The Carroll-Craig Debate

The video of the debate between cosmologist Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig is finally up. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but people I respect a lot thought that Carroll really put Craig on the defensive in a way that few others have. Video below the fold.

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  • alanb

    “The video does not exist.” For the video go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXdYtAwH33k

  • mikeyb

    I guess I have mixed feelings about these debates. I think they have given WLC a de facto credibility that he clearly doesn’t deserve. WLC is recognized in the evangelical community as the science/atheist slayer, even if most evangelicals probably abysmally ignorant of even basic physics. I applaud WLC to at least take the time to try to understand modern physics, but mostly take it back with his stubborn refusal to take this understanding on its own terms instead of forcing it into his theological straightjackets. As many on the web have pointed out WLC is a professional debater who has his schtick so well developed he could probably do it in his sleep. Having said that, I think Carroll did better than most in the debate, far better than Krauss. Things that stand out as far as the debate goes : WLC statement that if universes can come out of nothing, why can’t bicycles. My take would be that universes when they begin are paradoxically far more complex than bicycles. Universes apparently pop into existence as patches of quantum foam, whereas bicycles can only exist after a long process of stellar, biological and cultural evolution. I also liked that Carrol pointed out (which few debaters do) the obvious fact that god is not well defined so there is plenty of room to weasel god out of irritating problems like what exactly is this god -quantum foam itself, a disembodied mind, a bodied being in another universe, – what are the characteristics of this god – is he more like Allah, Yahweh, Zeus, or the flying spaghetti monster – how would one begin to know. I also thought it was funny how WLC kept bringing up Alex Vilenkin over and over again. You’d think Vilenkin was a theist or his good buddy, so why haven’t these ideas conviced Vilenkin or any prominent cosmologists on theism I was thinking if WLC is so sure about his theories why didn’t he present these ideas to cosmologists at physics conferences. Why doesn’t he? Because as Carrol pointed out, Aristotelian logic about causes died out as legitimate options sometime after Galileo.

  • mikeyb

    One little typo – meant to say that universes are paradoxically far simpler than bicycles.

  • mobius

    Craig is a very slick talker, no doubt about it. But he uses (or rather misuses) concepts that very few in his audience understand, or have even heard of.

    Carroll does a good job of showing how Craig is misstating what science says.

    And Craig resorts a number of times in his rebuttal and in Q&A to arguments from incredulity. Craig just can’t see how something is true, ergo it must be false.

  • Michael Heath

    mikeyb writes:

    . . . universes are paradoxically far simpler than bicycles.

    At least this universe started out far simpler than a bike. We don’t have any evidence if such simplicity is typical or ever been duplicated.

  • Michael Heath

    mobius writes:

    Craig is a very slick talker, no doubt about it.

    No doubt about it? The guy relies on rhetorical and logical fallacies. He’s nothing without that. I get how popular this description of Mr. Craig is, but it’s simply not true.

    I’ve long been banging the drum that K-PhD should require continuous training in critical thinking skills that is a stand-alone class. Observing secularists describing WLC as slick or a good debater would make for an excellent Exhibit A on why such training is required.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Craig just can’t see how something is true, ergo it must be false.

    I don’t understand how the Internet works. Does that mean it doesn’t really work?

  • colnago80

    The difference between Craig and cosmologists like Carroll is that the former relies an arguments while the latter relies on evidence. Arguments don’t trump evidence, never have and never will. Clearly, Craig is in way over his head in attempting to debate with someone like Carroll who does cosmology for a living at Cal Tech, rated the best university in the world.

  • lofgren

    No doubt about it? The guy relies on rhetorical and logical fallacies. He’s nothing without that. I get how popular this description of Mr. Craig is, but it’s simply not true.

    Some would say that the ability to sound convincing while saying nothing is the very definition of a “slick talker,” so I think you just blunted your own point.

  • Michael Heath

    Me earlier:

    No doubt about it? The guy relies on rhetorical and logical fallacies. He’s nothing without that. I get how popular this description of Mr. Craig is, but it’s simply not true.

    lofgren responds:

    Some would say that the ability to sound convincing while saying nothing is the very definition of a “slick talker,” so I think you just blunted your own point.

    “Some would say”, or “they say” is never a compelling way to make your case. It’s embarrassing just reading such.

    And to be “slick” one would have to coherently work through A to B to C to D. But WLC can’t do that. E.g., when he argues that five hundred people saw the supposed Jesus after he was supposedly crucified and supposedly died, therefore Jesus was resurrected; that’s not “slick”, that’s a full stop. We have no evidence five hundred people saw this supposed Jesus alive after he supposedly died. The premise is false; this is not slickness, that’s not even sophomoric, it’s idiocy.

  • lofgren

    Typically slickness in speech describes delivery and effectiveness, no content. A “slick” sales pitch is not necessarily a good deal, just a good delivery. For example, Merriam Webster defines slickness as relates to speech:

    “clever in usually a dishonest or deceptive way”

    Google says:

    “operating in an impressively smooth, efficient, and apparently effortless way”

    Which has little to do with actual content and everything to do with style.

    A synonym for “slick,” both relating to speech and relating to texture, is slippery. Synonyms for both relating to speech are tricky, duplicitous, and evasive.

    So “some” in this case would be “lexicographers.”

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    The point so many forget to make about WLC is that he knowingly makes arguments that have been repeatedly refuted elsewhere. In other words: he’s lying.

    To make his silly Kalam argument work, you have to presuppose that universes only come into being through supernatural causes, which sort of makes his argument kind of easy. It is impossible for him to make such an argument and not know its flaws, especially given the way he constructs it – anchoring it in the assumption that everything has a cause except his presuppositional god, then spends most of his time on the details given that assumption. The construction of his argument is carefully done to hide its flaws. That’s dishonest. He’s not “slick” he’s “sleazy”!

  • Michael Heath

    Marcus Ranum writes:

    The construction of his argument is carefully done to hide its flaws. That’s dishonest. He’s not “slick” he’s “sleazy”!

    I don’t find any of WLC’s arguments done carefully enough to hide their respective flaws. From my perspective the flaws in his arguments don’t even rise to sophomoric, they’re obvious because they’re so remedial. So only those incapable of thinking critically would find him slick.

    I do think N.T. Wright is slick. He’s the only Liar for Jesus® apologist I know of that rises to that level. With Mr. Wright I typically have to work through his arguments to reveal their logical and evidentiary failures.

  • freehand

    Marcus Ranum: The point so many forget to make about WLC is that he knowingly makes arguments that have been repeatedly refuted elsewhere. In other words: he’s lying.

    .

    While I won’t deny the possibility that WLC is knowingly lying, these folks seem to have a peculiar ability to lie to themselves in such an obvious way that I am unable to explain it. I grew up with them, however, and saw them continually repeat lies with conviction and smug satisfaction. Reality for them has little to do with evidence and reason; reality is a social construct. Someone holding a contradictory opinion on important matters who also offers evidence is still “obviously” wrong. Evidence is as best a rhetorical device. I do not understand this way of thinking, but I accept that it exists.

    .

    I take some satisfaction in knowing that they find our (attitudes? cognition? epistemology?) as confusing as we do theirs. You take it as a given that since his claims ahve been refuted, he must know that they are wrong and he is therefore lying. But they were merely countered by the Devil’s debating tricks; maybe they won’t be refuted this time.

  • Samuel Vimes

    Video no longer available due to copyright, blah blah, blah.