The Case for a Creator: You're Interviewing Who?!

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 5

Back in chapter 2, Strobel claimed that he would be interviewing “authorities in various scientific disciplines about the most current findings in their fields” [p.28]. How has this promise played out so far?

Up till now, he’s interviewed Jonathan Wells – who has a legitimate degree in biology, albeit one which he admits he acquired for the express purpose of attacking evolution – and Stephen Meyer, who has a doctorate in the history and philosophy of science. I very much doubt whether either of these people can be described as scientific “authorities”, but they do have some relevant expertise, so by a generous accounting, we could say Strobel’s 2 for 2. This chapter is about cosmology and the Big Bang, so for him to keep up that record, you’d expect that he would interview some prestigious cosmologist or famous astrophysicist who supports ID. Who will it be?

Interview #3: William Lane Craig, Ph.D, Th.D

When I first read this, I underlined it and then scribbled two big question marks in the margin. William Lane Craig? Really?

Craig is a professional Christian apologist with a doctorate in philosophy and another in theology. Whatever knowledge he may have about cosmology, in no sense can he be described as a scientist, much less an “authority” in any scientific discipline. I thought the purpose of this book was to interview professional scientists who believe that their work supports intelligent design. Are there so few of those that the well has run dry after just two interviews? Couldn’t Strobel find any actual astrophysicists with whom he could discuss this topic, forcing him to turn to professional Christian apologists? What happened to Allan Sandage, that famous astronomer convert mentioned in the last chapter – was he unavailable, or maybe unwilling to speak to Strobel?

What makes this even more absurd is that, instead of discussing any actual science, Strobel and Craig spend most of this chapter rehashing the kalam cosmological argument, a philosophical proof for the existence of God. We’ve strayed far from anything resembling scientific discovery here, except in the very limited sense that the Big Bang might be said to support the claim that the universe had a beginning – but then again, Christian apologists were making these very same arguments centuries earlier.

I won’t spend too much time on this chapter repeating my own counterarguments from Ebon Musings, though I can add a few side points. The next installment in this series will appear next week.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://blog.motheyes.com Joel

    He couldnt’t even hook up an interview with Guillermo Gonzalez, the guy who wrote the book on ID cosmology and posterboy expulsion victim?

  • Ritchie

    To be fair, I will at least give William Lane Craig credit for not being one of the apologists who simply shouts or loudly over-emphasises everything like a preacher (D’Souza, anyone…?) and in that sense is quite easy to listen to. The problem I have with him is that everything he says is so damn complicated! Unlike many apologists where you can identify the same old arguments pretty much straight away, you really have to work hard to unpick what Craig is actually saying to see where he is going wrong.

    Or is that just me?

    And… ‘professional Christian apologist’? Really? Some people make a LIVING from arguing in the name of Jesus? Can I make a living arguing in the name of atheism?

  • hellocthulu

    Actually, I think Craig has flubbed it in his first premise, that “An actual infinite cannot exist in reality.”

    I’ve got an actual infinite for you: the number of real numbers between 1 and 2.
    That actual infinite does exist in reality.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “Authority” has no place in science. Gravity does not suck because Newton and Einstein said so. Rather, “expertise” is the relevant term; the natural world always has the final say. So Strobel is off in the wrong direction from the start.

    You can find lots of stuff on WLC at Common Sense Atheism, where lukeprog admires him for his debating skills. WLC has said a number of things about infinity and probability which make me seriously question his expertise in math.

    The conservative belief tank behind the Intelligent Design brand of Creationism, the Discovery Institute, has a list of Peer-reviewed & peer-edited scientific publications supporting the theory of intelligent design (Annotated). Many of the books and papers listed are not scientific, and are not peer-reviewed, and the list has many other flaws. But my current point is that after the Dover trial knocked the wheels off the ID bandwagon before it got started, works of apologism by Craig were added, such as: Craig, W.L., “God, Creation, and Mr. Davies.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 37 (1986): 168-175.

  • ShavenYak

    Unlike many apologists where you can identify the same old arguments pretty much straight away, you really have to work hard to unpick what Craig is actually saying to see where he is going wrong.

    Craig can’t dazzle with his brilliance, so he baffles with his…. The Kalam argument is only “more sophisticated” than St. Thomas’s first mover argument in the sense that it uses bigger words.

    Some people make a LIVING from arguing in the name of Jesus? Can I make a living arguing in the name of atheism?

    That’s pretty much what the “New Atheist” authors are doing, although it’s probably easier to make a living as a Christian apologist since you’re preaching to a larger choir.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Unlike many apologists where you can identify the same old arguments pretty much straight away, you really have to work hard to unpick what Craig is actually saying to see where he is going wrong.

    I think that sounding sophisticated is a large part of Craig’s smoke and mirrors act. IMHO, he needs the dense verbiage as camouflage for his flimsy content. He’s just using bigger words to say the same old shit.

  • Polly

    Couldn’t Strobel find any actual astrophysicists with whom he could discuss this topic

    Even Hugh Ross would’ve been a better candidate than an armchair navel-gazer.

    From Wikipedia:
    He [Hugh Ross] earned a BSc in physics from the University of British Columbia and an MSc and PhD in astronomy from the University of Toronto; and he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Caltech, studying quasars and galaxies.

  • topher

    I have always found William Lane Craig to be the definition of a ‘sophist.’ His arguments are logically sound, but they are sound in the same way that all philosophical thought experiments are sound. Much like the brain in the vat thought experiment, Craig’ arguments are interesting but don’t really have any use in explaining how the really world works. He also has the annoying habit of using big words and complex formulations of his arguments to hide the paucity of them. Finally, he is a great debater and rhetoritician, but as Socrates pointed out to the sophists of his time good rhetoric does not make truth.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Gerardus Bouw would have been a good choice for Strobel to interview: he has a bachelor’s in astrophysics and a Ph.D. in astronomy. And he is quite honest about his belief in geocentricity being motivated by religion.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    He also has the annoying habit of using big words and complex formulations of his arguments to hide the paucity of them.

    This is a general trend in philosophy of religion. For example, in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, most modern formulations of the same-old arguments for God (ontological, first cause, design, etc.) take 50-100 pages each. Why? Because the original shorter versions have all been shot full of holes. Theists need to either a) abandon their arguments or b) reformulate them with more curlicues and epicycles in which to hide the question-begging.

  • Ritchie

    Gerardus Bouw would have been a good choice for Strobel to interview: he has a bachelor’s in astrophysics and a Ph.D. in astronomy. And he is quite honest about his belief in geocentricity being motivated by religion.

    Wouldn’t that have made him a bad choice from Strobel’s point of view…?

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    He’s just using bigger words to say the same old shit.

    That’s exactly it, chaplain. It never ceases to amaze me that people think you can actually prove God’s existence from the armchair. You can’t – not ever, not even once, not even a little. Entities simply cannot be argued into existence. I don’t understand what’s so hard about this.

    My friend Jack came up with a great new twist on the ontological argument, and it shows how silly the whole thing is: “Imagine an argument that perfectly demonstrates the necessity of God’s existence. Now, to perfectly demonstrate God’s existence, it would have to exist itself; since it does perfectly demonstrate God’s existence, it therefore exists, and by existing has therefore proven the necessity of God’s existence. Therefore, God exists.” I also like Gasking’s proof of necessary nonexistence.

    @ topher: Whoah! Careful, buddy: valid and sound have technical philosophical meaning, and I think you might have said one when you meant the other. If Craig’s arguments were sound, that would mean that he’s right – and he’s not right, so we can conclude that his arguments are not sound (see what I did there?).

  • Mark.V.

    “An actual infinite cannot exist in reality”, so says Craig.

    Therefore a being that is infinite in all its attributes cannot exist in reality.

    Therefore God, a being that is infinite in all its attributes, cannot exist in reality.

  • MS Quixote

    That’s exactly it, chaplain.

    Hey chaplain, hey D…

    Let’s experiment. Y’all come up with your best positive argument, or best refutation of one of WLC’s arguments, and submit it to his Q&A site and we’ll see what happens…

    MS

  • nal

    The Case for a Creator: You’re Interviewing Whom?!

  • Ritchie

    nal -

    Ooooh! Burned!

  • Ritchie

    Qioxote -

    Let’s experiment. Y’all come up with your best positive argument, or best refutation of one of WLC’s arguments, and submit it to his Q&A site and we’ll see what happens…

    Allow me to make a prediction: it won’t get published.

    Hope I’m wrong though.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The Case for a Creator: You’re Interviewing Whom?!

    The argument from pedantry: you made a grammatical error, therefore your entire argument is invalid.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    The argument from pedantry: you made a grammatical error, therefore your entire argument is invalid.

    Shhh! Don’t tell cl

  • Libby

    Oh thank Einstein someone mentioned the grammatical error. I didn’t want to bring it up myself, but if it had gone unnoticed any longer, I wouldn’t be able to abstain from correcting the error.

    But great post.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    @ MS Quixote:

    Let’s experiment. Y’all come up with your best positive argument, or best refutation of one of WLC’s arguments, and submit it to his Q&A site and we’ll see what happens…

    I may take you up on that; it might be rather fun.

    Oops.

    I guess I was supposed to be intimidated, not challenged. Sorry, dude – Craig’s credentials and celebrity don’t scare me. My own credentials aren’t shabby and I could give a rat’s ass about celebrity.

    In case you missed the link in the OP, Ebon has already taken a pretty good run at Craig’s kalam cosmological argument. Dan Barker didn’t too badly with it in his book, Godless, either. Craig is not invincible. He’s a pretty bright guy, but he’s not God, is he?

  • MS Quixote

    I may take you up on that; it might be rather fun.

    Pretty much what I had in mind right here, chaplain. Sorry if you understood it differently…

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    @ MS Quixote

    Thanks for clarifying your intention. I actually am interested in taking up your challenge. I’ll keep you informed of my progress via my blog. As I said before, it should be fun.

    As I noted in my previous comment, WLC is a bright guy, but he’s not invincible. In fact, I think he’s overrated. Still, since many Christians seem to think he’s the cat’s meow (I’m not putting you in that category, BTW, I think you’re smarter than that and can see his weaknesses at least as well as I can), his arguments merit some attention.

  • Peter

    @hellocthulu, #3:
    No, numbers do not exist in reality. Numbers are an abstract concept, which exist only in abstraction. You cannot find a 2 in reality.

  • Pingback: Daylight Atheism > The Language of God: A Biologist in His Element (Sort Of)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X