuting William Lane Craig: William Lane Craig Fails Again On Gratuitous Evil

I wrote my Evolutionary Argument Against God partly in response to Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, and William Lane Craig's fuck up on animal suffering.

On a recent Q&A on his website, ReasonableFaith, Craig addresses the problem of gratuitous suffering. A writer asks Craig about his debate with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (which I reviewed here) where Armstrong made an argument that gratuitous evil is incompatible with god:

your response to the problem of gratuitous natural evil seems to create a problem for people who want to be moral. I perceive a baby dying of a painful disease as a moral evil and I judge God to be an immoral monster for allowing that to happen. But your response suggests that my judgment is in error: how do I know God does not have some greater reason for allowing that suffering?       

 Now onto Craig's response. He says,

There’s just no good reason to be a moral sceptic unless you’ve got some sort of really powerful argument for atheism, an argument whose premises are attested even more powerfully than the existence of objective moral values and duties. But what could that argument be? You yourself recognize that the argument from apparently gratuitous evil in the world will not do because of the infeasibility of proving that the evil we see is, indeed, gratuitous. So what justification is there for being an atheist and, hence, a moral sceptic?

In my review of Craig's debate with Armstrong, I pointed out that Craig's rebuttal didn't even begin to address the problem of conscious animal suffering. This is clearly a case of gratuitous suffering. Also, Craig justifies human suffering by saying it is the fault of man's sin and rebellion against god, but how does that account of millions of years of evolution that required suffering long before humans arrived on the scene? Craig's appeal to animals not having meta-cognition has been debunked numerous times, and even Craig admits primates have meta-cognition. 

Then Craig says,

Given our historical and cognitive limitations, I think that we are simply not in a position to say with any sort of confidence that the evil we observe in the world is pointless or unnecessary.

This is the old, "The Lord works in mysterious ways" adage in modern form. If the atheist cannot say gratuitous suffering exists, then what information does the theist have that the atheist cannot know that allows the theist to say that it doesn't? Scripture? Unproven dogma written by Iron-age people full of superstition? I have not heard a reasonable case that didn't deviate tremendously from standard Christian ethic to justify millions of years of animal and pre-human hominid suffering with god, none of which was necessary. Now the issue Craig is addressing here is a human baby suffering. Craig says it's perfectly consistent with god's character and has justified this belief elsewhere because he says that baby can get a chance to go to heaven. But here he's equating compensation with justification.

Then Craig offers a critique of consequentialism:

On consequentialism if your torturing and raping a little girl would somehow ultimately redound to the benefit of mankind, then not only is this action morally permissible for you, but you are morally obligated to do it!

On Craig's divine command theory, if god commands that you sacrifice your son or commit genocide against the neighboring tribe and take their land and underage girls, "then not only is this action morally permissible for you, but you are morally obligated to do it!" Craig willfully ignores how absurd his divine command system of ethics is.


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